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DejalNews #80: Simon 5 beta, Time Out gifts, themes, and tips

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DejalNews 2020-10, issue #80

Welcome

This is DejalNews, an occasional newsletter from Dejal.

Very occasional, sometimes — the last one was back in April. That seems like an eternity ago now, doesn't it?

If you want to receive these newsletters in your email inbox, head over to the DejalNews subscribe page to sign up.

Simon 5 beta

The big news from Dejal is that I have introduced the first beta release of a major upgrade to Simon, my website and server monitoring tool. Version 5.0b1 includes a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs! Tests and other data can be viewed and edited on any of your Macs, and checked on a specific Mac, plus notifiers can be performed on any of the Macs, even a different one than did the check. For example, have a Mac in a data center do a check, and play a sound or speak some text on the Mac on your desk if it fails or changes.

Version 5 has lots of other improvements, including the ability to check if other synced copies of Simon are still working, a new Link Checker filter, to validate all links on a web page, a Server Result filter, to easily check result codes, an iMessage notifier, to send a message, and much more.

Note that Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade after the beta period. Pricing and release date to be determined. But anyone who buys now or since September 1, 2020 will be eligible for a free upgrade.

Read the blog post for screenshots and more information.

Time Out gifts

If you haven't already taken advantage of a free gift of Time Out, my break reminder tool, it's not too late.

Become a supporter at no cost. This permanently unlocks all of the current features.

Please share this link with your Mac-using family, friends, and colleagues, so they can enjoy the benefits of regular breaks too.

Time Out themes

A while ago I published a blog post with three new break themes, kindly contributed by a Time Out customer.

One shows a scenic picture for each break, another shows an inspirational quote, and the third has placeholder for your own photos or custom images.

Time Out tips

I also published a couple of tips for Time Out since the previous newsletter.

The first was particularly relevant in these Zoom-y times: how to automatically skip breaks when on a Zoom call.

The second was how to avoid a break starting while doing a screen recording.

Dejal subreddit

If you use Reddit, you may like to join the r/Dejal subreddit, as a community for Dejal customers, and another support channel. Learn more.

Vote!

If you're in the US, and haven't already voted, please make a plan to do so. It's important.

Stay safe

Stay safe everyone! Please enjoy the Time Out gifts, stay home, use masks, keep a safe distance from others, and hang in there. We'll get through this.

- David

Simon 5.0b1 released

I'm pleased to introduce the first beta release of a major upgrade of Simon, my website and server monitoring app for macOS.

Simon version 5 is a massive update, introducing a much-requested feature: syncing the Simon data between multiple Macs!

Sync preferences

Tests and other data can be viewed and edited on any of your Macs, and checked on a specific Mac:

Test options

What's more, notifiers can be performed on any of the Macs, even a different one than did the check. For example, have a Mac in a data center do a check, and play a sound or speak some text on the Mac on your desk if it fails or changes:

Test notifiers

Something else many people have wanted, it also includes the ability to check if other copies of Simon are still working:

Simon Status test

Other enhancements include a new Link Checker filter, to validate all links on a web page, a Server Result filter, to easily check result codes, an iMessage notifier, to send a message, a new more efficient data format, and numerous other changes.

Please Note

  • This is an early beta release, with significant changes. Probably best to wait for the general release, unless you're keen. Use with caution!
  • If you find any issues with this beta release, please let me know!
  • Simon 5 requires a minimum of macOS 10.12 (Sierra).
  • Simon 5 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 4 after the beta period.
  • Purchasers since September 1, 2020 are eligible for a free upgrade; contact Dejal for details.

Read on for the full release notes:

Simon now supports syncing via iCloud!

  • The Simon data is not synced by default, but if the new Sync preference is enabled (see below), the data is moved to iCloud.
  • Each test can be checked on a specific computer, but edited from any synced Mac.
  • Notifiers can also be performed on a specific computer, but it doesn't have to be the same one, e.g. check a test on Mac 1, and notify on Mac 2 (or both).
  • Manually starting a check, pausing, editing, etc can be done from any synced computer.
  • When syncing, the computer that will perform the check is displayed in the tests list and logs, and is available as a sorting option.
  • Note that the Preview is not available when viewing a test for another computer, since that might lead to confusing results.
  • If Simon is quit on another computer, its tests show a power icon (semicircle with vertical line), or if not quit but not seen in a while, an unavailable icon (a circle with a slash through it).
  • The data format has changed to support this, including splitting up the data files to be more efficient, and converting to JSON format.

Editor changes for syncing

  • When editing a test with syncing enabled, the Test Options page now includes a new "check on" pop-up menu to choose on which computer to check the test.
  • Similarly, the Test Notifiers page includes a pop-up menu to choose the computer to perform the notification, which doesn't have to be the same one.
  • The summary page (non-editing mode) now also indicates the chosen computers.

New Sync preferences

  • A new Sync preference pane includes buttons to turn syncing off and on. By default it is off, with data stored on your local Mac as before.
  • When iCloud syncing is enabled, a list of computers that have accessed the data is displayed. It includes the computer name, the version of Simon, and when the data was first and most recently accessed.
  • The computer names can be changed (this only affects how Simon displays them), or unwanted ones can be removed. They will re-appear if used again.
  • An icon indicates the status of each computer, with the Mac type for the current computer, a green triangle for online computers, or a quit or unavailable icon as above.
  • If syncing is enabled when there is already some Simon data in iCloud, you are asked if you want to use that data (discarding the local data), or replace that data (with the local data).
  • If syncing is disabled when multiple computers are using iCloud, you are asked if you want to make a local copy, leaving the iCloud data intact.
  • If syncing is disabled when this is the only computer using iCloud, the data is moved to the computer and removed from iCloud.
  • A sync-related change: the preference to keep backups of data files has been removed, to avoid unnecessary syncing.
  • Also, the auto-save frequency preference now uses a shorter time range, for more responsive syncing.

New Sync Setup Assistant

  • When updating to version 5, or a fresh install, a Setup Assistant page will be displayed with the same options as the Sync preferences, to ask whether to store the data locally, or on iCloud.
  • If you choose to keep the data on this Mac, it continues to work as in previous versions, and any existing iCloud data (if you chose differently on another Mac) is left intact.
  • If you choose to sync when there is already some Simon data in iCloud, you are asked if you want to use that data (discarding the local data), or replace that data (with the local data).

Web service changes

  • Renamed the default "Web (HTTP)" service as "Web Page", to be more clear.
  • When capturing the rendered source (via the option on the Other page), the <html> tags are now included.
  • The default protocol is now "https://" instead of "http://".
  • Now doesn't add "www." before a domain name if missing the ".com".

Added a new Simon Status service

  • When you are syncing Simon data between multiple computers with the new sync feature, this new service enables checking the state of the Simon instances.
  • You can choose to check all computers, or a specific one.
  • The output of the service can be customized, including variables.
  • Optionally Simon being quit and/or unavailable can result in a failure, with customizable error messages for each.
  • A "Simon Status" service has been added to the data by default, to check all computers; you can customize what to check and output in the test editor, or add new services.

Added a new Link Checker filter

  • This new filter will check multiple links to see if they are valid or invalid.
  • For input, it can extract links out of HTML source from a web page, or a list of URLs separated by linefeeds or commas.
  • It can scan only local links (within the same site), only remote links (to other websites), or both.
  • A link is considered invalid if either the server can't be contacted, or the server reports an error (e.g. 404, page not found) when requesting the header (it doesn't load the actual content).
  • It outputs a list of the found URLs, optionally with some text or emoji indicating it is valid or invalid, and/or the status code or error message.
  • For the result, it can be always a success (for further evaluation of the output), or a failure if any local and/or remote links are invalid.
  • A Link Checker filter is included in the default data for use with tests. More options can be configured by editing this filter (or adding new ones).

Added a new Server Result filter

  • This new filter can be used with the Result Code input to detect an invalid HTTP result.
  • If the input number is 400 or more, this makes the test check be a failure.

Added an iMessage notifier

  • This notifier can send an iMessage to a recipient if you already have a conversation with them in the Messages app.
  • Contributed by Chris Copleston; available on the Simon Extras page for people using earlier versions.

Removed some services and notifiers that are no longer supported

  • Removed the Calendar notifier, as it uses obsolete technology. Let me know if you used this; I could rewrite it with modern APIs.
  • Removed the Email Cycle service from the default data, as it can't receive email successfully (and hasn't for a while; clearly nobody uses it).
  • Removed the Growl notifier, as it is obsolete. Use the Notification Center notifier instead.
  • Removed the MySQL service, as it used a 32-bit helper that no longer works with Catalina and later.
  • Removed the SMS notifier, as the third-party Clickatell connection doesn't work anymore, and the email-based option had significant issues; switch to using an Email notifier directly if needed.
  • Removed the Twitter notifier, as it hasn't been supported by macOS for a few years.

Plus several other improvements

  • Simon now displays a small progress window while starting, since loading lots of tests, especially when syncing, can take a few moments.
  • Simon now prompts for approval to send Apple events, as required on recent macOS versions. Please approve this, otherwise the Email notifier and Script-based services won't work.
  • The Setup Assistant now supports importing Safari and Chrome bookmarks.
  • All services are now checked in the background, so they don't interfere with updating the lists etc. This also fixes a weird temporal anomaly where a check start could be logged after a finish.
  • The contents of groups in the lists are now sorted properly.
  • Fixed importing some malformed AppleScripts in the Script editor.
  • Fixed the service, filter, etc kinds not being listed in alphabetic order.
  • Fixed some summary labels being enabled when showing a group, where they don't apply.
  • The File ▸ Check Now menu item is now disabled for the Filters page, since it doesn't do anything there.
  • Improved character encoding of report templates to work better with non-ASCII characters.
  • Improved localization support.
  • Improved dark mode support.
  • Updated for Big Sur (macOS 11) and Catalina (macOS 10.15), but still compatible back to Sierra (10.12).

More coming later

  • I wanted to get a beta release out so brave people can begin kicking the tires. There is more planned for version 5.
  • Don't expect rapid updates; it will slowly improve over the next few months, and go into general release when deemed ready.
  • There are still a number of known issues with this first beta. But please let me know of any issues you find via the contact form or the Dejal Subreddit.

Want to try it?

Please read the warnings and release notes above before jumping in. This is a beta release, not ready for primetime quite yet.

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download the beta now!

DejalNews #79: Time Out gifts and tips, 25 years of consulting, Dejal Subreddit

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DejalNews 2020-04, issue #79

Welcome

This is DejalNews, an occasional newsletter from Dejal.

If you want to receive these newsletters in your email inbox, head over to the DejalNews subscribe page to sign up.

Time Out gifts

The past couple of months have been quite the decade, haven't they? It certainly seems that way. With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the world at present, many people are working from home for the first time. To help out in some small way, I decided to give away my popular Time Out app.

While Time Out is always free to download and use, the best features are only available as rewards for supporters. But in these trying times, everyone deserves a reward. So I have created a page where you can become a supporter at no cost. This permanently unlocks all of the current features.

This is available even if you previously purchased Time Out — the gift will extend your support.

And for those who do buy, I am now including a link enabling you to give Time Out supporter status to others. Please share Time Out far and wide, and give this gift with my compliments.

Time Out and Simon tips

I've published a couple of tips since the previous newsletter.

One was a tip for Time Out, on how to add breaks to the Calendar — a couple of break action scripts to add an event for each break, with the start and end times matching the time of the break.

Another was for Simon, my website monitoring tool, on how to use Simon to check for an expired website SSL certificate.

Chicken GIFs discontinued

I had a fun iMessage sticker pack featuring GIFs of my chickens. As part of Apple's routine cleanup of old content, they removed it from the store. Which is disappointing, since it still worked fine, but I understand their policy.

So now you'll have to visit my homestead blog if you want a dose of funny chickens (and ducks, feral cats, bees, and more).

25 years of consulting

A couple of months ago I celebrated a milestone: a quarter century of helping others create Mac (and later also iOS) apps. Read that post for an ancient screenshot of my first project, and more info.

Dejal subreddit

Since I'm slowly phasing out the Dejal forums due to lack of use and spam attacks, I thought I'd try another kind of forum: the popular Reddit site. So I created r/Dejal, a subreddit on that site. It hasn't seen much adoption yet, but you're welcome to join and post feature requests and such there. Learn more.

Traditional year-end posts

Every year I do a series of posts, including featured blog posts of 2019, and a review of how the previous year went, though this time I did a decade in review, 2010 to 2019. I also published a rather optimistic 2020 vision post, looking ahead to this year, though the pandemic has scratched any hope of attending conferences, and delayed my trip to New Zealand.

Stay safe

Stay safe everyone! It's a difficult time at present, affecting the whole world in dramatic fashion. Please enjoy the Time Out gifts, stay home, use masks, keep a safe distance from others, and hang in there. We'll get through this.

- David

Simon tip: website certificate service

Today I received a customer query asking how to use Simon to check for an expired website SSL certificate.

Of course, Simon is very flexible, so even if there isn't a built-in service for this specific case, if you can do it in the Terminal, you can probably create a custom script-based service in Simon to do it, too.

There are a number of ways to get certificate information, but this is one simple approach (if you know of a better way, let me know!).

I created a new script-based service, using the basic C shell, a one-line command, and a custom variable for the host name:

Website Certificate service screenshot

I then created a new test using this service. When accessing a server with an expired certificate, the output includes a "verify return code" message of "certificate has expired", so I used a Block filter to look at just that text (I pasted "Verify return code: " in the Start text, and an Option-Return in the End text), then a Find Required filter to make the test result in a failure if it doesn't find "ok", and finally an Override Custom filter if a failure, to output the error message:

Website Certificate test screenshot

For the success case, the last filter doesn't apply, so it just outputs the "ok":

Website Certificate test screenshot

Want to use this service? You can easily add it yourself, or import it by downloading from the Simon Extras page.

I hope you found the techniques in this post helpful.

Simon 4.3.1 released

Simon version 4.3.1 is now available. This bug-fix update just has a couple of tweaks:

  • Fixed a crash when generating a remote report.
  • Further tweaks for dark mode on Mojave.

Remember, Simon's price has been temporarily reduced (for the full license and upgrade license), to celebrate version 4.3 (and 4.3.1). Get it while it lasts!

Changes in 4.3 included:

  • Mojave dark mode and compatibility
  • Added the ability to follow or not follow a meta refresh for each test
  • Several improvements to the pause and auto-pause functions
  • A number of refinements of services and filters
  • Updated the default data
  • Plus many other improvements
  • Get it now!

    If you are using the direct edition, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

    If you are using the Setapp edition, the app will automatically update shortly.

    Otherwise, download Simon 4.3.1 now.

Simon 4.3 released

I'm pleased to announce that Simon version 4.3 is now available. An important update to my pro utility app to monitor websites and servers for changes or failures.

If you will be installing Mojave (macOS 10.14) on Monday, or any time soon, this update is essential, to address some compatibility issues. But it is still compatible back to Yosemite (10.10), and has some nice improvements even if you won't be updating yet.

I've also temporarily reduced the price (for the full license and upgrade license), to celebrate this update. Get it while it lasts!

Changes in this release include:

Mojave dark mode and compatibility

  • All of the app content has been updated to support dark mode on macOS 10.14.
  • Updated the Script Preferences to use separate foreground and background colors when in light or dark mode on Mojave.
  • Fixed the mode buttons briefly appearing when not editing, and other appearance issues on Mojave.
  • Built for Mojave (macOS 10.14), but still compatible back to Yosemite (10.10).

Mojave dark mode screenshot

Added the ability to follow or not follow a meta refresh for each test

  • Added a Follow any meta refresh header to another page option in the Other section of the Web (HTTP) Service editor.
  • Meta refreshes are sometimes used to redirect to another page, e.g. <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url=https://www.dejal.com/">. Meta refreshes to reload the same page are ignored.
  • This option is on by default. It replaces a hidden preference, and makes it test-specific.

Follow meta option screenshot

Several improvements to the pause and auto-pause functions

  • Improved the Auto-Pause logic so it'll work for a full day (e.g. to pause all weekend, choose Weekends from 00:00 to 00:00).
  • When a test should be auto-paused when the app is launched, it is now.
  • When editing the Auto-Pause settings, the next due label is updated live (and says "now" if the days and time encompasses the current time).
  • If a test is paused when the Preview is shown, then the app quit, it now remains paused on launch (instead of the Preview forcing it to resume).
  • After pausing or resuming a test with the Preview shown, it is now updated to reflect the new state.

A number of refinements of services and filters

  • Changed the Script feature to support a script only outputting as an error, but still succeeding, e.g. curl.
  • Fixed a crasher when editing a test on the Filters page, for data upgraded from version 2 or earlier.
  • Fixed the Password field remembering its value in Port-based tests.
  • Prevented adding multiple Service sections to the Port-based Preview.
  • Fixed the Exclude Block filter, that timed out when trying to extract the output after the end text.
  • Improved the layout of the Context filter.

Test filters screenshot

Updated the default data

  • Replaced the default "Apple hot news" test with "Apple newsroom", using their current news URL, and updated filters.
  • Updated the default data to use https for Dejal links.
  • Removed the default "FTP Directory Listing" service, since macOS no longer includes the ftp command-line tool.

Plus many other improvements

  • Fixed the Preview item in the View menu not having a checkmark when selected.
  • There was hardcoded logic to ignore a failure if more than 3 minutes from starting, to cope with the Mac sleeping during a check. Now uses a minute past the timeout interval, so it works better with long test timeouts.
  • Removed the Fabric crash reporter, to avoid sending unnecessary data to a third party.
  • Updated support for Setapp. (Prefer a subscription to Simon and lots of other apps? Check out Setapp.)
  • Removed the help book within the app, since it didn't work reliably. The help is still available online.
  • To celebrate version 4.3, the prices have been temporarily reduced!

Get it now!

If you are using the direct edition, you can use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

If you are using the Setapp edition, the app will automatically update shortly.

Otherwise, download Simon 4.3 now.

Simon 4.3b1 released

It's been a while, but I'm pleased to announce the first beta of an update to Simon, my pro utility app to monitor websites and servers for changes or failures.

Version 4.3 is still a work-in-progress, but I wanted to get out a beta especially for anyone using it on Mojave (macOS 10.14), and also to address some issues that have been reported.

I've also temporarily reduced the price (for the full license and upgrade license), to celebrate this update. Get it while it lasts!

Changes in this first beta include:

  • Mojave dark mode support: all of the app content has been updated to support dark mode on macOS 10.14. (If you find anything that doesn't look right, please let me know!)
  • Updated the Script Preferences to use separate foreground and background colors when in light or dark mode on Mojave.
  • Changed the Script feature to support a script only outputting as an error, but still succeeding, e.g. curl.
  • Fixed a crasher when editing a test on the Filters page, for data upgraded from version 2 or earlier.
  • Fixed the mode buttons briefly appearing when not editing.
  • Fixed the Preview item in the View menu not having a checkmark when selected.
  • Added a Follow any meta refresh header to another page option in the Other section of the Web (HTTP) Service editor. Meta refreshes are sometimes used to redirect to another page, e.g. <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url=https://www.dejal.com/">. Meta refreshes to reload the same page are ignored. This option is on by default. It replaces a hidden preference, and makes it test-specific.
  • Fixed the Password field remembering its value in Port-based tests.
  • Prevented adding multiple Service sections to the Port-based Preview.
  • Fixed the Exclude Block filter, that timed out when trying to extract the output after the end text.
  • Improved the layout of the Context filter.
  • Improved the Auto-Pause logic so it'll work for a full day (e.g. to pause all weekend, choose Weekends from 00:00 to 00:00).
  • When a test should be auto-paused when the app is launched, it is now.
  • When editing the Auto-Pause settings, the next due label is updated live (and says "now" if the days and time encompasses the current time).
  • If a test is paused when the Preview is shown, then the app quit, it now remains paused on launch (instead of the Preview forcing it to resume).
  • After pausing or resuming a test with the Preview shown, it is now updated to reflect the new state.
  • There was hardcoded logic to ignore a failure if more than 3 minutes from starting, to cope with the Mac sleeping during a check. Now uses a minute past the timeout interval, so it works better with long test timeouts.
  • Replaced the default "Apple hot news" test with "Apple newsroom", using their current news URL, and updated filters.
  • Updated the default data to use https for Dejal links.
  • Removed the default "FTP Directory Listing" service, since macOS no longer includes the ftp command-line tool.
  • Built for Mojave (macOS 10.14), but still compatible back to Yosemite (10.10).
  • To celebrate version 4.3, the prices have been temporarily reduced!

Want to try it?

If you are using the direct edition, you can change your Updates preferences to include beta releases, then use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

Otherwise, download 4.3b1 now!

DejalNews #73: Discounts for the holidays, AppStories

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DejalNews 2017-12, issue #73

Welcome

This is DejalNews, an occasional newsletter from Dejal.

If you want to receive these newsletters in your email inbox, head over to the DejalNews subscribe page to sign up.

Holiday discount

'Tis the season for celebrations and reflection... and discounts! As I often do, I am marking the occasion with a discount on my Mac apps, Dejal Simon and Time Out.

From now until the end of the year, you can get Simon, my handy website & server monitoring tool, for just $49.50 — half the regular price. (The upgrade from version 3 is also half price.)

You can also become a supporter of Time Out, my popular break reminder tool, for half the normal amount; just $1.49, $2.49, or $4.99, depending on the supporter duration. (Remember, any level will permanently unlock all of the current supporter rewards.)

The Mac App Store edition of Time Out is also discounted, though with slightly different prices.

This discount is automatically applied if you buy via the online store, or in the Mac App Store edition. Or you can enter the code "JOYTOALL" in the coupon field when purchasing in the direct edition. Don't delay!

Already have Simon and Time Out? Tell your friends and colleagues about it! I really appreciate any help spreading the word.

AppStories sponsorship

Last week I sponsored an episode of AppStories, a podcast discussing apps on macOS and iOS, brought to you by the fine folks at MacStories.

It was great to hear John talking about Dejal Time Out on the show.

Happy holidays!

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe and enjoyable holiday season, and a very happy New Year.

- David

DejalNews #72: Time Out 2.3, 512 Pixels, Setapp 100

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DejalNews 2017-10, issue #72

Welcome

This is DejalNews, an occasional newsletter from Dejal.

If you want to receive these newsletters in your email inbox, head over to the DejalNews subscribe page to sign up.

Time Out 2.3 released

I mentioned in the previous newsletter that I was about to start work on Time Out version 2.3. As you may know by now, that did in fact eventuate, and it was recently released.

Version 2.3 focuses on enhancements to the postpone and skip options, including the ability to show the number of times each break has been postponed, skipped, and/or done (finished) today... and a much-requested feature, the ability to set daily limits on postponing and skipping. There's also a fun mini-pie-chart option.

Importantly, this update also includes a number of fixes for High Sierra compatibility, including a significant issue where the label and break background colors can unexpectedly become white.

I recommend updating to this version if you'll be installing High Sierra.

Read the blog post for details of the improvements.

512 Pixels sponsorship

I don't do much advertising, but I occasionally like to do something to support people and sites that I like. One such is 512 Pixels, written by Stephen Hackett, who you may also know as one of the founders of the Relay FM podcast network.

This week I am sponsoring the 512 Pixels site, as a way to help support Stephen, and promote the new release of Dejal Time Out.

Read the sponsorship post on 512 Pixels.

Setapp reaches 100 apps

It seems I'm often writing about Setapp in these newsletters... but it's such a great service, making it easy for people to find lots of high-quality and useful apps, including Dejal Simon.

Setapp has just announced that they have reached 100 apps on the service; an exciting milestone. There's something for everyone!

- David

DejalNews #71: Simon discount

DejalNews header

DejalNews 2017-07, issue #71

Welcome

This is DejalNews, an occasional newsletter from Dejal.

If you want to receive these newsletters in your email inbox, head over to the DejalNews subscribe page to sign up.

Simon price eclipsed

Much of the US will experience a total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. To celebrate this historic event, I thought I'd eclipse the price of Simon till the end of August. (Okay, a flimsy excuse for a discount, but why not — it's been quite a long time since the last one, even if not as long as since the last eclipse over the US, in 1918.)

This discount is automatically applied if you buy via the online store. Don't delay! Like the eclipse, this special only lasts a short time.

Already have Simon? Tell your friends and colleagues about it! I really appreciate any help spreading the word.

Setapp at 5 months

Recently TidBITS featured an article about Setapp, marking the five month period of Setapp's existence. I was quoted a number of times in this article, discussing my impressions of Simon in Setapp. Spoiler: I'm quite pleased with it so far. If you want lots of great apps (including Simon) for one low price, check out Setapp.

Time Out 2.3 coming soonish

I've been busy with consulting work of late, so work on Dejal apps has been rather slow. But I'll soon be getting back to it, as time allows, with several app updates and even new apps planned for the rest of the year.

The future plans are always subject to change, of course, but my current thought is to first work on an update to Time Out, to version 2.3. I have several planned enhancements, and some issues to fix... but if you have any requests, now would be a great time to let me know. Maybe your feature idea could make it into the next update!

- David

Simon special: an eclipsed price for a limited time

Much of the US will experience a total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. To celebrate this historic event, I thought I'd eclipse the price of Simon till the end of August. (Okay, a flimsy excuse for a discount, but why not — it's been quite a long time since the last one, even if not as long as since the last eclipse over the US, in 1918.)

This discount is automatically applied if you buy via the online store. Don't delay! Like the eclipse, this special only lasts a short time.

Simon in BundleHunt

BundleHunt poster

I know I've mentioned this before, but I wanted to remind everyone of BundleHunt, a "choose your own bundle" collection of great apps, which includes Simon, my pro tool to monitor websites and servers for changes or failures.

This bundle is coming to an end soon, so it's your last chance to get Simon and 6 other apps for just $19.99. Choose from 49 premium apps, including Typinator, MacJournal, WinZip, and more. You can get 7 apps for less than quarter the regular price of just Simon!

If you already have Simon, this is a great opportunity to get your friends or colleagues hooked on its benefits for a very low cost. I'd appreciate any help in spreading the word, and if you use this link they'll know you came from here.

DejalNews #69: Time Out 2.2, Simon 4.2.2, Yellow Cottage Homestead

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DejalNews 2017-03, issue #69

Welcome

This is DejalNews, an occasional newsletter from Dejal.

If you want to receive these newsletters in your email inbox, head over to the DejalNews subscribe page to sign up.

Time Out 2.2.1 released

This month I released an update to Time Out, my popular break reminder tool for macOS.

Version 2.2 adds a major new feature: a new Activity page, where you can see what breaks you've taken (and for how long), and what apps you've used, if you wish.

It also adds some great user-contributed themes, and some other improvements.

A quick update to version 2.2.1 fixed a couple of scheduling issues.

Learn more about the changes in Time Out 2.2, and how to get it.

Time Out 2: a year later

This month marked the one year anniversary of Time Out 2! To celebrate, I wrote a blog post, complete with pie charts, providing information on how the downloads and supporter model have gone over the past year.

Read the blog post.

Simon 4.2.2 released

Another recent update was Simon 4.2.2. This update included updated Setapp support, in-app purchase options, and a number of other improvements.

Learn more about the changes in Simon 4.2.2.

Note that it is still available as part of BundleHunt too, for a limited time. Tell your friends!

Yellow Cottage Homestead

In addition to Dejal apps and Dejal consulting, my wife and I also have a hobby business called Yellow Cottage Homestead, LLC, where we raise chickens for eggs (as seen in my Chicken GIFs sticker pack!), make apple cider, grow lavender for various products, and soon will keep bees for honey, on our five acres.

About a month ago I started a blog for the homestead, where I'm posting every day or two about projects around the place. I recently had some posts about designing and building wooden potato planters, and there have been posts about snow and about chickens, but most of the posts have been about building a second chicken coop, which I've just started.

If that interests you, check out the Yellow Cottage Homestead blog.

Over the coming weeks you can expect many more posts about building progress, plus in May we'll be getting a dozen baby chicks (hopefully I'll have the coop ready by then!), plus will be setting up a couple of bee hives, and many other projects. Stay tuned!

Of course, there is a RSS feed, plus you can follow @YellowHomestead on Twitter, or the Facebook page.

- David

Simon 4.2.2 released

A minor update to Simon, my utility to monitor websites and servers, is now available.

Changes in this update include:

  • Updated support for Setapp. (Prefer a subscription to Simon and lots of other apps? Check out Setapp.)
  • Added an in-app purchase option, so you can purchase a license without leaving the app (direct edition only).
  • Fixed the Result label when editing a Number filter to correctly display the status icon and result message.
  • Changed the Script editor to prevent it from using smart quotes and dashes, which can interfere with correct script functioning.
  • Fixed an exception with the MySQL service.
  • A number of other minor fixes.
  • Built for Sierra (but still compatible back to Yosemite).

If you are using the direct edition, simply use the Check for Updates feature in the app to update.

If you are using the Setapp edition, it should update automatically shortly.

Otherwise, download Simon 4.2.2 now!

DejalNews #68: Time Out 2.2 beta, Simon in BundleHunt, forums

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DejalNews 2017-02, issue #68

Welcome

This is DejalNews, an occasional newsletter from Dejal.

If you want to receive these newsletters in your email inbox, head over to the DejalNews subscribe page to sign up.

Time Out 2.2 beta

Earlier this month I released the first couple of betas of an update to Time Out, my popular break reminder tool for macOS.

Version 2.2 adds a major new feature: a new Activity page, where you can see what breaks you've taken (and for how long), and what apps you've used, if you wish.

It also adds some great user-contributed themes, and some other improvements.

Learn more about the changes in version 2.2, and how to get it.

Simon in BundleHunt

After the success with Caboodle a few months ago, BundleHunt asked if I'd like to include Simon in their latest bundle, featured near the top, to which I agreed. This is a rare opportunity to get Simon, my pro tool to monitor websites and servers, for a significant discount. Normally $99 for just the app, for a limited time you can get Simon and six other premium apps for only $19.99.

Learn more at BundleHunt!

Speaking of Simon, it has been having good success as part of Setapp too; the "Netflix of apps", lots of quality apps for a low monthly subscription. Check it out if you haven't already.

Dejal Forums now require moderation

I've had a bunch of problems with the Dejal Forums of late, first with account creation not working, then a lot of spam postings every day. To combat that, I added moderation of posts. So now, when you post something to a forum, it isn't publicly visible initially, but I will see it within hours and approve for publishing, then immediately reply if needed. One nice benefit of this is that you'll get an email when the post is published, which will let you know that a reply will likely be forthcoming shortly thereafter.

I've still had the flood of spam, but at least it hasn't been publicly visible anymore. And since I've been blocking the spammer accounts, the volume has dropped off, perhaps as they realized they were wasting their time. Hopefully that problem will go away.

Long-term, I'm debating whether or not the forums are worthwhile, since most people prefer to contact me privately, and some site changes I want to do one day would be easier if I didn't have the complication of user accounts. If you want them to continue, make use of them!

- David

DejalNews #67: Chicken GIFs, Date Stamp, Simon in Setapp

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DejalNews 2017-01, issue #67

Welcome

This is DejalNews, an occasional newsletter from Dejal.

If you want to receive these newsletters in your email inbox, head over to the DejalNews subscribe page to sign up.

Happy new year!

Welcome to 2017! I hope you had a pleasant and safe holiday season. You may or may not like what is going on in the world nowadays, but things are promising to be quite exciting for Dejal this year.

Speaking of which, I have an annual tradition of doing a couple of blog posts around the new year, and this time was no exception. Firstly was “Featured blog posts of 2016”, providing a bunch of links to interesting Dejal posts throughout the year, and secondly the “Dejal year in review: 2016” post, which gave a brief summary of what happened with the Dejal apps last year, and a look ahead at what's coming this year. Check them out if you haven't already, and you might notice some interesting hints!

Introducing Chicken GIFs

Who doesn't like chickens?! Okay, probably some people... but even if you don't want to get close to chickens, you can enjoy their antics.

I live on about five acres, and keep chickens for eggs (we don't have them for meat). I have a YouTube channel where I post videos of the chickens, and other things around the property.

So when Apple introduced the ability to create sticker packs for the iOS Messages app, one of my first ideas was to take funny bits from those videos and make them into animated GIFs. And that's what I did.

The Chicken GIFs sticker pack features a bunch of amusing GIFs that you can include in message conversations, either as standalone images, or stuck onto message bubbles.

Take a look at the Chicken GIFs website to see a video of it in action, or get it now from the iMessage Store!

Date Stamp 1.0.1 released

Speaking of stickers, I also released a small update to my first iMessage app, Date Stamp.

Version 1.0.1 has just one minor change: to fix an issue where tapping the Today button in the mini date picker would show "March" for the month instead of "January" (when it is January). This was due to a slight miscalculation when determining the row of the picker to select. The date picker is entirely custom, and actually contains thousands of rows to enable infinite scrolling (or spinning of the values), so it calculates the row near the middle of that range, to ensure lots of values above and below for scrolling. Anyway, oops; math is hard, yo.

Learn more about Date Stamp.

Simon in Setapp

I mentioned in the previous newsletter that my macOS app to monitor websites & servers, Simon, is included in the new Setapp service.

Well, yesterday was an exciting day: Setapp is now out of beta, and available to everyone!

This service offers a curated collection of dozens of Mac apps for one low monthly price, with no more paid upgrades or in-app purchases. A great way to discover useful new apps.

What's more, you can try Setapp for free for a month, so you've got nothing to lose.

If you're interested in Simon, but hesitate at the pro-level price-tag, this is an affordable new way to get it and many more apps, with more being added all the time for the same low price. But don't worry, the direct price won't be going away for those who prefer that.

Learn more about Setapp.

- David

Introducing Setapp

Today is an exciting day for me: the launch of a major new way to get Mac apps: Setapp.

Setapp is a service released by MacPaw, developers of several popular Mac apps, that promises to make it much easier for people to discover and try great apps for macOS.

Unlike traditional direct app purchases, or the Mac App Store, Setapp is a subscription service, offering a large and growing selection of apps for one low monthly price. And you can try it for free for the first month, so there's no risk.

One thing I really like about it is that it is so well integrated: the apps all appear in a folder within your Applications folder, and you can open any to learn more about the app in a small "teaser" window. If it sounds like a useful app, just click an Open button and it launches, ready to use.

Why am I excited for a third-party service? Because one of my apps is included. Dejal Simon is one of the foundation apps in Setapp. It's a bit of an experiment for me, but I hope that it'll help lots more people discover Simon, and get the benefits of using this app.

Want to learn more? Check out Setapp now!

DejalNews: Date Stamp, Setapp, BundleHunt, happy holidays!

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DejalNews 2016-12, issue #66

Welcome

This is DejalNews, an occasional newsletter from Dejal.

If you want to receive these newsletters in your email inbox, head over to the DejalNews subscribe page to sign up.

Introducing Date Stamp

A few days ago I released a new app: Date Stamp, an iOS app to provide customizable stickers for iMessage.

iMessage apps are a new feature of iOS 10, and a little obscure. You find them via the apps button to the left of the entry field in Apple's Messages app on iOS. They have their own store, which is full of sticker packs — collections of static or animated images that you can peel and stick onto your conversation bubbles, to make chatting more fun.

My Date Stamp app is similar, in that it provides stickers you can peel and stick onto messages, but it isn't just a collection of static images — they can be changed to include any date you choose, plus the format of the date can be changed, and the color of the date or surrounding text/frame can also be altered.

It's fun and useful, so you can tell someone you received something, or paid a bill, or to save the date, and much more.

Learn more about Date Stamp.

Date Stamp

Simon in Setapp

In other news, my friends at MacPaw recently started an invite-only beta of their new service, Setapp.

This service offers a curated collection of dozens of Mac apps for one low monthly price.

Imagine no more paid upgrades or in-app purchases; you can use any or all of the apps without paying more. A great way to discover useful new apps.

I'm really excited about this new service, and pleased to include Simon as one of the apps. One of the things I like the most is how well it is integrated into the Mac — the apps appear right in a special folder in the Finder, and opening one shows a handy description and screenshots so you can learn more or start using it without having to leave the Finder. It's very nice.

If you're interested in Simon, but hesitate at the pro-level price-tag, this is an affordable new way to get it and many more apps, with more being added all the time for the same low price. But don't worry, the direct price won't be going away for those who prefer that.

They are now letting a limited number of people into their invite-only beta, to try it for free for a couple of months. If you're interested in getting a sneak peek of Setapp, contact me to get an invite.

Last chance for BundleHunt

As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, Caboodle is currently included in the BundleHunt holiday bundle, featuring an assortment of Mac apps to choose from. If you haven't yet taken advantage of this great deal, don't delay; it ends soon!

Happy holidays!

As we approach the end of the year, I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you Merry Christmas, or whatever holiday tradition you follow. I hope you have a safe and enjoyable holiday season.

- David

Simon: unlimited tests for everyone

Simon 4 has been out for a while now, but I'm still getting a regular trickle of upgrades, so obviously not everyone has moved to the latest (or recent) versions yet.

One huge benefit of Simon 4 hasn't gotten much attention, so I thought I'd call it out: unlimited tests for everyone!

What does this mean?

In versions 1 and 2, Simon had three license levels available for purchase: "Basic", "Standard" and "Enterprise". In version 1, Basic permitted a maximum of 3 active test configurations for $29.95, Standard allowed up to 10 for $59.95, and Enterprise removed the limit for the relatively large sum of $195. In version 2, the first two were doubled to 7 and 20 respectively, while Enterprise remained unlimited (with unchanged prices).

In version 3, I added a fourth level, and renamed them to "Bronze", "Silver", "Gold", and "Platinum", with the limits doubled again to 15, 40, 100, and still unlimited at the top. The prices were increased, to $49, $99, $199 and the princely sum of $499, respectively.

So what was I going to do for version 4? Keep them the same, double them again, or something else?

I decided to simplify.

For this upgrade, I eliminated the concept of license levels. Unsurprisingly, relatively few customers had opted for the Platinum level, though more than you might think. The cheapest level, Bronze, wasn't the most popular, though: the majority of people wanted more tests.

I thought that eliminating the levels would make it easier to people to understand the purchase. One price, unlimited tests. Deciding on the price was tricky. Over the years, the expected price of apps have gone down significantly, due to the "race to the bottom" of the iOS App Store, where most apps are free or $0.99 nowadays. Fortunately, things aren't as untenable on the Mac, with average prices more like $20 to $40, and pro apps going for around $100 (which is still less than they used to be, but not as bad). So I decided to go for the price of the most popular license level, but with the features of the top-of-the-line one: $99 to get unlimited tests.

Of course, some people would have preferred a cheaper option. And I was leaving money on the table from people willing to pay prices like $499. But I think time has supported this decision as a happy medium for everyone.

I think most people understand the realities of software development, but I feel I should mention it anyway. Software takes time to write and support. For a powerful and flexible app like Simon, a lot of time. It's also a relatively niche app, so doesn't have as huge a market as other apps. So the only way it can survive and have continued development (even if sometimes slow, as I work on other projects) is to have a sustainable price. It's always tricky to find the right price for an app, but for Simon, this feels right.

Still using Simon 3? Check out the huge number of improvements in the version 4 release notes, and when you're ready, buy an upgrade for just $49!

And if you've bought Simon 4, thank you! Especially to the long-term customers who have used it and upgraded it over the years. I've still got an ever-expanding list of feature ideas, with work on version 4.3 starting soon!

Finally, if you are using Simon, one thing that would really help is to tell others about it. Tell your co-workers, friends, post on Twitter or Facebook, etc. Helping to spread the word is much appreciated, and goes a long way to supporting the app and its ongoing development.

Simon tip: Context filter

For a change of pace, I thought I'd discuss a Simon feature this time.

One of the many enhancements in Simon 4.0 was the Context filter. This is a sophisticated filter that takes the previous filter's input and match range to output some context around that filter's output text.

It includes controls to specify the maximum number of characters before and/or after the matched range, and/or a delimiter before and/or after the matched range. So for example you can show up to 50 characters, stopping at a line break.

This filter is unusual in that it requires a previous filter to be used, and that needs to be either a Block- or Find-based filter, as those are the only ones that output the needed match range information.

The Context filter uses the Input specified in the test to determine which filter's input and match variables to use: if you have two previous filters, you can make the Context filter look at the first one by choosing Filter1OutputText instead of the default FilterOutputText (which means the proceeding filter).

The match range is available in variables used by the Context filter, and can be used in your custom filters or notifiers if you wish:

  • {FilterMatchLocation}: the position of the match in the input text, e.g. the text between the Blocks, or the Find result. Note that the location is zero-based.
  • {FilterMatchLength}: The length of that match.
  • {FilterMatchEnd}: The location plus the length, for convenience.

You don't need to worry about these variables for the Context filter, though; it uses them internally.

Here's a simple example of this filter in action.

This is from a Web test that looks at the Daring Fireball site. It has a Find Required filter to look for the word "finally", then if that succeeds a Context filter to output the enclosing paragraph. To round it out, if the Find filter fails, the Override as Unchanged failure case is used, to avoid the test resulting in a failure if Gruber hasn't used the word "finally" recently.

Below the filters, you can see the Preview pane's output, which you'll notice includes the word "finally" towards the end.

Context filter screenshot

I hope this will be a useful filter for many of your tests. Simon is a powerful tool, with lots of other handy filters, services, and notifiers.

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