Blogs

Simon on your iPhone, APC notifier, and more

One of the nice things about Dejal Simon is its flexibility. Not just in the wide range of website, server, application, etc monitoring services and notifiers, but that it can be extended by anyone, not just me.

As you may know, I have a page on the Dejal site devoted to such extensions, the Simon Extras page. Newly contributed services, notifiers, and reports tend to get bundled into the application in the next feature release, but you don't have to wait — you can download the new goodies now. In fact, existing customers need to do so to get them, as the bundled ones are only visible with the default data install for people first trying Simon (I have plans to improve that situation in the future via an enhanced update mechanism).

Here are some of the recent offerings:

  • iPhone: A report template to display reports on an iPhone or iPod touch (try it yourself with a live demo: point your iPhone at www.dejal.com/simon/iphonedemo):

    iPhone demoiPhone demo

  • APC Masterswitch: A notifier script to restart an outlet on an APC Masterswitch with Network Management Card v2.6.1. This has been requested by many others, so I'm sure will be much appreciated.
  • TCP Port Scanner: A service script to check all TCP ports on a server, to identify which are open.
  • Network Time (NTP): A service script test that an NTP server is responding.
  • Incoming Mail (POP) via SSL: A service script test that a POP3/SSL server is responding.
  • Port Available: A service script like the Port services, but simply checks if a specified port is open, without actually communicating on it.

Visit the Simon Extras page to download these and other handy goodies.

Narrator 2.0b3 released

Narrator version 2.0b3 is now available.

This beta update has a few more tweaks... getting closer to the general release!

  • Reduced the font size of the description field, to allow seeing more text.
  • Added description field values to the welcome document.
  • Now removes the show/hide toolbar button in the Preferences window, as per Apple's Human Interface Guidelines.
  • Changed the trial reminders to count downwards instead of upwards.
  • Added a nifty trial reminder in the window titlebar.
  • Removed the random daily license reminders; redundant now that the window title has a reminder.
  • Fixed a bug were automatic reading might not occur if the document takes too long to load.
  • Changed the way the version and release numbers are updated internally.
  • Added French localization, thanks to Philippe Bonnaure.

Download now!

Added a Dejal products page

I've just added a Dejal Products page to the site.

This page serves as a quick summary of all current applications available from Dejal, plus links to the older applications and tools that I keep available for those who want them.

I imagine I'll use it for brief lists of my apps, as often appears on third-party promotion pages, e.g.:

Dejal produces Simon, a website/server monitoring tool, Time Out, a free break reminder, Caboodle, a snippet keeper, Narrator, to read stories in multiple voices, and more.

Get Narrator for free via TrialPay

[TrialPay]I have added a new payment option to the Dejal Store: TrialPay.

This is an interesting concept. Instead of directly buying one of my products, you try or buy one of the many products offered via the TrialPay service, and get my product for free as part of the bargain. They have many products available, including ones you'd likely buy anyway, such as eBay, Blockbuster, Stamps.com, and hundreds of others.

In fact, with Valentine's Day coming up, now's a perfect time to use FTD.com for flowers and get Narrator as a free bonus!

How TrialPay works:

Initially I am only offering a Household license for Narrator via TrialPay. Based on my experience with how well it works, and feedback from my customers, I may extend it to all of my products. But for now, you can get Narrator for any number of people in your home for free — a $24 value!

To take advantage of this deal, click this button to begin:

Please help me evaluate this by contacting me if you have any thoughts on TrialPay - whether you choose to use it or not.

If you're a developer and want to find out how TrialPay can help you, you can find out more information on the TrialPay merchant site.

Narrator 2.0b2 released

Narrator version 2.0b2 is now available.

This beta release has a few important fixes, plus some new features:

  • Added preferences to re-open the documents that were open last time you quit, and to create a new document if nothing else opened.
  • Fixed a bug with the new Dictionary preferences page, where changes were not remembered.
  • Fixed a bug when speaking if a blank Dictionary replacement text was specified.
  • Fixed a bug with saving documents, where it'd still be marked as having changed after a save.
  • Fixed a couple of bugs with deleting Chapters or Characters, that would prevent saving the document thereafter.
  • Improved the button titles for the Chapter and Character deletion alerts.
  • Added German localization, thanks to Ulf Dunkel.

It's a recommended update for everyone on 2.0b1. Download now!

I don't have any further issues to fix for the 2.0 release. So please try this and let me know if you find any further bugs, or have any suggestions for tweaks or new feature ideas. Feel free to post to the Narrator Forum or contact me privately.

Stevenote thoughts

Well, that was an interesting Stevenote. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be there this year. I enjoyed Macworld last year, but couldn't make it again. So I had to settle for reading the live-blogging coverage via MacRumors.com. They did a good job, though.

As expected, it didn't top last year's... it'd be hard to top the iPhone introduction! The rumor sites pretty much nailed the announcements, too.

The biggie of course was the new MacBook Air, Apple's re-entry into the sub-notebook market. I say "re-entry" as I would count their previous PowerMac Duo models as their first attempt at this market. Those were popular machines in the day, but the new Air is certainly a vast improvement. I personally am happy with my 17" MacBook Pro, and need the Pro power and large screen, since I use it as my primary development machine. But I'm sure the Air will be a popular model with people who want a compact lightweight laptop.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of it for me is the multi-touch trackpad. Readers of my blog will know that multi-touch is an interest of mine, so I'm pleased to see it come to the MacBook line. I only hope that they make the new pinch, rotate, etc gestures available for other MacBooks in the next OS update.

Another new product is Time Capsule, an AirPort Extreme base station with a built-in hard drive for seamless network-attached storage. This promises to be a boon for people with laptops, to avoid the hassle of having to plug in and dismount an external drive to do Time Machine backups. Of course, a concern is what happens if the built-in drive dies, as hard drives are wont to do, but presumably it wouldn't be too hard to swap it out, and it does include a USB port that supports an external drive.

The Apple TV enhancements, including movie rentals, seem worthwhile improvements. I have a Mac mini hooked to my TV, so don't really have a need for an Apple TV, but it seems a good device for many others. I can see lots of potential with this little gadget. The rentals make a lot of sense. Most movies are only worth watching once, so it's silly to buy them. We subscribe to NetFlix, a convenient DVD-by-mail service, but instant download of HD movies would be much more convenient.

Lastly, the new iPhone update seems to include many welcome improvements. The new location feature goes a long way towards GPS functionality, while the ability to save web clips to the home screen, and rearrange the home screen, both seem excellent additions. Shockingly, I don't have an iPhone yet, as I'm stuck into an existing contract till June, but you can be sure that my wife and I will be getting them once we're free of that... hopefully once the 3G rev is out, too. :)

All in all, nothing too surprising this time, but not a disappointment, either.

Narrator 2.0b1 release

Narrator version 2 is now in public beta release!

Narrator 2 is a major upgrade, a complete rewrite. It requires Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" as it uses the latest technologies. Version 1.1.4 will remain available for people who aren't ready for Leopard.

This upgrade includes a much-requested feature: the ability to export the speech to an AAC sound file, or export directly to iTunes. This is great for listening to stories on an iPod or iPhone, or directly in iTunes. Make your own audiobooks! The tracks can be bookmarkable, too, keeping track of where you're up to when listening to them.

Narrator 2 also has several other enhancements, including preferences to substitute words to fine-tune the pronunciation, the ability to organize your work into multiple chapters, a fancy new look consistent with other Leopard apps, various text features like tables, links, lists, spelling and grammar checking, and more. See the release notes for details.

For new customers, the license prices will be going up about $5 after the beta cycle -- well worth it with the added features. But during the beta testing, you can buy at the version 1 prices.

This is a paid upgrade (just $9) for existing customers. But I'm offering a generous free upgrade period: everyone who purchased Narrator since October 1, 2007 is eligible for a free upgrade. If you qualify, just contact me to get your upgrade license.

Here's a feature graphic for Narrator 2.0b1, as seen in rotation (with ones for Simon and Time Out currently) on the Dejal home page:

Download Narrator 2 now!

Featured blog posts of 2007

My blog posts often just cover new releases, but sometimes I post general-interest or developer-interest topics. Some highlights from 2007 included:

I hope you enjoyed these posts.

Dejal year in review: 2007

The year 2007 was a good one for Dejal, with lots of releases, nicely growing revenue, and other goodness. Here are some highlights from the year:

LeopardApple released Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" in October. It is an excellent upgrade, with hundreds of enhancements, both at the UI level and in terms of frameworks and tools for developers.

Simon: My flagship website and server monitoring tool had two significant updates, versions 2.2 and 2.3, with several fix updates bringing it to 2.3.5. These versions added the versatile Script service and notifier, plus several other plug-ins and lots of other improvements.

Time Out: Version 1.5 of this popular freeware break reminder app was released, with 1.5.1 as the latest release as of this writing. This version added a much improved icon, layout tweaks, and other changes.

Caboodle: This handy snippet-keeper app was updated to version 1.1, with the current release being 1.1.3. These releases added import and export functions, enhanced printing, and many other improvements.

Narrator: My fun speech synthesis app hasn't been updated for a number of years, but I've been working on a rewrite of it using Leopard technologies, which is currently in private alpha testing, and will be available publicly soon.

BlogAssist: This useful HTML markup tool was updated to version 2.1, with 2.1.2 the latest release. It added a very useful Services menu command, allowing inline replacement of text -- something I use daily. Plus other changes.

Macfilink: My affiliate link cloaking app was updated to version 1.4, with 1.4.2 the latest currently. It didn't have many changes, since it is a very simple app that does one job well, but it had some tweaks.

Dejal site: The Dejal web site also had a number of improvements in 2007. Back in January, the entire site was migrated to a new server, driven by a hybrid of custom PHP code and the Drupal CMS. It uses my custom code for the product and store pages, among others, and Drupal for the remainder -- basically any page with a navigation menu or login fields in the sidebar is a Drupal-powered page. Using Drupal allows easy blog posting, forums, FAQs, plus combined account management and commenting. I also added a Developer section, where I share some of my Cocoa code for other Mac developers. The screenshot slideshows were also improved, using JavaScript instead of reloading the page each time, and I added JavaScript to the Store pages to make them prettier. Speaking of the Store, I also implemented PayPal's Instant Payment Notification service, allowing purchases to be processed promptly and automatically.

2007 was also an interesting year in terms of Mac events. I attended Macworld for the first time (as an attendee only, not an exhibitor), which was quite interesting. I also attended my second WWDC.

What will 2008 bring? I don't want to pre-announce too much, but you can expect updates to all of my current apps, some of them major upgrades with significant new looks. One such is Time Out version 2, which I'm really excited about. Another is Narrator 2, which will be going into public beta testing very soon.

My year in cities, 2007

Here are all of the cities I spent one or more nights in during 2007:

Portland, OR (home)
San Francisco, CA (for Macworld & WWDC)
Sunriver, OR

Much less travel than last year.

My wife did more travel in 2007: she went to Italy with a friend, Dallas for work, and Seattle for a concert.

Fourth annual HobbitFest

My wife and I have a recent holiday tradition which we call "HobbitFest": a marathon of watching the extended editions of all three Lord of the Rings movies in one day. It takes about 12 and a half hours, including short breaks between each movie and in the intermissions: the extended editions are each so long that they're spread over two DVD discs, so we have breaks when swapping discs.

We consider Lord of the Rings to be the best set of movies ever created. I may be slightly biased, since it was filmed in my native New Zealand, and by a Kiwi director. But even after watching all three movies several times, we still really enjoy the story and cinematography.

I'm not sure what we'll do once the two Hobbit films are done and available on DVD. No doubt they'll have really long extended editions, too... so we might have to make it a two-day event.

Yesterday was our fourth annual HobbitFest. It was a fun day. We enjoyed snacking on "Sarlacc dip", aka spinach dip and sourdough bread -- a favorite dip, named for a Star Wars themed party many years ago. Sometime we should come up with more LotR-themed snacks... salted pork, crackers, etc, perhaps.

Yes, sometimes my geek shows. I'm just glad that I married another geek, so we can geek out together. :)

Happy Holidays!

MacSantaHappy holidays everyone!

I will continue to be available for sales and support queries over the holiday period, though responses may be a little slower than usual.

Remember, the MacSanta discounts are still available till the end of 2007... and even though the Extended Deals participants are supposed to offer 10% off, I'm offering the same great discounts as on my featured day for the rest of the year -- several more than 20%.

Visit the Dejal Store and enter the MACSANTA07TEN coupon (that link will automatically apply it) to take advantage of these special deals. But hurry -- they are only available till the end of 2007!

Thanks again to Paul Kafasis at Rogue Amoeba for organizing the promotion.

Best wishes to everyone; have safe and pleasant holidays. Special thanks to my valued customers. 2007 has been a great year for Dejal, with the ever-increasing popularity of my products, and I'm looking forward to the many improvements planned for 2008.

Macfilink 1.4.2 released

Macfilink, the affiliate link cloaking tool, has been updated to version 1.4.2.

This update includes a few useful fixes, plus changes the distribution method from disk images to ZIP archives -- a change I'm rolling out for all of my products with each subsequent release.

You can read the release notes, or download now!

A sneak peek of Narrator 2

Narrator version 2 is coming... a long time coming. It's been over four years since the last update, which is way too long.

Version 2 is a major upgrade, a complete rewrite. It requires Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" as it uses the latest technologies. Version 1.1.4 will remain available for people who aren't ready for Leopard.

At present it is incomplete, and in private alpha testing, but a public beta should be available in January, with a general release a little later.

The features are still being worked on, but here's a sneak peek at a couple of them.

Firstly, there's a new Character (voice) marker in the text, instead of using text colors:

Marker

Secondly, the Character configuration area is now in the window sidebar, and has a description of the Character and individual reset buttons for each of the voice sliders:

Detail area

This will be a paid upgrade (the price to be determined, but probably not much). But I'll offer a generous free upgrade period: everyone who purchased Narrator since October 1, 2007 will be eligible for a free upgrade. So, of course, if you purchase Narrator now, you will qualify for a version 2 license at no further cost -- and will likely save money, as I'm also thinking of increasing the price a little.

If you've purchased Narrator (or are about to), feel free to contact me to get access to the alpha release.

Stay tuned for more information about this new version.

MacSanta continues till the end of the year

MacSantaThanks to everyone who purchased on my featured MacSanta day. It was a great success.

But it's not too late! This year MacSanta has an Extended Deals page where participating developers are offering 10% off for the rest of the month, using the coupon code MACSANTA07TEN.

I am rebelling against that a little, though: I'm offering the same great discounts as on the featured day for the rest of the year -- in fact many are more than 20%.

Visit the Dejal Store and enter the MACSANTA07TEN coupon (that link will automatically apply it) to take advantage of these special deals. But hurry -- they are only available till the end of 2007!

Thanks again to Paul Kafasis at Rogue Amoeba for organizing the promotion.

MacSanta is back!

MacSantaMacSanta is back with more big savings! For the month of December, many independent Mac software developers are offering great deals on their products, via the MacSanta site.

Each day, a few developers will be featured, with 20% off their products using the special coupon code MACSANTA07. You can still save 10% from developers from previous days via the Extended Deals page and the coupon code MACSANTA07TEN.

Dejal will be featured on the main page on Tuesday. The MACSANTA07 coupon is now active at the Dejal Store.

Thanks to Paul Kafasis at Rogue Amoeba for organizing the promotion again this year.

Having RSS issues

I'm having issues with my RSS feed. Sorry about that. I think I've fixed it, so this is a post to see if it's working now, as well as to apologize for the issues.

I think it happened as a result an update to the Drupal CMS I use.

BlogAssist 2.1.2 released

BlogAssist version 2.1.2 is now available.

BlogAssist is a helpful tool; it adds a system menu (on the right-hand-side of the menubar) with a list of operations that can be performed on text. You can copy some text, choose an operation, and paste -- the text will be marked up based on the chosen operation. The operations include HTML and forum markup. If you prefer, a floating palette is also available (to drag the text), or you can mark up inline by selecting text in your web browser or editor application, hitting Cmd->, and choosing the operation in a small window that appears, then click OK to substitute it right in the app.

Very handy... I use BlogAssist daily. For example, the product icon, release notes link, and download link in this blog post were generated very simply by BlogAssist.

Anyway, this update adds German localization, improves the French localization, plus a few other changes.

Download now!

Simon 2.3.5 released

Simon version 2.3.5 is now available.

This update includes lots of changes, as follows. I considered calling it version 2.4, but strictly speaking all of the changes are improvements or fixes, not new features, which is my rule for bumping the second digit:

  • Improved the notifications to avoid notifying again if the test is already failing; it used to notify again if the error was slightly different, but that's usually just annoying. You can turn off the "Only notify once for each failure" checkbox to get repeatedly notified until recovery.
  • Improved the SSH service to avoid protocol identification warnings in the Console.
  • Fixed an issue with the FTP service where it had the wrong default protocol, which caused the incorrect Edit Test view to be displayed.
  • Improved the FTP service to work with the Security section of the Edit Test window, allowing checking secure FTP sites (without having to prepend the username and password to the URL).
  • Fixed a bug with the Basic service plug-in where it would mistakenly look for cookies for FTP services, which while harmless most of the time, can cause crashes in some situations.
  • Fixed a bug in the MySQL notifier plug-in where the Password field wasn't enabled correctly when using notifier-specific authentication.
  • Fixed a minor typo in a couple of report templates.
  • Fixed the tooltip for the "keep backup" checkbox in the Advanced preferences.
  • Enhanced the URLs for the Help menu to better support localization.
  • Updated the built-in Kagi purchasing tool to the latest version, which fixes some issues with Leopard.
  • Updated the French localization.

Download now!

Black Friday specials

Dejal cornucopiaHere in the US it's Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, which is traditionally followed by "Black Friday", a day of big discounts at retail outlets.

In keeping with that tradition, I'd like to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving and offer my own discounts. Until the end of the weekend, you can get big discounts of all of my products via the Dejal Store - no coupon or special code needed.

Save up to $50 on a Simon license, and similar large discounts on the other products. Hurry, this offer expires on 2007-11-25!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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