Blogs

A few more site improvements

I've just tweaked the Dejal site a little more. Improvements include:

  • Subscriptions: You can elect to be notified via email when someone (e.g. me) replies to your forum posts, or subscribe to the blog. This is in addition to the RSS feeds.
  • Improved URLs: All posts to the site now automatically have a fairly intuitive URL, instead of "node/number" as before.
  • Code Formatting: You can now type <code>...</code> tags in posts and comments, and they'll be formatted correctly.
  • Automatic translation: You can now get blog postings, forum discussions, FAQs, and some other pages on the site automatically translated into one of several languages: see the Change Language box in the sidebar. Doesn't work with the product pages.

Fun with domain names

I just added a bunch more domain names for my website.

Firstly, some app-specific variations, which all point to their respective product pages. I may use these in various places in the future, though they will probably always point to the same pages. They may help people find my apps when guessing the URL, too. Feel free to use these when linking to the products, if you want a shorter URL:

I also added some misspellings of Dejal, to help people guessing the spelling find the site:

It's a little surprising that such short domain names are still available... but they are unusual names.

Added Simon web badges

[Badge2]

These are a couple of web badges for Simon that I've just added. You are welcome to add one of these to websites that you monitor with Simon, to reassure your readers that you're watching your site for failures or comments, and help spread the good word about Simon.

[Badge1]

To use these, drag the desired image to your Desktop to download it, then upload to a suitable location on your website (please don't just link to the images on my site). Then copy the HTML code below to the part of your page where you want the badge to appear, and change the image name and/or path if necessary:

<a href="http://www.dejal.com/simon/"><img src="simon-monitor2.png" title="Learn about Dejal Simon, the essential website and server monitor for Mac OS X" /></a>

If anyone wants to create more badges, or has any suggestions for other designs, please get in touch.

Caboodle 1.1 released

Caboodle version 1.1 is now in general release.

It adds support for import and export in several formats - a much-requested feature. Plus an enhanced print function, several user interface improvements, and more. Read the release notes for details, or download now.

For today only, you can get it at a low low price via the MacUpdate Promo page!

Caboodle product page updated

I just rewrote the Caboodle product page to be more like the Simon one, with better descriptions of the various features and benefits of Caboodle. I hope it all makes sense - feedback welcome in the comments, Caboodle forum, or the feedback form.

Anyway, I now have a bunch of space in the sidebar, a perfect place for customer testimonials (again, like on the Simon page). Of course, I could go through my mail archives, or pull some from VersionTracker or MacUpdate, but I'd since I'm about to release version 1.1 of Caboodle, I though some tasty fresh quotes would be better.

So, if you use Caboodle and want to encourage others to give it a try, how about sending me a brief quote that I can use, along with your name and such. The feedback form has fields in the sidebar with the info needed. You can say whatever you like; I don't edit quotes, other than to make it short enough for the space. What do you like about Caboodle? What do you use it for? How has it helped you?

I'll select a bunch from the quotes I receive and post them on the site.

Thanks!

Simon reviewed on mac.pocket.at

Simon has just been reviewed at mac.pocket.at (in German). Read the review, or the automatic English translation.

Caboodle 1.1b2 released

Caboodle version 1.1b2 has now been released.

It includes much requested import and export features (by far the most popular requests), improved entry printing, New Sibling & New Child functions, an enabled window close button (which hides Caboodle), UI improvements, bug fixes, and more.

What do you think of the new fabric background for the custom fields area? Too busy? Let me know in the comments or Caboodle forum.

Simon 2.2.1 released

Simon version 2.2.1 is now in general release.

As discussed in previous blog entries, it fixes some important issues, as follows. It is a recommended update for all Simon users.

  • Fixed an issue that affected some people, particularly those who use Apple Remote Desktop or similar remote control products, where Simon would erroneously display "offline", some icons would disappear, and sometimes other cosmetic issues.
  • Improved the reliability of the Script service plug-in, so it doesn't terminate the script before all output has been received.
  • Changed the Web (HTTP) service's plug-in to not record session-only cookies, to avoid issues with servers that get confused with such cookies in a different check (session).
  • Fixed an issue with the Growl notifier plug-in that prevented it from working properly under Mac OS X 10.3.9.
  • Fixed an issue with the Specific DNS service plug-in, where it didn't report a failure for some machine configurations.
  • Added test check overlap prevention.
  • And more....

Read the release notes for details, or download now.

Creating forum topics now requires an account

In the ongoing saga of fighting spam, the captcha (math question) for comments seems to protect the site's comments from spammers, but it doesn't work for forum posts. So until it does, I have reluctantly disabled anonymous forum posting.

So, if you don't have an account, you can still comment on an existing forum topic, but you can only create a new topic if you first log in or create an account. Which is really easy to do!

Simon 2.2.1b2 released

Another beta release of Simon, to version 2.2.1b2.

This release fixes two minor bugs raised in the Simon forum:

  • Changed the Web (HTTP) service's plug-in to not record session-only cookies, to avoid issues with servers that get confused with such cookies in a different check (session).
  • Fixed an issue with the Growl notifier plug-in that prevented it from working properly under Mac OS X 10.3.9.

Enjoy!

A great multi-touch video

As I've previously discussed, I really believe that multi-touch is the way of the future. Here's another great video like Jeff Han's previous one, but on a bigger scale:

(Via MacRumors.)

Released Simon 2.2.1b1

I have just released Simon version 2.2.1b1, which includes a number of fixes; click that link for the release notes.

Of particular note, it fixes a rather vexing issue that only affected a few people (particularly those accessing their Simon machine via Apple Remote Desktop, it seems), where Simon would eventually go into an "offline" state, with icons disappearing and other strange behavior.

I was unable to recreate this myself, but fortunately one of my customers was kind and patient enough to help me by running a series of special builds with debug logging added, which allowed me to narrow down the cause. It finally turned out to be due to a known bug in the OS, where allocated objects aren't being automatically released as they should if there is no user interaction on the machine. So I solved that by managing their release myself in all the key areas.

Everyone who experienced this issue, please download this version. If anyone still experiences this issue, please let me know ASAP. Thanks to those who helped trace it, and for everyone's patience.

Anonymous comments changed again

Fighting spam in site comments and forum postings is an ongoing battle. I could eliminate it all simply by limiting posting to only people with accounts on the site, but I don't want to do that if I can avoid it, since I recognize that some people prefer to remain anonymous, or don't want to take the few seconds to create an account.

So I have now added a simple captcha feature for anonymous site users (i.e. everyone who isn't logged in via an account). You'll be asked to answer a simple math question as proof that you're a real human, instead of a spam robot.

I've also allowed anonymous comment posting without moderation again, since the captcha should prevent the spam comments. Unfortunately this feature doesn't seem to work with forum posts, so I'll have to continue manually deleting the spam posts that keep appearing there.

If you have an account (which is free and easy to create!), you won't be asked for this extra validation. I recommend that everyone create an account; it'll let you post followup messages and comments much more easily, and allow you to track answers to your posts, etc.

Macfilink 2.4 and BlogAssist 2.1 general releases

Just a quick note to say that the general releases of Macfilink version 2.4 and BlogAssist version 2.1 are now available. Click the links to read the release notes to see what has changed.

BlogAssist 2.1b2 released

ImageBlogAssist version 2.1b2 has now been released.

As discussed in my previous blog entry, this version adds a handy new Services menu option, allowing pressing < to quickly access BlogAssist, using the selected text, and have the marked-up text drop back into your document (or web form field).

For example, to add those links above, I went to the BlogAssist release notes page to find the URL, copied it, typed "released" back here in my blog entry page (which I create in a form like for forum posts) and selected that word, then hit < to display the BlogAssist Services panel. The Web Link operation was already selected, with the selected text and URL already in place, so I just clicked OK and the selected text was replaced with the marked-up HTML, and I'm done. Took about two seconds.

This is a great usability improvement, often easier to use than the other available options, of copying, selecting from the BlogAssist system menu, and pasting... or dragging to the floating BlogAssist window and back. Those other methods are still available, since they are also useful depending on the situation and personal preferences.

If you're still typing HTML (or forum codes) manually, you owe it to yourself to give BlogAssist a try!

Cocoa topics: the case of the modal WebView

I want to include the occasional programming topic in the Dejal blog, when I encounter something that may be of interest to other Mac developers. Here's my first one.

A while back, I added a Check for Updates... window that displays a WebView of release notes, much like on my site. It works rather well. However, if a beta release has expired, I wanted it to display it modally. But for some strange reason the WebView didn't load when the window was run modally. I couldn't find a solution at the time, so I just had it redirect to the website.

I came across this issue again tonight, while adding Services support to BlogAssist. I'm introducing a handy new feature where you can just hit < in any app to display a modal panel like the existing floating window. It includes a WebView to preview how the marked-up HTML will appear. I really didn't want to have to sacrifice that.

So I found a solution: tickle the runloop! It turns out that the WebView will only work on the main loop. So rather than just call -runModalForWindow:, I use the more verbose -beginModalSessionForWindow: / -runModalSession: / -endModalSession: loop. And the key to keeping the WebView happy: call -limitDateForMode: each time around the loop, so the main loop keeps on truckin'.

Here's the code:

    NSModalSession session = [NSApp beginModalSessionForWindow:[self window]];
    int result = NSRunContinuesResponse;
   
    // Loop until some result other than continues:
    while (result == NSRunContinuesResponse)
    {
        // Run the window modally until there are no events to process:
        result = [NSApp runModalSession:session];
       
        // Give the main loop some time:
        [[NSRunLoop currentRunLoop] limitDateForMode:NSDefaultRunLoopMode];
    }
   
    [NSApp endModalSession:session];

I hope this helps others with this dilemma.

MacUpdate Promo finished!

The one-day MacUpdate Promo for Dejal Simon is over. Thank you to everyone who took advantage of this great deal. Welcome! I hope you enjoy Simon. Remember to check out the User Guide, FAQ and Simon Forum if you have any questions.

Get Simon at 50% off, today only!

SimonDejal Simon is available for just $14.95 today (for a Basic license), only via the MacUpdate Promo.

Click that link for more information or to take advantage of this one-day special!

iPhone: a hint of Macs of the future

Last night I was imagining what the Mac of the future might be like... and I think the iPhone gives us some idea... and perhaps more so Jeff Han's multi-touch demo at TED.

I've always thought that a tablet Mac would only have limited appeal - great for real estate agents, medical professionals, and some others, but impractical for everyday use by most people. But Jeff Han's demo and the iPhone have me rethinking that.

The main issue, of course, is input: a finger or stylus is fine as a pointing device, much like a trackpad or mouse... but text input isn't as practical. Sure, Apple has Inkwell, which supports handwriting recognition, but typing on a keyboard will probably always be faster for most people.

But while there is definitely some advantage to the tactility of a hardware keyboard, that may be mitigated by the versatility of a software keyboard - displayed on-screen.

I think that this may well be the direction Apple will head.

I imagine a future iMac as a 30" panel angled at about 45° from horizontal (adjustable), with the computer guts hidden underneath. There is no keyboard, no mouse - just a large screen right in front of you, like an architects drafting table. You interact with it with just your hands - no stylus or other hardware.

Like in the iPhone, you can scroll with the flick of a finger, "click" or double-click just by touching, and use multi-touch gestures to zoom, move, resize, and even rotate the screen content.

As in the picture manipulation in Han's multi-touch demo, windows in the Mac OS X of the future would float in three dimensions. You can zoom windows forward or back, drag them around (perhaps via touches of their titlebar or empty space, like modern textured windows), etc. The windows scale smoothly via resolution independence. There could be a button somewhere on the screen (or a hardware "home" button like on the iPhone) to show all of the windows, like exposé, allowing quickly finding a specific one.

Controls within windows would work the same way: flick scrolling, pinch zooming, finger dragging, and more.

As I mentioned, the biggest issue for me has always been the keyboard... but I'm coming around to the view that a software keyboard could be an entirely feasible replacement. The keyboard could zoom into view when you need it, vanish when you don't, and be reconfigured to suit the application. A numeric keypad with special function keys in calculator and spreadsheet apps, a full qwerty keyboard in a word processor, and other variations. They keyboard could even be scaled and moved around as needed. To compensate for the lack of tactile feedback, it could play tapping sounds when keys are pressed, or even speak the keys or words typed.

It'd probably still need to have menus at the top of the screen, but maybe some sort of contextual replacement could be devised. Similarly, it might still have the Dock, but it'd be zoomable and much more flexible.

Reminds me of Apple's Knowledge Navigator concept video... from 20 years ago.

We could even carry it further, perhaps for more portable Macs: perhaps something like a small unit that projects the keyboard and the user interface, using spacial sensing to detect your fingers. This would allow a pocket-sized device to have not only a virtual keyboard, but a virtual screen as well, perhaps several times larger than the device itself.

Of course, none of this is new... and the technology all exists today. If anyone can put it all together in a way that works, Apple can.

I can't wait.

Makes me glad I work from home....

Portland had a big (for here) snowstorm on Tuesday. This is video footage of cars sliding around on an icy Portland street:

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