Blogs

Simon 4.0 released

(A note for beta testers: you may need to log out and back in, or use the Terminal killall Dock command, to make the "beta" sash on the app icon disappear. And thanks again for your help in making this general release great!)

A Major Upgrade!

Dejal Simon 4: four years after version 3, four months in development, it's time to go forth. Simon 4 includes a fresh new design, unifying all of the lists, logs and editors into a single window, so everything is at your fingertips. It also uses a more attractive layout for the lists of tests, services, filters, notifiers and reports. A much requested enhancement is the introduction of groups, enabling you to organize your tests, services, etc into logical collections. Those with lots of tests will be pleased to learn that the limits on the number of tests have been removed — everyone can have as many tests as they wish. This also simplifies the pricing for new and existing customers. There are numerous other enhancements too, like email services, a context filter, filter output in the preview, password protection, the ability to hide from the Dock, and much more. Read on for details.

Licensed Simon 3 users need to be aware that Simon 4 is a paid upgrade from previous versions. You will need to purchase an upgrade license. If you purchased Simon since November 1, 2014, you are eligible for a free upgrade; contact Dejal to receive your free license.

A new option is the Simon Service Plan subscription. Learn more about this below or on the Simon Support page.

Also note that Simon Express and Simon Free have been removed from the Mac App Store. Simon is a powerful and flexible tool, so they couldn't comply with the sandboxing requirements that Apple introduced. If you used one of these, please switch to the full version of Simon, and enjoy all the extra features. Your data will be automatically imported to version 4. Simon Express is automatically recognized as a version 3 license, so you only need an upgrade license.

Please also note that Simon 4 requires Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) or later, as it leverages the latest technologies. If you're still using an older OS version, you can remain on version 3 until you upgrade your OS version. You are welcome to purchase a version 4 license; it will work in version 3 as a Platinum (unlimited) license.

Read on for a summary of some of the many enhancements in Simon 4.

Great New Simon Monitor Window Design

Simon's main window, the Simon Monitor window, has been significantly redesigned. It now uses a single-window approach to display the Tests, Services, Filters, Notifiers and Reports lists in this window, switching between them via mode buttons along the left edge.

Editing tests, services, etc is now done in this window as well, via an optional info pane to the right of the active list.

As in earlier versions, the logs are displayed in a pane at the bottom of the window. This pane can now also display the Preview; see below for more on this.

The lists or logs can be hidden by dragging the pane splitter, or Cmd-clicking on the selected mode button.

[Monitor window]
Attractive New List Layouts

The lists of Tests, Services, etc have been redesigned to use a custom layout inspired by Apple Mail and other modern apps.

The lists can be sorted via a menu above the list, or via the View menu. The choice of displaying absolute dates and times (like "2014-12-25 12:34", using your local date & time format) or relative times (like "5 mins, 25 secs ago") is also available in these menus.

The Tests list shows the unviewed flag, status icon, test name, next due date/time; the uptime, service, location, last check time, and last check duration. It can also optionally display information about the most recent change and failure: the last change and when it occurred; the last error, failure & recovery date/time. These can also be toggled via those menus.

Groups

Version 4 introduces a major popularly requested feature: groups in all lists. Groups can be added to help organize the tests, services, etc into logical collections, e.g. by server or kind; whatever makes sense.

In the list, the group displays a summary of its members, e.g. the most significant status and combined uptime, with the info summary showing common values.

The menubar status menu displays groups in sub-menus, with commands that can be applied to all group members.

[Tests list]
Redesigned editors

The editors have been completely redesigned to integrate them into the single-window approach. Selecting an item in the Tests, etc lists will now display a summary of the item in the handy new Info pane to the right of the list. An Edit button is included in the top-right of the Info pane. Click that to toggle into edit mode, where the item can be modified. The button changes to Done to switch out of editing mode. You can also click the headings on the summary to jump right to the related page in edit mode.

You can leave it in editing mode and switch between tests to quickly edit them; it will remain on the same page. Speaking of which, the page selectors have been redesigned, and a new Name page was added to edit the name and comments.

The test statistics have been moved to the test summary page for easy reference.

When multiple tests or no tests are selected, the summary page shows the values in common, and a combined view of the statistics for those tests.

Another nice subtle improvement is that the actions for the test Filters, Notifiers, Reports and Auto Pause can now be reordered, simply by dragging them.

Integrated Preview, Including Filter Output

The Preview function has been completely redesigned to integrate it into the single-window approach, and provide the ability to see the filter output in addition to the service output.

When a test is selected, the Preview feature can be displayed in place of the logs at the bottom of the window for a quick view of the test. The preview includes a web page on the left (for web-based tests), a selection list in the middle, and the service response, headers or filter output on the right. The selection list shows the status of the service or filter, and for filters, the sequence number and filter name, e.g. "#1: Block Output" for the output from a Block filter. The filter output is very useful, to see not only the result of the service, but also the result of each filter. This makes it easier than ever to build up multiple filters, taking the output from previous ones to hone in on the interesting values.

The Preview function is also available when displaying a Script-based service, filter or notifier, to run the script and see what it outputs while writing it, and to preview a report within Simon.

[Preview]
Enhancements to the Email Feature

The Email feature now also works as a service. Three service modes are supported: Email Send, Email Receive, and Email Cycle:

  • Email Send is basically the same as the Email notifier: sends a custom message via SMTP. Useful to "check in" or test that a mail server is working. It outputs the message, or an error if unsuccessful.
  • Email Receive fetches a list of messages from an IMAP server. It outputs the list of messages, or an error.
  • Email Cycle first sends a special message with a unique identifier to a SMTP server, then checks for that message arriving on an IMAP server. It cleans up after itself, and outputs the message and mailbox listing, or an error.

There are several other changes, including finally renaming the E-mail notifier as Email, adding a Transport Name field to the Email Transport Options panel, a new Email Account Options panel, and modernizing the framework used to send email. See the release notes for full details.

New Context Filter

Added a new Context filter feature, which takes the previous filter's input and some new match variables to output some context around the filter's output text. It includes controls to specify the number of characters before and/or after the match range, and/or a delimiter before and/or after the match range (e.g. you can show up to 50 characters, stopping at a line break). See the release notes for information about the new variables.

And Lots More Improvements

Too many things to list here! (See the release notes for the full list.) A few other highlights that might interest existing users include:

  • A great new app icon and window icons.
  • The ability to hide Simon from the Dock.
  • The ability to password protect access to the app.
  • The Web (HTTP) feature will now automatically follow a meta refresh (e.g. <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url=http://www.dejal.com/">).
  • Added a FileShare menu and a share button in the window toolbar to share the selected item(s) with other apps.
  • No longer truncates the difference text to 400 characters, if it's longer than that.
  • The data is now saved in the background, for better performance.
  • Many changes to improve Yosemite compatibility.
Introducing the Simon Service Plan Subscription

Need more detailed or technical assistance? Introducing the Simon Service Plan, an annual subscription for heavy users or large organizations, or anyone who wants to get the most out of Simon.

The Simon Service Plan includes all app updates, including paid major upgrades like version 4.0 and any future updates within the subscription period, at no additional cost.

The Service Plan also includes two technical support incidents each subscription year. These give you top-of-the-queue direct access to the developer via email, and can be used to answer general questions, help configure Simon, and more.

Read more about this on the Simon Support page.

Try Simon 4

Ready to upgrade? Great! Purchase an upgrade license on the Dejal Store. Or subscribe to the Simon Service Plan, which includes the upgrade.

Still not sure? Try it for free!

Download Simon 4.0 now!

If you want to keep the old version around, just in case, you can rename it (e.g. to add the version number) rather than replacing it with the new version. That way they can both occupy the same folder without a file name conflict.

Simon 4 has eliminated the license levels. Now everyone can have as many tests as they want for the same price. New customers can purchase Simon for $99.00, and existing customers can upgrade for half that, just $49.00.

I hope you enjoy the many improvements in Simon 4!

Simon 4.0b9 released

Simon 4.0b9 is now available.

This should be the last beta; I'm preparing the site for the general release now. Thank you to everyone who has provided feedback for helping make Simon 4 a great release.

New default tests, services & filters

  • Fixed the new Dejal posts test so it doesn't have a failure if not logged in to the Dejal website.
  • Updated the new Singular or Plural filter to avoid including a linefeed after the text.

Fixes & optimizations in this beta

  • Fixed not respecting turning off the Show in Dock preference on launch (broken in the previous beta).
  • Fixed the Look for changes... checkbox on the Filter > Options page.
  • When changing the service type of a test and reloading the Preview, it now displays or hides the web view as appropriate.
  • Fixed the test Preview web view sometimes not appearing at all for new users.
  • Fixed some missing localization strings.
  • Updated the help book for version 4.

More in four: see the Simon What's New page for important information and details of the changes in version 4.

Download Simon 4.0b9 now!

Simon 4.0b8 released

Simon 4.0b8 is now available.

Added new default tests, services & filters

  • Added a new RSS service, which is basically just a Web (HTTP) service with a feed:// protocol, but also has different Preview behavior (see below).
  • Added a new Singular or Plural filter, which has fields for a singular or plural word, and outputs the appropriate one based on the numeric input (use other filters to provide a number).
  • Added a new Input filter, which just outputs its input, with change detection. Useful to output the the result of the service or an earlier filter after doing other filtering.
  • Added a new Apple hot news default test (for new users), that uses the RSS service and a bunch of filters to output the latest news from Apple.
  • Added a new Dejal posts default test as another demo of using filters to combine values. It's the one I use to watch for new forum posts on the Dejal site.
  • Removed the Twitter service, since it isn't supported anymore. If you want to watch for Twitter updates, you could use a Web (HTTP) service instead.

Fixes & optimizations in this beta

  • When using the new RSS service, or the existing FTP service, the Preview doesn't show the web view.
  • Changed the color of the Checks Log mode icon, to be more visible.
  • Fixed the History filter feature not being recognized.
  • Improved the data upgrade to support multiple items of the same kind.
  • Tweaked the trial expiry limits.

More in four: see the Simon What's New page for important information and details of the changes in version 4.

Download Simon 4.0b8 now!

Simon should be ready for general release very soon. Please let me know of any issues as soon as possible! Thank you for helping make Simon 4 a great release.

Introducing Pack for iPhone!

Just in time for your holiday travel!

Pack is a very simple packing list, so you can get packed quickly and easily.

There's no need to maintain separate lists for each trip. There's no need to guess and enter unnecessary details like weight or cost for each item. It has a clean and elegant appearance, without blinding you with wacky colors and images.

Pack comes with a catalog containing hundreds of items as a starting point. Quickly add, edit or delete them to make your own personalized list.

When preparing for a trip, simply skim through the list, checking or unchecking items as needed for this journey. When ready, flip over to start packing, crossing off items as you put them in your suitcase.

The Choose and Pack lists can be arranged by item name, category, or person name, and can be filtered to show only packed, packed at the end, or all.


Pack is free to use, and includes an optional one-time in-app purchase to unlock all of the app's premium features:

  • Add an unlimited number of items.
  • Add new categories.
  • Rename categories.
  • Delete unused categories.
  • Add multiple people.
  • Arrange items by person.

Purchasing also helps support further Pack development.

Learn more about Pack.

Simon 4.0b7 released

Simon 4.0b7 is now available:

Shiny new mode & toolbar icons

  • Replaced the somewhat crusty mode icons with nice elegant ones, and added separate selected edtions with a splash of color.
  • For fun (and usefulness), the selected color of the Tests list mode icon matches the status menu / Dock icon color.
  • The Activity Log type icons were also updated to match the mode icons.
  • Also replaced the Visit Site and Help toolbar icons.

Fixes & optimizations in this beta

  • To assist people coming from Simon Express or Simon Free, Simon now automatically migrates data from those older apps, if any, if there isn't any standard edition data.

More in four: see the Simon What's New page for important information and details of the changes in version 4.

Download Simon 4.0b7 now!

Simon should be ready for general release very soon. Please let me know of any issues as soon as possible! Thank you for helping make Simon 4 a great release.

Simon 4.0b6 released

Simon 4.0b6 is now available.

It includes some exciting new features, and the usual batch of fixes:

Can now hide Simon in the Dock

  • A surprise new feature: a General Preferences option to control whether or not Simon appears in the Dock (it's shown by default).
  • Note that when it is not shown in the Dock, it also doesn't appear in the Cmd-Tab app switcher, and it no longer has a menu bar.
  • When turning off the option to show in the Dock, the option to show the status menu is automatically turned on, so you can access the app via that. (You can turn it off again if you wish, in which case you'll only be able to access Simon by opening the app from the Finder.)
  • When it isn't in the Dock, a new action toolbar button is automatically added, to give access to the preferences and other functions.

Password protect access

  • Added an option in General Preferences to specify a password to use to unlock Simon access.
  • If set, the password is required when launching or switching to Simon.

Fixes & optimizations in this beta

  • Fixed missing localization strings.
  • Fixed the Pause sheet appearing twice sometimes.
  • Removed the quit confirmation preference, since it isn't used anymore anyway.
  • Improved the layout of the General Preferences pane.
  • The preference for double-clicking the tests list to Show Info now shows it in edit mode.
  • Re-enabled the license reminder button for unlicensed users.

More in four: see the Simon What's New page for important information and details of the changes in version 4.

Download Simon 4.0b6 now!

Simon should be ready for general release very soon. Please let me know of any issues as soon as possible! Thank you for helping make Simon 4 a great release.

Let Dejal help with your iOS or Mac project

In addition to working on my own products, I help others with their iOS and Mac projects as a contract developer.

Over the past 20 years or so, I've worked on a number of products, but I spent most of my time with one big client, working on the Profile apps for iOS and Mac, large medical practice management apps. Profile for iOS is an app that connects to the IHServer, and supports patient management, appointments (calendaring), tasks, clinical notes, letters, measurements, and many more features. Profile for Mac is a client/server solution with all of that and much more for the medical professionals in New Zealand.

That work kept me busy for almost two decades, but recently petered out as the company moved development in-house as they continued to grow and evolve. I took this opportunity to spend a few months working on the most ambitious upgrade ever of Dejal Simon: version 4.0, that includes a major redesign of the UI, and significant refactoring of the 12-year-old code to modernize it (64-bit, ARC, auto-layout, etc). Now that I'm putting the finishing touches on the Simon 4.0 betas, with a general release soon, it's time to line up some new contract work.

Over the years I've had many offers of contract projects, several of which I had to decline due to lack of time. But now I'm available. If you or anyone you know is in need of an experienced iOS or Mac developer, please get in touch to discuss whether I can help.

(I'm also open to enhancing Dejal apps as contract work, when a feature request fits with the product design goals. Several of the enhancements in Simon 3 & 4 are the result of paid projects for customers who wanted to make the powerful tool even more useful for their needs, including the Email Cycle service, Context filter, History filter, and more.)

Simon 4.0b5 released

Simon 4.0b5 is now available.

It includes some important fixes and refinements:

  • Fixed an issue with a missing default filter input value when checking a test.
  • Improved the offline status indicator.
  • Prevented checking a test when it is paused and the Preview is active when the test is selected.
  • Tidied the Checks log.
  • Hiding the lists or logs panes, and the full-screen state, are now preserved on next launch.

More in four: see the Simon What's New page for important information and details of the changes in version 4.

Download Simon 4.0b5 now!

Simon should be ready for general release soon. Please let me know of any issues as soon as possible! Thank you for helping make Simon 4 a great release.

Simon 4.0b4 released

Simon 4.0b4 is now available.

It includes several fixes and refinements:

  • Fixed an issue that prevented newly added filters from being used. Beta users who have added filters, you may need to re-select the use condition (the "when" popup menu) to make it take effect.
  • Fixed the Preview saying Preview Not Available when selecting a different test without changing out of Preview mode first.
  • Fixed the Preview source not completing loading if the Preview mode is selected on launch.
  • Fixed the upgrade license not being recognized for people with only a version 2 license.
  • Fixed a validation error sometimes when deleting a new test.
  • The tests (etc) list now has the initial keyboard focus for the window, instead of its sort menu.
  • Adding a new test now avoids checking right away, before it is configured.
  • Adding a new item will now always display the Name page, since the first thing that should be done is to give it a name.
  • Selecting an item in Edit mode on the Name page will now select the Name field.
  • Editing the name of an item now updates the list one second after the last keypress.
  • If one or more items are selected when adding a new one (or a group), the item is placed in the same group.
  • Fixed the test Services Kind popup menu's support of services in groups.
  • Now rebuilds the submenus of the status menu to avoid them being associated with the wrong item when the sort order changes.
  • Fixed wacky behavior sometimes when editing Parameters and Cookies in the Web (HTTP) test editor, and Custom Variables in the Script feature.
  • Fixed a crash when editing a Script-based service, filter or notifier.

More in four: see the Simon What's New page for important information and details of the changes in version 4.

Download Simon 4.0b4 now!

Tweeps 3.3 released

Tweeps, my iOS app to help manage Twitter accounts, has now been updated to version 3.3, and is available on the App Store.

It includes a modern iOS 7/8-style appearance, and a number of fixes.

Learn more about Tweeps.

Tweeps 3.3 on the way

Tweeps version 3.3 has been submitted to Apple for review, so hopefully will be available in a week or so. It includes a modern iOS 7/8-style appearance, and a number of fixes.

Simon 4.0b3 released

Another day, another Simon 4 beta fix:

  • Fixed default data not being found for new users, or those who haven't customized their services etc.

More in four: see the Simon What's New page for important information and details of the changes in version 4.

Download Simon 4.0b3 now!

Simon 4.0b2 released

A quick update to the Simon 4 beta to fix some important issues:

  • Fixed a crash on launch that some people experienced (sorry!).
  • Fixed the update check saying that a new version was available when you're up-to-date.
  • Reports now only include tests, not groups.

More in four: see the Simon What's New page for important information and details of the changes in version 4.

Download Simon 4.0b2 now!

Simon 4.0b1 released

A Major Upgrade!

Dejal Simon 4: four years after version 3, four months in development, it's time to go forth. Simon 4 includes a fresh new design, unifying all of the lists, logs and editors into a single window, so everything is at your fingertips. It also uses a more attractive layout for the lists of tests, services, filters, notifiers and reports. A much requested enhancement is the introduction of groups, enabling you to organize your tests, services, etc into logical collections. Those with lots of tests will be pleased to learn that the limits on the number of tests have been removed — everyone can have as many tests as they wish. This also simplifies the pricing for new and existing customers. There are numerous other enhancements too, like email services, a context filter, filter output in the preview, and much more. Read on for details.

Licensed Simon 3 users need to be aware that Simon 4 will be a paid upgrade from previous versions. You will need to purchase an upgrade license. If you purchased Simon since November 1, 2014, you are eligible for a free upgrade; contact Dejal to receive your free license.

Note: during the beta period, version 3 licenses will work in version 4.

A new option is the Simon Service Plan subscription. Learn more about this below or on the Simon Support page.

Also note that Simon Express and Simon Free have been removed from the Mac App Store. Simon is a powerful and flexible tool, so they couldn't comply with the sandboxing requirements that Apple introduced. If you used one of these, please switch to the full version of Simon, and enjoy all the extra features. Simon Express is automatically recognized as a version 3 license, so you only need an upgrade license.

Please also note that Simon 4 requires Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) or later, as it leverages the latest technologies. If you're still using an older OS version, you can remain on version 3 until you upgrade your OS version. You are welcome to purchase a version 4 license; it will work in version 3 as a Platinum (unlimited) license.

Read on for a summary of some of the many enhancements in Simon 4.

Great New Simon Monitor Window Design

Simon's main window, the Simon Monitor window, has been significantly redesigned. It now uses a single-window approach to display the Tests, Services, Filters, Notifiers and Reports lists in this window, switching between them via mode buttons along the left edge.

Editing tests, services, etc is now done in this window as well, via an optional info pane to the right of the active list.

As in earlier versions, the logs are displayed in a pane at the bottom of the window. This pane can now also display the Preview; see below for more on this.

The lists or logs can be hidden by dragging the pane splitter, or Cmd-clicking on the selected mode button.

[Monitor window]
Attractive New List Layouts

The lists of Tests, Services, etc have been redesigned to use a custom layout inspired by Apple Mail and other modern apps.

The lists can be sorted via a menu above the list, or via the View menu. The choice of displaying absolute dates and times (like "2014-12-25 12:34", using your local date & time format) or relative times (like "5 mins, 25 secs ago") is also available in these menus.

The Tests list shows the unviewed flag, status icon, test name, next due date/time; the uptime, service, location, last check time, and last check duration. It can also optionally display information about the most recent change and failure: the last change and when it occurred; the last error, failure & recovery date/time. These can also be toggled via those menus.

Groups

Version 4 introduces a major popularly requested feature: groups in all lists. Groups can be added to help organize the tests, services, etc into logical collections, e.g. by server or kind; whatever makes sense.

In the list, the group displays a summary of its members, e.g. the most significant status and combined uptime, with the info summary showing common values.

The menubar status menu displays groups in sub-menus, with commands that can be applied to all group members.

[Tests list]
Redesigned editors

The editors have been completely redesigned to integrate them into the single-window approach. Selecting an item in the Tests, etc lists will now display a summary of the item in the handy new Info pane to the right of the list. An Edit button is included in the top-right of the Info pane. Click that to toggle into edit mode, where the item can be modified. The button changes to Done to switch out of editing mode. You can also click the headings on the summary to jump right to the related page in edit mode.

You can leave it in editing mode and switch between tests to quickly edit them; it will remain on the same page. Speaking of which, the page selectors have been redesigned, and a new Name page was added to edit the name and comments.

The test statistics have been moved to the test summary page for easy reference.

When multiple tests or no tests are selected, the summary page shows the values in common, and a combined view of the statistics for those tests.

Another nice subtle improvement is that the actions for the test Filters, Notifiers, Reports and Auto Pause can now be reordered, simply by dragging them.

Integrated Preview, Including Filter Output

The Preview function has been completely redesigned to integrate it into the single-window approach, and provide the ability to see the filter output in addition to the service output.

When a test is selected, the Preview feature can be displayed in place of the logs at the bottom of the window for a quick view of the test. The preview includes a web page on the left (for web-based tests), a selection list in the middle, and the service response, headers or filter output on the right. The selection list shows the status of the service or filter, and for filters, the sequence number and filter name, e.g. "#1: Block Output" for the output from a Block filter. The filter output is very useful, to see not only the result of the service, but also the result of each filter. This makes it easier than ever to build up multiple filters, taking the output from previous ones to hone in on the interesting values.

The Preview function is also available when displaying a Script-based service, filter or notifier, to run the script and see what it outputs while writing it, and to preview a report within Simon.

[Preview]
Enhancements to the Email Feature

The Email feature now also works as a service. Three service modes are supported: Email Send, Email Receive, and Email Cycle:

  • Email Send is basically the same as the Email notifier: sends a custom message via SMTP. Useful to "check in" or test that a mail server is working. It outputs the message, or an error if unsuccessful.
  • Email Receive fetches a list of messages from an IMAP server. It outputs the list of messages, or an error.
  • Email Cycle first sends a special message with a unique identifier to a SMTP server, then checks for that message arriving on an IMAP server. It cleans up after itself, and outputs the message and mailbox listing, or an error.

There are several other changes, including finally renaming the E-mail notifier as Email, adding a Transport Name field to the Email Transport Options panel, a new Email Account Options panel, and modernizing the framework used to send email. See the release notes for full details.

New Context Filter

Added a new Context filter feature, which takes the previous filter's input and some new match variables to output some context around the filter's output text. It includes controls to specify the number of characters before and/or after the match range, and/or a delimiter before and/or after the match range (e.g. you can show up to 50 characters, stopping at a line break). See the release notes for information about the new variables.

And Lots More Improvements

Too many things to list here! (See the release notes for the full list.) A few other highlights that might interest existing users include:

  • A great new app icon.
  • The Web (HTTP) feature will now automatically follow a meta refresh (e.g. <meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0; url=http://www.dejal.com/">).
  • Added a FileShare menu and a share button in the window toolbar to share the selected item(s) with other apps.
  • No longer truncates the difference text to 400 characters, if it's longer than that.
  • The data is now saved in the background, for better performance.
  • Many changes to improve Yosemite compatibility.
Introducing the Simon Service Plan Subscription

Need more detailed or technical assistance? Introducing the Simon Service Plan, an annual subscription for heavy users or large organizations, or anyone who wants to get the most out of Simon.

The Simon Service Plan includes all app updates, including paid major upgrades like version 4.0 and any future updates within the subscription period, at no additional cost.

The Service Plan also includes two technical support incidents each subscription year. These give you top-of-the-queue direct access to the developer via email, and can be used to answer general questions, help configure Simon, and more.

Read more about this on the Simon Support page.

Try Simon 4

Download Simon 4.0b1 now!

Ready to upgrade? Great! Purchase an upgrade license on the Dejal Store. Or subscribe to the Simon Service Plan, which includes the upgrade.

Still not sure? Try it for free! If you want to keep the old version around, just in case, you can rename it (e.g. to add the version number) rather than replacing it with the new version. That way they can both occupy the same folder without a file name conflict.

Simon 4 has eliminated the license levels. Now everyone can have as many tests as they want for the same price. New customers can purchase Simon for $99.00, and existing customers can upgrade for half that, just $49.00. Simon 4 licenses work as Platinum (unlimited) licenses in version 3, too.

I hope you enjoy the many improvements in Simon 4!

DejalBackgroundView: open source project for Mac to provide a background color and/or border color to a view

Yesterday Brent Simmons posted his first go at using IB_DESIGNABLE and IBInspectable, for a simple NSView subclass to provide a backgroundColor property to a view.

I've had a similar simple class for a while, so that inspired me to push it to GitHub as open source, too. My variation provides four new properties, to set either or both the background and border colors:

  • Adds a drawsBackground BOOL property. Defaults to YES.
  • Adds a drawsBorder BOOL property. Defaults to YES.
  • Adds a backgroundColor NSColor property. Defaults to nil, but lazily assigns a light blue color if not set to another color.
  • Adds a borderColor NSColor property. Defaults to nil, but lazily assigns a light gray color if not set to another color.
  • IB_DESIGNABLE support for all four properties, so they can be set in Interface Builder.

To use it, simply include the DejalBackgroundView.h and DejalBackgroundView.m files in your project, then change a container NSView to DejalBackgroundView in the view hierarchy, and set the colors as desired (via code or IB), e.g.:

self.backgroundView.backgroundColor = [NSColor lightGrayColor];

If you only want a background without a border, easily turn off the border drawing:

self.drawsBorder = NO;

All of these properties can be set in IB thanks to the IB_DESIGNABLE and IBInspectable attributes in Xcode 6.

As a bonus, the view is automatically treated as opaque if the background color is used, and is itself opaque.

This is a very simple class, but quite useful.

You can get the code and more information from the Dejal Open Source page.

(I've been meaning to push out more of my code as open source; I would like to take the time to release more, to give back to the community. Please let me know if you read this and would like to encourage me to do so.)

Mac App Store

There have been a lot of discussions recently about the Mac App Store, and how many Mac developers are abandoning it. Here's an excerpt from one example, which includes links to many others:

The Mac App Store was released in January 2011 and it marked the beginning of a great new distribution channel. Even though it lacked some bells and whistles, the developer community was hopeful the problems would be addressed in due course. Unfortunately, it has been years and there’s no evidence that the core issues would be addressed in the future, at all. When notable developers are abandoning your platform, cannot do the right thing for their customers and are delaying their MAS submission, something is very, very broken. I believe that the inaction is harmful to the whole Mac community, affecting consumers and developers alike.

Mac App Store: The Subtle Exodus by Milen Dzhumerov

This has been a concern for me and my Dejal apps, too.

As I work on an update to my Simon app, I'm once again faced with this issue. Simon currently has two editions in the Mac App Store, Simon Express and Simon Free. Those are already cut-down editions of the full Simon app available on this website, but they also haven't been updated since Apple introduced the sandbox requirements. Simon is a large and powerful app, and really isn't able to be sandboxed without cutting out even more functionality, which I don't want to do.

So, I am forced to announce that Simon Express and Simon Free will be removed from the Mac App Store when the next update of Simon is released. I've thought about removing them immediately, but decided that it'd be better to leave them until the more natural point of the next update. I would really recommend that everyone use the full version of Simon instead of the App Store editions, though.

What about my other apps?

The current version of my free break reminder tool Time Out, 1.7.1, can not be sandboxed either, so the latest version on the Mac App Store, Time Out Free, is stuck at 1.6.5. Again, I recommend people use the version from this site instead. However, I am working on version 2 (currently in alpha testing), which is sandboxed. Supporting sandboxing has complicated the design, and added a lot of work, but I felt it was worth it for such a generally popular and widely-used app. So Time Out 2 will be available both on the Dejal site and the Mac App Store.

My snippet manager app, Caboodle, is up to version 1.5 currently, but again the Mac App Store edition, Caboodle Express, is a bit behind at version 1.4. As with Time Out, this is a widely-used app, so I want to be able to update the App Store edition. So I'm also working on an update that will support this (and may even support iCloud and Dropbox syncing). Work on this is on hold currently; I'll resume after the next updates of Simon and Time Out are done.

Finally, BlogAssist, my menubar utility to help with HTML markup (which I used extensively writing this blog post) is already fully sandboxed and up-to-date on the App Store. Both the standard edition and BlogAssist Express on the App Store are on version 2.4.

So, as you can see, I still believe in the Mac App Store and want to support it for my consumer apps. Although it has technical challenges, and definitely has many problems as others have discussed, I think it is a useful service for my customers, and a valuable way of getting my apps in front of more people.

However, for a more niche, powerful and professional app like Simon, the limitations of the App Store outweigh its benefits, so I can't justify the compromises required to support it. I do hope that changes in the future — there are lots of things Apple could do to make the App Store a better fit for such apps — but I don't think they have much interest in such changes. I'm just glad that they recognize that there are apps that don't fit the App Store, and continue to support apps outside the store via mechanisms like Developer ID.

Fractures

I recently heard about Fracture via a sponsorship on the excellent Accidental Tech Podcast. They are images printed on the back of square or rectangular glass, with a foam backing board that includes a mounting hole. They even come with a screw to easily mount to the wall (or a desk stand for smaller ones). No frame needed.

On ATP, Marco Arment mentioned that he has Fractures on his wall with icons of apps he worked on, as a physical souvenir of those projects. That sounded like a great idea to me, so I've done the same. Above my home office window I have 11" square Fractures of my Dejal logo, plus my apps Simon, Time Out (using the version 2 icon), Caboodle, BlogAssist, and Tweeps. They look really nice.

Want your own Fractures? Use my referral code RFR48250 and we'll both get $5 off our next order!

Thanks to Fracture for such a great product, and to Marco and ATP for the introduction and inspiration.

Time Out 2 icon

Yes, the rumors are true... Time Out 2 is coming! This major upgrade has been much delayed, redesigned, partial implementations discarded and restarted, and delayed again... but it is well underway now, and is in fact in private alpha testing at present.

What does it include? The major enhancements are not coincidentally the most requested changes: the ability to run Time Out without it being in the Dock, a countdown status menu, and customizable break themes. There are many other improvements, too.

Don't get too excited just yet, though, as it'll probably be another few months before it is available as a public beta. Although version 2 is fully functional now, I've still got lots I want to add and polish, including support for more than two breaks, more kinds of notifications, and an overhaul of the UI.

One other big change is the app icon. The icon for version 1 is nice enough, and many people like it, but others are put off by the meditating figure. So I've taken the opportunity of version 2 to have a fresh new icon professionally designed... and here it is:

I hope you like it, and agree that it's a huge improvement. The theme is relaxation — take a break. A hammock under palm trees seems pretty relaxing to me. And from a certain perspective, it looks a little like a smiley face. Hopefully taking rest breaks will make you smile, too.

This great icon was designed by Aaron Mahnke of Wet Frog Studios. It was a pleasure working with such a professional and skilled designer. He was easy to work with, clearly understanding my ideas and quickly created a draft design that was very close to what we ended up with. He was also responsive to my suggestions for tweaks, so it only took a few iterations before we had the final design.

So, when will version 2 be available publicly? I don't know. It'll be done when it's done. But I will post more about it over the coming weeks, so you can get a feel for the enhancements.

Can't wait? Want to try the current alpha releases? I always welcome fresh perspectives, so you could be eligible to join the elite alpha group. It is only open to licensed users, so if you've made a donation, and you're using Mavericks, you can contact me to request to join the alpha team, or to get more information.

Simon 3.6.1 released

A quick fix for a couple of issues:

  • Fixed a conflict with some plug-ins that caused the Script preferences to not remember the color changes.
  • Now uses the failure check interval when a timeout occurs.

Download Simon 3.6.1 now!

Happy 30th Anniversary, Mac!

[This is an updated repost from the 25th anniversary.]

It's the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the first Macintosh.

I first used a Mac back in high school in New Zealand, where I volunteered as head student librarian. The school had mostly Apple IIe computers, but bought one of the newfangled Macintosh computers in 1984. It was an original 128K Mac, with a single internal floppy drive. Back then, the OS, an application, and data fit on a single 400K disk. We used MacWrite for letters and other documents, MacPaint for occasional graphics, and the OverVUE database for some records... though not a full book catalog.

I bought my first Mac four years later while at university, in 1988. It was a Macintosh Plus, one of the new platinum-colored models. And I even had a second 800K floppy drive and a dot-matrix printer! Later, I added an external hard drive (I think it was 10 MB, though I could be wrong).

Those were the days... working on a 9-inch 512 x 342 pixel monochrome display... which is actually not much more than the original iPhone screen resolution, to give some perspective.

Later I bought a Macintosh II, which I subsequently upgraded internally to be a Macintosh IIx. Then I used a number of other models provided by a Dejal client.

When my wife and I got married, Apple gave us a PowerBook 150 as a wedding present, since we had met while using Macs with the fledgling internet. Our wedding was covered on local TV news and newspapers. Yep, meeting over the internet was a novel concept back then.

Just before we moved to the US, we bought a clamshell iBook G3, which we still have, though it is retired now. Then an iMac G4 that died of old age, a PowerMac G5 that I still very occasionally use for Mac OS X 10.4 testing, a 17" MacBook Pro that died due to graphics system failure, and my current machine, a 27" iMac.

(We've also had a few other Macs: a Mac mini we used to use with our TV, a MacBook I bought to take to WWDC before I got my MacBook Pro, then subsequently gave to my wife's mom, and my wife has had a couple of 15" MacBook Pros and now has a 27" iMac like mine.)

All in all, it's been a great 30 years. I've enjoyed using and owning the various Macs over this time, and look forward to many more years. Happy birthday, Mac!

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