More in four: see the Simon What's New page for important information and details of the changes in version 4.
More in four: see the Simon What's New page for important information and details of the changes in version 4.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Email feature now also works as a service. Three service modes are supported: Email Send, Email Receive, and Email Cycle:
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.
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.
Too many things to list here! (See the release notes for the full list.) A few other highlights that might interest existing users include:
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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.
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!
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:
drawsBackground BOOLproperty. Defaults to YES.
drawsBorder BOOLproperty. Defaults to YES.
backgroundColor NSColorproperty. Defaults to nil, but lazily assigns a light blue color if not set to another color.
borderColor NSColorproperty. Defaults to nil, but lazily assigns a light gray color if not set to another color.
To use it, simply include the
DejalBackgroundView.m files in your project, then change a container
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
[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.
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!
Announcing the general release of Simon 3.6!
This release includes new Notification Center and History plug-ins, a rewritten Twitter plug-in, several report enhancements, and other improvements:
Happy New Year!
It's been a fairly quiet year for Dejal apps. Let's review what happened in 2013:
|My flagship product to monitor websites and servers for changes and failures, Simon, was updated to version 3.5.1 in 2013, with the next update, 3.6, currently in beta testing (at 3.6b3). 3.5 included a re-architecting of the Web plugin and lots of other improvements, while 3.6 includes new History and Notification Center plugins, and a rewritten Twitter plugin, among other changes. 3.6 should be in general release later this month.|
|My handy break reminder tool, Time Out, didn't get any updates in 2013, despite my plan to have version 2.0 out last year. Work on Profile (and to a lesser extent other projects) pushed back development. But I'm pleased to announce that I'm actively working on Time Out 2 currently, and hope to have an alpha for a few select licensed users to try very soon. As previously mentioned, everyone who makes a donation for Time Out now will be automatically eligible for the full-featured paid edition at no additional cost — so you can set your own price for it now! This offer expires when version 2 is released. This also makes you eligible for the alpha; tell me if you're interested. Thank you to everyone who has already donated; the volume of donations is really encouraging.|
|Caboodle, my lean clean snippet machine, was updated to version 1.5 in 2013, including many changes for Mountain Lion and Mavericks compatibility. I've started work on another update too, though it's currently on hold until I finish Time Out 2 and more Profile work, so won't see the light of day till later in the year.|
|BlogAssist, my tool to help with HTML markup, wasn't updated in 2013. It had an update to version 2.4 in 2012, and doesn't need any further changes for now. I have some ideas for improvements, but again they'll wait their turn for higher priority projects.|
|Tweeps, an app for iOS to easily manage Twitter accounts, was updated to version 3.2, including support for Twitter's latest API changes and more.|
|Profile, a client for Intrahealth's powerful medical practice management system, is where I spent the vast majority of my time in 2013, as contract work. The latest public release is version 2.2.7, but version 2.3 with major improvements is in development.|
So what's coming up in 2014? Firstly, as I said, Simon 3.6 will be in general release soon. But my top priority is Time Out 2.0. For realz this time. I will still spend at least half my time on Profile 2.3 and beyond, too. Once Time Out 2 is out, there will no doubt be iterations of improvements on that, and more Simon, Caboodle and BlogAssist updates.
Thank you and welcome to my new customers, and many thanks to my long-term customers who are still enjoying my apps. I really appreciate your support. I'm very excited about the much-anticipated Time Out 2 release this year, and other projects in the pipeline.
Here's another beta of Simon 3.6. This has a tweak based on a recent Simon forum discussion, and updated help and localizations. This will probably be the last beta before general release.
Here's another beta of Simon 3.6.
This version includes:
It's been a while, but here's a beta of the next version of Simon, my flagship Mac app to monitor websites and servers.
Version 3.6b1 includes:
Bitcoin is a relatively new internet-based currency, that is slowly gaining traction around the world.
I'm wondering if the time is right to add support for it as a payment option on the Dejal site?
If you are interested in buying Dejal apps via Bitcoin, please contact me.
Just for fun, it picks a random feature graphic to show at the top. (Though I could override that for featured new releases.)
For now, the latest blog post is still displayed below those. Mainly because I can't figure out how to convince Drupal, my content management software, to omit it. But it is useful.
I've also replaced the short URL service used with the Dejal site, for
go.dejal.com links. I migrated over the most important ones, but if you use a
go.dejal.com link and it doesn't work, let me know.
Simon is now available for 25% off at MacUpdate Promo, for a limited time!
They are offering the Platinum license, which supports unlimited tests, for just $374.00!
Don't miss these great prices!
(2013-05-21: Updated links and prices for the extended deals.)
Here's a quick update to Simon, to version 3.5.1.
This update fixes an issue that prevented the Apple Mail transport method of the E-mail notifier plug-in from working properly.
It also improves the reliability and debug logging of the Web (HTTP) plug-in.