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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!

Simon 3.6 released

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:

  • Added a new Notification Center notifier plug-in, that displays a notification in OS X's Notification Center, with various click action options. (Note, it is only available on OS X 10.8 and later.)
  • Added a Notification Center default notifier use the new Notification Center plug-in. By default, clicking the notification will select the test in Simon.
  • Added a new History filter plug-in, that keeps track of the input text that it has seen, and can set a result if the text is or isn't unique in that history.
  • Added a Change Only If Unique default filter to result in a Change if the input text has never been seen before by this filter, or Unchanged if it has.
  • Added a History Always Repeats default filter to result in a Failure if the input text hasn't been seen before, or Unchanged if it has. It's easy to add additional variations if you need them.
  • Rewrote the Twitter notifier plug-in to work with the latest Twitter API. It now uses the Internet Accounts from System Preferences, so you don't need to enter your Twitter credentials in Simon. (Note, it is only available on OS X 10.8 and later.)
  • Removed the Twitter service plug-in, since it would have taken a lot of work to rewrite, and feedback indicates that pretty much nobody uses it. If you do, please contact me.
  • Added a Twitter Update default notifier that tweets using the first account alphabetically. It can be edited to specify a different account.
  • When creating an E-mail notifier, now uses the displayed default Subject text if you don't edit the field (previously had an error if the field was never touched).
  • Added a MySQL default service that uses the MySQL plug-in, to make it easier to use this existing feature.
  • Added support for escaping braces (curly brackets) and square brackets in report templates, so they are output in the report instead of being interpreted as Simon variables or blocks.
  • Added support for custom date/time formats in report templates. For example, could use NextCheck format="yyyy-MM-dd 'at' HH:mm:ss".
  • Updated the Variable Test report template to include the LastChangeTextWithHTML and LastChangeTextWithoutHTML variables, and mention escaping braces and brackets.
  • Fixed an issue with the Other... option for the Save Locally report kind.
  • Now considers the check frequencies for successes and failures when calculating the Up Time percentages, to make them more accurate.
  • Updated the help book and online help.
  • Rebuilt for Mavericks using Xcode 5.
  • Many changes to improve Mavericks compatibility.

Download Simon 3.6 now!

Simon 3.6b4 released

One (last?) beta of Simon 3.6, with a couple more tweaks:

  • When creating an E-mail notifier, now uses the displayed default Subject text if you don't edit the field (previously had an error if the field was never touched).
  • The Up Time value in the Tests table now matches the properly weighted value in the Statistics tab (the values will be recalculated when each test is next checked).

Download Simon 3.6b4 now!

Dejal year in review: 2013

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.

Simon 3.6b3 released

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.

  • Now considers the check frequencies for successes and failures when calculating the Up Time percentages, to make them more accurate.
  • Updated the help book and online help.

Download Simon 3.6b3 now!

Happy holidays!

Simon 3.6b2 released

Here's another beta of Simon 3.6.

This version includes:

  • Added a new Notification Center notifier plug-in, that displays a notification in OS X's Notification Center, with various click action options. (Note, it is only available on OS X 10.8 and later.)
  • Added a Notification Center default notifier use the new Notification Center plug-in. By default, clicking the notification will select the test in Simon.
  • Added a Twitter Update default notifier that tweets using the first account alphabetically. It can be edited to specify a different account.
  • Added a MySQL default service that uses the MySQL plug-in, to make it easier to use this existing feature.
  • Updated the help book and online help.

Download Simon 3.6b2 now!

Simon 3.6b1 released

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:

  • Added a new History filter plug-in, that keeps track of the input text that it has seen, and can set a result if the text is or isn't unique in that history.
  • Added a Change Only If Unique default filter to result in a Change if the input text has never been seen before by this filter, or Unchanged if it has.
  • Added a History Always Repeats default filter to result in a Failure if the input text hasn't been seen before, or Unchanged if it has. It's easy to add additional variations if you need them.
  • Rewrote the Twitter notifier plug-in to work with the latest Twitter API. It now uses the Internet Accounts from System Preferences, so you don't need to enter your Twitter credentials in Simon.
  • Removed the Twitter service plug-in, since it would have taken a lot of work to rewrite, and feedback indicates that pretty much nobody uses it. If you do, please contact me.
  • Added support for escaping braces (curly brackets) and square brackets in report templates, so they are output in the report instead of being interpreted as Simon variables or blocks.
  • Added support for custom date/time formats in report templates. For example, could use NextCheck format="yyyy-MM-dd 'at' HH:mm:ss".
  • Updated the Variable Test report template to include the LastChangeTextWithHTML and LastChangeTextWithoutHTML variables, and mention escaping braces and brackets.
  • Fixed an issue with the Other... option for the Save Locally report kind.
  • Updated the help book.
  • Rebuilt for Mavericks using Xcode 5.
  • Many changes to improve Mavericks compatibility.

Download Simon 3.6b1 now!

Bitcoin

We Accept BitcoinBitcoin 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.

Dejal home page tweak

Something I've been meaning to do for a while: I've changed the Dejal home page to show graphics with links to my main apps.

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 on MacUpdate Promo

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!

Plus they have the Bronze license, with up to 15 active test configurations, for just $36.99, and the Silver license, with up to 40 tests, for just $74.49!

Don't miss these great prices!

(2013-05-21: Updated links and prices for the extended deals.)

Simon 3.5.1 released

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.

Download Simon 3.5.1 now!

Caboodle 1.5 released

Caboodle 1.5 is now in general release.

This update is primarily to properly support Gatekeeper on OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion). It is also built with the latest developer tools, and includes various fixes and improvements.

An important note: as previously warned, this version requires an Intel Mac and at least OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). The previous version is still available if you're still using a PPC or 10.5 machine.

Here are the release notes:

  • The standard edition of the app is now signed with a Developer ID to support Gatekeeper on Mountain Lion. (Standard edition only)
  • Rebuilt for Mountain Lion using Xcode 4.
  • Many changes to improve Mountain Lion compatibility.
  • The license button in the Caboodle window now shows the Licenses window instead of going to the Dejal Store web page. (Standard edition only)
  • Added a license button to the Preferences window, when unlicensed, to make it easier to buy the app. (Standard edition only)
  • Fixed a bunch of memory leaks.
  • Updated localizations.
  • Caboodle now requires an Intel Mac and a minimum of OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

Download Caboodle 1.5 now!

Caboodle 1.5b1 released

It's been a while, but here's an update to Caboodle, to 1.5b1.

This update is primarily to properly support Gatekeeper on OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion). It is also built with the latest developer tools, and includes various fixes and improvements.

An important note: as previously warned, this version requires an Intel Mac and at least OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). The previous version is still available if you're still using a PPC or 10.5 machine.

Here are the release notes:

  • The standard edition of the app is now signed with a Developer ID to support Gatekeeper on Mountain Lion. (Standard edition only)
  • Rebuilt for Mountain Lion using Xcode 4.
  • Many changes to improve Mountain Lion compatibility.
  • The license button in the Caboodle window now shows the Licenses window instead of going to the Dejal Store web page. (Standard edition only)
  • Added a license button to the Preferences window, when unlicensed, to make it easier to buy the app. (Standard edition only)
  • Fixed a bunch of memory leaks.
  • Caboodle now requires an Intel Mac and a minimum of OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

Download Caboodle 1.5b1 now!

Want to go to WWDC? Simon can help!

There's a great sense of antici...pation in the developer community, awaiting tickets for Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference to go on sale.

The problem is, in recent years the tickets have been selling out in mere hours. In 2009, the 5,000 tickets sold out within a month. In 2010, they sold out in about 10 days. In 2011, it was only 12 hours. And in 2012, it only took two hours.

How fast will they go this year? Less than an hour? Half an hour? Minutes?

So there are a number of websites that offer to notify you when WWDC is announced, so you can get your ticket as quickly as possible — some where you pay to get notified sooner.

Of course, Dejal Simon is designed for just that kind of job. If you already have Simon, you can easily add a test to get notified. If you don't, you can download the free trial and try it yourself.

It's easy to add such a test. Simply create a new test (perhaps called "WWDC"), set the frequency to whatever interval you like (e.g. 5 minutes or even 1 minute), choose the Web (HTTP) service, and enter the http://developer.apple.com/wwdc URL. (The Cookies will automatically populate.)

If you like, you could add a second test for http://developer.apple.com/wwdc/tickets, in case that is updated first.

There's no need to alter the default Change filter on the Filters page; that will detect any change on the page. Since there isn't dynamic content to ignore, that's fine.

To get notified when a change is detected for this test, add whichever notifiers you want to the Notifiers page. Why not go crazy and add email, sound, Twitter and speech... and have the page open automatically in your default browser while you're at it:

Some of those notifiers you may need to configure, if you haven't previously, e.g. set up the email and Twitter ones. You can configure them to say whatever you like:

I hope this tip helps you manage to get a ticket!

Tweeps 3.2 released

Twitter has changed its API, so here's an update to Tweeps, my iOS app to help manage Twitter accounts. It has been updated to version 3.2.

This update includes these changes:

  • Added support for Twitter's new version 1.1 API.
  • Improved loading the accounts list and profile view.
  • Replaced the buttons in the Profile view.
  • Now uses a tinted status bar on iPhone.

It is currently available for a special price of just $4.99, for a limited time.

Learn more about Tweeps.

Simon 3.5 released

Announcing the general release of Simon version 3.5!

Firstly, please note that Simon now requires an Intel Mac, and a minimum of OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). If you are using Simon on an older machine, you can continue using version 3.4 or earlier (there are download links on the Simon site).

Simon 3.5 includes a number of improvements and fixes for OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) support. It also includes improvements to the Web (HTTP) Twitter, Calendar, Script, Email and Speech plug-ins.

Here are the full release notes for the details:

  • Moved the main functionality of the Web (HTTP) plug-in into a helper app, so any issues with it won't affect Simon.
  • The Web (HTTP) plug-in now respects the charset of the source page, so for example the source of a Japanese site will be passed to filters and notifiers correctly.
  • Similarly, the Preview and Show Source windows now respect the charset of the source web pages.
  • Fixed some issues with the Twitter plug-in.
  • Fixed some issues with the Calendar plug-in.
  • Improved split handling in the Script editors.
  • The Email plug-in's helper no longer appears in the Dock.
  • Updated the Speech notifier plug-in to use modern APIs, and support stopping speaking while editing the notifier.
  • Fixed an exception when using the FilterIndex variable in a script.
  • Fixed an off-by-one error in calculating the Statistics values (they were one second higher than the actual duration).
  • Increased the wait on waking from 15 to 30 seconds, to allow time for the internet connection to be ready.
  • Removed the hidden preference to use the legacy Automatic email transport, as it doesn't work when building for Mountain Lion.
  • Fixed a crasher when canceling a New Test editor.
  • Added a license button to the Preferences window, when unlicensed, to make it easier to buy the app.
  • Fixed display of license entry date in the Licenses editor.
  • Improved full-screen support.
  • Fixed a bunch of memory leaks.
  • Updated the UI layouts to better support localization.
  • Updated the German, French and Japanese localizations.
  • Rebuilt for Mountain Lion using Xcode 4.
  • Many changes to improve Mountain Lion compatibility.
  • The standard edition of the app is now signed with a Developer ID to support Gatekeeper on Mountain Lion.
  • Simon now requires an Intel Mac and a minimum of OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

Download Simon 3.5 now!

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