My blog posts often just cover new releases, but sometimes I post general-interest or developer-interest topics. Some highlights from 2008 included:
I hope you enjoyed these posts.
The year 2008 was another interesting year for Dejal. Here are some highlights:
Simon: My flagship website and server monitoring tool had one significant update, version 2.4, with a couple of fix updates bringing it to 2.4.2. These versions added the Twitter and Calendar plug-ins, plus enhancements to several others, and lots of other improvements. What's next? Version 2.5 is currently in development, and will have the first beta release shortly. It includes a significant new SMS notifier, plus other enhancements.
Time Out: My handy break reminder tool was updated to version 1.5.2, plus some work was done on version 2. I had hoped to get version 2 released in 2008, but it got postponed due to some other projects. What's next? Version 2 is still coming, probably around May 2009.
Caboodle: This handy snippet-keeper app was updated to version 1.2. This release included several encryption enhancements and other improvements. What's next? I have a long list of ideas for Caboodle. It should see several significant enhancements in 2009.
Narrator: My fun speech synthesis app had a major upgrade and rewrite using Leopard technologies, plus some fix releases bringing it to version 2.0.3 currently. This major upgrade was much deserved, since the previous release was back in 2003! I also started experimenting with giving away Narrator licenses via TrialPay. What's next? Narrator 2.1 will be released before the end of the year, with fix releases before that.
BlogAssist: This useful HTML markup tool was updated to version 2.2, with 2.2.1 the latest release. It added much-requested repeating formatting, and other changes. What's next? I have several ideas for BlogAssist, too, with several updates planned.
Macfilink: My affiliate link cloaking app was updated to version 1.5 and released as freeware. This was a tricky decision, but I still feel that it was the right one. I don't currently plan on any further improvements to it, as it does it's one job very well, but will do bug-fix releases as needed.
SmileDial: I released my first apps for iPhone in 2008. SmileDial Lite and SmileDial Pro are innovative apps using a visual address book for your favorite people, to make it easy to text and call one or more people. What's next? A minor release will be done soon, with some feature enhancements planned.
What else will 2009 bring? I'm about to start a new Mac app with a companion iPhone app as a joint venture with another developer. I want to write at least one other new iPhone app, too. But I don't want to push back updates to my existing apps more than necessary. I'm also currently working on some updates to the website, including optimizations when viewing on an iPhone, which I'll roll out soon.
I'm looking forward to another great year. Thank you to all of my customers who have helped support Dejal.
It's the end of the year, so it's time for my traditional list of the cities I spent one or more nights in during 2008:
Portland, OR (home)
Warm Springs, OR
Not very much travel this year... no air travel at all, which is rather unusual. Next year my wife and I are hoping to get back to New Zealand for a visit around Christmas time... but we've talked about that for years, so who knows if we'll actually do it.
I'm pleased to be able to participate in macZOT's New Year's Bundle. I'm including Dejal Caboodle, my handy app to store snippets of text, images, PDFs, and other documents in an organized way. Read the product page for more information about it.
This bundle includes several great apps, perfect for those who just got a Mac for Christmas, and for long-time Mac owners. It is also a responsible bundle: $5 from each sale is donated to Heifer International to help people around the world feed themselves. This is a great charity organization that I personally support too.
Check it out:
I've just added a demo video to the SmileDial site, that goes through most of the functionality in SmileDial Pro (SmileDial Lite is very similar, but without the multiple-people features and the shake-for-contact-info feature).
I recorded the video using the excellent ScreenFlow application, recording SmileDial Pro running in the iPhone Simulator. Then I tidied it up a bit to remove lengthy hesitations in my interaction (but the speed of the app isn't changed). I had to fake displaying the contact info via a shake, since the simulator can't do that; ScreenFlow's animation ability helped with that, moving a static image of the contact info into view and out again in almost exactly the same way it appears in reality. I also inserted static images to simulate making a call and creating a text message. And I replaced the status bar with static images (black and white ones) to avoid distracting clock jumps in my edits and when looping.
It turned out that ScreenFlow refused to export the portrait orientation as .m4v video without stretching it, so I exported it in Lossless format then used QuickTime Pro to convert to .m4v, which can be played both on desktop machines and the iPhone. The movie auto-plays inline on the Mac, and plays on command full-screen on the iPhone, for the genuine experience.
For fun and a better context, I embedded it in an iPhone frame on the page. I also added some more screenshots.
Portland only gets a few snow days per year (sometimes none at all), so when it does snow, drivers aren't always prepared. A couple of years ago I posted an amusing/scary video from downtown Portland, and today I encountered another one, from the current snowy weather we're having. This time, it's a small hill in the Southwest Waterfront district. The amazing difference: not one accident!
SmileDial Pro and SmileDial Lite are now both available on the iPhone App Store. Here's a product-page-as-blog-post description of both editions:
Call someone by touching their smile, or send them a text message by touching their eyes! Not as creepy as that sounds, really! SmileDial displays a photo of someone's face: tap the top half of the photo to send them a text message, or the bottom half to call them.
SmileDial Lite helps you call and text your favorite person. SmileDial Pro extends this to multiple people: swipe through multiple faces to choose the one you want. SmileDial Pro also enables you to call them via other phone numbers, send an email, visit their website, map their address, and more, in a fun way: shake the iPhone to show more contact information.
A tap of the button flips the photo over to reveal fields to edit the name and numbers for text messaging and phone calls, plus buttons to show the contact info and change the photo.
When you first use SmileDial, it automatically flips so you can specify a person. You can simply enter a name and numbers and choose a photo. Or you can pick an existing contact, via the Choose a Contact button or the button in the name field. This will ask for a person and, if the they have multiple numbers, which one to use.
If the chosen contact has a nickname, that is used for the name. You can change the name and numbers as desired, too; the original contact won't be altered. After providing one of the numbers, it is automatically copied to the other if blank.
A contact's photo is used for SmileDial, if available. It is previewed in the background of the edit mode. You can also choose another photo: an existing one from the Camera Roll or Photo Library, or take a new photo with the iPhone camera. The photo can be moved and scaled as desired, e.g. to show just the person's face. The new photo is stored in the Camera Roll, so you can import it into iPhoto or use it elsewhere if desired. And again it doesn't alter the contact record, so you're free to have fun with it.
If you want to use a different number, simply tap it to edit. It is automatically formatted. This formatting can be disabled via the Settings app if desired. You can also choose a different number from the contact info: simply clear the field then tap the button to reveal the available numbers of the contact.
Once a contact has been specified, the Choose a Contact button becomes Show Contact Info. Tap this button to access the full contact information.
If you want to change the person used for SmileDial, you can clear the name and tap the button to choose a different contact. But for SmileDial Pro, you have another option: add a new person.
SmileDial Pro includes a People button while editing. Tap it to display a list of people in the order they appear on SmileDial's main side. You can change the order, delete them, or add any number of new ones.
SmileDial includes helpful hints at the bottom of the screen while editing, plus an introductory hint when you first flip back to the main side. This hint can be shown again via the Settings if desired. The About screen includes convenient buttons to access the Dejal website, too... in fact you can tap any of the displayed information to view related pages, e.g. the version number to go straight to the release notes.
SmileDial Lite is available completely free! SmileDial Pro is provided with "sustainable pricing": an inexpensive price that will enable planned updates for both editions. SmileDial is not "abandonware". Dejal is a long-established independent Mac software company, now expanding into iPhone software (which uses much the same Cocoa technology).
Dejal has a reputation for prompt and friendly support. Check out the SmileDial Forum for assistance from the developer and other customers, to suggest new features or enhancements, or provide other feedback.
Today marks the official release of SmileDial Lite, the free edition of SmileDial. This is my first iPhone app... the first of several planned ones.
SmileDial Lite is a simple app. Once configured, it shows your favorite person's face when you launch it, and you touch their smile to call them, or their eyes to create a text message to them. (Get it... talk with the mouth, read with the eyes.)
You flip the photo over to configure (it auto-flips on first launch). Here you can specify the name and numbers to use for text messages and phone calls. You can also display more contact information, and change the photo.
SmileDial Lite is completely free. Check out the SmileDial site for more information, or the iPhone App Store to download it:
SmileDial Pro is currently in review at Apple, and should hopefully be available soon. See the SmileDial Features page for a comparison of the two editions.
In keeping with the topic of my previous blog post on Better living, I thought I'd share something else that might help.
I know that a lot of people who use and enjoy Dejal Time Out do so to protect their vision, which is why I link to the Rebuild Your Vision program from the Time Out site. Of course, many others use Time Out to protect their wrists from RSI, or other reasons.
But for people concerned with the effects of long-term computer use on their eyes, the Rebuild Your Vision program can help to improve common vision problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and aging vision (presbyopia).
The exercises and techniques are designed to strengthen and relax your visual system just as you would any other weak part of your body, improving your vision and helping you to see clearly -- naturally.
The catch is dedicating 25 minutes a day to the exercises and techniques. The program is very easy-to-follow and is laid out in a step-by-step, minute-by-minute format. Once you receive the package you can begin the exercises within 10-15 minutes. Most people see a marked improvement within the first few weeks, with significant improvements in the following 2-3 months.
From today until Christmas Eve, Orlin is offering an additional $20 off the Rebuild Your Vision Program to Time Out users and readers of the Dejal blog. He's also including 4 additional bonus items.
To get your discount, go to:
When you checkout there will be an option to enter a coupon code. Here's the special code you will need to claim your additional discount:
Coupon Code: CHRISTMAS20
What could be better than giving the gift of sight to a friend, a loved one, or yourself this Christmas? Don't go another year with vision problems that are only going to get worse. Take the first step to improving your vision - for life.
With US Thanksgiving coming up tomorrow, I thought I'd take this opportunity to reflect briefly on ways to improve one's life.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't start off by plugging my own contribution to this goal: Dejal Time Out, my handy Mac app that reminds you to take regular breaks, featuring both micro-breaks for a quick breath and longer breaks to get up, move about and stretch. If you're not already using Time Out, I really recommend it. Lots of people have written to tell me how much it has helped them. And it's completely free! Check it out.
But I also wanted to mention a couple of other things. Firstly is a blog posting sent to me by a fan of Time Out, listing 50 video games for physical therapy and rehab. These are games for the Wii and other gaming systems, plus other options, that make physical activity and recovery from injuries fun and easy. That seems like a great way to motivate people to exercise more, or help those who have limited options.
While physical well-being is important, a major area of stress for many people is financial worries — especially in these troubled economic times. An Australian friend of mine, Jason Anderson, has recently started a blog aimed to help people get this area of their lives under control: Live To Budget. The site has budgeting tips, money-saving recipes, and more. If money worries are getting you down, or you just think you could be spending your money more wisely, I recommend taking a look at this site.
Finally, back to the Thanksgiving theme, I just wanted to say that I am very thankful for my great customers. Spending money on Dejal software is always wise. Dejal has enjoyed significant growth this year, so thank you to those who have purchased my products, have donated for Time Out and my other free products, or who have provided feedback to help improve them. I have big plans for the coming year, so stay tuned!
I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable Turkey Day, if you're celebrating it.
BlogAssist, my handy tool to add HTML tags to text via the clipboard, dragging to a floating window, or inline via the Services menu, has been updated to version 2.2.1:
This is a recommended update for everyone.
So people with discerning tastes of course want only the best ingredients. Once again, the Give Good Food to Your Mac promotion is here to help.
You can select from a delicious range of quality Mac software, sampling each to find just the right items for you. Then construct a recipe of delights, receiving an increasing discount the more you purchase.
I am very pleased to be able to include Dejal Narrator to this elite selection. Narrator is an elegant speech synthesis application that has a unique feature: the ability to mix multiple voices in one document, e.g. to listen to an interview or read out a story with multiple characters. It also supports exporting to iTunes or sound files, so you can make your own synthesized voice podcasts.
So take a moment to browse through the ingredients and enjoy the savings on many fine specimens of Mac software!
Macfilink, my affiliate link cloaking tool, has been updated to version 1.5, and released as freeware.
Yes, that's right: formerly a shareware product, Macfilink is now available to everyone at no cost. The license features have been removed, so it won't remind you to purchase or require entering a license.
If you're not familiar with Macfilink, it is a simple tool to take an affiliate URL and mask it so an affiliate page appears to be one of the pages on your site. You can see an example via the Time Out site for the third-party Rebuild Your Vision program. Notice how the web page address remains on my site, and it (optionally) includes a header linking back to the main Time Out page, with the third-party content below. If you look at the page source, the affiliate link isn't even visible there.
So why did I decide to release Macfilink as freeware? Put simply, because it does one task, and does it very well, but I can't think of any features I want to implement to enhance it. Also, being a very niche tool, it has never been a big seller, which means it isn't really possible to justify spending much time enhancing it, even if I did have some ideas.
Sure, I could keep charging for it, but in my view, if I'm not committing to ongoing enhancements, I shouldn't be charging for it.
I want to emphasize that I am not discontinuing Macfilink. If bugs turn up, I will do maintenance releases as needed. I just don't plan to add new features. It does everything it needs to do.
So download Macfilink and enjoy with my compliments!
Completing the series on Caboodle 1.2, here's information from the updated Caboodle User Guide, describing the new Security preferences:
The Preferences window is displayed via the CaboodlePreferences... menu item. This is the Security page. It includes options for the encryption features.
Default password: This password is one that can be offered in the encryption and decryption sheets, if there isn't a password in the keychain for the entry, or a previously-entered password. It is therefore mainly useful when you launch Caboodle, if you don't store passwords in the keychain. This default password is also stored in the keychain, to keep it safe. There is no default password initially.
The following checkboxes are grouped by encrypting and decrypting, so you can have different behaviors for each if you prefer. These are evaluated in this order, so a keychain password takes priority over a previously entered one or the default password:
Offer the password saved in the keychain for this entry, if any: If this checkbox is selected, Caboodle will look in the keychain for a password previously used for this entry. If there is one, it will be offered in the encryption/decryption sheet. This is on by default.
Offer the password previously entered for any entry, if any: If selected, Caboodle will offer whatever password you most recently used for any entry. For example, if you encrypt an entry then select another entry and ask to encrypt it too, Caboodle will offer the same password as a suggestion. You can of course type another one if you wish. This defaults to on.
Offer the default password: This checkbox indicates that you want to be offered the default password, as entered above, if there isn't a password in the keychain or a previously entered password. This defaults to on.
Continuing the theme of using Caboodle User Guide pages as blog posts, here's the updated info about the encryption feature, which was significantly enhanced in version 1.2:
The Encrypt Entry sheet. This sheet slides out from the main editor window when you choose the FileEncrypt Entry... menu item, or the Encrypt toolbar button. This operation is only available when one entry is selected.
Enter a password or phrase to use to encrypt the entry, and enter it again to confirm that you typed it correctly. The password will not be shown. Make sure that you remember the password — there is no way to access your entry if you forget it!
You can check the Remember this password in my keychain box to have Caboodle store the entered password in your keychain. If it is in the keychain, and the keychain is unlocked, the password will be offered automatically when you come to view or decrypt the entry.
A default password can be offered from one of three sources: an existing keychain item (e.g. from when this entry was previously encrypted; from the most recently entered password for any entry (so you can easily use the same password for several entries); or a default password, as set in the Security preferences. If none of those is available, the fields are blank. Regardless, you can of course type a new password whenever desired.
Once an entry is encrypted, it displays with a lock instead of the content, and the menu item and toolbar button change to Decrypt:
When you choose the FileDecrypt Entry... menu item or the Decrypt toolbar button, the following sheet is displayed:
Here you have two options:
Simply enter the correct password (again it won't be shown), click View or Decrypt, and the entry will be re-displayed as it was before encryption. If you don't enter the correct password, it will give you three more attempts, though you can always cancel and re-try if necessary.
As with the encryption sheet, you can save the entered password in the keychain, and it offers a password from one of the three sources: keychain, previous entry, or default password. It only offers a password if it is correct, so you can just click a button without entering anything if one is offered.
If just viewing the entry, the icon will remain as a lock, the fields will be disabled, and a reminder will appear on the dates line:
I wrote the following for a new page of the Caboodle User Guide, but since nobody reads such guides :) I thought I'd post it to the Dejal Blog, too.
Caboodle is a versatile application, and a handy place for storing text, pictures, PDFs, and other kinds of documents.
The most obvious way to get stuff into Caboodle is to type text or paste content into an entry. Simply click the New Sibling toolbar button (or choose it from the File menu) to add a new entry a the same level as the selected one (or the top level if no selection), or the New Child option to create the new entry within the selected one. Read about the main Caboodle window for more information.
You can also drag documents into an entry. Create an entry as above, then press Tab to switch to another application or the Finder and begin dragging the document (e.g. an image from a web browser, or PDF from the Finder). While the mouse button is still held down, press Tab again to switch back to Caboodle, and drag into the text area. You then have a choice: you can copy the document into Caboodle, simply by releasing the mouse, or alias the original into Caboodle by holding the Control key while releasing the mouse button — the mouse pointer will change from a plus symbol to an alias symbol.
That sounds hard, but is actually really easy once you try it. But easy as that is, wouldn't it be nice if there were an even easier way to get stuff into Caboodle? You're in luck: we're not done yet!
Caboodle supports the Services menu, which is included in the application menu of most modern applications. Simply select some text in pretty much any application then choose the ServicesCaboodleAdd Entry with Selection command. Caboodle will be launched if it isn't already running, a new entry will be added, and the text will be inserted in that entry. What's more, the Subject will be set to the first few words of the first line of text. If the selected entry has child entries when using this function, the new entry will be a child of that one, otherwise it will be a sibling.
(It's worth pointing out here that there's a second command in the Services menu: Selection From Entry. This command does the reverse of the above: it inserts the text from the current entry in Caboodle into another application at the current selection.)
But wait, there's more. You can even drag text or images onto the Caboodle application icon in the Dock to quickly add them in the same way as for the Services feature.
Finally, if you need to get lots of data into Caboodle, you can import it.
The second Mac Bundle Box, a collection of 10 great applications, is now available!
The bundle includes a Basic license for my own Simon, plus nine other excellent applications from independent developers, including several very popular titles:
$341.80 worth of software for the low price of just $49.00! An amazing deal. If you want Simon Basic, and If there is even just one or two other apps in the bundle that you also want, you'll be saving lots of money.
You'll get a fully-functional copy of Simon Basic. If you need more tests, you can easily upgrade to Simon Standard via the Dejal Store at any point.
Visit the Mac Bundle Box site to take advantage of this great deal, while it lasts!
Caboodle, my handy app to store and organize snippets of text, images, PDFs, and other information, has been updated to version 1.2.
This release has a focus on the encryption features, with several significant and much-requested enhancements.
Perhaps the most significant of those is the addition of an option to view an encrypted entry without decrypting it on disk. When displaying the decryption sheet, you now have a choice between fully decrypting as before, or viewing the entry without decrypting it on disk. It is decrypted as a read-only view, so you can see the text etc until you quit Caboodle — no need to re-encrypt when you're done.
Other welcome enhancements are support for saving passwords in the keychain, and the ability to have Caboodle offer the most recently entered password and/or a default password. Great time-savers, that make using the encryption features much easier.
This release also enhances the Services menu functions and when dropping text or images on Caboodle's Dock icon. Now it sets the Subject field based on the first line of text, and makes better decisions on where to add the entries.
No doubt many long-time users will be pleased to hear that this version also fixes a long-standing search indexing issue, too.
It also includes several other improvements and fixes; check out the release notes for full details.
One thing worth pointing out, for the 1% of people still on Mac OS X 10.3.9 (Panther): Caboodle now requires 10.4 (Tiger) as a minimum. So those people need to remain with version 1.1.4 until they're ready to upgrade their OS. (I've put a link to that version on the Caboodle product page, just in case.)
This seemed rather familiar to me, as I was recently without my main machine, a MacBook Pro 17", for a total of about three weeks, due to exactly the symptoms they list, among others.
My machine initially showed fairly minor symptoms. It wouldn't wake from sleep after unplugging it from my external 23" display, or would unexpectedly shut down. This continued for a few weeks (frustratingly during the Olympics, when I was using the MBP while watching, instead of on my desk as usual). I also saw some interference on the internal and external screens occasionally. Then it got worse: it started having kernel panics at random intervals. That quickly got worse, to the point where it was having kernel panics on every startup:
I tried the obvious diagnostic steps (disabled third-party stuff, boot into safe mode, reset the PRAM, reinstalled the OS, etc). Nothing helped.
So I took it into one of my local Apple Stores on September 1. The helpful Geniuses confirmed the problem, and took it away to repair. I used an old Mac mini in the meantime. A few days later, on September 5, I picked it up, along with a receipt for the hardware repair: they replaced the motherboard, for a total cost of $1,385.00. Fortunately, the computer was still covered by AppleCare (a great investment for laptops; I highly recommend it!), so I didn't have to pay anything.
Problem solved. All was well.
Or was it? About a week later, I couldn't wake up my Mac in the morning. At least, that's what I thought, but further investigation showed that it was awake (I could hear sounds, e.g. the volume adjustment clicks), but not showing any video. Not even on the external display. Again, I tried various things, to no avail.
So back to the Apple Store it went, on September 15. This time the repair wasn't so quick. Two weeks went by; apparently they wanted to try replacing the screen, but a replacement didn't turn up. Which tells me that they weren't aware of the NVIDIA issue at that point — a little over a week ago.
Eventually, they decided to just replace the motherboard again, and that seemed to fix it. I got my Mac back again on October 1, two weeks after taking it in. Along with another receipt for $1,385.00, covered by AppleCare.
So the first replacement must have also had a faulty NVIDIA chip. Hopefully the second replacement motherboard has a fixed one; I don't want to have to go without my main Mac again! Most of September was bad enough. I must say, though, that — although being without my machine was a major pain — the Apple Geniuses were very polite and helpful. I'm very glad they were available, so I didn't have to resort to more drastic measures like mailing the machine to some distant repair depot or something.
But it is somewhat gratifying that Apple has identified and announced the cause, and it isn't something specific to my machine. Perhaps my machine helped diagnose it, as another case proving a pattern? I'm glad other people experiencing this problem will have a more speedy repair — and a free repair, even if not covered by AppleCare.
If you have a MacBook or MacBook Pro exhibiting this behavior, check out Apple's support document for more information.
What's more, Caboodle, my handy app to keep snippets of text, images, PDFs, etc organized, and Narrator, my fun app to speak text in multiple voices, are also still available via MacUpdate Promo special deals, for a limited time: