Unfortunately I'm not attending WWDC this year. I'm not currently working on or immediately planning an iPhone app, and don't expect anything much new for Mac OS X, so it wasn't worthwhile to go this year. Maybe next year?
I'm sure I will write some iPhone apps in the future, though; it's an exciting platform, and I'm really looking forward to getting a new iPhone once they're released.
But speaking of releases, time for some prognostication.
The leading expectation for WWDC 08, of course, is the 3G iPhone with version 2.0 software and the software development kit (SDK). I'm confident that this will eventuate. I'm not sure whether or not the new iPhone model will be immediately available, or just announced for pre-order and delivery later in the month (or even later). If I had to guess, I'd say it'd be released no later than the end of June... but I'm hoping for immediate availability.
There are also questions of whether or not the updated iPhone will be thinner or thicker than the current model, what memory size it'll have, if there will be multiple models (perhaps a cheaper 2.5G and more expensive 3G model), coloring, form-factor, etc. I would guess thinner, double the memory, and only a 3G model (with a preference to switch between 2.5G and 3G).
Another rumor that has been popular recently is an unusual update to Mac OS X to version 10.6, code-named "Snow Leopard". This would be unusual in that it is supposed to not include any major new features, but just concentrate on tidying up the code base, improving performance and stability... stuff that is normally the realm of bug-fix releases.
But it is supposed to also drop PowerPC support. This would make a certain amount of sense — it'd allow throwing away lots of code, and simplifying many things. But it might be a little too soon for such a drastic change; there are still plenty of perfectly good PowerPC machines out there (I have a few in active use).
There have been rumors that 10.6 would change Carbon support in some way. Some thought it would drop Carbon entirely, or Carbon UI, but I don't think that is realistic. There are still many Carbon apps out there, including big ones from Adobe, Microsoft, and others. What I could see happening, though, is (as Gruber says) adding Objective-C wrappers around framework calls that are only available via Carbon currently. That would certainly be very welcome; as a Cocoa programmer, it can be mildly distasteful to have to drop down to Carbon to implement some functionality, though it's certainly not the end of the world.
Another popular rumor is that .Mac will be overhauled and renamed, perhaps as "Mobile Me". This has been fueled by people noticing that me.com is owned by Apple, and seeing the text "Mobile Me" referenced in resources. This does seem pretty conclusive, though I can't say I particularly like the name. On the other hand, .Mac has always been a silly name, so Mobile Me isn't any worse. It does certainly make sense to rebrand it to avoid reference to Macs, now that Apple has a major non-Mac platform in the iPhone.
Finally, some people are predicting a new multi-touch device, perhaps some sort of tablet or Newton-like form factor. I'd certainly welcome that, but am rather skeptical that such a device would be introduced now. I'm sure Apple has a few such devices in development, even if only as experimental projects, but introducing one now would distract from the new iPhone, unless it were positioned as a "super-iPod touch" kind of device, running the mobile OS X. I would really like to see a multi-touch Mac tablet... but that seems even less likely at this stage.
I would be very surprised if any Mac hardware were announced. WWDC isn't traditionally the venue for hardware releases; last year Apple released updated MacBook Pros a week before WWDC, rather than waiting a week. At its core, WWDC is for developers, talking about the OS. That's the way it should be.
Macfilink, my affiliate link cloaking tool, has been updated to version 1.4.3.
This update includes a few fixes, and is free for existing customers:
BlogAssist version 2.2 is now in general release. It adds some much-requested features and fixes:
1. This is an item, 2. Another item, (3) A third item" becomes properly formatted HTML.
Simon, Time Out, Caboodle"), and a list of corresponding URLs in Value2 (e.g. "
http://www.dejal.com/simon/, http://www.dejal.com/timeout/, http://www.dejal.com/caboodle/").
Dejal Simon version 2.4 was recently released, and a few of the changes in this version related to the Preview window. This window may not get much love, so I thought I'd devote a tip blog post to it.
As you know, Simon is a website and server monitoring tool. This mouthful is to try to describe two of the levels that Simon operates at. At the very basic level, Simon is a very simple utility to watch web sites, and let you know when they change or go down. But Simon has much more depth to it — it enables you to monitor all sorts of internet servers and services, local applications, local and remote disk volumes, and more.
The Preview window has this duality, too. When used with a web-based test (i.e. one using the Web (HTTP) service), it displays the HTML source at the top of the window, and the rendered web page and graphics in the bottom, with a URL field, Back/Forward buttons, and more, and links etc are fully functional:
This is really handy, both to quickly see the page while in Simon, without having to switch to a web browser (which is easy too, via the Visit Site command), and when setting up the test in the first place.
One of Simon's key features is the Smart Change Detection function. This is a section of the Edit Test window, where you can tell Simon to only look at the HTML source between two blocks of text. This enables you to focus on the part of the page you care about, and avoid dynamic portions like banner ads etc. You can easily set this up via the Preview window. With the Edit Test window open, after entering the URL, click the Preview button to display the preview of the page. Then search through the HTML source for the start text, select it, and click the Copy to Test toolbar button. This will copy that selected text to the Start field in the Edit Test window. Then you can find and select the end text, click the button again, and it's copied to the End text field. Easy!
As useful as this is, it's not done yet. The Preview window is also supported by many other services, in a slightly different way. For non-web services, the Preview window looks a little different. Instead of the HTML source, it displays a summary of the service operation at the top (e.g. the script), and the output at the bottom. This is all plain text, since that's what these services deal with:
These services support the Smart Change Detection feature, too: just like with web pages, you can select text and click Copy to Test (or copy manually) to set up the Start and End text blocks. Unlike web, you can do it from either the source or output areas (and choose those as options in the Smart Change Detection section).
The Script- and Port-based services already supported this mode, but version 2.4 extended it to include the Application and Ping services, too, along with the new Twitter service. So you can now see more information about exactly what's going on with the Ping checks, and more information about the other services. Version 2.4 also made the Preview window more responsive for this mode, showing the source script immediately, instead of after the check is complete, so you can see what it's doing.
I hope you'll use the Preview window to good advantage when configuring and using Simon.
BlogAssist, my always-present HTML markup assistant, now has a new beta release.
Version 2.2 adds a much-requested feature: the ability to repeat part of a markup operation, e.g. for ordered or unordered lists of items.
It's even intelligent enough to strip off any existing list prefix like a dash, bullet, number, etc, and supports lists from both value fields.
This version also adds an Insert Variable drop-down menu to the Operations preferences, to make inserting variables easier (plus it shows many variables you probably didn't know existed).
Read the release notes for details.
Since a few people have asked, regarding my announcement yesterday that Simon version 2.4 now requires a minimum of Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4), here's the current breakdown of OS versions for Simon:
So a few people will be affected by this change, but a relatively small number. And that's always dropping, as more people buy new machines or get around to upgrading their OS.
For people stuck on 10.3.9, I'm sorry for the inconvenience... but it had to happen eventually, and Simon 2.3.5 is a fine version.
Interestingly, Simon is a little ahead of the curve when it comes to Leopard adoption. For my other products (excluding Narrator 2, which requires Leopard), the percentage averages to about 56% on 10.5.2, 40% on 10.4.11, 3% on 10.3.9, and 1% on others. So I could drop 10.3.9 support for those too, though I won't until necessary. It'll definitely happen eventually, but not for a while.
One of my customers alerted me this morning that the just-released version 2.4 of Simon no longer works on Mac OS X 10.3.9 (Panther). I keep an old clamshell iBook on 10.3.9 for testing purposes, and just confirmed that this was the case. It seems that the framework used for the new Calendar plug-in, which caused hassles when building, also precludes running on 10.3.9. Even removing the framework and the plug-in from the built app didn't help.
I have been planning on dropping 10.3.9 support sometime this year anyway, but have been delaying that as long as possible. It no longer seems possible... so version 2.4 now officially requires a minimum of Tiger, i.e. Mac OS X 10.4 or later. (It works great on Leopard, too.)
I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. I have updated the Simon site, release notes, and software listings accordingly. I've also added a link to Simon 2.3.5, the last 10.3.9-compatible release, on the Simon site.
If you are still using Mac OS X 10.3.9, I really recommend upgrading to 10.4 or 10.5. Tiger and Leopard include many great enhancements, and almost all software nowadays requires at least 10.4, and more and more are requiring 10.5.
On the surface, Simon is a simple Mac utility which runs all the time, checks web pages, sends out notifications when things are not as they should be. Behind the scenes, Simon is a top-notch server monitoring system with bells and whistles, and each of them have bells and whistles.
All this extra effort on Simon’s part sounds as if it should be ultra complicated, yet, step by step, I found I could fill in the blanks in the Edit Test window, and get Simon to do more. I especially appreciated the notifiers, email messages to tell me what was happening. Cool.
I also signed up to sponsor three sites today:
Check out the sites and support them!
Simon version 2.4 is now in general release!
This update has a focus on service and notifier enhancements, though it also has a number of other improvements. On the service front, it adds a fantastic new Twitter plug-in, enabling you to monitor a number of aspects of the great Twitter service. You can have Simon watch Twitter updates, direct messages, friends, followers, and more for changes and/or failures. For example, have Simon notify you when someone follows or un-follows you, or someone posts an update (even if you don't follow them), among other possibilities.
The Twitter plug-in also works as a notifier. You can use this to send updates or direct messages to yourself or others via the popular Twitter service when a test has an event. View Simon notifications anywhere you can see tweets! See my Simon Twitter page.
Another handy new notifier plug-in is the Calendar one. This enables you to add events or tasks to iCal, or events to Google Calendar. Failure and recovery events even cover the actual downtime range. This plug-in is only available when Simon is running under Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or later.
The Twitter and Calendar plug-ins were kindly written by Daniel Ellis. Thank you for your efforts!
The existing Port plug-in has had some bug fixes, plus has been extended to work as a notifier. So you can now create port sessions as notifications: have Simon open a connection to a server on a specific port, and send it commands to perform some action. Like the existing Script notifier, this opens up infinite possibilities!
Version 2.4 also bundles several services and notifiers that were only available as separate downloads on the Simon Extras page before, including the Incoming Mail (POP) via SSL, Outgoing Mail (SMTP) via SSL, Mount Volume, Network Time (NTP), Port Available, SNMP Status, and TCP Port Scanner services, and the APC Masterswitch and Growl Change notifiers.
It also includes an iPhone report template, kindly created by Joe Savelberg. This is a simple iPhone web app to allow browsing the Simon monitoring from your iPhone or iPod touch. See a live demo.
But wait, there's more! This release also enhances other existing plug-ins to work better with the Smart Change Detection and Preview features, adds several handy service and notifier variables, and fixes several bugs.
Finally, it also adds a new preference, allowing simplified status icons, by popular request. Normally, Simon displays a green upwards triangle icon when there is a new change, and the green slowly fades to grey as time goes by. Similarly, it shows a red downwards triangle for a failure, which changes to an orange upwards triangle when it recovers, and that fades over time. With this preference, you can choose to have it simply use red for a failure, bright green for a new change, and a lighter green for success (older change or recovery).
Read the release notes for full details.
Simon 2.4 is a free update for licensed Simon 2 customers.
One of the essential features of any snippet keeper is getting information into it, and Caboodle has a number of options, including direct entry, imports, and a handy Services menu command. This sub-menu is found within the application menu of modern Mac apps, and includes useful operations you can perform on selected text using external applications.
If you want to add some text to Caboodle from a web browser, word processor, text editor, or just about anywhere, you can simply select the desired text and choose Services Caboodle Add Entry with Selection. Caboodle will be launched, if necessary, and the selected text will be added to a new entry.
If you do this a lot, you might find it more convenient to assign a keyboard equivalent to the command. To do so, follow these simple steps to add the equivalent of your choice to the Add Entry with Selection command:
Note: the new keyboard shortcut won't show up in applications that are already running until after you quit and re-launch them.
Caboodle version 1.1.4 is now available.
This release includes some important bug fixes and improvements:
Another day, another beta release! Simon version 2.4b3 is now available. Unless any issues are reported, this will be the last beta for version 2.4:
Simon version 2.4b2 is now available:
The first beta release of Simon version 2.4 is now available.
This release adds two major plug-ins, written by Daniel Ellis:
Version 2.4b1 also bundles several services and notifiers that were previously only available via the Simon Extras page, including:
And unlike previous versions, people already using Simon will now automatically get these additions, unless you've already added them.
A couple of report templates from the Extras page are now also bundled: the iPhone and Variable Test templates, kindly created by Joe Savelberg. The iPhone template is a simple iPhone web app to allow browsing the Simon monitoring from your iPhone or iPod touch. The Variable Test template shows all of the report variables and what they output, to assist in creating or customizing templates.
The test scheduler was also updated, to better queue the checks. When multiple tests are to be checked at once, they are added to a queue, and checked at the interval specified in the Advanced preferences (one per second by default — set to zero to always check immediately). This helps spread out the load, and provides more accurate results. The Next Check column in the tests table shows "queued manually" when multiple tests are queued via a Check Now command, or "queued" and a time interval if queued automatically when due.
A bunch of new service and notifier variables were also added. Plus several other improvements. See the release notes for the full list of changes.
A spiffy ad for the Discovery Channel; a catchy tune, interesting visuals, and wonderful sentiment:
Narrator version 2.0.1 is now available. This release fixes one important bug, that prevented the rate and pitch controls from working properly in some situations.
I've also put together a new screencast on Narrator, showing what was discussed in my previous blog post: using Narrator to read a web interview in multiple voices, including exporting it to iTunes.
Interestingly, I used Narrator to narrate the Narrator screencast... very meta of me. :)
Check it out:
My German localizer, Ulf Dunkel of DSD.net, recently suggested an excellent use for Dejal Narrator. The app was designed with reading out stories using multiple voices in mind, but it's certainly not limited to that. Any text that includes multiple people is a good candidate.
One common case when people are conversing is a web interview. The format is pretty standard: each paragraph represents something one of the participants said, and is prefixed with their name or initials. Narrator's Casting Assistant feature recognizes this format, making it very easy to mark up the text.
When you find an interview you'd prefer to listen to, rather than read — perhaps just so you can rest your eyes, or maybe you want to listen to it on an iPod — you can easily use Narrator to read it out, with different voices for each of of the participants.
That's it! You can then export to iTunes if desired, or listen directly in Narrator. A great way to enjoy an interview while doing other activities.
A couple of months ago, Keith Alperin of Helium Foot Software had a good idea: gather a few small independent Mac developers together to sponsor Daring Fireball for a week. He asked for other indies who were interested in participating. I am a DF member and daily reader, and have a great deal of respect for John Gruber, so I jumped at this. It's a great opportunity for me to further support Daring Fireball, and of course leverage its popularity to introduce more people to my products.
We have set up a special site, Mac Indie Deals, as a portal to the four participating developers: Dejal (me), Decimus Software, Xeric Design, and Helium Foot Software. We are each offering special discounts off our products for this week only, using the coupon "DF08".
So, welcome Daring Fireball readers! Check out the Dejal Products page for a summary of the Mac software available from Dejal. Feel free to download and try any or all, and use the "DF08" coupon to get great discounts... but be quick!
If you're not a Daring Fireball reader yet, I highly recommend it. John covers all sorts of Mac-related topics, with insightful commentary on the issues of the day. A must-read.
On Monday I did a major upgrade of Dejal Narrator, my app to read out stories in multiple voices, to version 2.0. I usually send out press releases when I do major and minor product releases, but have previously just written and sent the releases myself, using a collection of email addresses I've gathered over the years.
But for this release, I decided to try something different. I had tried free distributions via prMac.com in the past, often while doing my own releases too. It seemed like a good service, but the three-day delay for free releases lacked the immediacy I wanted. So this time I put it to a real test: I used their Writing Service to craft a press release using their experience and skills to get the message across, and paid for the Extended Distribution to get the release out immediately and to a wider audience.
So how'd it work for me? Ray from prMac was prompt and friendly, quickly crafting a release that captured the essence of the product. There was opportunity to review and tweak the wording, but very few changes were needed. Then on release day, I submitted it for posting, which was done soon afterwards. I quickly noticed lots of sites mentioning Narrator, that normally don't pick up my press releases (such as Macworld). The prMac service definitely has a much wider range of publishers than my self-created list.
I'm not sure if it's related or not, but I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that the Apple Downloads software listing site selected Narrator as a "Staff Pick"... not only showing it as the "Featured Download" on the Home & Learning category page, but as the "Featured Download" at the top of the All Categories page, for a couple of days (it's been bumped now, though). Quite the honor! I'm willing to give prMac the credit for gaining Apple's attention like that. You can't buy publicity like such a prominent spot on Apple's site, but for a few dollars you can buy an excellent press release distribution. I plan on using prMac again for future releases.
Narrator version 2.0 is now in general release!
Use Narrator to read out a play or story with different voices for each of the parts. It uses speech synthesis to read out marked passages using specified voice attributes. You can choose different voices, rates, pitches, inflections, and volumes for each character in the story. The words are highlighted on-screen, and there are also a couple of silent read-along options for stage directions, or for you to read out your own parts.
Narrator 2 is a major upgrade, a complete rewrite. It requires Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard" as it uses the latest technologies. Version 1.1.4 will remain available for people who aren't ready for Leopard.
This upgrade includes a much-requested feature: the ability to export the speech to an AAC sound file, or export directly to iTunes. This is great for listening to stories on an iPod or iPhone, or directly in iTunes. Make your own audiobooks! The tracks can be bookmarkable, too, keeping track of where you're up to when listening to them.
Narrator 2 also has several other enhancements, including preferences to substitute words to fine-tune the pronunciation, the ability to organize your work into multiple chapters, a fancy new look consistent with other Leopard apps, Spotlight and Quick Look support, various text features like tables, links, lists, spelling and grammar checking, and more. It is also localized for English, German and French, and is a Universal Binary, to run natively on Intel and PowerPC machines. See the release notes for details of the enhancements in this version.
This is a paid upgrade (just $9) for existing customers. But I'm offering a generous free upgrade period: everyone who purchased Narrator since October 1, 2007 is eligible for a free upgrade. If you qualify, just contact me to get your upgrade license.
You can see Narrator in action without even downloading it: check out this video, if you haven't seen it before:
Here's a feature graphic for Narrator 2.0, as currently seen on the Dejal home page: