David Sinclair's blog

MacTech Spotlight: David Sinclair

Last year I was featured in MacTech magazine as their developer spotlight for the month. They asked me some questions about my background; here are my responses:

What do you do?

Dejal is a small ISV, so I do pretty much everything, including Cocoa development, customer support, accounting, PHP web development, graphic design, etc. I do have a developer that helps with Dejal Simon plugins etc, and I've used graphic designers for some app icons and the new Dejal logo. In addition to my own products, I do contracting work part-time.

How long have you been doing what you do?

I learned BASIC in 1982 as my first programming language, and knew that's what I wanted to do with my life. In 1988 I switched to Pascal on Mac Pluses at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and started playing around with apps, but didn't sell anything until I created Dejal (originally called Dejal Userware, for user-friendly software) in 1991. Back then it was just a hobby, selling utilities for System 5 through Mac OS 9 (they're still available as freeware: http://www.dejal.com/classic/). There wasn't a web back then, though; I distributed my software via Compuserve, AOL, floppy disks, and later CDs, and provided licenses via airmail (from New Zealand), hand-written on photocopied certificates.

When my wife and I moved to the US in 2001, I learned Cocoa, developed my first Mac OS X apps, and registered my company as Dejal Systems, LLC in 2002.

Your first computer:

I got my first computer in 1983: a Sinclair ZX81, with 3.25 MHz Z80 processor, 1K of RAM, a cassette tape drive, tiny membrane keyboard, and hooked to a B&W TV. I first used a Mac at school: an original 128K Mac in 1984... but I didn't own one until I got a Mac Plus in 1988.

Are you Mac-only, or a multi-platform person?

Definitely Mac-only. I have a Windows box I got a few years ago for a project, but it just gathers dust.

Do the products you develop scratch a personal itch, or are they for others?

A bit of both. Obviously I need to keep marketability in mind when working on products. Most started out as fulfilling a need I didn't see being adequately serviced with existing products in the marketplace. Narrator started as a fun way to learn Cocoa. Simon began as a way for me to watch for website updates, and became more sophisticated as it became popular. I created Time Out to improve my health, since I can suffer from eyestrain when staring at a computer for hours on end. Caboodle was written to compete with others in the snippet-keeper market, as I didn't really like the approach existing ones took. Macfilink was created in partnership with an affiliate marketer to serve that community. BlogAssist was written specifically for my wife, who was really into LiveJournal blogging at the time. All of the products have grown and evolved over the years based on customer feedback -- it's really important to listen to what people say about products and incorporate their ideas into the design, as makes sense. I keep track of all suggestions, and tally votes for them to determine the most requested enhancements, to which I give priority when deciding on features for an update.

What's the coolest tech thing you've done using OS X?

One thing I'm quite pleased with is the Script plugin in Dejal Simon. Simon is a server monitoring tool that uses a plugin model for services, notifiers, and reports. The Script plugin allows running AppleScripts, shell scripts, Perl, Python, Ruby, or other scripts to perform checks and notifications for local or remote servers and processes. I like it as it leverages Mac OS X's unix underpinnings to significantly enhance the reach of the product. That would've been much harder under Mac OS 9 or Windows.

Ever?

I wrote an integrated environment for an old SpectraVideo MSX computer (loaded off 5.25" floppies) around 1986, complete with a basic word processor, spreadsheet, and more. It was never released, though.

Where can we see a sample of your work?

Try my products: free trials are available at http://www.dejal.com.

See my code: open source Cocoa at http://www.dejal.com/developer/.

Read my thoughts: subscribe to my blog at http://www.dejal.com/blog/.

The next way I'm going to impact IT/OS X/the Mac universe is:

I'm excited about the upgrades of the Dejal apps for Leopard. Simon 3 and Time Out 2 will be major upgrades, with much-improved UI and features.

Narrator 2.0.2 released

Narrator, my app to read out stories in multiple voices, has been updated to version 2.0.2.

It is also available for half price for today only, via the MacUpdate Promo page. Be in quick to take advantage of this one-day offer!

This bug-fix release includes a few important issues:

  • Fixed an occasional crasher when saving a document immediately after making text or ruler changes.
  • Fixed a bug where the license reminder in the window title would appear even when licensed, when launching the application by opening a document instead of launching the app directly.
  • Fixed a cosmetic bug with the Check for Updates feature when using a general release and wanting only general releases, and a beta release is available.

Download Narrator 2.0.2 now, and check out the MacUpdate Promo deal before it expires!

Simon 2.4.1 released

Simon, my website and server monitoring tool, has been updated to version 2.4.1.

This is a bug-fix release, with a few important fixes to the Port service and notifier plug-in, among other changes.

  • Fixed a bug with building the session script for the Port plug-in.
  • Fixed a bug where a server that returns binary data could cause a Port-based test to fail, with an exception logged in the Console. The binary data is now correctly recorded as hex values.
  • Added a hidden preference to output debug information from the helper for the Port plug-in. It can be activated by entering "defaults write com.dejal.simon2 PortDebugMode YES" in Terminal.
  • Also added a similar hidden preference for the Ping plug-in. Activate via "defaults write com.dejal.simon2 PingDebugMode YES" in Terminal.

Download now!

Time Out 1.5.3 released

Time Out, my popular free break reminder tool, has just been updated to version 1.5.3.

It contains a few improvements:

  • Improved the idle detection when the computer was sleeping.
  • Added a hidden preference to output debug information about scheduling and idle detection to the Console log. It can be activated by entering defaults write com.dejal.timeout DebugScheduler YES in Terminal. You shouldn't turn this on unless you think Time Out isn't working properly, as it outputs quite a lot of information.
  • Fixed a cosmetic bug with the Check for Updates feature when using a general release and wanting only general releases, and a beta release is available.

Time Out 2, the major rewrite for Leopard, is currently in development. More information about it will be made available in due course. In the meantime, enjoy Time Out 1.5.3!

Download now!

Pan-Mass Challenge software auction

Seth Dillingham is hosting a Pan-Mass Challenge software auction once again this year, as a fundraising project in support of his 300-mile ride across the state of Massachusetts for a cancer care charity.

He wants to collect hundreds of software products, which will be auctioned on eBay starting soon.

This is a very worthy cause. I participated last year, and am happy to participate again this year. I am donating at least 5 Standard licenses for Dejal Simon, at least 5 Household licenses for Dejal Caboodle, plus at least 5 Household licenses for Dejal Narrator (about $520 total value). I encourage other Mac developers to join in, too.

For more information on the fundraising, click this image:

WWDC 08 Stevenote

I previously blogged with my predictions for the Stevenote at this year's WWDC. So how'd I do?

3G iPhone & SDK:

This was of course a no-brainer. There may have been riots in Moscone if this hadn't eventuated. The iPhone 3G meets most of the expectations that people had, with one or two perhaps overly optimistic exceptions: some people were hoping for a front-facing camera with video support, for video chats, which won't be included... yet. Maybe in next year's model?

I wondered when it would be available, predicting "no later than the end of June", but it turned out that July 11 is the magic date. A little off there, but I'm not surprised that it was delayed a little. It's perfect timing for me: my old cellphone contract expires on July 2, so I'll be raring to go on launch day.

One concern with the launch, though, is that it appears that iTunes-based activation will no longer be supported: iPhone customers will have to activate in-store. That will probably lead to really long delays on launch day (and subsequent days)... not something I'm looking forward to.

Although the iPhone 3G will be cheaper up-front, the total cost of ownership is going up. AT&T will be charging $10/month more than before for the data plan, resulting in a total cost over the two year contract of $440, $40 more than before. Even so, the iPhone 3G will be well worth that difference, with faster speeds, better battery life, GPS, and more.

Snow Leopard:

Another rumor I commented on was that Mac OS X 10.6 would be announced, with the code-name "Snow Leopard", as a no-new-features release with performance improvements. This was indeed announced, though somewhat in passing during the Stevenote. Developers attending WWDC apparently got a seed of this release. There was little information on what is included, but I predicted that the rumor that it'd drop PowerPC support was unfounded. I can't say for sure, but considering the intertubes haven't exploded with outrage, I think it's safe to assume this wasn't true.

.Mac Overhaul:

This rumor did come true, too. As widely expected, the new name is MobileMe. I'm still not a big fan of the name, but anything's better than "dot-Mac". From what was shown during the Stevenote (or Schillernote at that point), they do seem to have gotten it right at last. The web apps look very clean and usable, and push synchronization should be an improvement.

New Multi-Touch Device, Other Hardware:

I was very skeptical of the rumor of a new multi-touch device, and wasn't surprised to see it was false. Apple has a great new platform in the iPhone, just at the beginning of taking over the world, so they wouldn't want to distract from that at this stage. Maybe in a couple of years time, they might bring out a touch tablet or something.

As for new Mac models, I didn't expect any, and there certainly weren't any. As I said, WWDC is not the time for new hardware.

No Boom?

I did end jokingly with "The real surprise would be if Steve doesn't say "boom". :)" Maybe that is the biggest surprise of the show; he didn't say "boom" once, unless you count the sound effects in the slides when announcing the lower prices. I'm shocked! :)

Overall, a most satisfactory WWDC Stevenote. I look forward to getting my iPhone 3G, and seeing the plethora of iPhone apps that will start appearing in the App Store. It's going to an excellent platform.

WWDC 08 predictions

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.

It'll certainly be very interesting to see what is announced. Maybe Steve will surprise us all. Let's all play WWDC bingo! The real surprise would be if Steve doesn't say "boom". :)

Macfilink 1.4.3 released

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:

  • Improved the reliability of the two web views (Original Page and Generated Preview), allowing them to better load content when not active.
  • Fixed a cosmetic bug with the Check for Updates feature when using a general release and wanting only general releases, and a beta release is available.
  • Updated the built-in Kagi purchasing tool to the latest version, which fixes some issues with Leopard.

Download now!

BlogAssist 2.2 released

BlogAssist version 2.2 is now in general release. It adds some much-requested features and fixes:

  • Added a much-requested feature: the ability to have repeating formatting. For example, you can now create an ordered or unordered list simply by using a list of items as your source value, and similarly with multiple HTML paragraphs via multiple paragraphs of text. The list items can be delimited by Return or LF characters, tabs, or commas. It automatically strips off any existing list markers: it recognizes a dash, asterisk or bullet, or any short first word ending in a punctuation character. What's more, you can have lists in either the Value1 or Value2 fields (in the floating and Services windows); it will repeat the block for the number of items in the longer list, using the last (or only) item in the other field for any shortfall. So text like "1. This is an item, 2. Another item, (3) A third item" becomes properly formatted HTML.
  • The Paragraph, Unordered List, and Ordered List operations are automatically upgraded to use the new repeating block mechanism. You can easily add it to any other operations where it seems useful.
  • Added a new List of Links operation, that outputs an unordered list containing web links, using the new repeating feature. Use a list of labels in Value1 (e.g. "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/").
  • Added an Insert Variable drop-down menu to the Operations Preferences. This allows easily inserting variables and begin/end repeating block markers in the selected operation text.
  • The Operations Preferences table now used dynamic row heights, so multi-line operations are fully visible.
  • Improved the floating BlogAssist window to avoid using unnecessary processor time when drawing the web preview.
  • Fixed a cosmetic bug with the Check for Updates feature when using a general release and wanting only general releases, and a beta release is available.
  • Updated the built-in Kagi purchasing tool to the latest version, which fixes some issues with Leopard.
  • Updated the French and German localizations.

Download BlogAssist 2.2 now!

Simon tip: Preview

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:

Preview for web

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!

Smart Change Detection

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:

Preview for others

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 2.2b1 released

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.

Download version 2.2b1 now!

Mac OS X versions for Simon

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:

  • 63% are on 10.5.2
  • 30% are on 10.4.11
  • 3% are on 10.3.9
  • 4% are on other OS versions (10.4.x or 10.5.x)

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.

Simon 2.4 requires Tiger or later

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.

Simon review, sponsoring sites

I read a nice review of Dejal Simon today on the Pixo Bebo blog:

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.

and:

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.

Read the review.

I also signed up to sponsor three sites today:

Check out the sites and support them!

Simon 2.4 released

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.

iPhone demoiPhone 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.

Download now!

Caboodle tip: add entry from text in another app

Caboodle is my handy snippet keeping app: as a blogger wrote recently: "Lean, clean, snippet machine to store information on your Mac."

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:

  1. Open the Keyboard & Mouse system preferences.
  2. Go to the Keyboard Shortcuts tab.
  3. Click the "+" below the list.
  4. Select Application: All Applications.
  5. Type Menu Title Add Entry with Selection (exact wording and case is important).
  6. Press Keyboard Shortcut Cmd-Option-Ctrl-C (or a shortcut of your choosing).
  7. Click Add.
  8. Launch a new application that supports Services.
  9. Select some text, press Cmd-Option-Ctrl-C, and it appears as a new entry in Caboodle.

Note: the new keyboard shortcut won't show up in applications that are already running until after you quit and re-launch them.

Caboodle 1.1.4 released

Caboodle version 1.1.4 is now available.

This release includes some important bug fixes and improvements:

  • The state of the Check Spelling While Typing menu item is now remembered across launches, so you can turn it off if you don't want it.
  • Fixed a bug where new child entries might not inherit a newly added icon or custom fields.
  • Fixed a bug with exporting, where a "/" in an entry Subject could cause the export to not work as expected.
  • Updated the built-in Kagi purchasing tool to the latest version, which fixes some issues with Leopard.
  • Switched the distribution method to ZIP archives instead of disk images, as it's simpler for everyone. Feedback welcome!

Download now!

Simon 2.4b3 released

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:

  • Added a preference to use simplified status triangles, 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 enabled, it uses red for a failure, bright green for a new change, and a lighter green for success (older change or recovery).
  • Fixed a long-standing issue with the Port plug-in's helper, where it could get impatient while receiving text from a slow server. It now waits for a little while if it doesn't receive what it wants, in case the desired text is on its way.
  • Fixed a cosmetic issue with paused tests. If a test was paused for a specified time interval, and it was due to resume while Simon wasn't running, the status icon was being left in the paused state until the test was next checked. It's now set appropriately.
  • Fixed a crasher when previewing a Port-based test. (beta fix)

Download now!

Simon 2.4b2 released

Simon version 2.4b2 is now available:

  • Extended the Port service plug-in to operate as a notifier plug-in too. It is the same as for services, but includes fields for the domain, username and password.
  • The Ping service plug-in now supports the Smart Change Detection and Preview features. So you can now look for changes in parts of the ping output, if desired, and preview the ping session to see what is received.
  • The Application service plug-in also now supports the Preview function.
  • The Preview window for non-web services now displays the source text while performing the check, instead of waiting till done, so you can see what it's doing.
  • Fixed a bug with the Speech notifier plug-in, where the volume slider was only accepting zero and full volumes.
  • Now uses plurals for Checks and Failures units except for values of exactly 1.0. (beta change)
  • Updated the French and German localizations.

Download now!

Simon 2.4b1 released

The first beta release of Simon version 2.4 is now available.

This release adds two major plug-ins, written by Daniel Ellis:

  • Calendar, a notifier plug-in, which 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.
  • Twitter, a service plug-in, that enables you to monitor 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.
  • Twitter is also available as a notifier plug-in; use it to send updates or direct messages to yourself or others via the popular Twitter service. View Simon notifications anywhere you can see tweets -- on the web, in Twitterrific, or on your cellphone.

Version 2.4b1 also bundles several services and notifiers that were previously only available via the Simon Extras page, including:

  • Incoming Mail (POP) via SSL
  • Outgoing Mail (SMTP) via SSL
  • Mount Volume
  • Network Time (NTP)
  • Port Available
  • SNMP Status
  • TCP Port Scanner
  • APC Masterswitch
  • Growl Change

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.

Download version 2.4b1 now! This is a free update for licensed Simon 2 customers. It is a beta release, so please provide feedback if you find any issues, or have any suggestions for improvements.

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