David Sinclair's blog

Simon 2.5.7 released

Simon, my flagship Mac app to monitor websites and servers for changes or failures, has been updated to version 2.5.7. It includes just a couple of changes, but is a recommended update for everyone:

  • Fixed a bug in the Port plug-in where it would misbehave if the text to receive or send started with a "-" character. This could affect many people, as the default Incoming Email (POP) service uses this when the server doesn't accept the login.
  • Fixed an issue where a notification could fail if the TestChangeCount, TestFailureCount or TestRecoveryCount variables are used.

Please note: version 2.6, currently scheduled for release in July, will require Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) as a minimum OS. So (unless there are any further bug-fix releases) this will be the last version that supports Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger).

Download Simon 2.5.7 now!

Tweeps for iPad ready for beta testing

Here's an update on the iPad edition of Tweeps, my new iPhone OS app to easily manage Twitter accounts.

I mentioned in my post last week that I wanted to have Tweeps 2.0 released in time for the US 3G release, which is today. I wasn't sure I'd make it, and a few days ago I decided that there wasn't enough time to do proper testing and get it through the approval process, so my new goal is to beta test it during May, and have it in the App Store for the international iPad release, around the end of May.

I know that some people will be disappointed by the delay, but I don't feel comfortable rushing it out without adequate testing. I pride myself on releasing quality products, and that's more important than an arbitrary self-imposed deadline.

But all is not lost. If you want to try Tweeps 2.0 now (on your iPad or iPhone), you're welcome to apply to become a Dejal beta tester. Tweeps is a Universal application, so works natively on both iPhone and iPad. Only a few of my existing beta testers have notified me of iPad device IDs, so I'm keen to get some more iPad testers. I'll do the first beta release once I have a few more.

As a reminder, Tweeps 2.0 will be a free update for existing customers, but will have an increased price for new purchasers. So buy now to get it at the cheaper price!

Here are a few screenshots of Tweeps on iPad. Firstly, the Profile view. Notice the sidebar providing quick access to the other views, and more spacious avatar and other info (only bug here is the count badges are truncated on the left):

In portrait orientation, the sidebar is in a popover, like in Mail etc (here's the integrated map view):

And lastly, editing the location — you can edit it here, and see the location on the map (or find your current location), or edit it on the Profile view simply as text:

Stay turned for more screenshots next week!

Apply to become a Dejal beta tester to try Tweeps 2 now, or buy now to get it at the version 1 price.

Tweeps for iPad sneak peek

I am currently working on the iPad edition of Tweeps, my new iPhone OS app to easily manage Twitter accounts.

My current goal is to have Tweeps 2.0 released in time for the US 3G release, in just over a week's time. I'm not sure if I'll be able to make it, and of course that depends on a quick approval by Apple, but I'll try!

Tweeps 2.0 will be a free upgrade for existing customers. It is a Universal application, so available as one edition for both iPhone and iPad. I plan on increasing the price for new purchasers. I'm currently thinking of $4.99, with a limited-time special price of $2.99 to ease the transition. So buy now to get it at the cheaper price!

Here's a sneak peek of the current progress; the view I was working on last night: the Edit Avatar view in portrait. There are a couple of issues with this view currently, but otherwise it's fully functional:

Creators Admit UNIX, C Hoax

When looking through my old documents archive, I came across the following, saved in 1997. I don't know who wrote it or where it came from originally; it was probably written even earlier. If anyone knows, please let me know in the comments. But it's still just as funny (to a programmer, anyway):


In an announcement that has stunned the computer industry, Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie and Brian Kernighan admitted that the Unix operating system and C programming language created by them is an elaborate prank kept alive for over 20 years. Speaking at the recent UnixWorld Software Development Forum, Thompson revealed the following:

"In 1969, AT&T had just terminated their work with the GE/Honeywell/AT&T Multics project. Brian and I had started work with an early release of Pascal from Professor Niklaus Wirth's ETH labs in Switzerland and we were impressed with its elegant simplicity and power. Dennis had just finished reading 'Bored of the Rings', a National Lampoon parody of the Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy. As a lark, we decided to do parodies of the Multics environment and Pascal. Dennis and I were responsible for the operating environment. We looked at Multics and designed the new OS to be as complex and cryptic as possible to maximize casual users' frustration levels, calling it Unix as a parody of Multics, as well as other more risque allusions. We sold the terse command language to novitiates by telling them that it saved them typing.

Then Dennis and Brian worked on a warped version of Pascal, called 'A'. 'A' looked a lot like Pascal, but elevated the notion of the direct memory address (which Wirth had banished) to the central concept of the language. This was Dennis's contribution, and he in fact coined the term "pointer" as an innocuous sounding name for a truly malevolent construct.

Brian must be credited with the idea of having absolutely no standard I/O specification: this ensured that at least 50% of the typical commercial program would have to be re-coded when changing hardware platforms. Brian was also responsible for pitching this lack of I/O as a feature: it allowed us to describe the language as "truly portable".

When we found others were actually creating real programs with A, we removed compulsory type-checking on function arguments. Later, we added a notion we called "casting": this allowed the programmer to treat an integer as though it were a 50kb user-defined structure. When we found that some programmers were simply not using pointers, we eliminated the ability to pass structures to functions, enforcing their use in even the Simplest applications. We sold this, and many other features, as enhancements to the efficiency of the language. In this way, our prank evolved into B, BCPL, and finally C.

We stopped when we got a clean compile on the following syntax:

for(;P("\n"),R-;P("|"))for(e=3DC;e-;P("_"+(*u++/8)%2))P("|"+(*u/4)%2);

At one time, we joked about selling this to the Soviets to set their computer science progress back 20 or more years.

Unfortunately, AT&T and other US corporations actually began using Unix and C. We decided we'd better keep mum, assuming it was just a passing phase. In fact, it's taken US companies over 20 years to develop enough expertise to generate useful applications using this 1960's technological parody. We are impressed with the tenacity of the general Unix and C programmer. In fact, Brian, Dennis and I have never ourselves attempted to write a commercial application in this environment.

We feel really guilty about the chaos, confusion and truly awesome programming projects that have resulted from our silly prank so long ago."Dennis Ritchie said: "What really tore it (just when ADA was catching on), was that Bjarne Stroustrup caught onto our joke. He extended it to further parody, Smalltalk. Like us, he was caught by surprise when nobody laughed. So he added multiple inheritance, virtual base classes, and later ... templates. All to no avail. So we now have compilers that can compile 100,000 lines per second, but need to process header files for 25 minutes before they get to the meat of "Hello, World".

Major Unix and C vendors and customers, including AT&T, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, GTE, NCR, and DEC have refused comment at this time. Borland International, a leading vendor of object-oriented tools, including the popular Turbo Pascal and Borland C++, stated they had suspected this for a couple of years. In fact, the notoriously late Quattro Pro for Windows was originally written in C++. Philippe Kahn said: "After two and a half years programming, and massive programmer burn-outs, we re-coded the whole thing in Turbo Pascal in three months. I think it's fair to say that Turbo Pascal saved our bacon". Another Borland spokesman said that they would continue to enhance their Pascal products and halt further efforts to develop C/C++.

Professor Wirth of the ETH institute and father of the Pascal, Modula 2 and Oberon structured languages, cryptically said "P.T. Barnum was right." He had no further comments.

Tweeps for iPad

I got my iPad on Saturday, and spent much of the weekend playing with it. The iPad really is a magical device — as Arthur C. Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

I don't really have much to add to the numerous commentaries, reviews, and discussions on the interwebs. So suffice to say that I think it's a great device, and will only get better as OS upgrades and software updates enhance it.

Kudos to developers who provided iPad-native updates for the initial release. It takes a lot of bravery to release an app without ever trying it on a real device. For the most part, the risk paid off for them, though many of the apps have some issues, varying from UI malfunctions to crashes, which the developers are scrambling to fix.

Personally, I decided to wait for my iPad before I released Tweeps for it. Though part of that was due to a lack of time, since Tweeps 1.0 was only released a few weeks ago, then I was away on a cruise. But I think I would have been rather hesitant to do a release without live testing, even if I had enough time.

Anyway, work on the iPad edition of Tweeps is underway. It will look much like in the previously-posted mockups. I'll give my existing beta testers a first chance to try it, then will open it up to others.

One point I wanted to emphasize: Tweeps will be a Universal app — so it will run natively on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, from one app. If you've already bought Tweeps, you'll get the iPad edition for free! If you haven't bought Tweeps yet, you can get it now at the special introductory price, and will get the iPad edition at no extra cost. I'll be increasing the price soon, so don't miss the low-low price.

Here is my latest design mockup again; see the previous post for more views (click to see full-sized):

15th wedding anniversary

Fifteen years ago today, Jennifer and I got married. Actually, technically it was yesterday, since it was in New Zealand, but we ignore the time zone differences. It was April 2, 1995.

Ours was a rather unusual story at the time, though not so much anymore. You see, we met via the internet, before most people had even heard of the internet. Before there was a web browser (or at least before we had heard of one: Mosaic technically was released a couple of months earlier).

Back in 1993, I was attending the University of Auckland in New Zealand, and Jenn was at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, USA. I was using the FirstClass BBS client software on my Mac, while she was using a text-based terminal at her part-time job at the college.

We were both fans of Star Trek, so were reading the rec.arts.startrek.current newsgroup via Usenet, and met via a posting there on June 18, 1993. We switched to email, and quickly became friends, and developed deeper feelings as we got to know each other better. This was all via text communication, so we discussed all sorts of things, and got to know each other really well. We still have a foot-high stack of printouts of our early discussions.

It doesn't seem so strange to have e-friends nowadays, that you've never met in person, but back then it was definitely not the norm.

In due course, it was evident that we were in love. So we talked about getting together in person — remember, we were separated by nearly 7,000 miles of ocean, and just had emails and a few photos and other airmail correspondence. So on February 3, 1994 I flew to Sea-Tac and we met in person. So the first time we saw each other in person was at the gate in Sea-Tac (this was before the increased security, when non-travellers could go right to the gates). I stayed with Jenn in Portland for 5.5 weeks, getting to know each other even better, and exploring the area. Then I headed back to Auckland.

Yes, I had hair back then, or some anyway. :)

Our odd long-distance relationship continued, though that time apart was quite difficult for both of us. On August 17, 1994, Jenn moved to New Zealand, and on October 15, 1994 on Long Bay beach near the water edge, I proposed, and she said yes.

We set the wedding date for halfway between our birthdays, on April 2, 1995. (For some reason, we didn't want to get married on April 1. Go figure!)

We've always been ones to do our own thing, and our names were another example. My surname was originally "Lambert", but rather than Jenn taking my name, or using a hyphen or other convention, we decided to both adopt a new name of our choosing. We decided on "Sinclair", and I legally changed my name, then she took it when we married (seems much easier for women to change their names when getting married).

Our wedding was in our own style, too. We didn't want a big fancy traditional wedding, so we opted for a small informal affair on our favorite beach, Long Bay. We rented a shelter for the reception, and had the ceremony on the adjacent grass overlooking the beach. The ceremony was conducted by my late grandfather, who was a minister and came out of retirement for us. That was very special. And since we were (and still are!) unashamed geeks, our wedding cake had bride & groom Macs on top (see the photo).

Since meeting via the internet was so remarkable back then, we were interviewed by a local newspaper and TV station, who filmed our wedding. Some of the best footage of our wedding is from their pro cameras. Apple even gave us a PowerBook 150 laptop as a wedding present.

That was 15 years ago. 15 wonderful, happy years, and we love each other all the more deeply now.

What's the secret of our success? The "four C's":

  1. Communication: talk through concerns, don't use the "silent treatment"; always be honest.
  2. Commitment: those vows really mean something.
  3. Compassion: be supportive and considerate of feelings.
  4. Compromise: be flexible, come to agreements that you can both live with.

That's worked for us. That, and starting out as e-friends, where all we had were our words, so we really got to know each other very well. We both work from home most of the time, so spend a lot of time together, without getting on each others nerves too much. :) So we must be doing something right.

Happy anniversary, Jennifer. I love you!

More Tweeps for iPad mockups

I previously posted some mockups of an iPad edition of Tweeps, my new iPhone OS app to easily manage Twitter accounts.

But as I said, I've been struggling with coming up with a satisfactory design. My latest thought is that I shouldn't try to emulate a physical object like a notepad or book, but would be better following Apple's example with apps like Mail, and use a split view.

So here are my latest design mockups (again done in OmniGraffle).

In landscape orientation, a split view shows a list of pages on the left, and the details on the right; in this case, the main Profile page for your own account (click to see full-sized):

In portrait, the left view appears in a "popover" instead:

I'm not sure if the Edit button should be in the left or right views... but there's more room in the right, so that seems reasonable.

Here's a sample of the Following page in landscape:

What do you think? I think this is a better design, more clean and consistent — and allows me to use much the same color theme as on the iPhone, as a minor bonus.

Cruise to Mexico

My wife and I have a tradition of staying somewhere nice to celebrate our wedding anniversary. This being our 15th, we thought we'd do something special, something we've never done before — a trip on a cruise ship.

For our first cruise, we decided to start with a "beginner" 4-night cruise to Baja Mexico on the Carnival Paradise ship. Since it's a special occasion, we sprang for a suite with a balcony.

Overall, the cruise was a great experience. The suite VIP treatment was well worthwhile, with express embarkation (bypassing a 1.5 hour line) and priority disembarkation, among other benefits.

We attended three of the four dinners at our assigned table, including the formal night, and enjoyed conversations with the tablemates. On Wednesday we were feeling peckish early, so partook of the poolside grill instead, which was nice.

We had interesting shore excursions on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday was Catalina Island, where we had a small bus tour of the city of Avalon and walked around the botanical gardens, which was created by the Wrigley chewing gum founder — he originally bought the whole island. We then walked around town and bought some souvenirs.

Wednesday was Ensenada in Mexico, on the Baja peninsula. There we did a wine country tour, with a coach trip out to an organic winery and a wine tasting, followed by a photo stop at a bullfighting ring, then on to a larger-scale winery and more tasting. We bought two bottles of wine at each, plus were given two more as part of the tour. We were worried about getting those home, but they survived the rough baggage handling, buried in the middle of our luggage.

Speaking of alcohol, as people who follow me on Twitter (@dejal) may know, until a couple of months ago I was a teetotaler, by choice — I never saw the point in drinking alcohol. However, I recently changed my mind about that, and have started sampling various alcoholic beverages. On the cruise, I had my first taste of some mixed drinks, including a margarita (invented in Ensenada) and others. My impression was that such beverages are tastier than wine and beer, though of course more dangerous (and expensive).

And speaking of that, it was certainly nice having all the free food and lots of eating options on the ship. I gained several pounds. But they certainly pushed the alcoholic beverages — you hardly sit down somewhere before a server comes by asking if you want a drink. Still, that could be considered good service... and yes, the service was great; everyone was attentive and friendly. Apparently the ship has a passenger capacity of 2,052 and a crew complement of 920, most of which are servers and room stewards.

The room stewards were very friendly, too, greeting us by name when we passed in the corridor, and leaving cute towel-animals on our bed each day.

Another practically constant thing were the photographers — before you even get on the ship, you have your photo taken a couple of times, and getting off in Mexico we had our photo taken no less than four times. There are photographers lining the public hallways, with differing backdrops, and photographers during dinner. They display the photos around one of the main decks, encouraging you to buy them; another great way to extract $$$ out of passengers. We did buy some nice shots of us on our formal diner night.

Thursday was a "fun day at sea", travelling back from Mexico (though most of the day was spent parked off Catalina Island — it doesn't take all that long to travel between the ports). We had a formal lunch and dinner, but otherwise didn't do much... just sat around on our balcony and read for much of the time. We did stop by their evening dance show, but it looked too cheesetastic for our tastes.

Then Friday we woke up early with the ship back at its Long Beach base, and did the VIP early disembarkation, coach shuttle back to LAX airport, and our flight home (which caused some worry, as we had difficulty trying to check in online, but fortunately the check in agent helped us out).

We'll definitely do more cruises in the future. It'd be nice to try a longer one, and one in warmer weather — it was nice enough, though a little cool at times.

Tweeps for iPad mockup

Now that Tweeps is available in the iPhone App Store, I'm starting work on the iPad edition.

Obviously, the iPad has a lot more screen space than the iPhone, so a different design is needed to take full advantage of this extras space. I've been thinking about iPad design concepts ever since the iPad was announced, but have yet to come up with something that entirely satisfies me.

A difficulty with coming up with a good design is that Tweeps can show any number of levels. You start with a list of your accounts, then show your profile overview, then can show a list of people you're following (for example), then delve deeper by showing the profile overview for one of them, and their followers, and so on to any number of levels. This works fine with the navigation display in the iPhone edition, where you can keep pushing views onto the screen, but is harder with a more traditional interface.

For quite a while, I've been thinking about something like the iPad Contacts app design, with a two-page book metaphor. The idea would be to display the profile details on the left page, and the avatar, web, map, following, followers etc views on the right (one at a time). It'd then flip the page when viewing a different person's information. That seems like a reasonable approach, though the very different content displays on the right seems to break the book metaphor.

The latest idea I've been exploring is more of a notepad metaphor. The idea is a single notepad page with the profile overview, and bookmark tabs (like Post-it® flags) sticking out from the right for related pages like those listed above. So you touch a tab to flip the notepad to that page. There would also be bookmark tabs on the left side to go back to the previous profile(s) or the accounts list.

Here's a rough mockup, done in the great OmniGraffle (click to see full-sized):

Don't worry about the fine details; as I said, it's very rough.

You'd tap the Following tab on the right to flip pages to the Following view, which would be similar to that in Tweeps now, except would have room to show more information about each person:

You could then go back to the profile overview via the new tab with the avatar icon on the left, or go straight to other pages via the other tabs on the right.

If you tap a row in the Following list, it'd flip the page to the profile overview for that person, and the tabs on the right would then show more information about them.

It might look better with a black background, to merge into the iPad bezel, as follows. In which case I'd eliminate the space around the edges (still shown in this mockup), providing more room for the content:

What do you think? Would this design work, or am I on the wrong track? Should I forget about trying for a real-world look? I'd love to hear other design ideas too.

iPad includes a rotation lock switch

Like many others on the West Coast of the US, I woke up at the unreasonably early hour of 05:30 this morning to place my pre-order for the iPad. I wasn't planning on waking up so early, but my internal alarm clock had other ideas. I ordered two iPads — the Wi-Fi-only model for myself, and the 3G model for my wife. Plus most of the accessories.

Anyway, I (and others) noticed that Apple has just added more information on the iPad product pages. One change of particular interest to me is that they've changed the mute switch on the side of the iPad (above the volume rocker) to a screen rotation lock switch:

I think this is a great change. The mute switch is very useful on an iPhone, to easily switch to vibrate mode while watching movies and such, but would be much less useful on an iPad. It would be nice if they made it a setting, so people could opt to use the switch for rotation lock or mute (like the home button can be configured), but rotation lock is a more sensible default setting.

This particularly interests me as my new iPhone app, Tweeps (an app to easily manage your Twitter accounts) includes a software-based rotation lock feature, as shown in the following looping movie. I'm about to start adapting it to native iPad support, and was thinking about how I'd adapt the rotation lock feature... and now I have an answer: I should just remove it in the iPad edition. It'll still remain very useful on the iPhone edition, though.

I'm fine with that — having a system-wide setting that is easily accessible is much better than individual apps having to implement their own solutions. Though I must admit, part of me is a little sad... I'm proud of my implementation.

Introducing Tweeps for iPhone and iPod touch

For the past few months I've been working on a new iPhone app, which after a private beta period is now available in the iPhone App Store.

It's been quite a fun project, with lots of interesting technologies going into it. One thing I'm particularly pleased with is the rotation lock feature — you can see a movie of the lock wobbling below. But it also includes lots of other things, like a zoomable image view, integrated web browser and map view, and a custom theme. Lots of behind-the-scenes stuff, too, which I'll probably blog about later.

But for now, welcome to Tweeps, an iPhone OS app to easily manage Twitter accounts. Here's the main part of the product page, including a demo movie that shows most of the features. There's also a slideshow of screenshots available if you prefer that.

Check it out on the iPhone App Store! For a limited time, it's on special for just $0.99!


Manage Your Twitter Accounts
[Edit account]

Tweeps is a Twitter companion app for iPhone and iPod touch, with an iPad-optimized edition coming soon. It isn't a full Twitter client — you can't post tweets from it. Instead, it is a tool to manage your Twitter account. Edit your avatar, name, bio text, website URL and location, plus follow/unfollow people, see if someone follows you, block people, and find people.

Edit Your Account Information

Add multiple accounts to Tweeps, and easily edit them:

  • Take a photo or choose one from your photo library to change your avatar picture.
  • Edit the name displayed for your account.
  • Change the biographical text — the description you write about yourself.
  • [View profile]
  • Edit the website URL, previewing it in an integrated web browser.
  • Set your current location using the device's GPS, or type a less specific location, and preview on an integrated map view.
View Information About Twitter People

Learn all about your own accounts and others:

  • See the display name, username, how long they've been using Twitter, and their Twitter ID.
  • View the avatar picture, including full-sized, and copy it if desired.
  • FOLLOW or UNFOLLOW other people. The left button indicates whether or not you already follow them.
  • The right button indicates whether or not the displayed person follows you.
  • Tap the right button to display a BLOCK button; you can also optionally report them as a spammer.
  • [Integrated map]
  • Read the bio description text.
  • See the website URL, and tap to display it in an integrated web browser.
  • See the location, and tap to display it on an integrated map.
  • Read the most recent tweet (update), along with the total number of tweets that have been posted; tap to read any number of recent tweets.
  • See the number of people currently being followed (Following) and who follow the person (Followers); tap to list them and explore further.
  • When viewing your own account, you can also see lists of tweets that mention you and people you're blocking.
  • Find other Twitter people by username, first/last name, company, or brand name.
Delve Deeper

Read recent tweets from each person, or skim through the lists of people you're following and who follow you, and see more information about them, including who they follow and who follows them. A great way to discover interesting new people to follow — and you don't need to wonder if you already follow them or not, since it is shown right in the profile detail information.

Load newer updates simply by scrolling to the top, or automatically load more tweets or people by scrolling to the bottom.

A nice feature is rotation support — Tweeps works in all orientations, like an iPad, plus displays a fun wobbling rotation lock button to stop it rotating when you want to read lying on your side.

iPad Edition Coming Soon!

An edition of Tweeps optimized for the new iPad is in the works, and should be available soon after the iPad is released. Follow the Dejal Blog, or @dejal (main account) or @dejaltweeps (Tweeps account) on Twitter to learn when it is available.

Try It Now!

Tweeps is available on the iPhone App Store for just $0.99 for a limited time (normally $1.99). Tweeps is not "abandonware". Dejal is a long-established independent Mac software company, now also producing iPad and iPhone software (which uses much the same Cocoa technology).

Simon 2.5.6 released

Simon, my essential server monitoring tool, has been updated to version 2.5.6. This update is recommended for everybody, and includes:

  • Changed the reports to trim off the filename for the OutputLocation report variable when using the file:// protocol, to avoid breaking reports like the iPhone template.
  • The License window is now brought to the front when the application is activated, if it is open, to avoid it being mistakenly hidden behind the Montor window (e.g. if it is automatically hidden).
  • Fixed an issue with counting the number of active tests, where it was mistakenly counting "waiting" tests as active, even if they're normally paused.
  • Added a hidden preference to output debug information about the internet connection (for use with the automatic offline mode). It can be activated by entering "defaults write com.dejal.simon2 InternetConnectionDebugMode YES" in Terminal.

Download Simon 2.5.6 now!

Fun rotation lock

Hey look, yet another hint on my secret new iPhone app!

This time, an unmasked close-up of one of the views, showing the animated rotation lock. This briefly appears and wobbles cutely when you rotate the iPhone or iPod touch. If you tap the lock, the current orientation is locked, so rotating the device won't change the screen orientation. Very handy if using it lying on your side, for example. You can unlock it just as easily. And the lock state is remembered, so you can have the app always remain portrait-only, or landscape-only, if you don't like rotation.

I'm on schedule to submit to Apple on Monday. Then the waiting game starts — will they approve in just hours, or days, or weeks? Exciting stuff!

Hey look, another hint

Ready for another hint on my secret new iPhone app?

Here's a similar view to last time, with an improved design:

And another non-pixelated one:

Who's excited to see the app? I'm hoping to release it in a week or so.

Another hint

Ready for another hint on my secret new iPhone app?

How about this highly-masked screenshot:

And another non-pixelated one:

Any guesses?

Upcoming iPhone app hint

I thought I'd drop another hint about my forthcoming iPhone app.

Here's a masked screenshot of one of its main views... can you make anything out?

Oh alright, one more... and not pixelated this time. Here's the Edit Location view:

Any ideas what the app does?!

Not too long to wait; it should be released within a few weeks. But if you can't wait that long, I'm adding a few more beta testers: apply now if you'd like to try it before release, and get a free copy if you provide helpful feedback.

Narrator 2.0.7 released

Narrator, my fun application to read out stories and interviews in multiple voices, has been updated to version 2.0.7.

This is a minor bug-fix update to correct an issue with looking up licenses in certain situations, but is recommended for everyone.

Download Narrator 2.0.7 now!

iPhone In App Purchase considered harmful

I hinted before about my secret iPhone app, which is very near to being ready for release.

I was planning on distributing it as a free app with In App Purchase to upgrade to full functionality, as I discussed a while back.

But I've been rethinking that of late; while I really like the idea of In App Purchase (IAP), I don't think it really works in its current form. Many developers have reported that when they try free+IAP, they get lots of 1-star ratings via rate-on-delete from people who download the free app then delete it without really trying it. Plus they get lots of negative reviews from free downloaders who don't understand the concept of IAP and expect something for nothing.

I'm thinking that until Apple fixes this by removing the horrible rate-on-delete feature, and perhaps educates users more about IAP, this won't be a feasible distribution mechanism for demo-style purchases.

So, that leaves me with two options:

  1. Just release it as a paid app.
  2. Release free Lite and paid Pro editions.

I've done both variations (Valentines and SmileDial Lite & Pro), and neither was ideal. With option 1, people can't try the app to see if they want it, though apps are cheap enough that it isn't too much of a gamble to just buy. Whereas with option 2 people can try the free edition, but they have to re-enter their info if they switch to the Pro one, and I have to maintain two releases.

I'm currently leaning towards option 1: just release it as a paid app. Then maybe in the future I could add a free Lite edition, and perhaps offer IAP in that edition if there seems demand for it.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments or privately via my contact page.

Time Out 1.5.6 released

Time Out, my free tool to remind you to take regular breaks, has been updated to version 1.5.6.

This is minor release that makes the break screen now still appear if the Time Out application is hidden.

Download Time Out now!

Apologies to everyone who has been waiting for the promised Time Out version 2. It is still in the works, but has been delayed due work on IPhone apps. My secret new iPhone app is almost ready for release... but then I'll be doing an update to it for iPad compatibility, then I have a Simon update (version 2.6)... then I'll be ready to work on Time Out 2. So yes, it's still coming this year. I'm looking forward to getting back to it.

Celebrate Valentine's Day!

With Valentine's Day coming up, I thought I'd point out an iPhone app I wrote for this very occasion: Valentines.

Valentines enables you to create any number of fun Valentine messages with your own text and a photo within a heart-shaped frame. The photo will have a slightly pink tint — see the world through rose-colored glasses. :) You and your valentine can view it on your iPhone or iPod touch, or you can save it to your photo library:

Flipping over, you can edit the message and choose an existing photo from your library or take one with the iPhone's camera:

You can also display a list of all valentines, and add new ones, rearrange their order, or delete them:

Valentines is available on the App Store for just $0.99. Check it out!

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