release

Simon 3.0b1 released

I'm very happy to announce the first public beta release of Simon version 3!

As discussed in my previous blog post, I've been working on Simon 3.0 (nee 2.6) since May. It really is worthy of the major upgrade designation.

This update of Simon has been in private testing (by myself and a small group of alpha testers) for months, and I have some external time constraints, so I'm planning on having a very short public beta cycle this time — maybe only a matter of days. So I would really appreciate everyone downloading and putting Simon 3.0b1 through its paces as quickly as possible. Everything seems fine from our testing, but you never know what will turn up when a wider group of people start using it.

Note that although Simon 3 will be a paid upgrade, all licensed users can use version 3.0b1 without needing to buy an upgrade (and in fact the upgrade license isn't available quite yet). If you're not sure you'll upgrade, I recommend making a copy of your Simon data, as certain changes made in version 3 won't be backwards compatible to version 2.5.7.

If you haven't bought Simon yet, this is your last chance to get it at the old prices! The prices will be increasing in version 3, but everyone who buys now (and since September 1, 2010) will be eligible for a free upgrade. Don't delay!

I haven't updated the Simon website yet (that's this week's mission), but the new Simon Help is online — the same content as in the help book bundled with the app.

Anyway, without further ado, download Simon 3.0b1 now!

Here are the rather long release notes, detailing all the exciting changes:

Please Note:

  • Simon 3 will be a paid upgrade from Simon 2 (after the beta period).
  • Simon now requires a minimum of Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard).

Monitor window:

  • Renamed the Notifications log as Activity, and extended it to support logging when tests start checking, and the various steps during the check (starting, stopping, service result, each filter, notifications, etc), plus other actions on tests, e.g. editing, pausing, etc.
  • Added an optional Location column to the tests table. It can be shown via the View Options sheet. It shows the URL, domain, or other properties of the service, where available.
  • Added a File > Save Log... command to enable saving the current log information to a tab-delimited text file. It saves just the selected lines if there are at least two selected, otherwise all lines. (You can already copy selected lines, too.)
  • Sorting on the Status column now sorts so checking is at the top, followed by failure, changes, recovery, and paused at the bottom (with time-sensitive statuses in chronological order).

Editors:

  • Redesigned the editor windows (New / Edit Test, New / Edit Service, etc) to use separate pages instead of disclosures for each section. The old layout had grown too tall over time, so that it no longer fit on a small screen with all sections disclosed. The new layout is tidier and simpler, without losing any functionality.
  • The editor windows can now be freely resized and zoomed as desired.
  • Added a Summary page, that includes the name and a new Comments field, plus an overview of the values from the other pages. Click the prompt before each item to go directly to that item.
  • The Username and Password fields are now only shown on the Service page when the service wants them.
  • Rows can now be inserted in the notifiers, auto-pause, etc lists, rather than just adding to the end (and they'll scroll if too long for the window).
  • Fixed an issue where the services in the pop-up menu in the New / Edit Test window could appear out of alphabetical order.
  • Clicking the Edit Service..., New Notifier..., etc buttons in the Edit Test window now directly opens the corresponding editor, rather than opening its list window first.
  • When creating a new test, service, etc, now remembers the last-chosen service in the Edit Test window, and last-chosen service, filter, notifer & report kind in the those editors.
  • In the Edit Test window, the pop-up menus to choose the service, filter, notifer & report now show the new Comments text as a tooltip for each menu item, and on the chosen item, as a handy way to quickly see a description of each item.

Filters:

  • Added a new Filters feature, replacing the old Smart Change Detection feature in the Edit Test window. The Block filter performs the same function as that old feature, plus several other filters are supported to do other analysis of test output, and you can write custom scripts to create additional filters.
  • Added a Filters window listing the available filters, and enabling adding, editing or deleting them.
  • Added an Edit Filter window to add and edit filters, much the same as the Edit Notifier etc windows. It includes options to configure how the filter is used, plug-in-specific controls, and auto-pause settings.
  • Added a Block filter plug-in to support the old Smart Change Detection functionality. It extracts a block of text between specified start and end text.
  • The Block filter also supports new options to search from the start or the end of the input text, and search for a specific occurrence of the text, e.g. start from the 3rd occurrence from the end of the text.
  • Added a Find filter plug-in. This is as easy or powerful as you want: it supports both simple text matching and regular expression searches.
  • The Find filter plug-in can find one occurrence, find a specific occurrence (like for the Block plug-in), find all occurrences (outputting them separated by your choice of delimiter), or find & replace those possibilities, outputting something else for the match(es) -- especially useful with regular expression searches.
  • For simple text matching mode, the Find plug-in supports finding Contains, Starts With, Whole Words, and Ends With. For regular expression mode, it has a helpful menu of regular expression operators to help build expressions, including a dynamically-updating list of capture group markers for replacements.
  • Find-based filters can even result in a failure if the text was or wasn't found, if desired -- useful to detect text that mustn't or must be there.
  • Added a Format filter plug-in. This enables the combination of values from the service and filters, via an insert variable menu, along with your own text. Handy to append the output of multiple filters, wrap something in quote marks, and other uses.
  • Added a Number filter plug-in. This expects the input text to be a valid number, so is typically used after a Find or Block filter to narrow down the text. It converts the text to a number, optionally ignoring specified characters, and with a customizable decimal separator so you can match the format of the text. Then it compares that number against either a fixed number, or the number from the previous check, plus or minus some delta. It can compare using "is", "is not", "is greater than", "is less than", "is in range" or "is not in range". It then results in either a change or failure, as desired. So you can use this to detect if a disk is getting full, a price has changed by a specified threshold, a file count has changed, or many other uses.
  • Added an Override filter plug-in. You can use this to alter the status of a test from Unchanged, Changed, Failure, or from a success status (the first two), or any status, into a different status, including automatically detecting if a change occurred. You can also alter the output text or error message, including using variables (similar to the Format plug-in).
  • Extended the Script plug-in to work as a filter, too. This enables you to create your own custom filters using AppleScript, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby, or unix shell scripts.
  • Added a checkbox to the Script filter editor to control whether to merge or override the result of the script with the status of the service and any previous filters.
  • Added a VariablesCSV variable, that outputs a comma-separated list of all other variable names. Potentially useful when debugging your scripts.
  • Added several default filters as useful examples to get you started with these powerful new features.

Services and Notifiers:

  • Enhanced the Web (HTTP) service plug-in to include checkboxes in the Cookies table: checked cookies automatically update their values (as before). Cookies with blank values are now also supported; they are not sent. New cookies are recorded automatically. So you can prevent a cookie from being recorded by listing it with an unchecked box, e.g. to send the same value every time. Session cookies are now recorded as unchecked with blank values (so are not sent or updated).
  • Updated the Twitter service and notifier plug-in to use xAuth (a form of OAuth) to log in to the Twitter server, since they no longer support the old-style "basic" authentication.
  • Added a FileMaker Server service, which simply checks that it can connect to a FileMaker Server, and gives an error if not.
  • Added an Internet Access service, which lists applications/processes that are using internet access. You could use this with a Change filter to see when such apps launch or quit, or with a Find filter to confirm that a desired or undesired app is listed.
  • Reworded the TestStatusPhrase variable to eliminate the word "just", since the event may have occurred a while ago, if it is an ongoing failure.
  • Script-based services and notifiers now use UTF8 encoding (instead of ASCII) for the script source, to prevent issues with special characters in AppleScripts.
  • The new VariablesCSV variable is available for services and notifiers, too.
  • Notifiers have access to the new filter variables, too.

Other:

  • Updated the report variables to reflect the Activity log change. The old variables will continue to work, but there is now an Activity block, and new Type, Status and Details variables.
  • Separated the Pause and Resume commands in the menu and toolbars, so it is easier to pause or resume all tests when there is a mixture of paused and active tests.
  • The Pause interval is now remembered as a default for next time, even across launches of Simon.
  • Added optional support for Wi-Fi hotspots. When enabled, Simon tries to fetch a known value when it is first launched or after the Mac wakes from sleep, and goes into a "hotspot" mode if it receives something unexpected -- probably a hotspot login page. This will avoid having false failures when you have an internet connection but need to log in to the hotspot. This feature is disabled by default, but can be enabled via a new General preference if you have Simon on a laptop.
  • Removed the Copy to Test function from the Preview and Source windows, since it is incompatible with the new filters features. You can easily copy selected text and paste into whichever field of whichever filter.
  • Improved handling of sorting all table columns.
  • Clicking the window zoom boxes will now zoom the windows to ideal sizes.
  • The Dock icon now displays a "static" animation while the License Assistant is displayed, to help remind that the tests are awaiting a response.
  • Changed the Dock icon and status menu to show the number of Unviewed marked items, rather than the number of items with the indicated status, and to draw the yellow unviewed badge in the upper-right corner over the status triangle, instead of behind, to fit with normal badging conventions.
  • The Unviewed marker is now used for failures and recoveries as well as changes.
  • Fixed an issue with loading test data that could result in losing data if one of the plug-ins has a problem setting itself up.
  • Added a new license level, and renamed them from "Basic", "Standard" and "Enterprise" to "Bronze", "Silver", "Gold" and "Platinum".
  • Added a help book, using the standard Apple Help Viewer. The help is also available online.
  • Significantly reformatted the help, to fit with the normal help book styles, and updated for the changes in this release.
  • Many other behind-the-scenes improvements made possible by dropping Tiger support.

Narrator has moved to Mariner Software site

As discussed in a blog post a couple of months ago, my first Mac OS X application, Narrator, was acquired by Minneapolis-based Mariner Software, Inc.

The intervening time has been a transition period, as Mariner updated Narrator to use their branding, licensing, and so forth, and as their support staff got up-to-speed with the app. That process has now been completed, and Narrator is now available on their website.

Visit Mariner's Narrator web page for more information about the rebranded Narrator.

Sales and support for Narrator are now handled by Mariner. Existing Narrator 2 customers can update to the Mariner-branded edition at no cost. If you have any queries about it, please check out their helpful support resources.

I'll be interested to hear your experiences with this transition. If you have any comments (good or bad), please get in touch.

Tweeps 2.1 released

Version 2.1 of my new iPad and iPhone app, Tweeps, has just been approved, and is now available on the App Store.

You can get it at no cost, too. I've decided to make it completely free. Tell your friends!

The two major additions in this release are support for iOS 4, and for the new iPhone 4 device.

The recent iOS 4 operating system release added multitasking and a number of other great enhancements to devices that support it. Tweeps 2.1 now fully supports fast app switching. There's nothing Tweeps can usefully do in the background, but the convenience of flipping from another app (e.g. your preferred Twitter posting client) to Tweeps and back is very useful.

This update also includes a number of minor bug fixes and tweaks to support other changes in iOS 4.

Apple's new iPhone 4 is a very nice little device. One of its key enhancements is a beautiful new "retina display" — twice the resolution of older iPhone devices, with pixels smaller than the human eye can see. Tweeps 2.1 adds higher resolution icons and other images so it looks even better on the iPhone 4.

Learn more about Tweeps, or get it for free now:

Tweeps 2.0 released

I previously mentioned that version 2.0 of my new iPad and iPhone app, Tweeps, was in the approval queue. Well, today it was approved, and now it's available on the App Store.

You can get it at no cost, too, if you're quick — in celebration of the 2.0 release, I've made it free for a limited time. Tell your friends!

The two major additions in this release are the iPad support, and OAuth support.

The iPad support was of course the biggest change, with a new sidebar and expanded content to take advantage of the increased screen space.

But the OAuth support was a more important change, especially for iPhone users. Without that, Tweeps would have stopped working after June, if Twitter sticks with its plan to turn off the old-style authentication. Tweeps uses xAuth, which is a more convenient variation of OAuth; you still enter your username and password in Tweeps, and it authenticates via a complex dance of exchanging tokens and such. Once you've authenticated once (via a secure connection), Tweeps doesn't need to send the username and password again.

Learn more about Tweeps, or get it for free now:

Caboodle 1.3.6 released

Another minor update, this time for Caboodle, my lean clean snippet machine — a simple app to store text, graphics, PDFs, or other attachments for later access.

As with the recent Simon 2.5.7 and BlogAssist 2.2.5 updates, I'm planning on dropping Tiger support for the next feature update of Caboodle. I'm hoping to get to that in a few months, after I release Time Out 2. Dropping Tiger support will really benefit Caboodle, since it is currently held back by some legacy technologies, which I'll be able to replace with more modern tech. I'm looking forward to working on it.

Download Caboodle 1.3.6 now!

BlogAssist 2.2.5 released

I've just done a minor fix update for BlogAssist, my handy tool to help with HTML markup.

As with the recent Simon 2.5.7 update, I'm planning on dropping Tiger support for the next feature update of BlogAssist. That may not be for a while, though; I have updates of Tweeps, Simon, Time Out and Caboodle scheduled before I get back to BlogAssist. This is a simple app that does its job well (I use it every day), but I do have some great plans for it when I do get back to it in my development schedule.

Download BlogAssist 2.2.5 now!

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!

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!

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!

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.

Caboodle 1.3.5 & BlogAssist 2.2.4 released

I've just done bug-fix updates to a couple of my Mac apps. Caboodle, my lean clean snippet machine, was updated (actually late last week) to version 1.3.5. And BlogAssist, my handy HTML markup tool, was updated to version 2.2.4.

Both of them included a fix for an issue with looking up licenses in certain situations. BlogAssist also enhanced the application icon to 512x512 size, for ideal viewing on Snow Leopard. (Caboodle's icon was updated to 512x512 in the previous update.)

Simon 2.5.5 released

Sometimes I'm just too clever for my own good. Or more likely, not clever enough.

My apps have a handy license lookup feature, where you can enter your name and licensed email address and click a Find button to look up your license if you ever need to re-enter it, without having to store the serial number somewhere. But it's long had problems handling diacritical characters (e.g. "é") on the server side, so in Simon 2.5.4 I made a change to solve that. However, that change inadvertently broke another aspect of the license lookup.

So, here's version 2.5.5. I really dislike having to do a bug fix to fix a bug fix, both because releasing is a fair bit of work, and I know that people don't like having to download an update too soon after another one. But in this case it's unavoidable.

The problem didn't affect many people, but it's the kind of problem that must be fixed even if only a few people are affected — can't have licensed users unable to enter their licenses!

Anyway, many apologies to those affected, either experiencing the problem themselves or having the hassle of downloading another update so soon. You can skip this update if you like; if you've already added your license, there's no need to update. If you're still evaluating, you could skip it too, though will probably need to upgrade if you are on 2.5.4 when you do purchase.

Download Simon 2.5.5 now!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Please note that Dejal support will probably be delayed over the next couple of days due to Thanksgiving events, but I will catch up with all queries as soon as possible after that.

Simon 2.5.4 released

Simon, my website and server monitoring tool, has been updated to version 2.5.4. This is a minor bug-fix update, but recommended for everybody.

  • Fixed an issue with the Calendar plug-in that caused a conflict with the SMS plug-in on Snow Leopard.
  • Fixed a bug in the license regeneration feature that could cause minor back-end issues when diacritical characters are used.

Download Simon 2.5.4 now!

Caboodle 1.3.4 released

Caboodle, my lean clean snippet machine, has been updated to version 1.3.4. This has a number of improvements... and perhaps should have been called version 1.4, as it straddles the fine line between feature enhancements and bug fixes. This is a recommended update for everybody.

  • To improve performance and reduce disk space, imported PDFs, files dragged to the Dock icon, or via the Save PDF to Caboodle print option are now copied to an Attachments folder within the Caboodle data folder, and aliased to the entries. This can be disabled via a hidden preference, by entering "defaults write com.dejal.caboodle ImportAsAlias NO" in Terminal, if destired.
  • The entry icons for files dragged to the Dock icon and saved to Caboodle are now set to those files' icons.
  • Fixed an issue where entries added by those means could be lost if Caboodle was quit without making further changes.
  • Find text operations, e.g. Find Next (Cmd-G), Find Previous (Cmd-Shift-G), now work when the entries list is the active control; the entry text is made active then the operation performed.
  • Removed ancient code to move pre-1.0 data, since nobody could still be using those versions.
  • Improved the data loading to reduce the risk of using empty data if the existing data can't be loaded.
  • Now includes a 512x512 application icon.

Download Caboodle 1.3.4 now!

Narrator 2.0.6 released

I've just released an update to Narrator, my fun app to read out stories and interviews in multiple voices.

Version 2.0.6 fixes a couple of small but annoying bugs, and is a recommended update for everyone:

  • Fixed a bug where the age, gender, and sliders might not update when changing actors or characters.
  • Fixed a bug that could occasionally cause the Play button to stop working when playing/pausing or changing voice attributes quickly.

Download Narrator 2.0.6 now!

Narrator 2.0.5 released

I'm pleased to report that we now have a solution for the Snow Leopard incompatibility of Narrator, the fun app to read out stories and interviews in multiple voices.

The issue was a bug in Snow Leopard, which prevented Narrator from open its own documents. The bug stumped Apple's Developr Technical Support engineers, and definitely seems to be a bug in the operating system itself, not in my code. But the DTS engineers finally came up with a workaround for the bug, which this update implements. Narrator can once again open its documents, and so now appears to be fully compatible with Snow Leopard.

My apologies for any inconvenience this bug may have caused.

Download Narrator 2.0.5 now!

And remember, you can still get Narrator and 11 other useful apps for just $49.95 from TheMacBundles for another few days.

Simon, Time Out, Caboodle & BlogAssist releases for Snow Leopard

Snow LeopardAnnouncing maintenance updates for Dejal Simon, my essential server monitoring tool, Time Out, my break reminder tool, Caboodle, my lean clean snippet machine, and BlogAssist, my handy HTML markup assistant.

Each update includes improvements for Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6) compatibility. I'm not aware of any remaining compatibility issues with these products — please let me know ASAP if you do find anything.

Note: Narrator is still partially incompatible with Snow Leopard. It all works, except it can't open documents saved in its native format (but can still open other kinds of documents). I have a Developer Technical Support incident request in with Apple's engineers to help me solve this, but I'm sure they're swamped with queries at present, so who knows how long they'll take to come up with a solution. The last word I have is that it seems to be a bug in Snow Leopard... so we might have to wait for 10.6.2 or later, but I'm hoping that a workaround can be found. [Edit: 10.6.1 doesn't fix it, either.] I'll do a free update as soon as a fix is available. Sorry for any inconvenience in the meantime!

In addition to Snow Leopard compatibility, Simon also includes some other changes:

  • Updated the iPhone Report Template to improve the behavior of the back button and other aspects.
  • Added a hidden preference to output debug information from the E-mail plug-in. It can be activated by entering "defaults write com.dejal.simon2 EmailDebugMode YES" in Terminal.
  • Also added a hidden E-mail plug-in preference to use the recipient's SMTP server instead of the sender's, via "defaults write com.dejal.simon2 EmailUseRecipientServer YES".
  • Added Japanese localization, thanks to Koichi Matsumoto.

Download now:

Narrator 2.0.4 released

Narrator, my fun text-to-speech tool to read out stories or interviews in multiple voices, has now been updated to version 2.0.4.

It includes:

  • Fixed an issue with the Preferences window, where edits might not be saved when quitting with the window still open (specifically when an edit is still active).
  • Fixed an issue that could prevent finding licenses in very rare circumstances.
  • Updated the built-in Kagi purchasing tool to the latest version, which fixes some issues with Leopard.

Download Narrator 2.0.4 now!

Caboodle 1.3.2 released

Caboodle has been updated again... just a couple of weeks after the previous release. This version includes some improvements to adding entries by dragging text and documents to the Dock, and an important safety fix thanks to a helpful customer.

This is a recommended update for everybody, especially people with slower machines.

Changes in version 1.3.2 include:

  • Dragging text to Caboodle's Dock icon now adds a new entry with that text (including rich text, e.g. from a word processing document or web page).
  • Dragging any document to Caboodle's Dock icon also adds a new entry with that document as an attachment, and the document's name as the Subject. Even easier to add entries!
  • Added a safety check to ensure the data has been fully loaded before handing a Services menu request, to avoid risk of data loss if Caboodle isn't running when adding an entry via the Services menu.

Download Caboodle 1.3.2 now!

Note, Caboodle is still available as part of the great bundle from TheMacBundles.com: 11 apps for just $49.95. Take advantage of this deal before it expires!

Caboodle 1.3.1 released

Caboodle, my lean, clean snippet machine, has had a number of updates recently. This is a little bug-fix update to address some minor issues, but is a recommended update for everybody.

It includes:

  • Improved the handling of imports to use multi-threading only when appropriate.
  • Added exception handling and an alert when saving the data, in case something goes wrong, e.g. too much data being saved.
  • Prices increased slightly.

Tip: Caboodle will be included in the next edition of The Mac Bundles, coming in just a few days. Subscribe to their mailing list to be notified when the bundle is available.

Download Caboodle 1.3.1 now!

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