Blogs

Featured blog posts of 2011

My blog posts often just cover new releases, but sometimes I post general-interest or developer-interest topics. Some highlights from 2011 included:

I hope you enjoyed these posts.

Dejal year in review: 2011

The year 2011 was a fairly quiet one for Dejal. I spent much of the year working on big contract projects, which cut into the time for Dejal updates — but that'll be changing in 2012.

2011 saw a major milestone for Dejal: it was the 20 year anniversary of the founding of the company. It was founded on September 20, 1991. Yes, I've been writing and selling Mac apps for two decades! Amazing.

My flagship product to monitor websites and servers for changes and failures, Simon, had several updates in 2011, to version 3.3.1. Editions for the Mac App Store were also introduced: Simon Express, streamlined to only include the most popular services, filters and notifiers, but has an unlimited number of tests, and Simon Free, limited to 5 active test configurations. (See the Simon Feature Comparison for details.)

My handy break reminder tool, Time Out, remains one of my most popular apps, and it saw a number of updates in 2011, to version 1.6.3. It also had a Mac App Store edition introduced: Time Out Free. Version 2.0 has been in the works for a few years now, and saw a few weeks of work in 2011, but again got sidelined by other projects. It remains an important and exciting update, though, so I'm really looking forward to it. And as previously mentioned, everyone who makes a donation for Time Out now will be automatically eligible for the full-featured paid edition at no additional cost — so you can set your own price for it now! This offer expires when version 2 is released. Thank you to everyone who has already donated; the volume of donations is really encouraging.

Caboodle, my lean clean snippet machine, had some updates in 2011, to version 1.4.1, with Lion support and many other improvements. It also got introduced on the Mac App Store, with a Caboodle Express edition that is basically the same as the standard one.

BlogAssist, my tool to help with HTML markup, only had one release (to version 2.2.6) in 2011. This update added support for BlogAssist Express for the Mac App Store; this edition is also basically the same as the standard one.

I didn't do any updates of Tweeps, an app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch to easily manage Twitter accounts. It still works fine, and I didn't have time to work on it, though I have some ideas for enhancements.

So what's coming up in 2012? I will be spending more time on Dejal updates this year. My top priority will be Time Out 2. After that, I have big plans for Simon, Caboodle and BlogAssist updates, and may introduce a new app or two as well. It's going to be an exciting year for Dejal!

Happy Holidays!

Thanks to everyone who bought Dejal products yesterday as part of the Apps for Water event; as promised, the proceeds have been donated to the very worthy organization, charity: water.

I want to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you happy holidays — Merry Christmas or your preferred flavor of celebration, and Happy New Year!

I'm grateful that I get to spend my time doing what I love, working on great Mac and iOS apps. I really appreciate all my wonderful customers who make this possible. Thank you.

As my holiday gift to you (existing and future customers), I'm offering discounts on all apps sold via the Dejal Store till the end of the year. A coupon is automatically applied. Visit the Dejal Store now!

Apps for Water charity

'Tis the season for charity and acts of goodwill. I've often joined with other developers in support of fundraising, charity and special efforts, and am more than happy to join in with another one this year.

The cause this time is very important: safe, clean water for developing nations. And the organization dedicated to this goal is called charity: water.

It's simple: buy any of my Mac, iPad or iPhone apps from now till December 21, and I'll donate all proceeds to charity: water. What's more, I've provided a coupon code for the Mac apps sold on this site, which is automatically applied, so you can get a discount while getting great apps and supporting a very worthwhile charity. (Of course, if you want to pay more to help make a larger donation, you can remove the coupon.)

Several other great apps are also participating: see the Apps for Water site.

You can buy Mac apps via the Dejal Store, or buy Mac, iPad and iPhone apps from the Mac and iOS App Stores. The proceeds from all sales today until December 21 will go to charity: water.

Many thanks to Mike Piatek-Jimenez of Gaucho Software for organizing this event.

Simon 3.3.1 released

A quick bug-fix update to Simon:

  • Fixed the Input pop-up menu on the Filters page of the New/Edit Test window, to avoid including duplicate items.
  • Updated the French localization. (Standard edition only)

Download Simon 3.3.1 now!

EDIT: Note that you can get a Simon Bronze license as part of the Web Development Toolkit bundle, for just $39.99 — that's less than the normal Bronze price, so you effectively get a discount on Simon and 9 other great apps for free!

Simon 3.3 released

Simon version 3.3 is now in general release. It's a recommended update for all customers.

The changes include some much-requested enhancements and fixes:

  • Enhanced the Ping service plug-in to enable specifying the number of bytes to send.
  • Updated the Growl notifier plug-in to support the latest version of Growl. It no longer offers to install Growl, as that is not supported by Growl anymore.
  • Where available, the Username and Password field values are now used in New/Edit Test when using the in-window Show Source and Preview buttons.
  • Fixed issues where the minimum size of editor windows could keep growing, and some incorrect display behavior.
  • Improved the handling of the "(Success)" value in the custom results table for the Script plug-in. (Standard edition only)
  • Added helpful text to the Licenses window to assist with a common support query, adding an Upgrade license without the original one. (Standard edition only)
  • Updated the Ping and Growl pages in the help book.
  • Updated the localizations. (Standard edition only)

Download Simon 3.3 now!

Simon 3.3b2 released

Just a couple of changes in this beta:

  • Updated the Ping and Growl pages in the help book.
  • Updated the localizations.

Download Simon 3.3b2 now!

Time Out Free featured on Tekzilla Daily

My free break reminder app, Time Out Free, is today's feature on Tekzilla Daily. Check out their video! (Sorry, the embed code doesn't seem to work, at least without Flash, so you'll need to go to their site to view it.)

Learn more about Time Out! It is available both via the Dejal site and via the Mac App Store.

Simon 3.3b1 released

Here's the first beta release of Simon version 3.3:

  • Enhanced the Ping service plug-in to enable specifying the number of bytes to send.
  • Updated the Growl notifier plug-in to support the latest version of Growl. It no longer offers to install Growl, as that is not supported by Growl anymore.
  • Where available, the Username and Password field values are now used in New/Edit Test when using the in-window Show Source and Preview buttons.
  • Fixed issues where the minimum size of editor windows could keep growing, and some incorrect display behavior.
  • Improved the handling of the "(Success)" value in the custom results table for the Script plug-in.
  • Added helpful text to the Licenses window to assist with a common support query, adding an Upgrade license without the original one. Standard edition only

Download Simon 3.3b1 now!

Time Out 1.6.3 released

Just a small update of Time Out, my free break tool. A few people had difficulty with the idle detection, so this version attempts to address that. If the idle interval returned by the OS seems invalid, it tries a similar but different approach to get a more sensible value.

I hope that this fixes the issue, but didn't get any feedback from the beta posted in that thread, so we'll see. If you don't get breaks due to Time Out still resetting them with this version, please contact me so I can work with you to figure this out.

If Time Out is working fine for you, you can skip this update if you wish.

Download Time Out 1.6.3 now!

20 years of Dejal shareware

Today marks a milestone that is perhaps only significant to me, but I feel worth noting anyway. Twenty years ago today, I started work on my first shareware product, SndPlayer. Yes, you read that right, 20 years... makes me feel old. :)

Dejal as a company was actually founded on September 20, 1991 — but I was away on vacation without internet access when that anniversary rolled around this year, so I'm celebrating my first paid product instead.

SndPlayer was first created on October 24, 1991, though wasn't in beta release until November 25, and general release on February 24, 1992. It had many updates over the years, with the last release on January 29, 2001. It was officially discontinued a couple of years later, since it could no longer be updated.

Check out the classy icon design, above... a construction crane seems a weird choice for a batch sound player, but the idea was that it could lift sounds out of any kind of file. And check out the About window: the icon was even animated (crudely)! Also of note in that window, other than hideous color choices, are the original Dejal logo, the "accelerated for Power Macintosh" (it was a "fat" app, running on 68K and PPC machines), and for the old-timers in the audience, ancient mentions like "Sound Mover", SoundEdit" and "HyperCard stack" may bring back memories.

Because SndPlayer was written for Mac OS 7 to 9, before Mac OS X was introduced, it doesn't run on modern machines and OS versions. If you have an old machine that supports those OS versions, or can run the Classic compatibility environment on Mac OS X 10.4 or earlier, you can run SndPlayer. It is still available on the Dejal site, and along with all other discontinued classic software, is completely free.

Dejal anniversary

As a celebration of this event, I'm offering discounts on all of my Mac apps from today till the end of the month November 14. No special codes or coupons required, but you need to use the online store, not the in-app purchasing tool or Mac App Store, to take advantage of these low prices.

Buy now with the anniversary discounts!

Be quick — these specials expire at the end ofOctoberUPDATE: extended till November 14!

Note also that Simon Bronze is not discounted via the above link (Simon Silver and above are, though), but is available discounted as a weekly special from TheMacBundlesUPDATE: it's still available as part of their "Build Your Own Bundle".

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

This is a shaky picture, taken by me at the 2007 Macworld, just before Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. It shows Steve on the stage talking about the history of Apple's innovations, and captures a fade between the original Mac and his image on the projection screen. The ghostly image of him really seems appropriate now — his spirit lives on through the Mac, iPhone, and numerous other hardware and software that he played a big part in bringing to the world.

Steve Jobs died yesterday, and it shook the world. We had all been expecting and dreading this day, but from all the comments I've read online, it has affected everyone most profoundly, myself definitely included.

Pretty much my entire life has been shaped by Steve. I never met him, though did get to see him from a distance at WWDC and Macworld. But more than that, his work has had a huge influence on me.

I first used an Apple ][e at age 13, in the computer lab at school. It was a great machine, and helped confirm my love of computers and programming that had kindled a few years earlier. Then in 1984 I was one of the privileged few to get to use the school's only Mac, the then brand-new 128K original model. I used it as much as I could, and was so inspired by the innovative windows and mouse interface that I tried to write my own graphical interface for my home computer at the time.

As soon as I could afford it, which wasn't until a few years later, I bought my own Macintosh, a Mac Plus. And I taught myself Pascal so I could write my own software for it... and never looked back. Ever since I first touched a Mac back in school, I've been a dedicated Mac guy.

Steve's work and philosophy has inspired me throughout the years — his striving for perfection has encouraged me to do the same in my own work. Not always with success, but I've tried. As he encouraged, I've worked for years to follow my dreams, make my living doing what I love: creating fun and useful apps for the Mac, and later the iPhone and iPad. I'm still working on that; there's always more I can do, further refinements and goals. Steve is famous for always looking forward, and I try to do that too.

The world has lost a great man, one of the best that ever lived... and all too soon. Thank you, Steve, for all you've done. We will miss you, but your legacy lives on. You made the world a better place, and that's the best thing anyone can do.

Simon 3.2.1 released

A quick update for Simon, to version 3.2.1:

  • Fixes for improved Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) compatibility.
  • Fixed test limit in the Express edition.

Download Simon 3.2.1 now!

(Note also that Time Out Free 1.6.2 is now available in the Mac App Store.)

Time Out 1.6.2 released

Here's another update of Time Out, to version 1.6.2.

This update includes some improvements to the way Time Out handles the timers when the Mac is briefly idle, plus some script tweaks:

  • The break timers are now reset when idle for the specified interval, even while still idle (it used to only reset when no longer idle).
  • Breaks can now occur when idle, to avoid missing breaks when the computer is left alone for a few minutes, but less than the reset interval.
  • Updated the Start Speech Automator workflow, and added a Speak Time script that does just that.

This is a recommended update for everyone. And it's completely free!

Download Time Out 1.6.2 now!

Time Out Free 1.6.1 available on Mac App Store

Time Out Free, the Mac App Store edition of my popular break tool, has been approved by Apple and is now available!

Changes include:

  • Added a new Exclusions preference page, which is only available on Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). It enables you to automatically skip breaks if specified applications are frontmost, e.g. DVD Player, FaceTime, or similar.
  • Added a sub-menu on the Pause Breaks command in the Break menu, to enable pausing for a specified interval. When that interval has elapsed, breaks will automatically resume. Useful when you don't want to be interrupted for a while.
  • On first launch (or first in a while), Time Out now displays the Preferences window, to make it more obvious how to configure the breaks.
  • Moved the break display into a helper agent, so it works for Lion's full-screen apps.
  • Plus other fixes for Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) compatibility.

Get TIme Out Free at no cost from the Mac App Store.

Simon Express and Simon Free 3.2 available on Mac App Store

The Mac App Store editions of Simon 3.2 are now available!

Simon Express and Simon Free are streamlined editions of the flagship Simon application. They only have a few of the plug-ins that provide the services, filters and notifiers. They also don't include editor windows for services, filters and notifiers, and don't include the reports feature.

Simon Express has no limitation on the number of test configurations. So it is ideal for webmasters and others who want to monitor hundreds of websites.

Simon Free is the same as Simon Express, except that it is limited to 5 active test configurations. It is ideal for people who just want to monitor their own site and a few others.

Changes in version 3.2 include:

  • Added full screen support on Lion.
  • Fixes for improved Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) compatibility.
  • By popular request, added the Growl notifier to the Express and Free editions.
  • Altered the Web plug-in to eliminate the shared cache of loaded HTML, since it hasn't really been used for several years, and could cause issues.
  • Now saves the legacy-format frequency values, so if you run Simon 2 it will have the correct values, instead of zeroes (and thus will remain correct when going back to Simon 3).
  • Fixed the logic for using a filter based on Any/Success/Unchanged/Changed/Failure status.
  • Significantly increased the maximum width of the log Details columns, and doubled the length of text logged there, so they aren't unnecessarily truncated on modern large displays.
  • After deleting one or more tests, services, etc, the table selection is removed, rather than just selecting whatever happened to be after the deleted item(s).
  • Fixed an issue that prevented the Escape key from closing some editor windows in some situations.
  • Dates in the tests table and logs now use your preferred date and time format (as set in System Preferences).
  • Fixed log dates appearing as GMT/UTC instead of local time on Lion.

Buy Simon Express from the Mac App Store.

Get Simon Free at no cost from the Mac App Store.

Time Out 1.6.1 released

Don't you just hate it when you spend lots of time polishing something, and finally push it out to the world... then inevitably an issue appears once it's in wide circulation? I sure do!

Unfortunately, bugs do creep in sometimes, and I somehow managed to introduce one in the few minor tweaks between the Time Out 1.6b1 beta release and the 1.6 general release. How embarrassing.

Anyway, I got concerned when I got a couple of people saying that Time Out's breaks stopped working after upgrading to version 1.6. One person may be a mistake, but more than one is a big red flag. So I investigated, and found a bug that could prevent breaks from running, and also prevent some of the break menu items from being active. This didn't affect everyone, but it is potentially widespread, so an urgent fix was needed.

Thus, version 1.6.1, a day after 1.6. For those affected, I am very sorry for the inconvenience!

Everyone, please download Time Out 1.6.1 now!

Time Out 1.6 released

I'm pleased to announce the general release of Time Out 1.6, my free break reminder tool.

This release is much the same as the previous beta release, though has some minor fixes. It is a recommended update for everyone, except those still on Tiger (which is no longer supported). It remains completely free, too!

Here are the full release notes:

  • Added a new Exclusions preference page, which is only available on Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). It enables you to automatically skip breaks if specified applications are frontmost, e.g. DVD Player, FaceTime, or similar.
  • Added a sub-menu on the Pause Breaks command in the Break menu, to enable pausing for a specified interval. When that interval has elapsed, breaks will automatically resume. Useful when you don't want to be interrupted for a while.
  • On first launch (or first in a while), Time Out now displays the Preferences window, to make it more obvious how to configure the breaks.
  • Added a Licenses window in the standard edition, so people who have donated for version 2 can enter their license now. Time Out 1 remains freeware; you're welcome to continue using it forever at no cost.
  • Moved the break display into a helper agent, so it works for Lion's full-screen apps.
  • Plus other fixes for Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) compatibility.
  • The standard edition of Time Out now requires a minimum of Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard).
  • Many other behind-the-scenes improvements made possible by dropping Tiger support.
  • Note: this version (and any 1.6.x bug fix releases) will be the last to support PowerPC (PPC) and Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6 (Leopard and Snow Leopard). Version 2.0 will require a 64-bit Intel-based Mac and Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) or later.

Download Time Out 1.6 now!

Time Out Free on the Mac App Store will be updated once Apple has reviewed it.

Simon 3.2 released

I'm pleased to announce the general release of Simon 3.2, my app to monitor websites and servers for changes or failures.

This update includes Lion compatibility and many other fixes and improvements:

  • Added full screen support on Lion.
  • Fixes for improved Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) compatibility.
  • Altered the Web plug-in to eliminate the shared cache of loaded HTML, since it hasn't really been used for several years, and could cause issues.
  • Now saves the legacy-format frequency values, so if you run Simon 2 it will have the correct values, instead of zeroes (and thus will remain correct when going back to Simon 3).
  • Fixed a bug with the Number filter plug-in that caused it to always look for changes, instead of supporting resulting in a failure.
  • Fixed some filter variables, which were incorrectly output with a doubled "Filter" prefix.
  • Added FilterForUnchanged, FilterForChanged and FilterForSuccess variables.
  • Fixed the logic for using a filter based on Any/Success/Unchanged/Changed/Failure status.
  • Fixed Kind labels on the Summary pages of the Edit Notifier and Edit Report windows, plus made them go to the correct pages when clicked.
  • When creating a new service, filter, notifier or report, the editor window now opens to the Summary page, like New Test does. (Standard edition only)
  • Significantly increased the maximum width of the log Details columns, and doubled the length of text logged there, so they aren't unnecessarily truncated on modern large displays.
  • After deleting one or more tests, services, etc, the table selection is removed, rather than just selecting whatever happened to be after the deleted item(s).
  • Removed the "Remote File Attributes" service from the default ones, since it was an experimental one that wasn't supposed to be there (and didn't work). (Standard edition only)
  • Altered the "FTP Directory Listing" and "Samba SMB" service scripts to use Username and Password custom variables instead of the TestUsername and TestPassword ones, which aren't available to scripts now. If you use either of these services, you may need to edit your tests accordingly.
  • Implemented a data upgrade mechanism so existing data will get the above service script changes.
  • The Script plug-in now omits the TestUsername and TestPassword standard variables from its Insert variable drop-down menu, since it doesn't use them.
  • Renamed the UserName variable (that outputs the name of the user logged in to the computer) to UserFullName, to avoid a clash with the Username variable (since variables are not case-sensitive).
  • Fixed an issue that prevented the Escape key from closing some editor windows in some situations.
  • Dates in the tests table and logs now use your preferred date and time format (as set in System Preferences).
  • Fixed log dates appearing as GMT/UTC instead of local time on Lion.
  • Updated the localizations.

Download Simon 3.2 now!

Time Out 1.6b1 released

Hey look, a Time Out update!

Not the long-awaited version 2 yet, sorry... but a 1.6 beta. It adds some much-requested enhancements, though, and (importantly) fixes support for breaks during full-screen apps on Lion.

That was a tricky fix; displaying overlay windows on full-screen apps is something that has stumped several developers in the dev forums, but I discovered that using an agent (separate helper app) made it work. Which almost led me to wait for version 2 to solve this, since that does use an agent for the break (and for the scheduler, so the app doesn't have to be running in the Dock). But I wanted to get a solution out there as quickly as possible, so decided to do an interim 1.6 release, and bring forward a couple of 2.0 features as a bonus.

So, since Time Out is now split into two app processes, there is some risk of misbehavior. But it all looks fine to me... now over to you brave beta testers! (If you're not feeling brave, you can wait for the general release, probably in a week or so, depending on whether anyone finds any problems... but if you don't mind running beta software, please help test this update!)

  • Added a new Exclusions preference page, which is only available on Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). It enables you to automatically skip breaks if specified applications are frontmost, e.g. DVD Player, FaceTime, or similar.
  • Added a sub-menu on the Pause Breaks command in the Break menu, to enable pausing for a specified interval. When that interval has elapsed, breaks will automatically resume. Useful when you don't want to be interrupted for a while.
  • On first launch (or first in a while), Time Out now displays the Preferences window, to make it more obvious how to configure the breaks.
  • Added a Licenses window in the standard edition, so people who have donated for version 2 can enter their license now. Time Out 1 remains freeware; you're welcome to continue using it forever at no cost.
  • Moved the break display into a helper agent, so it works for Lion's full-screen apps.
  • Plus other fixes for Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) compatibility.
  • The standard edition of Time Out now requires a minimum of Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard).
  • Many other behind-the-scenes improvements made possible by dropping Tiger support.
  • Note: this version (and any 1.6.x bug fix releases) will be the last to support PowerPC (PPC) and Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6. Version 2.0 will require a 64-bit Intel-based Mac and Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) or later.

Download Time Out 1.6b1 now!

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