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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 and 11 other apps in TheMacBundles

I'm pleased to announce that Dejal Narrator, my fun app to read out stories and interviews in multiple voices, is included as a bonus in the fourth TheMacBundles collection.

Narrator utilizes speech synthesis to read out the contents of a text document, using different voices for different parts. You have a range of "actors" that can portray any number of "characters", so various passages of your document are spoken with differing voices, pitches, inflections, etc. You can have it read out a play or story with appropriate voices. The words are highlighted on-screen, and there are also a couple of silent read-along options for stage directions, or for you to read out your own parts. A full license is included in the bundle, not some cut-down version.

You can see more of it on the Narrator page, or download it now to give it a try.

Note that at present Narrator has an issue on Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard): everything works okay, except that it can't open saved Narrator documents. It can open other kinds, though. I'm waiting for help from Apple to fix this, but will release a free update to fix this as soon as possible. Of course, if you're still on Leopard, you won't be affected.

This bundle also includes 11 other fine apps, for only $49.95. A bargain!

The included apps are:

  • CrossOver Games
  • DVDRemaster Pro
  • Entourage Email Archive X
  • EastPrint
  • ImageFramer
  • Money
  • Neutrino
  • Scribbles
  • Speed Download
  • Super Flexible File Synchronizer

Plus bonuses:

  • Mac DVDRipper Pro
  • Narrator

12 apps for just $49.95 — a saving of over 85%!

Visit TheMacBundles.com to learn more, or to take advantage of this great deal.

Dejal apps on Snow Leopard

Snow LeopardGood news: most Dejal apps work fine on Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6).

One issue that you may find with Caboodle and BlogAssist is that the Services menu has been enhanced, and the items for those apps might be disabled by default. You can re-enable them via the Keyboard Shortcuts page of the Keyboard system preferences.

However, it's not all good news. Narrator seems to be broken on Snowy. Opening a document fails, whether it was saved on Leopard or Snow Leopard. The document opens, but no content is loaded. It still opens version 1 documents fine, but not version 2's, which is rather a problem.

I've spent several hours last night and this morning trying to figure out what the problem is, without any luck so far. I'll keep on it, but just wanted to warn anyone using Narrator.

Help cure cancer with the Pan-Mass Challenge software bundles

Once again, Seth Dillingham is offering bundles as a fund-raiser for the Pan-Mass Challenge, which supports cancer research and treatment. A very worthy cause.

Unlike typical software bundles, where hundreds or thousands of people might get a fixed collection of apps at a discount, this one is a bit different: you can use his Bundle Builder site to make your personal ideal bundle of iPhone and/or Mac apps, and offer your own price for it.

I am happy to participate in this effort again this year. A Standard license is available for Dejal Simon, my essential server monitoring tool, along with licenses for Dejal Caboodle, my lean clean snippet machine, Dejal Narrator, my fun app to speak stories in multiple voices, and Dejal BlogAssist, my handy HTML markup tool. Plus hundreds of other great products from other developers.

Go ahead, take a look, and put together your ideal bundle of apps, and help fight cancer!

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!

Portland Japanese Garden

My wife and I are big fans of the Portland Japanese Garden, five distinct Japanese garden styles over 5.5 acres in the hills overlooking downtown Portland, Oregon. My wife even volunteers there once a week as a gardener.

Here's a short piece from the Travel Channel describing the garden:

If you're in Portland or visit, the Japanese Garden is a must-see.

Last chance for the Mac Bundle Box!

[Mac Bundle Box]

The Mac Bundle Box promotion is almost over! Last chance to get Simon Standard and 11 other apps for just $49.00!

This great bundle expires in just a couple of days, so if you've been thinking about it, wait no more!

The bundle includes a Standard license for my Simon, the essential website and server monitoring tool. Use it to watch your own sites for failures, or others' sites for changes, and get notified via Twitter, email, sounds, speech, or other means.

Simon Standard retails for $59.95. This is the first time it has ever been included in a bundle. If you're at all interested in Simon, you'll save $10 and get 11 apps for free by buying this bundle... if you hurry!

Other apps in the bundle include:

  • Freeway (normally $79.99)
  • Keynote Themes (normally $39.00)
  • DEVONthink (normally $49.95)
  • myNotes (normally $24.95)
  • iCash (normally $60.00)
  • DaisyDisk (normally $19.95)
  • Web2Delight (normally $19.95)
  • Chronicle (normally $19.95)
  • xHub (normally $24.95)
  • Stomp (normally $29.95)
  • Exces (normally $30.00)

Visit the Mac Bundle Box site now to take advantage of this great deal. Don't delay!

Announcing DSActivityView: open source for iPhone developers

This blog post has been replaced by a newer edition.

Please see blog posts on DejalActivityView.

DSActivityViewI recently wrote a reusable class for a couple of iPhone apps I'm currently working on, called DSActivityView. I decided to release it as open source. Read on for details.

Firstly, I should say that this work was inspired in part by Matt Gallagher's excellent article, Showing a "Loading..." message over the iPhone keyboard. My code only uses the -keyboardView method from his article, but he deserves credit and thanks for that and many other helpful articles. If you're not reading his blog, Cocoa with Love, you're doing yourself a disservice.

Back to my class. Actually, there are three classes: DSActivityView, DSBezelActivityView, and DSKeyboardActivityView. They provide three styles of activity view, and could easily be extended to support more.

DSActivityView

DSActivityViewThis does a simple horizontal-style loading view, intended for situations where you have a blank view while loading data. It can be displayed very easily — for the default "Loading..." label text, simply use:

[DSActivityView activityViewForView:self.view];

The activity view is automatically added as a subview of the specified view (e.g. the current content view). No need to save the result to an ivar. It automatically supports rotation to any orientation, too.

You can specify a custom label via:

[DSActivityView activityViewForView:self.view withLabel:@"Processing..."];

Or specify a custom width, e.g. so you can change the label while it is being displayed without upsetting the geometry, via:

[DSActivityView activityViewForView:self.view withLabel:@"Connecting..." width:100];

Then when you're done with it, simply invoke this to get rid of it:

[DSActivityView removeView];

DSBezelActivityView

DSBezelActivityViewThis is a subclass of DSActivityView, which displays an animated round-rect-enclosed variation: it animates into view by zooming from full-screen, with a gray background fading in to cover the passed view, and animates out by zooming to half size and fading out the background (see below for a movie showing it in action). It is ideal for situations where you have content visible already, but want to do a network operation to validate or send data, or some other time-consuming activity.

Display it via:

[DSBezelActivityView activityViewForView:self.view];

The [DSBezelActivityView activityViewForView:withLabel:] and [DSBezelActivityView activityViewForView:withLabel:width:] variations are also available. To remove with animation, call:

[DSBezelActivityView removeViewAnimated:YES];

DSKeyboardActivityView

DSKeyboardActivityViewThis is a subclass of DSBezelActivityView, which displays over the keyboard, somewhat like the OS 2 Text app used to do. It is useful to simply prevent further typing while validating a field or sending data (though you might also want to disable the field, to prevent pasteboard operations on it). No need to specify a view to use for this, since it uses the keyboard:

[DSKeyboardActivityView activityView];

Plus a [DSKeyboardActivityView activityViewWithLabel:] variation for custom text. Remove it the same as for the bezel style:

[DSKeyboardActivityView removeViewAnimated:YES];

Demo

I've included a demo project that builds an app to show the various options: the three styles, default or custom label text, covering just the content view or whole window, etc. It requires iPhone OS 3. Here's a movie showing the demo app running:

You can get the project from my Dejal Open Source Subversion repository via this Terminal command:

svn checkout http://dejal.svn.beanstalkapp.com/open/DSActivityView

Or browse the source directly on the web.

You can also download a snapshot, though it may not remain up-to-date; using Subversion is the recommended approach.

Follow @dejalopen on Twitter for automated Subversion commit message updates. You may also like to follow @dejaldevdiary for my behind-the-scenes development diary, and @dejal for general Dejal and personal tweets. Finally, there's also a RSS feed for the repository.

I hope these classes are useful. You are welcome to use them in any project, commercial or otherwise. I just ask that you give me credit; see the DSActivityView header for the easy and free licensing terms. If you do use this code in any form, please tell me (or comment here).

If you make improvements, e.g. to add other activity styles or fix bugs, please send them to me so I can share them with the community. Thanks.

Enjoy!

Update: see also an update to optionally support the network indicator, and an update for iOS 4.

Mac Bundle Box 5 now available!

[Mac Bundle Box]

The fifth Mac Bundle Box, a collection of 12 great apps, is now available!

$458.59 worth of software for the low price of just $49.00! An amazing deal. Plus 10% of each sale will be donated to Charity: Water, a very worthy cause.

The bundle includes my own Simon, the essential website and server monitoring tool. Use it to watch your own sites for failures, or others' sites for changes, and get notified via Twitter, email, sounds, speech, or other means. The bundle includes a Standard license, which retails for $59.95 and enables up to 20 tests. If you need more, you can upgrade to the Enterprise license for much less than the normal standalone price. So you can get 12 amazing apps for less than the normal price of a Simon Standard license! It's a no-brainer.

Other apps in the bundle include:

  • Freeway (normally $79.99)
  • Keynote Themes (normally $39.00)
  • DEVONthink (normally $49.95)
  • myNotes (normally $24.95)
  • iCash (normally $60.00)
  • DaisyDisk (normally $19.95)
  • Web2Delight (normally $19.95)
  • Chronicle (normally $19.95)
  • xHub (normally $24.95)
  • Stomp (normally $29.95)
  • Exces (normally $30.00)

Buy Simon Standard from the Mac Bundle Box, save $10, and get all these other apps for free! :)

Visit the Mac Bundle Box site to take advantage of this great deal, while it lasts!

Anatomy of a feature

Brent Simmons wrote today about the anatomy of a feature, an article that really resonated with me.

It's tempting to think that adding a feature like this is just about adding the functionality — but there's a bunch more to it than that.

I get a lot of feature requests for my apps, which are certainly very welcome. But I think a lot of people don't quite realize how much work even the most trivial-sounding feature enhancement can be.

Brent gives a very clear and accurate picture of the process many developers, myself included, go through when considering and implementing such changes. Every aspect of them needs to be carefully analyzed and refined. Perhaps someone asks for a specific feature, but I can tell that what they really want is something different — they just came up with what sounded to them like an easy compromise, when the ideal solution might in fact be easier, as well as better for the overall app. Happens all the time.

But as I said, I do really value feature requests (and bug reports). I want my apps to work well and be as helpful as possible to my customers. For that reason, I keep track of such requests for each app, and also keep a running tally of "votes" for each feature (which sometimes requires some interpretation when different people have different takes on something). When lots of people are asking for the same thing, it rises to the top of my list, and I make it a priority for the next release. But only if I can do it in a way that is consistent with the design goals of the app. That's the tricky part.

Good thing I enjoy planning; I spend much more time analyzing and planning features than actually writing them.

Follow @dejaldevdiary for David's Dev Diary

Just thought I'd mention for any Mac or iPhone developers who read my blog, or customers who are interested in a behind-the-scenes look at my development process:

I recently joined the club and created a David's Dev Diary account on Twitter. It is a separate place for me to post a potentially boring diary of my development work. It is focused purely on the technical aspects that I normally wouldn't bother mentioning on my main Twitter account, @dejal.

Follow @dejaldevdiary on Twitter for all the highly exciting technical details (and maybe a hint or two about what's coming up... e.g. I'm currently working on a secret new iPhone app).

For a list of other developers writing diaries, check out the Dev Diaries website.

Pan-Mass Challenge software auction

[PMC Software Auction]

Seth Dillingham is hosting a Pan-Mass Challenge software auction once again this year, as a fundraising project for a Massachusetts cancer care charity.

He wants to collect hundreds of software products, which will be auctioned via his site soon.

This is a very worthy cause. I've participated the last couple of years, and am happy to participate again this year. I am donating at least 10 Standard licenses for Dejal Simon, at least 10 licenses for Dejal Caboodle, at least 10 licenses for Dejal Narrator plus at least 10 licenses for Dejal BlogAssist (about $1,140 total value). I encourage other Mac developers to join in, too.

For more information, visit the PMC Software Charity Fundraiser site.

Impressive a cappella rendition of Toto's Africa

Very well done; this choral ensemble (Perpetuum Jazzile) performs the Toto song "Africa", a cappella, complete with human-produced rain and thunder sound effects:

(via @tamarcita)

The Mac Bundles is almost over!

Last chance to get Caboodle and eight other apps for just $49.95!

This great bundle expires in just a couple of days, so if you've been thinking about it, wait no more!

Click here for more information.

Tweeting cats

As you may have read before, Dejal products are tweeting — posting updates via Twitter.

I also post a mix of Dejal news and personal events on my Twitter account, @dejal, though I don't tend to be overly chatty. My life isn't all that interesting, I guess. I do recommend that anyone interested in hearing about Dejal updates or me should follow that account, though.

But I was going to write about cats. We have three cats. The oldest is Pixel, a 9-year-old orange tabby, star of the Caboodle icon. He's a crotchety old man, so doesn't have much to say.

The younger two are littermates, Padmé and Pippin, both almost two years old.

Padmé is a royal princess, a petite dilute tortie. She is on Twitter as Princess Padme (@princess_padme), and posts about once a day, always in haiku. For example, one from a few days ago:

Fluttering insect/
On the cat tv today/
Must be food channel

Her brother Pippin is also on Twitter. He's not the brightest bulb; when we first met him at the cat shelter, he was stepping in his water dish, looking at his paw in a confused way (how did it get wet?), then repeating. He's a funny guy, who loves to jump and play. He's on Twitter as Pippin the meeper (@leapybobeepy), though doesn't post all that often.

There are actually a lot of cats on Twitter, including really popular ones like @sockington. So we felt it'd be fun to encourage our youngest two to join in too. Follow them for the occasional dose of humor from the cat perspective.

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 in TheMacBundles!

I'm pleased to announce that Dejal Caboodle, my "lean, clean snippet machine" is included in the second TheMacBundles collection.

Caboodle is a handy tool to help collect and organize various bits of text, images, PDFs, and other information. It includes support for custom fields and freeform rich text and other content, plus can encrypt your entries to keep them secure, and import and export several formats. It is simple and easy to use. A full license is included in the bundle, not some cut-down version.

You can see more of it on the Caboodle page, or download it now to give it a try.

This bundle also includes 10 other fine apps, for only $49.95. A bargain!

The included apps are:

  • Caboodle (normally $19.95)
  • IPNetMonitorX (normally $60.00)
  • MailTags (normally $29.95)
  • PrintMagic (normally $29.95)
  • ShutterBug (normally $39.95)
  • Trampoline (normally $19.95)
  • Typinator (normally $28.00)
  • Voila (normally $39.95)
  • World Clock Deluxe (normally $19.95)

And for the next 14 days, these bonuses are also included:

  • Dock Gone (normally $14.95)
  • Smart Trash (normally $10.00)

11 apps for just $49.95 — a saving of over 80%!

Visit TheMacBundles.com to learn more, or to take advantage of this great deal.

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!

Simon 2.5.2 released

Simon, my essential website and server monitoring tool, has just been updated to version 2.5.2. It includes a number of fixes, and is a recommended update for everyone:

  • Added exception handling to the Web plug-in, to catch any low-level errors that occur there. Mac OS X 10.5.7 seemed to introduce a bug with URL connections that could sometimes get stuck when reading cookies.
  • Added a hidden preference to output debug information from the Web plug-in. It can be activated by entering "defaults write com.dejal.simon2 WebDebugMode YES" in Terminal.
  • Updated the Twitter plug-in to use the latest version of the MGTwitterEngine, which fixes issues related to the Twitpocalypse. Simon wasn't affected, as it always fetches the latest tweets, but good to be up-to-date anyway.
  • Changed the Report output to avoid making URLs lowercased when outputting the Location variable.
  • Fixed an issue that could prevent finding licenses in very rare circumstances.

Download Simon now!

Caboodle and BlogAssist price adjustments and specials

As you may have read from the recent version 2.2.2 release of BlogAssist, I increased the price by $5 to $14.95 for an Individual license, to better reflect its value. As discussed, it really should be higher, but I felt a small increment was better at this stage. I will likely bump up the price a bit more with the next major upgrade (no date announced for that yet).

I also indicated that you can still get it at the old price for a limited time, only via the Dejal Store.

Today, I'd like to announce that the price of Caboodle, my handy snippet organizer, is also going up by $5 to $19.95 for an Individual license. At $14.95, it is significantly under-priced, when competing apps are often around $50.

You can also get Caboodle at the old price via the Dejal Store for now. This offer is only available for a short time, though, so if you're interested in Caboodle, I recommend buying soon.

I have big plans for both of these apps: both will see significant enhancements within the next year. For Caboodle, I'd like to add a companion iPhone app to view and (hopefully) edit entries remotely — with full syncing between iPhone and Mac apps, and between multiple Macs. Along with a refactoring of the UI and data models, and more.

I don't plan on adjusting the prices of other apps at this stage; Simon and Narrator both seem priced about right.

As always, I welcome feedback about these changes, either via comments here or private feedback.

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