Solipsism Gradient

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Yay! An update!

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So, a long-delayed update.

A few days ago, and exactly 365 days after the last version (1.0.2, I dimly recall), I submitted RB App Checker Lite 1.0.3 to the Mac App Store. It should be out before the end of the week, I hope; watch this space for news. As soon as it’s on the store the developer ID-signed version will also be available for direct download.

There are a few new features and some bug fixes – the exact list will be out with the update. There are, also, many new features not directly visible by the user. In particular, RB App Checker (non-Lite) is now being built on almost exactly the same codebase. This will be a paid application, probably around US$16, with a new UI and explanations for the non-technical user – but the very detailed geeky stuff will still be visible with a click, don’t worry. It will also be able to scan the user’s Application folder.

Both versions of the App Checker build on a generic application framework that will make it easy for me publish more file-twiddling utilities. Two of them – one to count and scan folder contents, one to generate various types of aliases and file links – are already in alpha and should be available before the end of the year.

In parallel, I hope to, very soon, restart work on my next-generation System Preferences panel – the one that will obsolete and subsume my previous apps like Quay and (perhaps) Klicko. If all works out as I hope, this panel will be able to leverage the RB Utilities  to get extra funcionality not allowed by the Mac App Store, and centralize preferences and auto-updating for my non-App Store utilities.

In a day we’ll leave for a short vacation in Ireland, followed by a visit to lovely Köln and the Objective-Cologne conference, where I’ll present a short talk on (ahem) “Coding Secrets of the Ancients”. Well, the subject is a little misleading – there will be a section about history and reminiscences about early computing, but there’ll be a very practical and up-to-date section about protecting applications in the Mac App Store; tricky stuff like receipt and certificate checking. More details should be up soon at the ObjCgn website.

We’ll also seize the opportunity to visit friends, relatives and developers in Germany, and should be back early in October. I’ll post updates here whenever possible.

Back, Busy

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Time flies. Our 4-week trip to the US Southwest’s parks has been over for almost 2 weeks already. The trip itself was marvelous; one of the best in recent years, even though we had to skip a few parks – it was just too tiring. At least we now have a shorter list of places to revisit in the future. We then rested for a week in Denver and nearby Boulder, which are wonderful places, too. All in all we drove about 5000km (3000 miles). Here’s my updated map of visited US states:

In other news, I’ve been busy fighting off jet lag, catching up, and taking care of various private issues. If all goes well, coding (and therefore, progress on my applications) should resume this weekend. Don’t go away…

10 years!

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Wow, today is the 10th anniversary of this blog; at least that’s the oldest post still preserved in my database. Most of the pieces were already in place in early 2002, but it took me some time to get everything running. At the time, I based the blog on phpbb, but a few years ago I migrated to WordPress; only the support forums, which get very little use these days, still use phpbb. Here’s a screenshot of the early days:

The cringe-inducing title was patterned after several similar ones I saw at the time; later on, no doubt under the influence of Iain M. Banks, I changed to the current “Solipsism Gradient”, which I still think quite descriptive. I’m still working up the nerve to ask him to use the name in an upcoming book, though… 🙂

But earlier versions were still more cringe-inducing, look at this one, from mid-2000:

At least I can safely say there’s no <blink> tag, and the animated GIF for the visitor counter was actually well-received; can’t really use it again as there are too few digits to be future-proof, but here’s what it looked like:

Well, life goes on. In a few days we’ll take a month off, flying in to Denver and driving around the parks between Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Salt Lake City and Bryce Canyon. If all goes well, I’ll be able to work and post from underway. To coin a phrase, “we have cool things in the pipeline”… 🙂

Back again…

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…and you probably hadn’t realized I was away. Well, we spent 10 days away in Chile (more precisely, the Atacama Desert) and Bolivia (Salar de Uyuni). Here’s our updated world map (61 countries):

Briefly, it was tiring and cold but the landscapes were worth it.

Now back to the old drawing board; a bug-fix update to RB App Checker Lite should be out tomorrow, I hope. Stay tuned.

Back.

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Back from our 2-month trip – Valparaíso to Sydney. There’s a 13-hour jet lag to get rid of, so for now, here’s just our updated world map:

A full status update will be posted soon.

Re: Condiments

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Herewith a much-delayed status update.

Our cruise has been quite interesting, there still are two weeks to go. To make a long story very short, we’ve visited Robinson Crusoe Island, Rapa Nui (a.k.a. Easter Island), stopped off Pitcairn (but were unable to go ashore), then Raivavae, Papeete on Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora (all in French Polynesia), Rarotonga and Aiutaki (Cook Islands), then Nuku’alofa on Tonga, Levuka and Suka on Fiji, and finally Norfolk Island (which belongs to Australia).

After that, the ship stopped at a variety of ports on New Zealand: the Bay of Islands, Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Picton, Lyttelton (the port for Christchurch), Dunedin, and (today) the Stewart Islands. Soon we’ll be on our way to Tasmania, visiting Port Arthur, Hobart and Devonport, finishing off with two days each in Melbourne and Sydney, both of course in Australia. From then on it’s a long flight back, with a two-day layover in Buenos Aires. We should be safely home by the end of January.

Whew.

On the app development front, much progress has been made. The generic app framework is mostly ready for prime time – it works well with two of the three application types that I plan to release, and I’ll start testing the third type tomorrow. The architecture looks very plug-in like. However, the current incarnation of the Mac App Store doesn’t allow selling plug-ins, so the generic app is a static library linked to what would otherwise be the plug-in; there are some standard nib and graphics files, and specific files for each application. I’m quite satisfied that this will make it easy to implement new apps down the road.

Details on the apps themselves are still not ready for release, as I first plan to do a short but intense private beta program as soon as I get back home – the on-ship Internet has download speeds very like in the old 28800-baud modem days, and the upload speed is almost zero. If you’re an interested fellow developer, feel free to email me and I’ll be in touch.

Condiments

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This appeared on xkcd a a few weeks ago: (click to embiggen)

many other developers will sympathize.

So, I’ve been developing a system to pass you, gentle app user, arbitrary applications. Since, as I said before, a group of Mac utilities is in the works – with the first four even having icons and all – of course I thought to “save time in the long run”.

It’s been more than 20 minutes though, for which I apologize. Things have been unusually complex for me this year, not to mention a couple of recent health scares (all solved, I hasten to mention).

Returning to the condiments apps. My intention is, of course, to write an ever-expanding suite of small utilities, though Apple still hasn’t published details on how to pass info from between apps in such a suite if they are on the Mac App Store. (And there’s the upcoming app sandboxing deadline to consider – an added complication.)

Anyway, all apps will work in a similar manner: file(s) are dropped onto the app’s icon, or selected from the standard Open Panel. Then something will be done to those files – information summarized, files counted, permissions checked and optionally changed, whatnot; all expected functions should be reasonably obvious from the UI.

So we have a host of common functions, namely, implementing the App Store receipt checking, sandboxing considerations, receiving dropped and opened files, scanning over them (and perhaps over their contents, if they’re folders), showing the About Box and some help, and doing all that in a consistent manner.

I’m happy to report that everything along those lines is now working perfectly, and with the new workspace facility in Xcode 4, expanding from one to several apps will be a piece of cake. Let’s leave the culinary metaphors aside for the moment and ponder how I’ll can deliver – considering that my record regarding past deadlines has been not so good. (OK, abysmal.)

The answer is obvious: take a cruise. In recent years, everything significant I’ve released had been mostly written and polished on a cruise ship. No distractions, no phones, almost no Internet, no relatives (haha)… and I can impress my fellow passengers by saying “well, I’m making money for the next cruise here on board!”.

So, for over a year we’ve been planning a major cruise – it might be our last long cruise for the foreseeable future, even. And I’m very happy that we leave early tomorrow to return in the last days of January 2012. (Should give us time to prepare for the Mayacalypse, anyway.)

I’ll be posting from underway without saying too much about destinations, to add to the suspense. We should have occasional – though expensive – Internet onship, so email etc. should work. Our next stop should be Santiago del Chile. Stay tuned!

Re: WWDC2011

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My flight to San Francisco and WWDC 2011 leaves tomorrow night and I should arrive early in the afternoon on June 2nd.

Friday and Saturday are mostly reserved for taking care of some private business, but if anybody wishes to meet with me before WWDC, please drop me an email (rainerbrockerhoff.net), Twitter direct message (I’m @rbrockerhoff) or AIM:rainerbrockerhoffmac.com.

Early Sunday I’ll switch hotels and soon after lunch I’ll be at Moscone to get my badge. There was supposed to be a meet-up of Brazilian developers in the early afternoon, but apparently not everybody will be able to show up; at any rate, I’ll hang out at registration for a couple of hours. Later on, and all week, things will be quite hectic and I’ve no idea yet which parties I’ll be able to attend.

After the conference I’ll have a couple of days for resting and reading, and I should be back home on June 15th.

Things are looking up development-wise. I’m well along implementing my ideas of transitioning most of my products to the Mac Apple Store. While this means that all the new stuff will only run on Mac OS X 10.6.6 and up, the old versions will continue to be available, though mostly unsupported. No time to post details yet, and some of those are bound to change depending on information gathered at WWDC – but I’m optimistic that everything will work out.

More as it happens!

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