MacBreakZ 4 is shipping

mb4_0010.jpg

Today on the 29th of November after almost a year in development, three public betas and five private alpha releases MacBreakZ 4 is finally ready for prime time.

More than just protecting you from computer-related health risks (repetitive strain injuries, back ache, eye strain, headaches, etc..) the new version makes healthy computing fun. Based on ergonomic principles and almost 10 years of feedback from its users, MacBreakZ 4 makes it easier than ever to get out of bad work habits in order to work more productively and feel better at the end of the work day.

If you haven’t done so yet, check out what all this is about..

A Better Finder Rename 7.5 tidbits

With today’s 7.5 release ABFR is now getting towards the mid-way point to the next major upgrade and it is time to take stock of what’s happened since.

Version 7, of course, was a complete rewrite and that allowed a major step forward to be made. After close to a decade of pretty-much-monthly updates it was high time to do some clean up work.

Looking through the change history since the 7.0 release, a lot of the 14 (!) releases dealt with the fact that version 7 is a stand-alone application as well as a contextual menu item.

The ongoing “Should the Rename Button Quit the Application or Clear the Preview?” saga reared its ugly head again in the recent About this Particular Macintosh (Verdict: “Very Nice!”) review.. if I had one email from everybody who thinks that it should or should not quit, I’d have a lot of emails.. well actually I do.

In version 7.4.5, I thought I had finally settled this dispute by making the behavior configurable along the “Have your cake and eat it” ideology. Now I start getting emails that argue that having to tick or un-tick the check box to change the behavior is a bit sluggish.. ah, well.. how about making both options available via the “File” menu..

Having your cake and eating it with a shortcut key

.. and throwing in a keyboard shortcut while we are at it.

When I rewrote ABFR I left out a few of the more exotic features, some because I reasoned that “nobody is using this stuff”, others were pushed out of the initial scope to make time for more generally useful features.

Version 7.5 should now complete the transition by adding the last missing feature from version 6.9.6: alphabetical sequences are back!

The reasoning behind them is that sequence numbers can take up a lot of space in a file name, e.g. you need 9 digits for the first 10 billion sequence numbers (0..9,999,999,999).

I think this is fine for most people given that your file name can be up to 255 characters long, but it is true that using the 26 letters of the alphabet instead of only 10 digits (suckers) is more compact yet 🙂

In other news, Apple apparently has removed the ability to read mp4 tags of (moderately) “Fair Play”-encoded files from Quicktime and thus the mp3 tag renaming feature no longer works with m4p files. Thanks Apple!

Apple now also seem to be using “bundles” (i.e. files that are actually folders such as OS X applications) for document files in GarageBand and A Better Finder Rename now makes sure that it doesn’t ruin your files by renaming the contents of the bundle as well as the top-level folder.

The “File List” features also see some minor user-requested improvements and that’s all until next month..

ATP Review A Better Finder Rename: Very Nice!

“About this Particular Macintosh” is a phrase that many veteran Mac users will recognize. In OS 9 it was the menu item that let you produce a profile of your Mac.

The eponymous site and e-zine ATP has been around for so long that it has become part of the Macintosh “ecosystem”. I was obviously delighted when they contacted me a while ago to review the latest version of A Better Finder Rename.

The result is an in-depth review in this month’s issue.

The Verdict:

verynice.gif

Ok, I’ll try to wipe that smile off my face 🙂

Canon & the Mac: Lide 500F Scanner Review?

Having recently decided to Get Things Done, I have finally given in and purhased one of those “scanner things”.

Personally, I find that some things are just better on paper (generally paper things such as books) and others are best on the computer (generally digital things such as webpages, digital music, etc.). I thus don’t print out much and have even less desire to scan anything in.

Now my “big GTD master plan” involves building a searchable archiving system and I’ve gone with a wiki-kind of setup. Scanning in some of my paper notes would therefore be a good idea..

But which scanner to get? Here’s my feature list:

  • Mac compatible
  • small foot print
  • reasonably fast
  • reasonably cheap
  • possibly “luggable”

I don’t know about you, but lots of printers work only moderately well on the Mac. My wife and my sister between them, have gone through at least a dozen HP printers over the years and some (or actually all of them) play only moderately well with the Mac. USB port oddities, suddenly refuses to print, software is odd and doesn’t always work etc. etc.

Now what is the safest way of getting truly Mac compatible gear? I though buying it at the Apple Store would do the trick. Surely they know what works and what doesn’t.

Well, my scanner “of choice” was the Canon CanoScan LiDE 500F. I was aware of the fact that this gorgeous scanner was being replaced by the CanonScan LiDE600F soon, but Apple didn’t sell it yet and I don’t really care about having “twice the resolution” (= twice the file size) for my paper notes.

Why the Canon Lide 500F?:

  • It’s a Canon. I’m a Canon EOS digital camera fan
  • It’s sold by Apple and thus Mac compatible
  • It’s small and luggable
  • It doesn’t need a separate power supply (powered via USB alone!)
  • It can stand on its side saving desk space
  • It’s only moderately expensive (circa 150 USD)
  • It’s not an HP and thus has to be better

My experience: awful.

The scanner looks the part: small, light, well-engineered. Everything I ever wanted. What’s more it’s got one of those photo scanning (for your “legacy” photo negatives) devices, which could be fun.

I install the software downloaded straight from their website. I don’t even bother with the included CD since as a seasoned computer user I know that these are the buggy 1.0 releases of the drivers that aren’t likely to still work on 10.4 (let alone 10.5).

Now HP have this regrettable habit of bringing out a printer/ scanner/ all-in-one and providing a driver for the latest Windows or Mac OS X version available at the time of the launch (tough luck for those with “old” OS versions) and then doing absolutely no further work on the driver. This means that every time you upgrade your OS you are as likely as not to find that your printer/ scanner/ all-in-one no longer works. The solution: buy a new one!

This works out great for HP. You buy the same printer/ scanner/ all-in-one every few years with no real difference between the old models and the new ones, solely because the driver does not work anymore. Hhmm.. thus I don’t buy HP anymore.

Now Canon are different and Apple wouldn’t sell junk on their webstore? Yes, I know. How naive can you get?

To cut a long story short: there are no universal drivers for the Lide 500F, touching a button on the scanner will crash something called the “CNQL2410_ButtonManager” with a KERN_PROTECTION_FAILURE and ensure that you have to take your keyboard plug out and then re-plug it for it work again. The included software (Omnipage & some third rate OS 9-migrated photo editing software) is so old that it still proudly features 32×32 pixel icons and none of the included scanning software stays up for longer than a few seconds before you need to re-plug the scanner (or reboot your machine).

What you get for $150 from Canon

Thanks Canon. Thanks Apple. For nothing.

Unfortunately since I’m one of these “I never return anything because it’s not the reseller’s fault if I chose the wrong thing” people, I thought “I’ll just wait until they update their drivers. Surely they ARE updating the drivers to a device that is still sold today”.

Regrettably, however, that too is probably a bit naive. The software hasn’t been updated since 2005 and has apparently never really worked under 10.4, which has been out for a while now… in fact is going to be replaced soon. Nor has it ever worked on Intel CPUs which have now replaced the PowerPC in all current Mac models.

I have now (foolishly) kept the scanner for more than 14 days and apparently the AppleStore only allows returns up to 14 day after delivery. A seasoned “I return anything that isn’t perfect. It’s the reseller’s fault if they sell junk” person would have known that of course.

A word about the USB powered scanner idea: it’s not working. The scanner may not need much juice but it does presumably need an awful lot more than a mouse or a keyboard. Connecting the scanner to a USB hub is not recommended by Canon (they blame the poor USB hub quality of some third party vendors for this) and plugging it straight into a port on your Mac Pro won’t solve all the problems either. I find myself re-plugging my USB peripherals an awful lot since the scanner came along.. wouldn’t it be nice to have power lead?

The silver lining of the story is that apparently using OS X’s built-in Image Capture application (mentioned nowhere) seems to work ok. Panic over. Scanner work-able after all. Just not perfect. Or acceptable?

Now being somewhat disenchanted with Canon’s support policies and being a long-term HP sufferer (you may already know that when a peripheral somewhere in your family doesn’t work on a Mac, it’s your fault and you’d better get it sorted quickly), my question is:

Can anybody recommend a scanner that “just works” for an Intel-Mac running 10.4?

What is Epson’s OS X support like? Any other dark horses? Any non-evil printer/ scanner companies anywhere?

And what about the CanonScan LiDE600F that has recently been released and may be in the shops soon? It does have a Universal Binary driver but does it work?

And finally the big question:

How come Canon cannot be bothered to change the 5 lines of code it would take to port the Lide 600F driver to work with the Lide 500F that it still sells? Could it be a scam to get you to “upgrade” your brand new scanner? And do you want to buy anything from this type of company?

Mac Pro First Impressions

Well about a fortnight ago, my new development machine, the Mac Pro 3Ghz Xenon/ 2Gb RAM/ 500Gb HD finally arrived at my doorstep.

Installation

Installing the new machine, as always, was a breeze. Plug USB leads from my 4xUSB DVI KVM switch into new machine, plug in ethernet cable, put “old” G5 into Firewire target mode, connect both machine via a FireWire cable (found somewhere on my wife’s G5), plug additional 2 monitors straight into the DVI connectors on the additional NVIDIA 7300 GT graphics card and let Mac OS X do its thing.

After 10 hours of transferring files, everything works fine on the first boot. Excellent.

That’s when my first and only real gripe with the new machine strikes.

I’m one of those screen-real estate junkies with three 1600×1200 21″ LCD monitors plugged into my development machine. It’s a great setup for programming and web site editing and cheaper than getting a single 30″ screen (or at least it used to be when I was young).

I’m running the center screen in landscape mode and the two monitors at the side in portrait mode. That allows me to deal with “wide” stuff on the middle monitor and “long” stuff like documentation, web browsing and the like on the side panels. Also, especially on the left hand side, the left edge of the screen is so far off-center that you can’t really use it unless you physically move your chair. That’s why if you’ve got a two monitor setup, you are probably better off using a center and a right hand display rather than a center and left hand display. Unless you use a right-to-left script like Japanese, Chinese, etc..

Anyway, the Mac Pro does not support portrait mode! Arrgghhh… What do you mean NO portrait mode on a Pro graphics machine in the 21st century?

Admittedly, this is probably not much of a problem for most people, but especially given the fact that Apple targets this machine squarely at creative professionals with deep pockets, this is a big disappointment and many graphics artist may get more additional productivity from a multiple screen setup than from doubling processing speeds. I’ve heard whispers that the ATI XT1900 for an extra $250 will do portrait mode, but don’t take my word for it..

As a good Apple Developer Connection member I did my duty and promptly posted a bug report with ADC: Yes, I know this is hardly a “bug”, but Apple insists on getting “improvement requests” submitted as “bugs” via BugReporter.. turns out the “bug” is already known, meaning I was not the first person to complain. What a relief, there are other people like me out there 🙂

After turning my displays into a 4800×1600 “panorama” setup (which is a huge pain with the Ergotron DS100 Triple Monitor Deskstand), I was free to continue my Mac Pro tour.

Something I was worried about was the speed and compatibility of my PowerPC-only Adobe products: the (dreadfull) Go Live and the(wonderous) Photoshop.. turns out that this wasn’t an issue. GoLive is just as sluggish and unreliable using the Rosetta emulation as it is on a proper PowerPC-equipped model; Photoshop is just as usable and wonderfull as it always is. Great stuff.

I made a moderate effort before “switching” machines to upgrade all my software to Universal Binaries, but there were some notable exceptions, such as MPlayer (Linux-based video player for those pesky avi movies). Not screamingly fast under Rosetta, but still good enough. Anyway installing all those updates was no problem and took no time at all.

Installation then (unless you are a sucker like me and need multi-screen portait mode) is a snap and all the normal stuff seems to run fine out of the box.

Speed

This would be the major argument for switching to the new machine unless you are a developer and simply need to make sure your stuff runs on Intel. I haven’t conducted any side-by-side benchmarks, because I’m not into that kind of thing. Does it matter that it’s 10% or 30% or 200% faster on jobs that already took no time at all? No.

The only places where you really benefit from the additional power is in tasks where your old machine made you wait, i.e. you’re faster than your machine. For a graphics artist this might be in Photoshop or Final Cut Pro, for a developer like myself it’s going to be during the edit-build-debug cycle. So I went ahead and installed XCode 2.4 and svn and gave it a shot.

Builds are incredibly fast now and even the usually somewhat sluggish GNU debugger “gdb” comes up reasonably fast. That’s what I got the machine for, so I’m happy 🙂

In everyday tasks the response from the Mac Pro is almost always instantaneous, but that’s not a big difference from my “old” dual G5 PowerMac 2.7 (Single Core).

No Noise

This is the best new feature and one that hasn’t been given a lot of attention in the press.

If you have gone through sucessive multi-processor PowerMac generations like myself, you know all about the dirty old secret: The Dual G4 QuickSilver was a real leaf-blower and you could be excused for thinking that a helicopter just took off five inches from your head when it came on. Even changing the power supply that Apple graciously sent you for free to help minimize the problem, didn’t make much difference. The G5s were better but still awful and even the watercooled (!) G5 under my desk still manages an impressive roar when you make it actually do anything. Ah, I’ll miss the magical moments when you know that your build has finished because the “engine noise” drops by a few decibels. Nostalgia aside, the noise was a major annoyance especially in a quiet office.

The new Mac Pro manages to be fairly quiet even with two graphics cards installed. It is not as quiet as an iMac or a Mac mini, but while you can hear the fans, it’s easy enough to ignore them. For somebody upgrading from a PowerMac the drop into normality is a huge step forward. Shhhhtt! Listen. The quiet.

First Look Conclusions

All in all, the Mac Pro is an uncomplicated and worthwhile upgrade for anybody who needs an Intel-based machine or is looking for more raw speed. Even Rosetta apps run reasonably fast. The reduction in noise is a major bonus and if you are a long term PowerMac sufferer, probably worth the upgrade on its own.

If you are looking for excitement and “ahhhs” and “oooohs”, you’re going to be disappointed. There is nothing flashy about the upgrade. Even the box is almost identical. It’s just a faster, quieter version of the PowerMac.

MacBreakZ 4: What’s planned for the remaining betas?

Today, we finally released the first public beta of MacBreakZ 4.

With Beta 1 out of the door attention at publicspace.net is turning to the remaining betas.

Here is a list of what to expect:

  • More Stretches: 40 are planned for the shipping 4.0 version
  • A Setup Assistant that helps you configure MB4 to your requirements
  • New user interface mode that hides the menu bar, dock icon for more discrete operation
  • Adaptation mode that allows you to gradually get used to taking regular break by starting with short breaks at long intervals and gradually moving towards longer breaks at shorter intervals
  • New application icon

At the moment we are going for 3 beta releases with the final 4.0 version shipping on the 22nd of November.

I would love to hear your suggestions and feedback on what we’ve released today. Please feel free to post comments to this blog or to write to me directly at reiff@publicspace.net.

Best regards,

Frank

MacBreakZ 4 Beta 1 Press Release

publicspace.net is pleased to announce the availability of the first public beta of MacBreakZ version 4.

MacBreakZ has long been the break timer of choice for many Macintosh users having received a 4 mice rating from MacWorld in September 2002.

Version 4 is more than a simple upgrade, but is a re-thought, re-designed and re-written product developed in cooperation with a dedicated group of volunteer private alpha testers. The new version is completely re-implemented using Mac OS X’s native Cocoa libraries, but remains true to the spirit of earlier versions that repetitive injury prevention should be a fun rather than frustrating experience.

The extensive use of Tiger’s transparency and layering features and the invaluable input from our alpha testers have made MacBreakZ 4 far less intrusive than “traditional” break timers. Nick Miller, the lead cartoonist for the project, has contributed to the easy going tone of the product with his colorfull stretching illustrations executed in both a fun “informal” style and a more serious “business” style better suited for a more formal work setting.

In order to promote healthy computing on the Macintosh, we have slashed prices by over half for the introductory period of the product: a single user license is available for as little as $9.95.

MacBreakZ 4 beta 1 can be downloaded from:

http://www.publicspace.net/MacBreakZ/

MacBreakZ 4 Beta 1 Just Around the Corner

Back in April, on this blog I called for volunteer alpha testers to help me develop version 4 of MacBreakZ.

I was astonished and gratified by the number of volunteers that contacted me. Could it be that interest in ergonomic computing is finally making it into the mainstream?

After an enthusiastic start in 1997, MacBreakZ went through quite a few releases offering any number of new and improved features. With 20/20 hindsight I made one major mistake in the development of this product: I used RealBasic rather than C++ to develop it.

My reasoning was sound (I think): MacBreakZ would be overwhelmingly a user interface application with little behind the scenes processing and speed was really not much of an issue. Back then, and even today, developers seem to fall over themselves to praise RealBasic’s suitability for developing this type of application.

Not so. In my own personal experience, with each new release the RealBasic compiler and run-time system seemed to fix one bug only to introduce 5 new ones of similar gravity. At one point (I think this was early OS X releases) some customers experienced “rainbow text”: each character in the text of all dialog boxes would be a different rainbow color. This problem, as so many others, eventually did get fixed by RealBasic but my confidence in the tool quickly droped to absolute zero. I decided to freeze development with version 3.6 which had proved stable for fear of introducing arbitrary new bugs just by recompiling with the “new improved” RealBasic compiler.

Before all hell breaks lose and every RealBasic enthusiast on the planet starts flamming me: I know you love RealBasic, have never had any problems at all with it and your software is great and 100% bug free; that’s just not at all my experience with the tool..

Back then in the 3.6 days, I hatched this plan to rewrite MacBreakZ in “a real language with a real api”. The first choice of development environment on Mac OS X is Objective-C with Cocoa using XCode: the same tools used to write OS X itself.

Unfortunately for lack of time, the plans remained just that for almost two years and MacBreakZ 3.6 now clearly shows its age and its legacy.

Back in April when the call for alpha tester went out, there wasn’t much code written. I had a very bare-bones activity monitor (the component that detects your mouse and keyboard activity), a rough state machine implementation and a few user interface elements.

The idea was to involve end-users right from the start well before the application design is fixed and major changes are difficult and costly to make. Getting end-users involved early on also opens your developer’s eyes to end-user issues: sometimes you’re the only person on the planet who thinks that a particular dialog or menu item is intuitive, while the rest of the world scratches its collective head and thinks “What’s that supposed to be when it’s finished?”.

In my experience, early user involvement leads to far better product: a product that actually addresses the needs of its users, rather than showing off the cleverness (in his own head) of the developer.

At this point, I obviously need to thank my alpha testers for the amazing feedback and support I have received from them: Thanks guys!

Not only is the new version fully re-developed in Objective-C and Cocoa, but it also makes big sweeping changes pretty much everywhere. In fact, it is more a new product than a new version of an existing product.

I have blogged about progress on MB4; the earlier post has a number of quicktime movies showing the new interface and some of the cooler new features.

Six months, a couple of hundred posts and ten alpha releases later, MacBreakZ 4 is ready to go into public beta. I’m going to spend the next week getting the “behind the scenes” stuff ready, but next Wednesday MacBreakZ 4 beta 1 will be officially posted to the website (If you write me a real nice email, I may send the new version before then :)).

Current MacBreakZ owners will be interested to know that everybody who bought the product after the 1st of January 2005 will receive a free upgrade. Everybody else may like to know that there will be full-featured 14-day trial available from the website on next Wednesday.

It was great fun developing the new version and I hope you will like it.

Take care,

Frank

Fun with regular expressions

Regular expressions are amongst the most powerful text manipulation features around. Most dynamic websites that you see around the web are based on programming languages that incorporate regular expression support, such as PHP, Perl, etc. Harvesting this power for file renaming tasks, however, is not so very straight forward. A Better Finder Rename has supported regular expressions for a couple of years now. When the feature was first introduced, I tried to help users figure out what is going on by providing a preview of the various substitution groups of the first file to be renamed. This was miles better than no special preview at all, but fell short of what I really had in mind. Version 7.0 was supposed to have the “new improved” regular expression preview, but the scope of the release just kept growing; mostly due to the mountains of great feedback that I received from my private beta testing group (thanks guys!). Still version 7.0 was a great step forward, even with one or two planned features not making it. Fans of the program will know that I add a new feature pretty much every month and have done so for the past 10 years, so the day had to come when the missing feature would finally make it. Mission accomplished with version 7.3.5 out today. So why are regular expressions so hard? and why are they so powerful? The answer to both is the same: it’s programming with text. Programming is hard; programming is powerful. Regular expressions are a “pattern manipulation language” and their syntax is both super “tight” and profoundly cryptic. Just the way that Unix geeks love things to be. Manipulating text with “reg ex” is a matter of first identifying groups of letters (or “symbols”) in the existing text (i.e. the current file name) and then rearranging the groups and perhaps adding letters (“symbols”) to the “output”. Let’s see a brief example: regx_preview_thumb1.gif As you can see the current name is “hello world” and we simply want to swap both words. First we need to identify the two words. We do this with the pattern “(.*) (.*)”. What does this mean? Well a “.” is a placeholder for any symbol. A ” ” (space) is a placeholder for a space and an “*” means that there may be 0 or more occurences of the last symbol. So “.* .*” is a pattern that matches any text that has a space somewhere. So for instance, “the cat”, “the mouse” and “the cat and the mouse” all match the pattern “.* .*” because they have a space somewhere. “the_mouse” does not match because it does not have a space. A Better Finder Rename will simply do nothing for a current file name that does not match the pattern. In other words, “the_mouse” file will be left untouched. In the screenshot you can see that our pattern is not just “.* .*”, but “(.*) (.*)”. The brackets match nothing but simply enclose a substitution group. These substitution groups can be used in the substitution expression to refer back to what was matched. Each substitution group has a “name”: \1 is the first substitution group, \2 the second, etc. A Better Finder Rename supports up to 8 substitution groups. In our example, we split “hello world” into two substitution groups: \1 which is “hello” and \2 which is “world”. In the substitution field we have put “\2 \1”, which translates into “the contents of the second substitution group, followed by a space, followed by the first substitution group”. In other words, “swap the first and the second words” of the file name. This is of course barely touching the surface of the regular expressions. Things become more interesting when you start “programming” in earnest. Say we want to swap the position of the numbers at the end of some image files in a “clever” way: regex_full_preview_2.gif We are only interested in the numbers, so we say “match all uppercase or lowercase letters” at the beginning of the name up to the first number and put all the numbers into the substitution group \1″. We then use the numbers substitution group in our substitution expression. Voila. Obviously, it isn’t really possible to cover regular expressions in detail in a blog entry. Whole books have been written on the subject. The manual page for the feature has some more details on the syntax, the built-in support and a selection of further reading materials, including some useful books. Most of you will go “oh no this is far too complicated for me” at this point. That’s ok, this is an advanced feature for advanced users: there are plenty of easy to use features in the program and you can achieve most frequent file renaming operations without regular expressions. For the “advanced users” amongst you, however, this will alert you to the presence of the feature and might motivate you to learn a little more..

Progress Report on MacBreakZ 4

Not so long ago, in this blog I called on interested parties to become alpha testers for the new version of our Personal Ergonomic Assistant sofware, MacBreakZ.

I expected one or two users to volunteer, but instead got an overwhemlming 43 alpha testers!

This, I think, illustrates that in the 9 years since MacBreakZ 1.0 was released, interest in ergonomic issues and awareness of computer-related health problems has increased dramatically. Unfortunately much of this is probably due to the number of RSI victims exploding after email, chat, blogging, surfing and all-night gaming have become normal parts of everyday life.

In the intervening years, I myself have learnt a great deal about what works and what does not work when it comes to break timers.

The major thing I’ve learnt is that prevention can only work if it is fairly painless. Sure, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, but before you’re hurt you don’t really believe that you could be at risk and as consequence you’re not willing to invest time and energy to change your work habits.

I’ve found that a good 80% of MacBreakZ users already suffer of one form or another of computer-related health problem.

MacBreakZ 4 will focus much more on getting people to use it as a prevention rather than as a recovery tool.

What can I for my part do?

  • Make it fun.
  • Show you how you’re doing.
  • Let you customize the program to death.

MacBreakZ 4 features a lot of eye candy and has a “serious fun” feeling.

The omnipresent transparency effects are a nice example.

Take the activity monitor that shows you when you when your next break is due and how high your activity level is:

When the application is at the front, the whole window is draggable, when the application loses the focus, it fades into the background and lets clicks go through.

The “activity level” bar changes from “safe green” to “warning yellow” and finally to “danger red” as your continuous activity level increases. The amount of uninterrupted typing you do is a major risk factor in developing RSI. Even a tiny 5 second break from typing will dramatically reduce your injury potential.

Another example is the break window. It too is now transparent and features some additional eye candy:

Besides from being cool (you might disagree) these effects also have pratical value: they let you keep the information on how you’re doing on the screen while you are working.

My alpha testers and I are now on the 9th alpha release of the software and things are definitely starting to take shape. As often happens when I get end-users involved early, the feature list just keeps getting longer and longer and all bets are off on when the final version will be ready. Oh, yes I forgot: as usual, the end product will be 10 times better at least..

The call for alpha testers is now officially over because you can have too much of a good thing. For those of you are interested following the progress of this latest project, here is some additional info:

  • I will continue posting progress reports on this blog.
  • There should be a first public beta release in late summer
  • Anybody who has bought a license during 2005/2006 will get a free upgrade to the latest version
  • You can always leave comments on this blog or contact me via email; no need to be an official alpha tester to share your thoughts.

I hope you are as excited about this new release as I am..