Archive for June, 2011

WWDC: Lion, iOS, and iCloud, OH MY!

Monday, June 13th, 2011 | Opinion | Comments Off

Apple had their annual WWDC this week, and sweet fancy moses was there a lot of news and announcements. I found myself overwhelmed at all the new information, and what it meant personally and professionally.

Apple showed off another demo of Lion, and while there is not that much new information, its still nice to see the improvements. I’m really excited to run Lion full time, as I have been testing it part time. Versions and Autosave are going to be life savers. The new Mail is very usable. The interface looks better. Of course, there are some changes I don’t like (such as Spaces), but overall its very nice. Obviously I can’t talk about too much without breaking the NDA, but I do love it. Once big downside is its only available on the App Store. I hope that changes, I need a DVD. Read more about it from Ars Technica.

While we’ve already know about most of Lion’s features, we haven’t heard anything about iOS 5. And now that Apple has demoed it, I think we should be blown away. The notification system in previous versions was built when there wasn’t a push notification system- and only dealt with texts, voicemails, and missed calls. It was very scalable, so when the third part apps started using it, the usability was a nightmare: notifications took over, and if you missed one- too bad. The new system with a scrolling list on the lock screen and the pull down menu is a wonderful way to solve the scalability and usability problems. And after using it for a few days, I never want to go back.

Three more features I love: Apple also announced iMessage, which is basically free text messages between iOS devices. Time to finally stop paying outrageous prices for texts. iOS finally supports wireless syncing which means I don’t have to plug in all the time. And one other feature is the camera can now be accessed from the lock screen, and it can use the volume up button for a shutter button- both much needed functions. Read more about iOS 5 at Ars Technica.

So after blowing us away with that, Apple revealed iCloud. Wow, just wow. If it works as well as they say it will, its a game changer. iCloud will be the central store for all kinds of content, from music and movies to pictures and documents. Not only that, developers can use iCloud to sync data between devices. This has be unbelievable excited- especially because its free! Read more about iCloud at Ars Technica (yes again!)

Whew! That was a lot of new information coming out of Cupertino. Now we want for them to be releases to see how well they work in the wild. And we’ll look out for that elusive iPhone 5!

SMART Utility and Lion

Friday, June 10th, 2011 | Company News, SMART Utility | Comments Off

I am happy to report that SMART Utility is for the most part compatible with Lion. All functions seem to work, except the menu extra. That was to be expected, as the way it was implemented breaks with every OS version. However, thanks to work of bjango (makers of the excellent iStat Menus, which I use) to make MenuCracker Lion-compatible,  SMART Utility and its menu extra will be fully compatible with Lion.

Version 3.0.2 will use the new MenuCracker, and that should be due out before Lion is released. On the horizon after that, is version 3.1, which will bring more user-requested features, such as email notification. That version will be out in a few months.

Apple Reverses Tough Subscription Requirements

Thursday, June 9th, 2011 | Opinion | Comments Off

Apple has finally relented and changed their policies on in-app subscriptions. Back in February, Apple announced in-app subscriptions, but along with the new API, the added some restrictions that could have forced some developers to leave the iOS App Store (such as Amazon’s Kindle). The two most pernicious ones were the price must be the same between in-app and out of app subscriptions (ie developers couldn’t charge a higher price to cover Apple’s cut), and that to offer the content developers must use the in-app purchase system (instead of not using it at all and charging subscribers on their website.

Apple has modified those restrictions. They no longer require the prices be the same, and they no longer require using the in-app subscription system. So developers can charge a higher price for the subscriptions. They also have the option of signing up subscribers on their website, and using that payment to send content to their iOS app. However, Apple will not let them have a BUY button in their app that takes them to the their website. I think that’s a fair compromise.

Even though I don’t have an app that is covered by the policies, I care about the iOS ecosystem. I found the subscription policies detrimental to that ecosystem, and I am glad Apple realized that as well. Another moral of this story is that complaining loudly, in the press, on blogs & websites, and to Apple can make them change their mind. In future, I hope we’ll here less of “They can do what they want to, so stop complaining because they’ll never change their mind.” That’s a good lesson to learn.

Now Serving Amazon S3 and CloudFront

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011 | Company News | Comments Off

At some point, and I am not sure when, the bandwidth from my hosting provider has gone down the tubes. Downloads are now seeing speeds of 150KBps, which is entirely unacceptable. I’ve tried contacting them, but they didn’t seem to understand my problem.

So that gave me an opportunity to explore content delivery networks (CDNs). My first thought was Amazon S3, since A) I’ve heard people talking about it and B) I love Amazon, and I buy so much from them (especially Amazon Prime). I took a look at their offerings, and found they also offer CloudFront.

I was confused at the difference between S3 and CloudFront, and after a little investigation, it became clear. S3 is great for hosting files, but there is a speed hit depending where in the US, and where in the world a user id downloading files. That’s where CloudFront comes it. Amazon has servers in specific areas that can speed up access times, especially for customers in other countries. Since 30% of my customers are foreign, that was a great solution for me. And since CloudFront requires and uses S3, I could switch back and forth at any time.

I did investigate some other alternatives, such as CacheFly and Limelight- but they didn’t meet the price and ease of use of Amazon’s services, especially for a small company like mine.

So I’ve switched all downloads over to S3 on both the website, and the updater in SMART Utility. I’m now seeing speeds of 1MBps and more, which is great. In the next day or so, I’ll switch over to CloudFront. There may be some hiccups as the DNS propagates, but in the end it will be worth it. The icing on the cake was just how easy it was to switch.

If you want more information, just go to Amazon’s AWS page here.

SMART Utility 3.0.1 is Out!

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 | Company News, SMART Utility | Comments Off

This is mainly a bug fix release, and all users are recommended to upgrade. The best way to update is to launch the app, choose the SMART Utility menu, then choose Check for Updates. Once it finds the update, click on Install. Download links are still provided below.

Download for 10.5 (Leopard) and 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

Download for 10.4 (Tiger) here.

Here’s the full release notes:

  • Fixed a serious bug that would cause a crash when rescanning drives
  • Fixed a bug that occurs when launching from the command line
  • Fixed a bug that caused inaccurate drive capacity display
  • Fixed a bug that caused the menu extra icon to not be masked when clicked on
  • Fixed a bug that caused the menu extra to show unsupported drives
  • Fixed a bug that cause the menu extra to pass the wrong icon to Growl for failing and failed drives
  • Updated Growl framework to 1.2.2, which fixes some bugs