SMART Utility

Keeping Out of the Sandbox

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 | Company News, Opinion, SMART Utility | Comments Off

With the impending sandbox deadline coming up (FOR REAL THIS TIME, YO!), I thought I re-visit my decision to keep SMART Utility out of the App Store, when it was announced. This was both a political and technical decision. The technical part was simple- it would take a fair amount of work to rewrite SMART Utility to meet the App Store rules. There would be features left out, or features that would be restricted (the menu item for example). And even with all of that, it still may not have been approved. I found all of that completely unacceptable. The sandbox restrictions are just the icing on the cake.

The political part was a little more complex. I do not like the idea of somebody else approving apps and deciding what my customers are allowed to see. I feel that curated apps can be a good idea- but I entirely disagree with Apple’s rules for curation. I believe that they should put every app submitted up, except for ones designed to cause damage (i.e. trojans). They should not restrict based on APIs or ideas. I would love to use the App Store’s features (Software Updates for example), but not at the expense of features. That is bad for my product and my customers. I will not stand for that. I also do not like the lack of trials, as well as paid upgrades for apps.

The sandboxing issue has also lead to some developers pulling apps. Manton Reese has decided to pull Clipstart. He has a followup about the lock in with the App Store, which helps reaffirm my decision to stay out of the App Store. Atlassian (who helped prompt Manton to pull his app) has also decided to pull SourceTree. He documents many, many issues with sandboxing. And check out the comments for more complaints (hey comments can be good, surprise!!).

And not only are good apps not available in the App Store (which is big problem for Apple), but as Brent Simmons says, it has a chilling effect by stopping developers from even thinking or developing apps for the App Store. As Michael Tsai, you don’t know what the costs will be ahead of time. You could develop a great app, only to have Apple change the rules.

This is bad for customers and bad for developers. Apple needs  new way.

 

The Future of SMART Utility

Thursday, February 16th, 2012 | Company News, SMART Utility | Comments Off

This is an update on a post I did about a year ago, regarding SMART Utility and 10.4 support. As the Apple OS landscape has changed, I have solidified the roadmap going forward. I wanted to share my thoughts on that roadmap.

First, let me start with some numbers. SMART Utility collects anonymous system information on an opt in basis. I looked at the OS that SMART Utility was running for users that reported in the last month. Less than 1% were on 10.4. Only 8% were on 10.5. The overwhelming majority(91%) was running 10.6 (42%) or 10.7(49%). Because all development work is trade-offs, I had to decide where to spend the majority of the work. Anything below 10.6 seems like lost time due to the small numbers remaining.

There is also the issue of the development tools. Apple stopped support 10.5 in Xcode 4, and Xcode 3 doesn’t run that well on 10.7. With the release on 10.8, and its requirement to use Xcode 4 to use app signing, that makes the ability to support 10.5 even harder. I want to upgrade to using Xcode 4, especially since Xcode 3 probably won’t even run on 10.8.

So, with those two issues in mind, here is the support roadmap:

  • Active development on version 3.1 is underway now. There will be some major changes, especially to the stability and operation of the user interface. One big new feature is email notifications, a much requested feature. The other big change is that version 3.1 will not run on 10.4. Version 3.0.2 will last version that will run on 10.4. Because development has already commenced on version 3.1, it will still run on version 10.5. Future bug fixes (3.1.1, 3.1.2, etc) will also. Version 3.1 may not be fully compatible with 10.8.
  • Features for version 3.2 are slowing being decided. But one thing that is already decided is that version 3.2 will not run on 10.5 (or PPCs). Version 3.1.x will be the last to run on 10.5. However, version 3.2 will be fully compatible with 10.8. I’m excited to be able to use a lot of the new APIs that were introduced with 10.6 and 10.7.
  • Version 4.0 may not support 10.6, depending on the support Xcode 4.4 has for 10.6.

I hope that all makes sense, and please feel free to contact me with comments and suggestions at mbutch@volitans-software.com.

SMART Utility 3.0.2 is Out!

Thursday, July 21st, 2011 | Company News, SMART Utility | Comments Off

SMART Utility 3.0.2 has been released, which brings full support for Lion. There are also a few new features as well as bug enhancements. SSD support is more mature in this release is well.

Note that this will be the final version that will support 10.4.

Download for 10.5 (Leopard), 10.6 (Snow Leopard), and 10.7 (Lion).

Download for 10.4 (Tiger) here.

Here’s the full release notes:

  • Added text next to drive to show state (passed, failing, failed, unsupported)
  • Added ability to resize main window
  • Added more attribute names for SSDs
  • Removed deprecated API calls and replaced with modern ones
  • Updated French localization
  • Updated menu extra code for 10.7 support
  • Updated smartctl engine to 5.41, which adds better support for SSDs as well as bug fixes

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.

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

 

SMART Utility 3.0 is Out!

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 | SMART Utility | Comments Off

Finally, after many long nights, I’m excited to announce that SMART Utility 3.0 has been released. There are many new features and bug fixes in this release. This includes a menu icon, so the application does not need to be running, as well as some interface enhancements.

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

Download for 10.4 (Tiger) here.

If you aren’t sure which version you have, here is how you can tell. Leopard and Snow Leopard have a black magnifying glass in the upper right hand corner. Tiger has a blue one.

Here are the full release notes:

  • Added menu extra, which uses app’s preferences to operate, including periodic checks and Growl notifications
  • Added last time updated to main window
  • Fixed a Growl notification misname for failed drives
  • Fixed a bug where the estimated time at the beginning of tests would be reported wrong
  • Fixed a bug where the info windows attached to a drive report would not close after closing the drive report
  • Fixed a bug where the Tests window would not close after scanning for new drives
  • Fixed a few bugs where setting preferences to only alert on new changes still caused some attributes and tests to be highlighted as failing
  • Fixed a bug where More Info button did not have a space between the words
  • Fixed a bug that would cause a harmless error message to pop up
  • Fixed a bug where test information in main window would not clear out when switching to an unsupported drive
  • Fixed a few memory leaks
  • Forced running in 32 bit on 10.5 due to OS issues
  • Now estimated time remaining in tests is a little more accurate at beginning of test (no more Calculating)
  • Now capacity shows in gigabytes
  • Now if there is only one partition, that will be displayed instead of /dev/diskX
  • Reordered general preferences for better organization and readability
  • Updated help to add information about tests
  • Updated smartctl engine to 5.40, which adds better support for SSDs as well as bug fixes

Enjoy! Please report any bugs to the Support email.

SMART Utility: Future of 10.4 Tiger Support

Friday, February 25th, 2011 | SMART Utility | Comments Off

With the release of the first beta of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, I have made a decision regarding the future of 10.4 Tiger support in SMART Utility. Version 3.0 will support 10.4 when it is release in the next week. Minor updates (3.0.x releases) will also support 10.4. However, version 3.1 may not support 10.4, and 3.2 will not support 10.4.

This is a difficult decision, and its one I put off for a long time. I know there are still a fair number of 10.4 Macs out there, and those are the ones ripe for using SMART Utility. I even still get requests for 10.3 support from time to time! But here is some perspective: It has been nearly 6 years since Tiger was released, and nearly 4 since the last major update came out for it.

So there are a couple of reasons why I am deprecating support for 10.4. The biggest reason is development time. If I continued to support 10.4, that would mean I would have to test 8 different configurations of OS/hardware support (10.4 PPC & Intel, 10.5 PPC, Intel 32 bit & Intel 64 bit, 10.6 Intel 32 & 64 bit, and 10.7 64 bit). I also have to maintain a separate build for 10.4 Macs, as that version has bugs when run on 10.5(such as progress bars not working properly). This adds up to a lot of work, especially as many 10.4 APIs are deprecated themselves on later OS’.

Next is that Apple is dropping support for 10.4 (and possible 10.5) in XCode 4, the next major release of the development tools. This means I would have to maintain a separate install of XCode when I upgrade to 10.7, which on top of the above reason equals a lot of management overhead- time I could be spending developing new features and fixing bugs. There are also a fair amount of features I would like to add, but that require 10.5 at least. Dropping 10.4 support would allow me to focus on them.

Finally, my anonymous system stats tell me me that about 15% or less of my users are running 10.4. This follows other stats I have seen- such as OmniGroup’s Stats page. In fact, 10.6 is run by the majority of users. An upgrade to 10.6 for Intel users is only $30, and I heavily encourage users to go that route. For PPC users, an upgrade to 10.5 can be had used for about $50. Both offer a lot of benefits over 10.4.

I hope that this will allow an informed decision by my current and future customers. Feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns at mbutch@volitans-software.com.

SMART Utility Mentioned on Hypercritical

Friday, February 18th, 2011 | SMART Utility | 1 Comment

SMART Utility was mentioned in episode 5 of Hypercritical, and excellent podcast about Apple and related technologies with Dan Benjamin and John Siracusa. Its one of many great podcasts on Dan’s network, 5by5. I’ve been a fan of Dan’s since Gruber and his podcast The Talk Show. I used to listen to The Conversation until he canceled it, but then he started a whole slew of new podcasts, of which Hypercritical and Boom, Outta Here are two of my new favorites. Of course, I’ve followed John since early 2001 on Ars Technica, where he had some great reviews of every OS X version.

Anyway, enough butt kissing. I thought John and Dan did an excellent job of describing SMART and SMART Utility (except for calling it creepy! Haha!). However, I did want to followup with some more information about what they said.

John mentioned the algorithm SMART Utility uses, which calls a drive FAILING before SMART itself will say FAILED. He was correct in that its a judgement call, and it can be a little confusing in that regard. When SMART Utility finds something that could potential cause a drive to fail in the future, it does label it FAILING. Now, it could be failing now- ie soon the drive will fail completely. It could also be overly cautious and the drive will be fine. The algorithm was designed this way because when dealing with data, its better to be safe than sorry. So false positives are much better than false negatives.

This is also based on 10 years of dealing with hard drives, as well Google’s study(PDF) on hard drives (as John did mention). However there are preferences to “correct” the algorithm (as John also mentioned). I’m always verifying the algorithm is correct, and if improvements are needed, they will be made. For instance, version 3.1 will change the way errors that occurred many power on hours ago are dealt with.

Dan and John made comments that its not for your mom, and though I will sort of agree with that, I still believe they can use it. For instance, they can understand green, yellow and red. Also, the menu icon that is coming in version 3.0 will be great for them. Of course, its best if they have a family member or friend who knows a little more to help them out, or they can always contact me.

I hope that clears up any confusion, and thanks to John and Dan for the discussion. Now go listen to their podcasts!

Wanted: Beta Testers

Monday, September 13th, 2010 | Company News, SMART Utility | Comments Off

As development of SMART Utility 3.0 is waning down, I would like to test this release a bit more. The biggest addition is the new menu icon, and that needs to most testing. So I am looking for a few good beta testers. The only requirement is that you must have purchased SMART Utility (the license type doesn’t matter). There is no incentive other than getting some pre-release software.

If you are interested, send an email to support@volitans-software.com.

SMART Utility 3.0

Monday, June 21st, 2010 | SMART Utility | Comments Off

Its coming…