Volitans Software

SMART Utility 2.2.2 is Out!

I’m pleased to announce the release of version 2.2.2 of SMART Utility. This version fixes numerous bugs.

Download 10.4 Build

Download 10.5+ Build

Full release notes:

– Fixed a bug that would prevent scanning on first launch

– Fixed a bug that would randomly cause problems and errors opening up a drive report (10.4 build only)

– Fixed a bug that would cause registration information to not be saved properly in all cases

– Fixed a bug that would cause a crash if the error log could not be read

– Fixed a formatting issue that would cause log text view and “Clear Log” button to be mis-aligned when resizing the log window

– Improved handling of bad or corrupt drive report files

SMART Utility 2.2.1 is Out!

I’m please to release version 2.2.1 of SMART Utility. The biggest features are progress bar for opening files, a 64 bit build, and a new feedback system.

Note that there are now 2 builds. Because of how Apple’s development tools work, the 64bit build can only be compiled with the 10.5 SDK. There are also some bug fixes and changes that allow for newer features. So if you are running 10.5 or 10.6, run the 10.5+ build. Only use the 10.4 build on 10.4 (though it will run on 10.5 and 10.6). If you don’t know which to use, download the 10.4 build.

Download 10.4 Build

Download 10.5+ Build

Full Release Notes:

– Added support for 64 bit build (10.5+ build only)

– Added progress bar for opening drive reports (10.5+ build only)

– Added Clear Log button in log window

– Fixed a crash on 10.4 systems

– Fixed bug reading in drive attributes where extra line would appear

– Fixed spacing of log output

– Fixed two spelling mistakes in preferences

– Now ignores errors from attribute 190 by default

– Improved error handling in certain conditions

– Removed deprecated API calls and replaced with modern ones

– Removed Smart Crash Reports and replaced with UKCrashReporter for 10.6 support

– Removed built in feedback system and replaced with UKFeedbackProvider, also now sends all logs automatically

Google Picasa – Failure of Design and Support

As part of my day job, I investigate applications for faculty to use. Some were interested in Google Picasa. It seems like a nice alternative to iPhoto, especially as it links nicely to Google’s Web Albums.

However, that last part we could  not get to work. The application would not sign in to Google’s services. As with anything internet related, I suspected our proxy/firewall. As required by law, we implement a filtering package here to prevent inappropriate content from being viewed.

I first used an IP to bypass the filter- used to check out blocked sites for whitelisting and verifying problems with the proxy. Picasa worked fine without the proxy in between. I used Wireshark to run a packet capture, and verified that Picasa was attempted to connect directly to Google’s servers instead of going through the proxy.

So I proceeded to see if I could find out way. I located a post on their help forums talking about the issue: from January 2009! I could not believe that this has been around for over a year. And their help is a joke. They have forums and a few FAQs for helps. But no way to report bugs or even contact their support.

This is why I am really souring on Google. Their services and applications are pretty cool, but if anybody has a problem, good lucky getting it solved. This happened with the Nexus One earlier this year too- there was no way to call or get help for the phone.

I am still amazed that an application can be written in 2010 without using the proper APIs to use the system proxy settings. Especially from a web centric company like Google. To me that speaks of bad planning and design. And the set up of the support website just further hurts the whole experience.

FINALLY! Multitasking comes to the iPhone!

Apple has finally added multitasking, and so much more, to the iPhone OS. Ars Technica reports all the details. The highlights:

– Multitasking using the home button. While I was wrong about only one app being allowed, I was right about the home button being the primary interface. This sounds fantastic. Audio apps can even use the previously iPod only pop up controls. There are only ways for apps to “run” in the background. For location based apps, they can be woken up when positions change. For games, they can “pause” and be idle.

– Folders on the home screen. Another welcome addition. Instead of managing pages upon pages of unorganized apps, they can be put inside a folder. I can already see this for less used apps and games.

– Unified inbox in Mail. Yet another FINALLY. It will make it so much easier to manage more than one account.

Some of the other things are interesting too. Game Center will be great for game developers- a kid of XBox Live system. iAd will be wonderful as adding advertising can be a pain. And the enterprise features are awesome- especially the remote installing of apps.

A good update. I was hoping for some sort of printing option though. Maybe that will come later.

One final note- if you install the 4.0 release on an iPhone, MobileMe’s tracking system will not work. I don’t know why, but it won’t. Hopefully that will be fixed for beta 2.

Great Reason to Run SMART Utility: Gruber HD Failure

John Gruber, of DaringFireball fame, just had his HD fail. He noticed it because everything was running very slow. He ran DiskWarrior which recovered his data but alerted him to a problem. SMART Utilility would most likely have alerted him to this issue a lot sooner. He was lucky because he also had a SuperDuper backup as well as a DropBox backup.

He makes a lot of good recommenations, and I encourage you to read the full story, but this is my favorite part:

Hard drives are fragile. Read as much as you can bear to about how they work, how incredibly precisely they must operate in order to cram so many bits onto such small disks. It’s a miracle to me that they work at all. Every hard drive in the world will eventually fail. Assume that yours are all on the cusp of failure at all times. It’s good to be spooked about how long your hard drives will last.

A hard drive failure can happen to anybody. Be prepared when it does, and be alerted before it does. That’s why I made SMART Utility.

Rumor: iPhone OS 4.0 to Add Third Party Multitasking

According to AppleInsider, Apple is adding the ability for third parties to multitasking. They say no details are available, but its a “full-on” solution.

This is very exciting, as it will fix the biggest flaw of the OS right now. As AI points out, its not a technical problem, as many Apple apps (iPod, Messages, etc) run fine in the background. Its a political problem. The current arguments for it (battery and resource usage) are red-herrings, because they both apply to the Apple apps as well- and the decision to use them are up to the user.

I’m very interested in seeing how Apple manages this. I expect the home button to be the primary means of interacting, with only one third party app allowed to run. There will also be a requirement to have a menu bar icon to alert the user that there is an extra app being run.

Regardless of how its done, this is great news for the platform. Once less reason to use the Andriod platform. The next thing to change: unsigned apps.

SMART Utility 2.2 is Out

I’m please to release version 2.2 of SMART Utility. The biggest features are opening and saving SMART data reports, printing, and better support for SSDs. Get it here.

Full release notes:

– Added support for saving and opening drive reports in native format

– Added support for printing SMART reports

– Fixed bug where scanning capabilities that would cause an error

– Fixed bug where in rare cases scanning SMART data would cause a crash

– Improved debug log formatting

– Moved log files to a subfolder

– Now log window updates live

– Updated smartctl engine to 5.39 providing more fixes and recognizes more drives, including SSDs

– Updated eSellerate embedded engine to

Steven F Gets It All Wrong

In his recent blog post Steven writes

This is such a perfectly encapsulated nutshell of exactly why Apple does not allow third-party background processes on the iPhone.

He gets it all wrong. If this is why Apple doesn’t allow third-party background apps on Touch OS X devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), then Apple has failed at UI innovating. Palm, as well as the Android, have very poor interfaces for allowing background applications.

Mac OS X (which the iPhone OS is based on) can handle background processes just fine. Obviously, the interface for dealing with them is poor for a small touch device. So a new interface needs to be created. I don’t know what Apple has in mind, but I will tell you how I’d do it.

Double click the Home Button, and up comes a popover listing all running applications- iPod, Mail, Safari, Twitter. Each has a little X next to it to kill the app. Tap on the app and the popover flips over to reveal a widget for that app (ala the iPod that currently pops up on a double click). Heck to assuage the nonsensical battery life arguments (let me choose what and how my battery life is- that is why Mail and the iPod can run in the background if I want), a maximum of 4 apps can be running.

I think that solves the problem once and for all. After finally allowing multitasking (just like the finally allowed copy and paste), Apple has only one more hurdle for the perfect phone- unsigned apps. Android won’t stand a chance once those two things are checked off. I’m anxious to see iPhone OS 4.0 to see how they really do implement background apps.

Thoughts about the iPad

So I’ve had some time to digest the iPad announcement. For the time leading up to the official unveiling, I was unimpressed with any idea of a tablet. “Why would I need one?”

Well, color me impressed. I could definitely see using this around the house or on a long distance trip to surf the net, play games, even type on it. Sometimes it would be nice not to look at a small screen, or lug around a big laptop.

Now, I don’t like the fact that it still doesn’t allow unapproved apps, but I’m hoping that changes with time. However, the ability to run iPhone apps, as well as apps specifically designed for the iPad will be very cool.

I will probably wait for revision B in any case, but I will probably pick one up.