Volitans Software

Tweetie for Mac- Excitement followed by disappointment

Yesterday Tweetie for Mac was released. I have heard that Tweetie for the iPhone was awesome (haven’t tried it yet because there is no free version), I was excited about a new app from a developer who already had an awesome app. I downloaded it and was very disappointed at the interface.

For starters, there is no Growl support. I rely on this to see new tweets, so I don’t have to catch up later. I hear this is in the works, however it is still disappointed without it included in this version.

My biggest grip with the UI however, is the separate tweet window. This complete ruins the Twittering experience for me. Whereas Twitteriffic (and most other Twitter clients) have the field at the bottom, Tweetie opens up a new window for each tweet. I have to change focus from one area to a completely random area each time- instead of one single location. I emailed the developer Loren Brichter about my issues, and he replied the following email. He gave me permission to repost it, and while my response to him was not the following, it was very similar:

My sincerest apologies for your disappointment at that comment.  There
were a *ton* of reasons why I went went the new-window compose route.
A few (if you’ll hear me out):

– You can compose a few at a time if you want to take time to compose
your thoughts

Which is nice, but nothing I’ll ever use. I see a Twitter, and reply. I’ll have a thought, post it on Twitter, and be done. I don’t need to draft 140 characters.

– The vast majority of the time for the vast majority of users is
spent *reading* tweets, not writing them. an appropriate amount of
screen real estate was given to composing on the main window given
this common-use-breakdown.

There is not much real estate being taken up by a text field at the bottom of the main window. And while most people do read more than write, that still doesn’t mean its a good UI choice to remove the easy-to-use- bottom field.

– I wanted the app to *feel* less like a toy, and more like a
communications tool.  I wanted it to *feel* more like Mail than iChat.
I wanted (though my choices in UI) to subtly encourage users to THINK
before they posted (and I believe people have a tendency to put more
thought into an email than they do IMs).  The weight of an independent
compose window provides this importance.  It’s the same reason why I
chose not to have ENTER post a tweet, Command-ENTER is the shortcut to
post, and I think that extra modifier does its small part to make
users think before they tweet.

This is where Loren and I have our biggest disagreement, and since its a philosophical difference about Twitter, its huge. I feel Twitter is MORE like an IM than mail. Its 140 characters, about the same as an IM anyway. I don’t see the need to FORCE users to think before they tweet, so posting with COMMAND-ENTER (instead of the logical and better ENTER) is very frustrating. I don’t think it would help anyway, and it takes away from standard Mac UI and posting conventions that ENTER sends something.

– It’s a fantastic *general* solution, for example it works great with
the global keyboard shortcut (in the prefs) where you can bring up a
compose window from anywhere in the system.  It also works perfectly
for the url bookmarklet.  No special casing needed.

This is in fact awesome, and I really would like this feature in more Twitter apps

– If you think about when you write a tweet, your fingers *have* to be
on the keyboard anyway, so it’s a negligible amount of work to hit

Not until I’m actually ready to write a tweet though. I’m already scrolling with the mouse, in the general area of the tweet window. For Twitteriffic, I either click in the field or click on the reply button next to a tweet, then start typing. For Tweetie, I have to hit a command for a new tweet, or click a tweet then hit the command, then find where the reply window went, and start typing. Its a small and subtle difference, but it changes the Twitter experience drastically.

I completely understand that it may not be for you, but it’s really
important to me that you understand that the decision wasn’t
arbitrary.  If it makes you feel any better, I had weeks of sleepless
nights thinking about this.  The only reason I thought *not* to do it
was because people were just used to some other way – and that wasn’t
a good enough reason to switch to an (in my mind) inferior UI.

I certainly understand his reasons. But my retort is that the separate window is NOT mutually exclusive to the in-app field. They BOTH can be used, and I think the app would be much better for it.

Its a shame this one issue has to ruin what otherwise is a great app. It has a lot of features I would use- like viewing direct replies, and global app tweeting ability. In fact, I would certainly pay for the ad-free version if he added the in-app field. Unfortunately, it looks like he will not change his mind.

Which leads me to think maybe I should develop my own Twitter app…

Kerio and iPhone OS 3.0: Follow Up

The last time I talked about Kerio and iPhone OS 3.0, my mail on my iPhone wasn’t working. To recap, Apple blamed Kerio, and Kerio wasn’t very helpful.

Well, I updated to 3.0 Beta 3, and that fixed the problem I was having. Now I can successfully read emails again on my iPhone. I realized how much it sucked to not have it. I’m not sure why Apple blamed Kerio, and yet an Apple update fixed the problem. Regardless, I’m just glad its working now.

As a side note, Kerio is now on Twitter. Which is a good thing for customer service. Its a great way to get feedback from your customers and address issues head on- even if they never contact the company they are talking about it. Even Comcast has had a lot of success at this. Its a good trend to see companies make an effort to listen to their customers.

The Day the Voice went Silent

As those who follow me on Twitter know, I’m a huge Philadelphia sports fan. So you can imagine my shock and sadness at the news that the Voice of the Phillies, Harry Kalas, had died. I have so many memories of watching and listening to Phillies games, in high school, in College, on long drives while at my last job, and the entire wonderful season last year- all with Harry the K’s excellent calls with that legendary voice. He was always there- a calming voice no matter the score. I’m really going to miss that.

I also never realized he did Inside the NFL- I had no idea how I never made the connection, but I guess I always thought of Harry as a baseball guy. But he was multitalented. In fact, he was more than just a great broadcaster, but he was an all around great guy. He never missed an opportunity to talk to a fan, to sign an autograph, or say any of his signature sayings (“OUTTA HEEERRRRREEE…”). Its a shame I’ll never get to meet him.

For awhile Philly fans had two of the best broadcasters in sports (the other being Merrill Reese of course), and now we have lost one of them. I don’t know how long we’ll have Merrill (hopefully for many years to come) but I’ll cherish every call he makes, as I cherished every one Harry made. I know what call will forever live in my memory, the last pitch of the 2008 World Series:

“One strike away, nothing and two the count to Hinske. Fans on their feet, rally towels are being waved. Brad Lidge stretches… the oh two pitch.. SWING AND A MISS! STRUCK HIM OOUUUTTT! THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES ARE 2008 WORLD CHAMPIONS OF BASEBAAAAAAALLLLLLLL… And let this city celebrate!”

I’m so happy he had a chance to make that call (as opposed to the 1980 championship when MLB’s silly rules prohibited from calling the game), and he made a classic Harry call. And its fitting that he died in the press box at the ballpark, doing a job he loved, surrounded by people he loved, in the city where his love of baseball began. What a way to go.

Rest in Peace Harry. We will miss you, dearly.

Harry Kalas

iPhone OS 3.0 and Kerio: Word of Warning

Sigh. I don’t understand why companies must do things to harm their customers. I experience it all the time. And it is for stupid reasons too. I’m amazed any of them stay in business.

My day time job uses Kerio MailServer 6 as our email system. It ties nicely into ActiveDirectory and has a decent WebMail client. It also offers Exchange support- including ActiveSync. And they even support the iPhone.

Well, partially support. Whatever they do to use ActiveSync is broken. They had to “enable” iPhone support in their most recent release once iPhone OS 2.0 came out. Now, I don’t know why they need to have custom support for the iPhone- ActiveSync is ActivceSync- but they do.

They apparently also need to enable support for 3.0, because once I upgraded I could see previews of mail, but I could not read them- it told me I the message was never downloaded, even though it was.

So I contact their customer support- what a waste. “Its still in beta, we won’t support it.” Well, what about the fact that I can’t roll back to 2.0. “Some people have, try it.” Which ignores Apple’s warning about rolling back to 2.0. Well, how about a warning. “We don’t need to put a warning about beta software.” GAAAAAH.

What poor customer service- and what a poorly designed product. I’m not sure what they have to enable, but the fact that they have to enable something makes me wary. What if they don’t have the support enabled in time for 3.0’s release? What if a company had all iPhones, and need 3.0 for a feature?

In any case, I now have non-functioning mail access on my phone. And one the reasons I was testing it out was for landscape mode in Mail.

Sad, really.

WordPress for iPhone

I posting this from the WordPress iPhone app. I spent hours trying to get it to work. Well they released an update which fixed one problem. It still wasn’t workng bu I found the cause: a .htaccess redirecting all XML files to my feed. It was meant to redirect feeds from my old blog, but it was interfering with the apps ability to access my blog. In any case it works now.

iPhone OS 3.0

Now that it has been over a week since the iPhone OS 3.0 event, I would like to comment on what happened. I’m very impressed with the new features that Apple is including with the update. I was actually surprised at just how many features were added- I expected a few bigs ones (ie copy and paste) but some surprised me (P2P Bluetooth). Let me go over the features I think are important:

– Copy and paste: FINALLY! While I didn’t need it all that often, it does come in handy once and a while. Even though the interface is a little odd, and will take getting used to, it is a much needed addition.

– Search: This is bigger than it sounds. Having a global Spotlight search is something that we’ll never believe we lived without. And adding search to Mail and iPod is another much needed addition.

– Landscape keyboard: I hated not being able to use the landscape keyboard in Mail and in SMS(now Messages). Its about time this was added too, and it makes typing on the iPhone so much better.

– Automatic login in Safari: This is awesome- no more needed to type passwords over and over again. With Safari remembering key passwords, it makes browsing a much better experience.

– Peer to Peer Bluetooth: WOW! This is going to open up a whole new class of applications. I cannot wait to see what other developers do with this ability. I can imagine playing games with other iPhones and sending notes and Calendar events to a friend or co-worker. I even have some ideas on applications that can leverage this.

– Dock connectivity: Its about type the dock was opened up. Imagine attaching it to a serial cable and managing a switch or router with it? This sounds really cool, and I can’t wait to see what device manufacturers will come out with.

– Push notification: I’m glad this is finally coming, though I am disappointed there still is no option for background notification. While having a notice come through will be helpful for some apps, there still is no option for background audio. I would like to see an interface to specify 1-3 apps that are allowed to run in the background. It would make management much easier than Windows Mobile devices, but still allow needed apps for users.

All in all and awesome update. I’m actually already running it on my iPhone, and it is quite nice. Obviously, I can’t talk about it too much, but other than being buggy in some areas, it works great.

Now I’m thinking of ways I can utilize the new features, and hopefully I can come up with something cool.

Activation Frustration

So I saw this article about not screwing your customers, and it reminded me of an similar experience I had at my day job a few weeks ago. We were having some problems with one of our middle school’s TV studio computer. I had to re-install Windows XP on it.

Now here is where it gets interesting(and frustrating). The studio uses Visual Communicator 2. It used to be made by Serious Magic. They were bought by Adobe in 2006. The newest version is version 3- which costs a lot of money to upgrade. And version 2 was working fine so we didn’t feel the need to upgrade.

Anyway, I install VC2 just fine- but then it needs activating. Ugh- I hate activation and I avoid activation as much as possible. But we already bought this product, so I go ahead and try to activate it over the internet. No luck. I try again. Nope. I just to make sure I have internet connectivity, and I do. But it won’t activate.

Okay, so it gives a number to call to activate over the phone. I was on the phone for over TWO HOURS trying to activate VC2. I kept getting the run around- on hold for 10 minutes, transfer to a different department, wait 10 more minutes, transfer again-BACK TO THE FIRST DEPARTMENT, or get hung up on. Finally, after getting ready to pull my hair out, I finally got someone in tech support that could answer my question. And I was incredulous at the answer.

I told him my quandary and his response- “Oh they shut the servers off, so you can’t activate it.”

“Well can’t you do something?”
“No, I can’t- they shut the servers off”
“Sooo what do I do?”
“Buy a newer version.”
“WHAT!? We spent a ton of money on this? We already paid for it! Why should we have to pay again to use software that was working fine before I had to reimage!”
“Sorry, nothing I can do. Bye”

Wow! What horrible customer service- and he said all of this in a very rude tone! And the biggest reason I hate activation- once they shut the servers off you are screwed. Of course the pirates have no problem cracking the activation and using. Its only us paying CUSTOMERS that have problems.

Luckily, through some Google-Fu I found that the former employees of Serious Magic convinced Adobe to release an activation hack. It was released about a month before I ran into the problem. It would have been nice if the idiot tech on the other end of the phone  told me about this.

I know when we do upgrade our TV Studios (sometime next year) we will stay away from anything made by Adobe.

A Current of Cocoa Code: Formatting a NSTextField

I’m starting a new series here: small Cocoa code examples. It will mostly cover cocoa problems that I could not find online; one I had to figure out. The first one is formatting of a NSTextField. In SMART Utility, I needed the user to enter a number for the maximum count of bad sectors that would trigger an error. Searching Google led no where. So I came up with the following code. Continue reading

SMART Utility 2.0 is out!

Finally, after many months of work, SMART Utility 2.0 is out! There are many new changes, but the biggest is the addition of testing support. Now SMART Utility can run the drives built-in self tests to check from malfunctions. Get it here.

Full release notes are on the right sidebar.

Holiday HD Giveaway Winner Choosen

The winner of the Holiday HD Giveaway has been chosen. Congratulations to Joe Tchen!

Update: the first winner did not get back to me. This post has been updated with the new winner, who did.