Volitans Software

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.

iPhone 3G- A decent upgrade

I had to buy a new iPhone last month- somebody stole my original one. Luckily it had a passcode, and nobody made any calls on it.

I did want to wait to upgrade for a couple of reasons- I wanted 32GB of space for all of my music and a few movies, I wanted a processor upgrade (like the new iPod Touch apparently has), and I wanted any other new, unexpected feature Apple would add on.

Nonetheless, I did need new a new iPhone. I like it. It feels good- lighter actually. Reception is definitely better. And the call quality is noticeably better as well- my fiance says I am much clearer now, even when driving. I like being able to use the internet and receive a call at the same time. I’ve missed calls because of that with the old one. The flush headphone jack rocks. I love being able to plug in any head phones and using them without a extra adapter. And of course with 3G I don’t get the “brrp, brrp, brrp” on speakers like I used to.

I don’t like the screen as much- its too yellow. The original had a much nicer white balance to it- which brought out the colors better. My home button also feels soft and mushy. It doesn’t have that nice click to it (it also doesn’t activate all the time either- maybe that’s related). I hate that all my old docks don’t work any more- at least not without some dremeling.

Overall I am happy with it. Still has some thing I don’t like, but its not a bad upgrade at all.

HOLIDAY HARD DRIVE GIVEAWAY

In the spirit of the holidays, Volitans Software is giving away one free hard drive to a lucky winner. The winner will have the choice between a 1.5TB desktop hard drive or a 500GB laptop hard drive. All you have to do to enter is fill out the following form. Rules and other fine print:

  • No purchase necessary to win, but try a copy of SMART Utility while you are here. It’s a great way to check out your current hard drive. Note that purchasing SMART Utility does not increase your chances of winning.
  • Entry period runs from 12:01 am EST on December 9th, 2008 until 11:59 pm EST December 24th, 2008.
  • Winner chooses between new Momentus 5400.6 SATA 500-GB Hard Drive (model ST9500325AS) or Barracuda 7200.11 SATA 1.5TB Hard Drive (model ST31500341AS), or equivalently priced drive if model is unavailable. Drive will be shipped free of charge to winner.
  • Winner will be selected at random on December 25th, 2008 from the email entries and notified by email. Winner will be posted on the website on or after January 15th, 2009.
  • Winner must respond within 7 days of being selected or a new winner will be chosen. Volitans Software will not be responsible for email delivery failures, including but not limited to power outages, server crashes, filtering technologies, or incorrect email addresses.
  • Only one entry per person, as multiple entries will be discarding. Entries will be monitored for cheating, and entrants may be disqualified if such cheating is discovered.
  • Friend’s email address will only receive a one-time automatic email about this giveaway. We will not add your friend to a mailing list.
  • Giveaway is open to individuals who are legal residents of the United States and 18 years of age or older. Individuals must also be legally allowed to participate in giveaways. Giveaway void where prohibited by law. While we appreciate all our customers in all states as well as in all countries across the world, laws very greatly and we cannot satisfy all legal requirements everywhere.
  • By participating in the giveaway, entrant agrees to not sue Volitans Software and not hold Volitans Software liable for mistakes or other violations.

New Software- ModBus Probe and ModBusKit

Volitans Software has joined a partnership with R Engineering, Inc to create modbusApps. Here is our first press release:

modbusApps is proud to announce modbusProbe, an application for the Apple OS X operating system to poll modbus(R) enabled control system devices. The application can poll either serially via a USB adapter or directly via TCP. There are a number of excellent Windows based programs that provide connectivity to logic solvers, but to date little development has been done with the Apple OS X operating system.

The application includes the ability to poll all four types of registers and display the results in decimal, hexadecimal, binary, or integer format. A help file has been developed to provide a basic understanding of the modbus(R) protocol. Future enhancements include the ability to monitor the data stream to and from the polled device(s) as well as providing the user to write to the device.

In addition to this application, the Cocoa Framework will be offered under the GNU License as a freedownload to give other Mac programmers the basic tools to develop modbus(R) tools for the Apple OS X operating system. The framework modbusKit may also be downloaded from the modbusApps website.

Features
* TCP and serial protocol supported
* Reading of Coils, Discrete Inputs, Holding Registers, and Input Registers supported, writing coming soon
* Uses a connection list with name, type, and device ID (IP address or serial port) for maintaining connections
* Uses zero or one based addressing, with check box for toggling
* Displays data in integer, hexadecimal, decimal, with binary coming soon
* Displays number of polls and successful responses
* Displays register prefix (10000x etc)
* Displays Warning dialog box if it can’t connect to the modbus TCP server
* Checks for updates via Sparke Framework
* Basic application help book for the app and on modbus(R)
* This alpha release expires January 31st, 2008

Pricing and Availability:
modbusProbe is in Alpha release and is a free download. As the application matures, it will become shareware with an expected cost of approximately $100 (USD). Note that this Alpha release has a date stamp expiry.

New MacBook Brief Review

I had a chance to play with one of the new unibody MacBooks the other week. My school district purchased two to use as spares. The first thing I noticed was how solid they felt- not just compared to the old plastic MacBooks, but to the old MacBook Pro’s as well. The case did not flex at all- even the old MBP’s case flex a little bit. That certainly is very nice. One thing I do wonder is how well it will hold up in a drop.

The new trackpad was actually easy to use. I was worried how the buttonless “feature” would work, but I had no problem using it all all. It felt natural. I liked it better actually. I could not get the 4 finger swipe to work however- not sure if that was a bug or what. 

It didn’t feel any faster but then I did not have much time to play with it. I also did not get a chance to test out the screen- which really is my biggest fear. I am not a fan of the glossy screen. Hopefully, when they update the 17″ MacBook Pro, which is what I am waiting for, they will have an option for glossy. 

The only downside I could really see is the loss of FireWire, which is a huge mistake. Losing target disk mode is a giant loss- not only for the Migration Assistant and recovering data, but for booting other Macs with that Mac. The MIgration Assistant is the best thing that the Mac had and Windows didn’t. Now a stupid decision has cut that out. 

But other than that I would score it as a win. I would definitely get a MBP though- gotta have FireWire.

Finally: Volitans Software is now an iPhone Developer

I had meant to keep the blog updated with my progress, but with the Phillies post season run and World Series victory (I’m still on a high from it!) as well as being busy with the fiance, its been hard. I do post to my twitter apple4ever pretty often, so that is a way to keep up with what the company and I am doing.

But I finally got into the iPhone Developer program. With all the teeth nashing about it, I thought it was going to be harder than it was. It just took longer than it should. After the initial application online, I had to fax a copy of proof of my business, send them my corporate number (which they never called which surprised me), and then agree to terms before actually purchasing the program. Though I still am waiting for the email with instructions on how to activate my environment and phone. I’ll have to see how hard that actually is. 

I do have some interesting iPhone application ideas, which I am anxious to develop. However, I am a month behind on releasing 2.0, which is still in development- though it is coming along nicely. I also have a contract application I am working on as well. I figure as soon as 2.0 goes live, I can concentrate on the first iPhone application. I was worried my idea would be taken, and it was. But I think I can do it better and more according to my needs. 

That’s all for now, and I have another blog post coming on the new MacBooks and MacBook Pros that came out. I finally had a chance to see and use one, so I want to post my experiences and whether my fears were justified.