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Blog archives for April 2007

Happy Birthday, Apple II

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Today, as the tax deadline looms, my thoughts have turned nostalgic with flashbacks of my first programming experiences. For as Scott Stevenson points out, today is the thirtieth anniversary of the Apple II.

As several folks have been pointing out lately, Apple has really defied the odds with not one (Apple II), not two (the Mac), but three (Mac OS X) amazing, revolutionary products in their lifetime. But the Apple II started it all -- for Apple and for me.

My first exposure to an Apple came in probably about 1982 or so, playing a game called Snooper Troops in my neighbor's basement. Several years later, I was introduced to the Logo language at school, where I got to control lines and drawings on the screen in much the same way that I direct my LEGO Mindstorms NXT today.

A few more years after that, the big one came along. While we all played Oregon Trail, I found in the back of the classroom a book on programming text adventure games in BASIC. While I had had some exposure to BASIC with an old TI-99/4A at home (how's that for a consumer product name), I never got beyond simple line drawing and single-purpose programs. But finding BASIC Fun With Adventure Games in 1988, combined with an understanding teacher who essentially let me turn in homework early and spend time typing in the 65K program by hand instead of being in class, is what gave me my first taste of text command parsing, control structures, databases of information, and the importance of saving my work frequently onto a 360K floppy.

I spent a lot of time on that Apple IIe, typing, proofreading, and saving. The program couldn't be run until fully complete, which took days -- maybe even weeks -- but I'll never forgot the thrill of creating, then using, my own application -- even if I did already know every possible outcome of being a CIA agent, breaking into Russian Ambassador Griminski's house, and trying to find enough evidence to incriminate him. Computers and spy role playing -- could it get any better?

For all of this I have Steve and Woz -- and my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Wright -- to thank. Here's to you.

Pukka 1.5: Who says nothing good happens on Friday the 13th?

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We're happy to announce today the release of Pukka 1.5! This release has lots of goodies, so you can either cut to the chase and go download it or read on for more information.

Pukka 1.5 brings three classes of changes: improved performance, new features, and minor changes. I'll summarize some of them here. As always, you can get the full list within Pukka's self-updating functionality or straight from the RSS changelog.

First and foremost, we've done the near-impossible and made Pukka launch faster! Many parts of the UI are now loaded on demand so that the initial application is leaner and meaner. We think you'll like the improvement -- but after all, one bounce in the dock is still one bounce ;-)

Second in the performance department, Pukka is now much gentler on the bookmarking API. In recent weeks, seems to have implemented some checks that would cause background caching of bookmarks to result in errors. This was particularly true for users who posted many links quickly. We've optimized this process and now you should rarely see this issue at all.

On a related note, Pukka now features a pull-out console for the times when things are not going smoothly. Perhaps you've entered your password wrong or the API is just down. Now if you like, you can dig into the problem a bit and see if it's something you've done or if it's the service instead.

Speaking of services, Pukka now supports alternate API URLs. What this means is that if the API URL ever changes (info on that here) and we don't get to it first, you can keep on bookmarking. However, more importantly, Pukka can now work with services other than as long as they mirror the API. One popular service that does this is Ma.gnolia (more info here). More on Pukka and alternate API URLs a bit later.

In order to support some of these new features, Pukka's preferences have gotten a visual overhaul as well. The pictures say it all:

Old New

I won't go into everything else that's new, but a couple other minor features that made their way in include:

  • Pukka can now quit immediately after posting for the ultimate in low overhead.
  • You can configure Pukka to bounce the dock icon upon successful posting. Useful if you don't use the sound effects or Growl.
  • The tag suggestion delay can now be configured in the preferences between None, Short, Medium, and Long delay.
  • You can now enable or disable the menus of accounts, tags, and bookmarks that appear in the dock menu.
  • A new intro screencast is available from the Help menu.

Whew... ok, that's it -- now go get Pukka!

To WWDC or not to WWDC?

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There is an interesting discussion going on right now on the macsb (Macintosh Software Business) discussion list about whether Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is worth it or not. I should say, not whether it's worth it in general, but whether it's worth it for the small, indie developer. When you factor in a $1300-1600 ticket, hotel in and flight to and from San Francisco, and all of the inevitable peripheral expenses, it can really add up for an independent developer. I know it does for me.

Like Mike Zornek, I too have recently gone indie with a combination of consulting and shareware development. And I also went to Wolf's fantastic C4 conference last October in Chicago. As my first Mac conference, I had an amazing time and came home with so much energy -- in fact, that week I made the decision to go indie. Combine that with a great time in January at the Leopard Tech Talk. It wasn't just the tech, but also the general level of enthusiasm and getting to meet lots of other developers as well. I was sure I'd be at WWDC.

On the other hand, though, saving my pennies and waiting until such time as it's easier to go -- less of a stretch -- is probably a good idea. As much as I'd like to be in the audience when The Steve takes the stage and wows us all with the next insanely great developer thing, perhaps it's not in the cards. On top of an ADC Select Membership, it's just difficult for an independent starting out.

It's times like these that I'm really grateful for more affordable conferences like South By Southwest and C4. Also, I'll reiterate my ever-present offer: if you're a Mac developer in the Washington, DC area, feel free to drop me a line and we can put our brains together over a drink sometime. It's the next best thing to the big conferences in my book.

Drupal meets Cocoa at the corner of XML and RPC

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I had the pleasure of giving a "lightning talk" at the Washington DC Drupal MeetUp last night. Given the chance to talk about something vaguely Drupal-related for no more than five minutes, I gave a brief overview of taking advantage of the built-in XML-RPC capability of Drupal by showing a quick Cocoa app that I put together for file uploading with the asset module. I originally wrote asset.module over a year ago while working at EchoDitto but I recently extended it by adding XML-RPC capability (specifically for this talk, as a matter of fact). You can check out the slides, module, and app (including source, released under the BSD License) over here.

Happy uploading!