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Blog archives for November 2007


Last week, I finally got a chance to participate in an Ironcoder contest and I took second place! I've never been able to find the time during the previous, weekend-long contests, but since Ironcoder VII was nine days long, I managed to squeeze some time in during the week and put together an entry. Read on for some more info.

First off, a caveat: Ironcoder is a programming contest, by programmers and for programmers, so don't expect anything particularly useful to come out of it (nor my entry). Entrants are writing to show off programming chops under pressure.

The contest theme was "Retro" and the preferred programming toolset was Core Animation. I diverged a tad (which is allowed) and instead used Quartz Composer, a visual programming language which was introduced on Tiger, created my animations there, and wrapped it in Cocoa to do the normal things that applications do.

I described my entry, called "Pop Rock", in the README file thusly:

Pop Rock takes the Ironcoder theme of Retro and the API of Core Animation and combines them as a retro rock concert app launcher. As each app is launched, it is a featured performer on stage, playing a guitar riff in front of the rest of your running apps. The more apps you are running at the time, the more popular the launched app and the better the crowd reaction.

The idea for Pop Rock just kind of popped into my head after about a day or two of latent thinking and once I started, I couldn't stop (as my wife can attest). The pressure was fun! Also, I mentioned it in the project notes, but again I just want to give a shout out to fellow Mac indie Mike Zornek of Clickable Bliss for his MegaManEffect, which I adore and which gave me the idea for an app launcher style of project.

I originally had the idea to use iusethis to fetch app popularity ratings, but this proved to be too slow to be useful at app launch time, so I fell back to a basic count of the number of other applications running, which was much quicker.

Since the app was built on Quartz Composer and not on Core Animation, it runs on Tiger too. I've compiled a version for both Tiger and Leopard (though I haven't had a chance to test it on Tiger yet).

Pop Rock screenshot thumbnail

Pop Rock (click for larger screenshot)

Download (7.42MB) | Source Code

You can read a bit more about the contest results over at Ars Technica or on the Ironcoder blog. Congratulations as well to Geoff Pado of Elgebar Studios for his winning entry, Etcher, a really great Etch A Sketch tribute!

Another bug fix release: Pukka 1.6.4

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I've just posted another maintenance release of Pukka that squashes a few more Leopard bugs. Besides fixing a couple occasional hangs and crashes, it is now more robust in how it handles issues with the API, particularly if you are setting up Pukka for the first time and there are network or capacity issues with, but also for seasoned users under the same conditions. I've also fixed a couple of very small issues under the hood. You can go grab Pukka now or upgrade right in the application.

I've found that it can be very tricky to write an application that takes its primary value from an online service that can occasionally have reliability issues. When I set out to write Pukka, it was primarily as a client, not as a bookmark manager on the desktop, and I plan on keeping it that way. So when the conditions are less than ideal, it's very important to inform the user as to what's happening and what to do next, doubly so if they are running the application for the first time and can't use all of the functionality right away as a result. I think I've done better with this in 1.6.4 and am better keeping it in mind going forward in order to provide the best possible user experience.

Also, the transition to Leopard has been an important education for me about major operating system upgrades from a developer point of view. I camped out in line for Panther, Tiger, and Leopard at Apple Stores and have assisted many people in upgrading their computers and networks, but I've never bridged an OS transition with an active desktop software product. Although I've had access to Leopard since 2006, as a small shop there is a big difference between my testing and my user base upgrading and putting Pukka through its paces. It's definitely been an education and I'm doubly appreciative for a patient and loyal user base. Thanks, everyone!

Look it up!

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Now that Leopard shows Dictionary results in Spotlight, I recently discovered that every Mac now may show Pukka as a Spotlight search result! As you can imagine, I have a lot of things on my Mac related to Pukka, from source code to images to emails to iChats, but the fact that everyone's dictionary, and by extension, Spotlight, now has its namesake word gave me the idea to revisit just where the name came from.

Nearly two years ago, a then-coworker gave me the idea for Pukka and, since I had been waiting for the right opportunity to create a Mac app, I had a prototype going within a week. When it came time to give the app a name, I came up empty, but then my wife suggested the name Pukka after a word that British chef Jamie Oliver used all the time on his shows and that we took to mean "delicious" or "tasty". As you can imagine, this was a nice fit -- a unique word, short but memorable, with a cool, somewhat hidden meaning that mirrored, the service with which it interacted.

I didn't realize until some time later that the word had more of a meaning of "excellent" than good in the culinary sense, so maybe I would have backed off a little on the horn-tootin' had I realized that ;-)

Anyway, now, a couple years later, who would have guessed that my Pukka would be the number one Google result or that many people would come to depend on it? It's a been a fun couple years and I still have big plans in store for Pukka (and some other apps), so stay tuned!

Pukka bug fix release

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I've just released Pukka 1.6.3, which fixes several issues on Tiger and Leopard, including a hang and a potential crash.

As usual, you can update right in Pukka itself by choosing Pukka -> Check For Updates... while the application is running, or you can download Pukka from its page.