Firefox Download Gotcha

Posted April 22, 2008 by pmesoftware
Categories: Technical

Learned about this one the hard way. I was testing to make sure that the latest release of CaptionIt! had been uploaded correctly to the website by clicking on the download link. I went ahead and ran the install and was very surprised to discover I had just installed an out of date version of the software. I immediately thought I had messed something up and had uploaded the wrong version to my server and that everyone else was downloading this old version as well.

I fired up my test VM and performed a download and install and it was actually the correct version. Puzzled I performed another install on my dev machine and it was the wrong version. I finally realized that Firefox was caching the download URL and giving me a local copy of the install program from a few days ago instead of the latest on the server. I would have expected that Firefox would always force a download of something you click on but it isn’t the case.

CaptionIt! 2.0 Released

Posted April 18, 2008 by pmesoftware
Categories: Uncategorized

After working hard through the long, cold winter nights, CaptionIt! 2.0 has been released. This new version incorporates a lot of the ideas and feedback I got from the first release, with the biggest improvement being that you can now interact with captions using the mouse, much like how PowerPoint lets you drag text boxes around and resize them. Now you are no longer limited to placing a caption in one of 9 predefined locations, giving you tremendous flexibility over the layout of captions.

I also introduced several new styles including speech balloons, text boxes, and thought bubbles. The bubbles were the most interesting to implement, in terms of programming a pleasing cloud-like bubble. You can now select the border, fill, and position the tail of the caption to point to a particular location.

The next big change was an overhaul of the interface. I switched from the Office 2003 light blue color scheme to a more neutral dark gray scheme. This was modeled after Adobe’s Lightroom and Apple’s Aperture professional photo imaging applications. These programs are designed by user interface experts and are worthy of emulation. For example, the dark gray palette helps you focus better and the color composition of the photo and is less distracting than the light blue color scheme was. I also got rid of the directory browser panel since it occupied too much space, reducing the canvas or workspace you have.

This release is a milestone in my microISV’s journey and next I will turn my efforts to marketing and improving the visibility of the product.

Working on new CaptionIt! features

Posted October 27, 2007 by pmesoftware
Categories: Technical

CaptionIt! is making steady progress on the sales front. Making enough to support my sushi habit at least. It is interesting to see the ebb and flow of visitors and sales. Some days see a lot of traffic and downloads, and other days barely a peep.

I’ve been hard at work improving and reworking the CaptionIt! interface. The next update, which I am estimating at a mid-November release, will add a Microsoft Powerpoint style interface that lets you drag and drop captions on your image. This is a much more natural and intuitive model than the fixed caption placement system in the current version. I’m also adding an exciting feature which I think users will really enjoy. I’ll have more to share once I have some images to go with it.

Changing the interface to an existing program is always a tricky thing. Users grow accustomed to using software a certain way, and can find it confusing or irritating to have things changed on them. In my case I think revising CaptionIt!’s interface is worth it since being able to manually drag a caption around on a picture is a very natural way to position it.

How to Stay Focused on Your Project

Posted October 18, 2007 by pmesoftware
Categories: Productivity

I made an interesting observation the other day. I had a couple hours to kill before picking up my wife from class so I stopped at a Borders bookstore to browse the latest tech books and work on the next update to CaptionIt! I swung by the cafe section, ordered a latte and fired up my MacBook Pro to do some coding. Borders does not offer free WiFi, instead they force you to sign up for T-mobile. Lame and definitely not worth it for the couple hours I was going to be there.

Not having Internet access was incredibly productive! I entered what is known as a state of ‘Flow’, defined by wikipedia as “…the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing, characterized by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.” The two hours flew by and I had gotten a lot done.

Having easy internet access is just too distracting and makes it difficult to stay focused. My current rule now is to close all web browser and email programs for at least an hour when I want to work on my project. If I have to look something up online, I fire up the browser, find the answer and quickly shut down the browser. I do not leave it open, tantilizing me with Youtube videos or worse. Give it a try!

Using Java for a shareware application

Posted October 5, 2007 by pmesoftware
Categories: Technical

I recently posted a question on the Joel on Software forum asking what others experiences have been when using Java as the implementation platform for their shareware application. See the post here .

To deploy a Java desktop application on a customer’s computer requires that they have the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) installed. The JRE is certainly not as widespread as some other platforms, for example the Flash plug-in which everyone needs to check out the latest YouTube video. Every time you add a step to a potential customer’s shareware installation, you set up a barrier, or at least a speed bump between customer and your software. In this case, the speed bump involves downloading an additional 14MB for the JRE. This may not be too bad in the age of widespread broadband, but it then walks the user through a wizard asking them to make certain choices. If the user balks at any of these steps and cancels, you’re sunk. However, my current product, CaptionIt!, pays the same runtime tax except to Microsoft since it uses the .NET 2.0 framework and that’s a beefy 23MB download. This has caused far fewer problems than I expected, so I believe the same will hold true for a Java based app.

Several people also felt that Java GUI’s don’t perform well or don’t look as good as native GUI’s. Java has fought a torturous uphill battle to shake this image, and I suspect it may never truly succeed. The initial Java 1.0.2 release came with a GUI library known as the Abstract Windowing Toolkit or AWT. This AWT, it was not so good. Both from an API perspective as well as interface experience, it had very poor performance and was very difficult to work with. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So now, more than 10 years later, people still complain about Java GUI’s being to slow and ugly. The reality, and I speak as someone who has cranked out Java Swing apps for the last 6 years is that they are now quite snappy, use hardware-accelerated operations for drawing, and can look pretty slick with some tweaks here and there.

Probably one of the most convincing things mentioned was that with minimal effort, your app can run on Windows/Mac/Linux. Now the Windows user base may be far larger than the other 2, but why artificially limit yourself? I suspect that for next product I will have to think long and hard about moving to Java.

First Sale!

Posted October 3, 2007 by pmesoftware
Categories: Sales

I just learned that I received my first sale as I was sleeping last night. It truly is an amazing feeling to wake up to money magically entering your PayPal account. But more importantly, that someone out there felt you had created something of value to them that they were willing to part with their hard-earned cash for. Maybe the weakened dollar helped since it was a foreign sale!

Having worked in a corporate software environment for a long time, it is very easy to be insulated from the users that your software ultimately makes contact with. For example, if your code happens to be the middleware that talks to the backend database, or the well-crafted web service to kick off some process, you may have so many degrees of separation from real users that you don’t really get a sense if you are making their lives easier. If anything, the feedback is mostly negative since you get a stream of bug reports, but not much in gratitude or encouragement.

MicroISV’s invert this since you don’t have any corporate walls or layers of QA to hide behind. On the other hand, each sale goes straight to your bottom line!

Halo 3 ruined my microISV

Posted September 27, 2007 by pmesoftware
Categories: Uncategorized

Unless you’ve been living in a sensory deprivation tank, Halo 3 has stormed the shores of gaming. Even with the avalanche of hype and marketing, the game is the real deal and has consumed my valuable biz time as my squadmates and I fight off hordes Covenant and the Flood. I estimate a couple more days to play through the Campaign on Heroic and to get Halo somewhat out of my system. I’ll have to give the multiplayer competitive scene a shot, but I’m not much into playing against strangers. In other news, I’ve managed to wrap up my bank’s onerous business account application. Next, I’ll be doing some more research on the competition as I formulate my next product.