Backwards Names and Other Tidbits

February 19th, 2006

I’ve been hard at work creating a bunch of localized versions of MemoryMiner. Doing European versions is pretty straightforward, no code changes, just a quick double check of the date formats here and there.

Doing Asian languages is a different story. The biggest issue is the order in which “first” and “last” names appear. Simply put, it’s the opposite of what one uses in Western languages. No huge deal, but it did require a few code changes in order to determine that the user’s preferred system language is “Asian” (e.g. one of “ko”, “Japanese”, “zh_TW” or “zh_CN”) and then reversing the display order for a person’s full name. There’s also the order of the entry fields, and the sort ordering of the People table, to say nothing of finding a decent map server that works with two-byte characters and has coverage in Asian countries.

In other happy news, work on the Flash export system got a huge boost in the arm now that we’ve begun collaborating with a company called Metaliq. I have to say they’re by far the most professional Flash development house I’ve come across, and Punk Mommy and I looked high and low. I’m honored to have the chance to work a fellow named Beau. Here’s a sample of some of Metaliq’s work:

Can’t wait to unleash the stuff we’re working on with MemoryMiner. It really will be cool. I promise.

The World Really Is Flat

February 10th, 2006

I have to admit to being a big fan of Thomas Friedman, both his New York Times columns, and his books, particularly The World Is Flat. In the last couple of days, while I’ve been been cranking away at localization issues, it became all the more apparent how much things have changed in the way people from around the world can so easily collaborate on software projects in real time.

I was going nuts trying to reproduce a problem with MemoryMiner when running under a Japanese system language, and after posting yesterday on Cocoa-Dev, I got the help I needed. This morning, a very nice fellow in Japan, who, after having seen the same post took the trouble to track me down on iChat. He even accepted to help get a Japanese version started. How cool is that? This afternoon, after a few rounds of IM with a fellow in Norway, I finally was able to track down a problem that kept MemoryMiner from even launching on his machine (hint: never assume that even System Fonts such as Helvetica will always be available).

If I get to meet in person even a fraction of the people I’ve met on line, I will be a very happy man.

Keeping in touch

February 7th, 2006

One of my greatest pleasures is being in touch with both current and potential users of MemoryMiner. People still keep coming forward with new and interesting ways of using the software. And while it’s great to dream up new things to do, it’s more important to take care of the current group of users, some of whom have pointed out problems in our first release. As I promised early on, “we won’t let you down”, and I’m hoping that today’s release of version 1.03 provides further evidence of our commitment to contnually improving our software.

1.03 is prinicpally a bug fix release, but it adds something new and I think very signifcant: an auto-update mechanism created by Andy Matuschak called “Sparkle.” Sparkle is based on “Appcasting,” which as the name suggests, is like Podcasting in that it uses RSS feeds with enclosures to deliver information and updates for a software application. MemoryMiner subscribes to this RSS feed in order to find out about updates that we make available. The update can be done automatically at startup, or manually through the “Check For Updates” menu.

The great thing about this system is that the updates are automatically downloaded, and installed for you. It’s so much better than the typical system which still requires the user to manutally download and install updates. The user can see exactly what they’re getting, press a button and be done. It makes our lives as developers so much easier because we can release updates as and when they’re needed. We hope it will make our users’ lives easier as well.

For the technically minded who want to learn more, here’s a URL:

Now that our distribution problem has been neatly cared for, we can get back to improving the product and website.

Back to the coal mine!

Universal, Baby!

January 29th, 2006

I spent a few days this past week down at Apple headquarters in Cupertino making MemoryMiner a Universal Binary. Version 1.02 is now availlable as a free upgrade to our users, and I can say I’m really impressed by its performance on the new Intel Macs. I simply must have a new MacBook (my apologies to the faithful PowerBook G4 I’m typing this on: please know that I’ll always love you).

Many thanks to Larry and Matthew for their patient help during the lab, and to the sushi chef at Apple’s cafeteria for some very fine lunches. Yup, that’s right, Apple employees benefit from a master sushi chef, and they can even get soba that is made on the premises. How cool is that?

Post Macworld Followup

January 22nd, 2006

It’s been a busy week since Macworld, and what’s clear to me is that the real work has just begun. I’ve been in touch with lots of customers, lots of potential partners, and some really kind folks at Apple. On Saturday morning, I rose at 4 AM in order to go to a meeting of the Southern California Adobe Technical Exchange of Southern California. Rick and Lynette were extremely kind to greet me at the airport, and true to my “rock star demands” a single latte was waiting for me when I walked out of the terminal. My presentation was extremely well received, which is always heartening. Numerous people came up afterwards with kind words and suggestions. User Groups are the best, and I’m peronally hoping to be able to visit as many as I can. If you’re reading this and in a User Group, get in touch: we’re happy to support you with raffle copies, and when possible, in-person presentations.

Other interesting news for this week, I was pleased to receive a Danish translation of the software (thanks Preben), which along with the French version (thanks Baptiste) we’re off to a good start to make MemoryMiner global. A nice fellow from Japan wrote to express interest in a Japanese version, so we’re going to pursue that as well. Anyone out there want to help with a German or Italian or Spanish translation?

Tomorrow, it’s off to Apple so that the Universal Binary version can be created and tested on a wide variety of machines to make sure everything’s happy there. I don’t expect any problems, so look for a 1.01 release that’s Universal, and fixes some bugs found by our first users. Also for this coming week, we’ll be turning to the building of our Community pages, which I think will be a great place for people to share their work and show some different ways of using MemoryMiner beyond the obvious one for personal stories.

Finally, a big Thank You to CocoaRadio who interviewed me at Macworld. If you’re not familiar with CocoaRadio, you really have to check them out. While the focus is more towards developers, the Podcasts they produce tell some really great inside stories about your favorite Indie Mac software. If you love Indie media as much as I do, please support them by listening, spreading the word, and by making a Paypal donation. You’d be amazed at what a difference it makes to the people who do such amazing work.

We Won Best of Show: Now, Back to Work

January 14th, 2006

By now, many of our readers know that MemoryMiner was awarded Best of Show (along with 13 other products) at Macworld San Francisco. Receiving this award was a tremendous surprise for which we were all grateful. On the show floor, the Macworld magazine editors came by with the sign, followed by cameramen. A small crowd ensued, and the whole thing was a bit like the “Publisher’s Clearinghouse” commercials where Ed McMahon (a famous American TV personality) shows up with a film crew to announce to some sleepy housewife that she’s just won a million dollars.

Now that the weekend has come, my colleagues and I can get a little rest, but then it’s back to work. There are bugs to fix, documentation and examples to create, and tons of followup from the show. I’m personally ecstatic for the great launch we had, and I’m ever mindful that what really matters is that we continue to earn people’s trust every day by delivering on our promises.

So, with that thought in mind, I give thanks to everyone who helped us launch our product, and even more thanks to our first customers.

We won’t let you down.

Here at Macworld (Booth # 113)

January 10th, 2006

Who needs sleep? After a few late nights, things have finally come together for the 1.0 launch of MemoryMiner here at Macworld. The disk image has been uploaded, a new demo screen movie made, and the last tweaks to the web page are going up now.

And so, with 20 minutes left to go before the show floor opens, I’m downing my last sips of coffee, setting up all the demos, and generally feeling great.

Thanks to all who responded to my various appeals to “light candles, burn incense, rub the Buddha belly, etc.” I think we’re going to have a great show.

Sprint to the Finish

January 4th, 2006

I’m sitting here at Kennedy airport, waiting for the flight back to Oakland, cooling my jets by the Famiglia Pizzeria stand. As it turns out, they have supplied slices-a-plenty to many a movie star. A wall of signed head shots bears witness. Adam Sandler, Ahhnold, Rudy Giuliani, and several others stare down at me while I’m eating the sandwich I bought at Zabars this morning. The sable, Nova, sturgeon and H&H bagels are all safely stashed in my checked bags.

Meanwhile, it’s now less than one week to Macworld, and there are still so many details to tend to: booth signage, postcards, figuring out how to mount the demo monitor, PR schedule… What else? Oh yeah, the software! The XML/Media export is now working, and the “Punk Kid/Punk Mommy/Annoying Frenchman” team is busily working on what I’m hoping will be the “icing on the cake” feature. And not a second too soon.

It’s going to be down to the wire, but we’re going to make it, and it’s going to be great.

Mark my words.

Two weeks to MacWorld 2006

December 27th, 2005

Greetings from Perugia, Italy, home town of my lovely wife. We’ve been spending the holidays with our child who is having a ball with all his cousins. You gotta love Italy: the food, the art, the Etruscan towns. Here you live.

Work, that’s a little bit tricker. In order to keep chipping away at the million items on my to-do list, I’ve been using the apartment of a friend of the family which has a WiFi connection.

I try not to look too often at the calendar (lest I realize that there’s exactly two weeks before MacWorld), and the commercial debut of MemoryMiner. For those of you planning on attending, our 2 meter “pod” will be booth # 113. I’m hoping to put a bunch of faces to the names of the growing “friends of MemoryMiner”.

Meanwhile, it’s time to make some more coffee…

MemoryMiner Goes to School

December 7th, 2005

For the last few weeks, it’s been my great pleasure to work with a bunch of super-smart kids at the Marin School of Arts and Technology (MSAT), a charter school in Novato, CA (about 40 minutes north of San Francisco). MSAT is an innovative school that combines technology with a project-based learning scheme that teaches students to think for themselves, and document their work using the latest in digital media. I came across this school via a friend of a friend who is a parent there, and in the short amount of time I’ve been involved, I have to say that the experience has completely turned my head around. These kids are sharp, forward thinking, and dare I say it, brutally honest.

When first thinking about MemoryMiner, I figured that a bunch of “punk kids” would never be interested in personal or family history. As it turns out, they are, and they themselves have a lot to say. I look forward to working with them and other high school students, around the country, and hopefully around the world.

I have a few people to thank for this opportunity, namely Ruth and Steve (the parents) Tony (the teacher) and Jacob, Aaron, Evie and Cesar (the punk kids).

Thank you all.