A Superficial Review of TaskPaper (Cuz superficial is all my backlog allows)

It doesn’t matter how much we complain about time, we’re not being realistic or honest about our use of it. Everyone gets the same amount every day; that is, if we’re getting the whole day. But asking for more time to do things has to strike someone as having too many things to do, and being grown up enough to abandon or postpone those things for which there isn’t time.

There are plenty of Time Management systems out there. Gettings Things Done (GTD) is a recent one with a lot of buzz and adopters. There are plenty of GTD software packages for those who prefer computer-based systems to paper, including two versions for Mori: Jeff Fisher’s mGTD plugin and Jim Harrison’s MoriGTD scripted system.

Now, I’ve had the audiobook for GTD for years but I’ve never listened to it. (I did at least listen to Merlin Mann’s David Allen interviews when I was on the road.) And now that I’m developing (and using) Mori I’ve even installed the mGTD plugin, but that was more for testing purposes than actually knowing what GTD was about (or how to use it).

So when Jesse introduced his own GTD app, TaskPaper, as a simpler way to getting things done with “paper-like simplicity” I was of course concerned that it would cannibalize Mori sales. But TaskPaper only manages tasks, not notes like Mori does. So unless your notes are one-liners used only to manage your activities, you’ll still need to grab a copy of Mori. ;)

But the real reason not to be concerned is TaskPaper is an awesome app in its own right. Jesse prodded me a couple times to try it, and even provided me with a license. So the next time I needed to jot down a task reminder, instead of using Mori, I opened up TaskPaper and gave it a try.

Now I have to admit, being both a GTD noob and a programmer, TaskPaper’s interface threw me at first. Let’s face it, any device with less than five buttons on it leaves me scratching my head. But I do know how to use an outliner. So with that interface in mind I set out to discover just how it was earning such wonderful reviews.

But TP isn’t exactly an outliner. It just uses an outline-like interface, and I emphasize that point. You’ll be productive very quickly, but I also got my list complicated very quickly by adding sub-sub-headings to my project. (But you have to expect that from a GTD noob and a programmer.) The beauty is that by using a very simple text editor/outliner interface, TP doesn’t complicate the ability to change your organization of tasks and projects. Nor does it complicate your ability to add extra info about the task (its metadata). Avoiding special columns and a form interface, TP instead uses the following special text characters to signify meaning: “:” for projects, “-” for tasks, “[tab]” to nest tasks within other tasks (which are themselves nested within a project), any non-reserved character for notes, and “@” for the interesting context.

Contexts are GTD’s way of giving you a way of lumping similar activities together. They aren’t necessarily part of the same project, but just things which are done at the same place (e.g., @home, @mall), the same type of activity (@computer, @phone), and so on. TP refers to them as tags, and uses the normal GTD syntax (I guess) to refer to them.

TP’s interface is very sparse, which means less clutter and distractions. It’s nonetheless powerful, letting you filter to a specific project or context. The point is to spend more time doing your activities than actually organizing what they are. And TaskPaper handles that beautifully (and elegantly). I now understand what the Hog Bay Notebook users have been clamoring for!

I also have a better understanding of how GTD works, even more so after I sat through the mGTD screencast put up by Jeff, which in turn helped me make better use of TP and GTD.

There are definitely some features I’d like to see added, though:

The UI signifies task completion by changing the text style to strike-through, but the only way to mark the task as completed textually is by adding the context @done or the keyboard shortcut cmd-D. (You can also mark it completed by clicking on the open circle in the left margin or the menu item “Project > Mark as Done”, but that requires lifting your hands from the keyboard to use the mouse. I would prefer some other delimiter such as “x”, or a checkmark to signify completion, just for continuity.

I’d like to see true tags supported, perhaps using Chris Messina’s “#” tag delimiter.

So while there are some features I’d like to see added for more sophisticated capabilities, for GTD noobs like myself (still) and those who just want to work and not manage yet another system, TaskPaper should be the first stop to GTD (and priority) mastery!

In time, I might become profficient enough at GTD to be able to use mGTD or MoriGTD. But for now I just need to start the “filtering the inbasket thing” to help things along. That, and redefine my understanding of the word “superficial”.

Keep Tabs on Apokalypse Software Between Blog Postings With Twitter

Just a simple reminder, if you’ve got questions or suggestions regarding any Apokalypse products, I invite you to post them at the forums if they’ll be of benefit and/or interest to the communities which use the products.

Post feature requests and bug reports so I keep track of what needs to be done to keep these products relevant to the work you do. The issue tracking system even has a polling feature which allows you to vote on the most important issues for you.

For any communication which doesn’t apply to the community of users here, I invite you to contact me via private correspondence or iChat/AIM/IRC (huperniketes).

However, if you just want to know what’s currently transpiring, and what’s going on in-between the lengthy times between my irregular posts (I’ve got a huge backlog of unfinished posts, I do apologize), there’s another way to see what I’m up to. That technique is through the Twitter service.

Here’s a simple description of how Twitter is useful for me to keep you aware of what’s going on:

Ed Yourdon, whose Techniques of Program Structure and Design revolutionized my thinking and methods in developing software, has written a great example of why I use Twitter.

I invite you to follow my tweets, or those for Mori and Clockwork product info. I also invite you to sign up and send your own message to any of those accounts.

Web Site Issues Persist Still, Sometimes I’m to Blame, And “Hello, Mori 1.6.11!”

In spite of updating WordPress a couple months ago, a spammer has managed to hack his junk into the blog webpages. You can see it at the end the page source. It’s after the closing <html> tag, where browsers ignore it, but Google doesn’t. Looks like I’ll be dumping WP to handle the blog, and just let Drupal do it all, at least for the time being.

Another issue I frequently see in the logs is user activity which is denied. A few in particular are some pages which anonymous users were trying to access. Today, however, I noticed that a normal user tried to access one of those pages so I decided to investigate. That’s when I discovered he tried adding an entry to the Mori User Story page and the system refused him! How can we refuse a user’s desire to add his own story to the story page? So I fished around in the admin controls until I found a couple that might have prevented him from doing this generous thing for us. So, hopefully, he’ll once again feel the creative mood strike him to share his experiences with us. And if this oversight and ignorance on my part also hindered your desire to let the world know about the awesome work you’re doing in Mori, please give it another shot. The community is certainly happy to find more inspiration by what you’re doing. After releasing Mori 1.6.11, I know I certainly am!

That’s right. Mori 1.6.11 is finally out, and it’s got the major smackdown on a few nasties. First, problem #2608, freezing during Spotlight updating after emptying the trash. Fixed. Second, (hmm…no problem number. Oh, well.) user’s autosave interval not being respected by Mori. Fixed. And finally, a problem that I finally managed to isolate after the beta went out (which was this past Monday, July 7, 2008): intermittent crash when updating the live search database. That long-standing bug is now dead! (It’s so old I don’t even know where the bug report for it is.)

Anyway, enough progress has been made to Mori’s internal structure since the last update, that except for taking care of some long-neglected responsibilities this weekend, I’ve been working on the polish and features that will make it into 1.7! And I understand how frustrating it is not to know the details of what they are, but it would’ve given Mori’s competitors a chance to duplicate before it’s release. But I’m looking forward to its release so I can finally share what they are with you.

In the meantime, there’s still some issue with the mGTD plugin. So there might be a Mori 1.6.12 soon if we get the cause for it, and any other open bugs, nailed down in time.

P.S. Did you notice the View item in the toolbar? It allows you to select either table (immediate descendants) or outline mode for the entries view. I enabled that feature a few versions back. Give it a try, if you haven’t before. Also, try out the options for Layout in the View menu. The menu isn’t quite friendly enough yet, but it still gives you a lot of flexibility to work in your own style.

An Apology to Mori Customers – A New Mori Test Version Has Been Released

Back on August 27 of this year I stated the release of Mori 1.7 was imminentdue to the acquisition of an encryption utility which would provide the core of the reworked 1.7 feature list. That has now been four months. So once again I failed to deliver on the expectations I’ve set before you, and for that I apologize. I’ve just uploaded a new alpha test release (code-named Oneill) for your inspection, but before I list the specific features it contains I’ll explain why it’s taken so long, and why it’s only an alpha.

After I announced the changed development plan, one forum member wrote,

Most of the announced features [ie, “LinkBack, customized labels, font settings for source & entry views, better keyboard navigation, outlining improvements, self-downloading updates, and now encryption”] have either been tried to some degree in the failed versions, or are of marginal usefulness.

In my response I outlined the terrible decision I made to replace Mori’s view system with a more advanced, revamped one and how it was important to get new features (including encryption) into users’ hands now. I also disagreed with his characterization of the new feature set as trivial and tried before. However, I also offered to let you, Mori’s users, decide whether to include encryption in Mori and whether I should delay Mori 1.7 to get the new view system working or continue with the new course I had set to produce a new version quickly.

Although only 11 votes were cast on whether to delay, it was overwhelmingly pro-delay (even with my 1-star vote). So I decided to compromise and add some of the new view system and the originally promised features to Mori now, and continue making piecemeal changes afterwards.

Of course I should’ve mentioned my decision to you before, and for not explaining it to you I’m sorry. Once I made the decision, however, I just withdrew and set about getting the job done. (Although I hadn’t entirely withdrawn. As some have noted on the forum, I am far more communicative on Twitter as it limits content to 140 characters, which is very lightweight as a conversing medium. Unfortunately, I’m only aware of one Mori user who’s on Twitter and has made his presence known. Hi, Dale!)

So now that I’ve put out a new Oneill release, what does it actually contain? To quote from the release notes:

  • Multi-line rows is in operation. There is a speed issue (not having it), and a horrible display bug when adding characters to a multi-line row, but the text displays correctly once edits are done.
  • Users can now set different font styles for source and entry lists. Currently this setting affects all docs being displayed.
  • Notes can be zoomed in and out either via a pop-up menu on the footer, or through the new “View > Zoom” menu (and corresponding shortcut keys).
  • Users with MacBook Airs, and late 2008 model MacBooks and MacBook Pros can use gestures to zoom in and out as well.
  • Users with a 3Dconnexion SpaceNavigator can use it zoom in and out as well.
  • Various internal changes.

That’s right, you can adjust the font sizes for the source & entry lists, and zoom into your notes to make it easier for you to work with your info.

Multi-line entries for those extra-long topics or more complex outlines, as a start for the type of formatting you’ll be able to have in your Mori notebooks.

Support for gesturing and alternate input devices, starting with the multitouch trackpads on all the current Mac laptops and the 3Dconnexion Space Navigator.

So that’s where Mori’s development is now. I have more changes coming shortly, but I have a long drive ahead of me: Silicon Valley and Macworld 2009.

An Urgent Mori 1.6.10 Release To Correct Bugs, and Workaround Spotlight Flaws

While making the changes to Mori’s code for 1.7, I encountered some oddities in test results, and it turned out there was a bug which I had introduced in an earlier release. While it doesn’t appear to endanger data in Mori notebooks, it might not return all the results you expect in a search, or in entry summaries.

In addition, it has what I hope are a couple of performance improvements, continued improvements to Italian localization, and a work-around for Leopard’s insistence to treat non-Apple Spotlight metadata files as third-class citizens.

Normally when Spotlight discovers a file has been created or changed, it will ask the responsible program to figure out what’s inside, and feed it back to Spotlight. But one of the drawbacks to Spotlight’s design is it lacks the ability to define containers, or documents which contain logically distinct elements such as the chapters of a book, pictures in a photo album, or entries from a Mori notebook; and which can nest other containers as well. Treating a document as a single entity, Spotlight will open a document at the beginning (or maybe the place where the cursor was the last time it was open), even if what you’re looking for is somewhere near the end.

Because it doesn’t understand that a file can have distinct elements, the development teams for other Apple software (e.g., iPhoto, Safari, Stickies, etc.) came up with a scheme to trick Spotlight by creating new files with the data for those elements. So that’s how Jesse coded Mori’s behavior: duplicate the data for that logically distinct element in its own file. A separate copy of each element’s data in its own file. One extra file per element. That means the space taken up by your data is easily half again more than if Apple just added a container definition for Spotlight metadata (once for the notebook, another for the entry metadata file, and the third copy in Spotlight’s database).

But that isn’t all. While we’d like to keep all those extra files inside a notebook bundle (a directory which Finder treats as a file), because Spotlight treats a document as a single element it won’t look for those files inside the bundle. So Mori creates those files in the metadata cache folder (in your Library/Caches/Metadata folder), along with the metadata files from some of Apple’s programs. If you open the metadata folder and look at these files, you’ll see they have numbers to help Mori figure out which entry contains that data. But when you do a search using the Spotlight menu, and when you select menu item ‘Show All’ and the results are displayed in the Finder, you won’t see the numbers; you’ll see the titles for the entries they represent.

Leopard however, isn’t so democratic; which is why users where complaining about the entries when Leopard was released. First off, it ignores any non-Apple metadata files in the cache folder unless you set your Spotlight preferences to use those files. Secondly, it will ignore the title info embedded in the entry metadata file and just display the file’s actual title, meaning the number. How’s that for Apple undermining the work of third-party developers?

So the workaround I came up with is to add the entry’s title (or Untitled, if it has none) at the beginning of the filename, so you at least have an idea which entry matches your search terms.

(Thanks for wasting about a whole month total of my development time on that alone, Apple. I feel the love.)

I am, of course, more than happy to eat crow should I be proven to be completely mistaken or speaking from out-dated information. It’s easily worth it in order to improve the user experience.

Regardless of the rationale for the design decisions, enjoy, and thank you for being part of the community and continuing to support Mori!

Late Night Cruisin’

Ever since I decided to treat my blog more like Twitter, and just write micro-events rather than an entire epistle, writing either has come to a virtual standstill. (Except of course for the firestorm that has been Mori v1.6.4, v.1.6.5, and v.1.6.6 which is now undergoing 3rd party testing and I’m still trying to squash that “freezes while writing in Leopard” bug.)

Option-clicking the ‘Run’ icon in Xcode3 causes Mori to execute, then gdb starts up and attaches to Mori’s process, then Mori quits. Huh?

As if that weren’t enough, everytime gdb starts up, it spews out a lot of warnings about object files it can’t find. Like so,

warning: Could not find object file “/BinaryCache/Libsystem/Libsystem-111~176/Root/usr/local/lib/system/libc_debug.a(errno.o)” – no debug information available for “/SourceCache/Libc/Libc-498/sys/errno.c”.

warning: Could not find object file “/usr/local/lib/system/libcommonCrypto_debug.a(md2_dgst.o)” – no debug information available for “/SourceCache/CommonCrypto/CommonCrypto-32207/Source/Digest/md2_dgst.c”.

warning: Could not find object file “/usr/local/lib/system/libcommonCrypto_debug.a(md4_dgst.o)” – no debug information available for “/SourceCache/CommonCrypto/CommonCrypto-32207/Source/Digest/md4_dgst.c”.

warning: Could not find object file “/usr/local/lib/system/libcommonCrypto_debug.a(md5_dgst.o)” – no debug information available for “/SourceCache/CommonCrypto/CommonCrypto-32207/Source/Digest/md5_dgst.c”.

warning: Could not find object file “/usr/local/lib/system/libinfo_debug.a(gethnamaddr.o)” – no debug information available for “gethnamaddr.c”.

warning: Could not find object file “/var/tmp/Libm/Libm-287.1~6/Libm.build/Libm_debug.a.build/Objects-normal/ppc/scalb.o” – no debug information available for “/SourceCache/Libm/Libm-287.1/Source/PowerPC/scalb.c”.

What kind of railroad are we running here?

Anyway, at this point I’m planning on changing the file format after v1.7 ships. It’s just making it too tough to do some fixes. Mori still won’t require Leopard for some time yet, but I have to make my job, and putting out updates, somewhat simpler.

Mori v1.6.6 Clearing for Takeoff

It looks like the showstoppers which were part of 1.6.4, 1.6.5 (and even 1.6.3 counting the toolbar) have been dealt with. The latest build even seems to function normally in Leopard.

Thus, now that Leopard 10.5.1 has been released, and my Leopard install was for testing purposes anyway and not as my primary development environment, I’m going to install it and test the 1.6.6 build against it as well to make sure it still works. That is, after a stopover in Tigerland just to make sure that nothing in Leopard loused up my main volume.

The problems in Leopard appear to result, not from changes in the architecture of the Cocoa classes, but in how stringent the standards for values passed to them are, and how they deal with values which are unacceptable (invalid parameters and exception handling). Sure, code should only pass correct data all the time, but sometimes our expectations are off. Sometimes we get incorrect data ourselves (Garbage In Garbage Out), and sometimes, bad things happen in the real world in which computers operate.

Tiger used to be somewhat more non-chalant about this issues. It would ignore all but the most egregious problems, unless the programmer or the user asked otherwise. Leopard seems to be more restrictive and demanding of Mac developers and the code they write. Again, not bad by any means, except for the unexpected and the change in behavior for things that used to work before.

So, with more testing and better debugging (so why can’t I get “debug” suffix to work?!), we’ll hopefully see this occur less often in Mori’s code.

Now…back to that checklist.

In Mori 1.6.6, Windows are Still Coming Up Empty…Sometimes

Unfortunately, one of the fixes I thought I made didn’t carry over from one of the work directories (four at last count) I used to develop for the various MOX versions.

Or I was completely delirious at the time and never made the fix at all.

Whatever the cause, 1.6.6 still shows empty windows as a result of the toolbar problem. You can see when Mori gets confused by checking your console logs. You’ll see an entry like

2007-11-20 11:58:08.592 Mori[8503] *** -[NSCFArray objectAtIndex:]: index (0) beyond bounds (0)

Here’s the cause, and one of three possible paths you can take to get around this while you wait for the, hopefully finally fixed at last, v1.6.7 update: In order to improve your user experience (are you feeling it?), I wanted to move your old toolbar preferences settings to the new internal naming system. So it performs a check to see if the two settings are different, erasing the current one and copying over the new one if they are. However, if your previous toolbar had more items than the current one does, it will come up short during the compare and thus cause a Cocoa exception.

Mea culpa. Mea fixa isa cominga uppa.

    In the meantime, here are three ways to get your notebooks back all shiny and fresh.

  1. Add a bunch of extra items to your toolbar. Probably at the very beginning where they’re easier to get to and remove.
  2. Rename your preferences file (com.apokalypsesoftware.Mori.plist in your Preferences folder) until such time as Mori 1.6.7 is released and things have settled down. Or, if it doesn’t particularly bother you to personalize your toolbar again you could just delete that file.
  3. Just open all those important notebooks. Close them. Re-open those notebooks. All your data now appears because Mori has updated the toolbar info. (Or you can just do this for those notebooks you need for the moment. The fix will be released shortly…once I check a few things here first!)
  4. My apologies again to those who were alarmed at opening an empty notebook.

Mori v1.6.6 is Taxiing to the Runway


I just shipped the latest Release Candidate (Mori 1.6.6alpha89) to the beta testers, and I feel pretty certain it’s fine.

I’m about to do some final checks in Leopard (10.5.1) and may even install 10.5 again to double-check there while I await word from the testers.

I’m going to add a special dialog thanking the beta testers for their bravery and helpful comments and pointers. Not only have they helped to nail the big “empty windows” and Leopard freezing/crashing bugs, but their insights and explanations have revealed some things that I wasn’t aware of in Mori’s functionality! It should take maybe two or three days of coding and testing to add to Mori.

But it’ll have to wait as I know a lot of folks have been patiently enduring the problems in hope of a quick and stable release. So let me just thank them here for their fantastic service to me and Mori’s user community:

Bob Embry
Michael Koch
Rolf Schmolling
Joe Wicentowski

For their patient vigil and endurance, I am grateful.

Probable Release of v1.6.7 Today

Since it appears that the users still experiencing the “empty window” or missing notes problem are running Leopard and have some strange mixture of preferences (particularly “Enable check spelling as you type in new windows”), I should be able to get some update out today to Tiger users at least.

I received word a short while ago from users experiencing this specific symptom, and byakkie, who thankfully took the time to experiment with all the preferences to help pin down the most likely causes, regarding the results of running an experimental build to deal with the big remaining issues. With those results, and knowing it’s Leopard-specific (those more stringent parameter requirements!) I’ll reboot into Leopard in a moment and get down to exorcising that gremlin. If it’s like the other Leopard problems encountered it should be relatively easy to find the problem, and hopefully not-too-difficult to engineer a solution.

While I had awaited word, I worked on streamlining and pruning certain aspects of the build process and decided to tackle the recurring error message on my console:

*** -[NSKeyedUnarchiver decodeObjectForKey:]: cannot decode object of class (WebView)

which is always cause for concern for developers when things go wrong that you didn’t even realize were going on! “WebView?! Since when is there a WebView in an outliner?”

So I tackled it and discovered it is part of Blocks’ software update service, which checks for new versions of Mori and displays the release notes when found. Once I linked the WebKit framework into the Blocks software update plug-in, the release notes window popped up to announce a new version! Then it had a redirect issue I had to fix (because www.apokalypsesoftware.com redirects to apokalypsesoftware.com). Then I discovered the links in the release notes weren’t pointing to the correct location. And so on.

This all leads me to one conclusion: you folks are hard-core Mori users! Do you Fred Flintstone your way to work? Do you eat stale bread? Do you really love Mori’s features so much that you’ve been willing to put up with the broken stuff for so long? (And just what Mori features are you particularly fond of? I’d like to intensify that experience for you!) It’s just a more pleasant experience when the software does things for you like it should. Wow!

Well, while I am half-joking, I am truly impressed and grateful that you’ve been willing to endure some inconvenient obstacles just for the productivity that you gain with Mori. Thank you so much! I plan to continue fixing these annoyances as features are added, so that you find there’s more that can be done by Mori and less roadblocks it puts in your way.

Mori: v1.6.7 Post-Mortem and Upcoming Changes

Well, it looks like the latest toolbar fix has finally stuck. There were actually a few, very subtle interrelated items, and some procedural issues that cascaded into others. Code was shifted around hither and yon, resulting in elimination of two of a main class’ instance variables and simplification of logic in several methods.

Speaking of which, I’d really love to try out Xcode3’s new refactoring tools, but that would mean

  1. spending more time in Leopard, which freezes on me,
  2. and spending more time in Xcode3, whose text editing I already loathe.

I will need to investigate how well refactoring works in TextMate (which I already own and use from time to time when bumping against some other Xcode2 limitation.)

The pressure cooker development level of the past couple of weeks really put the development process here through the wringer. Some things held up. Some things fell apart. So more ‘behind the scenes’ development is going to take place here to minimize the interference caused by the mismatch between what needs to be done and what the tools require me to do next.

    Some observations of the release’s development:

  1. The primary, agile-based, processes were abandoned in the panic over the continued toolbar problems and Leopard incompatibilities.
    There was no established process for handling emergencies, so the chaotic edit-compile-test behavior resurfaced. This is not to be repeated.Corrective Measures: A plan of action for dealing with emergencies must be established. Exercises and drills prepared and performed so the proper outcome occurs next time.
  2. Users seemed to be unaware, or unconvinced, of my plans for Leopard.
    Although I had made statements regarding the planned support for Leopard, it was only in response to questioning by users. I had failed to provide information ahead of time and prominently.Corrective Measures: While users refer to the forum when there are questions or they have some issue to resolve, they refer to the blog constantly. It’s best to have already disclosed plans so users have time to assimilate needed info and prepare accordingly. Blog. Blog. Blog. Forum posting: link to blog. Then blog.
  3. Unit testing got skipped.
    It was unavoidable given the current process because tests didn’t cover the critical issue being developed: the user interface (i.e., toolbar items and empty windows).Corrective Measures: Mock objects are inadequate to sufficiently test the UI. For all my blustering that the UI is testable, it’s clearly time I seek or develop the necessary tools and put them to use.
  4. Subversion is a win, but it’s an ugly win.
    Being able to restore files, or the project, of a particular beta or release build, or of a particular date and time, is great. Being able to make wholesale changes to the project, then abandoning them, or keeping them along a separate branch to continue experiments at a later date without juggling project directories here and there, is great. Being able to merge or contrast multiple working project directories from separate environments (Tiger, Leopard, laptop, and the v1.6.3 release) quickly and easily, is great.Nibs saved as a smattering of files in the repository: not so great. Confusing subversion with its own metadata when copying/adding directories: not so great. Performing an add/delete when moving or copying directories and files instead of adding “move” or “copy” semantics to the system: not so great. Poor integration mechanism for multiple offline revisions: not so great.

    SCM is great. I’ve used CVS for years. I’ve even set up another project or two using Subversion before I bought Mori and Clockwork from Jesse. But I don’t see where it’s an obviously better package than CVS, but perhaps that’s because I’ve learned to work around CVS’ shortcomings. (Reviewing the feature list at http://subversion.tigris.org, the only practical feature I see that means anything to someone actually using Subversion is command-level manipulation of directories, although the handling of renames is poor. Hrmm. And svn+ssh access to the repository, with Xcode integration even!)

    Corrective Measures: For the time being, the messiness of the metadata in copies and moves will have to remain unsettled. As long as the structure ends up correct, and it doesn’t take long to get it to that state, it remains tolerable in the face of bigger issues. A procedure must be established to handle the circumstance where developers are offline and must “commit” in some manner which is transferrable to the repository when they are back online.

  5. Debugging is severely inadequate for professional-grade development.
    Can you tell Apple’s team has a severe case of he-man, mouse-haters club insecurities? (Either that, or they’re operating in crunch mode so much, they don’t have time to develop the appropriate tools. Nah!) The debugging facilities they provide for developers operate primarily through the use of environment variables, console output and functions and output which require gdb to access.ZeroLink didn’t work well and was abandoned; Fix and Continue is still problematic; and the vaunted debug libraries (to help you catch errors in the parameters passed to the AppKit and Foundation libraries) hasn’t worked right since 10.4.3.

    My own debugging facilities are rudimentary and lacking in depth. More of the failures in the field should be communicated back to me (remember Safari’s ‘bug’ button?). The crash reporting mechanism should work when the crash occurs, not the next time Mori runs. Also, exceptions are logged to the console, but otherwise go unnoticed by Mori and the user.

    Corrective Measures: Extend the runtime monitoring and browsing tools. Rewrite the crash reporting mechanism to activate when the application terminates. Add an exception handler which sends reports back. Develop proper high-level debugging tools for Objective-C, the UI, CoreData and Bindings. Coding takes place at a higher level. Debugging should be at least at that same level. -fobjc-gc exists for a reason. Take advantage of it!

  6. The build process is inconsistent, confused and unstable.
    The various plugins’ build settings aren’t consistent. Extraneous resources (images, sounds, etc.) are stored in the nibs. At times the build directory must be purged for a functioning executable to be built.Corrective Measures: A Build Settings Table has already been prepared and Mori and its plugins have had their settings documented. The settings for the Blocks plugins has yet to be documented. The effect of some settings has to be determined, which can then be propagated to the targets as appropriate. The project file should be purged of duplicated actions, unnecessary references, etc.
  7. Debugging Mori when it’s used for normal work results in too much human activity thrashing.
    Because the debug and test versions use the same preferences/file settings, the release version used for normal work had to be exited to avert data corruption in the notebooks.Corrective Measures: This issue was resolved with the Oneill branch. However, that uses a separate target to achieve its distinction. Some means of specifying a special bundle id for the debug and test builds must be developed to accomplish a similar effect, perhaps through preprocessing the Info.plist.
  8. Checklists are great
    Being able to state that processes are being followed, builds are complete, and updates were released correctly, is great.Corrective Measures: Checklists are great, but scripted procedures are better. Automate as much of every process as possible.
  9. To-Do lists, Getting Things Done (GTD), or whatever Time Management activity that is put into practice definitely helps.
    I’ve got the audio book. Mori’s got the plugin. I’ve got Taskpaper, too. I’ve got a Handspring Visor Edge and its Palm Desktop software. Something, anything, that helps track tasks that need to be done so nothing falls between the cracks is a plus. They are effective at keeping things moving forward, but I’m not efficient at it and a lot of discipline and effort must be used to keep moving things forward.
    Corrective Measure: I used TaskPaper to handle the tracking during this hectic period. I’ve got a blog entry in preparation, but basically, I found it a great way to get into the GTD system due to its simple interface. I must continue developing my understanding of this system to manage my activities, and see about getting the various software/devices integrated better.

Next Batch of Changes

I’ve already begun work on v1.6.8: Improved checking and repair functionality for notebooks. Correct Italian localization, thanks to Mario Pettenghi. The code for the Blocks framework will be tweaked so it compiles without triggering warnings (e.g., unused parameters, missing prototype, etc.). Additional unit testing for the UI, and refactoring of UI code.

These improvements to the code will set up the continuation of progress for v1.7, which should then be ready during the holidays. At least that’s the current goal.