A long overdue overhaul

-   Oct 01, 2012 -   Software -  

I haven’t blogged much over the past few years. Part of that was a focus on other interests to be sure, but more recently, it was the blog itself that was keeping me from blogging.  BlogEngine.NET has been good to me but things were feeling a bit long in the tooth in a few areas.  I had not updated to 2.0 or beyond and was really a bit unsure what I’ve wanted to do with my blog.  I’ve had lots of ideas for updates, tweaks, and the like.  Every time I would think about writing, I’d think about things I wish my blog handled better or were just different. Avdi Grimm wrote about something similar a while back and it sounded a lot like where I’ve been at. Before I started doing technical blogging in ~2006-2007, I spent literally years hamstrung by my need to come up with “the perfect” blogging platform. I’d come up with some topic I wanted to blog about, then that would lead to thinking about that blog system I wanted to write, and I’d wind up writing nothing. While Avdi was writing about his reasons for using WordPress and how this keeps him from fiddling with it, to me it was the voice of someone feeling the same things I was but making some choices to get the focus back on the writing. As one of the original BlogEngine devs, I wasn’t willing to give up dabbling with blogging tool at all, but I needed to make some choices to remove the reasons I wasn’t writing.  Over the weekend, I made a list of my “must have” features, pulled the source and spent a few hours making the changes I felt were at the top of my list of need to have.  I cleaned it up with a simple responsive theme and here it is.  BlogEngine.NET 2.6 has a lot of new things I was missing, including a few of the items on my list. Pulling up the code was like pulling on an old sweatshirt that you have buried in your closet.  Familiar, comfortable, and welcoming.  Not sure my changes will or even should go in the BE source, but it isn’t something I’m even thinking about in the short term.  I’m now thinking about writing again.

 The story of my latest app

-   Dec 15, 2011 -   iDevBlogADay, Software, iOS -   ,

In the past week, my latest app , RunNow Pro was approved and released in the Apple App Store. The app project began about 6 weeks ago. My wife and I were talking about running and my wife decided she was going to try to run a half marathon next fall. While it is pretty far away, we decided it was best to get started with a run / walk program so she'd be ready to hit the road come spring. I looked up some plans online and thought there would be an app out there to help with this.  There are lots of them actually, but of all the ones I looked at, none seems like the right one.  Later that week, I got an evening home alone with the kids and the idea struck me to make the app for her myself. That night, I had the kids record encouraging messages of when it was time to run and then when it was time to walk or recover.  After I got the kids to bed, I coded up the app and it was ready for her run the next day. Over the next few nights, I cleaned things up, added a settings page for controlling the workouts, and added a log so she could see the workouts she did.  It wasn't too fancy, but it worked well.  The personal messages were fun and it was very customized to exactly how she worked out.  She ran a timed workout of 20 minutes so she'd just run/walk for 10 minutes, the app would remind her to turn around and she be back in the driveway when her workout was done.  I decided I would make a version for release soon after. Over the next few weeks I spend a few more evenings polishing it up and sent the "Pro" version to the app store.  I removed the kids voices but added other notification options. It has a built in couch to 5k workout plan, but still has the manual settings which will make the app work well for running intervals or just doing a custom run / walk plan.  It runs great on our old original iPhone with iOS 3.1.3 which is the device my wife uses it on. I'm working on the free version of RunNow as time permits with less features, ads, and the ability to upgrade to the full version with in app purchase.  It is not my top priority, but I’ll hopefully be able to finish it up some time in the coming weeks.  It was fun to see this simple project come together so quickly and was a nice break from my larger iOS project that I’ve gotten back to in the last week.

 Email from ProfitTrain with Sparrow via AppleScript

-   Jul 01, 2011 -   Software -   , ,

I use an app called ProfitTrain to handle invoicing my customers and keeping track of expenses.  It works well for my basic needs. More recently, I switched over to using Sparrow as my mail client.  I’ve noticed since I’ve made the change that it will still pull up my old mail client when I send my invoice to my clients however.  I decided to dig into that and clean that up. In ProfitTrain, there is an option to install a custom email applescript and when you select it, you are given a basic script which works with the mail app and a few others to work with.  I was able to modify this to get it working.  Below is the code you will need: -- Script using Sparrow on mail_invoice(subject_line, to_name, to_address, attachment_path) tell application "Sparrow" activate set attachmentfilename to (POSIX file attachment_path) as string set myMessage to make new outgoing message with properties {subject:subject_line, content:"Your invoice is attached."} tell myMessage make new to recipient at end of to recipients with properties {name:to_name, address:to_address} make new mail attachment with properties {filename:attachmentfilename as alias} compose end tell end tell end mail_invoice For those less adventurous, you can download the entire script file below. email_invoice_using_user_script.scpt

 Balsamiq Mockups Review

-   Aug 28, 2009 -   Software -  

I’m pretty late this this game, but… I got here in the end.  I needed to make a few mockups recently and I wasn’t really excited about any of the options that I had before me. Until this time around, I used my trusty pencil and paper or white board depending on the situation. This was always less than ideal and my attempts to use software to build them always took way to much time to do the same thing.  This time around, I gave Balsamiq Mockups a try.  It was exactly what the mockup experience should be. The simple interface made the process take just about the same amount of time as using a whiteboard.  You drag and drop buttons, controls, etc right into your work space.  Double click to edit the default text and done.  While this may take a slight bit longer, it has the advantage that you can just move the items on the screen with your mouse instead of having to erase and redraw.  The resulting mockups have a hand drawn feel to them which gives the feel of mockup as well.  I was able to quickly make a few mockups of forms AND when I was done I had a nice electronic copy to share with my client. Balsamiq Mockups runs on Adobe AIR so it runs great on a Mac, PC and in a web browser.  ( I used the desktop version on my Mac, but I did install the desktop version on my PC so I’m ready for next time.) Disclaimer: I received a free license to this product. I didn’t need a license to do the work I did with it or to make the fine mockup you see before you, but I did get one so I wanted to be upfront.

 5 iPhone apps that have changed the way I work

-   May 28, 2009 -   Software -  

I've been a big fan of my iPhone since I got it back in October 2007.  It was a game changing device for me back then.  I went from carrying a phone and an iPod to work to a single device.  I had mobile web browsing, good email access, and a solid phone which was a major upgrade from my Audiovox Smartphone and I could load up my audio as well. After 3rd party apps became a reality, I've slowly started to add some to my device.  As I was driving home from work today, I was thinking about all the different ways the iPhone has change my work day.  Since most people are already aware of the included iPhone apps, I thought I'd share some of the 3rd party apps I use on a regular basis and have added them into my routine. Todo - This is the most expensive iPhone app I've purchased and it is also the one I'd miss the most if I lost my iPhone.  The iPhone doesn't have a good todo list option and I really need something to help me management my tasks.  I've become a huge fan of Remember the Milk (RTM) for managing all my tasks, but the RTM iPhone app just wasn't exactly what I wanted.  Todo is.  Someday I'll likely write a detailed post on my task management process which after many years of struggles, I'm really happy with. Jobs – Jobs is basically a fancy timer.  It helps me keep track of time I spend working for clients.  I keep my hours log right there and I don't have to bother to remember how long I spent on this, I simply need to start and stop the timer.  I got onto this system using the Freshbooks app, but since I stopped using Freshbooks, Jobs is my time tracker of choice.  This is another area that I always struggled with until I got into a system with the iPhone. Bible - I really like reading the Bible on my iPhone for some reason.  I think it was the first app I downloaded and I still use it all the time.  I haven't tried any Bible apps other than this one, but I can’t imagine finding anything better. I love how I quickly change versions of the Bible and search to find the verse I was looking for.  It is a great reading or studying tool. Simplify Music 2 - This is an incredible app. I have an 8GB iPhone and I like to leave space for music, podcasts, audiobooks, apps, and files. I don't get to carry all the music I might want to listen to while at work or on the road, but with this app, I can just stream it off of my Mac or PC at home. Air Sharing - I picked this one up when it was a free app while I thought it was neat I didn't realize the flexibility it gave me.  Its basic function is to give you a wireless "USB key", but when you put files on it, you can read them or listen to them as needed.  I use the file transfer on occasion as it is a nice option, but I'm more likely to download something I want to listen to on the way home from work or read a document I stored on it from this app. I use this the least of the apps listed here, but I'm always amazed by how it really transforms the iPhone to a computer in my mind.  I no longer need to move the file to PC or sync it up to actually access the file. There are other apps that I use on a regular basis, but I don't view them as routine changing.  What iPhone apps have really changed your work habits?