Code by Kevin, Programming, code, business, and other pursuits
Kevin Walzer, software developer.
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I've released version 3.1 of TextSweep, my search and replace tool for OS X and Windows. As with my other recent releases, this version increases security on app updates and includes minor UI refinements. As always, updates are free to registered users.Fri, 03 Mar 2017
I've released version 6.1 of QuickWho, my whois client for macOS and Windows. This release includes UI enhancements and a transition to a more secure update mechanism. As with my other apps, updates are free to registered users.Sun, 29 Jan 2017
These releases focus on minor UI updates and the major upgrades to the application update mechanism, switching to a more secure download method.
Both releases are free to registered users, and $29,95 to new users.Tue, 17 Jan 2017
As with all my apps, this version is a free update for registered users.Sun, 15 Jan 2017
I'm working on a round of application updates that are focused on (yet another) re-work of their application update mechanism.
This change has been driven by three factors: the recent upgrade of my websites to support encryption via Let's Encrypt; changes in Apple's API's in macOS Sierra to require encryption in web connections, and in how app updates can be installed on the system through a mechanism called App Translocation; and a desire to simplify the code of my app updates mechanism.
Let me address each of these in turn.
Encryption: This one is pretty easy. It just requires the addition of a Tcl library, TLS, to support encrypted web traffic. In addition to including the library, it requires a few lines of Tcl code, and then everything Just Works.
Apple's API's. The encryption part is simple, as discussed above. The "app translocation" API has taken me a bit more time to figure out and test; the only file format that Apple will allow to avoid app translocation (in the name of system security) is a signed disk image, or DMG. Zip files, tar files, and other formats don't get that benefit. (In app translocation, an affect application is copied to a hidden read-only format and then launched, to avoid injection of malicious code in the process; it also means the app cannot be updated or otherwise modified while it is running, which makes updates that Mac users expect impossible.) Using signed disk images instead of zip or tar formats is simple enough, and I've gotten it working after some trial and error.
Dissatisfaction with my code. For years I've tried to emulate the popular Sparkle app update mechanism in my apps. First I tried a basic imitation; then I tried to actually integrate Sparkle into my work; then I tried to use many of Sparkle's mechanisms under the hood and layer my own implementation on top of it; and, now, I'm back to doing a basic imitation. The reason for this is that I've never been able to cleanly integrate Sparkle itself into my work; it integrates perfectly with applications written in Objective-C, but I've never been able to figure out how to call it directly from Tcl, even if there is a C layer between. Later I used Sparkle's XML "appcast" mechanism under the hood, but this added a lot of complexity; Tcl's XML-parsing libraries don't play well with other scripting languages, which meant that I had to write additional code to parse the appcast if the application was written in, say, Perl. Additionally, my Tk-based knockoff of Sparkle's UI was just plain ugly.
So I'm back to a basic Tcl implementation that more or less follows Sparkle's example, using the following steps:
This format works pretty identically to Sparkle, at least in its basic moves; it's much simpler to maintain; and it will be portable to another platform, specifically Windows, whereas Sparkle is Mac only. Some Windows-specific code will be necessary to accommodate the differences in Mac and Windows installers, but apart from that, it will be identical.
I'll begin rolling this new update mechanism out in my apps in the near future.Sun, 04 Sep 2016
I'm pleased to release version 3.0 of TextSweep, my search-and-replace tool for OS X and, now, Windows.
This application represents a milestone for me: it's the last of my current applications to be withdrawn from the Mac App Store and the last that I will be porting to Windows. Some of my apps don't make sense on Windows (PortAuthority is a Mac-specific GUI for installing software, and Manpower's purpose--displaying man pages--is incompatible with Windows, which does not use man pages), but all that do are now available in Windows versions.
Going forward, I have some ideas for new apps, and these will be developed to target both Mac and Windows from the start. Additionally, new versions of my current apps will add new features and will also add Windows-specific features, when appropriate, to improve their performance and integration with Windows.Sat, 02 Jul 2016
Both releases are incremental updates, with slightly better performance and minor bug fixes.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these releases is that the source code for each is now posted online, at http://fossil.codebykevin.com, under the MIT license. While these are still commercial programs, the source code may be of use to users who would like to modify the applications for their own systems, or deploy them on a system that is not currently supported. While working with the source code is not something I will support directly, this may still prove of use to some folks, and I'm glad to offer it.Mon, 02 May 2016
I've released version 2.7 of FileMorph, my file modification tool for Mac and Windows.
This release fixes a serious crash on some Windows systems, and also incorporates some minor UI enhancements. If you are in the market for a cost-effective tool for changing file attributes such as their name, modfication date, and more, give this a try. As always, lifetime upgrades are free to registered users.Thu, 07 Apr 2016
In releasing the Python-based QuickWho 6.0 today, for the Windows version I followed the model I used for my Perl-based FileMorph app--I coded a stub executable in C that linked to the Python interpreter and made no effort to wrap everything up in a single "app" executable.
Python has more options for "freezing" or deploying standalone apps than Perl does, but the present state is a bit rough: none of the major libraries for Windows work to my satisfaction. Either they do not support Python 3.5, which has some significant changes over previous versions of Python on Windows, or they lack polish in certain respects in terms of customizing the icon or the version info bundled with the executable. This approach results in a larger distribution than the other approaches, but that's a trade-off I'm willing to make.
The other nice thing about using a C-based executable is that it can be ported to other languages with only minor changes, since all the languages that I use for desktop applications are themselves developed in C, and have a C API. The core of my exe stub does not change; it calls into Windows functions to set the working directory of the program, and requires only minor changes to hook into whatever language I am developing in at that time. This will make future projects on Windows simpler. (For an example, see http://fossil.codebykevin.com/fossil.cgi/quickwho/artifact/f3f87b14df46973c.)
The other thing I am doing with my Windows applications is using a simple installer and uninstaller setup that that includes only minor variations with each application. I use iexpress, a system tool that Microsoft includes with Windows to streamline the installation of software components and libraries. It essentially creates self-extracting archives, that only require a single click before each component is installed where I want. My installer package includes an installer script, an uninstaller script, a zip file of the application package, and a small unzip tool to decompress the archive. There are more complex software installer programs out there, both commercial and open-source, but iexpress is very simple and appeals to my Unix-based background. Developing the installer and uninstaller scripts was a great experience because I learned a great deal about Windows internals, its basic scripting language (batch), and so on.
I've released version 6.0 of QuickWho, my whois client for OS X and, now, Windows. This version features a major under-the-hood rewrite for increased accuracy, and various UI enhancements. If you would like a richer alternative to the command-line whois tool, it's a great product.
I've been away from work here since late last fall, working on other projects, especially my mobile apps. . I anticipate spending more time on desktop projects in the coming months.