Code by Kevin

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Kevin Walzer, software developer.



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Thu, 19 Jul 2018

Updated mobile apps

We've released updated versions of our mobile travel apps, The Lake Effect (Great Lakes travel) and Snowbird Shores (Atlantic coast travel). Both feature modest UI updates. Both are free downloads for iPhone and iPad.

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Mon, 04 Jun 2018

Stringscan 1.2

Amid the ongoing updates to my apps to reflect my transition to a new server, I've also assembled a more substantial update to Stringscan,, my text search application for Mac and Windows.

In addition to the updates for the source code repository, Stringscan also features a re-worked search algorithm and significant changes to how I deploy it on Windows. Here are the details:

  • New search algorithm. Previous versions used a core Ruby module that inspected a file and attempted to determine its type, and filter out non-text files. This algorithm was fine for filtering out non-text files but also filtered out a lot of readable text files that did not fit is model (script files, for instance, would be registered as applications and not plain text). Thus, searches were very incomplete. I've improved the search algorithm by pulling the large list of standard text file formats that I use in TextSweep, which covers a broader range of file types. The list is probably not exhaustive, but does provide a basis for further incremental refinements.
  • New deployment on Windows. Previous versions of Stringscan shipped with a stub executable that directly linked to the Ruby interpreter and could launch the app. Previously this meant the app would open a Windows DOS-style console when launched, which I judged to be lacking in polish. My recent efforts to remove the console have been successful with TextSweep and another app, but with the Stringscan executable, I found the app crashing on startup. After a fair amount of frustration trying to debug this, I finally decided to use the Ruby GUI executable itself to run the app, and linked to it using a Windows desktop shortcut. The slick thing the Windows shortcut is that I can give it Stringscan's name and icon even as I set its target to run rubyw and Stringscan's main script. In the Windows start menu and taskbar, this looks exactly like a regular application. It's a neat solution, one that I learned from seeing how another app, webGobbler, was installed and presented in the start menu.
  • As always, Stringscan 1.2 is a free update for registered users. If you are looking for an easy-to-use text search tool, give it a try.

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    Sun, 22 Apr 2018

    New source code repository

    Because of Apple's decision to deprecate its Server.app product, I've had to move my Internet presence to an external hosting service, and I've migrated my source code repository as a result.

    Here is my new repo:

    https://www.codebykevin.com/fossil.cgi/

    I'm in the process of pushing out minor updates to all my apps, mainly containing minor bug fixes and links to the new source code repository. More extensive updates will come later this year.

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    Fri, 29 Dec 2017

    TextSweep 4.0

    I've released version 4.0 of TextSweep, my search-and-replace tool for macOS and Windows.

    The big feature in this release is a new scripting interface, for both Mac and Windows. The scripting interface makes it possible to drive TextSweep from other programs. While the specific nature of TextSweep does not require it to return data to other programs, it can still be called as a helper tool from other applications that need search and replace functionality.

    As with my other apps, Mac scripting support is offered for AppleScript through my aem library. For Windows, after looking at several different API's for inter-application communication, I chose Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE).

    The selection of DDE is not a common one these days, so I wanted to offer a bit of explanation. Like Apple Events on macOS (the underlying mechanism for AppleScript) and the Component Object Model (COM) on Windows, DDE provides a mechanism for communicating data and executing code across applications. DDE is a very old technology on Windows, dating back to Windows 2.0, and is relatively simple compared to the much more powerful COM. In this case, however, simplicity is a virtue--DDE is easy to implement, is supported natively on Windows by Tcl, and can be exposed without issue from other programming languages that incorporate a Tcl/Tk GUI. An excellent extension library, TWAPI, supports COM and greatly simplifies the process of setting up a COM interface--but it is still overkill for my needs.

    As always, TextSweep is a free upgrade for registered users.

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    Thu, 14 Dec 2017

    Tk-Cocoa 2.5

    Nearly three years ago I announced a significant overhaul of Tk on the Mac that amounted to a redesign of major portions of the GUI library. The changes were intended to address flaws that had emerged in the initial, whole-cloth migration of Tk from the Carbon to the Cocoa API by Daniel Steffen. At the time I envisioned that this overhaul would put Tk on sound, stable footing going forward, and would require only routine maintenance and the occasional feature enhancement.

    Ah, the best-laid plans of developers. Tk on the Mac in fact was NOT in a complete place, and later that summer, Marc Culler, who contributed many of the critical patches for Tk-Cocoa 2.0, and I did some additional major refinements. At that point Marc's contributions were so substantial that he essentially became the co-maintainer of Tk on the Mac, and I added his name to the author list.

    Over the past six months, we have gone through an additional heavy round of development on Tk, to the point where I consider this yet another major iteration of the toolkit and not just an incremental set of updates. Should this round be called, informally at least, Tk-Cocoa 2.5? I think so.

    This round of development was led by Christian Gollwitzer, who implemented some long-broken functionality in file dialogs; Marc Culler, who fixed some major crashing bugs on macOS 10.13 and implemented several major, low-level improvements to drawing and image code; and Francois Vogel, who worked closely with Marc on the drawing code specifically with the text widget and who has undertaken an ongoing cleanup of the Tk test suite on macOS.

    Here's a quick overview:

  • Cleanup of clipping regions in drawing code fixes many subtle, low-level drawing bugs especially with embedded windows and in text widget (Culler and Vogel). Marc dove into some very subtle, long-standing bugs with widget rendering in specific contexts--especially with embedded windows and the text widget. Francois assisted with these changes as well as providing guidance on applying them to the text widget, one of Tk's most complex components internally. Francois has also worked at integrating these changes, and fixing other issues, in Tk's test suite.
  • Cleanup, enhancement, and re-organizing of image rendering code to make it easier to develop with (Culler). Marc re-factored Tk's native image-rendering code on the Mac into a separate file to make it simpler to understand and work with (previously it had been in the drawing code). This work also led to the fixing of several bugs related to image rendering especially with transparency.
  • Implementation of wm_iconphoto command to allow setting of custom icons (Walzer). I implemented this command, with assistance from Marc's work on the image code.
  • Overhaul of app initialization code to make it easier to manage (Culler). Marc re-worked Tk's app startup code to conform to Cocoa conventions.
  • Cleanup and simplification of memory management to improve stability (Culler). The episode that triggered this entire round of development was Tk suddenly crashing on macOS 10.13. I'm not sure what caused this to occur when Tk ran stably on older versions, but Marc, who had updated most of the memory management code over the past couple of years, was able to streamline it a bit to avoid crashes.
  • Overhaul of file dialogs on macOS (Gollwitzer). Christian put together a significant update of the file dialog code to provide better filtering of file options and to take full advantage of dialog customization on macOS.
  • Detailed documentation of macOS-specific API design (expose events, clipping regions, HITheme, etc.) in the "Readme" file. (Culler). Marc put together detailed documentation on the design approach to Tk, especially with the recent changes. This documentation will help future developers understand the design of Tk. It formalized many things I understood intuitively, and also made clear portions of the API that eluded me.
  • While I did most of the early heavy lifting on updating Tk-Cocoa and was later joined by Marc, in this round I contributed far less code. Marc has done most of the substantial work, with Christian making a major contribution with the file dialogs, and Francois has provided ongoing consulting on integrating these changes into other aspects of Tk. It's great to have more developers working on Tk on the Mac these days; it has allowed us to make infinitely faster progress on fixing bugs. It also adds far more expertise to specific problems; Marc and Francois have expertise in certain areas that I've never been able to master, and Christian's work would have taken me some time to equal. I'm grateful for their efforts.

    Right now this work can be downloaded from the core-8-6-branch of Tk at its core development site, and it will soon make its way into the next stable point release. Keep an eye out for it, and give it a try.

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    Mon, 04 Dec 2017

    PortAuthority 7.8, Manpower 6.6

    I've released updates of PortAuthority and Manpower. Both apps feature under-the-hood enhancements that result in a smoother, more refined UI. They are free updates for registered users.

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    Sun, 15 Oct 2017

    PortAuthority 7.7

    I've released verison 7.7 of PortAuthority, my GUI for the MacPorts software management system for macOS. This release is primarily for stability and refinement on 10.13/High Sierra, which is now the minimum supported OS version. User reports and developer observation of crashes in PortAuthority led to a great deal of bug fixing work in the underlying Tcl/Tk libraries, which is now complete.

    As always, this release is free to registered users, and I encourage all users of MacPorts to give it a try. PortAuthority is the oldest, longest-developed GUI for MacPorts. If you want to look at the source code, it is available from https://fossil.codebykevin.com/fossil.cgi/portauthority/timeline under the MIT license.

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    Sat, 23 Sep 2017

    Stringscan 1.1

    I've released version 1.1 of Stringscan, my text search tool for Mac and Windows. This release includes a number of UI enhancements to make using it more intuitive and simple. As always, updates are free to registered users.

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    Tue, 11 Jul 2017

    Stringscan 1.0

    I'm pleased to announce the release of Stringscan 1.0, a text search tool for Mac and Windows. Stringscan offers functionality similar to the Unix "grep" command: it recursively searches files in a directory for a string of text. I wrote it because I wanted a GUI tool that could do more than just retrieve a list of files; Stringscan currently lists files and displays their content in the main window, and eventually I plan to enhance its functionality further.

    Stringscan also interesting because it is written in the Ruby programming language. Like my other applications, its UI is based on Tk, but Ruby is somewhat different than the other programming languages I've worked with; it combines the terseness and power of with a cleaner style that is closer to Python. Ruby was once considered a language of great promise for desktop application development, but seems to have lost momentum in that domain in favor of web development. Nonetheless, Ruby is quite useful on the desktop; its standard library and "gem" extension packages provided all the tools I needed to implement a file and text search function.

    Regarding deployment, the Mac version of Stringscan was built using ruby2app, the tool I developed a couple of years ago to bundle a standalone Ruby-Tk application on macOS. The Windows version is deployed in a manner similar to my other Windows applications, with a C executable linked to the Ruby libraries.

    Stringscan is priced at $29.99 and, as always, upgrades will be free to registered users for life. I encourage you to give it a try if you want a richer tool for searching for text in a directory.

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    Tue, 25 Apr 2017

    Additional app updates

    I've posted updates to all my apps, fixing UI and security bugs on macOS and fixing a security issue on Windows. As always, upgrades are free to registered users.

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