Sparkle: Software Updates Done Right


In the last post I talked about a piece of software called, Aurora. There was one additional feature that really stood out for me. So much so, that I thought it deserved its own post.

The feature wasn’t actually a function of the software, it was how it updated itself.

If you’ve ever used a piece of Shareware, you’ve probably been through this… an update to the app becomes available. The next time you launch the app, it puts up a dialog box that tells you the update is available and asks if you want to download it. You click Yes, and it launches you browser and takes you to a site where you download a zip archive, or disc image, and then run an installer or copy an updated app into your applications folder. Sound familiar?

When an update to Aurora became available, it didn’t make me jump through any of those hoops. It did put up a dialog box saying an update is available, but when I clicked download… it just did it, without launching a browser. It downloaded it’s own update, and then proceeded to install it, and relaunch the updated app. It was a totally seamless experience.

After looking through the credits for Aurora, I discovered that this update method is provided by a developer tool called, Sparkle, written by Andy Matuschak. You may have seen this method with other apps, as Andy has a long list of credits for apps that are using Sparkle.

This is exactly how software updates should go. Andy has made an awesome tool. To make things even better, Andy is giving Sparkle away for free (donations accepted). So, if you are now, or you ever plan to be a Mac software developer, go get Sparkle. Your customers will thank you.

Aurora: multi-function alarm clock for your mac


Aurora is a great piece of free software (donationware), by Jonas Witt, that can turn your Mac (and iTunes) into an alarm clock.

It pretty much works as you would expect an alarm clock to work. You can schedule any number of alarms, set repeat days and times, etc… There’s even a snooze function that you can use with your Apple remote (if you have one). Aurora is even powerful enough to wake your Mac from sleep, or turn it on (if it’s off).

One handy feature that sets Aurora apart from a standard alarm clock, is its “Fall Asleep” function. You can start iTunes playing, and after a specified amount of time (or number of songs) Aurora will automatically fade the volume down, and either put your Mac to sleep, or shut it down all-together. That’s pretty cool.

So far, the only bug I’ve encountered, is in the time input field. The numbers you type aren’t what gets entered into the field. But, it’s not that important because you can easily set the time with either the arrow keys, or the arrow buttons next to the input field.

Aurora is free, but if you like it, you should consider making a donation to the developer. It’s well worth it.

found via TUAW

Custom Wordmap Tee from Visual Thesaurus

Wordmap Tee

Visual Thesaurus is an awesome online tool (or desktop app) that allows you to visually map related words in an interactive ‘wordmap’.

I’ve always thought they were pretty cool, but now they’re even better. After you look up a word, you have the option to buy your wordmap printed on a tee shirt, mug, greeting cards, and even postage stamps. That’s just cool!

After you look up your word on the site, click the “share” button, and follow the instructions to customize your goodies.

found via Swissmiss

Track QuickTime in Mint

QuickTime Check Pepper

One of the only things that Mint does not track, that I have always wanted it too, is QuickTime.

Today, that all changed with the introduction of the QuickTime Check Pepper, from the good guys over at Phototropic.

It can’t tell you what version people are running, but it can keep track of how many of your visitors have QuickTime installed. That’s good enough for me.

Thanks guys!

found via Shaun Inman

UPDATE (12.1.06):
Now that I’ve been running this for a few days, I’ve discovered a bug. Having the QT Check pepper installed breaks the main ‘Visits’ pane in Mint. It no longer tacks ‘Unique’, it simply uses the ‘Total’ number for both columns. Temporarily deactivating the QT Check pepper doesn’t solve the problem. You need to uninstall the pepper to clear it’s tables in the database. After that, Mint will start counting visits properly again. I’ll update this post when a fix is available.

UPDATE #2 (12.7.06):
The bug has been fixed. The new pepper is available for download. :)

Rest in Peace, Dave

Dave Ross

Our good friend, Dave Ross, passed away a couple of weeks ago, on November 15th, 2006. This is one of the last pictures I took of him. We’re walking our dog, Maggie Moo, at Fort Funston Beach.

Dave was diagnosed with Cancer about six months ago. He was only in his mid-forties. He went into the hospital for surgery about six weeks ago. He never recovered.

Although Dave’s long term prognosis was uncertain, it never really occurred to us that we would be losing him so soon. We fully expected to be back at this beach with him as soon as he came out of the hospital.

I’ve been putting off writing this post, because I just couldn’t come up with words to describe how I’ve been feeling lately. Things happened so suddenly, and unexpectedly, that there is a lingering air of disbelief about it all.

I still don’t know what to say about all this. I suppose I should try to look at this like one of those life lessons, about appreciating someone while you still can, because they may not be around as long as you think.

Dave was a good person, and a good friend. Although he annoyed the hell out of me almost every time I saw him, he will be missed.

Rest in peace, Dave.

Half Price on Keyword Manager, for iPhoto

Keyword Manager

Apple’s iPhoto has a handy feature called keywords, for making your photos easier to find later. They’re basically tags that you apply to your photos to make them searchable through iPhoto’s search function.

Unfortunately, Apple did a pretty poor job at implementing this feature. It’s very clumsy to use. But, lucky for us, Bullstorm software has picked up the ball, that Apple dropped, and made Keyword Manager. It’s an awesome plugin for iPhoto that makes assigning and managing keywords a whole lot easier. I just started using it, and so far I am extremely happy with it.

Normally, Keyword Manager is $19 (USD), but today only over at Maczot, you can get it for $9.50 (USD). I personally think it’s well worth the price.

If you want some help managing and assigning keywords, but you just don’t want to fork out the cash, you can always try Keyword Assistant… it’s free!

An Inconvenient Truth on DVD

An Inconvenient Truth

5 Stars

Just incase you forgot, An Inconvenient Truth is available on DVD today. I encourage everyone to go out and buy it, and watch it again, with friends. Try to introduce the movie to people you know who haven’t seen it. You could even buy extra copies and give them away, or donate them to your local schools.

from the AIT blog:

An Inconvenient Truth arrives on DVD November 21, 2006 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

“I’m excited about the documentary’s release on DVD,” said former Vice President Al Gore. “The DVD is a vital way for us to continue the conversation about global warming with even more Americans. As more and more people understand what’s at stake, they become a part of the solution, and share both in the challenges and opportunities presented by the climate crisis.”

The DVD will be packaged with no excess materials, so as to make the smallest environmental footprint possible. Packaging will include 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper, inks and coatings formulated to emit virtually no volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere, no inserts, no laminates and no plastic. The package was manufactured by Ivy Hill. The back of the DVD package will direct teachers to where a free downloadable educational guide will be available.

An Inconvenient Truth is presented in Widescreen with Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround and English 2.0 Surround and English, French and Spanish subtitles. The DVD includes the following special features:

  • An Update from Al Gore—an extensive new interview focusing on specific points of urgency
  • Audio commentary by director Davis Guggenheim
  • Audio commentary by producers Lawrence Bender, Scott Burns, Laurie David and Lesley Chilcott