GolfHub finally out of review

Well, GolfHub finally got through the review process, took 20 days.

In case you are interested, here is a link.

Marketing Text:

Golfhub is designed by golfers to serve the needs of other golfers like you and is the easiest way to search, find, and book tee times on 100’s of golf courses throughout the United States – all at your finger tips! The easy to use interface allows golfers to quickly find teetimes and securely book a reservation right from your iPhone or iTouch.

Features:

  • Search for tee times by State, Area, and/or Specific course.
  • Search for available tee-times by date, time and number of players.
  • Course description, GPS directions and telephone numbers at your finger-tips.
  • Book your reservation with secure payment information directly from your device. No need to call the pro-shop.
  • A confirmation page will be emailed with course specific cancellation policies.
  • Mark your favorite or most played course for simply searches
  • View your history all of reserved tee-times.
  • Discounted Tee Times

One of the best things about golf is the chance it gives us to have fun, make friends and sharing a common love-of-the-game and the GolfHub app lets you take part faster and easier than ever!

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*Warning* Do not install software included in Panasonic products!

Background
A while back I purchased a Panasonic camera that can not only take pictures, but also record video. I chose the camera because of this combination, in combination with it’s optical zoom. Now, the camera works great and importing photos into iPhoto has always been a snap.

Unfortunately, only recently did I first try recording a movie and importing it. I say unfortunately because while the video recorded fine, when it came to importing I found that not only am I not able to import video despite the Panasonic advertising this capability for Mac OS X, but also the software included on Panasonic CD’s installs extremely invasive “pop-up” programs that behave just like trojan/virus software!

I really wish I had tried the video capabilities before the store’s return policy expired, as I would have immediately returned the damn thing.

The gory path to finding out I’ve been taken
After recording my first movie on the camera I attempted to import the movie into iMovie. Unlike all other cameras I’ve had (including several Nokia phones) iMovie would not import the movies when I connected the camera. In fact, it said there was no media available for import. Huh? iPhoto handles the pictures fine, what’s up with the movies?

OK, so maybe Panasonic is using a proprietary format I thought. Not what I was expecting, but if so there should be software on the CD that came with the camera that would allow me to import my movies. After searching for a few days (off and on of course, I didn’t search for several days straight!) the CD packaged with the camera was finally located and I proceeded to install the software that came on the CD on my Mac OS X system.

Now the astute among you have probably already picked up on the second warning sign. (The first, by the way, was that Panasonic did not provide a way for iMovie to import movies). For the rest of you, here it is:

  • Mac OS X Applications do NOT use installers!

Having used software for other cameras, this was the first that required an installer to put the application on my Mac and I was fairly annoyed about the requirement. Annoyance became outrage / disgust when I discovered the installed software:

  • a) is useless, in comparison to iPhoto a complete joke. Supposedly “native”, but looks, response and general feel were as good as a very (very) poor java application. If this is the best that Panasonic can deliver their company programmers need to be fired!
  • b) has no ability to import video from the camera. Yes, that’s rightβ€”a camera that advertised right on the box that it is “fully compatible with Mac OS X” has absolutely no way to import movies from the camera under Mac OS X. Hell, for all I know Panasonic doesn’t allow importing movies under Windows either!
  • c) is intrusive, acting like a trojan or virus, and can NOT be uninstalled! WTF?!?!?! Yes, that’s right … the software puts in all kinds of crap into your system, like this little gem: a system extension (I’m assuming since I can’t find the app in the Applications folder or in the process list) that puts a banner add on the top of ALL of your other windows! No closing it either, in fact since it’s a system extension you can’t even quit it! Panasonic: this is not how applications operate … this is how viri operate!

Item b is upsetting because I expected to be able to use this camera for taking photos and movies; but being unable import movies them makes the movie taking feature useless. It means I spent hundreds of dollars on a camera that I can’t use as expected.

Item c is unacceptable; installing virus-like software simply should not done, ever! I’m literally at a loss for words here … how the fu*k did Panasonic’s management OK this???

More Software Details
Panasonic’s software package is distributed under the label “ArcSoft”. Maybe this is a Panasonic label to distance the parent company from such crappy software (and that’s ignoring the whole virus install, and taking efforts to make the software uninstallable!) or maybe it’s a 3rd party software package they’ve licensed, but it doesn’t matter because the responsibility for Panasonic’s end-user experience is 100% the responsibility of Panasonic.

There were two programs: MediaImpression and Panorama Maker. Both programs are delivered as installers instead of Mac OS X standard applications. However, as far as I can tell there is no need for this because the applications themselves, while poor examples of commercial software, are completely self-contained and I could simply copy the application bundles to other computers where they would run just fine.

So, what’s the purpose of the installers then? Obviously, the only purpose is to install the virus-like software! Way to go Panasonic, your company is obviously run by stand-up guys who are truly concerned about their customers..NOT!

Since I have not been able to locate a means for getting rid of Panasonic’s virus/trojan software, I would be very appreciative if anyone can give me any help on removing this trash!

Again, it doesn’t matter whether or not Panasonic wrote this software or licensed it, they put it on their CD under their name, and their printed instructions direct you to install the software in order to use the camera, so the end result is that Panasonic put this crap on my machine.

My Options?
So far the only way to import movies from this camera involves purchasing a 3rd party software solution. Unfortunately, the only program I can find seems extremely suspect! It’s “website” is suspiciously similar to the ArcSoft site, and it has multiple products which appear to be there only for the purpose of bogus search results, because only the titles change … the product descriptions and screen images do not! In fact, they look a lot like the ArcSoft software screens. Furthermore, there a several bogus “articles” about how to get video from Panasonic cameras into Mac OS X, all of which recommend this software. And all those articles are on websites which have a nearly identical look to the website which sells the software the article recommends … and those websites also have no other content, except for lists of free software that do not compete with anything the “recommended” software’s site sells.

All this goes to my pretty much being guaranteed not to purchase; not only am I reluctant to be forced into purchasing software to perform functionality that was advertised as being included in the product I originally purchased, but even under ideal conditions a website setup like that screams “virus infection, credit card information stolen, sell and/or spam my email”, or some other undesirable result if you initiate a purchase and/or contact of any kind. After Panasonic has already installed trojan / virus software on my computer, I think it goes without saying that this site rates at least 99 out of 100 on a scale of likely to end up not being in my best interests!

So, any one have a way to import video from a recent model Panasonic camera? (My specific model is a Lumix DMC-ZS3)

Summary
The software included on Panasonic CD’s installs extremely invasive “pop-up” programs that are installed in a manner designed to make them as difficult to remove (uninstall) as possible. That’s virus behavior, not application behavior, shame on you Panasonic!

Concusion
Unfortunately, I must advise, in the strongest possible terms, to avoid purchasing any Panasonic cameras until they remove the trojan / virus installation(s) and provide software that is truly usable in performing the actions Panasonic advertises as being included with their cameras. This is really too bad, because the camera itself is great; movies shot in a moving car at high speed on very rough terrain came out great, it even handled 1.2+ G braking/turning. And the digital zoom is great, especially because it’s combined with a very nice wide angle lens. A great combination of hardware that gets trashed by the software side.

Say, Panasonic hardware people, you really need to talk to the guys on the software side, as well as upper management, because those software people (replace people with your favorite cuss word, I did) are ruining your excellent work!

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First photos of updates to S2000

Well, I updated the S2000 again, only this time it wasn’t for performance, rather it was on appearance. :wow: There is still a few things I want to get done, but for the time being I’m “finished” mucking with it. Time to get to the track and step on the gas πŸ™‚

wpid-p1000011-300x225-2009-10-31-00-56.jpg

S2000 Engine Bay post cleanup

The engine bay came out really clean! I also had the front hood customized & re-painted along with the front fender and both front side fenders (as all three had various dents, scratches and other unsightliness).
wpid-p1000014-300x225-2009-10-31-00-56.jpg

S2000 Hood

I see very few after market hoods that I like, and good fitment seems to be a mostly miss in all cases. Instead, I had mine customized, which ended up costing about what a good custom hood plus paint job (don’t like the CF look) would have cost.
wpid-p1000017-300x225-2009-10-31-00-56.jpg

S2000 gauges

I had a pillar pod setup on my first install, and really hated it; blocked too much of my view (esp. during an autocross!) and advertised “boosted” too loudly. So, a bunch of custom work later and I have something that looks very much like it could be stock. I like.

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My Mobile Golf on App Store

A couple of weeks ago My Mobile Golf was released on the iTunes App Store. It allows you to book tee times on your iPhone or iTouch. We worked hard to make the interface as clean as possible, and to allow booking a tee time with the minimum number of clicks/screens.

Check it out on iTunes

Marketing text follows πŸ™‚

My Mobile Golf is the easiest way to search, find, and book tee times on 100s of golf courses throughout the United States – all at your finger tips! The easy to use interface allows golfers to quickly find teetimes and securely book a reservation right from your iPhone or iTouch. All with no need to call the pro-shop!

Features:
-Search for tee times by State, Area, and/or Specific course.
-Search for available tee-times by date, time and number of players.
-Course description, GPS directions and telephone numbers at your finger-tips.
-Book your reservation with secure payment information directly from your device. No need to call the pro-shop.
-A confirmation page will be emailed with course specific cancellation policies.
-Mark your favorite or most played course for simply searches
-View you history all of reserved tee-times.
-Discounted rates

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Fortress Luna on Hot List!

Fortress Luna today appeared on the App Store “What’s Hot” list, which is pretty exciting stuff for me! While I have worked on other iPhone apps that have done well and appeared in various lists, this is the first “independent” title that has done well enough to earn such a distinction.

The entire Red Sword Studio team, as well as the Primus Team deserve a solid round of Kudos for their efforts on the title. A special Kudo to Omar for doing such a great job on the art!

OK, back to work, which no so coincidently involves updating Fortress Luna πŸ™‚

PS: be sure to go and check out Fortress Luna on the App Store!

Related links:

Primus Productions Fortress Luna page
Red Sword Studios Fortress Luna page
Press Release

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Fortress Luna now available

After a slight delay caused by a confusing app store icon, Fortress Luna has been approved and gone live in the iTunes App Store!

Fortress Luna is a simple, yet addicting game that is ideal for casual players. The objective is to protect the earth from incoming asteroids, by firing missiles from the orbiting Moon. It was developed by a group of talented developers I work with, Red Sword Studios.

The gameplay is based on Darrel Dearring’s remix of classic arcade gameplay elements from Missile Command and Asteroids. The games uses true 3D assets coupled with some really nice background art, making it easy on the eyes as you fight to save the earth and all of humanity.

Buy It Now! (or else…)

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App Store Icon vs iPhone Icon

I just had my first title submission rejection from the App Store. The reason given? The small bundle icon does not match your large icon.

OK, so at first I was pretty irate, they both contain the same elements and it seemed pretty obvious. But after cooling down, I have to admit that objectively it is possible some customers would be confused … I still think the reviewer is being pretty nit-picky here, but I also know that end users can be very easily confused.

What do you think?

wpid-icon-2009-09-25-16-09.png

Fortress Luna App icon

wpid-512x512-150x150-2009-09-25-16-09.png

Original Fortress Luna App Store image

We’re going to redo the app store image to match the icon, since the original image has too much detail to be reduced to an icon.

Conclusion: While it might seem that you only need a passing resemblance between the two, if you don’t want your app rejected over a trivial matter, take my advice and make sure there is no way someone can’t tell that the two images refer to the same app!

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Snow Leopard Breaks All 3rd Party Apps by Removing Creator Codes!

Begin RANT

OK, so the title is a little sensational … but this decision is going to cost me money, so I am understandably upset. It’s also a decision that seems to have no merit, and if rumor is correct was simply more of the NeXT clan forcing out any traditional Mac OS X functionality out of ?spite? … I don’t know why, but many of these decisions seem to be “NeXT is correct, Mac OS was wrong” vs. rationally motivated.

What has happened

For some unknown, apparently arbitrary reason, 10.6 no longer obey’s a file’s creator code. What this means is that it is no longer possible to attach a document to specific applications from code! I’ve tested creating documents in hexedit, bbedit, etc. and the documents created refuse to open in the creating program when double-clicked. It appears that they now belong to some ‘default’ program (textedit in bbedit’s case).

Is Apple trying to put all other software makers out of business?

I mean, if an end user creates a document in MyWordProcessor but it opens in TextEdit all of the time, which app are they going to keep using? This seems like a really sneaky way to pull of the same “integrate the web browser into the OS” crap that Microsoft did with Explorer. (OK, it probably isn’t, but it sure feels that way to a developer who now has to deal with, and pay for the handling of, hundreds of support issues.)

Seriously, this is incredibly broken!

The inability of programs to create documents that can be re-opened in the creating program by double-clicking on the document icons is a serious problem for both end users and developers. I’ve tried explaining this to various HexEdit users, but they only understand that it no longer works.

Beyond the document creation issue, the loss of this functionality removes a very valuable component from the Mac OS X filesystem. Creator codes, along with their associated data types, offer are _extremely_ valuable in Mac OS X and are one of the really great ways in which Mac OS X sets itself apart from Windows, linux, unix, etc.

Please, let us know what we can do to get Apple management to see the consequences of this decision so that they can restore a very marketable and valuable feature to Mac OS X.

Summary

Without this ability, I am finding that I am very annoyed, to the point of almost hating to use the Mac OS X finder, as so many things like opening documents works the way it used to. How irritating would Apple’s management find it if they had to go through three steps to open every document they worked on instead of simply being able to double click on them?

What Can We Do?

I am not sure we can do anything, but at the very least everyone who reads this needs to file a bug report and submit feedback against 10.6 via the official Apple channels:

Official Apple Feedback Form
Official Apple Bug Reporting Form

If anyone else has suggestions on ways to get Apple management’s attention on this, speak up!

End RANT

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Using Handles to Improve Memory Use

Memory Is Not Free!

While newer desktop machines are able to use hardware and/or Virtual Memory (VM) to somewhat take care of memory fragmentation, it is not always effective. While it differs with architecture and OS, VM is limited to somewhere between 2 and 4 GB unless your application is 64bit compliant. So, in general, yes, that means that you can run out of memory (no matter what your college instructor says). I have seen this happen often with Windows programs, most of which never check the return of a new or malloc and always assume memory is available.

On hardware like the iPhone (or pretty much any video game console) VM is either none existent or not functional enough to provide any real benefit to 3rd party applications. So just because you are working on newer hardware, don’t assume that you do not have to worry about heap fragmentation! Most programmers do not realize how badly they reduce the usable amount of RAM available to their application and simply can not understand why they can’t allocate 100K when there is 2.5 MB “available“.

Handles Rule!

Personally, I really like using handles in all of my applications and games, and use a custom handle based memory manager for this purpose in many cases, especially on “gaming devices” like the iPhone. Not only does it help with heap fragmentation, via movable memory blocks, it also has extensive debugging capabilities built in (corruption checks, leak detection, fragmentation reports, etc). My handle based memory manager is based on the Mac OS Classic memory manager, and features most of the same functionality along with some of the same limitations. The biggest “limitation” is the set amount of available memory. However, I personally see this as an advantage, because no matter what system you use you do have a limited amount of memory! Especially on gaming devices, so by being able to set that limit and have the memory manager tell you how you are using that limited amount of memory I can develop apps on a Mac OS X or Windows platform and retain the limitations of the destination device. And, even if the target is Mac OS X or Windows (or any other “modern vm” capable OS), I want to know how I am using memory. For instance, just because I have 16GB of RAM on my Mac/Win machine (I actually do have that much RAM), it does not mean everyone does. Everyone also does not have 2TB of HD space available for VM. And, in the end, if I have to use VM for my application, am I really providing the end user the best experience? I don’t think so!

By using handles I am able to provide all of the same functionality of new/malloc while at the same time offering improved performance (up to 1000% faster on mobile devices, where standard memory managers often suck hard), provide the application the ability to better manage it’s memory pools, avoid fragmentation of available memory, provide the application an easy way to use multiple memory pools, and get very detailed debugging information on memory usage.

Files Benefit too!

Instead of straight file use, or a .zip archive pak system, I use a Resource Manager equivalent as well, since using a bunch of files on these devices can literally kill performance. (ie, 5 minute load times to to 1/2 minute simply by bundling all files into a resource file on a Nokia N95 – opening and closing files can be extremely slow on non-desktop hardware). Now I don’t actually use file forks, but one or more typical “data” files that use a storage system similar (but not identical) to the Apple resource format.

The benefit to this is that data can be compressed on disk, reducing storage size and (often greatly) decreasing load times, providing the ability to override existing “default” data simply by dropping in a new file (similar to the way Quake .pak files work), etc.

But in terms of memory, the resource manager provides another benefit, in that all data is provided via handles, which means there is a way to provide cheap and easy caching (ie, if a data resource is already loaded, no need to load it again, just return the existing reference), and significantly less heap fragmentation via the use of handles for relocatable data and by putting resource data in “high” memory, while all “pointer” (ie, malloc/new style allocations) are in “low” memory.

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UPS continues tradition of poor service

Warning, rant ahead! I don’t like posting such, but UPS is making my life miserable often enough that I feel I have to.

Anyway, I purchased a product recently which the company shipped via UPS with a signature required. I’d rather they have used someone else, but it wasn’t a choice I saw available. Since I work and my wife is visiting relatives this week no one is available to accept the package, and my work currently does not have a receptionist but does have a locked door, so no deliveries there.

So the only way I can get it delivered is to pick it up at the UPS customer “service” center. This is where my days get very bad.

What to expect from trying to pick up a UPS package:

1. You will stand in line for hours while waiting to get your package. (Today was 2 hours in line and 1 hour travel time wasted. I needed to be getting actual work done, mowing the yard, anything else but using 1/4 tank of gas and standing around).

2. You will not be able to actually pick up the package, even though you have called and scheduled a will-call pickup and been guaranteed that the package will be available between such and such times. So far UPS has had a package for me about 1 out of 10 times. That’s so f’n bad it’s not even funny. FedEx and DHL have a 100% rate as best I can recall.

3. You will have no recourse, and will be completely unable to get any contact information or a phone # in order to try and resolve the issue. Their attitude is “too bad, try again”. Today there were a dozen people in my situation, which is completely unacceptable. All but a few had called ahead to get a guaranteed will-call pickup arranged, and we had all gotten the ‘confirmation’ callback.

I often have to pick up packages because no one will be home to accept the package. Incredibly, with UPS the situation is even worse because they seem to never be able to find my work space. They claim “the office doesn’t exist”, and are totally flabbergasted that FedEx and DHL can (or could in DHL’s case) find it without any problem. So, every time I have to literally fight with UPS to get my ^R*&^W#%$*^& package.

I’m going to have to call and cancel this order because I can’t figure out how to actually accept the package meaning it’s going to be returned to the merchant. I simply will not waste another three (3) hours standing in line (and driving time) to be told the same old “we don’t know what happened to your package” story by incompetent UPS employees anymore.

This will cost the company shipping (because, of course, UPS isn’t going to own up and cover their costs!) and other misc. fees.

BOTTOM LINE: if you are going to ship a package, don’t use UPS!

Of note, my company (Ideas From the Deep) long ago stopped using UPS to send our customers orders because a) they could not meet express mail guaranteed times, b) lost packages, c) damaged packages and d) were costing us a lot of money in refunds, bogus shipping fees (I consider a shipping fee bogus if the package never arrives or arrives past the guaranteed date).

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