Archive for the ‘Programs’ Category

Pocketpedia iOS 7

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

Bookpedia iPad iOS 7

Pocketpedia 3.2 with an iOS 7 interface is finally out. Took us longer than expected as we tried to keep backwards compatibility with previous iOS versions, but in the end it was too time consuming. The changes in iOS 7 are too many, so going forward all the new versions of Pocketpedia are iOS 7+. The old version will still be available through the App Store for those with older devices that can’t upgrade to the latest iOS.

The new version is looking great. On the iPad it was less work as we already had most of the interface matching iOS 7. The iPhone version got a serious makeover and no longer has a dedicated Doghouse search tab bar. The search is now integrated with the collection screen under the organize button (top right). This frees a lot more vertical space for the item and collection listing. Another area of notable improvement is the ability to sort by any field in Pocketpedia with a scroll picker. Selecting the same field twice will also allow to flip the sorting to descending. Not common with alphabetical sorting but handy for numbers and ratings.

As usual a number of smaller updates smarter addition of items to the selected collection without the need for user selection, localization corrections and speed improvements.

Star Wars DVDpedia iOS 7

Thank you for waiting and as always we would like to thank all the beta testers who took time to debug and improve Pocketpedia and helped us make this iOS 7 release so smooth.

Happy Birthday Bruji!

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014


10 years ago today we released DVDpedia 1.0 into the wild. We never thought that this little program, which Conor initially wrote just to learn more about Cocoa and Xcode, would turn Bruji into our fulltime jobs and livelihood. But 5 people (unexpectedly) bought DVDpedia on that first day and we got a lot of feedback too so Conor kept working on it. After a couple of weeks he couldn’t keep up with the emails anymore so I jumped in for tech support.

Bookpedia followed just a few months later in May 2004 because we’re big readers and wanted a good program to catalogue our own books. Later that year CDpedia completed the trifecta. At that point we thought we were done with Pedia programs but we kept getting requests for Gamepedia and finally decided to go ahead with it in November 2005.

Of course when the iPhone debuted in 2007 we were very excited about writing our first iOS app and Pocketpedia nicely completed the Pedia family. Pocketpedia was among the first 523 apps that were in the App Store on launch day. Way back when it was possible to actually find something in the App Store.

As everyone knows though, a picture is worth a thousand words and even though some of these make us cringe, they’re too funny not to share. (All images found thanks to the way back machine and the internet archive.)

DVDpedia 1.0. Note particularly those wonderful toolbar icons. Hard to tell but there was a lot of drop-shadow involved.

dvdpedia 1.0

A slightly later version (1.x) with much more professional toolbar icons and a slightly less professional scrollbar for the summary in the side drawer.

DVDpedia version 1.5

With CDpedia we brought in a different kind of scrollbar for the drawer, not necessarily better…


Bookpedia’s Add/Edit window version 2.x


The release of Gamepedia coincided with version 2 of the other Pedia programs and brought the basic layout along that the Pedias still use today. Although it took us until version 4 to introduce the flexible Add/Edit window with the white background.

Gamepedia 1.x

If you’ve been using the Pedias for a while then you might also remember AmazonPedia, our widget, and our short-lived dabble in time management, MyTime. (AmazonPedia went the way of the dodo as most widgets did and MyTime was sold to another development company.) And if you’re a real geek then you’re probably using Bwana, our man page reader. That’s been around almost as long as Bookpedia actually but it’s such a simple program that we sometimes forget it’s there.

To celebrate we are doing 20% off everything on Bruji’s birthday February 3rd. As our loyal customer you might not need another version of our program, but do tell any friends you think might benefit from some organization in their lives.

We hope you enjoyed this little trip into the past for our birthday. Here’s to 10 more exciting years full of new versions, programs and challenges!

Version 5.2 and the New Doghouse

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

doghouseSmallWe are very excited to announce the latest version, 5.2, of all the Pedias. Although this version includes quite a good number of fixes and enhancements the real new features are in the brand-new Doghouse. The original Doghouse was very popular and served us well for over a year. However with its impressive growth we needed to expand and not only modernize the core language but also take the opportunity to make it easier to add expansions in the future. Launching today Doghouse is faster, 100% redundant, has more relevant results, matches more UPCs and ISBNs, contains improved moderator tools and has a new web page.

Instead of two complete dedicated servers at Site5 and Hostgator we now moved to Heroku, a platform that lets us deploy any number of virtual servers within seconds to handle peak loads. We can now also deploy exclusive worker servers to do background maintenance without affecting the API response time.

We are now using Ruby instead of PHP for the API language. It was a language we started using to develop the online admin as it allowed for a modern interface and less development time with the use of Ruby gems. Early on we realized it would make a good fit for the API and that we could migrate the entire platform to Ruby and maintain a single language. A language more similar to Objective-C which we use everyday when working on The Pedias and Pocketpedia.

Flying Sphinx Heroku Puma




The database is now hosted by ClearDB, with redundant servers and guaranteed uptime as well as automatic backups. This was previously work that we had to execute and monitor ourselves: synchronizing Site5 and Hostgator and doing daily local backups. Now we have less code to maintain and more time to develop the features we really want to see in Doghouse. We also re-structured the database for efficiency and speed. The next step is to evaluate adopting PostgreSQL that integrates better with Heroku. ClearDB was not built for a dynamic system such as Heroku that can scale, the limits are too low to easily add to a Heroku Ruby application.

Images are now hosted at Google Storage and Rackspace. Rackspace’s content delivery network delivers incredible speeds when it comes to downloading the cover, the slowest part when downloading details for any item. We also have automatic generation of a mini size thumbnail for Pocketpedia that makes the results faster and more responsive.

We have been using Sphinx since the beginning, an amazing search engine  delivering accurate search results in single digit milliseconds. But like MySQL we were also managing Sphinx and keeping it upgraded and maintained. In the spirit of Heroku we moved to a dedicated server operated by Flying Sphinx. Built by Pat Allan, an Australian who also built the Ruby gem “Thinking Sphinx” for integrating with Sphinx. Pat has been incredibly helpful responding to issues and updating his code within days to fix bugs. Going way beyond run of the mill good support and even pushing code fixes into our own repository. We now update the index live, meaning contributions are available to all within a minute or two, instead of the nightly indexing that was done by the previous version.

SphinxRackspaceRuby Sidekiq




Moderating entries and viewing them online happens all under a single domain now: Logged in users will get access to an edit button as well as special admin pages. Version 5.2 also makes it easier to sign up as a moderator, simply include an email in the “Doghouse -> Settings” window. This will allow you to fix any small errors you might run into with one of the Doghouse items. There is no commitment for becoming a moderator. We want to encourage all users to contribute and correct entries, as many or as few as they like.

In future posts, we will share details of a more technical nature when we have the time to write them up. They include: running Puma on Heroku to maintain a fast response time; Sidekiq and Redis to handle background jobs; using Heroku’s API to scale dynamically and automatically; integrating automatic error reporting; automated testing with Rspec and New Relic monitoring.

We would like to thank all our beta testers who made sure that the API was running smoothly in the new version before the launch of 5.2. Also all the moderators who fixed countless small issues in tens of thousands of books, movies, albums and games. But most all the users who contributed entries and helped us grow Doghouse with every submission.

Regardless of whether you’re a veteran user or just bought the programs, do test the new Doghouse and let us know if there are any rough edges that need smoothing. We’ll be rolling out more new Doghouse features slowly once we are satisfied with the transition so stay tuned for updates.

Edit and Manual Add in Pocketpedia 3.1

Friday, September 27th, 2013

We are proud to announce Pocketpedia 3.1, now with full editing capabilities. It’s taken some time to get this new feature working exactly the way we wanted it to but we are very happy with the results.

In addition to editing and manually add we’ve also added a new cover capture algorithm that lets you adjust the covers so they’re just right, even when the image is taken at an angle or from further away.

Slanted Picture

Final Result

Work is underway for an iOS 7 re-touch for a future version although luckily Pocketpedia is already a good fit for the new iOS look. Version 3.2 is already in early beta testing and will include some vital upgrades to our popular Doghouse. Please note that this will be the last version of Pocketpedia to support iOS 4.1.

iPad Editing

Be sure you’re up to date with the Pedias on your Mac as well: version 5.1.7 is required for synching with Pocketpedia 3.1.

As a celebration of this release we are offering a 25% discount on Pocketpedia for the week. A great opportunity to purchase Pocketpedia if you don’t own it yet or let your friends know about the program.
Although Pocketpedia is meant as a companion app for the Pedia programs on the Mac, with the new ‘add manual’ and ‘edit’ features it could be used as a stand-alone application for users who have gone iOS only in their computing lives.

A Bag of Random Menus

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

From time to time we receive requests that are easy to implement but don’t really fit in with the programs because they seem very specific to one user’s needs.

But maybe we’re wrong to think that others wouldn’t enjoy these little fixes too. So I have started a new plugin that is a repository of several commands created for specific users to share them with all. You can install the plugin automatically by clicking here or download it and double-click to install. The installer is specific to DVDpedia, but the plugin will work in the other programs as well. Just download the file and change the ending from “.pediaextra_d” to “.pediaextra_b” (Bookpedia), “.pediaextra_c” (CDpedia) or “.pediaextra_g” (Gamepedia) and double-click the file to install.

The plugin is called Title Case after the command that initially started it all and the commands will appear under the menu Movie (Book, Album, Game) > Fixes / Links as well as in the contextual menu for an entry.

Title Case: Will replace the current title on the selection with the properly capitalized version based on the John Gruber algorithm. I used the Objective-C port kindly created by Marshall Elfstrand (I couldn’t resist a website with such a great name).

Languages and Subtitles Alphabetically: Places the languages and subtitles in DVDpedia in alphabetical order.

Fix Spaces: Turns dashes into spaces and removes double spaces from the title.

Duration to Hours: Changes duration from 123 to 2:03.

Rename Linked File to Title: Updates the name of the linked file to reflect the title. So a file called AAA-1023.mp4 linked to a DVDpedia entry Star Wars: Episode III -Revenge of the Sith will become Star Wars: Episode III -Revenge of the Sith

Show in Finder: Reveals the linked file in a Finder window.

Create Cover from File: Replaces the cover image with a screen grab 10 seconds into the linked film.

The source code is clean and if you’re looking to add a new command to the Pedias this might be the plugin to start from as it will facilitate a lot of the boiler code by simply copy pasting one of the existing menu commands.

It might also be useful to rebuild the plugin if you find yourself using a command frequently as this would allow you to add a keyboard shortcut to the command. For example to make command-shift-L the keyboard shortcut you would add:

[renameFile setKeyEquivalent:@"L"];
[renameFile setKeyEquivalentModifierMask:NSCommandKeyMask];

Currently the source code is available as a zip format, in the future it will be up on a version control system so that we can all update it. In the meantime do send any useful improvements for inclusion.

Update: New menu command under Links that create cover images from the linked files that QuickTime can understand. This new command make the plugin 10.7+ only as requires the AVFoundation.framework including in Lion.

The Google Books API

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Since the last update of Bookpedia, version 5.1.4, users have access to the vast database of Google books. Especially for our international users and those doing ISBN searches this is a great addition.

The new plug-in proved so popular that the program started hitting its API search limit recently, which Google sets to 1000 searches a day. We contacted them right away and asked for an extension of the limit and within a day got a positive reply with the extension granted x10. So now no Bookpedia users should see this in their Add window anymore when doing a Google Books search.


In case you’re wondering, you don’t need to re-download the program or wait for an update. The change is dependent on our signup with Google Books so it’s automatically handled by the program.

Sometimes You Need Extra Large

Friday, May 10th, 2013

As many of you know, the often updated beta versions of the Pedias are our work horses for the programs. That’s where bug fixes are implemented and new features are added for users to test and play with.

The latest feature added (currently only in the English beta version of DVDpedia, will come to all the Pedias and localizations with the next official update) is a new font size option for the source and list view: Extra Large.


We’ve had this request in the past from a couple of users and we did increase the size with the 5.0 release of the programs but that wasn’t quite enough, especially if you’re using the programs on a large screen 1080 TV with high resolution like DVDpedia user Thomas who sent this feature request to us most recently and finally kicked us into action on the problem.

The Full Screen Mode is great for use on larger screens since it automatically adapts to the number of available pixels but for browsing some users prefer the list view which unfortunately becomes too small to read when you’re sitting a few meters away from the screen. But with the Extra Large option, found in the Preferences/Style, that problem is taken care of. Thomas put up a blog post with screenshots to illustrate the change.

If you’d like to try it out for yourself, download the latest DVDpedia beta here and let us know what you think. Apple already provides great accessibility options for users but the Extra Large option might be a useful addition for users with visual impairments too.

Customer Support and the Empty Inbox

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

We are always pleased to be complemented on our customer support. Often the complement comes with a request for advice on how to handle a large volume of email efficiently, be it at work or home. The trick is an empty inbox. This does not mean that our inbox is empty on the contrary, it normally has a few tens of emails in it yet everything in the inbox is being actively worked on. We don’t move messages to new folders based on priority or who should deal with them as they will inevitable  be forgotten.

The inbox automatically then works as a to do list and by keeping it date ordered the priority of messages decline as they drop down the stack. This puts you on the habit of dealing with messages as they arrive or if not a few days later as you continue to stare at them in the inbox. The corner stone of the philosophy of getting things done – if you can do something right away then get to it.

However, there comes the occasional feature request that would take many hours to complete and you do need a long term to do list for those. For these emails we transpose the request into a Lighthouse ticket that allows us to search it and give it a priority and define the milestone it should be associated with. Lighthouse issues are only reviewed and worked on with major releases to keep us focused on our own road map of features.

There are two weaknesses to this system. First being rare and impossible to reproduce bugs that tend to fall quickly down the stack and against our own advice go into a bugs folder after a few weeks. This is the black hole of support requests. The only reason they go into a folder instead of being deleted is that they have become so hard to fix or inconsequential that I am now waiting for someone else to report  the same issue to cross reference it. Currently the Bugs folder has 28 messages, of which I am pretty sure most are fixed and irrelevant today. For example the oldest, from 1/4/09, is about Pocketpedia1 not displaying a few Korean characters correctly. I like to think it’s fixed, but otherwise will wait for another Korean user to report it with Pocketpedia3.

The second issue is that by waiting to take action on an email before replying to the users means a few users might feel they didn’t get through to you when their request takes several days to complete. This is the recent case of Tom, who emailed us about printing and emailing a selection with a specific template. I immediately got to work on improving the programs. They now have the ability to print a selection instead of having to create a “Collection from Selection” and then use print. In the beta version of Bookpedia you can hold down the option key when clicking on the File menu and you will get a “Print Selection” command instead of the regular print or command-option-P; saving Tom and other users a couple of steps. This feature has been in the beta since two days after Tom wrote, yet the template requires painstaking work in HTML that I haven’t gotten around to. I foolishly wanted to finish the template before writing back to Tom, this was were I failed. Although I view Tom’s email everyday and sometimes work on it (tried to print out the edit window but did not succeed – the final template would have a similar look) he doesn’t know that we are paying attention.

To make sure this never happens all email in your inbox should be read after a couple of hours of being received, if not being worked on immediately they should be flagged and if they reach the point were they been in the inbox for more than a day they should be marked as replied so that users have the peace of mind that you are given their email attention. Even if it’s a simple “We are on it”.

On the days you achieve an empty inbox, then it’s time to celebrate and have a nice meal with loved ones. Now if I can get that template done, I would be at zero inbox Today.

Version 5.1.4 is out

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

We’ve just released 5.1.4 of the Pedias, both the regular and Mac App Store versions. This update includes some pretty important search plug-in updates, especially for IMDb in DVDpedia and DiscoGS in CDpedia. Bookpedia has gained a new search option with access to Google Books (especially great for non-English book searches).

All those lucky users with Retina displays, rejoice for the Pedias have finally been fully ‘retinafied’! We’ve also changed the color of the stars in the list view – let us know what you think about the gold.

This version also includes some changes to the way the programs handle the Last Seen/Read/Heard/Played History to ensure that all the date information is kept accurately for previously seen/read/heard/played entries.

As always, full release notes can be found on the What’s New? pages for DVDpedia, Bookpedia, CDpedia and Gamepedia.

To get 5.1.4, use the ‘Check for Updates’ command found under the program menu or if you have the MAS version, go into the ‘Updates’ tab of the App Store program.

Pocketpedia and the Taller iPhone 5

Friday, September 21st, 2012

With the launch of iPhone 5 today we wanted to let you know that the upcoming version of Pocketpedia will support the extra 176 pixels. For data driven apps like Pocketpedia the extra height is a great addition since more of your collections, items, results and details will be visible. Specifically, this means you get to see two more collections and one more row of items when you’re in a collection.

Below are listed a few fantasy books from my personal collection. The first screenshot is for iPhone 4S followed by iPhone 5 screenshot.

iOS makes it easy to cram a lot onto the screen but it was getting crowded when the search was in use. As above, iPhone 4S screenshot followed by iPhone 5.

iPhone 5 brings a little bit more of everything to Pocketpedia. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on an iPhone 5 on launch day, then look forward to the next release of Pocketpedia. (As soon as I am done with some other features currently in development.)