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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Sprote Rsrch.'s LiveJournal:

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Sunday, January 30th, 2005
11:31 am
Clutter d18
Sprote Rsrch. celebrates the one-month anniversary of the resurrection of Clutter by releasing Clutter version d18 ! This time you get improved playlist support, localizations, and more tweaks and speedups. Viz:
  • Clutter is now fully localizable, and Japanese and French translations have been added thanks to Yuzuru Shiraiwa and Jean-Jacques Ardoino. (Email us if you'd like to provide additional translations!)
  • Playlists are now shown in the browser, as a special category below "Compilations".
  • Playlists have a special default picture (a stack of CDs).
  • Playlists show their titles even when assigned custom covers.
  • Fixed a problem where the "Treat iTunes playlists as CDs" pref (now renamed "Give playlists their own covers") would think things were playlists that weren't (resulting in a "null" playlist being displayed).
  • Titles have a white glow around them to make them more legible against dark backgrounds. (Not available on 10.2, sorry.)
  • A "Show Title" menu command can turn titles on or off for covers on the desktop.
  • At long last, selected covers are now highlighted in your preferred highlight color, instead of just green. (And there was much rejoicing.)
  • The message "Launching iTunes..." appears in the status line of the Now Playing window.
  • Clutter is now more reliable about detecting which albums are compilations.
  • No more delay loading the music library (when opening the browser or control-clicking a CD cover).
Friday, January 21st, 2005
10:55 pm
Clutter d17
At long last, after days of coding and debugging: Clutter version d17 is now available! It's just more of the same, really -- more bug-fixes, more speed-ups, even yet another new feature. Ho hum. At least it's a free upgrade...
  • There is now a pref to put the CD covers on the desktop (behind all other windows). You Panther (OS X 10.3) users can still get to them quickly by using Exposé: press F11 to move windows out of the way, and again to restore them.
  • Fixed a bug where, if the Now Playing window was the only open window when Clutter quit, the window wouldn't re-open the next time Clutter was launched. (I think this bug was the reason I got so many questions about how to re-open that window...)
  • The annoying "-50" errors some people get when trying to play a CD are resolved. Turns out this happens when all the tracks are either missing or disabled (unchecked) so there's nothing for iTunes to play. Clutter now puts up a more informative alert describing the situation. (Thanks to Clutter user Brooke Hendricks for the detective work!)
  • CDs start playing more quickly in iTunes. (But iTunes 4.5 is now required.) People with very large music libraries should no longer get time-out errors trying to play CDs.
  • If Clutter launches iTunes, it now launches it hidden. Also, the request won't time out if launching iTunes takes a long time.
  • If you turned off shadows for your covers, new covers you create won't have shadows.
  • Double-clicking the CD that's currently playing (or pressing Space while it's selected) now pauses the CD instead of starting it over from the beginning.
  • The "Treat iTunes playlists as CDs" preference, which broke in d15, works again.
Almost 12,000 downloads so far this month! Thanks, everyone, for your interest and appreciative emails and the high ratings on VersionTracker and MacUpdate. And for the tsunami-relief donations!
Tuesday, January 11th, 2005
10:15 pm
Oh, and one more thing ... Clutter d16
One more thing Steve forgot to announce today: Clutter version d16 is now available!

It's faster! Even more bug-free! Smaller than an iPod Shuffle! Cheaper than a Mac Mini! And totally unpredicted by ThinkSecret!

See what's new
Download Clutter [300K ZIP archive]

"It's Like Shuffle Play For Your Desktop!"
Wednesday, January 5th, 2005
3:27 pm
Ruminations on an FAQ
One of the most common support questions we get is "Clutter used to show me what's playing in iTunes but now it doesn't anymore. How do I make it do it again?" The answer is "Sounds like you closed the Now Playing window. Re-open it by selecting Now Playing from the Window menu".

One reaction is to roll your eyes at this and wonder why people can't figure out something so simple. Which is the sort of reaction computer geeks have had to end users ever since the punch-card and front-panel-switches days, and nearly all progress in usability has required getting past that and identifying how to make things work more like the way the user expects.

More succinctly: A frequently asked question often indicates a usability problem. Instead of answering the question, find a way to avoid the confusion.

So. What to do about this? A couple of possibilities:

1. Always re-open the Now Playing window when Clutter launches. Unfortunately I know people who never use this window and would be annoyed at it re-opening.
2. When the user closes the window, first put up a sheet saying "By the way, you can get this window back by choosing Now Playing from the Window menu." Not bad, except that it requires the user to remember that lesson until the time they next want the window.
3. Same as #2, but the sheet asks "Do you want this window to reappear the next time you launch Clutter?" with Yes and No buttons, Yes being the default. This seems to combine the best features of #1 and #2, so it's what I'm likely to do. (Plus, my wife suggested it!)

Your suggestions are welcome, just comment on this post...
Friday, December 31st, 2004
4:37 pm
Ring in the new year with ... a new version of Clutter!
Has it been a year and a half since the last version of Clutter was released? How time flies!

I was fortunate enough to get a Squeezebox for Xmas, and no sooner had I set it up and started grooving to MP3s on my stereo, then I started to wish that I could use Clutter to control it. The remote control is handy, and the SlimServer web UI is useable though klunky, but they don't compare to Clutter.

...And a couple of days later, here's version d15! I threw in a couple of other new features too. Look what you get:
  • Clutter now works with SlimServer as well as iTunes! This lets you control a Squeezebox or SoundBridge connected to your stereo.
  • By popular demand, added a preference to make the Now Playing window float above all other windows.
  • Scanning the iTunes library no longer hangs Clutter for up to several seconds on launch or when it comes to the front.
  • If iTunes 4.7 or later is running, the Now Playing window updates instantly if you change what's playing in iTunes. Also, Clutter no longer needs to ask iTunes what it's playing every 10 seconds.
  • By popular demand, added a keyboard shortcut (Cmd-Shift-K) for the Copy Cover To iTunes command.
  • When an album without cover art is viewed in the browser, Clutter will look up its cover art from iTunes or Amazon, after a two-second delay. A spinning progress indicator appears next to the cover display while this is going on.
  • The album lists in the browser window can now be sorted by year released or date added. (Use the View > Sort Albums By menu commands. The All and Compilations lists can have their own independent sort orders.)
  • The album lists in the browser window now display the year each album was released (if that info is in the iTunes database.)
  • The "All" list in the browser window now displays each album's artist, if any.
  • Added support for looking up covers on Amazon.de and Amazon.co.jp.
  • Under the hood, a new modular design makes it easy for developers to add new "Player" classes to control other MP3 players.
  • Now packaged as ZIP archive, since some people had trouble with StuffIt (the application's "executable" permission didn't get set, making it unlaunchable.)
All for the low, low price of ... still free! Although we are asking that, if you use Clutter, please contribute to the Red Cross to help the victims of the recent Southeast Asia tsunami. Thanks.
Sunday, May 30th, 2004
9:40 pm
We interrupt this dead feed

... Is this thing on? There's so much dust ...

... Ah! that's the switch! ...

Attention all citizens! This bourgeois media outlet of "Sprote Rsrch" has been seized by the People's Revolutionary Source Code Front! The monopolistic running-dog closed-source abandonware known as "Clutter" will now be liberated as ideologically pure open source! The members of the proletarian info-working class will no longer be denied their freedom to tinker! For too long have the top-hatted cigar-chomping bosses of Sprote Rsrch. kept their fat fists wrapped around the money-bags bulging with unethically extorted licensing fees and usurious upgrade costs ---

[Err, comrade, it says here on this webpage that it was freeware, so technically, there were no fees...]

--- For too long, I say, have the alley-skulking pushers of Sprote Rsrch., dolled up in their best Steve Jobs turtlenecks, been handing out the free-as-in-lo-carb-beer-ware to impressionable youngsters, addicting them to the sweet overripe pleasures of binary-only distros! First it's silly no-cost utilities for displaying the pop-punk trash CDs the RIAA kleptocracy took their lunch money for ---

[Err, comrade, we actually believe that nearly all the music albums displayed in Clutter were heroically liberated from the RIAA oppressor by glorious prole-to-prole collective file sharing networks.]

--- As I said, first it's inexpensive desktop frippery, then they are led into the hard stuff, the overpriced office suites and extortionate music-production software. (If I've said it once, I've said it 128 times: how can the workers control the means of production when The Man is charging hundreds of dollars for a copy of Logic or Reactor or ProTools or ---

[Comrade! The batteries are nearly drained in this long-dormant blog! You must come to the point quickly!]

Err, yes! Citizens! The People's Revolutionary Source Code Front has today toppled the kleptocratic licensing agreement behind Clutter and is freeing the source code under the terms of the Berkeley Standard Distribution! Right on! "Power to the people!", as they say in Berkeley. Enslaved coding masses, arise and let this sad abandonware become your glorious collective farm! You have nothing to lose but your shrinkwrap license agreements! Let a thousand CD covers bloom!

Sunday, June 22nd, 2003
10:32 am
Clutter d14!
Clutter d14 is ready. This release fixes the recent problems with Amazon lookup, greatly improves the user interface for those lookups, adds an iTunes library browser window, and fixes a bunch of bugs. Enjoy!

Change Log:
• Spiffy new browser window for navigating your iTunes library.
• New and improved user interface for Amazon search.
• Fixed incompatibility with current Amazon lookup protocol.
• Turned off playlists-are-CDs by default, as it confused a lot of people.
• Enabled Delete menu cmd for CD windows.
• Control buttons work after resizing Now Playing window.
• Deleting CD cover persists after relaunch.
• Window front-to-back order persists after relaunch.
• Multiple views of same CD (e.g. on desktop and in Now Playing) keep their covers in sync if you change one of them.

As always, email us with your feedback. We are pretty close to the final feature set and user interface for 1.0, so at this point we're mostly interested in bug reports. (And gushing praise, of course. That never gets old.)
Sunday, May 18th, 2003
1:40 pm
Clutter d13 -- with art export to iTunes 4!
Yes, we finally figured out how to export cover art to iTunes 4. (The only tricky part was converting it to PICT format, which is not easy from a Cocoa app.) So now there is a "Copy Cover To iTunes" command in the File menu.

But that's not all! We've also added the following:

• More fixes for HTTP proxy support ... maybe now it'll really work.
• Clutter recognizes when iTunes is playing an Internet radio station or a playlist, and you can assign custom artwork to these (drag/paste to the Now Playing window) and drag them to the desktop. (There is a pref to disable this for playlists, if you don't want it.)
• Now-Playing window zooms correctly (scales artwork to 100%).
• Now-Playing artwork draws at full size and with high-quality scaling.
Info window improvements (OK/Cancel buttons, Close command works, can't open more than one on the same CD).
Improved About box, with easy access to website and email.

As always, we hope you enjoy Clutter! Tell your friends and keep the fan mail and suggestions coming!
Sunday, May 4th, 2003
8:09 pm
Clutter d12, with some iTunes 4 support
Clutter d12 is out.

• Cover art will be retrieved from iTunes 4 if it's not known.
• You can drag CD cover images into iTunes or other apps by holding down the Option key at the time of the mouse-down.
• Clutter should work correctly again with HTTP proxies.
• The Play/Back/Forward buttons are now always shown whenever iTunes is running, even if the current track can't be determined (i.e. when playing someone else's shared music.)
• The track listing contextual menus are more reliable now, esp. with multi-disc sets or if the track numbers aren't tagged.
• If iTunes doesn't respond when Clutter checks what's playing, it assumes the same track is still playing.
• Improved iTunes error reporting.

Saving cover art back to iTunes 4 is a much-requested feature, and we're making some headway on it, so stay tuned for the next release...

[Comments or questions? Please email us. Or if you have a LiveJournal account, you can leave a comment...]
Monday, April 28th, 2003
11:58 am
Clutter and iTunes 4
We note with interest and excitement Apple's new music-related announcements, especially the cover-art support in iTunes 4. However, currently iTunes and Clutter store the cover art in different locations, so they aren't compatible with each other. (And dragging a cover picture from Clutter to iTunes merely creates a new CD window.)

We'll be dissecting iTunes to figure out how to integrate with it (as far as we can tell, the cover pictures are stored in an ID3 tag inside each MP3 file) and we'll release an iTunes 4 compatible version of Clutter ASAP.

For the time being, here's how to copy cover art from Clutter to iTunes:
1. In Clutter, click the CD window or Now Playing window.
2. Choose Copy (Cmd-C).
3. Go to iTunes and select all the tracks in the album (or select the album in the right column of the browse view.)
4. Choose Get Info (Cmd-I).
5. In the Info window, click the empty square labeled "Artwork". Its border will highlight.
6. Choose Paste (Cmd-V).
7. OK the Info window.

Interestingly enough, it appears to be (deliberately?) impossible to copy artwork out of iTunes to other apps. Fortunately Clutter is already pretty good about finding it on its own :-)
Saturday, April 26th, 2003
11:01 am
Clutter 1.0d11 ... new features oh my!
Has it been three weeks? We're back, with new features, all frequently requested by our beloved users:

• The Now Playing window is now resizable ... because you asked for it, over and over again.
• Contextual menus on CDs showing the title and track listing. Selecting a track plays it.
• Preference for localized Amazon search site; currently only the UK is supported, but we'll add more countries as Amazon's other local sites add the capability.
• Preference to stop showing the current CD in the Dock icon.

Get it while it's hot: Clutter 1.0d11
Saturday, April 5th, 2003
10:24 pm
Clutter 10.d10 ... this one goes out to all the neat-freaks
Clutter 1.0d10 [224k] has been released. This one contains a bunch of little improvements, mostly aimed at those of you who don't quite get the name of the app and try to painstakingly arrange your CD tiles.

• By popular demand ... Snap To Grid!
• Dragging moves all selected CDs.
• Shift key constrains drag to horizontal or vertical.
• Resizing a CD makes that the default size for new CDs.
• Shows album name in blank CD window.
• New "Control" menu for iTunes controls and opening iTunes.
• Doesn't connect to Amazon if no net connection
• Amazon lookup now ignores capitalized "(Disc 1)" too (oops!)
Sunday, March 16th, 2003
9:59 pm
Clutter 1.0d7 ... now with buttons!
So soon? Yes, it's a new release of Clutter: 1.0d7. One week is pretty quick turnaround for us, but the many positive comments turned our heads. (We couldn't help ourselves, and added some quotes to the web page.)

The big news is that, by popular demand, we took the back/pause/next buttons from iTunes and copied them (more or less) into our Now Playing window.

We also cranked up the AppleScript timeout to 30 seconds, since several users have reported that iTunes gets very poky with very large music libraries. Hopefully this will prevent script errors.

We also fixed a bug in the Find window, and added the ability to redirect the Buy Now command to a non-US Amazon site.


PS: We're keeping track of all the suggestions & bug reports people send us, so if your pet feature or pet peeve isn't addressed yet, don't worry, it's not forgotten.

PPS: If you like Clutter, don't forget to friend our journal (or subscribe to the RSS newsfeed) so you'll be informed of updates.
Sunday, March 9th, 2003
9:41 pm
A new product: Clutter!
We're still at work on Journalert 1.1, but we have a new product to [pre]release...

Clutter is a small Mac OS X application that lets you put music CDs on your desktop. You can drag them anywhere -- they're really windows. Line them up neatly or put them in piles, it's your choice. Each one looks like the real CD's cover, and double-clicking it tells iTunes to play that CD. [screenshot]

Think of Clutter as an alternate user interface to your music collection. When deciding what to play next, instead of searching through a huge alphabetical list, let your eye roam over the covers of your favorite CDs and those you've been listening to recently.

There's a main window that shows the CD you're now playing -- the cover picture is looked up automatically from Amazon.com , or you can paste in your own. To keep a CD around for easy access, just drag the picture out of the window onto your desktop. Then double-click it whenever you want to play it.

Like Journalert, Clutter is free. We hope you'll enjoy it!
Thursday, November 7th, 2002
2:16 pm
Journalert 1.0 ... and a new website
No problems were reported (or found by us) in Journalert 0.98, so we crossed out the version number and wrote "1.0" on it in crayon. In other words, it's done!

Then we forgot to announce this to anyone. And we moved our website to a new host and didn't tell anyone about that either.

Clearly we have some work to do before we reach Microsoft-like levels of marketing prowess. Please bear with us!

But better late than never. The new website is at the easy-to-remember sprote.com, where you'll find Journalert 1.0 (which is identical to 0.98 in all but version number) available for download.

What's going on now, then? We've opened the hood for new features. Currently in development are:
• Ability to restrict a post to individual friend groups
• Limited ability to insert images in the WYSIWYG view
• Retrieving "now-playing" info from iTunes.
Stay tuned!
Saturday, September 14th, 2002
3:04 pm
At long last -- Journalert 0.98
Sorry for the long hiatus ... other projects and life events have kept us away from Journalert for too long, and the recent change in LiveJournal's login cookie mechanism required rewriting parts of the app. But we're back! And with the best Journalert ever — so good we're thinking of renaming it 1.0 and throwing a party for it unless someone pulls the red panic lever. So give it a try.

What's new?
• Compatible with new LiveJournal login cookie format, so it can once again accurately tell you which friend posted (even if it's a non-public post).
• New mechanism for extracting the sender and icon (and now, the subject too!) of the latest friend post. It's more reliable, faster, and the code is simpler. (It doesn't end world hunger, though, and it only works with paid accounts, due to LJ server limitations. Free accounts still use the old mechanism.)
• When there's a new post, the Dock icon now only bounces every 15 seconds.
• Server/network errors are now properly reported when checking for friends-page updates.
• Fixed another new-user bug -- it caused the "Check for updates from before I was launched" feature not to work until the first time a new friend post arrived while Journalert was running.
• When you haven't been able to log in yet, the commands that got disabled in version 0.96 are now re-enabled, but they will attempt to log in first.
• The views in the alert window now resize correctly when you resize the window.
• Special characters like "<" and "&" in the subject field of the editor are now correctly quoted when sent to the server, so they won't be misinterpreted as HTML. (Yes, this does mean you can't use HTML tags in subjects anymore ... if you think this is a bad idea, let us know.)

Journalert is fully Jaguar (10.2) compatible. In fact, we've mostly been developing and running it under Jaguar, and though we did do a final check on 10.1.5 today, there might be some issues we didn't notice, so you 10.1 users pay attention and let us know if any compatibility problems crept in.
Saturday, April 20th, 2002
11:10 am
Journalert 0.96 released (more bug fixes)
  • The first time you ever log in, or if it took more than one try to log in, the picture-keyword pop-up and the list of communities in the "New Entry In" submenu now get set up correctly.
  • If Journalert hasn't been able to log in (before you've ever entered any account info, or if the account info is wrong, or if it can't connect to the servers), all the menu commands that require a login are now disabled.
Journalert 0.96 is a final candidate release. We will likely rename it to "1.0" and release it next week, unless any significant new bugs are found. There are several known bugs, but we think they are minor, and we would like to get an official 1.0 out the door first before fixing them.

download Journalert 0.96.

Current Mood: tweaky
Tuesday, April 16th, 2002
8:05 pm
Journalert 0.95 released (bug-fix)
Embarrassingly enough, Journalert 0.94 had a bug that would prevent you from posting any entries containing non-Roman characters (e.g. Cyrillic or Japanese). Fortunately the fix was simple. If you plan on posting any such entries, definitely download 0.95.

Current Mood: contrite
Sunday, April 14th, 2002
4:26 pm
Journalert 0.94 -- now with full Unicode support
LiveJournal's servers now have full support for Unicode posts. This means that people can post in any language using any character set, including Japanese, Russian, Thai...

Journalert 0.94 adds support for the changes in the LiveJournal protocol that make this work. Since Journalert uses the Cocoa framework, it has always supported Unicode internally. The new changes in this version allow it to send and receive full-fidelity Unicode text to/from the server. They also happen to fix a longstanding bug that used to make it impossible to re-open a post containing accented letters or other non-ascii characters.

Mac OS X can display almost the entire Unicode character set. To be able to enter text in non-Roman characters, you'll need to configure your keyboard. You do this via the International system prefs panel. You can then use the Key Caps utility app to see how the keys on the keyboard now map to characters in the selected language. You may need 3rd party software to use certain languages; Russian text input doesn't appear to be supported out of the box.

Current Mood: worldly
Saturday, February 16th, 2002
3:57 pm
Journalert 0.93 released
We've released version 0.93 of Journalert, with a few new tidbits:
  • Checking for friend-page updates is now done asynchronously, meaning that it won't lock up the rest of the app and interrupt your typing an entry. (However, when an update is detected, the downloading of the Friends page to identify the user and picture is still synchronous, so the app may block for a few seonds while this happens. We'll fix that later.)
  • The entry editor's user-icon pop-up now shows the actual icon, not just the name.
  • In styled-text view, adding a user link now generates an "<lj user=___>" tag (which will show up with the little user icon, like this: sprote) if the text contents of the link match the username.
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