There is a bug

I found out last week that there is a bug which I introduced in the last release V1.98.4.0 which prevents Surfulater from creating new articles if it isn’t already running. You get an error message saying you need to open a knowledge base, even if there is one open.

I was hoping to get a new release out this week to fix this, however I’m in the midst of various changes which I don’t want to rush and create more problems, when there is a simple work-around. Just ensure Surfulater is running before you capture any content from your Web Browser and you won’t have any problems.

Jumping hurdles

When I was a young fellow at secondary school we had to jump hurdles in the physical education class. I have to tell you I was petrified every time we had to do this. I was short and the hurdles were these obstacles I had real difficulty getting over. Most of the time we both ended up horizontal on the ground.

These days there are still plenty of hurdles around. Sometimes programming seems to be all about getting over one hurdle only to reach the next one all too quickly. And sometimes the hurdles seem to be more like brick walls! In the end though we always get to where we want to go, even if by a circuitous route.

A far bigger hurdle for me these days is getting more people to know about Surfulater and to understand and appreciate how useful a tool it can be for them. You have no idea how frustrating this is. If Surfulater was just another piece of poorly designed, poorly implemented software that didn’t meet any reel need, then there would be good reasons why folks weren’t interested in it. But that isn’t the case at all. Our users think Surfulater is a truly wonderful product, and of course they are right. Now this is great news and, as I wrote to a new user Sidney Whitehead yesterday, it is a great motivator which helps keep Surfulater on a steady growth path.

This is an excerpt from yesterday’s e-mail from Sidney:

Congratulations on creating such a well thought out and useful product.  I was so thrilled to find precisely what I needed in Surfulater that three days was enough to convince me to purchase the product.  Anyone accustomed to filing clippings from magazines and newspapers should now be relieved that they can do the same thing with added functionality in an electronic format.  I just happened to stumble across your product after doing a Google search on “saving web pages”, in which Surfulater appeared as the tenth entry at the bottom of the page.  I’m convinced that if more people were aware that such a fantastic piece of software existed, they would convert immediately.

I’m convinced that Sydney is absolutely correct in his assessment. And therein lies the problem – getting more people to be Surfulater aware.

In my mission for Surfulater success I’ve been trying to find solutions to my marketing problems. I’ve talked to and communicated with various marketing people and companies, but so far haven’t found anyone that could make a real difference, well at least not in a cost effective way. One person that has been helpful is John Seiffer who is a small business coach. Our discussions inspired John to write Marketing, Sales & Dating on his blog. I’ve replied with a comment which elaborates on the issues I’m facing. I was going to re-post that here but decided it would be best read in context with John’s article.

Marketing is hard, no doubt about it. It is something you need to devote a lot of time and energy to, to get anywhere. Occasionally luck is on your side, or you happen to know someone that knows someone that …, well you get the idea. And things get in your way, like the need to continually improve the product, fix problems, provide support, talk to your spouse, eat and sleep. And if you think marketing is hard then try programming.

Ok, let me wrap this up. Go and read John’s blog post and my reply. If you know someone that knows someone, please put me in touch. If you have any ideas that can help with spreading the word about Surfulater, please do let me know. And finally if you know someone who is good at marketing or at least is up to a challenge let’s talk.

Not Happy!

For the past week and a bit I’ve been doing a lot of research into synchronization techniques, client/server technology, tcp/ip, Windows and Unix sockets and the like. This is all related to the work I’m doing to enable Surfulater databases to be synchronized, either locally across a LAN or across the globe via the Internet.

Synchronization enables you to use the same Knowledge Bases on say your Work and Home PC and have them automatically kept in sync, so you don’t have to manually copy them back and forth. I use Surfulater on a Desktop and Notebook PC and regularly switch between the two, but first I have to copy all of my Knowledge Base files across, some of which are quite large. Then when I’m finished I have to ensure I copy them back. KB synchronization will do all of this for me, without me lifting a finger. The good news is I’ve got a proof of concept implementation working.

So you must be wondering what’s with the Not Happy! Well during my research I came across a particularly interesting article which I only had time to glance at, and put it aside to read in full later on. Well later on arrived last night and for the life of me I can’t find the slightest hint that the aforesaid article ever existed. I’ve searched my Surfulater Knowledge Bases, looked at the last few weeks articles in the Chronological History, searched my Web Browser Favorites and History on my Desktop and Notebook PC’s and I’ve come up completely empty. In complete exasperation I used Google to search for the terms that I thought should locate the Web page for me, worked through pages and pages of results, tried other search terms and after 2 hours gave up.

There is a lesson to be learnt here, and I for one should know it better than anyone. That’s why I’m not happy!

Surfulater V1.98, B4.0 released – Being more responsive

I’m very pleased that we are keeping up the pace of frequent new releases. So often in the software world this isn’t the case, with new releases being few and far between and the poor old customers becoming more and more dissatisfied. Of course you have to be wary of putting out new releases just for the sake of it, as some do. And some companies put out new releases without even telling you what’s in them! This must be a trick to make people think they are doing something, when they really aren’t.

The major enhancement in this release was to make the content window display update far more responsive when displaying all articles in a folder. With lots of large articles this used to be quite sluggish to say the least, but not any more. For example previously you may have had to wait 20 seconds after clicking on a folder in the Knowledge Tree before you could do anything else. Now that’s more likely less than a second. I’ve covered this in detail in Improving performance with Multi-threading 

I’m also in the midst of making changes to enable you to use different article templates for each template category. For example you could choose from a selection of three different templates for displaying content captured from the Web. These templates could have different, or more or less fields, and completely different layouts. Surfulater has been designed to separate presentation of information from the actual stored information. This means you can display the exact same information in different ways, which is where the new templates come into play. This is part of ongoing work to make templates more useful and easier to create and change. See my last article Content styling and templates for more on this. These new template capabilities are more involved than I’d envisaged and are taking a bit longer to finalize than planned. The focus is to get this wrapped up for the next release.

The Release Notes in the Surfulater Help and in the Support Forums cover the other changes in this release. I’m particularly hopeful that I’ve fixed a problem with Search that a user was having, but am unable to reproduce myself.

Finally for the folks who’ve been asking about Synchronizing Knowledge Bases across different PC’s, possibly in different locations, I can tell you that I’m quietly working on this as well and making very good progress. In fact I’m quiet excited about this new capability and very much looking forward to using it myself.