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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I'm almost done with Microsoft now...

Here's a little story.

Yesterday i wanted to download the Tablet PC SDK from the Microsoft Website. If you follow the link you may notice the "Genuine Advantage Validation" stuff on the page. Now my XP is not running any of these WGA homecalling microsoft spyware. I like to have control over my computer and my operating system. I like to decide what i can and what i can't do, whom my machine is talking to in idle time and to whom not.

So till this moment this genuine advantage was to keep unlegitimate users of XP out of updates for new features. You want the new IE7? Prove you have a legitimate copy. You want this nice power toy? Show me your license. There seems to be at least some logic behind this. It gives me at least a way to opt out (that is, the XP i bought has all the features i need and no WGA stuff).

Back to the Tablet PC SDK. An SDK (or Software Development Kit) is solely there to help write and develop applications. It is no program in itself, no utility and no application, it does not give you as a user more features in your Microsoft Product (in this case XP). It is there to enable writing applications for an operating system.

So I want to make ComicRack a good program. I want to support proprietary things on the XP platform. I create a program that helps people come to the conclusion that Windows XP is a cool platform. That it has better programs than the other platforms. That those Linux guys can go home with their little featureless viewer programs. The programs make the system. People don't use Windows because it is good, but because most of the good programs are running there. So I help Microsoft earn money. I HELP Microsoft. And for this "Advantage" i have to fall to their "total control over my machine" scheme.
Nice thinking Microsoft. Only problem is, you kinda keep people losing on the way.

As an alternative, i tried to download the SDK from my Linux machine. But of course there is no way to download a Windows SDK from a non windows platform...
Finally i bit the bullet, downloaded this GenuineAdvantage Tool, "validated" my machine and downloaded the SDK.

Now lets look at the grander things to come...Vista.
Take a closer look at that future. Is this the way you want it to be?

I know i don't. And i know i don't want it to be that way with an upgrade cost for my 5 machines in my home network of roughly 1000 €,when the none monopoly guys can do it with more technical finesse and no homecalling, crippling, "don't upgrade your machines ", "we decide what content you're allowed to view" Orwellian software for this amount. And i'm not even mentioning this or this.

In the last 15 years i was supportive of Microsoft. I liked what they did. I still like SOME things they are doing (.NET comes to mind). But slowly the bad things begin to outweigh the good things.

And as a last note: Don't give me the "i don't buy it anyways, i wait for the russian release" line.
With this attitude you're just enabling Microsoft to go on doing what they are doing: Screwing over all the legitimate users...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

ComicRack v.0.9.16 released

Seems i have too much time on my hands lately :)

.16 brings the long awaited and much anticipated global color adjustment settings. It also introduces an optional "Auto Contrast" setting that greatly enhances washed out scans without you having to move those sliders around :)

And as always i threw some additional bug fixes into the basket.

Build 0.9.16:

  • NEW: Global Color Adjustment Settings
  • NEW: Auto Contrast option
  • NEW: Apply Button in Preferences
  • NEW: "Next/Previous from List" commands added to Viewer Context Menu
  • CHANGE: Default key shortcuts for messageboxes with checkboxes (press Alt to see the shortcut)
  • CHANGE: Small close button for comic preview
  • BUG: Show View commands always toggled browser visibility (now only if selected view already visible)
  • BUG: Fixed the pixel bug on the left side of the first entry in the comic list
  • BUG: Bad hash code for color adjustment values that could lead to wrong images loaded from cache

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fun with your PSP

Just tried something that worked amazingly good.

1) Connect your PSP
2) Open ComicRack, open an eComic, do File->Save eComic as... and select "Folder with jpeg images" as type
3) Browse in the save dialog to your PSP Photo Folder (in my case G:\PSP\PHOTO) and hit save.
4) Disconnect your PSP, go to photo and select the new comic folder :)

Reading on the PSP works amazingly well. Maybe it would be a good idea to add a 480 width conversion to the save function, so that the comics are already properly scaled. It would also be cool if the PSP could retain the current zoom state when changing pictures.

ComicRack v.0.9.15 released

A rather quick new release, but i had time to clean some stuff up and optimize.
Main reason is to add the new unrar.dll to the package, as this seems to solve some issues in some rare environments.

Build 0.9.15:
  • CHANGE: Optimizations when displaying folders with eComics which are not in the Library
  • CHANGE: Update to unrar.dll 3.70 - seems this fixes some problems
  • CHANGE: ComicInfo.xml in cbr/cbz files is now only read when the eComic is opened for reading or added to the database
  • CHANGE: Folder/File list in file browser is now built on first selection and not on application start
  • CHANGE: Embedded information in eComics only updated when the information really changes
  • CHANGE: Less foreground updates during scanning
  • BUG: Image sizes where not displayed correctly for files not in the database
  • BUG: Library entry could be removed in the Library Browser
As a side note: ComicRack performs best if you add your comics to the library. This allows ComicRack to make heavy use of data and information caching. The whole explorer part of it is just there for additional convenience (if you ever wondered why there's not more explorer stuff like copy files, delete etc. - thats the reason).

And second side note: i come more and more to the conclusion that cbz/cbr is a very insufficient format to store comics in.
So what are the problems ComicRack has to cope with:
  • Very slow
    Getting the count of images or trying to read ComicInfo.xml from inside costs a lot of time. Because each time ComicRack has to open the archive and decompress part of it.
  • Not Updateable
    You can not write information back to the file. With rar it is not possible at all (because of licensing) and with zip it would be just crazy (decompress archive, change/add file and compress again). That's the reason ComicRack has to resort to open up secondary filestreams to store the information in the files. But this again can lead to synchronization problems as there are three possible places for meta information - ComicInfo.xml, NTFS secondary stream, database... - a sack full of cats...
What should be the right way to do it? I don't know, but if i had to design it from scratch, i would go for a xml based file format with embedded CData elements for the images. Info would be at the end so you could update the file without rewriting it.

Maybe i should get in contact with some of the linux guys to come with something up...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

ComicRack v.0.9.14 released

Various bug fixes and some nice new features made it into this one :)

Main feature of course is the new magnifier to quickly and locally zoom into the mouse location.
The Search Browser is now customizable. So no longer sticking to Genre/Writer/Series.
Also this release comes with a default genre list. The list is stored in the file genres.txt and can be adapted to your needs. If someone makes a better default list, head over to the forums and post yours.

Build 0.9.14:

  • NEW: Search Browser has now selectable columns (Genre, Year, Penciller etc)
  • NEW: Magnifier Tool
  • NEW: Default Genre list taken from Genre.txt
  • CHANGE: Small changes in News Reader Dialog
  • CHANGE: Faster disk cache initialization on startup
  • CHANGE: Mousewheel has same behavior as up/down keys
  • CHANGE: Column headers have now the same alignment as the column
  • BUG: Fixed missing image size in page display for PDF files
  • BUG: Fixed shortcut for full screen command
  • BUG: Selection bug in Search Browser
  • BUG: Search Browser was empty when initially visible
  • BUG: Shutdown exception till the first time a folder in Eplorer View got selected. This basically lead to not being able to store some preferences
  • BUG: Network sharing had problems with multiple nics in the server
  • BUG: Fixed Font bug in textboxes

Hacking the News Reader

.13 introduced the news dialog. As this is really a full blown RSS reader under the hoods, you can hack in your own feeds as long as i'm to lazy to add an editor.

C:\Documents And Settings\Your User Name\Application Data\cYo\ComicRack\News.xml

in your favorite editor and add the following line below the <Subscriptions> line
<Subscription Url=""/>

Now you've got all the Marvel News you need when starting ComicRack. If you should mess up the file somehow, simply delete it. ComicRack creates a new default one for you.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

ComicRack v0.9.13 released

Sorry for the delay, but i had other stuff to do in the last few weeks. But anyway, here's the new version of ComicRack.

This version now has a built in ComicRack News reader (basically a RSS feed reader for this site - but this can be extended in the future). So don't be alarmed when your firewall cries on startup that ComicRack is connecting to the the internet. The program is just downloading the news feeds. You can turn it off in the reader dialog.

I also added a Cursor Keys Scroll mode to the viewer. This means that you can now toggle the function of the cursor keys between page/part navigation (the default) and classic windows page scrolling. Each has it's pros and cons. Page part navigation allows you to navigate/page through an eComic with only using the cursor keys (or the display side keys on a Tablet PC). But of course the stepping of the part locations can be a problem (no smooth positioning of the part that is displayed). The new scroll mode allows to do just that, but of course you need the Page-Up/Down or space key to change pages. And BTW, it was always possible to drag the page in zoom modes with the mouse (hold mouse and move).
I hope this will silence some of the critics of the viewer part :P

And I added a new option to disable writing meta data back to the eComic files. This way your eComic files will be left untouched. But of course, you will lose all your meta information in the case you remove the book from the library or delete the library.

As always the list of changes:

  • NEW: Added option to disable writing embedded meta info to eComic files.
  • NEW: News Reader for ComicRack news
  • NEW: Hitting space advances to next page
  • NEW: Alternate keyboard mode where cursor keys scroll instead of display the next/previous part
  • CHANGE: Meta Info from eComics is only read when adding to library or opening an edit dialog. This should also lead to faster startup times
  • CHANGE: Embedded Meta Info is now written delayed in the background. This speeds up changing info of large batches of files
  • CHANGE: Fixed unnecessary list updates when background scan added comics. This greatly speeds up adding of lots of comics
  • CHANGE: Smoothed the stick scrolling
  • BUG: Fixed wrong date grouping when ComicRack passed 00:00