For most of the past week, I took a break from BuildCalc and enjoyed some time with friends and family. We went to school and church events, as well as enjoyed the company of friends I hadn’t seen in some time. The kids and I also went to a local Lego Olympic competition which was a real hoot. As soon as we were home, both of them were building “robots” and letting their imaginations run wild.
For BuildCalc, I believe the time away from Xcode was good. It allowed me to do some reading and planning – resulting in some real clarity. First, the development road map has been overhauled quite a bit. The short term map is mostly unchanged. I will be adding some requested features the next couple of weeks, as well as quite a bit of refactoring to make the code more flexible for future enhancements. Examples:
- A user in Vancouver B.C. has asked for the ability to switch between Construction Master™ Pro emulation and Construction Master™ Pro Trig emulation. This is a great idea and I think you’ll like the implementation. Note that BuildCalc is not affiliated with Calculated Industries, the makers of the CMP.
- Another user has commented that the font size for the help screens could be larger. This might be harder to do … I’m going to have to do some research.
- My wonderful wife noticed that BuildCalc keys don’t click (I had clicks turned off on my phone, so I didn’t notice). Clicks would give good feedback when a key has been pressed. Fortunately, this is an easy one.
- In-App configuration. I really don’t like how the Headroom Height is entered in the CMP. You can only change this value one whole inch at a time – no fractional inches, no metric. Also, BuildCalc currently has two places where configurations can happen – in the iPhones “Settings” and using the [Conv] [Prefs] keys. A simpler approach to entering preferences is to put the best of both methods (and some more enhancements) into the [Conv] [Prefs].
The long term road map has changed a lot. Early in the planning for BuildCalc, I promised myself that I wouldn’t do any other iPhone projects until BuildCalc met its functionality and reliability goals. Well, the plans for version 1.3 should meet the planned functionality goals and, more importantly, version 1.2.2 has already met the reliability goals. So after 1.3, what’s next? How about if BuildCalc were to have some company?
More than a few people have asked for a demo version but Apple won’t allow crippled or time limited apps. However they will allow “lite” versions. How can I turn this lemon into lemonade? Sticking with some of the core principles behind BuildCalc, I am going to spin 4 more models – each meant to emulate a different calculator in the Construction Master™ family. First, a free version that will emulate the Construction Master™ LT. Then, models to emulate the Measure Master™ Pro, the Ultra Measure Master™ and the Construction Master™ 5. As with BuildCalc, each will be as true to the originals as possible with enhancements that improve usability. And as always, any functional deviation will be addressed as soon as I am made aware of it. Note that BuildCalc is in now way affiliated with Calculated Industries, the makers of the Construction Master series of calculators.
After that, it is time to look at other platforms. I have had some requests for BuildCalc to be ported to the Blackberry and the Droid. Fortunately, both use Java for their app languages, so the differences should be limited to the API. It’s going to take some time to relearn Java and get up to speed on the new APIs, but I don’t see this as unsurmountable. As to which platform will be first, I still don’t know. If you have a preference, please let me know.
Now for an update on more tactical matters. With a new road map, answers to some technical questions, and a little time off, I have been recharged. The last two nights I have been back on Xcode and was able to figure out how to do a big part of the in-app configuration feature. I still have to refactor some code to get this feature to full function, but the last two nights represent a big step. I don’t know if version 1.3 will be completed before the New Year, but that is the current goal.