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Calculating Paint? How about wall paper?

I’ve had this question a couple of times recently:  “Does BuildCalc calculate paint?”.  The answer is “yes, there’s a trick to it”.  What I mean by this is that there isn’t a button labelled “Paint” but the Masonry function has all of the math needed to make this an easy calculation.  Here’s an example.  Let’s say you have number of different paints that you work with on a regular basis but, when it comes to coverage, you have 3 different types:

A high quality exterior with high binder content (225 sq ft / gallon)
A high coverage primer (175 sq ft / gallon)
Everything else (350 sq ft / gallon)

So, how could you setup BuildCalc to calculate the paint needed for a 15 ft x 20ft x 9ft bedroom?  Here is where you can trick the Masonry function into being a Paint function!

First, enter the room dimensions into the [Length] [Width] [Height] memory functions.  Here’s how:

Input

[clr]
[clr]

10 [Feet] [Length]

20 [Feet] [Width]

9 [Feet] [Height]

[Conv] [Msnry]…

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Superplexus

Yesterday I received an email from Michael McGinnis, the sculpture who invented Superplexus – the coolest puzzle I have ever seen. He has been using BuildCalc for some time and, in his words:

… visit my website at www.superplexus.com to see why your calculator is so valued to me personally. – Michael McGinnis

So, I did. Wow, totally cool!  My first thought was, when will I get the chance to try one of this out.  Then, I saw this …

So guess what the twins are getting this Christmas.  The amount of creativity and precision in both Superplexus and Perplexus have blown me away and so I wanted to know a little more about Michael.  Fortunately, he has a great web site and you can hear the Superplexus story in his own words here:

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Why quiet for so long?

For those who have followed this blog (all 3 of you), you may be wondering why I haven’t posted for so long.  Well, mostly because the development of the Android version and my day job kept me from producing anything worth blogging about.  Well, that’s not completely true … I did have some interesting requests for help that will make great posts in the future.  But it is also true that, given what little time I had, blogging didn’t make the cut to my priority list.

However, things finally broke free about 2 weeks ago, when the Android beta went golden.  It was a huge milestone!  I had no idea just how difficult it was to port to Android (or maybe it was just easy to write for iPhone?).  When I started (back in October of ’10) I was quite rusty at Java but, through the course of things, I came to really respect the language.  However, Android in itself is a different animal – there are so many different devices as well as there are just so many widgets (found in iOS) that don’t exist on Android (or at least not in a form I needed).

This lack of widgets meant I had to build a lot of stuff from scratch.  Normally, building your own is THE last resort and, if my pockets were deeper, I could have bought my way out of the problem.  However, building my own turned out to be a smart decision in some cases.  Take for example …

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Is there a way to make BuildCalc easier to see in direct sunlight?

I’ve had this problem too.  When you’re in the field, all of these smart phone devices are hard to see.   Tablets are worse!  Getting an iPad pushed me over the edge on this one.  As of version 2.1 (now available on Android and should be on iOS next week), you can switch the display to “Daylight Display Mode” by (1) pressing and holding the ⓘ symbol (in the top left corner) and then tapping on the [+] key.  BuildCalc will go from a display as shown on the left to that on the right … which looks great in full sun.

    

Repeat the above steps to turn off “Daylight Display Mode”.  Also, you can switch “Daylight Display Mode” by going to BuildCalc’s preferences via [Conv] [Prefs].

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version 2.0.3 … what is going on?

Well, I hope all is well with you.  As usual, we have been busy with kids soccer games and family activites while the weather was still nice.  But now that the weather is starting to get more like winter I might just have a little more time for BuildCalc.

As for BuildCalc, version 2.0.3 should be available any day now.  This version is meant to be a maintenance version … one that has some fixes and some minor enhancements.  First the fixes.

In version 2.0.2, I introduced a bunch of very aggressive memory optimizations.  Memory optimizations is one of those changes that should only be noticeable to those users who use BuildCalc a lot.  It did mean a LOT of code refactoring and unit testing as well as device testing.  And, unfortunately, as is the case with any major change, it also meant some new bugs.  So, in version 2.0.2, the “press and hold for help” and the tape became very brittle.  It is not that they were broken out of the box, just that they wouldn’t work usner more than light usage.  A problem for which the unit testing didn’t have provisions (and now does).  Fortunately, both things were quite easy to fix.   As always, the update with the fixes will be free on the iTunes App store.

Also, fixed in version 2.0.3 is a bug with some of the advanced functions when using fractional feet-inch numbers.   The problem could be describe as the following: When a foot-inch fractional value is entered …

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some tidbits

Hello!  Well I haven’t been able to do much BuildCalc work the past month.  My wife and I took a VERY well deserved vacation in early September and, now that we are back, we both have been crazy busy with family and work.  However, there has been a lot of great dialog about version 2.1 and so the feature set is starting to take shape.

Also, I wanted to mention that BuildCalc was mentioned as “Best Construction Calculator” in Emily Wilde’s (at Pegasus Associates Lighting Blog) article Top iPhone Apps for Home Improvement Professionals.  It really means a lot to me to see that others have found BuildCalc to be the useful tool I hoped it would be.

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version 2.0.1 … and take a look at the latest issue of the JLC!

First, a quick announcement: Version 2.0.1 is out today.  This version addresses the irregular hip/valley problem discovered on 8.20.10.  There are also a couple of other improvements:

A crash issue with the Fence function under special circumstances has been fixed
Missing documentation for the [Footng] function help has been returned
Incorrect results for the Segment Height using the [Arc] function (correct results were returned when using the [Rise] key.

Also, it appears that the videos have been helpful for many BuildCalc users.  After I get boot camp and my CAD program setup again on my MacBook, I’ll have the tools and the time to make more.  If you have any requests, let me know!  Currently, the next video will the Baluster function … so stayed tuned.

And last, if you are a subscriber to the Journal of Light Construction, check out page 81 of the August 2010 issue!

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Update to Baluster Function documentation

There is now a more complete manual entry for the Baluster Function.  It has three examples:

A simple handrail that shows how to calculate the baluster layout that limits the opening space between balusters.
Getting uniform spacing of balusters for three handrails, each with a different run.
Calculating the layout for a deck staircase handrail.

There is more to the Baluster function than in these examples so, if you want to do a particular baluster calculation and don’t see how to do it, email me and I’ll walk you through you calculation.

And thank you for your ideas for version 2.1.  The list of features is starting to shape up.  It appears to be ambitious so there may be a version 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4!

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Videos (and a bug)

Good morning!  A couple of items in which you might be interested.  First, beta tester Walter found a bug in the [Hip/V] function.  It takes a special set of circumstances to trip this bug … but once it does, BuildCalc freezes.  An update (v2.0.1) has been submitted to Apple and should be available for download in a few days.  If you experience this bug, you can try the work around, as described in the FAQ page, until the update is available.

Second, there are now three BuildCalc “Howto” videos!   It is likely you may have already noticed the [Videos] link, above.  While it has been said that I have a face for radio, after you see these, you might also add that I have a voice for silent movies.  Never the less, the object of the videos is to show how you can use BuildCalc for some common construction math problems.  Let me know if you find them helpful and if they could be better.

And last, I am starting to collect ideas for version 2.1.  There are a couple of new features that I have already promised and there are a couple of features that have had to go onto the version 3.0 list.   All ideas are welcome and, eventually, I really want to do them all!

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Corrections to manual already!

Good evening.  Just a quick note with a few updates in which you might be interested.

First, BuildCalc user Jeff B has found a couple of mistakes in the manual yesterday.  Jeff was gracious about it and happily they were easily fixed.  Also, he asked for better documentation for the [ColCon] (Column / Cone) function.  There are now some great illustrations (if I do say so myself) and descriptive text that I hope will make it much easier to be proficient with this function.  The manual is now updated and available on the FAQ page (or here).

Also, I have started to organize my features list for version 2.1.  As before, I reserve the right to be a little mum about the details but I will say that this list is 100% user requested.   So, if you asked for something during the past 5 months, it is likely that version 2.1 will have what you want!

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Manual for BuildCalc 2.0 (and now it is time to sleep).

Quick update!  The BuildCalc version 2.0 manual is now available for download.  Weighing in at 160 pages, it is packed full of examples and notes and is a terrific resource on how to use many of the new features and functions now available.  As usual, I am always looking for ways to make it easier to do construction math.  So if you see something that might be confusing or believe something is missing, please send me an email so we can work to make it right.

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BuildCalc 2.0 is here!

After 8 months of development, countless hours of beta testing, and many late nights, BuildCalc 2.0 has finally shipped.  Like a parent at graduation, I’m very proud and excited to tell you about it.  And, just to entice you to download your free update or to try BuildCalc for the first time, here are some of the new features you may want to see for yourself:

New Fence and Baluster Functions!  Requested by users like you, these functions are easy to use and give you more options than has been available on the iPhone.
The Material Estimation Functions are faster and more flexible!  No guess work and wishful thinking.  The Masonry, Drywall, Roof, Quantity on Center and Footing Functions deliver more results and are easier to use.  Plus you can customize these functions with as many sizes as you want and save your results – with labels you choose.  And, in the Material Estimation functions, you can enter areas using Length x Width notation – no more mental gymnastics.
The Advanced Functions have been bulked up!  More functionality, easier to use, less key tapping.  Compound Miter and Hip/Valley Rafter functions now allow angle results to be shown for a miter saw or a hand-held protractor – with just a tap of a button.  And the advanced functions have on-the-spot help to guide you through your calculations.
The Stairs function is on steroids!  The old functionality is still there – and now there is an Advanced Analysis mode available to give you a comprehensive layout …

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MIA?

It has been four months to the day since my last post.  Why so quiet?  Maybe a better question is what have I been doing instead of blogging about BuildCalc?   The answer is that every moment of free time, for the last four months, has gone into getting version 1.4 ready.  This includes talking to users about what is wanted in a construction calculator, prototyping new features and functions, coding, debugging and verification testing.  So much effort that version 1.4 wasn’t version 1.4 anymore – it became version 2.0.  And all the cool stuff I was blogging about in the spring?  Well, it is sounding pretty lame in comparison.  Some highlights about BuildCalc version 2.0:

Over 50 new features and a couple of completely new functions.
Beta tested by professionals in 6 countries and 4 continents
Tested against over 19,000 unit tests to assure reliability and accurate results

So what is in it?  In a few days, you’ll have the chance to find out.  In the mean time, email me if you want to learn more …

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spring and tiles tutorial

It is an absolutely beautiful spring day so I am going to make this short.  First, an update on BuildCalc.  Work on version 1.4 has been clicking along steadily.  As the beta testers continue to bring in feedback, extensive changes have been made and more new features are added.  So much so that, when a bug significant bug was found recently, version 1.3.2 was quickly created and out the door.  As you may have noticed, 1.3.2 has a new display … part of version 1.4.  In fact, 1.3.2 is using the same code base as 1.4!  The only difference is that the new features are disabled until they can be refined and (more importantly) documented in the help files.

Speaking of documentation, I have been getting hammered lately with requests for a PDF help file.  So much so that, with a little help from my wife, one is in the works.  There also has been requests for more help using metric units so this document will have that in it!  Stay tuned.

Another reason why the development may seem so slow (from the outside) is that I have a new project that I am tackling in parallel to finishing v1.4.  I am not at liberty to talk about it but I will say that it will result in some really great features for BuildCalc in the fall!

And now for a quick tutorial!  Recently, a user asked about using BuildCalc for calculating tile.  I thought it was a great question so I wanted …

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3 hours of my life gone

NSLog(@”ip=[%@]”);

For those of you who don’t know Objective-C (the programming language used by the iPhone), the above can loosely be translated to mean: “you will now spend 3 hours of your life pulling your hair out instead of doing something productive”.

On a more serious note, I have been getting a lot of great feedback from the beta testers on beta 1.3.5.  The net is that the new features are a big hit.  There also has been some bugs found and some observations about responsiveness.  Thanks to all of the beta testers (Richie, Todd and Brian in particular!).

In parallel to the beta testers giving 1.3.5 a thorough once over, my priority has been on getting the unit testing back up.  Version 1.4 won’t ship without it.  Getting the unit testing working has proven to be a real challenge as for the code is single threaded and thus needs to return to the main loop in order for the API to generate the GUI.  Sunday afternoon I figured out a way to make this happen and thought I was rock & rolling.  However, that little snippet of code (at the top of this post) was more than enough to grind my work to a halt tonight.  The moral of this story … get more sleep!

And so I will.  Good night!

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beta 1.3.5 ready to roll

Beta version 1.3.5 is ready to go out to the beta testers.  This should be the last version before 1.4 will be submitted to Apple.  It’s a great build … with even better international support.  One way it has better international support: BuildCalcBeta 1.3.5 can detect what units are used in your locale and configure the presets and keyboard appropriately.  So, for example, if you are outside of the US and Canada, your presets for Drywall will be in metric sizes that (based on what research I could do on the web) are available in your market.  Of course, the features don’t end there … but we’ll keep that under wraps for now.

If all goes well, this means that 1.4 will be on the iTunes store in about 2 weeks.  And then … on to the DROID!  Apple users don’t worry … I’m not abandoning the iPhone.  There are three new features that users have requested that I am going to build in during March and April.  These are all really cool and will continue to leverage the new architecture of version 1.4.

Also, during March / April, I have another side project.  It’s not official yet (the contract is in the works) but, if all goes well, it will mean a really super new feature for BuildCalc in the fall.  Stay tuned!

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workin’ not bloggin’

Yes, it has been a few weeks since I have made an entry.  That has been a good thing because I have been keeping my nose to the grind stone, getting beta 1.3.4 ready to go out.  Tonight, I made the last of the updates and it is now ready to ship to the beta testers.  This is a really big revision with a number of great new features.  I won’t spill the beans … but will rather rely on feedback from the worlds best beta testers before going public.  The net is that these features will make it even easier to do construction math … and in a way that only BuildCalc has.

If all goes well, we’ll have preliminary beta test results and the test cases back on line in a week.  Then, about another week to go through Apples approval process.

I will say that there are 2 features asked for by users that are not in 1.3.4.  I will try to get them into 1.3.5 or 1.4.1 … it depends on how much time I get this weekend.

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bug roll

17,345 … that’s how many unit test are now running on beta 1.3.4.  What does this mean.  Two things: first, it means that beta 1.3.3 has a bug when working with % grade.  Don’t know how, but one line got commented out in the transition from public 1.3.1 to beta 1.3.2.  That line caused the % key not to work right under all circumstances.   Second brings me back to praising the use of unit tests.  Because of unit testing and beta testing, the bugs found in beta 1.3.2 and beta 1.3.3 will never make it into customer shippable versions.  Heck, if the unit tests were up and working, they wouldn’t have made it into 1.3.2 for that matter.

Tomorrow, it will be time to start working on enhanced functionality.  But for now, it is time for a cold one!

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I should have known better

Beta version 1.3.2 went out out earlier this week … and version 1.3.3 was right behind it.  Version 1.3.2 had the new [Prefs] interface, which, for most users will likely be a big yawn.  On the flip side, if you are primarily a metric user, you’ll be happy to see a more intuitive way to enter a Staircase Headroom.   1.3.2 went out before the unit testing was up and running, so I knew there would be a risk of missing something.  Sure enough, the denominator bug found by beta tester Kent was in 1.3.2.  Also, it just seem sluggish.

On both accounts, the problems were my fault.  I really wanted some feedback on the new Preferences system, so I took the risk on not having the unit tests running.  Something I wouldn’t ever do for a production spin, but understandable for a beta spin.  However, the sluggish performance turned out to be the way in which I implemented an Apple compliant method of saving values between sessions.  A few lines of code, and 90% of the performance loss was gone.  That last 10% might take some work (doesn’t it always).

So, now the focus is getting the unit testing back on line and then enhancements (as promised) to a whole bunch of keys.  Stay tuned!

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version 1.3.1 and other tidbits

Version 1.3.1 hit iTunes yesterday.  The only change from 1.3 was the fix the the bug found last week.  Again, thank you for your patience … and a special thank you to beta tester Kent for finding this bug!

Rather than continue working on the 1.3 branch, I’ve been able to restart work on version 1.4.   Other than a lingering cough, I’m back to normal so, last night, I was able to spend the first significant time in weeks on v1.4.    The net is that I have made some progress towards the new [Pref] functionality.  Half of the views are working and I’m in the process of boot strapping the new keypad.  Perhaps by the end of the weekend, I’ll have the keypad working and will be finishing the other views.  If this goes well then next week will be spent developing a new test infrastructure and new test cases.

After dialogging with users in the UK, Australia and Japan, I have decided upon an architecture for revising the advanced function keys.  I’m pretty excited about how it is going to make things easier, more flexible, better suited for international use (without any compromises for North American users), and bringing more convenience.  So, if we’re lucky, by mid-February, these updates will be going out to the beta testers. Since I’ll be more sure what is plausible at that time, I’ll wait until then to share a complete description of the planned changes.

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not dead yet

I’m getting better … and just in time.  Late last night, beta tester Kent found an interesting rounding error.  When the results from an advanced function key is used in an addition or subtraction operation with an entered number, the denominator of the entered number will be used as the denominator for the result.  So, for  example, if you got the number 21-3/16in from the [Diag] key and then added 5- 1/4in to it, BuildCalc would (wrongly) assume that the results needed to be in quarter inches or larger.

This is a case of a good algorithm run amok.  First, what’s the good algorithm?  Let’s say you want to enter something in 32nths, like 6- 5/32 inches and then add 1/4″ to it.  BuildCalc has the choice of displaying the results in the default denominator (which is usually 16ths) or the largest denominator in which you entered.  In this case, since you took the trouble to enter a number in 32nds, BuildCalc puts the result in the largest denominator you entered.  However, most of the time you’re working with the default units because they’re easier to deal with.  Like if your dividing 215- 1/4 into 12 equal sections, you’ll likely want the results in 16ths rather than 64ths.

And how did this algorithm run amok?  Well, the method BuildCalc uses to figure out if you wanted to use the default or the entered denominator had a loop hole.  When doing addition or subtraction, it was allowing the denominator of the entered number to take priority over the default denominator.

Last night, …

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sniffles

Yes, I am still alive.  Warning: If  you don’t like to listen to a bunch of whining, you can stop reading now.  Way before the holidays, the twins had some kind of cold / cough combo and coughed on my & my wife nearly constantly.  She fell victim to it around the beginning of December and then, for most of the month, all three of them were coughing on me and each other.  The twins recovered just in time for Christmas and I thought I was going to dodge that bullet.  No such luck!  Right after Christmas, I came down with it too.  Last week was the worst and I was in bed through the weekend.  This week I’ve been back to most of my routine, but the cough just won’t quit.  As such, BuildCalc development is still on hold while I try to nurse myself back to health.  In the meantime, thank you for your patience and support.  With hope, I should be back to my old self by this time next week.

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unit tests … maybe home grown is better

Finished the unit test migration … sort of.  After reading the documentation on Apple’s unit test protocol, I realized that it was going to really constrain my productivity if I were to implement it in whole.  For example, system tests can only be run on a device.  That’s not good since the device is significantly slower than the emulator.  However, there were some neat features and new concepts (to me).  So I ended up updating my current “home brew” unit test module with the best features from Apple’s.  The net result:  a great unit test system.  With it, thus far, version 1.4 has a whopping 17,325 unit tests!  No kidding!  All of them pass and the code appears to be happy!

So what’s next?  I’ve been complaining about it for some time now … the [Prefs] key needs to be gutted.  No doubt about it, it just doesn’t make any sense to keep doing it the same was as the CMP on a smart phone platform.  The worse example is Headroom Height.  Let’s say you’re outside of the US/Canada and working in metric.  You want to layout some stairs so you enter your desired riser height [RiserH], your desired tread width [TreadW] and your floor height [FloorH].  Now you need to set the headroom height.  Well, that’s in the [Prefs] key.  Problem 1:  The default value is 6ft 8in – not metric and you can’t convert it to metric.  Problem 2: to change it, you have to press the + and …

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refactoring (a fancy programmer word for cleaning house)

Had a great visit with my Dad the last couple of days.  We drove around a lot with the twins and just spent time together.  I’m very fortunately that we are still able to spend to do this.  My wife was fortunate in that she had a quiet house for two days in a row!

Today after lunch, I rolled up my sleeves and got back to the refactoring.  It wasn’t too easy but not as painful as I thought it would be.  Most of the issues were self inflicted and I finally got the delegation and observing right.  After about 7 hours of work, all of the unit tests are back to normal and everything appears to be OK.  This is pretty incredible since code base just went through the equivalent of a heart & lung transplant.  I’ll be keeping a close eye on things and, to be sure, will start migrating the unit tests over to Apple’s protocol.

Tomorrow, if I have time, it will be time to start on the unit test migration.  But for now, it’s New Years Eve.  There are a number of friends I haven’t seen in a while.  It will be great to get out and about.

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zip

Amazing!  In a little over 24 hours, BuildCalc v1.3 was reviewed and approved by Apple.  A new record!  Because of the holiday, I was assuming that it would take longer for approval.  I am happy to be wrong.  So, give it a try and let me know if you see anything that could be improved upon.   And again, a big thank you to the beta testers.  This version is reflection of your time and attention to detail.

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version 1.3 submitted

Version 1.3 has been submitted to Apple for review!  iTunes Connect went back online today at ~5:30PM and you can tell that a jillion developers were trying to use it all at once.  Given previous history, I would say that it will be on iTunes in a little over a week.  However, I’m guessing that there is going to be a backlog of apps to be reviewed, so let’s estimate that it will be on iTunes around January 11th.

There are a bunch of enhancements and improvements in version 1.3, so I am really excited to hear your response to it.  Almost all of them are things for which you have asked.  Here’s a sample:

Optional trig keys.  Swipe your finger of the [Length], [Width] and [Height] keys to change to [SIN], [COS], and [TAN] (and vise versa).
Improved display of fractions in the output display.
Over 25% larger operand and stack numbers in the output display.
Optional key “click” mode.
“Rotate to Zoom” feature in the in-app help gives 50% larger text and images.
mm unit added to settings (for better metric usability).
Optional swap of [cm] and [mm] keys for [Yard] and [Feet] by swiping finger across these keys (and vise versa).
4’x10’ and 4’x14’ added to the drywall sheets calculation.
Irregular Pitch is displayed in the units entered (rather than in “inches pitch”) for better international usability.
Drywall sheets calculated using a length is more intuitive.

And, as always, upgrades are free!

Before I go, I also wanted to let you know that work continues on the major refactoring for …

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boxing day

I hope you had a great Christmas!  Being that the twins are 5 years old, ours was quite special (if not a little nerve racking!).  In spite of our efforts to control the bedtimes and sugar, they were completely wound up the last two days before Christmas.  Now that the holiday is past, everyone has come back down to earth.  I now have the day to work on BuildCalc before my Dad comes to visit for a few days.  So here’s what has been accomplished thus far:

Fixed a bug where the stored [Length], [Width] and [Height] values were not displaying after a restart.
Added 4’x10′ and 4’x14′ sheets to the Drywall Key
Threw out the CMP method of calculating drywall sheets if given a length value.  For the life of me, I can’t understand why they did what they did so I hope you find the change useful.  Now when one enters a length and applies the [DryWal] function, the results are how many sheets of each length will fill the entered length. Please let me know if this change isn’t helpful.
With some great feedback from BJB (in the UK), the Irregular Pitch values will be displayed in the units in which they were entered (instead of inches of Pitch).  Again, this is a change to how the CMP does it, so let me know if the change has a negative impact upon you.

So these changes, as well as may others, will be in version 1.3.   I’m going to compile it later today …

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a little of this and a little of that

Yesterday was a great day with family and last night I was able to get back to coding.  After lunch today, I spun BuildCalcBeta 1.2.4 and sent it to the world’s greatest beta testers (you know who you are!).  The beta testers were able to find some shortcomings in beta 1.2.3 and I believe those are now addressed.  Also, beta 1.2.4 has a couple more new features:

The “mm” unit has been added to the settings.  My apologies for missing this one in earlier versions and I hope that metric users are not too frustrated by this.
Headroom Height setting was changed from Feet and Inches to Feet, Inches, Meters, Centimeters or Millimeters.  This is a big compromise where I am first in the “this could be better” line.  This issue is the #1 reason why I am currently refactoring the core class and then throwing out the CMP [Prefs] key for something better than either the [Prefs] key or the iPhone OS Settings.  This is a major refactoring, so please be patient.  It’s going to take a couple of weeks.
Optional swapping of the [Yard] and [Feet] keys for [cm] and [mm].  This works just as the Optional swapping of the [Length], [Width] and [Height] keys for [SIN], [COS] and [TAN].  If you want to switch, you can either use the “Metric Length Keys: ON” in the settings menu or swipe your finger across the [Yard] and [Feet] keys.  The layout of the [cm] and [mm] keys doesn’t yet feel right but it’s moving …

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BuildCalc mentioned on JLC online

Yesterday was a great day for BuildCalc.  First, a BuildCalc user at ArchMolding.net posted some very kinds words about BuildCalc on the Journal of Light Construction forums.   That in turn generated even more positive dialog.  Here is a link:
http://forums.jlconline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=50344
After calling my wife, I forwarded the link to all of my friends and family (of course a few friends couldn’t miss the chance to rib me a little).   I am so pleased that BuildCalc is meeting your expectations.

Which brings me to the next piece of good news.  Beta version 1.3 when out late yesterday afternoon.  While out doing some Christmas shopping, the first reviews came in.  I think the new features are going to be a hit!  As usual, I am going to wait a week before submitting this version to Apple.  In addition to the unit tests (now over 6480 of them), this one week period gives the beta testers a chance to find any potential issues before this version is released to you.   If you are interested in being a beta tester, please let me know.

And after all of the good news, I am charged about the work for version 1.4.  This afternoon I pick back up on the in-app configuration.  This is going to be a tough bit of refactoring but the time is right to do it.  The code changes will enable things like wizards and internationalization to be robust and easier to use.  Likewise, doing this change will save a lot a work down the road …

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in app help update

After many hours the last two nights, I finally figured out how to architect the larger font in-app help!  I finished a couple of tests of a prototype and it works like a charm.  Tomorrow I will start the modification of the 60+ help files to enable this feature to be in version 1.3 … but first, some sleep!

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the road to version 1.3

Before I give an update on the progress towards version 1.3, I once again wanted to share my appreciation to my wife for her patience, consideration and support during these past nine months.  She has been wonderful and a true partner.

I also want to share my appreciation to BuildCalc’s users and testers.  I have learned so much from you and I hope BuildCalc has earned your trust. Please keep your comments and ideas coming!

Now, here is the latest status.  For the past couple of nights, I have been working on putting together some of the changes for version 1.3.  In doing so, I have learned a couple of things:

Setting up the in-app configuration code is going to be harder than I hoped.  I took some time to think about the architecture of this feature and have realized that it will require breaking BuildCalc’s main class (programmer talk for a big chunk of code) into a parent and child.  I’ve completed the first big step in the transition and validated that the code still passes the unit tests.  However, in doing this I have discovered that the remaining effort outweighs the priority.  Therefore, this change is going on the back burner until some of the other new features are complete. Perhaps in version 1.4?
The Construction Master™ Pro Trig emulation is complete! Up to this point, this feature has by far the biggest coolness to difficulty ratio.  I need to type up some instructions before sending out the beta but here’s the gist: to switch …

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miscellaneous stuff

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 …

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no demo apps?

Just a quick note.  I learned this morning that Apple doesn’t allow “demo” or “trial” apps.  This is a bummer because a number of friends and users had suggested a trial version of BuildCalc (seemed like a good idea to me, too).  Apple is suggesting developers to make a “lite” version of their apps instead … which poses a slight quandary.  Apple will not allow light versions to have “disabled” buttons that would highlight the missing functionality.  Nor can light versions lose some functionality after a period of time.  Rather, they want those versions to stand on their own.

After looking at reviews for some of the apps that blur these lines, I am starting to understand Apple’s reasoning.  It appears that these apps are generally rated poorly … some with complaints about being tricked or annoyed into spending more money.  So, I am going to have to take another look at the development road map and figure out what a lite version might look like.  If you have any suggestions, let me know.

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version 1.2.2

Great news!  Version 1.2.2 will be on iTunes tomorrow.  This has been a really fast turn around for Apple … which is good for everyone.  1.2.2 has two significant enhancements.  First, it has the ability to erase the tape – which will be a welcome addition to those users who asked for it.  The second enhancement is even better emulation of the CMP.  With 6,386 units tests, I feel that the transition for experienced users will be very smooth.

As always, if you so anything that could be better or doesn’t seem quite right, please let me know.  Please note that other users will benefit from your observations.

I’m taking a few more days off from BuildCalc and enjoying time with family and friends.  Late next week the coding begins again and I may have a few surprises up my sleeves.  January’s release could be interesting!

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version 1.2 now available

Yahoo!  BuildCalc 1.2 is now on iTunes.  This version has larger buttons and a polished UI for better visibility in full daylight.  There are also a couple of bug fixes.

On another note, version 1.2.2 has been submitted to Apple for review.  Beta testers, contact me if you would like an advanced copy.  In addition to version 1.2.1’s compliance to the CMP workbook examples, this version will have the ability to erase the tape.

Later this week, work is going to begin on moving the configuration from the “Settings” app to the [Conv] [Prefs] button.  The intent is to free up a few keys so more functions can be added.  If this doesn’t sound like a good ideaplease let me know!  I sure would hate to put all that work in and not make BuildCalc better for you.

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unit tests compliant

This morning, the last of the tweaks were completed to enable BuildCalc 1.2.1 to be compliant with the examples in the CMP workbook.  This is in addition to the examples in the CMP User’s Guide and a significant number (about 4000) that came from the engineering and specification work.  Final count: 6386 tests complete and passed.

To get to this milestone, there were a small number of changes – for which I was surprised how subtle they were.  The beta version just went out about 10 minutes ago so, if you’re a beta tester, you can check the release notes for the nitty gritty details.  I have some holiday activities this afternoon so I should get around to updating the FAQ page tonight or tomorrow with a summary.

When will 1.2.1 be available?  Well, version 1.2 should be on iTunes within a week.  When that happens, I’ll submit 1.2.1.  It should be on the App store in a week or two after that.

As usual, if you see anything that doesn’t seem right or could be better, please don’t hesitate to email me at.   As I have said before, making BuildCalc the tool for Construction Professionals do great construction math is what it is all about.

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