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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 as an input parameter in these advanced functions, the denominator that was used when the number was entered was in turn used as the denominator for some calculated results.  So, for example, in the Baluster function, if 6′ 5- 3/8″ was entered for the span, then all results would be displayed in  eighths.  It turns out that the calculations are correct … it is how the results are displayed that was the problem.  A very big thank you to BuildCalc user Jason S. for finding this problem.

Which is a great segue into a small enhancement in version 2.0.3.  When working with Jason S. to get to the root cause of that issue, he shared with me how he was using the Baluster Function to calculate story-pole dimensions for siding.  I hadn’t thought about using the Baluster function this way before.  Along with Todd M’s. idea of using the Baluster function to calculate wainscoting panels on a wall, I am starting to realize that the Baluster function is really useful for a lot more than just balusters!  So this got me thinking about Jason’s desire for a story-pole calculation and the many ways this problem could be solved.   So, let me take you thought the different ways and (along the way) I’ll tell you about one of the small enhancements in version 2.0.3.

Let’s say that you have 84- 3/8″ distance that you wish to install siding and you want to expose between 4- 5/8″ and 4-3/4″ (the rest of the siding is overlap).  One way of solving this problem is to start dividing 84-3/8″ by different numbers until you get a result that is between 4- 5/8″ and 4-3/4″.  It turns out that if you divide 84-3/8″ by 18, you get 4-11/16″.  Now, rather than clearing that result, you can use BuildCalc’s self-operating feature to create a story-pole layout.  With 4-11/16″ still on the display, press ” + = ” and you’ll get 9-3/8″.  Press ” = ” again and you’ll get 14-1/16″.  Keep pressing ” = ” and you’ll keep adding 4-11/16″ to the previous result.   So, if you press ” = ” enough times, you’ll eventually get 84-3/8″.

Now, this is where BuildCalc’s [Tape] comes in handy.  If you press tape, you will get a complete listing of the last 100 arithmetic operations – including all of the self-operations you just completed.

And, here is the minor enhancement with version 2.0.3 – the [results only] button.  At a glance, it is really hard to see which numbers on the tape are the story-pole results when there are all of those “+ 4-11/16in” entries.  However, if you press [results only], the tape switches to:

Which is much easier for getting the story pole results.  Press [all results] to return back to the default display.

There are other ways to calculate a story-pole.  Jason was trying to use the Baluster function when he found the bug mentioned earlier.  Now that the bug is fixed in version 2.0.3, the baluster function turns out to be a pretty good way to do story-pole layouts.   The first way you might use the Baluster function is pretty similar to how the self-operating function was used above.  You enter the span (Run), set the “Rake Angle” to zero and the “Member Width” to 4-5/8″ (the lower end of the range you want your spacing to be between pieces of siding).  Also, set your layout marks to be at “Leading Edge” (because marking siding at the center isn’t too helpful) and (very important)set “Members at Ends?” to be “at Start” – because you are laying out siding and you’ll want an edge of the first piece to be at the beginning or end of your story-pole layout.   Now, just as you had to try dividing 84-3/8″ by different numbers in the self-operating example, you’ll need to experiment with different “Number of Members” to get the result (as an on-center spacing) you want.  Of course, the answer is the same as the previous example: 18 members.  Here are some screen shots:


Note that, in the above results, the “Open Space between Members” really means (for this application) “how much larger was the spacing than 4-5/8″ (the lower end of the range you wanted to spacing to be).

But the above example still involves too much guessing and I’d say it is only marginally better than using the self operating feature.  And that is where the power of the [On-Center] analysis type comes in.  With the Baluster function’s [On-Center] analysis type, BuildCalc can figure out what spacing works best for you.  Enter 4-5/8” for the “Desired On-Center Spacing” (and everything else the same as in the above example) and BuildCalc will do the math for you:


Pretty cool!  So, if you had the patience to make it this far, thank you for sticking through such a long blog entry – and I hope you come away with something new.   If you have a topic that you want to know more about – or if you see something that could be better – don’t hesitate to send me an email at:  

– Ben Askren
BuildCalc Developer

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