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Updates, examples, and just stuff to bore you with.


unit tests update

A minor milestone tonight: I finished entering the unit tests from the CMP workbook.  BuildCalc now has 6326 unit tests!  That is a lot of tests.  Being curious enough to miss out on some much needed sleep, I ran the new tests against version 1.2.  The verdict? Pretty darned good, but not perfect.

So what does that mean?  Well, there were a few cases where BuildCalc wasn’t 100% key stroke compatible.  Some examples:

The [Cost] function is sometimes coming up short by a penny?!?  I bet that is going to be a challenge to figure out!
There were also some formating of the comments section that will have to be cleaned up.  For example: “Rake Wall Angle of Incline” or “Rake Wall Cheek Cut Angle”.
Some test cases that will need changes deeper in the code, such as the ability to use the results of multiple presses of the [Width] key as input to other functions.

Fortunately, these all appear to be minor issues.  I’ll keep chipping away at these inconsistencies.  I don’t think I’ll have them all complete by the end of the week, but perhaps I’ll have enough to warrant a beta release.  This means that, in about two weeks, a fully tested version of the App should be on the way to the beta testers … and (with luck) on the App store a couple of weeks later.

By the way, if you come across something about BuildCalc that you don’t like, I would really like to hear from you.  I continue to learn about …

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more unit tests = better results

Rolled up my sleeves tonight and started to add a bunch of new unit tests from the CMP Workbook and Study Guide.  Made it through page 70 – giving BuildCalc just a hair under 250 more unit tests.  Tomorrow night, I am going to finish up the rest of the book and then start compiling the test results.  Any discrepancies found will be addressed and rolled into Beta 1.2.1.   So far, I am happy with what I see.  Beta testers: expect that new version to be out by the end of the week!

I also installed Windows 7 and ran through the beta installation process.  Unlike the Mac, Windows doesn’t automatically unzip the app file, resulting in iTunes not accepting the file.  So, all future beta versions will be uncompressed.  This also means that I will continue to provide a link to these versions (rather than emailing them) so as not to clog up mail boxes.

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rounding bug amendment

When I went to be early this morning, it didn’t take long before I realized that this denominator display bug could be elsewhere.  After a few fitful hours of sleep, the kids got me up and, after making them breakfast, I fired up X-Code.  While they were coloring and playing Legos, I ran a couple of tests … my heart sunk.  Sure enough, this bug was in the trig functions, the block functions and a few other places.

The good news was that this bug was easy to identify and fix, now that I knew what to look for.  More unit tests were added, simulations ran and everything passed.  A new beta (1.2.0) was spun and went out to the beta testers (you guys are great!).

Also, I rejected the binary submitted to Apple earlier this morning and put up this new one.  It will still be version 1.2 … I didn’t want to fight the App store versioning glitch that got me last time.  Since so little time has elapsed, I doubt there will be any negative impact to the time it takes to approve this version.

The irony is that this bug was caused by an effort to assure compliance with how the CMP handles denominators for some of the more obscure situations.   Once again, no good deed goes unpunished.

The more important question: how to get more confidence that there are not other bugs like this?  All but one of the bugs found since 1.0 have been a result of either …

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rounding bug

BuildCalc user Brad found a critical bug tonight.  This bug uses the denominator of the first number in an arithmetic operation as the denominator for the result.  Not good.  He was gracious enough to let me call him so I could understand what it took to manifest.  It took about an hour to clearly understand this problem, debug, code, test and add the input that gives this problem to the unit test suite (now a little over 6,000 unit test cases!).

Two hours after we talked, a new Binary was submitted to Apple – if we are as fortunate as last time, a new version will be on the App store in about a week.  I know that I will sleep better once everyone has upgraded.  In the mean time, check out the FAQ page for a work around.  If you’re not comfortable with waiting for the App store upgrade or the work around, please contact me at  and I can add help you get a beta copy with this issue fixed.

Also in version 1.2:

All of the changes from beta 1.1.1
Clean-up of some spelling and grammatical errors in the help files
Links to BuildCalc.com and email support on the bottom of the help files

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beta 1.1.1 news

Beta 1.1.1 went out very early this morning and it’s a nice, incremental build.  Here is what is in it:

10% larger buttons that have been polished a little.
Slightly more legible buttons in full sunlight
Automatic support for international currencies
A fix for some missing function in the [Studs] button
A link to the BuildCalc website on the info screen

Each one of those changes represent feedback from beta testers.  (Thank you all!)  At a glance, this list of new features may not seem like much, but it did take quite a bit longer than I expected.  Or, at least the button size change did. Fortunately, I’ve learned a few things along the way.

I have a number of other projects that need attending to, so that should give the beta testers a couple of days to try this build out before I submit it to Apple.  Right now, I would guess that this Build may hit the App store the week after Thanksgiving.

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BuildCalc is back!

BuildCalc is back on iTunes!  A lot of work went into the built-in help feature and it should go a long way towards helping those who are new to this type of calculator be just as good at construction math as experienced professionals.   It is also a milestone in that BuildCalc now moving beyond being a Construction Master Pro™ emulator.   I’ve already started layouts for the first two wizards and have been talking to beta testers about what should be next.  If you there is a feature of function you want to see, drop me a note at  .  Note that BuildCalc is in not way affiliated with Calculated Industries, the makers of the Construction Master™Pro.

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more real estate

The menu bar is gone!  It took a lot longer that I thought (due to the shear number of connections between the interface and the code).  More importantly,this also means that the buttons are almost 10% larger – a good thing. I also was able to polish the buttons a little more so it appears to be a little cleaner.  Today I would like to work on making the interface readable in full sun light … fortunately mother nature is going to cooperate!  (It will be a great day to take the kids out for some fun in the sun.)  Beta testers: a new beta will be sent out either Sunday or Monday.

Also, version 1.1 is still pending approval.  I’m expecting at least another week.

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Version 1.1 submitted

Great news! Version 1.1 has been submitted to Apple for approval.  After running beta 1.0.4 through its paces, a number of small bugs were found and fixed … and some formatting was cleaned up.  Thank you to beta testers “wylie” and “jmmartin” for your comments and suggestions.  Overall, I’m really proud of this build … it will be really interesting to hear the response from users on how useful they find it.

Based on version 1.0, it will likely take about two weeks before BuildCalc is back at the iTunes App Store.  In the mean time, it is time for work for version 1.1.1 to get started.

Version 1.1.1 is likely going to be a refresh to the user interface.  The menu bar at the bottom is going away so the buttons can get bigger and the iPhone’s status bar can come back.  Next, I am going to work on the button and screen graphics to make them easier to see in full daylight.

After that version, next it is time to work on Wizards.  Both for experienced pros and DIYers, it would be nice to make the more advanced functionality easier to use.

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beta 1.0.4 released

The in-app help has been implemented and successfully completed unit testing.  Very early this morning, beta 1.0.4 went out and I’m hoping to get some feedback on it from the beta testers.   To activate the help, press and hold the button for which you’re seeking help.  In a couple of seconds, a help page for that button appears.  Related buttons are hyperlinked.  For some reason, the back and forward buttons do not work on the very first page selected.  I’m going to try to iron that one out before submitting the app to Apple – with hope, before the weekend is over.

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Pending changes …

I would like to thank beta tester “netlists” for his great feedback and insights.  I’ve changed the development roadmap around to reflect his comments and, once the in-app help is done, will be implementing some of the more straight forward ideas.  One that I really like is to get rid of the menu bar at the bottom.  It is redundant and, after thinking about it, I believe the development roadmap doesn’t need it.   Another idea that I like (but isn’t straight forward) is to change the display of fractions to something more like the Construction Master™ Pro.  At some point in time I’m going to have to bite the bullet and figure out how to do this better.  Note that BuildCalc is in no way affiliated with Calculated Industries, the makers of the Construction Master™ Pro.

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in-app help content drafted

Done with creating the content for the in-app help!  However, it is one big, unorganized document … in Microsoft Word.   It’s getting late so tomorrow I’ll start working on breaking it up into small HTML pages and inserting the hyperlink tags.

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beta 1.0.3 available

Or maybe I should have datelined this 11.02.09!  I have the all of the new code working and have sent out a new beta (1.0.3, hooray!).  Beta testers: What do you think?  There are some more bug fixes are in this release, but the documentation still isn’t in it.  I tired saving what I have so far as an HTML file but MS Word just butchered it.  It’s going to have to wait a little longer.

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Trick or Treat

Spent the good part of the morning hashing through the new code.  The press and hold feature is working and have go to the point where I need to learn how to read a local HTML document.  But, that is tomorrow.  Now it is time to rake some leaves and take the twins out Trick or Treating!

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new beta available

Sent out beta 1.0.2 tonight!  What’s in it?  Well, one of the biggest challenges in developing BuildCalc was finding all of the undocumented features in the Construction Master™ Pro.   It appears that a user in Alaska found one yesterday that I didn’t!   Enjoy the Beta and please share with me how you feel about it.  Note that BuildCalc is in no way affiliated with Calculated Industries, the makers of the Construction Master™ Pro.

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In-app help in the works

A big thank you to everyone who sent along your words of encouragement!  I really appreciate the support.   Based on your feedback, I’m putting the manual on the back burner and focusing on an in-app help feature.  The good news is that I have been working like crazy to get the documentation together and should be done faster than I originally expected.

How will it work?  Currently, the concept is to have the help accessible by pressing and holding (for a second or two) the key for which you want help.  At that time, a help screen will scroll in with a HTML help page for that key.  Related keys will be hyper linked.  It will be interesting to see if this will suffice for all projects.  Knowing that this concept will require some code, I’ll likely be firing up xCode this weekend.

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suspending sales of BuildCalc

Dear BuildCalc users,

Today I removed BuildCalc from the iTunes store.   This decision didn’t come lightly but I believe it was the right thing to do.   Let me share with you why.

Seven months ago, being a user of the Construction Master™ Pro, I wanted to bring that great tool to the iPhone.  I knew that it would be of real value to other Construction Master™ Pro users and BuildCalc’s beta testers (also Construction Master™ Pro users) validated this.  Note that BuildCalc is in no way affiliated with Calculated Industries, the makers of the Construction Master™ Pro.

However, in the 12 days in which BuildCalc has been on the iTunes store, I have discovered that a significant number of BuildCalc buyers are not familiar with the Construction Master Pro and, rightfully so, are disappointed.  Although a great tool, BuildCalc is also esoteric and thus it’s capabilities are out of reach of such users.

It is not my intent to garner disappointment.  As such, if you are one of these users I wish to propose to you that I refund your purchase in exchange for your participation as a beta user.  As a beta user, you will get advanced drafts of the development plan, manuals, and program enhancements and be able to influence the direction of BuildCalc through your feedback.

If you are interested, please e-mail me.  In order to keep from giving more refunds than copies of BuildCalc sold, I do ask if you can include in your e-mail a copy of your receipt.

For those users …

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Started on the manual …

For those who have been wondering, where is BuildCalc going next, wonder no more.  I’ve been working on a manual for the last couple of nights.  I am still experimenting with layout, but the content is coming together.  With hope, I should have a rough draft completed in a couple of weeks.

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Thank you BuildCalc users!  It looks like you heard the call and have started sending e-mail.  It also sounds like you’ve been waiting for BuildCalc even longer than I have been working on it (is that possible?).  I also want to thank WCheck Construction for finding the first Bug!  I’ve already programmed a fix and have submitted it (version 1.0.1) to Apple for approval.  See the FAQ page for information on how to work around this new issue.

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First Sales

Wow!  BuildCalc is doing about double what I expected.  This is great news.  However, I still haven’t heard from any users yet.  If you are a BuildCalc user, drop me a note at .  I would really like to hear from you.

– Ben

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On iTunes!

Yahoo!  BuildCalc is on iTunes.  This is a really big milestone and before I say anything else, I really want to thank my wife for her support (and understanding) these last months.  I really could not have done this without her.

The website has been updated and it’s time to celebrate with a cold one!   However, it  is also a good time to talk about what is next.  I have a list of about 30 things I could see being useful additions to BuildCalc (and who knows how many more there are that BuildCalc users know that I don’t).  The major categories are:


A manual
In app help
Howto videos on YouTube

New Functionality

Baluster calculation
Trig Functions


Make the more complicated functions easier with a graphical interface.  A good place to add some additional function as well.


Look up tables for common building materials and calculations

On-line forum

More communication from BuildCalc users – how can I learn what features / function would best make BuildCalc the tool that helps them be awesome at their job?

So if you have an opinion, I want to hear it!  Drop me a note at  .

Again, thanks for your encouragement and support!

– Ben

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After 4 months of development and one month of testing and administrative paperwork, BuildCalc has finally been submitted to Apple for review. The development has been a real challenge and I am very anxious to see the reception BuildCalc receives. Many thanks needs to go to my wife and friends for their support and encouragement!

– Ben

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in app configuration

Today I started to give serious consideration to the architecture for the in-app configuration, as well as allowing for there to be different defaults by location (U.S. vs. U.K. for example).  I can’t say I have a clear picture yet but things are starting to come into focus.

I believe one view and class could do the heavy lifting, if they were constructed right.  That is where the real work will be.

The existing settings plist structure will remain mostly intact (with a few “augmentations”) but the root plist file will be pruned away.  In it’s place will be at least two new plist structures:  US-Can and UK.  US-CAN would be populated with the current CMP factory settings and the UK structure would be populated with values that are in line with what is common in the United Kingdom.  The UK structure values could be appropriate for the EU as well … I have more to learn.  It does appear that some things are different in Australia, so I could see that being a third list tree.  On a related note, maybe there could be a provision where users can e-mail their settings and, in combination with the localization information, a database of defaults for different regions could be developed.

Given the radical change in the root plist structure,  transitioning from the current structure to the new structure is going to take a little work.  The goal here is to preserve the current values users have saved so they have a choice in …

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