Friday, January 24, 2014

A Small Interruption

Hi, guys. I have not been answering my email and bug reports for a couple of days, and it may be a couple more before I resume. I just wanted to apologize here for the interruption, and reassure you: I am receiving your reports, and I will respond to them soon.

This is an interruption in my correspondence only. I continue to work on Solitaire Till Dawn. At the moment I'm working on something kind of big: I have, so to speak, got the hood up, the engine yanked, and parts all over the garage floor. I need to concentrate very hard on this until it's all put back together again, and that's why I'm not answering my mail.

Today is Friday; I hope to be back online by Monday or so. Until then, keep those cards and letters coming, and be patient. I'll be back.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bug ID 6: I Need Your Help!

Bug ID 6 says that sometimes the outlines of empty piles don't get drawn. I know this happens, because I've seen it myself. But it doesn't seem to happen very often, and I don't know how to make it happen.

If I can't make it happen, I can't study it to see why it happens, and I can't test it to be sure it's fixed.

So I need your help. If any of you hardy beta testers out there can give me any clue about what might trigger this problem, please let me know! I'd like to get this one fixed and off the bug list.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Beta 9

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 9 is now available from our Beta Program page.

Although beta 8 cleared up a lot of the launch-and-quit issues, some have lingered. In this release, we hope to make improvements on two serious problems.

Bug ID 39 should now be fixed. This one was preventing Solitaire Till Dawn from quitting when you select the Quit menu item, or press cmd-Q. It happened when the drawer was still open in the game window, and we fixed it by making sure that the drawer gets closed whenever the application tries to quit.

Bug ID 43 was a weird one. Some users reporting always seeing the same saved game, whenever they opened Solitaire Till Dawn, instead of seeing the last game they had played. And that was followed by getting the same series of shuffles in new games, instead of getting an unrepeating sequence of new games. I have to blush about this: you can quit Solitaire Till Dawn by simply closing the game window, but I forgot to make sure that the current game gets saved when you do that! So now I've fixed that, and the problem should not happen again.

I'm still tweaking the card graphics. In this release, the "10" rank is different: it uses a more standard font, and stylistically looks better and more like the other ranks. This should solve Bug ID 37, where some users saw the "10" in a very tiny font.

For the few users who use the Players feature, the My Favorites list is now correctly updated when you switch Players. The Game Info panel displays the game description text correctly in all cases. And finally, users who had custom cardbacks in the old Solitaire Till Dawn were seeing blank cardbacks until they chose a cardback from the ones offered in the Decor panel. Custom cardbacks will not be supported in the first release, but now such users will see a default cardback image instead of a blank one, and will be told why.

Poll Results
Thanks to the well-over-150 people who responded to our poll! The results were interesting, if a bit confusing in places.

The first poll section, The Beta Program, was meant to evaluate how many people were actively participating in the program. Somewhat to my surprise, only a bit more than 2/3 of the poll respondents answered that they had actually downloaded and used any of the beta releases.

That initial result has an effect on how we interpret the rest of the questions. If only 2/3 of the respondents have actually used the beta, then we must assume that only 2/3 of the answers to the rest of the questions are really relevant. The rest are either answering about their experience with the old version of Solitaire Till Dawn (our fault: we should have made it more clear that we wanted answers about the beta versions only), or else they just like taking polls.

But it doesn't matter very much. We were looking for clear evidence of portions of Solitaire Till Dawn that are hard to understand, and fudging the percentages a bit doesn't make that much difference. Here's what we think we learned:

  • Most people can find and use the Preferences window, and the Decor window. That's good.
  • Most people can find the built-in Help and use it, though many did not bother to do so.
  • Few people took the tour that is offered at first launch, but most of those who did take the tour found it useful.
  • Most people seem able to use the Game Browser to read rules.
  • Only a few use the Game Browser to find more solitaires that they might like.
  • Few users know about the many keyboard shortcuts that Solitaire Till Dawn offers.
That's mostly good news. I would like to increase the number of users who take the Tour, but it may be that most of you beta users already knew about new features like the Game Drawer by reading my pre-beta blog posts.

Not many people are using the Game Browser to find new solitaires; but most people seem to like to play just a few favorites, so perhaps that's natural.

My biggest concern is the keyboard shortcuts. Some of those are very useful, and there are a lot of them. I'd like to make them more visible.

For now, if you're a beta user who hasn't been using the keyboard much, I suggest you open the Help, scroll down to the bottom of the Table of Contents, and click on Keyboard Shortcuts. You might learn something cool!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Day Off

Beta testers: I have a couple of music gigs today (Thursday Jan 16) so I will not be responding to your bug reports as usual today. But don't hesitate to submit them, please! I'll be back on the horse tomorrow morning, I promise, and I will get to them then.

The poll is nearly done, and I am happy to see well over 100 people have responded. If you haven't, there is still time to do so—but not much, so don't delay! Thanks to all for your responses.

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 8 is now available from our Beta Program page.

I am hoping that this release will finally bring us to a level of reliability and stability for all users. There's still a list of unfixed lesser bugs, but the two big bugs that have been plaguing prior betas should now be fixed.

Bug ID 3 is the one where the game window sometimes doesn't open when you first launch a new beta. We think we understand that now, and we think we have it licked.

Bug ID 24 is the one that drew the suit pips too small for some users. Like bug 3, we thought we had this fixed before and were wrong, but we believe we've got it right this time.

In addition, related bugs 22 and 33 have been fixed. Bug 22 was a problem with The Towers which we fixed in b7, but it wasn't a good fix: it broke other stuff, which became bug 33. We've now fixed 33, and re-fixed 22 in a way that doesn't break anything else. You should now be told when you're stuck (if you have selected that option) correctly in nearly all cases.

Finally, bug 32 was fixed: a minor problem in which selecting Accordion (or whatever game was at the top of the list) in the Game Drawer would not display the Game Info window.

Let us know how this new beta works for you. Thanks!

P.S. There are two days left to respond to the poll, in the right-hand column of this page. Our thanks to everyone who has responded so far!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Beta 7

A quick reminder: If you haven't taken the poll yet, please take a moment to do that. It's along the right-hand side of this page, and it will only take a moment or two. Thanks!

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 7 is now available for download from our Beta Program page.

Here's what ISN'T fixed:
I'm sorry, but there are still a couple of nasty, difficult bugs that I haven't figured out yet. I am aware of them, they have a high priority, and I'm working on them.

Some (maybe all) users on Mac OS X 10.9 (Mavericks) are seeing tiny suit pips on the cards. This is not correct; the pips should be the same size as the digits and the J, Q, K. We thought we had this fixed in b6, but for at least some users, it's still a problem.

Many users report that when they install a new beta and open it for the first time, it doesn't open a game window. For most users, quitting and trying again works fine, and the problem doesn't recur until they download and install another new beta. One user reports that the problem happens every time.

Here's what IS fixed:
We've received a lot of complaints about the text in the status bar being too small to read. In b7 we've increased the default size of that text a bit, and we've added a control to make the text even bigger for those who want it so.

We fixed a passel of bugs that were mostly reported for Grandma's Game, but many of which affected other games as well. These included false-stuck indications, cards that can't be moved by clicking but can be moved by dragging, autoplay misbehaviors, and the oft-reported problem that you can't drag the second-to-bottom card into the bottom position in the workspace fan in Grandma's Game.

Many users also reported that the Game Info panel never lists anything for a game's Family, Categories, or Variants. That's also been fixed. You'll find that in each of these, the entries are links that you can click to find other games in the same category or family, or to see the rules for a variant.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Poll Time!

So far this beta program has been incredibly useful to me! Your bug reports, your energy, and your cooperation and willingness to help have been invaluable.

But bug reports don't tell me everything, so I'd like to ask you all some questions about your use of the beta releases. The questions are right on this page, in the right-hand column. There are a lot of them, so you'll have to scroll down to see them all; but it shouldn't take too long for you to answer them.

As you read the poll questions, you may find that you learn some things you didn't know about Solitaire Till Dawn. But I'm interested in what you know already. For example, if a checkbox says "I know that I can click a card to make it move" and you didn't know that before reading the poll, please don't check the box! The poll isn't really meant to teach you stuff. I'm trying to learn what parts of Solitaire Till Dawn are confusing or hard to discover.

Thanks for your help! And if you missed it, the latest beta release is BETA 6, available from the Beta Program page as usual. In the meantime, I'm busy working on BETA 7, which should become available in a few days if not sooner.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Beta 6: More Readability

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 6 is now available for download from our Beta Program page.

Here's what's new:

Readability: Bug ID 24
After putting out Beta 5 with larger card indices, we learned that some of the troubles people have had with reading the cards was due to poor font management on our part. Beta 6 addresses that. Let us know how it looks to you.

"New Game" and "Dealing" Notifications: Bug ID 19
The little white-on-gray notices that pop up for new games and elaborate redeals are gone. I thought they were a good idea, but nobody liked them but me. I took them out.

Window moves on New Game: Bug ID 23
This bug was introduced in b5, and is now fixed in b6. Starting a new game no longer moves the window to the upper-left of your screen; instead it stays put, like it should.

Redeal Hangs: Bug ID 25
In some cases, dealing by pressing ⌘D or selecting the Deal menu item would blank the window, and just hang, never showing the cards again. This is fixed. 

The Clock: Bug ID 10
The clock now won't start timing your games until you make your first move. This is also true when resuming a saved game that already had time on the clock: the clock won't continue accumulating time until you make another move. So you can quit in mid-game, and then later when you start up again you can sit and stare at the layout as long as you like without adding time to the clock, until you start playing again.

"Card Minnow"
The old version of Solitaire Till Dawn assigned users a silly "rank" that was purely a measure of how many games you had played. You started at Card Minnow and over time you got promoted to Card Guppy, Card Clam, and so on.

The reason for this was actually to shame users who hadn't paid for their copy of Solitaire Till Dawn yet: it was an excuse to rub their noses in how many games they'd played for free. There's no need for it in this new version, but some users actually liked the silliness of it, so I put it in.

But it doesn't fit very well in this new version, and some of you have been complaining about it, while others have been confused by it. So I just took it out. (If you're one of those who liked it, sorry!)

There is still a mention of this feature in the Help pages under "Answers to Common Questions". I'm going to leave that in place for a little while, in case there's a backlash against removing the feature. (It's hard to please everybody!) If there is, I promise to find a less obtrusive way to tell users of their "promotions", and offer a way to turn them off. But for now, they're gone altogether.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tiny Suits

If you haven't seen it, BETA 5 is now available from our Beta Page. But there's a problem.

We announced that with b5, the card indices would now be larger and more readable. But we are still getting complaints about them being too small and hard to see. So we asked one of you for a screen shot, and learned something incredibly important: On some systems, the suit symbols look very different from what we intended!
How it looks to some users

How it's supposed to look
We have been using a font to draw the suit symbols. We did some research, and we truly thought that the font we used would be available and the same on all modern Macs. Now we see that that is not true!

We will fix this, we promise you. It's now Bug ID 24. It's a high priority and we'll try to fix it as soon as possible. But it may take a while because we will have to rework the entire mechanism that we use to draw, place, and scale the suit images.

Another thing: b5 was supposed to fix Bug ID 16, so that the game window is always correctly sized and placed. But we missed something, and now when you start a new game, the game window always jumps to the upper-left of your monitor. That was unintended, and we'll fix that too. This new problem is Bug ID 23.

Be patient. With your help, we'll get there!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Beta 5: Readability, Win Notifications, and Window Sizing

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 5 is now available for download from our Beta Program page.

Here's what's new:

Easier to Read Cards
Update: We've learned more about this problem since I wrote the discussion below. See Tiny Suits to find out what we learned. We will fix this problem, we promise.

We have had a lot (and I mean a whole lot) of complaints that the card indices are hard to read. (The card indices are the rank-and-suit at the upper-left corner of a card: 2♠ for example.) Frankly, we were surprised. In a certain sense, the card indices were the same size as in the old version.

But after some thought, I began to understand the problem. Modern monitors have higher resolution (more pixels-per-inch, or "ppi") than the older monitors that the old version of STD ran on. An image that is (say) 72 pixels high was a full inch high on an old monitor, but that same image would be less than 3/4" high on my current monitor.

The obvious solution is to make the card indices bigger, but then that makes a layout take more space on-screen, because you have to spread the cards a little more loosely to see all of the larger indices in a fan or column. A larger layout may mean that you now have to use smaller cards to fit a game onto your screen, which defeats the purpose because smaller cards have, you guessed it, smaller card indices.

But we've done our best. The card indices in b5 are significantly larger, and we've tried to minimize the increase in layout size. We hope you like the result.

Win Notifications
A passel of bugs were found with the "You win" notifications. We think we've fixed them all; you tell us if we missed a spot.

First, the settings in Preferences > Notifications are now honored. If you turn off "Tell Me When I Win", you won't see the alert.

If you turn on "Show my statistics when I win" the All Statistics window will appear when you win, even if you've turned off "Tell Me When I Win".

In the All Statistics window, selecting "Start New Game After Win" now immediately changes the "Done" button to "New Game", and vice-versa. Clicking "Done" makes the window go away. Clicking "New Game" actually starts a new game.

Window Sizing
Solitaire Till Dawn is supposed to remember your window size and placement, on a per-game basis; and now in b5, it actually does. If you've never played a particular kind of solitaire before, it will show you a window with the largest card size that will fit on your screen; but after that, it will remember any change you make to window size and placement, and go back to it whenever you start up or switch to that game.

We also added a checkmark to the Card Sizes menu item that shows your current card size.

Summing Up
In this release we have again tried to address the most urgent issues that seem to be on your minds. As always, please let us know whether the results are pleasing and working as expected.

Your reports continue to be immensely valuable to us. Thanks, and keep up the good work!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Beta 4: Montana and Addiction, and "No game window"

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 4 is now available for download from our Beta Program page.

This release fixes the following bugs:

Bug ID 3: No game window opens at launch.
We now believe that this is due to a corrupted auto-saved game file in Solitaire Till Dawn's preferences folder. We also believe that the corruption was caused by the b1 release, which had incompatibilities with OS X 10.7 (Lion). If we are correct, it won't happen again because we fixed the incompatibility in the b2 release. However, the corrupted files remained behind, and still caused problems in b2 and b3. Some of you followed our advice and removed your Solitaire Till Dawn prefs folder to get rid of the corrupted file. For the rest of you, the b4 release now checks the validity of the auto-saved game file, and if it is not successfully read in, it is ignored and a new game is started instead.

Bug ID 12: Selecting a larger card size sometimes doesn't work.
Actually we can't really fix this one. Larger card sizes mean that the layout for the whole game takes up more space; but the whole game still has to fit in the window, and the window has to fit on your screen. If you request too large a card size, Solitaire Till Dawn won't honor your request because it would mean that the game wouldn't fit on your screen. But now, when this happens, Solitaire Till Dawn will at least put up a notice to explain why it couldn't comply with your request.

Bug ID 13: In Montana and Addiction, redeal can cause a crash.
This one surprised me, because I enjoy these games and played them a lot during development. I tracked the problem down to a recent code change that looked innocuous, but that turned out to be breaking those games. It's fixed now, and you should be able to play Montana and Addiction safely.

Let me take a moment to thank you all for your energy in testing Solitaire Till Dawn and in sending me your wonderful bug reports. You are all being hugely helpful, and I appreciate it! I'd like to ask you one more favor: if a bug bothered you in the past and a new beta fixes it, let me know. It helps me be sure that I have really fixed that bug.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Beta 3: Importing Old Prefs, and Getting the Game Window to Appear

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 3 is now available for download from our Beta Program page.

This release should fix Bug ID 4, which caused Solitaire Till Dawn to repeatedly ask about importing your old preferences, even if they've already been successfully imported. If you've been having that problem, you can expect to be asked one more time by this b3 release, and after that you shouldn't be asked again.

Bug ID 3 (No game window appears at launch) is still unfixed, but we have two new pieces of advice that may help you get Solitaire Till Dawn running properly for you.

First, make sure you copy Solitaire Till Dawn to your Applications folder before you try to run any newly-downloaded version. Never try to open Solitaire Till Dawn from the installer window; only open the one in your Applications folder. We've seen the no-window bug happen if this advice is not followed. Even if you do follow the advice you may have to open and close Solitaire Till Dawn from the Applications folder once or twice, and then it should start working properly.

If that doesn't work, please visit How to Delete Solitaire Till Dawn Preference Files and follow the instructions there. The no-window problem can persist if there are damaged prefs files, and getting rid of them may solve the problem for you.

We do not regard Bug ID 3 as fixed, because we still don't know what causes the problem in the first place. But while we continue to work on that, we hope that the advice above will help you start actually using the beta releases.

Bug ID 3: No Game Window

As reported earlier, some users find that when Solitaire Till Dawn launches, no game window appears. This is Bug ID 3 in our Bug List, and it is our highest priority.

In yesterday's post that announced the Beta 2 release, we also posted a procedure for working around the problem. We now know that that procedure does not work, so we've removed the link to that page.

We think that this is a symptom of your Mac not trusting an application that didn't come from the App Store, but as of this writing we're not even certain of that. We will continue to research the problem, and we will post a fix or a real workaround as soon as we can.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Beta 2: Lion and Snow Leopard Compatibility

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 2 is now available for download.

This release should fix the serious compatibility problems with OS X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) and 10.7 (Lion) that were seen in the b1 release. These were bugs ID 1 and 2 in our Bug List.

We also know more now about bug ID 3, where some users never see a game window, and instead only get a menu bar with nearly all of its menu items disabled. This is a conflict between Apple's "Gatekeeper" feature and software downloaded from the Internet instead of from the App Store. Update: The workaround that we originally suggested for this problem is not helping. Currently we have no solution, but it's our highest priority and we're working on it.

To get the b2 release, visit our Beta Page.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year—and Beta!

We still can't tell you when you'll be able to buy Solitaire Till Dawn, but we are kicking off the new year by launching our beta program!

Beta means that Solitaire Till Dawn is nearly done (all the features are in, and everything works nearly all the time) but there may still be some bugs left to find and fix. By participating in the beta program, you can help us shake out the last bugs and get Solitaire Till Dawn ready for release as soon as possible.

If you've been itching to get hold of the new Solitaire Till Dawn, and you're willing to try a pre-release version, then we invite you to visit our Beta page by clicking that link or the one in the sidebar to the right.

Be aware that the beta version is time-limited and will expire in a few weeks. If significant bugs are found, we may issue further beta versions with later expiration dates.

When will it really be done and available for purchase? As always, we don't know. It depends on how well the beta goes, for one thing. For another, we are still awaiting some important artwork; and we cannot predict how long Apple will take to approve Solitaire Till Dawn for the App Store even when we think it's 100% ready. So please continue to be patient; and in the meantime, enjoy the beta. (We can't promise that you'll always have a non-expired beta until you can buy the finished version, but we are trying to get the finished version out as soon as possible, and we want to keep you happy in the meantime.)

Update: There's a bug in some builds of OS X 10.7.5 that can cause Solitaire Till Dawn to crash, and may cause other issues. Apple has issued a fix, in the form of a minor update to 10.7.5. If you have 10.7.5, please use Software Update to see if there's an update to 10.7.5 that you can install.

Update: We've added a Bug List page where you can see all of the bugs that have been reported to us, and monitor our progress in fixing them.