Friday, February 28, 2014

Beta 12: Face Down Cards

As far too many of you have already seen, on Lion (Mac OS 10.7) many games in b12 show face down cards where there should be face up cards.

Update: I've found and fixed this. The fix will appear in the next release, b13. (I know that many of you would like me to instantly release a fixed version, but I still have other, very serious crashing bugs to investigate. I would like to get those solved for the next release as well. Please be patient while I work on this.)

Crashes and Freezes
Many of you are also discovering and reporting a bug that I did already know about, and which is called out in the b12 Read Me file, in recent blog posts here, and on the Bug List page: Crashes can occur when you use Undo, Redo, or Deal (clicking on the deck). On my systems this happens rarely, but it does happen. On some of your systems it clearly happens quite easily.

Please don't send me any more bug reports about this. I usually don't ask that, but I am getting so many that I don't have time to work on the problem: all my time is going to answering the reports.

Fixing these crashes is now my highest priority.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Beta 12: Returning to Stability

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 12 is now available from our Beta Program page.

This release is valid through the end of March.

Once again, we are releasing a beta in a certain amount of haste, because the previous beta will expire in just a day or two. We had hoped for beta 12 to be really solid, and to fix more of the "small bugs" that don't cause crashes. And we do think this release is a big improvement, with a long list of bug fixes since beta 11.

But it's not perfect. We have seen one crash while using Undo to Snapshot to rewind a long game of Forty Thieves back to the start. We're sure it can happen with other games as well. But it seems to be difficult to reproduce, because we've had no problems doing the same thing with other games of Forty Thieves, and in other solitaires, in repeated tests. We do have a notion of what the problem is, and we will be working on it.

Also, we apologize to all of you who are running Snow Leopard, but beta 12 is broken on Snow Leopard (10.6.8) just like b11 and b10 were. We do intend to address this issue and restore compatibility with Snow Leopard, but we didn't have time to do this for beta 12.

In addition to fixing a large number of bugs from the Bug List, we put a fair amount of work into improving some of the animations in b12. Those of you who complained about the odd "twisting" effect when dealing in Klondike and related games should see a more normal-looking animation in b12. We have also adjusted some of the timing, to make sequences of animations (such as refilling the deck and then dealing a new packet from the deck onto the discard in Klondike) more clear.

We are painfully aware that the animation improvements we introduced in b10 have seriously impacted the stability of Solitaire Till Dawn. Betas 10 and 11 were not really "beta-quality" releases, because there were enough problems to seriously violate the beta rule of "mostly working, most of the time". And b12 still does not have that quality for Snow Leopard. But we're working hard to get that reliability, robustness, and stability back.

Stay tuned, and as always, thanks for your patience, your hard work on our behalf, and your support!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Almost March

It's nearly the end of February, and b11 will expire in a couple of days. I'm starting to get worried emails from some of you.

Relax: I should have b12 out in a day or so. I had wanted to put more work into it before releasing it, because it is still not as robust as b9 (the last beta before I reworked the animation). But I don't want to reward your patience and hard work by cutting you off completely, so I'll get b12 out in the next day or two, and it will have an expiration date that will at least last through March.

The server problems we've had have continued to plague us. The server is up and running now, but we are still getting it tweaked, bringing new services online, and most importantly, documenting everything we had to do to get it running. That's in case we ever have to go through this again!

Because of this, I still haven't been able to spend as much time on solitaire development as I'd like. But I am back at work on it. If you check the Bug List, you'll see that quite a few bugs are marked as "fixed in b12". This next release won't be perfect, but it should be a big improvement.

But not for Snow Leopard. Beta 11 has serious problems on OS X 10.6.8, and I have not had time to address them for b12. I have not given up on Snow Leopard compatibility, but I'm afraid it's not there yet and I won't have time to fix it before b11 expires. (One problem is that, independently of our server issues, my Snow Leopard test machine has been giving me trouble. I think I've sort of got that under control now, too.)

Watch for the b12 release in the next day or two, and expect it to be better than b11 but not perfect.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Status Report, the sequel

I see that my last status update was ten days ago, and in it I apologized for the time I had to take to set up a new server. I said that I expected to get back to solitaire work shortly.

Turns out, I was far too optimistic. The server work that I thought was nearly done wasn't even close to done at that time. I won't bore you with the ugly details, but we've been working on this nearly non-stop all this time. The good news is that we believe (once again) that we are nearly done. We have accomplished all of the major tasks and proven that everything works. The most important part of this was email; for a while there our email access was spotty-to-nonexistent.

That is why I haven't been responding to any bug reports lately: you submit them via the form on this site, but they come to me by email, and my email wasn't working. But it is up and running now, and I see that I have over 200 unread reports to dig through. I will start on that today, and I will resume work on Solitaire Till Dawn as well.

As I posted earlier, I am aware that the latest beta is not working well for everyone. For some, it isn't working at all. I am sorry for the interruption, and of course I intend to get it fixed. But it may still be a while before the next release, because there's a lot wrong with the current release and I want the next one to be a lot more solid. Betas 10 and 11 were released in great haste, to get them out before we had to do the server work. I am going to take my time with beta 12.

As always, thanks for your patience and your support.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Status Report

I have spent much of the past several days preparing for and implementing our move to a new server. I warned you all that there might be interruptions in my mail service, but more importantly, I've simply been too busy to respond to bug reports during this period.

The move is not complete, but it is going well and the hard stuff seems to be done. I expect to have more time for actual work on Solitaire Till Dawn from now on. Soon I will go through my back email, and respond to all of you who have sent unanswered reports.

I have, at least, skimmed your recent reports. Your responses to Beta 11 have been varied: some users report success and satisfaction with the animation and other changes. Others have found bugs, some serious, which of course I will try to address soon.

Some of you have not been satisfied with the changes, even when they are working as I planned. I'm listening, and while (as always!) it's not possible to please everyone, I'll do my best to find a proper compromise.

Beta 10 and its follow-up Beta 11 were released in haste, because of the upcoming server change which unhappily coincided with the expiration date of Beta 9. Although some of you have been having some real problems with Beta 11, it will probably be a few days before I release the next update. I've had enough of rush and haste, and I want to try to make Beta 12 much more solid.

Thanks, once again, for your continuing patience and support.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Beta 11: Right Side Up

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 11 is now available from our Beta Program page.

This release is a very quick turnaround meant to fix the issue that many of you saw with yesterday's b10 release: layouts and images appearing upside down. Again, I apologize for letting so egregious an error out into the world: the bug didn't show on my development system, and I did not test on enough other systems before releasing b10.

I have tested b11 on our Snow Leopard (10.6.8) machine, where b10 clearly showed the upside down layouts. b11 displays and runs correctly. I am hoping that this will fix the problem for all users.

In addition I have fixed two regressions: the Game Info panel was again missing some text in its "more info" section, and the Players panel was not accepting drops of image files. (Did you know that you can drop an image file onto an entry in the Players panel, to use as the avatar for that player? Well, for a while you couldn't because it was broken; but in b11 that's fixed and working again.)

Server Outage
Tomorrow, Thu Feb 6 2014, we are expecting some service outages. We are moving the server at from its current ancient and creaky hardware to a new, modern home. If you find that you cannot download b11, please be patient and try again later, or the next day. We'll be back up as quickly as we can.

We would rather have done this at a different time, but the old server has begun to exhibit signs of old-age crankiness. We need to get the new server up and running before the old one dies completely. Unfortunately this happened just when earlier betas are about to expire, and b10 turned up an unexpected, show-stopping bug. So I have rushed to get b11 out to you today. Tomorrow I will be working on getting the new server spiffed up and ready to go, and then we'll throw the big knife switch to move to the new hardware.

Thanks for your patience. We'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Beta 10: Woops

I posted beta 10 this afternoon, then had to go out for the evening. Upon my return, I'd received several messages from users complaining that in b10, their card games were upside down!

I checked on my 10.6.8 machine, and saw the same thing. This was a considerable astonishment to me, because I had tested a previous unreleased version and didn't see this issue.

Update: I think this issue occurs on Lion (any version of 10.7) and earlier. I hope to have a fix out by Thursday Feb 6, if not sooner.

If you download b10, I'd recommend not deleting b9 quite yet. Try b10; if it works for you, great. If not, hang in there with b9 and I'll try to get a fix out soon.

I apologize for the screw-up. I do try to be thorough but there are a lot of aspects to test, and there's just me to do it before I hand it off to all of you. Sometimes, like today, I get it wrong and let out a version with a major flaw that I should have caught myself.

Beta 10: Starting Over!

Solitaire Till Dawn BETA 10 is now available from our Beta Program page.

No, we aren't really starting over. But in the two weeks or so since beta 9, I have made some major changes deep inside Solitaire Till Dawn.

What's New
The main thing you may notice is that dealing (when you click the deck, or press Tab or ⌘D) is much faster. For this reason, I have disabled the preference setting for "Skip long animations". I don't think it's needed any more, because the new animations are quick enough that they shouldn't feel like they're slowing down your play. I have not yet removed the code for that preference entirely, because if there's enough backlash I would be willing to restore it. But if you've been using that option, please give the new animations a chance before you complain—thanks!

I didn't just "speed up" the animations. I actually completely ripped out the old animation code and rewrote it. As a result, pretty much all animations should look much more smooth now.

Changes to the animation code may sound like they wouldn't affect anything else, but that's actually not true. These changes have had a huge effect on all of the user interface code. As a result, things like score and statistics updates, card highlighting, and such have also been affected. I believe that I have fixed a lot of old bugs in doing this. If I'm wrong, of course, let me know!

Possible Instability
Be warned: there may be crashes. In this kind of code, crashes can occur intermittently and be difficult to reproduce. I have tried to be thorough in testing the changes and I think I have all the crashing bugs out; but I've been wrong before and could be again. If you do get a crash, please send me the crash log!

Expiration Dates
Beta 9 is set to expire this weekend. Beta 10 will be good through the end of February.

Server Downtime
Finally (because everything happens at once), our old server at has been getting flaky. We are in the process of replacing it with a spanking new server at a new location. Until the new server is up, there may be periods when we cannot reliably receive email, or when you cannot download a new beta.

In the meantime, we have placed the download for beta 10 on a temporary server in hopes of avoiding problems with the old server. To get it, go to the Beta Program page and click the download link as usual; but then you'll see a Web page and you will have to click a link on that page to actually begin the download. Downloading may also be slower than you're used to.

We apologize for any interruption in service, and we'll be back online as quickly as possible.

Okay, I think that's all for now. Thanks!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

State of the Beta

As I write, it's the afternoon of February 1. Some of you who haven't kept up have discovered that your beta copy has expired. The recent betas still have a week to go before they expire; but it's been over a week since I put out a new beta.

Recently I wrote that I was engaged in a large undertaking, and that it would be a few days before it was done. That's still true. I think I will be sufficiently done within another day or so. I will then be ready to post beta 10, and its expiration date will be the end of February, or perhaps in early March.

But there's a hitch. Our download server began responding poorly this morning. It's starting to look as if it is having a network hardware issue. If so, it may take us a while to arrange a new download location for beta 10. We will do our best to see that you continue to have a valid beta to test, but if things really go downhill there's a chance that beta 9 will expire before we can get beta 10 out to you.

This blog site is not affected by the download server's problems. I will use it to keep you all up to date on our status.

Thanks for your patience, and as always, many thanks for your bug reports!