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Showing posts from 2013

Secret Santa

In my family, we decided to do Secret Santas this year. My wife and I have three daughters, and the two older daughters got married in the last year, so there are seven of us in the immediate family. We all agree that Christmas is really about something rather more important than shopping or gift-giving, and we agree that keeping it simple is a good idea.

So somebody said, How do we do this? Although we're all in Dallas, we weren't together on the day that this decision was made and weren't going to be all together until Christmas day, so writing names on paper and drawing them from a hat wasn't going to be practical. Without thinking, I said I could build a database that would make make the Secret Santa assignments and email them out anonymously.

My wife looked at me like I was crazy (which, as it happens, she knows me to be). The first concern she voiced had to do with security. She worried that I was going to know who all the Secret Santas were. I assured here that …

WP's FileMaker 13 Review

My review of FileMaker 13 is finally live at

Macworld/FileMaker 13 Review

This is a big release, as you will see from the review.

Should you upgrade? There are two possible answers, the easy one, and the hard one.

The easy answer is, yes — yes, you should upgrade.

The hard answer is, of course, more nuanced. As a technologist I more or less have to live near the bleeding edge. But for most of you, it may be reasonable for you to ask, Is what we've got now broke? And if it ain't, then don't "fix" it by upgrading. I understand that.

Just one reassurance for those already using FileMaker 12: FileMaker 13 uses the same ".fmp12" file format at its predecessor. So if you need to add a seat to your current network, and if you're already using FileMaker 12, then by all means, buy a copy of 13 and throw it into the mix.

And if you are still using FileMaker 11 (or earlier) and you've been thinking about upgrading, jumping to 13 might make sen…

CMAssistant progress report

As of mid-December 2013, the latest version of CMAssistant is 8-point-something. Somewhat confusingly (to me, anyway) we're working on two tracks here: There's still a version that runs in FileMaker Pro 11 and I've made a few improvements to it. But there's a different version that runs in FileMaker Pro 12 (or 13) which has more — but somewhat different — improvements.

I can't keep this up for long. I'm about to cease further development of the FileMaker 11 version.

As soon as I finish adding support for adding locations via iPhone to CMAssistant 8 for FileMaker Pro 12, I'm also about to cease work on that line of development — in order to work on a complete, from-the-ground up rebuild in FileMaker 13.

It'll probably take a month or two to complete this rebuild. But when I'm done it's going to be fantastic. 

FileMaker 13 has arrived

FileMaker 13 was released today (December 2, 2013). There are new versions of all the products in the FileMaker product line:

FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Pro AdvancedFilemaker ServerFileMaker Go for iOS Much more can be found on FileMaker's website.
One bit of good news: FileMaker Pro 13 uses .fmp12 file format that was introduced with the previous version, so if you have some computers on your network using a FileMaker 12 database and you need to add a seat, you can buy a copy of FileMaker 13 and just add it to the mix. You won't have to upgrade everybody immediately.
But you may want to. I've been working with version 13 for a while as I work on a forthcoming review, and it seems a solid and impressive upgrade. I'll have much more info after my review is released. In the meantime, clients of Rucksack (or Polytrope) who have a question, should feel free to contact me directly.

Mac OS X v10.9 "Mavericks" and FileMaker Pro 12.0v5

Late last night (as soon as it became available) I upgraded both my Macs to the latest version of the Mac OS: version 10.9 "Mavericks." I also upgraded FileMaker Pro to 12.0v5, an update that mainly seems to provide better compatibility with the new Mac operating system. Tested some of my existing FileMaker database solutions and everything seems to be working fine. If you do upgrade to Mavericks, be sure to upgrade FileMaker Pro, as well.

As for Mavericks itself, it's underwhelming, but that's not a bad thing, especially since it's free.

The Notes, Calendar and Contacts apps got facelifts, which they needed. But Notes and Contacts are only slightly improved, while the new Calendar looks like one of the new iOS 7 apps, and I don't mean that as a compliment. I'm okay with "flat," but "flat and shapeless", not so much. I dunno. Maybe I'll switch back to Google Calendar.

Tabs in Finder windows? A good idea, I guess. But seriously, usi…

Sometimes you should think before you tweet

At the end of Sophocles' Oedipus the King, the chorus sings, "Count no man happy until he's dead." The point isn't that life is hell and the only happiness is found in death; the point is that, until the story is finished, you don't know how it ends.

What's true for human lives is true in lots of more trivial contexts. I don't want movie reviewers to be tweeting their reviews while watching the movie. And I don't want reporters to be tweeting the news — at least not the kind of news that really can wait for another hour.

Case in point:

"Hell froze over": How Windows helped Apple rule the world

Excellent post by Chris Fralic about the decision to release iTunes for Windows, and how that release was the beginning of the end for Windows.

The Butterfly That Started the Apple Tsunami

Two notes of my own. First, Steve Jobs wasn't always a visionary. Sometimes he was a closed-minded, petty bully who didn't want to share his toys. (The rest of the time, he was a visionary.)

The other point is, it took at lot of nerve to describe iTunes as the "best" software for anything. It was then and remains now one of Apple's most confused products.

(Hat tip: Daring Fireball)

Okay, maybe it is partly incompetence

I still think that the problem is supposed to manage is such a monster that it would be a daunting challenge for anybody, no matter how competent. That said, it's looking more and more like incompetence may have played a part in the site's epic fail. And I don't just mean normal incompetence on the part of government bureaucrats.

How hard was this, really? I myself tried to sign up for an account. With just a little difficulty, I got through several screens where I provided my name, home state, email address, and then, on the last screen, I made up an account name and password. I hit submit or save, and got this:

"Unavailable"? They couldn't have told me this before I wasted 10 minutes?

Now, when I was expressing my (tentative) sympathy for the programmers yesterday, I was thinking about how hard the hard parts of this problem must be. I mean, this is the system created by a many-thousand page bill whose architect herself said "We have to …

Sympathy for the Devil: The Obamacare online disaster

So the web site the government built to allow people to sign up for the new healthcare exchanges doesn't work. I've read a lot about it and as far as I can tell, nobody has managed actually to sign up for an insurance plan. The one guy who claimed he had, turned out to be a fraud. The situation is so bad that Obama supporter Jon Stewart is making fun of it. (I'm not sure if the New York Times has even mentioned the problem, but then the Times isn't a real news source like the Daily Show.)

It's possible that the programmers of the site were (as has been charged) simply incompetent. That's what a number of the experts being interviewed by big networks are saying. But my guess is that this was avery complicated problem, and I wonder if anybody is competent enough to have built this boat so it floats.

I certainly don't want to cut anybody in the administration any slack at all. In the real world, Ms Sibelius would be looking for a new job right about now. And o…

What's in a name (part 2): RUCKSACK it is!

That's right. We're going with Rucksack after all!

This is (mildly) embarrassing. The best of the bad explanations I can offer is, it takes a lot of time to get ready to kill one company and start another one, even very small companies. In the process of doing my company-name research, I failed to notice that 37Signals had, some months ago, released an iPhone app called "Daypack." Sigh.

I am pretty sure I could have stuck with Daypack Data and never heard from 37Signals' lawyers. We don't compete at all. But it's okay. While "Daypack" is great as a name for an iPhone app, I always thought it was a bit lightweight for what we do anyway. As I said five weeks ago ("What's in a name?"), the connotations of rucksack are much sturdier. That's a better fit with our mission. We don't just build databases you can carry your lunch in, we build databases that will carry everything you need to succeed in battle. So to speak.

And I reth…

iOS security vulnerability

My post earlier today about hacking the iPhone 5S's TouchID was talking about something major: access to everything in the phone. But that post mattered to you only if you have an iPhone 5S (the brand new, higher-end model). There is another vulnerability that affects just about everybody with an iPhone, at least if you've upgraded to iOS 7.

If the phone you're trying to get allows access to the Control Center from the lock screen, it's possible for someone who knows a fairly simple trick to get into your photos and some other parts of your phone's content. You can read about it here:

Forbes/Andy Greenburg: 
iOS 7 Bug Lets Anyone Bypass iPhone's Lockscreen To Hijack Photos, Email, Or Twitter
I just confirmed that this is possible using my own iPhone 5. I'm writing this on 9/23/13 and using the current (latest) version of iOS 7 (11A465).

Unauthorized access to your email is the biggest danger here. Remember, somebody with access to your email may be able to ch…

iPhone 5S's fingerprint authentication hacked

Well, that was quick The iPhone 5S was just released, and already its highly-touted fingerprint authentication scheme has been hacked. The Chaos Computer Club, a European confederacy of hackers, has managed to hack an iPhone 5S's fingerprint authentication, and to do it without breaking a sweat.

Chaos Computer Club breaks Apple TouchID

Links from that article will show you how it's done. How easy is it? It's not a cakewalk, but I'm pretty sure I could do it.

I'm not too surprised by this. The security experts I've read generally don't regard fingerprint authentication as a very good way to secure anything very valuable. You can't change your fingerprints and you leave them all over the place. And it appears to be far easier to fake the tip of your finger than I would have thought.

It's complicated Should you worry about this? I would, at least a little. [See addendum below.] Don't have a 5S here and I'm actually not quite sure what other optio…

iPhone 5's fingerprint authentication and the law

Very interesting article by Marcia Hoffman at WIRED about the possible legal ramifications of the fingerprint authentication scheme used by the new iPhone 5S: "Apple's Fingerprint ID May Mean You Can't 'Take the Fifth'".

I don't plan to upgrade as my original iPhone 5 is working just fine. But I'm hoping that Apple has indeed done fingerprint ID right. In the past, it's been problematic.

"Daypack Data" — What's in a name?

Shakespeare's Juliet says,
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.Well, okay, if you are just talking about smell. But "rose" sounds a lot better than phlegm. And when you name a company, you have to think about these things. We've ended up with a name — "Daypack Data" — that we think smells pretty sweet, and sounds good, too.

But the final name didn't just pop into my head. About a year ago, when I started thinking about a name for my new company, I knew I wanted something that conveyed the idea that we build (relatively) compact, light-weight systems for small businesses. Since I like to hike, I fairly quickly started thinking about hiking-related names.

One of my first ideas was "Backpack Data" or perhaps "Backpack Data Tools."

One problem with Backpack is that it's a very common word. Students from kindergarten through graduate school wear backpacks. Backpa…