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Happy Lunar New Year -- especially if you use The Hit List in China!

It’s my pleasure to announce that The Hit List for Mac version 1.1.11 and The Hit List for iPhone version 2.1.1 are released. They are both minor updates with the usual bug fixes and small improvements, but if you happen to live in China, these releases will change the way you use The Hit List in a big way:  you can now access our Sync Service without having to go through a VPN or proxy server.

If you’d like to know the gory details, please continue reading, but otherwise, that was it. Thank you!

To jump right into the cause of the problem, the Chinese government, using what people call The Great Firewall of China (GFW) blocks access to many Google services. One such service is App Engine, where we host The Hit List Sync Service. As such, access to ‘appspot.com’ servers is blocked, including our own ‘the-hit-list.appspot.com’.

I read some reports about people having better luck connecting to custom domains that point to App Engine’s servers. So I prepared a test build that connects to ‘sync.thehitlistapp.com’ instead and tested it throughly from within China.

Many people don’t realize what it is like to access the Western Internet from China. You don’t realize how much you rely on Google until you can no longer access it, and not just for searching. Gmail? Not a chance. Did somebody post an answer to a question you’d really like the answer to in a Google Group? Too bad. And good luck loading websites that load Google-hosted content like JQuery or Google Fonts or Google Analytics too early in the page-loading sequence!

Anyhow, accessing the new ‘sync.thehitlistapp.com’ address was proving hit and miss. After further investigation, I found that the GFW blocks some of the IP addresses that App Engine uses. If something unacceptable is discovered, the GFW bans its IP address. Later on, if that address happens to be re-used by other App Engine sites—such as our Sync Service—the block will still be in place. Thus, access to our new sync server URL would work for about an hour and then not for the next hour, depending on the IP address that happened to be assigned at the time.

I had hoped that simply using a new URL would  be enough, but faced with this extra obstacle, the only thing left to do was to set up our own reverse proxy service. Inside these latest app versions there is code to try connecting through our new reverse proxy service if the real service cannot be reached. The upshot being sync should now work reliably in China.

This was a lot more work than I initially thought was needed, but in the end, I’m happy to say that it’s all done now. The timing worked out great with the Lunar New Year holiday. To our Chinese customers out there, happy New Year of the Sheep, and safe journeys to and from your home town. We hope you’ll use the sync capabilities in great ways in the new year.

— Andy Kim

P.S. Our Mac developer community colleague Craig Hockenberry experienced something odd with the GFW. I personally experienced the same thing—namely, being redirected to random sites, some of a rather “adult” nature!—when trying to access Facebook or Twitter from China. If you’re interested, be sure to read his posts about China and The Grass Mud Horse.

URL Scheme Available for Integrating with The Hit List

Today we released The Hit List for iPhone v2.1, which adds support for a custom URL scheme.

The scheme enables other apps to trigger the creation of a new task. It's also fully available on the Mac. So for example, on a device with The Hit List installed, opening this URL:

will start creating a new task with the title "Test". (You can of course then edit the title to something more appropriate — it's just a starting point!)

We see this as a fantastic way for other apps to integrate with The Hit List, and are keen to see what other developers might do with it. URLs can also be handy on a more personal level for constructing custom workflows tailored precisely to your needs.

Ready to dive in? We have full documentation ready with all the details. If you need any further help, we're always ready and happy to field questions on the forum, or by contacting Karelia Support directly.

The Hit List for iPhone 2.0: Released

Update: Intro pricing on The Hit List for iPhone 2.0 and The Hit List for Mac has been extended until January 15th. Details below…

You've been patient since March, when we acquired The Potion Factory and dug in on development of the new version of The Hit List for iPhone. Along the way, the design had to be adjusted for what we learned in June at WWDC, and adjusted again for the new form factors announced in September. Today you'll be happy to know we've released The Hit List for iPhone version 2.0!

If you also use The Hit List for Mac, the big news is that access to our sync service is now included for keeping your tasks and lists in sync between desktop and mobile devices. But wait, there’s more, for everyone…

Cards

A major goal with version 2.0 was to improve the workflow throughout the app, to make everything that little bit more efficient for you. We started with the task “card” concept which has long sat at the heart of The Hit List.

Under 1.x, the need for an explicit “Edit” mode was quite a bottleneck, so we ditched it! Want to add some notes? Just tap and start typing. How about changing the title or adjusting the dates? Same again. Behind the scenes, your changes are automatically saved and sent to the sync service.

With that out of the way, we could bring the card concept to a fuller realization and remove the “Back” button. Now, cards slide in from the bottom of the screen, and can be swiftly dismissed with a simple swipe gesture. The end result is more space for your task on the screen, coupled with faster navigation.

You can do more with your tasks right there from the card too. For example, subtasks are now typed directly into the card, making entry a breeze, while still giving you the full power of opening up the subtask and editing its details.

Start and Due dates are entered directly with an inline calendar. Much like the Calendar app, it scrolls infinitely, giving you faster access to far-off dates. And there are convenient buttons for selecting Today, Tomorrow, or Next Week.

Task List Shortcuts

Power users have come to expect to swipe left on a task to reveal a shortcut for Delete. We took that further and added buttons to Move or Cancel the task too.

And that’s not all; swipe right to reveal shortcuts for the Start date: Today, Tomorrow or Next Week. These are quite handy for clearing a Today list after overcommitting oneself!

Home Screen

The special lists — Inbox, Today, and Upcoming — have been re-arranged. The new arrangement uses a little less space overall, leaving more room for your lists. But those special lists are also fixed in place so you have convenient access to them at all times.

Accessing your tags is faster too; swipe sideways to quickly flip between Lists and Tags.

A final word

Now that you’ve got a sense of the great improvements in this release, if you want more gory details, feel free to peruse the release notes.

The Hit List for iPhone version 2.0 is available now from the App Store and it’s on sale for just US$9.99 until the end of the year. What are you waiting for? Grab it!

To celebrate, we’re also offering US$15 off the price of The Hit List for Mac when purchased from our store with the code “BetterTogether” only at karelia.com. Both offers end December 31st January 15th.

Yosemite and Karelia: We’re Ready

Half-Dome In Yosemite from pdphoto.org

Ever since Apple previewed OS X Yosemite earlier this year, we looked forward to announcing our apps are ready for Yosemite almost as much as we looked forward to Yosemite itself. Today brings us both things!

Yesterday, Apple released Yosemite along with a few goodies. (We’re all drooling over the new iMacs!) Today, we’re pleased to release updates that ensure Yosemite compatibility, and let you know all our apps are ready!

Sandvox: All summer, we worked on Sandvox to make it shine under Yosemite. While version 2.9 (released a couple of weeks ago) works fine with Yosemite, the just released version, 2.9.1, takes care of a few extra, minor issues. If you are upgrading to Yosemite, we recommend updating to Sandvox 2.9.1 as well. And why not — it’s a free update if you have any 2.x version of Sandvox already.

If you bought Sandvox from the Mac App Store, go there to get your new version. (You’ll find it in the Updates tab.) If you got it directly from Karelia, just choose “Check for Updates…” from the Sandvox menu so it can install the new version.

The Hit List: We’ve just released version 1.1.6 of The Hit List for Mac. Minor changes — the only thing you’ll probably notice is a revamped date picker — but it’s an important update for everyone, and critical if you’re running Yosemite. (Please note that we had to drop support for OS X 10.6 in this revision, so if you are still using Snow Leopard, you are fine staying with 1.1.5.)

The Hit List 1.1.6 is available for download from our own website immediately, or updating directly from the app. We have submitted 1.1.6 to the Mac App Store and expect approval in the next week or so. Check out The Hit List’s Twitter feed for the latest developments!

Tangerine, recently updated to version 1.4.2, runs just fine under Yosemite; we didn’t need any special compatibility changes. You’ll be fine moving over to Yosemite with this app.

Our biggest change for Yosemite is on our smallest app! The handy music utility “I Love Stars” needed a big face-lift, so we decided to redesign it, and rename it, for Yosemite. Version 5.0 is now called “Stars” and it’s better than ever!

Stars takes advantage of Yosemite’s gorgeous new user interface (in both regular and “dark” modes) and makes it super-easy to play and rate your iTunes tracks. Besides looking better than ever, Stars now allows you to “scrub” around in a track; it also interfaces with iTunes’ hidden half-star rating ability. Just open the preferences window from Stars for finer control of your music ratings.

Stars is available today exclusively on the Mac App Store, and exclusively for Yosemite. And it’s only $2.99. How can you pass that up?

With all our apps, we’re planning on more updates to take further advantage of Yosemite’s features and bold new look. Stay tuned!

Vimeo or Publishing Performance? You decide.

We released a new version of Sandvox today, which is significantly more than a maintenance release with a three-digit version number. Which of the improvements is your favorite, will be up to you to decide.

Maintenance

Before discussing the most noticeable improvements, it’s worth mentioning the stuff you don't see. Under the hood, we have the regular maintenance fixes you would expect. Also, Sandvox 2.9 preliminarily addresses compatibility issues with Yosemite, which will continue to be addressed as developer seeds are released.

Publishing

Something you'll notice when you publish -- we’ve revamped our publishing engine quite a bit. In day-to-day use, you may notice a few niceties:

During publishing, if a problem is encountered, it will be directly reported to you, rather than you having to keep your eyes peeled for any warning icons in the list of files uploaded. Also in that list of files, we’ve avoided the little annoyance where folders could occasionally appear to progress backwards!

Sandvox has long handled the ability to stop publishing midway through, perhaps because you suddenly spotted a typo that needs correcting, or want to move your laptop to a different wi-fi network. The next time you publish, Sandvox does its best to carry on from the same point. We’ve tweaked the handling of this slightly, so that should you click the Stop button, Sandvox will first finish uploading the current file. This avoids the annoyance of an incomplete version of that file sitting on your server, potentially confusing any visitors who come across it! And of course, if you need to, clicking the Stop button again will make Sandvox stop immediately.

In recent versions of Sandvox, we added support for FTP publishing to use TLS/SSL when available. This is a technology used to secure the connection to an FTP server. In version 2.9 we’ve expanded this support. Host setup now sports extra choices of protocol:

  • FTP with TLS/SSL
  • FTP with Implicit SSL
  • WebDAV with HTTPS

As ever, you should choose the protocol and other settings your hosting provider recommends. The secure connection types are indicated by a little padlock icon; when connecting using them, Sandvox first authenticates the identity of the server, to make sure it’s genuine.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 9.00.31 AM

And last but not least, we’re re-using FTP and SFTP connections when possible, which will result in better publishing performance. Yipee!

Vimeo

For video, this release includes a built-in object for embedding Vimeo videos on your site. While YouTube is still immensely popular, Vimeo has proved itself to be a worthy channel for high-end video.

The discussions comparing the competing services are robust and passionate, particularly in creative circles. We must admit there are a number of features, a genuine design focus, and a certain approach to their business, which make Vimeo a very compelling preference.

To provide an example, we will leave you with this beautiful time-lapse video from DakotaLapse.