Wednesday, June 10, 2009


It was a crazy couple of months and I finally got back to writing. Just jumped back into a major change I was adding when I left off. Adding a string input helper function on multiple choice cards. It pops up a list of strings already in the deck and allows you to choose from those items. This will make creating random multiple choice cards much easier because you can simply chose another word that is already in the deck. Stay tuned this train is getting moving again.

The past few months were amazing while learning XNA and working with some students on a game for the Imagine Cup. I'll try and get some time to post a video and website of the game. It didn't make the finals, but I've been trying to figure out how to keep it going now that all but one of the students graduate. It was a ton of fun.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Current development status

The holidays are behind me, sales tax calculations are nearly complete and I've been continuing on developing the set of Spanish Flashcards and adding features to Memorize-it that increase my productivity. Those tools in turn will also increase your productivity when you use Memorize-It. The current cool feature I'm implementing is in adding cards a that are scrambled multiple choice. I'm using those card types in the testing decks for the new quizzer. The conversion was pretty slow because I needed to go find a couple of different items as the incorrect choices from the rest of the deck. I'm in the middle of adding a little pull down to the text boxes that show all the text strings in the current deck and allows you to choose from those. This will save a lot of time in that I will not have to go open another card to cut and paste some other spanish word, I can just select it from a list.

I think it's going to be a very busy couple of months though. I've completely over committed my self in teaching, volunteering and at work. Better to be busy than slow and I always get more done that way, but this is looking a little ridiculous. Stay tuned, hopefully I find some way to stay out of the way of this giant mountain of work that is coming.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Wrestle the gorilla

I read a daily devotional by John C. Maxwell. I got a little behind because of Thanksgiving and just read the December 1 entry this morning. I was feeling a little overwhelmed as I've gotten to the next step in the development process (a working quizzer) and trying to decide what is next. I want to finish the first set of Spanish decks using the quizzer, but that requires a lot of card changes and I got back into Memorize-It and I feel like I need to get a little farther with that before I can finish the cards. That just feels like a delay to finishing the first quizzer product and I wanted to release them separately, but I know that the Memorize-It work will save me some time. So I think I'm headed in that direction, but it just feels like another small mountain.

With that in mind, today's entry was on tenacity. There was a quote by Robert Strauss. "Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don't quit when you're tired - you quit when the gorilla is tired". Yeah, the gorilla that is Memorize-It isn't tired yet. Progress is progress and I'll go back and make the changes that are needed there and use those changes to improve the quizzer before it is released. I can see light at the end of the tunnel, but it is still just a pin prick.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Alpha Quizzer version released

The first alpha version of the new standalone quizzer went alpha last night. If you are interested in selling flashcards using this new quiz system, please send me an e-mail and we can talk about getting you into the pre-release system.

So far, I've created a Spanish language set with it and have been using it myself for the past month as I try to learn Spanish and also make sure the quizzer really works as a learning tool.

Here is a screen shot of the quiz window. No one liked the green buttons in an early mock up and I'll be changing that soon. Opinions welcome.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The next splash image

That last splash image was just a little too childish and I needed something a little more bold to represent the market I think this program fits in. High School, College and Adult students needing to memorize any type of information. Here is the image.

The actual drawing went something like this. I found an image of a charging elephant online and used my favorite image editing software Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 (usually less than $50) to draw a black and white sketch of a charging elephant. I also recommend Gimp which is free and have used it in some of the computer classes I have taught.

I used a Wacom Intuos3 6 x 8-Inch Pen Tablet to do the actual drawing. The original image is 8x10 inches at 200dpi good for use if I ever need to do any package printing.

The charging elephant picture was placed in it's own layer and given a lot of transparency so it was just sort of an outline. A less technical trick would be to use a Lightbox. I did the tracing and added the rotated rectangle as a flashcard representation. I then got rid of the original charging elephant and selected all the black lines. I inset the selection and filled that selection with black in yet another layer. I then filled the various sections with primary colors and ran an Effects/Illumination/Sunburst effect centered on the light bulb (which was primary yellow). I then tried a ton of different trial and error effects to get the final rendering. I think the one I finished with was either Artistic/Hot Wax or Artistic/Enamel. I don't fully remember, but it took a hundered different tries. I went back and made the center of the lightbulb a lot more yellow to help the bulb stand out after one of my reviewers made that suggestion. The original drawing in the layer above this was then turned back on to give the distict black lines over the colorization.

After years and years trying to come up with a new elephant, this one was drawn in about 30 minutes and colored in about an hour.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Possible splash image

I've been working on the about screen for the new standalone quizzer and have the first concept. I think it might be too kid like and will be creating at least one more. Opinions welcome.

Monday, November 17, 2008

More features and cleanup in the standalone quizzer

I added more features and cleaned up some more bugs in the standalone quizzer. There was no way to quiz on hard, med-hard or percent in the new quizzer. Since all of these items are handled on the menu system in Memorize-It I could have just added a menu to the standalone quizzer, but I ended up adding a small drop box to the quizzer itself. I think it keeps the application a lot cleaner. I'll try to add a screen shot on a future post.

I also added a way to set the auto quiz delay and a preferences menu item to all for the minimum number of quizzes per card. The auto quiz delay was also on a menu and is now a button above the quiz card. The preferences needed to be added as there will probably be some other things I'll have to add to the preferences so this was a good infrastructure change. I need to create another installer and do some more testing and see how close I am to letting others look at it.

On the development agenda next is an "About" screen. You would think this would be simple, but I can't even begin to describe the amount of time that went into the Memorize-It about screen. It has a ton of code to show different about screens for different serial numbers and licensees. If there is one place in the code that could use some clean up, that would probably be near the top.

Still moving along nicely...

Friday, November 14, 2008

serial number systems and installers

Last night I took a huge step and completed the trial and for sale serial number system and an installer for a small collection of Spanish decks. This is a test and would require a bunch more work on the flashcard side, but I'll be testing this out on my own and probably fine tune a little bit more before I send it out to some of my reviewers. This has been a long time coming and it feels good to have an actual product shaping up.

This is just the upgraded quizzer system. Once I have one or two of these done I'll go back and finish Memorize-It which needs just a few more features and then I'll ship that. No timeline on either, but I am making progress.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Installer and Optimizer

I've been working on the installer for a sample stand alone quiz application. Like everything else it ends up getting stalled with more small problems. The latest was a tough one that took me a few days to find. When I built the application as a "Release" application which removes debug information and optimizes the machine code of the application. At that point it started having really strange problems and the only way to debug is by printing information to a log file. After a lot of digging I found a simple boolean variable that was not being initialized. All that work for a simple variable that wasn't set. Now I'm back to working on the installer and general application cleaning. Good progress.

As usual if you are going to wait on your purchase, I offer free upgrades for everyone who purchases within 6 months prior to an upgrade so it won't cost you any extra if you purchase today. Plus, upgrades are going to be $10 (maybe $15) so it's not like it'll be unaffordable.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cleaning and Polishing

I'm at the state in the development process where I am cleaning and polishing the Standalone Quizzer. I do this by working towards creating a final product (in this case Spanish Flashcards) and using the program myself. Each time I find a problem I add it to a growing and shrinking list and work towards removing everything from the list. In general this has been going smoothly and a lot quicker than I expected. It is frustrating at times to get stalled with a problem or a bug at every corner since the changes I've made are in every piece of code, but with persistence I'm making great strides.

Part of the problem is that I also have to fix problems in the Memorize-It version that it not as far along. A new quiz card style of Scrambled Multiple Choice took up a lot of time recently as I had failed to add the new card type to a couple of sections of the code. Specifically to do with testing and copy and past of cards. I also had to go back and add some more information to the test list to show the last, best and average percentage on tests taken on a specific topic. Here is a screen shot of that section I just added.

As I was using the program I didn't think the testing was going to work with just the average percentage which is something I would not have known if I wasn't eating my own cooking as we like to say.

I find myself wanting to create an alpha version and send it out to the people who have been waiting patiently for the standalone quizzer. I keep having to force myself to take a step back and keep fixing problems as I know that sending something out that has a bunch of bugs is a sure way to loose any sort of interest in later releases that are more stable. I'm going to keep cleaning and polishing until I have something that works for me (without crashing every two seconds) and then I'll send it out for review and comment. Patience.

As usual, don't let this knowledge of a new program keep you from purchasing the existing Memorize-It. I offer free upgrades for anyone who purchased in the previous six months of the release and upgrades are typically only $10.0, but I may increase that to $15 as the price of gas has increased a little since 1994 when I set that as the upgrade price...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Standalone Quizzer Productization

Big news is that after a few years I finally have all the new features into the standalone quizzer. I just finished the testing system yesterday. I'm starting on a new path to make some flashcard products around the quizzer and begin refining. I'm going to start with Spanish since I already have that content. There are still a lot of loose ends and cleanup that will be happening, but the major structure is done and it's on the the next steps.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Learning people's names

Over the weekend I used Memorize-It in a new and unique way. On our Africa trip we worked at a boarding school (Bridges Academy) for students from the townships we have adopted. It's hard to learn the names of thirty kids and I was still struggling with a few people after our two weeks were up.

We are now helping train the team for the December trip. Since I had a bunch of pictures of all the students I created flashcards for the next team so they can have a head start in learning the names. I put the picture of the student on the front of the card and their name on the back. It was actually helpful for me as well as it helped me refresh my memory of a few of the student's names. Very cool.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Conclusion in sight

I was gone for about a month in preparing, working and recovering from our trip to Africa. Always and amazing experience and this was no different. Tons of work and worth every minute of lost sleep.

That said, I've been back to working on Memorize-It and today hit what I would call a huge milestone. I'm really beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the standalone quizzer. I have the quizzing and the testing working. I'm not sure if I'm going to start working on the installation or one last feature in saving past test scores. I'll probably add that last feature to testing and continue to consider how the installation will work. If I can continue to get some consistent time in I think I can finally see this product reaching the door. Very exciting and too much time spent already to even begin to contemplate.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


It has been a slow month for updates, but it looks I finally may have finished the quick test/grade pane which is a good thing. I'm going to be working to integrated that into a standalone quizzer soon and get that new quizzer out the door before the next version of Memorize-It. Next month will probably be slow as well because I'll be in Africa for two weeks and then it usually takes some time to process once you get home from trips like that.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

More progress and good news

I've been working on a big presentation for the day job so I've had less time lately, but I have still been making progress. I finished the update to the test window and I'm moving into integrating it with the standalone quizzer. That will be the last feature in the standalone quizzer so it really feels like that is getting much closer. The class I was going to teach next semester (Game Development) was canceled so it that is no longer going to impact the schedule, I was starting to get a little stressed out about not getting anything out so now I have one less thing on the plate and the class will happen in Fall 09.

On a side note, if you are going to call me and leave a message, please also consider sending me an e-mail as well. E-mail is much easier for me to respond to and calls only seem to cause delays to your solution. If you do send me e-mail, please also make sure to check your bulk mail for the answer or add my address (wood at to your address book or valid addresses because there have been a bunch of people that think I don't respond, but then they find out that they are blocking my responses.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Making progress

I was off on vacation for a week and have been back for a few days and getting back into working on the next version of Memorize-It. Before I left I had finished the tabbed test/quiz system in the standalone quizzer. This required a lot of rewriting in the multi-file loading system and cost an extra week's time. Now I'm into the testing side of the house. I had a conversation this morning with a potential customer who was asking about the t-scope feature. He had one idea that I may add to the list of things I'm going to do in v5.

He asked me when it would be done and as usual, I have no idea when something this large is going to be done. The biggest problem being that I'm focused on building a new application/learning system built around Memorize-It Flashcards and once I get that done I still have some polish on Memorize-It to deal with. I've moved into the last big feature on the standalone quizzer/learning system and that as I said is testing. I first have to go back and redo the art for the test pane and I've started that and hope to have it done soon. Once that is done I think I'm into the testing (bug finding and fixing) and installer phase which will be very nice and feel like I'm nearing completion of a huge task. The second biggest problem is that I'm leading a trip to Africa in August and have been working hard on training the team, and I'm starting a new game development class in the fall. Both of those are beginning to impact the Memorize-It development effort.

As usual, don't think delaying your purchase of Memorize-It will make any difference. I offer free upgrades to those who have purchased in the previous 6 months and my upgrade price (for any version of Memorize-It, even 1.0) is $10.

Friday, April 04, 2008

General update

I'm still working on the upgrade and yesterday I finally saw some brighter lights at the end of the tunnel for the new standalone quizzer. I had the quiz portion done and decided to add a test tab to the mix. As usual it required some reworking, sometimes called refactoring. This is a fancy term for tons of work and you end up where you started. It is a common thing in programming, but sometimes you paint yourself into a corner and the only way to get out of the room is to repaint it so you can move on to painting some new rooms. I completed that last week and have made great forward progress again this week.

I did spend a couple of days chasing down a print problem. The first problem had to do with the file name being too long, the second was a formatting error on the blanks USA paper style with the Gutter. It was offset on the page. It has been a long long time since anyone reported a bug in Memorize-It so fixing this took a lot of extra work. The 5.0 version got dropped in 2005 because of a family emergency. When I came back to it last year the compiler I was using was no longer going to be usable. I made a huge shift to a new build environment and continued on. This meant that I had also left the 4.0 version stranded. In order to work on this print problem I had to bring it into the new build environment as well. This was a two day ordeal. When I finally got that working and started adding some instrumentation to the print process I found what I think was the problem. I'm still waiting to hear back if this fixed the problem for the user.

So what does this all mean to you? If you purchase Memorize-It and find a problem that can be fixed. I drop what I'm doing and fix it. If I can't fix it or you are just unhappy about the purchase, I refund your purchase. I'm in this to help you study. I squeeze my expenses so I make a little bit on it each year (a few hundred dollars), but what I really like is to hear that this helped you in some way.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Internet Sales Tax

It looks like the California government is finally trying to grapple with Internet sales tax.

As I stated a few months ago I had to prepare my sales tax reports and for about the 10th year they came out to $0.00 owed. I think I've owed a dollar or two a couple of those years, but basically $0.00. I don't think this law would effect me since I do all my sales through Digital River and they are considered my vendor of reference. Since they are in Minneapolis, Minnesota, it it is just like an out of state sale which I wouldn't pay sales tax on anyway. If there is any tax to collect, which there is when something gets sold to the UK, they collect it and deal with it. It alleviates a lot of headaches for me and I really love Digital River for that. Even though they do take a pretty large chunk of my sales. It makes me think I should use paypal for 1.9% of the sale and just deal with the tax! But then I wouldn't have access to the affiliate system and changing my website is something I always resist. If something is working, leave it alone!!!

As for paying taxes, I wouldn't mind. I use the roads, I appreciate the police and fire departments, programs for the poor, I used the county health department when I got bit by a dog in Africa, I like after school programs and the such. Paying it hurts and I whine like everyone else, but I do appreciate what my tax dollars do. I just wish it was a little more efficient and government officials took a little more pride in their duties. Sometimes a lot of those positions look very cush from the outside and could be done with about 10% of the current size and the rest could go to other programs. But I'm not expert, I just think the good outweighs the bad of a smaller income. As long as we are all taxed equally (which we are not and is a whole other matter) I'm fine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Edit Window

I "finished" the new edit on Monday. This has been a huge effort and glad things are still moving along. Here is a screenshot.

It is fully functional at this point. The biggest difference is that all card elements are on this one window. To change the title, card number and category you used to have to click a button to open a dialog which slowed the card creation process. I've also made the card styles and tabs single click "buttons" instead of pull downs in the previous version. This will cut down from two click to change card style or card side to one click speeding the card creation and editing process.

I've also added fixed sizes for the cards (3x5,4x6,5x7,6x8) as well as the Max setting which maximizes the card size for the edit window. The previous version always maximized for the window size. This caused problems when people maximized to full screen the cards were just too large. At least now the card size can be easily set to a specific size. One concern I have is that 3x5 is in inches which is very American. If you know how the metric world sizes index cards please contact me, I could use the help.

My friends don't link the green buttons so I'm probably going to go back and rework the button colors, but that is just are and doesn't change the functional working of the window.

Now I'm back to working on the standalone quizzer and will finish that and come back to working on Memorize-It 5.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Good Progress

I made really great progress last week on the new version. Remember, if you think you should wait to purchase because you just learned I'm working on a new version, don't. I offer free upgrades to anyone who purchased in the last 6 months and everyone else is $10. Compare that to the minimum $199 for Adobe Photoshop which seems to only be available to people who purchased on the sixth Tuesday of the previous month. The $299 price is for those who purchased on the fifth Tuesday and everyone else is full price. I spent way to much time trying to upgrade a version 4 copy of Photoshop and it was a very unpleasant experience. Dealing with Adobe always seems to been unpleasant (and very expensive) to me. Okay, I'm a little off topic.

Also, this upgrade has been in progress for at least 4 years now, but the past six months have shown that it is finally going to happen. Last week I made extremely good progress on the new edit window. Even so, don't hold your breath, I still have a lot to add. I finally saw a hint of light at the end of the tunnel last week.

Last week I added fixed card sizing. The previous version tied the size of the card to the size of the edit window. This had problems when people maximized their screens and the cards were huge. This was not a problem until they went to print and a small font on that giant card was resized to a microdot when printed on a 3x5 card. Now you can fix the card size to 3x5, 4x6, 5x7 or the existing full window size.

I'm also almost done with a system that puts ALL the information for the card on the edit window. Previously the title and category were on a separate dialog box and required a few extra clicks. Having this all on a single window will help speed the card creation process.

I changed the card sides to use tabs above the card edit area. Previously this was a pull down menu box and required two clicks to change the card side. With tabs it only requires one click.

I changed the card style choice (Honor System, Multiple Choice, True/False, Type-In and the not yet released Scrambled Multiple Choice) to use radio buttons to choose the card type. This was also a pull down menu box and now only requires one click. Every click counts and this release is going to offer a lot of stream lining.

When I get the edit window done I will post a screen shot. Then it will be on to the list window and another new feature called an image library which I can explain later.