Clibu Beta V0.65.00 Released

Time flies, it has been almost a month since we launched the Clibu Alpha trial. The good news is we’ve now officially progressed from Alpha to Beta release status, which is a big and exciting step. Of course development continues apace with new capabilities added and bugs fixed.

We’ve had some good feedback, but need so much more, so please do get in touch, either by creating a Support Ticket or via. the Clibu Forums, both located at our Clibu Support Center.

If you’ve already been accepted into the Clibu Trial but haven’t had time to try Clibu yet and intend to soon, please let me know, so you aren’t removed from the program.

This release enables you to create ‘See Also’ links to tie related articles together.  Start by selecting the target article by clicking on it’s checkbox.

Clibu Article Selection checkbox

Next select the text in the source article where you want to create the link.

Selection Toolbar with 'See Also' button

Finally click the “Create ‘See Also’ Link” button.  ’See Also’ links are not restricted to a single Knowledge Base and can link articles across Knowledge Bases.

‘See Also’ links have their own styling as shown here.

A 'See Also' Link

You’ll see another new feature above, the floating toolbar. This is displayed whenever you select some text or click on a link.

When you click on a link, press Ctrl+K or click the ‘Insert a link’ toolbar button when the cursor is on a link, this floating toolbar pops up.

Link Floating Toolbar

From here you can Edit, Remove or Open the link.

Edit Web Link dialog

Editing lets you change the link’s Web address or edit its text. You can also Remove the link here.

These new floating toolbars make it quicker and easier to perform selection and link related tasks. Other new planned text selections capabilities will make further use of floating toolbars.

This covers the most important additions to this, our first Beta release. See the Clibu Release Notes for further details.

- Neville

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Surfulater NextGen Alpha Release is here

I’m excited to let everyone know that we have begun trialing and testing the first Alpha Release of Surfulater Next-Gen, from herein named Clibu. A Clibu Web site will exist at some point.

Clibu is the culmination of several years hard work and a lot of thinking about creating a solid, easy to use application whose foundation can be built upon to meet the needs of its users.

Clibu is the distillation of it’s predecessor, Surfulater, simplified, streamlined and migrated from a Windows PC Desktop Application to a Web Application that can run on any modern Web Browser on any Operating System.

Clibu unlocks your information from your PC enabling access from any PC, anywhere, offering collaboration and information sharing with colleagues, family and friends.

With Clibu today you can:

  • Create  and edit Articles.
  • Collaborate with other users, each seeing the others edits as they occur.
  • Copy and paste text and images from any application into Articles.
  • Organize articles using multiple hierarchical Tags.
  • Instantly rename, move and delete Tags.
  • Filter articles by one or more Tags, using either the Tags Tree or Tags Filters.
  • Use full text Search to find articles, with matches highlighted.
  • Create and open as many Knowledge Bases as you want.
  • Rearrange Tabs using drag & drop.
  • Use rich text editing, with various fonts, text and background colors, lists etc.
  • Display articles in Summary or Full.
  • Star important articles and see only starred articles.
  • Move articles to Trash and restore them again.

However you can’t (at least not yet):

  • Use Web Browser extensions to add content.
  • Add Attachments to articles.
  • Use different article templates.
  • Use ‘See Also’ article cross references.

It is the foundation on which we’ll build these capabilities and much more.

Being an Alpha Release any content you add may not be able to be migrated as we move forward. So only use this Alpha release to familiarize yourself with Clibu and it’s current capabilities, so that you can provide us with your feedback and product guidance. Please only use the Clibu Help & Support Center for feedback and bug reports. For general discussion use the Community Forum and for Bug’s, use the Ticket system.

We are only providing access to a very small number of users at this early stage. Open a Ticket at the Clibu Help & Support Center or e-mail help@clibu.com if you’d like to be added to the Alpha release list.

- Neville

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On Organizing Content, in Surfulater-NextGen

If you’ve read my earlier posts about Surfulater-NextGen (SNG) you’ll know I’m moving to using Tags as the way to categorize and organize content.

Surfulater’s Folders work pretty well and the ability to have an article in many folders at once is a great feature, which is not often seen. But it also has Tags, which means you have two quite different ways to handle organizing and locating content. And the Tags aren’t hierarchical! Finally putting an article into multiple folders is a little cumbersome.

To simplify and enhance content organization SNG uses Tags exclusively, albeit greatly enhanced from what you currently have. Tags can be nested, letting you use a neatly structured tags hierarchy or tags tree. And you can use as many levels as you want.

Tags Tree

Articles can have as many tags as you want. And Tags aren’t restricted to just a single word, as they are in some systems.

Article Tags

Tags in an article

You enter new tags in the Add Tags field.

The Auto-suggest dropdown list makes it easy to add the tags you want, including adding multiple tags at once and removing existing tags.

Tags Auto-suggest dropdown

If a tag doesn’t exist, click on Create to add it.

Create a new Tag

In this example I want to add a tag named XBMC. The Tags tree lets you select the parent Tag for this new tag. A given tag can be added to as many tree branches as you want.

This should give you a good overview of some of the Tags capabilities in SNG. I’ll continue with more on Tags in the next blog post.

Clearly I’ve been remiss in not posting on the blog in way too long, likely a record for me. Part of the reason is that I’ve simply had my head down working hard on SNG. I’m working on a lot of minutia and haven’t felt that I’ve had a lot to say, but in fact there is.  I’ve already got the next post in my head, and there is quite a bit I can’t write about I just need to force myself to do.

All the best,
Neville

Posted in Research & Knowledge Management, Surfulater, Surfulater - What's New | Tagged , | 15 Comments

New Surfulater Help & Support Center

We have once again moved to a new Help & Support Center. For a long time we used a Forum for support. This worked well for discussing new features, but not so well for providing effective support.

We then moved to more of a Help Desk system provided by TenderApp which was pretty good for support, but lacked the forum and discussion capability we previously had. It also fell short in other areas, such as handling multiple products and tracking tickets via. e-mail.

So for a while now I’ve been looking around for a better, more all encompassing package to deliver support and reinstate a discussion area. I almost went with Desk.com but fortunately found FreshDesk.com before it was too late. (I intend to write another post about this).

Our new Surfulater Help & Support Center lets you create private support Tickets, find Solutions to known issues and use the Forums to suggest ideas for future releases, get help from other users, post your tips and request public support.

The best way to use the new system is to ‘Sign Up’ for an account which will give you full access to all areas and won’t bother you with CAPTCHA entry. The ‘sign up’ link is at the top right of the page.

We have brought across the Solutions from the previous system, but not the Help tickets.

Note that with this change our e-mail address custsupport@surfulater.com is no longer in use. For all support issues use the new Support Center. For non-support related matters you can reach us at info@surfulater.com The help@surflater.com e-mail address which we used with the previous Help System works with the new one and will create a new private support ticket or let you reply to an existing ticket.

This latest Help system has a much broader range of features, enables us to support multiple products in the one package and will streamline and enhance our support capability.

-Neville

Posted in General, Surfulater, Surfulater - What's New | 2 Comments

To Cloud or not?

In my many years of developing software I can’t recall a more contentious issue than whether data is stored in the cloud or not. This is evidenced in the comments (1, 2) to my recent blog posts and in other communications.

People fall into two camps, they are either strongly against having their data stored in the cloud or they are quite happy to have it there and look forward to the benefits therein.

The former group sites concerns over security of their data, a feeling of loss of ownership, the inability to access their data if they don’t have an internet connection and concerns about the cloud provider going out of business, which are all legitimate issues. As for security, strong data encryption makes it very difficult for others to access.  The company  going out of business is an issue regardless of whether data is in the cloud or not.

On the flip-side the benefits for applications and content in the cloud are clear:

  • you can access your data from any PC anywhere in the world.
  • you can collaborate and share information with others (if you want to).
  • someone else ensures you data is safely and regularly backed up.
  • you don’t need to install any software.
  • you can use any operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux) on any hardware and use Tablet’s to access content.
  • you don’t need to do regular software upgrades. you are always using the latest version of the software.
  • you don’t need to worry about your PC failing and being unable to access your information until it is repaired/replaced and software and data restored. Or worse being lost or stolen.
  • you don’t need to leave a PC turned on 24/7 wasting electricity and costing you money.

This still leaves one big issue: “the inability to access your data when you don’t have an internet connection”. My feeling is that this is much less of an issue than it was say 5+ years ago with ubiquitous internet access now common place. That said there are still times when we may not be connected, such as in an aeroplane or out and about in no-mans-land.

It remains clear that some people will not use the cloud for certain applications or content. I think this will change with future generations who are used to having everything in the cloud and being connected 24/7.

Taking these concerns on board I see several solutions which I did touch on, on some of my blog comment replies. The main one being the ability to install the software locally and access it as a personal cloud. This gives you full ownership of your content, but loses most of the significant benefits I listed above. By personal cloud I simply mean software that is installed on a specific PC, whose content is accessed from that and other PC’s using a Web Browser or other application.

Another possibility which I personally find intriguing, is for us to bundle up a small low cost computer and the software into one package. If you follow the low cost, small form factor (SFF) computer area at all, you will most likely have heard of the Raspberry PI, which is a  basic $25-$35 computer. More powerful SFF computers are available from $50-$100, with these being better suited to my use case. You would simply connect this to you Local Area Network (LAN) either via. an Ethernet connection or WiFi, plug in a USB Hard Drive and turn on the power, and away you go, with access via. your favourite Web Browser.

The benefits of this packaged hardware+software solution could include:

  • you can access your data from any PC anywhere in the world.
  • you can collaborate and share information with others (if you want to).
  • you don’t need to install any software.
  • software upgrades could be handled by a service we offered.
  • you can use any operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux) on any hardware and use Tablet’s to access content.
  • it uses far less power than a conventional PC making it cost effective to leave on 24/7.
  • all data is kept on a local hard drive, so you are in complete control.

Again I find this an intriguing solution, one I’d personally welcome, however I have no idea what level of interest there would be in the general marketplace.

A final possibility is to create a local application that is simply installed as a Web Browser Extension. There are lots of Browser Extensions around that do lots of interesting things, however there are fundamental issues with this approach. The main problem is that the database capabilities built-in to web browsers impose serious limits on the amount of data they can store. Further the current state of browser database engines is a mess with different browsers implementing different and incompatible database systems. And they  don’t stack up all that well against fully fledged database systems.

Browser Extensions suffer from other problems as well. We have to write, maintain and support quite different extensions for each Browser. Extensions have a bad habit of breaking, as new browser versions are released. And not all Browsers support Extensions (IE, Opera, Tablets?).

In my ideal world I’d have an application like Surfulater running locally as well as in the cloud. The local version would be used whenever I was unable to access the Internet. It would be automagically synchronized to the cloud application the next time I was connected to the Internet. Conversely all updates done on the cloud application would be synchronized back to my local application.  And the local application could be installed at multiple premises in different locations, with them all being kept in sync. This gives me the best of all possible worlds. It is however the most complex and costly solution to produce and deliver. (I wrote about this back in Dec, 2010).

Of course there is even more to this I could cover, but that’s enough for now. As always I welcome and look forward to your comments.

-Neville

PS. In reviewing various related communications I noticed a request for a Portable version of Surfulater (ie. one that runs on a USB stick.) Isn’t using Surfulater as a Web application in the Cloud the ultimate portable version.

Posted in General, Surfulater, Surfulater - Tech Info | Tagged , , , | 26 Comments

Surfulater, Next Generation Part 2

Moving on from Part 1 I want to show you some of the new applications user interface and discuss how it works and differs from Surfulater. Let’s start with a screen shot of the entire application.

On the left is the new hierarchical Tags Tree. The top Navigation Bar lets you select a Knowledge Base, change the content window view from summary to full-article view, Add an Article and perform actions for the current user. It also displays some status information.

The right pane is the content window. Various Buttons and Toolbars are displayed at the top, depending on whether you are editing content or operating on it. This screen shot shows the editing toolbar. Articles are displayed below this area.

At the top of each article is a button to toggle between showing the article in full or in summary and a button to select the article for bulk operations such as Move to Trash, Archive etc. Next comes Date created followed by the set of Tags for the article, followed by the articles content.

The separate Hierarchical Folder tree, Tags Tree and Chronological views have been replaced by a single new Tags Tree. Tags are hierarchical and can be as deep as you want. Tags can be edited, with changes reflected in all articles instantly. I’ll discuss tags further in Part 3 of this series.

Also note that the Tags tree no longer includes the articles associated with a tag. This drastically reduces tree clutter, making it quicker and easier to move around. The content pane shows all selected articles and the summary view effectively shows what the old tree did without the duplication.

The content window shows all articles for the selected tag in Chronological order. I may well add other sort options, such as alphabetic by article content.

To edit an article you simply click inside it, no more pencil click to switch into edit mode. And edits are saved automatically as you type.

I’ve tried to extract the essence of what is in Surfulater and simplify it as much as possible without sacrificing functionality. What you see here is the result of that pairing down to a much less cluttered, easier to approach and understand user interface. And most importantly a user interface that is very much at home on a touch based tablet device like an iPad as well as your Desktop PC.

Stay tuned for Part 3 where I’ll show you parts of the new user interface in more detail. Following that I’ll get onto some of the more exciting new capabilities.

Posted in Surfulater, Surfulater - Tech Info, Surfulater - What's New | 11 Comments

Surfulater, Next Generation Part 1

Three years ago I thought all the talk of the death of Desktop Applications was well and truly premature. I’d spent my entire career developing desktop applications and as far as I was concerned there was no way web/browser based applications could or would supplant my much beloved desktop applications any time soon.

It turns out that three years is a very long time in the computing world. All around me peoples use of computers is changing, as is my own. Certain categories of Desktop applications will be around for many years to come, but many others will move into the Browser with nothing to install locally and all benefits that entails.

There are several extremely good reasons for this seismic shift, which has in my mind been largely brought about by the advent of smart phones and their incredible popularity, along with Tablets like the iPad.

We now expect to have access to our information wherever we are and  whenever we want. You could be visiting aunt Mary, be in the car on a road trip or having a coffee at your local cafe. The days of being tied to a Desktop PC “to do stuff” are over, gone the way of the dodo.

And this is precisely why development of the Desktop version of Surfulater has essentially come to an end. Surfulater users want to be able to access and work with their Knowledge Bases from any PC or Tablet anywhere on the planet. They don’t want to be tied to their Office or Home PC to use it and they don’t want to have to copy Knowledge Bases back and forth between PC’s to keep them in sync. It is simply all too restrictive and too hard.

So it is time to move forward to the next generation of Surfulater, one that you can use on any PC, be it a Mac, Linux or Windows as well as on Tablet devices such as iPad’s and Android. Where your information is in sync across all devices, without you having to do anything. And where it is available to you wherever you are whenever you want. And does not require installation, and is always the latest version.

This is the future of Surfulater as I see it, that you want and that we are working on. Great progress has been made so far this year, to the point where I am using it instead of Desktop Surfulater most of the time. But (there is always a but) there is still quite a ways to go.

In my next post you’ll get a peak at the user interface and I’ll talk about the fundamental changes that have been made, largely based on your feedback, our own usage and following current development trends. I’ve already taken the screen shots so expect to see part 2 soon.

Posted in Surfulater, Surfulater - Tech Info, Surfulater - What's New | 17 Comments

New Surfulater release to work with Firefox Version 10

I’ve just updated Surfulater to work with Firefox Version 10. I’ve commented previously about my displeasure of this silly game Mozilla is playing with Firefox version numbering, nuff said.

The download is located here and is Version 3.42.10.0. Close all copies of Firefox and close Surfulater. Then start Surfulater, answer the prompt about installing a new Extension. Then start Firefox and accept the new Surfulater Extension when it prompts you. The FF Extension is also Version 3.42.10.0

-Neville

Posted in Surfulater, Surfulater - What's New | Leave a comment

What’s happening with Surfulater & what’s Neville up to.

Jim Parker just posted a comment which has prompted me to write, although it is fair to  say I should have blogged before now. In essence Jim commented that no development seems to have been done on Surfulater in a while and my lack of recent blogging leaves him less than inspired about it’s future. Without doubt very fair comments.

Surfulater got to a point where it was working pretty well and did most things our users had requested and that I wanted of it. There are problems no doubt, such as the poor foreign language support, especially with search. This dates back to a poor implementation decision I made in the very beginning of Surfulater’s design, one which cannot be undone or easily fixed, otherwise it would have been long ago.

To resolve the foreign language support problem and address some other issues requires an extensive and expensive rewrite, which can’t be justified. Furthermore I was beginning to see huge changes in the direction certain types of applications were heading and in the technologies being used to develop them. So it was time to step back and rethink the entire way I develop software, the technologies I use where all this fits in with Surfulater.

The huge game changer in my opinion is the move to applications that run on multiple devices (Desktop PC’s, Tablet’s, Smart Phones) and enable you to access your information on any of these devices, from anywhere. Furthermore you can add and update your information and have the changes available on each device automatically and in real time. This is where I’ve wanted Surfulater to head for quite some time, however it will never happen using the current C++ Windows Desktop code base.

To move forward it was time for a major change, time to move out of my comfort zone of Microsoft Windows Desktop Software development in compiled C++ with all the tools I’ve been using for many, many years to the new world of applications that run on multiple devices, using dynamic languages, with user interfaces that are rendered in HTML, and have severely limited local file systems.  Hard to imagine a more different world, but that’s what I’ve been doing most of this year.

This new world revolves around developing in HTML5, Javascript and CSS and packaging that up into applications that will run on a variety of devices. It has and continues to be a huge learning curve, one that is taking a lot of time and resources.

There was no way I was going to jump into the deep end and try to redevelop Surfulater, as I had way, way to much to learn first. So after much prodding from an old friend I began work on a project with him to create a range of iPad (Tablet) applications. Apart from taking quite a long time the results so far are great, with the first app nearing completion.

In essence I’ve designed and built an application that my partner Stefan will use to generate applications.  So there are two actual applications: the Builder that he uses and the Client Apps that the builder creates and that we’ll sell.

Both of these are written in HTML5, CSS and Javascript. The builder is by far the most complex, using a client-side database, HTML5 templating, local file system access, remote server uploads and downloads etc. It uses jQuery, jQueryUI, Knockout.js and a range of other Javascript plugins and libraries. It is pretty slick and easy to use, enabling Stefan to produce iPad applications quickly.

The end-user client applications use jQuery Mobile and jQuery and are packaged using Phonegap and other tools.

All up I’ve written around 7,000 lines of Javascript so far and have learnt one heck of a lot along the way. And this time around I’ve designed everything to work in any language! There is still some way to go before we’ll be ready to start shipping the first apps, but we are making excellent progress. Stefan was only able to start using the first Alpha release of the Builder about 6 weeks ago and has already completed the first application, which happens to the biggest and most complex of the series of applications we’ll be producing.

On the side I’m am spending as much time as possible researching ways to accomplish my ideal Surfulater type app, with information replicated on all devices. To say this is complicated is an understatement. The research alone is very much one step forward, two steps back, however I’ve never been one to be easily deterred.

So that should give everyone a clearer picture of what is happening in my world at this time.

If I don’t post again before Xmas, and given my track record of late I probably won’t, I wish you and yours a very happy and safe xmas and all the best for 2012.

Neville

PS. It’s nice to have blogged again.

Posted in General, Research & Knowledge Management, Surfulater | 7 Comments

Trial Limitations – is it really that bad?

When you Uninstall Surfulater a web page opens with a short questionnaire requesting  some feedback on why it is being uninstalled. From time to time I am somewhat taken aback at peoples comments. There seems to be a real disconnect between them and us, which is worrisome. Here is an example I received today.

Q) To change your mind and continue using Surfulater we would have to?
For the price of this software the trial is extremely limiting for us to determine its true useability.
The standards nowadays for the retail software industry is to allow the prospective buyer to truely test drive a full product’s potential during the 21 day trial period; especially with the restrictive return policy of your company.

Here’s my problem. The one and only limitation in the Trial Version of Surfulater is that it doesn’t allow you to create new knowledge bases. It comes with a Knowledge Base which includes some sample content which you can delete if you want. There are no restrictions on the number of articles you can add to this Knowledge Base, the type of articles you can create, nor any other limitations of any kind. That said I agree it would be better if you could create new empty KB’s and we may well enable this at some point, but I hardly consider it’s a show stopper.

The other comment which really got to me is “with the restrictive return policy of your company” – huh! If you look at our ‘Buy Now‘ page you will see:

Return/Refund Policy

Please download and evaluate the Surfulater Free Trial before purchasing, to avoid unnecessary refunds. Our FAQ page has information on extending your free trial period. If for any reason you aren’t 100% satisfied with your purchase, contact us within 30 days for a full refund.

I must be missing something, but how on earth is this restrictive?

The Feedback Form ends as follows:

If you would like us to contact you please enter your E-mail address.

Unfortunately most people don’t afford us the opportunity to respond, so there’s nothing we can do other than write blog posts like this one. (:

-Neville

Posted in General, Marketing, Surfulater | 9 Comments