Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The promotional release of Chinese Toolbox READER (version 9.2.0.0) is finally out the door! In addition to the features of Chinese Toolbox FREE, Chinese Toolbox READER features the long-awaited integration of a word dictionary.

The word dictionary is a feature I've wanted for at least seven years, since 2002. After the release of Chinese Toolbox FREE 9.1.2b in July 2009, I was finally able to set aside time to focus on integration of a word dictionary. I am pleased to announce that the CC-CEDICT word dictionary from MDBG.net is now integrated into Chinese Toolbox READER 9.2.0.0. The CC-CEDICT dictionary is community supported, so as new entries are added to the dictionary, these can be easily incorporated into Chinese Toolbox READER.

In August I had planned to do a few Alpha and Beta releases of Chinese Toolbox READER. Before the end of the first week in September, I reversed that decision, deciding to put more effort into testing and release a stable version of the product. The result is Chinese Toolbox READER 9.2.0.0.

So now I've got two free Chinese Toolbox products. Currently, there's no reason to use Chinese Toolbox FREE over Chinese Toolbox READER. All of my recent development has gone into Chinese Toolbox READER, so it is the more advanced of the two products. In early 2010 the promotional period for Chinese Toolbox READER will end, at which time some may choose to use Chinese Toolbox FREE. But at less than $30 per year, it's hard to imagine someone still wanting to use Chinese Toolbox FREE when Chinese Toolbox READER supports an integrated word dictionary, besides the features yet to be developed for the 2010 release. Still, Chinese Toolbox FREE will continue to be available.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Since my first FORTRAN coarse in college, I have just loved programming. For something even as simple as programming an algebraic equation, observing the computer do exactly what I programmed is just as exhilarating now as it was in 1981 when I wrote my first program.

I just had a similar kind of experience. In the early morning hours of August 1, I got the MDBG (CC-CEDICT) dictionary with 75,660 "word" entries loaded into computer memory via a custom designed data structure. (The remaining entries are "character" entries.)

This weekend I'll begin to incorporate this word dictionary into the interface. Hopefully, I'll have a little something to show by the end of this month.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I want to thank everyone who has downloaded and begun using Chinese Toolbox FREE (CTF). After making a few contacts, posting at a couple forums, and registering with some software download sites, the activity at chinesetoolbox.com has really picked up. The CTF downloads are now into the hundreds, and overall, I am very pleased.

Though this "getting the word out" activity has just begun, I now need to focus most of my attention on the next release. Before elaborating on the next release, however, let me mention last month’s accomplishments.

After releasing CTF 9.1.1 in May, two problems kept nagging at me: One was the version number. I actually didn’t notice the significance of the 9.1.1 version number until right around publishing time. The second problem was the “Unknown publisher” message that appeared when beginning the CTF installation. The more I thought on it, the more I felt that someone wouldn’t try my software just because of a freakin’ “Unknown publisher” message. Something had to be done.

I learned about code signing and certificate authorities. I found one company for the code signing certificate that seemed to match my needs. After making payment for the code signing certificate, the verification process began where I had to submit a number of documents to prove my identity. This process continued for almost a week. It was quite an experience, one that I do not wish to repeat any time soon.

Once the code signing certificate was issued, I re-release Chinese Toolbox FREE as version 9.1.2. This solved both the version number problem and the “Unknown publisher” problem.

Responding to my post at forumosa.com, one guy mentioned he couldn’t install the program on a 64-bit version of Vista. That led me down the path of installing and testing Chinese Toolbox FREE on a Windows Vista 64-bit edition. The program ran perfectly, so I re-released the installer package again as Chinese Toolbox FREE 9.1.2b with no changes to the program itself, only to the installer with the 64-bit installation restriction removed.

After a short 4-day vacation with the family to the southern tip of Taiwan (Kenting), I’m back working on the next Chinese Toolbox release.

As mentioned on the Upcoming Release page, there are a number of very interesting features on my list for the next release. This next release will be a more advanced product called Chinese Toolbox READER (CTR). It’s hallmark will be the word dictionary, but there will be many other very significant improvements over Chinese Toolbox FREE.

When I look back at my development history, and then I look at the list of features to be developed for CTR, I realize this might take a while. After releasing the first version of CTF in August 2007, it took me about twenty months to release the second version. Add to this the time developing 9.1.1, 9.1.2, and 9.1.2b, and it comes to two months shy of two years.

Instead of waiting half a year for the next release (even this may be overly optimistic), the solution I have in mind will be a few prereleases: one or two alpha releases and maybe the same number of beta releases. An alpha release will be one where development is still on-going. Once all features have been developed, a beta version will be released with focus on testing. Though the final Chinese Toolbox READER will be a pay product, the alpha and beta releases will be free. Anyone desiring to download and use a prerelease of Chinese Toolbox READER will only need to agree to provide feedback.

Through the prereleases, I will be able to provide more timely updates of the software. Those using my software will benefit by having free access to the newest Chinese Toolbox tools.

Crossing my fingers, I’m hoping to have Chinese Toolbox READER ready by the end of this year. I may or may not simultaneously release an updated version of Chinese Toolbox FREE. This decision will come later.

Finally, since you haven’t yet seen any of the more advanced features of CTR, it may be a little early to ask. But whenever you do have some impression, I’d like to hear what you think would be a fair and reasonable charge for Chinese Toolbox READER. You can email me at ats@chinesetoolbox.com. Once Chinese Toolbox READER is released, Chinese Toolbox FREE will continue to be available.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Welcome to the Chinese Toolbox blog.

The primary objective of this blog is to document the development of the Chinese Toolbox project. Secondly, it’s a place where I can elaborate on subjects that may not fit into the structure of the Chinese Toolbox website.

June 7, 2009 marks the beginning of a new phase of the Chinese Toolbox project. The second major release of Chinese Toolbox FREE is complete and stable, and the Chinese Toolbox website has just undergone a major update. The promoting of Chinese Toolbox FREE now commences.

Though ChineseToolbox.com has been online for about two years, it has been virtually invisible on the Internet. I published the Chinese Toolbox website in 2007 and in August of that year I made the program available for download. A few people found my website and downloaded the program, but until recently, I never made a point to promote either the website or the program. After publishing the program and website in 2007, I continued to focus solely on developing the program.

With a solid foundation (the program and the website), I now begin the task of getting the word out. This involves registering my software and website in various web directories, uploading the program to software download sites, and contacting people in schools and universities where Chinese is taught. I am also beginning development of features to be released in Chinese Toolbox FREE 9.2, planned for release in August 2009.

If you download and use Chinese Toolbox FREE, even if only briefly, please send me an email. Nothing would please me more than to know people are using my software. And of course, I want to know your impressions, positive or negative.

Thank-you for visiting my blog.

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