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Palm Program Update

I'm afraid this weekend has been more about work than it has been about knitting. It started out well, on Friday, with a trip to watch the Cubs and Sox battle it out at US Cellular Field (the Cubs won, 6 to 4) with perfect weather, but by Saturday morning, reality had prevailed and I realized that work and not crafting was going to be the major weekend goal.

However, I did get some good news -- I got a good grade and nice comments from the professor on my Palm application for tracking knitting needles. While it is still missing two features (the ability to add your own knitting needle manufacturers and knitting needle composition types), the rest of the software is in place. Would anyone like to volunteer to do a little beta testing? I need 2-5 generous people willing to put my program in its current state through its paces. This is what you need to have or be willing to do:

  • A Palm device running O.S. 3.5 or greater (it may work on older devices, but I haven't tested it on anything but O.S. 3.5). It doesn't matter if you have a color device or a black and white device.
  • When you find a bug, you must document it -- I can't fix what I don't know about. In other words, you have to describe the bug in as much detail as possible and tell me exactly how you made it happen and if it was repeatable.
  • Be critical. Tell me what you like and don't like. Software only gets better when the developer knows what the user can't stand.

Just a warning for those volunteering -- please don't plan to enter your whole 3000 knitting needle database into the application at this time. A lot of things may change and then all your hard work might go to waste. Also, I haven't put any "help" information into the application yet so you have to be willing to poke and click and see what things do (this is partly intentional so I can find out how intuitive the application is). Also, this program is definitely beta software, so be sure to back up your device before installing.

I'm hoping to get back to this program the week after the 4th of July and I want to try to get it in it's first real release by the beginning of August.

To volunteer, please send me an email -- the link is in my side bar.

Note: I now have enough volunteers! Thanks to everyone who offered or would have offered. I'll keep everyone posted on how it goes!

Pot Pourri

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Since this could be my last post until I get back from San Diego on Thursday of next week (I hope to post to my blog because our hotel is supposed to have broadband, but you just never know), I have a lot more to talk about than usual. First off, take a look at what was waiting on my doorstep when we got back from San Francisco:

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Enigma from Emma

This is a little sampling of Colinette's new "Enigma" yarn plus the pattern book that supports it. Emma sent me two skeins to play with. One (on the left) in "Popsicle" and the other in "Florentina". If it's not clear from this shot how absolutely beautifully this yarn takes the dyes, here's a little closeup that I hope is more convincing:

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Popsicle and Florentina Enigma

Wonderful stuff, I think! Now I just have to decide what project I want to take on with it. Thank you, Emma for providing the perfect homecoming!

I also decided to try to get some better pictures of the yarn that I bought from ArtFibers. While I was there, I got to swatch the stuff, so tonight I took some snaps of the swatches that I think are much better in terms of both color and knitted texture. Gotta love that Ott lamp!

20040603_ChaiSwatch.JPG 20040603_BiscottiSwatch.JPG 20040603_MousseSwatch.JPG
Chai, Biscotti and Mousse Swatches

The Chai and Mousse swatches are all stockinette, but the bottom couple of rows on the Biscotti swatch are garter stitch. I swatched the Mousse on 5.0, 4.5 and 4.0 mm needles and really like the 4.0 mm the best. It's not easy to tell, but the Mouse swatch is actually divided in third with the smallest needle on top and the largest on the bottom. I wasn't able to get a much better shot of the stitch definition in the Mousse. Believe it or not, there was a shop model that used Mousse and had lovely cables in it. It's a very versitile yarn, even if individual stitch definition doesn't resolve very well.

Finally, I've been working on a few more features for the my Palm OS program. Here's a few screenies of the filtering and sorting features that I added.

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Needle Records Sorted by Size, Length and Category

Here's a shot of the front screen of the program. The "Show" filter lets you choose whether you want to see all the needles listed or just the ones that are in use or not being used. In this example, the needles are sorted by US needle size, followed by length and category.

20040603_ConfigureScreenWithSortOptions.bmp
Configuring the Display and Sort Options

This screen is reached by clicking on the "Configure" button on the bottom right corner of the main screen. You can decide whether you would prefer to have local or metric sizes displayed in the main list and also select a sorting option for the needle records. All the sort orders that I have configured can be seen in the list in the picture. Are there any that I am missing?

20040603_SortedByCategorySize.bmp
Sorted by Category, Size, Length and Maker

This is the main screen again, and the list is re-sorted by the selection I made on the configure screen. Pretty nifty if I do say so myself! (As an aside, your most recent sorting selection is saved so that when you come back you see the same thing you left). One thing I've been debating is trying to display the sort order between the two buttons on the bottom of the screen. Do you think it's necessary?

I've really only got one more feature left that I want to implement: editable selections for the manufacturer and composition fields so that the user can customize their own lists for each option. I'm playing with that now. I don't know whether it will be ready in time for my project due date, but it will most definitely be a part of the program I share with everyone.

Well that's just about it! Right now I'm trying to figure out what knitting is going to come with me to San Diego. I'm leaning towards Audrey and the Biscotti top (which I started tonight when I needed a little break from programming), with one of my sock projects as "backup".

If I can't post again until next Friday, I wish everyone a good weekend and a great week!

P.S. to whomever was asking me about how I get my screen shots for Palm (I'm really sorry, but I seem to have misplaced your email -- if you email me again I'll send you more detailed information). The screen shots come from the Palm OS Emulator that I use to run and debug the software. The emulator, and the rest of the software development environment) is available to anyone who signs up with PalmSource as a developer.

Most of this week I've been trying to crank away on the knitting needle database component of my KnitTrack software. I'm starting with the knitting needle info component of the program because it's one of the simplest parts of the project. Once I work through this part, it should be a good prototype for the other two databases that I have to build.

Like most programming projects I have embarked upon, I've underestimated the challenge of doing something new, even if it is simple. I am actually considering setting the knitting needle information database tool up to be an independent component for the first release, and seeing if I can do enough things with it to make it an acceptable final project for my class.

The knitting needle database tool has two primary "viewers". The first viewer displays all the needle records in the database, with the records viewed and their display order specified by the user. The second viewer displays the details of individual needle records. Here's a set of screen shots for the first viewer:

20040526_NeedleListing.bmp20040526_NeedleListingCategories.bmp20040526_NeedleListingCircular.bmp
The Entry Screen to the Needle Database in KnitTrack

The screen shot on the left demonstrates what the user will see when the program is launched. The category indicator at the top says "All" so all the records are displayed. The Palm screen is too narrow for me to display all the information in each needle record, so I've selected what I think is the most useful information:

Needle Maker US/UK Size/Length Composition Category

If you click down on the category selector, you see the screen in the middle. The default categories are Circular, Double Point, Straight and Unfiled. You can work with these categories, or you can change them to suit your needs or add your own categories just by clicking on "Edit Categories". You can have up to 15 total categories.

After selecting a category, the listing box is updated to display only the records from the category selected. In this case, I selected the "Circular" category, for which there are only two records.

The next thing I need to do is set up some general sort types so that the user can see the records in an order that is useful. Here are the sorts that I think would be useful:

  • By Category, then by Size, Length and Maker
  • By Category, then by Size, Length and Composition
  • By Category, then by Composition, Size and Length
  • By Category, then by Maker, Size and Length

Are there other orders that might be beneficial? See below for a description of the available fields. I will have an option for the user to filter the records for all the needles that are not already in projects.

When you click on the "new" button in the bottom left corner, you pull up a screen that looks like this:

20040525_NeedleCategories.bmp 20040526_AddNeedleSizeOpts.bmp 20040526_AddNeedleLengthOpts.bmp
The Record Editing Screen in KnitTrack

There are 8 basic fields in the database: Type of Needle ("Type"), the US or UK size ("Size"), the metric size ("Size (mm)"), length ("Length"), the manufacturer of the needle ("Maker"), the composition ("Composition"), notes and there will be a place to indicate whether the needle is in use or not via a check box. You can indicate the current project via the notes field, if you wish, or use it for other purposes (this is just for the needle database only version of the program, when I integrate it with the tracker, I'll change how this works so that the two databases are connected).

In the three screen shots above, you can see the pulldowns for the Type, Size and Length fields. I added the pulldowns for Size and Length so that the program would be workable outside of the US.

20040526_AddNeedleMakerOpts.bmp
Needle Manufacturer Selections

For the Manufacturer field, you can see a selection of the options I've set as defaults: Bryspun, Clover, Crystal Palace, Inox, Pony, Skacel, Susan Bates and Swallow (I'll be adding Brittany as well). This list will also be editable so that those of you who have other types you wish to include can add them. Are there other "big name" manufacturers that I've left out? (Note: AddiTurbos are made by Skacel).

20040526_AddNeedleCompositionOpts.bmp
Needle Composition Selections

For the Composition field, you can see a selection of the options I've set as defaults: Aluminum, Bamboo, Birch, Brass, Casein, Ebony, Plastic, Rosewood, Steel, and Teflon Coated. As with the manufacturer list, this list will be editable to allow more options. Are there other defaults that I should have included?

Finally, there are three buttons on the bottom. "OK" saves the record. "Cancel" deletes the record if it's a new record or just ignores changes if it is an existing record. And "Delete" deletes the record. After any of the buttons are clicked, the user is returned to the main listing.

So that's the basic tour of the first component. Scary to think I can write more words about the beginning of a programming project than I do about most knitting projects. I think the basic screens are mostly done. What I have left to implement is the sorting, (and the on-screen mechanisms for dealing with sorting), dealing with scrolling (when you have more records than list box space) and setting an option for whether you want to see the US/UK or metric size in the record listing.

So tell me what you think!

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