Author Archives: dave

Agent Ransack 2012 (revisited)

Okay, you may have noticed a distinct lack of Agent Ranasck 2012 in, well, 2012. Unfortunately there was so much work going on with our other products that Agent Ransack work was pushed back.

However, work has started (I’ve even seen a demo) and I promise that it will be out in 2013. Honest. No excuses this time.

P.S. There’s also some really cool stuff in the pipeline for FileLocator Pro and FileLocator Network in 2013. Watch this space!

FileLocator Pro and Large Searches

FileLocator Pro Crash ReportDuring August 2012 we quietly added a new crash reporting module to FileLocator Pro. Based on CrashRpt (an open source product hosted on Google Code) it’s one of the most useful quality control features we’ve ever added, although we hope it’s a ‘feature’ most of our users will never have cause to see.

Since then you may have noticed an increase in memory management related upgrades to FileLocator Pro. It’s not a co-incidence.

We’ve had a slow trickle of crash reports over the last few months and while most were odd, quick to fix, edge-case samples the majority have been related to memory management issues. It didn’t take long to see that FileLocator Pro had a problem on low spec’d machines performing searches where the data was in the gigabyte range and involved millions of files. We found a few problems that were simply bugs in the code, e.g. algorithms that reserved more memory than was necessary, but some of the problems were more subtle function related issues.

By default FileLocator Pro will record up to 10,000 lines of text per file and each line can be up to around 20,000 characters. That’s not usually a problem when searching in a limited set of files. Rarely will a file have 10,000 hits or a line have 20,000 characters. However, when searching over a very large data set with criteria that might not be very selective (e.g. searching for the letter ‘a’ – which was the actual search phrase in one of the crash reports we received) it can be a problem. It can be compounded by searching through file types that may not have EOL (End Of Line) markers, such as EXE or DLLs. Finally to make the whole thing just a little bit trickier, what might be a problem on a scrawny 512MB laptop is not necessarily a problem on sturdy 16GB PC.

The trouble is that FileLocator Pro doesn’t know at the beginning of the search if it’ll find a few hundred files with hits on a few lines (easy), a couple of files with hits on 10,000 lines (not a problem) or a million files with each one reporting hits on 10,000 lines (problem… probably).

FileLocator Pro 6.5 introduces a pre-emptive based solution. Based on the amount of memory installed on the machine FileLocator Pro sets an upper limit for un-restricted results per search (from 20MB up to around 200MB). If during a search that limit is reached FileLocator Pro starts restricting the search. Results for each file are reduced to around 20 lines, with a maximum of 256 characters per line, and the restriction is retained until the search finishes. If the search still runs out of memory then rather than crashing, as it did previously, it terminates the search.

Our tests on very low powered machines with just 512MB have shown a huge improvement in stability for very large searches and so far we haven’t received any memory related crash reports. Job done? Not quite but it’s one more step in cementing FileLocator Pro’s place as the ultimate super fast, rock solid, search and data analysis tool.

In a previous post I talked about ‘pushing a button that I think does nothing’. I hope you can see from our response to these bug reports that when you ‘Push the Button’ and send us a crash report it most certainly does something!

PST and MSG attachment searching

In 2007 Joel Spolsky wrote a blog post about gnarly problems, called Where there’s muck, there’s brass. It basically argued that real benefit to consumers comes in solving gnarly problems not nice simple fun ones.

We’ve just had our own ‘mucky’ experience dealing with attachment searching in PST and MSG files. While the MSG format is nowhere near as complicated as the PST format both have nasty surprises when accessing the attachments.

However, once it was all up and running it was impossible not to have a silly grin watching a demo of FileLocator Pro finding some ‘secret’ text inside a PDF, attached to a MSG file, attached to an email in a PST file, that itself was zipped up and attached to an email in another PST file. How cool is that!

In ‘Other News’ we also have a new Q&A site. It’s the same sort of thing as StackOverflow but just for Mythicsoft products. Check it out: http://qa.mythicsoft.com

Agent Ransack 2012

In the UK there’s a very funny comedian by the name of Will Adamsdale. He wrote a song about a man standing at a traffic light pushing the Stop Traffic Button, the chorus went something like:

I’m pushing a button
That I think does nothing
Just to say I’m here

As I was becoming increasingly annoyed with a non-functioning app the other day I couldn’t help but wonder whether I was pushing the Cancel button just to say I was there? It obviously wasn’t doing anything so why did I keep pressing it? I guess I was just desperate for an acknowledgement from the app that it ‘knew’ I was trying to do something. I just wanted some feedback.

Feedback is critical. Whether it’s an app providing feedback to a person or a customer providing feedback to a company, feedback is empowering in so many ways. I vividly remember the early days of Agent Ransack. As a lone developer releasing a new app into the big wide world of April 2000 I had no idea that what I was doing was truly worthwhile. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that without the compliments, suggestions, and feedback from users around the globe Agent Ransack wouldn’t have survived.

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Joining the social media party – fashionably late?

Over the next few months we’re going to be adding social-media functionality to the web site. Today’s first small step was to add twitter links but more is planned.

Now I realize that we’re hardly blazing a social-media-engagement trail here but better late than never. Please let us know how you think we’re doing and what we’re missing.

FileLocator Pro version 6 released

We did it! FileLocator Pro 6 is out and it’s looking great, for more information check out the 6.0 release newsletter here:
http://www.mythicsoft.com/Page.aspx?type=flpro&page=rel60

Making major changes to a product is not something to be taken lightly. Most of us have experienced the disappointment of installing a new update to a much-loved product only to find that rather than improving it the result was something bordering on useless.

I remember my personal frustration when upgrading PaintShop Pro from version 7 to 8. What had been a fast loading, easy to use, rock solid application suddenly morphed into a slumbering buggy monster. It was unceremoniously removed from my PC and thrown in the bin. It was only recently, 8 years later, that I felt brave enough to give it another go, now version X3. Sure enough many of the issues have now been resolved and it’s returned as my favourite image editing program but I still remember that sinking sense of disappointment.

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Where’s the Apple Mac version?

How would you answer the following question:

Do software developers write software for Windows because

a) Windows is REALLY cool and hip
b) Microsoft creates a great environment in which to write applications
c) 90% of all PC users use Windows
d) Microsoft understands and looks after 3rd party software developers
e) Windows users understand that paying for software provides much needed support for their favourite tools and utilities

My answer: “f) All of the above (except a)”.

What’s my point? Well, it’s a convoluted answer to numerous, very complimentary, requests to port FileLocator Pro to the Mac. Usually I reply something along the lines of “We don’t have the resources to support multiple platforms with minimal market share”. But it’s not as simple as that.

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Customer Service

One of the few areas a smaller software company can compete with large software companies, like the Microsofts or IBMs of this world, is customer service.

Our customer service queries are answered either by me personally or by a software developer who can review the actual source code. It pays for us to have software developers answering questions but not just for customer satisfaction. Customers are, more often than not, helping us to make our products better. It’s amazing. They’re spending their time making our product better and then they thank US at the end of it. Simply because we’ve listened to them.

We never forget that we’re the main beneficiary of the correspondence. Who knows how many other people couldn’t be bothered to tell us about the issue/feature deficiency and simply uninstalled the product? As a rule of thumb I put it at around 1 in 100 will contact us, which highlights just how special each correspondence is.

However, there are a rare few people who can create problems and waste time. Suddenly customer support can become quite a challenge. Fortunately we only have one or two challenging users but I thought it’d be interesting to show you the correspondence with one of those users over the past decade to illustrate the harder side of customer service.

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Windows 7 – Command Prompt Here

I’ve been using Windows 7 for a couple of days now and really like it. However, there was one small niggle… my ‘Command Prompt Here’ folder context menu option had disappeared.

It seems that Command Prompt Here has been added as a standard ‘Extended’ option in Windows 7 and that’s where my option had gone… onto the folder’s Extended context menu, which is visible if you hold down Shift while right-clicking on a folder. Since I use that option so often I wanted it back on the regular context menu. Fortunately this is very simple:
1.
Open RegEdit

2.
Go to HKCR\Directory\shell\cmd

3.
Delete the string value ‘Extended’

And Hey Presto it’s back!