I bet you were thinkin', "Now why don't he write?"

I can’t believe that it has been just over a year since I’ve had anything to say (on this blog, at least). Then again, seven posts in two years isn’t being that chatty in the first place.

But I digress...

The Mac App Store seems to be shaping up as another great success story for both Apple and the participating developers. We too have a title slated for inclusion in the Mac App Store, but that’s not what this post is about. Instead, this post is about what is not in the App Store — namely BurnToDisc and ImageArchiver.

The reason they are not in the store is quite simple: they are not stand-alone applications and therefore don’t meet one of the most basic criterion for inclusion in the Mac App Store. Instead, they are plug-ins that add value to existing applications, namely Aperture, iPhoto and Lightroom.

So some of our products can’t join the party — that’s okay. But there is one very disappointing side effect to the introduction the Mac App Store: the Software Downloads page, which provided a searchable database for software by both Apple and other software companies, is essentially gone. You can still sort of get to it by way of Aperture by selecting the Aperture Plug-Ins... item from Aperture’s application menu, but I fear that too will change with the next update to Aperture. It’s a shame that the Software Downloads page is gone, as it brought quite a bit of traffic to developers’ websites, Blue Room’s included.

So for now, we’re in search of a replacement marketing avenue for our little collection of non-Application Macintosh software. Hopefully, we’ll have something more to say a little sooner than next year.

Aperture 3 64-bit Support

BurnToDisc 2 and ImageArchiver have both been updated to support Aperture 3 running on 64-bit Intel Macs. You can get them either by checking for updates or visiting the Downloads page.

While ImageArchiver remains functionally unchanged, BurnToDisc has been given some additional name formatting tokens to use.

Aperture 3

Apple introduced Aperture 3 today, and it has a plethora of great improvements.

I am happy to report that BurnToDisc 2 and ImageArchiver continue to work with this new release.

One caveat (and one that all plugin developers will encounter) is that 64-bit Intel-based Macs will have to use Aperture in 32-bit mode if a 64-bit plugin is not available. While Aperture will inform you of this fact and happily relaunch itself in 32-bit mode when necessary, this is not a long-term solution. We are currently working on 64-bit builds of both BurnToDisc and ImageArchiver and hope to have them released shortly.

BurnToDisc 2 Released

After a number of months of after-hours development (fortunately or unfortunately, I still have a day job), I am very proud to announce the release of BurnToDisc 2.

We will continue to support and offer for sale BurnToDisc 1.0.6 until the end of March 2009. After that all bugs and features will be addressed by BurnToDisc 2.x updates.

For our existing customers, BurnToDisc 2 is a paid upgrade — but for much less than the cost of a new license. Just like all of our other products, a 15 day free trial is available. You can install it on top of BurnToDisc 1.x without losing your settings or your license information and check things out. If you don’t like it, simply re-install BurnToDisc 1.0.6 and go back to business as usual. If you are interested in the new features, then an upgrade is available from the Blue Room Software Store (make sure you use the coupon code B2D2UPGRADE when ordering to take advantage of the 60% savings!).

And speaking of features... When I first wrote BurnToDisc, it was for my own needs — but that takes the product only so far. While I strive to stay clear of feature creep, I am interested in hearing what ideas and needs you have for future releases of BurnToDisc. In fact, some new features in this release were based on customer requests and ideas that we have received since BurnToDisc 1.0 Beta 1! And for those of you who don’t see your requested feature in this release, never fear — you will probably see them in an update sometime in the future.

Think about your ideas, and let us know.

Why I Created BurnToDisc

Photography has been a hobby of mine since the age of fourteen when my Dad bought me a Minolta X-570 with a 50mm lens. Later I entered the world of autofocus SLRs with a Maxxum 7000i and more lenses. Then I switched camps to Nikon and grew a new lens collection. In 2003, I made the switch from film to digital. Gone was my phenomenal Nikon F100, but so was the cost of continously purchasing and developing film. I never regretted making the switch.

The biggest problem I faced with my digital images was finding an efficient workflow and data management process. How do I get those RAW files on to my computer to view and/or edit them? What folder hierarchy should I use to store and organize them? What names do I assign to the Photoshoped revisions I create? Then in October 2005, Apple introduced Aperture — my workflow problems were finally solved! While there were some growing pains in those earlier versions, I have been very happy with my use of Aperture to date.

By the start of 2008, I had amassed about 6,000 images in my Aperture library, the vast majority of them were of my then two-and-a-half-year-old son. I remember thinking that when the time came for a family of his own, I would love to be able to hand him decades worth of photographs encompassing his adolescent life. In order to do that successfully, I had to create a backup and disaster recovery plan.

My Aperture library resides on the boot drive of my Mac Pro. I have a second internal drive that is dedicated for use as an Aperture vault target. Every time I import new images, I immediately update this vault before the compact flash card is returned to the camera for image deletion. My second vault target is an external drive that supports both USB2 and FireWire connections. This drive is kept in my desk drawer, disconnected from any power source or computer interface until it is needed. Admittedly, I don’t use it every time I import new images into my library — but it is still updated at least once a month. My third vault is not officially known to Aperture; instead, it’s a complete copy of my first vault that is kept up to date via rsync and stored on my ReadyNAS NV. (If Aperture ever officially supports the use of network shares as vault targets, I will make it a first class citizen instead of a synchronized duplication of my primary vault).

This setup places all of my digital images in four independent places: on my main internal drive, on a secondary internal drive, on an external drive, and on a RAID array. If any one source is damaged, I have plenty of other replications from which to restore. However, one large downside to my setup is that all of the image repositories are essentially in the same physical location and — when in use — are all tied to the same electrical service. A freak lightning storm or power surge that occurs while all devices are online and in the process of synchronization could cause an invaluable loss for me. Replication does not equal Backup.

A good backup solution should include an off-site location as one of the repositories of information. Since I also wanted to share the pictures of my son with my parents and in-laws (both of whom lived in geographically distant locations), I felt that burning the images to DVDs would be a good way to solve two problems at once.

Surprisingly, Aperture didn’t provide any in-application support for burning discs... but I did find a support article on the subject. It had a lot of steps and seemed a bit labor intensive (especially when you had more images than would fit on a single disc). To simplify the process, I decided to develop a plug-in that would do the work for me. The development of what was to become BurnToDisc started in earnest in March 2008.

At a high level, the process is quite simple: export images until you have enough to fill up a disc, burn the disc, repeat until there are no more images. But like many seemingly simple things, the devil was in the details. Unlike the procedure described in the support article, I wanted to only export a disc’s worth of images at a time (what if you had 10GB of data to burn, but only 6GB of free space on your hard drive?). For each new disc to be burned, I would have to present the user with the disc burning dialog. Because of the way Aperture Export Plug-Ins worked — and they work a little bit differently in Aperture 1.5 and Aperture 2 — I had to find a creative way of “pausing” the export session without interrupting the normal flow that eventually leads to that dreaded spinning beachball of death. And there were a myriad of other little details that just had to be worked out so that in the end, you simply selected some images, chose a menu item, and fed blank discs until the process was complete.

The development of my disc burning plug-in for Aperture began in March 2008. Early on in the development, I came to the conclusion that there had to be other people interested in tool like this. In June 2008, Blue Room Software officially came into existence for the purpose of selling BurnToDisc. I knew my conclusions were sound when I got the following feedback from my very first beta tester:

Just wanted to say... I *wish* I’d found your software about a week ago!
Happy to have found it now, and looking forward to a final release I can pay you for!

And true to his word, he was also my very first customer — one hour after BurnToDisc was available for sale.