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Seeker and other Mac news
Richard S. Wright Jr.'s Blog

Wow, I’m way overdue for a blog entry! I’ve been pretty busy lately and there’s a lot going on in the Bisque world, as well in some of my side projects.

Since my last post, we have shipped TheSkyX for the Mac at MacWorld, and TheSkyX for Windows since then. These are of course the student editions without telescope control. I’ve had the opportunity to test telescope control on my Mac at both the Winter Star Party, and my own local astronomy club’s star party shortly thereafter near lake Okeechobee. The skies down there rival those of the keys actually… anyway I bear witness that telescope control is coming along, and as soon as we get enough scopes supported, debugged, etc etc. it’ll be out. In the mean time go ahead and get the Student Edition and kick the tires a bit. You can always upgrade to the Serious Astronomer version later.

In other development news, I recently finished our Mac desktop widget. You should see it soon, we are “beta testing” it right now, but I don’t think there are going to be any big issues. You can now get a star chart on dashboard via our web interface. The design philosophy was simple, just show what’s up tonight and make it as easy to use as possible. We purposely did not try to cram TheSkyX into a little bitty window in dashboard…. Someone has already tried that, and most of us think it’s really out of place. Like trying to cram a jet engine under the hood of a pickup truck. That’s not really what widgets are for. We show off our product, if you want something more sophisticated we hope you come and buy the full package… and no annoying scrolling ads at the bottom either ;-) Software Bisque sells software, not web clicks.

Just today I finished adding support for Logitech’s 3D space navigator to both the Windows and Mac versions of Seeker. This is an awesome device for flying around and navigating 3D space. It definitely makes up for not having joystick support on the Mac. It’s actually better than a joystick in my opinion. It’s definitely easier to fly around with in the dark too when your giving presentations or demonstrations on a projection system.

Another new feature coming in the next patch is “momentum”. Now, when you click and drag if you let off the mouse button while dragging, it’s like starting a spin operation. You basically can easily create an animated orbit just by “flicking the mouse”. This is somewhat akin to what Google earth does, and a few people have asked for this. Now that I’ve done it, I like it. There is more to come along this front, but a lot of this sort of thing comes from just trying different things and seeing what feels best.

There’s a lot of hub-bub in the Mac community about the iPhone SDK, and this has not gone unnoticed at Bisque. We were considering porting the desktop widget to the iPhone as a Web app, but decided against it. What people really want (from what I can tell monitoring the various mailing lists), is TheSky Pocket Edition on the iPhone. Yeah, we’d love to give it to you too ;-) There are several ways we could do this; unfortunately none of them are cheap or quick. It’s going to be a substantial investment if we are able to make it happen at all. We are at least looking at the possibility though. I have the SDK and am doing quite a bit of R&D outside of my Bisque hours (we are actually setting up an iPhone programming lab at the school where I teach OpenGL programming). If it’s possible to do this and still put food on the table (a nice way of saying we need to make a profit), I’ll definitely be championing the idea here. There are a lot more variables to making these sorts of decisions than most people realize, so it’ll be some time before we could possibly announce anything either way. The desire is certainly there however.

Finally, we will be at NEAF again in Rockland NY the weekend of April 26th. Stop by our booth and say hello, maybe buy some software too ;-) I always spend more money at these things than I should (don’t tell my wife!). The best part of traveling with Steve though is he knows where all the best Sushi places are!


Posted 04-08-2008 11:49 PM by Richard Wright


Morgan Spangle wrote re: Seeker and other Mac news
on 04-12-2008 7:14 AM
I wil be at NEAF and will stop by to see the new Mac software and talk to you about it. The iPhone pocket edition gets my vote for development (my business can buy the iPhone, so, why not?).
And the very best sushi place, if you have time while at NEAF, is in Hartsdale, NY  at Azuma Sushi. As good as any place in NYC (and I've been to all the good ones) and rivals anything I went to in Japan...worth the 1/2 hour drive from Suffern. Call for reservations...
Richard Wright wrote re: Seeker and other Mac news
on 04-15-2008 9:09 PM
Mt. Fuji man... I'm counting down the days ;-) I'm not sure the name of the "city", but it's a short drive from Suffern. We never drive back to NYC... I'll see if anyone else has heard of Azuma or wants to try it.

David Toth wrote re: Seeker and other Mac news
on 04-17-2008 12:39 AM
Mt. Fuji is THE place to be, my man ... this time, we're gonna get you to try some exotic stuff!

BTW, I'm typing this on a Mac ... don't fall off your chair Richard ...

Looking forward to working the booth with you next week at NEAF!

Dr. Dave

David Illig wrote re: Seeker and other Mac news
on 04-18-2008 9:02 AM
Dr. Dave -- Of course you're typing on a Mac. Who in their right mind uses Windows when the don't *have* to!?

Richard -- (for identification purposes, I'm Mr. "FireWire at NEAF 2006." Here's what I wrote about your new Widget on the Bisque Mac Yahoo group last night:

"Nicely done, thanks!

"Of course, I have a suggestion. It seems that the most widely used means
of setting Widget preferences is the use of the italicized lower-case i in
a circle that is hidden until the cursor passes over it. I would suggest that
you adopt this convention because TheSky X Widget is beautifully designed,
and has great symmetry that is thrown off by the "i" and the word
"PREFERENCES" (in caps, no less) at the top left. Lose that in favor of the
hidden "i" and it will be greatly improved, IMO.

"The clean, straightforward direction slider is the very definition of

See U next week at NEAF.

Speaking of outside activities at NEAF, my buddy Gerry (Wing Cmdr, pilot, Her Britannic Majesty's Royal Air Force) and I are heading to NYC on Sunday evening. On Monday evening we're going to the Iridium Jazz Club on Broadway to see and hear Les Paul. Les is 93 years old and plays two sets at the club each Monday night! If you don't know who Les Paul is, you're too young to be reading this.

David Illig
Richard Wright wrote re: Seeker and other Mac news
on 04-18-2008 2:19 PM
Ah shucks! I'm glad you liked it. We put a lot of thought about what to put into it, and believe it or not, quite a bit of thought about what to leave out on purpose. I wanted to enter it for a design award at this years WWDC, but they don't have a category for Widgets this year... the honeymoon is over I guess... the iPhone is the new hotness.

The preferences text might have made more sense... the original design had something on the other side too; a feature that didn't make the first cut. It gave some balance to the design. It would be easy to get rid of (it's an art modification, no new programming), and I could actually show a little more sky up at the top without it. We'll discuss it internally.... that's why we are calling it Beta ;-)


David Illig wrote re: Seeker and other Mac news
on 04-21-2008 5:52 AM

All of a sudden, the Widget doesn't work anymore. That's on two Intel Macs with 10.5.2. It worked for about two days, and now it shows a black display area, sometimes with a question mark. Does it depend on a server somewhere that might be down?

Richard Wright wrote re: Seeker and other Mac news
on 04-21-2008 12:35 PM
Double oops... the hub to the server was accidently shut off over the weekend.

Should work again now... :-)

David Illig wrote re: Seeker and other Mac news
on 04-22-2008 9:09 PM
Works again. Thanks! Now I'll be able to advertise for SB by showing it around at NEAIC.

Richard Wright wrote re: Seeker and other Mac news
on 04-24-2008 9:05 AM

I did change the "Preferences" text and display... if not posted already, should be soon.

See you at NEAF!


mucster wrote re: Seeker and other Mac news
on 05-02-2008 5:08 PM
When will the update be available to Seeker for the Space Navigator 3d?  Does this update include support for the Space Explorer 3d as well?

Thanks for all your hard work!
Matthew Ota wrote re: Seeker and other Mac news
on 07-09-2008 7:53 PM
I am going to relocate to New Hampshire soon, and will definitely try to make it to NEAF next year, along with Stellafane and the other Northeastern USA astro events
tav0303 wrote re: Seeker and other Mac news
on 01-04-2009 11:09 AM

I own Pocket Spy but switched to an Iphone recently.  Pocket Sky on Iphone would be cheerfully welcomed.  


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