Sunday, March 7, 2021

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Send them to Pete at: ReleaseNotes@
comicbase.com
 

2007

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June

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March

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January


2006

December

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January


2005

December

November

October

September

August

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June 30, 2006

Life in the Fast Lane

If you want to launch a small software company today, you’ve got a lot of advantages that your predecessors never had. Your tools are better; the hardware is cheaper; and the internet gives you an opportunity to market your software on a global level. (It also means you’ll be compared to the best the world has to offer, so make sure your stuff is world class).

But for all the advantages you’ve got over the old timers, you’ve got one Very Big Thing running against you. You’ve got to be Fast—way faster than companies used to be just a few years ago—and hopefully, so fast that no competitor can match you.

Does anyone else remember when it used to be standard to “allow 6 to 8 weeks for delivery” when you ordered something through the mail? That changed forever when FedEx appeared and made goods fly from coast to coast overnight. Getting a response to a letter within a week of mailing it? Fuggedaboutit! We’ve got email these days.

In our own industry, it was common wisdom until a bout a decade ago that an annual price guide was more than sufficient for anyone’s needs. Then Wizard appeared and made it seem inconceivable that you could keep up with the comics market without at least a monthly update.

With our customers demanding more and more speed, we’re having to ride the wave, or risk getting sucked under it. When we released the new Online Updates feature in ComicBase 10, we made it possible to have all the new information on new releases automatically downloaded into your copy of ComicBase within a day or two of the comic’s release. Don’t want to wait until the postman comes with your new copy of ComicBase Express? Now you can download it and have it in minutes.

That said, it definitely helps the world’s general happiness level if folks are kind enough to mix a small dab of patience in with their Need For Speed. I’ll admit to having my jaw drop when I get email wondering why we can’t release updates for comics before they hit the street (answer: because solicited comics don’t always ship, and because we still haven’t been able to work out a way to bend that whole time-space-continuum thing). Likewise, it’s liable to be a while before we can make the 12 GB of content from the ComicBase Archive Edition (or even the comparatively svelte 1.4 GB of content from ComicBase Professional) available in download form. (Heck, we already get mail from folks with dial-up lines complaining about the length of time it takes them to download the 220 MB of content from the Express Edition).

 

June 29, 2006

Tech Tip: ComicBase on a USB Key

For some reason, Tuesday brought us two calls back to back from folks wanting to easily transfer their ComicBase data between a computer at home and a computer at the office. One was doing it so that he could escape his wonky dial-up connection at home and actually download the weekly price and title updates. I’m not sure of the second guy’s motives, since I didn’t take the call, but in both cases, the ideal solution involved a 1 GB USB Key (also called a “flash drive” or “thumb drive”).

As it turns out, a 1 GB USB key is a really slick way to handle the “gotta have my collection with me at all times” problem. All you do is copy your current database to the thumb drive once, then tell ComicBase (on whatever computer you hook up to) to File > Open the database on the thumb drive. The database is nearly as fast as if it were on your local hard drive, and there’s no need to export data, save copies everywhere, or do anything else like that. What’s more, when the first customer wrote back with his positive experience running from the thumb drive, I decided to pop over to Fry’s (a Bay Area electronics store) and pick up my own at lunch. It turns out that you can now get 170x, USB 2.0 thumb drives from a decent manufacturer for as little as $49.95 (The only product that’s that much of a steal is our new ComicBase Express!).

Bonus: While waiting for a batch job to complete today, I happened across this story from Make on building a Lego USB key. If anyone tries it out, let me know how it went!

 

June 28, 2006

They say it’s your Birthday…

Yesterday, I turned 39, and had a terrific birthday. Along with the standard balloons, chocolate, and in-office firework displays, I also got a couple of amusing e-cards, as well as a very stramge string of emails from ComicBase maven John Simpson. They were all blank messages, with bizarre subject lines:

“How Green Was My Goblin!”

“A Twist of Memory—A Turn of Mind! ”

“The Torment…and the Triumph!”

“The Brute that Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom!”

“It Happens in Harlem!”

“A Blind Man Shall Lead Them!”

“Lest Mankind Fall!”


My general take at this point was that John had gone mad while scanning new comics to submit into ComicBase. But then, he sent me a message with actual text in it:

From: John Simpson

To: Pete Bickford

Subject: Riddle Me This... ??????????????????????????????????????????????????

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Black Birds in a Pie

plus

The Prisoner

plus

days Ferris Buehler was absent

equal

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

 

The light began to dawn. Let's see... Four and Twenty + 6 + a little over a week...

Ah jeez!

I launched ComicBase and fired up the Storyline search. “How Green Was my Goblin?” -- That’d be Amazing Spider-Man #39. “A Twist of Memory–A Turn of Mind!” : Iron Man (1st Series) #39… “Lest Mankind Fall”: Thor #164 (the 39th issue after continuing from Journey into Mystery)… and so on.

Shiaw-Ling heard my cries of “Aaagh! Simpson’s been messing with my head!” and began to laugh maniacally over the cubicle wall. Then, of course, we had to tell the whole story to the entire office. (John also pointed out that he’s sent in 39 corrections over the course of the day.)

Nice going, John! And thanks everyone for a very happy birthday!


June 25, 2006

Oy! What an Update!

In addition to getting ComicBase Express out this week, our intrepid staffers got out the World Record Weekly Update of All Time

7,861 New Issues (!)

2,303 Issue updates (!!)

…as well as adding 117 new titles that came out this week.

For the staggering list of what’s new, check out our scoreboard on the main page at www.comicbase.com. And let’s all give a big round of applause to both the data entry crew and all the folks who sent in additions and corrections!

 

June 15 , 2006

Red Flags and Long Nights

It's our busy time of the year, and more and more I'm finding myself doing the thing I really didn’t want to do when we got the new offices—namely, working in them until 3am. Still, until Verizon can drop one of those luscious 40Mb/s FTTP connection to my house sometime in 2011, I think there are bound to be nights where happiness means beating the sun-up before heading for home. (Although on the bright side, the 3:30am homeward commute is easily three times as fast as the 6:00 pm one).

On the late night iTunes Player: She Wants Revenge. It's dark, apocalyptic, funky, and perfect for playing loud during the vampire hours. It’s a bit like the demonic love child of Joy Division and Gang of Four, with a bit of the depravity of Soft Cell thrown in for good measure. Not sure how the whole thing plays during the daylight, but it’s just the thing for late night ComicBase hacking…

 

June 6 , 2006

ComicBase Running Native on the Mac… Under Windows!

ComicBase on Mac

Mac fans were stunned when Apple announced last year that they’d be moving to Intel for the processors in their future Macs. A few months after the first Intel Macs shipped , they shocked the world again when they made (semi) official a free software tool called Boot Camp which allows you to set up your Intel-Based Mac to boot into either Windows XP or Mac OS X at will. Now, for the first time, there was a legitimate, speedy, and stable way for folks to own one machine which runs both Mac and Windows software.

Naturally, we had to try it for ourselves. Our initial attempt to install it on a MacBook Pro came to naught—we later discovered that Boot Camp only works with Windows XP SP2, requiring a more up-to-date Windows install disk than we had available close at hand.

Once we got the proper Windows XP SP2 installer disk, however, the process was smooth and trouble-free. Basically, you just download the free Boot Camp software from the Apple web site, and launch in under Mac OS X on your Intel-based Mac. Boot Camp allows you to create a new Windows partition out of the free space on your drive. For our purposes, we choose to use 20 MB of the drive for Windows. Boot Camp also creates a disk with all the necessary drivers for your hardware for use under Windows.

Once this is done, you just insert your Windows installer disk, restart your machine, and hold down the Alt/Option key to boot from your Windows CD. Install Windows normally on the new partition, and when you're done, run the installer on the disk you created earlier to install all the drivers for your Mac’s hardware.

After that, you restart, hold down your Alt/Option key, and select which OS you’d like to boot into. If you choose Mac OS X, you’ll be right at home with all your Mac software running exactly as it was before. If you choose Windows, however, you’ll be treated to an experience few have had until recently: Windows running, natively, and at full speed, on Apple hardware.

We put ComicBase 10 through its paces on a Mac Mini running Windows, and the results were everything we could hope for: peppy performance, good graphics, and no problems whatsoever using the database, running reports, or downloading the weekly price and issue updates in ComicBase 10. In short, it was the real deal: every bit as fast and stable as you’d expect from an Intel box running Windows. The only difference was that this same box could also run Mac OS X. Not bad for a $799 computer!

Even more convenient, The Mac OS X side can see the Windows partition, allowing you to easily move data between the Mac and Windows sides. This comes in particularly handy if you’re transferring your collection data from the old Mac version of ComicBase in order to upgrade to version 10. We ran a step-by-step set of instructions on how to transfer data between the two versions back in Vol. 8 #2 of our newsletter, but this makes the process even simpler, since you don’t need to copy your data onto a CD or USB drive in order to move it over to the Windows side—you can just copy the data straight from one drive to another.

It’s incredibly expensive and time-consuming to develop software for more than one platform, and there’s always been a ton of great software that wouldn’t work with one platform or another—ComicBase included. The PC press seems cool to Boot Camp, and I’m certain some Mac purists will rail against the very idea of having their machines defiled by Windows. I think it’s telling, however, that outfits like Mac Mall have already begun offering Mac Mini configurations with Boot Camp and Windows pre-installed. This looks to be a case where the Mac folks truly will have the best of both worlds.