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MUSHclient version 4?

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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (21,322 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Wed 15 Dec 2004 07:29 PM (UTC)

Amended on Thu 16 Dec 2004 06:44 PM (UTC) by Nick Gammon

Message
It is probably time for a major release - version 4.

Historically major releases are usually done after adding a heap of new features. In this case, since version 3.50 which is advertised on the main MUSHclient page, we now have:


  • Lua scripting.

  • A few things Lua made possible like encryption, compression, getting style colours in trigger scripts.

  • Customisable keyboard accelerators.

  • Remappable colours.

  • Custom spellcheck.

  • Lots more script functions, including moving windows, colouring notepad windows.

  • Support for UDP packets, with an example of how this could be used for a custom status bar window.

  • Packet modification - so you can change the text of incoming lines.





Previous major releases


  • Version 1.

    Initial main release with triggers, aliases, basic functionality.

  • Version 2.

    Added asynchronous connecting, spell checker, much more configurable, better activity window, printing, log files, searching, timers, alias arguments, scripting.

  • Version 3.

    Added PCRE (regexps), custom colours, tab-completion, recall window, send-to-all-worlds, character name generator, better scripting, notepad windows.





It is usually difficult to decide exactly when a major release is ready. Usually the one that stays stable for months is not version 1, 2, or 3, because shortly after being released minor but annoying bugs are found.

Thus the "stable" releases (usually one per year) so far have been:


  • Version 1.04 (January 1996 to May 1997)

  • Version 2.03 (June 1997 to February 1998)

  • Version 2.13 (April 1998 to March 1999)

  • Version 2.14 (April 1999 to September 1999)

  • Version 2.15 (September 1999 to May 2000)

  • Version 3.04 (August 2000 to May 2001)

  • Version 3.17 (August 2001 to May 2002)

  • Version 3.32 (November 2002 to March 2003)

  • Version 3.42 (May 2003 to Feb 2004)

  • Version 3.50 (May 2004 to November 2004)



Those are the releases that have stood the test of time, usually being around for a year or so. Interestingly, many were done in May of their year.

The question is: is version 3.59 (or 3.60 which has some minor changes) ready to be re-badged as version 4? I have gone back through the old suggestions and bugs list. There don't seem to be very many that are really urgent. A lot of the things still outstanding are cosmetic, or can be achieved another way using the existing version.

If anyone who uses MUSHclient regularly thinks there is a compelling reason for a change that should be made before releasing version 4, please speak up. :)


- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (21,322 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Reply #1 on Wed 15 Dec 2004 07:53 PM (UTC)
Message
I'll point out that the "official" version gets downloaded much more often than the ones announced on this forum.

For example, in December 2004 so far, over 2,000 copies of MUSHclient 3.50 have been downloaded, compared to 69 copies of 3.56, which is the next most popular.

In November 2004, MUSHclient 3.50 was downloaded 4,667 times, however version 3.51 was downloaded 44 times.

- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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Posted by Shadowfyr   USA  (1,783 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #2 on Wed 15 Dec 2004 09:09 PM (UTC)
Message
Seems Ok so far. Though I haven't tried 'every' new things that has been added. (Heck haven't tried using most of the stuff from old versions...) And yeah, major versions tend to get downloaded more. In general you have very stable beta versions, compared to some software, and very few serious bug fixes. However, for most people 'beta' means, "let someone else try it first." ;)

I don't see any abvious reason to not upgrade the latest version to a 4.0.
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Posted by Linda   Sweden  (164 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #3 on Thu 16 Dec 2004 03:19 PM (UTC)
Message
A question and a some comments:

Question:

What is the difference between the spellchecker listed as introduced in version 2 compared to the custom spell-checker listed as introduced in version 3? I thought the one we have right now is the same that was introduced from the start? :)

Comments:

I think it would have been good to have something in the future version 4 that is attractive to non-coders. That is, people who use MUSHclient out-of-the-box. As it is, I don't think those users will be hurrying to download the current version even if it is rebranded as version 4. I don't know how compelling that is, but since the fact that the official version is downloaded more than the 'betas' was mentioned as a reason to go to version 4, I figured it was worth mentioning. :)

I still upgrade regularly myself, but I have to admit it is mostly because I sort of do compulsively with all software. ;) For me, there haven't really been any must-have features added in a fair while.

So personally, I would have loved to see some of the outstanding design suggestions implemented before going to version 4. Such as 487 (perhaps with the addition of MUSH code syntax highlighting, even), 495, 498 and 499.

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Posted by David Haley   USA  (3,881 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #4 on Thu 16 Dec 2004 06:43 PM (UTC)
Message
I think that a version four would be nice, except that...
Quote:
A lot of the things still outstanding are cosmetic, or can be achieved another way using the existing version.
I've worried myself that a lot of people are put off by the suggestion that they simply "do it themselves" with scripting, because most people don't know how to script at all or enough. As Linda said, people want an 'out-of-the-box' experience.

Instead of making it all core MUSHclient features, perhaps the paradigm could be shifted somewhat from "core functionality" to "extensions", much like e.g. Firefox. Then, you could have a library of extensions (plug-ins) to add in all these features.

This way, everybody is happy: there is no program bloat unless you specifically want the features, and for those who do want the features, they can have them.

I'm sure it would be possible to have a set of 'approved plug-ins' that people could choose from, where users could contribute their own. Perhaps, if there are enough, there could even be a browsable online library. Better yet would be the ability to upgrade plug-ins, but I understand there are significant problems with overwriting old variables and the like.

David Haley aka Ksilyan
Head Programmer,
Legends of the Darkstone

http://david.the-haleys.org
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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (21,322 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Reply #5 on Thu 16 Dec 2004 07:05 PM (UTC)
Message
Linda:

The spellchecker was in fact introduced in version 2.16. My quick browse of the release notes got it wrong. It is the same one it always was (I have amended the post above).

I'm not so worried about whether current users upgrade or not, that is a decision based on whether the new features are worth it. The problem is that by not at least making the later ones the official version, any minor bugs or problems will be downloaded as "official" when they have already been fixed. As long as the new version doesn't have more bugs.

Remember the old saying? "Upgrade - exchange your old bugs for new ones.".

I'm inclined to think the core functionality is pretty good as it is - I don't want to get into the software bloat syndrome, like a few programs I could name, where later "improved" versions get harder and harder to use because the core features are swamped under all the extras.

This is where scripting comes into it. I know a lot of people don't want to use it, and that is fine. But one day, if you ask "how do I make a trigger that reacts when X is greater than 10?" I can reply - "a small script will do that". This is better IMHO than cluttering up the trigger dialog box with lots of little extra combo-boxes and checkboxes which try to achieve the same effect, and probably won't be as good anyway. Then the beginner user stares at those and thinks "I wonder what they are for - are they important?".




As for your other points:


  • Suggestion 487 - convert normally formatted text to MUSHcode.

    Isn't that there already? Commented softcode on paste? Or do you mean in the notepad, where you can see it? Or formatting the other way? (Adding comments). Can you be more specific about what you would like it to do?

  • Suggestion 495 - spawned windows.

    I think the infrastructure is there for doing that as a plugin. My recent post about the status bar windows illustrate the general idea. Once things stabilise with MUSHclient proper I think I'll try to do a separate window plugin, along those lines.

  • Suggestion 498 - thesaurus.

    I checked that a while ago. To purchase it costs hundreds of dollars, at the current rate of registrations (registrations compared to downloads) I would need quite a few to recoup the cost. I was thinking of you when I tried to get the Word thesaurus working through scripting. I think that cries out for a suitable plugin.

  • Suggestion 499 - tabbed windows.

    This was one of your suggestions, to point and click to change world windows. Did the status bar menu not work for you? Where the world name appears on the status bar (at the bottom) if you click on that a menu of all open worlds pops up, then just select the one you want. That lets you quickly change worlds with "point and click".



- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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Posted by Nick Gammon   Australia  (21,322 posts)  [Biography] bio   Forum Administrator
Date Reply #6 on Thu 16 Dec 2004 07:08 PM (UTC)
Message
Quote:

Instead of making it all core MUSHclient features, perhaps the paradigm could be shifted somewhat from "core functionality" to "extensions" ...


That has been the idea for a while. This is the reason more and more script commands are incorporated, so that plugins can become more powerful. Things like moving windows, finding out where they are, activating them, sending messages from one to another and so on. Plus stuff like Lua, external DLLs and so on.

- Nick Gammon

www.gammon.com.au, www.mushclient.com
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Posted by Linda   Sweden  (164 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #7 on Thu 16 Dec 2004 07:41 PM (UTC)
Message
I am aware that the goal is to keep MUSHclient bloatfree, and I certainly don't like bloated software as such. However, I remain unconvinced that all the necessary core features have been added, and I'd personally rather take a little more bloat to get those in a painless, scriptfree way. :)

Still, I do agree that plugins are a good idea for those issues that can be solved just as well through a plugin as though a core enhancement, since they do offer people the choice of using them or not.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to, if possible, offer some new plugins coversing some of the suggestions that add significant functionality as part of the version 4 release? They could be billed as new features via bundled plugins, or something such.

In regards to the specific suggestions:

487

My main thought about this was actually the add-on I made to that suggestion: syntax highlighting for MUSH code in the notepad. However, the original suggestion also mentioned having some of the features of the MUSHformatter program in the notepad (http://mform.kempe.net/).

495

If it can be solved fully through a plugin, that's certainly a great solution. However, when the subject has been dicussed in the past, my impression has been that the plugin solution would not come close the functionality of this feature as seen in SimpleMU. For example, I don't believe it would be possible for each window to have its own input area, or to hold as much content as a world window, given that they'd be based on the notepad?

498

I remember that you said you thought it might cost to much, but I didn't recall if you ever found out for sure. Given that this is the case, that is obviously not practical unless, as you suggest, it could be done by using Words dictionary and thesaurus. Again, a plugin that can actually do that would be a great solution. :)

499

The statusbar solution is okay for the actual switching, but the real advantage of a tabbed interface is that the current indicators of activity in a world or of whether it is open or closed (the colour of the number, that is) would be easily viewable for all worlds. Now, if you have more than 10 open, the status of the extra worlds isn't viewable unless you check a submenu.

For me, being able to quickly determine the status of my open worlds is usually a top priority, and the most visible and easy to use way of accomplishing this that I can see is by allowing an unlimited number of worlds to be displayed on the activity toolbar.

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Posted by Shadowfyr   USA  (1,783 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #8 on Thu 16 Dec 2004 07:45 PM (UTC)
Message
On the thesaurus issue.. Making a plugin to use Word's version is nice and all, but some of us won't touch Office with a 10,000 foot pole. lol If you have to make a plugin anyway, why not a database that uses the existing ODBC features we already all have, with the addition of the scripting needed to perform a thesaurus lookup. Yes, this means creating a thesaurus from scratch, but it would be 'ours', not something designed by some company that will charge huge amounts of money to add it. Same frankly with the spellchecker. Yes, it is nice that we have one, but it isn't totally inconcievable that you could feed a lot of text through a program, generate a database of all unique words, then go back and check to see if they are right. "Hmm. That looks good.", clicks 'Keep'. For a spellchecker the only criteria is feeding enough words into the database to make it useful, you don't even have to type them in yourself, just make sure they are right once in there. Then it is just a matter of implimenting some code to run a search for likely words. That is a tad harder, but not impossible.

Point is, we are looking for prebuilt solutions, which often don't even work well in the environment they exist in, and trying to adapt them to something they where not designed for. However, the problem isn't designing the plugin/code to check a word or return a thesaurus search, its getting the data into the database used in the first place. And a fair amount of that can be automated. Its not totally impossible, just inconvientent, compared to buying a prebuilt solution. There seem to be a lot of lazy people here. -Including me.- ;)
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Posted by Shadowfyr   USA  (1,783 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #9 on Thu 16 Dec 2004 08:01 PM (UTC)
Message
Of course, you can always use something that is royalty free:

http://wordnet.princeton.edu/

http://www.cogsci.princeton.edu/~wn/license.shtml

Its just too bad it doesn't also act as a spellchecker, then you could kill two birds with one stone and rid yourself of the spellchecker we got, which is functionally not much more advanced than one from the 1980's.

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Posted by Linda   Sweden  (164 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #10 on Thu 16 Dec 2004 08:01 PM (UTC)
Message
However, if the only reasonable way to have a thesaurus is through a plugin that uses Word's thesaurus, I don't think that approach should be discarded even though some will not use it. :)
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Posted by Shadowfyr   USA  (1,783 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #11 on Thu 16 Dec 2004 08:10 PM (UTC)
Message
Think that is my point Linda. It is the only reasonable solution people are willing to look for. Including something as common sense as finding an existing royalty free one, which took like 10 minutes on Google. ;)
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Posted by David Haley   USA  (3,881 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #12 on Thu 16 Dec 2004 08:52 PM (UTC)
Message
Quote:
Things like moving windows, finding out where they are, activating them, sending messages from one to another and so on.
Yes, the capabilities are there, but I believe that most of these are not actually implemented via plug-ins - the problem for the end-user who doesn't know how to write scripts is that capabilities to script are not useful. Perhaps you could release "official plug-ins" to do some of the things you don't think should be in the core but seem to be in demand? Depends on how hard it is compared to how many people want it, of course. :)

David Haley aka Ksilyan
Head Programmer,
Legends of the Darkstone

http://david.the-haleys.org
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Posted by Flannel   USA  (1,230 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #13 on Thu 16 Dec 2004 09:09 PM (UTC)
Message
Perhaps just adding a "get more plugins" button (either on the plugin tab, or in the help menu) to guide them to the list that's here.

Since we do have a list. However most of the big plugins are incorperated already in the download. Chat protocol is a perfect example of this. But yes, perhaps some guidance to the user about how to expand MC with the plugins that are already available (as I'm sure a large percentage doesn't frequent these forums).

~Flannel

Messiah of Rose
Eternity's Trials.

Clones are people two.
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Posted by David Haley   USA  (3,881 posts)  [Biography] bio
Date Reply #14 on Thu 16 Dec 2004 09:17 PM (UTC)
Message
Right. I was thinking mainly of a 'get more plugins' button - something to really rub in the fact that the architecture likes plugins, and that much functionality really depends on plugins - and that you officially support this.

David Haley aka Ksilyan
Head Programmer,
Legends of the Darkstone

http://david.the-haleys.org
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