Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 2.01

A update to our best-selling card solitaire game for the Mac is available.

Goodsol Development published Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 2.01, a maintenance update to PGSME 2.0 announced here.

This version of Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition fixes about a dozen (i.e., all) bugs reported since the initial release, and also makes a few changes designed to improve ease of use and, thereby, reduce the number of customer support inquiries. In particular, many users did not understand the Climb Mode feature at all, much to my personal dismay, so it is no longer the default.

The most important bug fix in this version, and the one that took the longest time to find and track down, was an interface race condition which could allow code to be unexpectedly reentered, sometimes causing a crash or, more often, just creating illegal positions. The nature of the bug meant that some (most?) players would never experience a problem, but a few managed to trigger the error on a regular basis. Imagine clicking to redeal a waste pile back to the stock and then attempting to redeal from the stock during this process. Unfortunately, “Patience is a Virtue” was not an adequate response.

After the initial release, Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 2.0 was a hit in the Top Apple Downloads, rising to #2 Most Popular in the Cards & Puzzles category (and still in the top 20 as I write this). It also flirted with the Top 5 overall in the general Games category, peaking at around #6. This is only the tip of the iceberg, though, as the upcoming PGSME version 2.1 will have 200 games, up from 101 in the current version.

Onward and upward…

Making Mac Disk Images Pretty

This is how to add that “curb appeal” to your Macintosh disk images.

Important update:  Be sure to read Disk Images Revisited, the quick synopsis of which is that this method does not work properly on Snow Leopard due to a Mac OS X bug.  (Building disk images under Tiger or Leopard works fine.)

In a previous posting, I explained the basics of making Macintosh Disk Images for software distribution. By following that method, using free tools from Apple, you can create a basic disk image (.dmg) file that is suitable for downloading. The only problem is that, when mounted, it appears simply as a plain window with the bundle (and any additional files) in it. Utilitarian, at best.

We wanted something more like this:

Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 2.0

This gives a much better initial experience, being not only more visually appealing, but also providing some initial instructions (text in green). Note that the ‘Pretty Good Solitaire’ and ‘Readme’ icons are live, while the rest of the window is simply a background image. In addition to this display when the disk image is mounted, we also wanted to add a license agreement before that happened.

We accomplished what we wanted (the image above being an actual screen capture from our upcoming release), and this is how we did it.

First of all, this can be accomplished, in theory, using the ‘Disk Utility’ and other free tools included with Mac OS X, provided a certain amount of legwork both in figuring out and then in executing the process. Upon a recommendation in the private ASP (Association of Shareware Professionals) newsgroups, however, we tried and settled on an inexpensive third-party tool called DropDMG, from C-Command Software. Not only does this save time and hassle, but it provided an added feature that we did not even know we wanted. (The trial version is fully-featured, and for only $20 the decision to purchase took no deliberation.)

Even with this tool making life easier, it is important to note that the process is slightly convoluted, primarily because one needs a relative path to background image. In our first few attempts, we managed to have backgrounds that showed only on the development system, but disappeared (rather, never appeared) when downloaded to another system. The basic approach is to create a writable disk image first, with the desired contents (including the background image), then arrange this malleable window as desired, and finally convert that into a final (read-only) disk image for distribution.

The first step is to create the desired background image (which is left as an exercise for the reader); it should probably be a non-lossy PNG file for best results. This file should generally be “hidden” in the disk image, and (according to warnings I chose not to test) needs to be in a subfolder, not the root of the disk image. The most common, even ubiquitous, recommendation is to make a hidden subfolder and place the background image in that. However, we took a slightly different tack, by way of the following trick:

Add the background image (say, install.png) to your product bundle in Xcode. Our software has a ‘resources’ folder that contains various images used in the game, and by simply copying the background bitmap there and then adding the file to the project, it is included in the application bundle. This way, there is no messing around with an extra folder just to hold a single file, and if a system is configured to show hidden files, there is not a rogue “.background” folder icon floating around, messing up the layout. (The drawback is that the bundle is slightly larger, but the download size would be essentially the same, and an extra 100K on a hard drive is negligible these days.)

Once you have the background image created and included in your project, follow the setup process in the original post, by creating a distribution folder (named “Pretty Good Solitaire 2.01” in our example) and copying your application bundle and any other files/documentation (e.g., “Readme.txt”) into it. This will serve as the basis of the final disk image, so make sure that everything is up to date.

Now, this is where DropDMG comes into play. Launch this application and create a default configuration for writable disk images (which we, creatively, called “writable”). Select ‘DropDMG->Preferences…’ from the menu, and then in the dialog box, for ‘Format’ choose “.dmg Read-write (can be modified)”. Frankly, the other settings do not matter much here, so leave the default values. Finally, select ‘Save Configuration As…’ (Command-S) from the ‘Configuration’ box and save this configuration, then close the window.

Next, select “writable” (or whatever named you chose) in the ‘Configuration’ box of the ‘DropDMG Status’ window. Then, simply drag the distribution folder onto this window, and a disk image will be created and placed (by default) next to the distribution folder. The log file will reflect this action (as in, Created “Pretty Good Solitaire 2.01.dmg”).

The next step is to mount (and open) the writable disk image, which can be done simply by double-clicking on it in Finder. This window can then be configured as desired, including resizing, setting icon sizes and positions, and (of course) changing the background image. Here are the steps that we take to do this:

  1. Press Command-J (‘Show View Options’).
  2. Under ‘Background’, select the ‘Picture’ radio button.
  3. Click on ‘Select…’ to choose the background image.
  4. Select the mounted disk image (under ‘Devices’).
  5. Press Shift-Command-G (‘Go to Folder…’).
  6. Type the name of the application bundle (e.g., “Pretty Good”).
  7. Browse ‘Contents’ for background image file (e.g., “resources/install.png”).
  8. Click on ‘Select’ button.
  9. Resize window to fit background image (if necessary).
  10. Reposition icons as desired.

Once you have this done, unmount the disk image, and the layout configuration will be saved. (You can double-click on the .dmg file again to verify this.) Note that it is essential that the background image be selected from the disk image itself (see step #4); otherwise, the link will be to a file on the current system that will (most likely) not be on a user system, and a plain white background will be used instead.

If you want to include a license agreement in the disk image, one that must be accepted before the disk image is mounted, then you will need to add one in DropDMG. Honestly, this part of the interface leaves a little to be desired, but to avoid confusion, here are the basic steps:

  1. Press Command-L to ‘Show [License] Agreements’ window.
  2. Press Command-D to ‘Add [License] Agreement…’ (name).
  3. Type a name for the new license agreement and click ‘Add’.
  4. Select the new license agreement in the window.
  5. Press Shift-Command-D to ‘Add Language…’ to that agreement.
  6. Choose a language and click ‘Add’.
  7. Double-click the added language and insert text as needed.
  8. Repeat previous three steps for each desired language.

At this point, return to DropDMG preferences again (DropDMG->Preferences…). This time, create another configuration for your specific product. Under ‘Format’, select “.dmg zlib-compressed (Mac OS X 10.1)” (or another read-only option at your discretion). This will be the format of the final distributable disk image.

Under ‘Options’, you can select the license agreement added above, if desired. Check the ‘Use custom icon for mounted image’ option. This is the bonus feature that we did not even know enough about to know we wanted. Instead of a simple disk icon, when mounted the disk image shows a disk icon with the bundle icon superimposed on it (which you can see in miniature on the title bar in the example above). There is a way to create a truly custom icon, but we did not feel the need to go that far.

Also check the ‘Auto-open image window after mounting’ option, which causes your window landscaping to immediately appear to the user when the disk image is mounted, as intended. However, do not check the ‘Internet-enable’ option, as this will cause the contents to be automatically copied into the download folder, skipping all of the hard work you just did to get to this point.

Save this configuration (Command-S), close the preferences window, and then select the new configuration in the ‘DropDMG Status’ window. We are in the home stretch now…

Drag the writable (and beautifully landscaped) .dmg file onto the DropDMG window. This will begin a conversion to the new, distributable format. The action will be reflected in the log (as in, Converted to “Pretty Good Solitaire 2.01-1.dmg”). Rename the brand new disk image to something appropriate and upload it. Of course, you definitely need to thoroughly test it, as you would an installer for a Windows product, but if you followed these directions accurately, it should work for you. [Insert disclaimer about me taking no responsibility for your results whatsoever…]


Goodsol Solitaire 101 version 1.01

A maintenance update to our latest Windows solitaire game is released.

Goodsol Development has now published Goodsol Solitaire 101 version 1.01, an update to the initial version of GS101, which was released last November [2009]. (Internally, I refer to the product as GSCI to avoid confusing naming such as GS101101.) This version fixes a number of bugs that were discovered since the original release.

What makes this release interesting is that it shares its game data file with our Mac product, Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 2.0, and both games are based on common source code, so several of the bugs that were fixed were originally discovered during beta testing for PGSME 2.0, and then confirmed and resolved on GS101. Of the various arguments I have heard for cross-platform development, additional testing of the fundamental program logic (on each system) was not mentioned, so this was a welcome surprise. It should only benefit the quality of both products.

For more information on the game, please visit the Goodsol Solitaire 101 web site, or just download the program and give it a try. This update is free to all customers who have already purchased GS101.

Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 2.0

The next version of our card solitaire game for Mac OS X is now available.

Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 2.0 has been published by Goodsol Development. This solitaire program includes 101 games (up from 30 in version 1.01), plus 34 bonus variants in the full (purchased) version. It also adds some features, including the introduction of Climb Mode. For more information on the basic features, see the screenshot tour.

This version of Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition is a major technological upgrade from the previous versions, now being based on our Goodsol Solitaire Engine, which is a cross-platform, data-driven game engine that has been the focus of our development over the last year or more. Although more improvements are still planned, the basic functionality of this engine has already been proven, and it will allow us to produce upgrades and expansions more quickly and easily.

Climb Mode is a feature where deals for a particular game are played in numerical order, with a fixed set of rules, for a cumulative game score. This feature was implemented originally as a solution to online statistics manipulation, but it has evolved into a good competition, especially in the card solitaire games. With the addition of Climb Mode and the supported 101 games, PGSME 2.0 is the Mac OS X equivalent of Goodsol Solitaire 101 on Windows, and they share online high score tables.

Because of the (overly?) generous upgrade policy, Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 2.0 is free to all customers who purchased PGSME 1.0. If you have not purchased yet (why not?), it is available for $24.95 (plus $7.50 if you want it on CD) here.

One down, two to go! (See the second item in our company goals for 2009.)

Macintosh Disk Images

Or… Where Mac OS X really shines over Windows.

On Mac OS X, the preferred installer is none at all. Instead, applications are self-contained bundles that, under the covers, are folder/directory structures that the operating system treats as a single file. Although these entities are analogous to a subdirectory under ‘Program Files’ in Windows, they appear in Finder (the Mac equivalent to Windows Explorer) as a single icon. The bundles should be considered read-only, like the aforementioned Windows folder, and there are known writable areas for user and configuration data.

To “install” a program, a Mac user expects to simply drag the bundle/icon to a location. Done. That’s it. This process is so simple and straightforward that I expect it to be copied by Microsoft at any point. Of course, some applications (think that they) require additional steps and actually use an installer, but short of a major application that touches several areas of the system, like the Xcode Developer Tools, it should be unnecessary.

So, the question becomes: How does one actually distribute applications for Mac OS X? The answer: A publisher provides a downloadable disk image (.dmg) file which contains a complete folder in a single file, readable by any OS X system. When a disk image is opened, it is “mounted” as a new volume with the contents (and name) of the original folder, and from there, the user just drags the application to the desktop (or other folder) or can even just double-click it to run in-situ.

In order to create a disk image, start by creating a distribution folder with the desired name. In our case, with an early version of Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition, the folder was named “Pretty Good Solitaire 1.01“. Next, after building a final release version of the application bundle, copy (Alt-drag) it to this folder, along with any other separate files, such as documentation, you want to appear. In our case, for the trial version, we had only the application bundle, named “Pretty Good Solitaire trial[.app]“.

Once the folder is set up as desired, it is time to actually create the disk image file, which is done using the ‘Disk Utility’, which is found in the Utilities folder (Shift-Command-U). Launch this application, and then select ‘File->New->Disk Image from Folder’ from the menu (or Shift-Command-N). Navigate to the folder and press the ‘Image’ button. On the next window, type an appropriate name, make sure that ‘Image Format’ is “compressed” and ‘Encryption’ is “none”, and then press ‘Save’. (We used “pgsme101trial[.dmg]” as a name to eliminate spaces, which are inherently problematic for downloads.) The disk image is then created in the same folder that contains the distribution folder. Quit ‘Disk Utility’.

The disk image is ready to ship, but one can internet-enable the image (by setting a flag) to make it even easier for the user. Normally, when downloaded, a disk image is automatically mounted so the contents can be seen and copied. When internet-enabled, the contents of a disk image are copied to the downloads folder and the disk image itself is unmounted and removed, resulting in just the application in that folder, without the user having to do anything with the image file. An image can be internet-enabled from ‘Terminal’, by navigating to the disk image and typing, “hdiutil internet-enable [filename].dmg“.

This is the basic method for creating a distributable package for Mac OS X. Note that, inexplicably, the Apple Store actually requires ZIP files, so the usual practice is to place the disk image file into a ZIP file, but allowing direct downloads of the DMG file from the product site requires fewer user steps. We have used the above practice for Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition 1.0 with success; however, we are modifying it to add “curb appeal” for version 2.0, which will be described later this week.

OT: This weekend produced good NCAA basketball results:
MSU (men) 77, Robert Morris 62.
MSU (women) 60, Middle Tennessee State 59.
MSU (men) 74, USC 69.

Relaxation FAIL

Or… Gregg and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

As usual, we have been quite busy with development around here, and everything seems to have stepped up the pace since the start of March. I thought that I was going to get a break last weekend, but ended having to correct a mistake (of my own making, to be fair), so I ended of working especially long hours on Sunday. In exchange, however, I decided to take yesterday [Tuesday, March 17] off to enjoy the particularly nice weather around here.

We have a secondary office and retreat at an “undisclosed location”, surrounded by woods and nature, away from the normal demands of a daily office. (We do, of course, have the modern computer amenities such as DSL and a wireless network, so I can go there to get work done away from interruptions.) This place also serves as a storage location for the company archives. Or, rather, it did

On a beautiful early Spring day, with bright sunshine and temperatures in the 70s, we arrived for some basic relaxation (and to drop off an offsite backup). Upon opening the front door, though, we were greeted with an unpleasant moisture in the air, followed quickly by the discovery of a plumbing failure that had completely flooded one bathroom, the hallway, and two adjacent rooms. One of those rooms held the archives.

Further inspection showed that many of the items on or near the floor, including a large portion of our collection of game development and programming books from the last 30 years, had been ruined. As we quickly moved to save the dry items and salvage as much of the wet stuff as possible, we discovered that the floor in the room had partially collapsed, causing a stack of books to fall into a wall, seriously damaging it as well. However, we just kept working until the rooms were mostly empty, and then I succumbed to the shock.

The overall damage is still being assessed, and the standing water is still not yet cleaned up. (Carpeting acts as a sponge and effective water conduit.) I can definitely say, for a fact, that some irreplaceable items were totally ruined, but also that some of the items ruined probably would have already been eBay fodder for a few bucks had I found the time. Thankfully, many boxes avoided the water entirely, but usually at the expense of whatever they were sitting on. Much of the paperwork still needs to be evaluated and either salvaged or discarded. All of the registration letters for PACMANIA were submerged. The PlayStation 2 development system survived by being perched on some furniture, but the Apple II (and color monitor) in original packaging were not so fortunate; I truly hope it was only the boxes that were destroyed.

The blog posting originally planned for today has been moved to Friday. For now, I sit in mourning.

Second place in Class A1

The ice racing season ends with a good championship position.

The points championship in MIRA (Michigan Ice Racing Association) is over, and I finished in second place in my class. I raced in Class A1, which is front-wheel drive cars, racing rubber-to-ice, first driver. (The A1/A2 split allows two different drivers to participate using the same car for more fun!) I finished the year with two wins (which is two more than my previous total for all 12 previous years of ice racing), and I was competitive, especially toward the end of the year.

2009 MIRA Series Points – FINAL STANDINGS

Going into last weekend, I still had a chance at the championship, but with the cancellation of the Saturday event, there were not enough points left for me to either win the championship nor lose second position. This turned out to be a blessing, as [ob Game Development] the recent beta version of Pretty Good Solitaire Mac Edition, version 2.0, expired, so I stayed home and worked for the whole weekend instead.

Rumor has it that the person who won the championship has been racing (in various forms) for 35 years and this is his first ever championship, and he did beat me more often than not, so it was well earned and well deserved. (I have won a TSD Rally Championship before.) This year was my best showing in MIRA since I first raced back in 1985, when the group was only a few years old.

There would be some non-points racing this weekend if it were to happen. A few hardy optimists are still holding out hope for one last event, but it is currently almost 60 degrees here (in the overnight hours), and the forecast calls for temperatures well above freezing until Monday (and beyond), so it is very unlikely.

The downside of VOIP

Or, Why you should probably avoid Comcast.

Last Friday, our cable television went out. Not like ‘some services are missing‘ out, but like ‘somebody just sliced a cable‘ out. There was static on all of the analog channels, and just black (no signal) on everything digital. Many months ago we made the decision to ditch their cable modem in favor of our SDSL connection (from, which was both faster and more reliable. We decided that the redundant Internet connectivity was more trouble than it was worth, at the added expense, and also, frankly, were just unhappy with Comcast.

For the last year or so, Comcast has been on an all-out media blitz to get people signed up to their VOIP package, bundling cable television, Internet, and telephone. The timing may have been coincidental, but the mailings seemed to intensify after we downgraded, and when we had to call about (somewhat regular) problems with the only service we kept (cable television), we always had to listen to another pitch before we could tell somebody in another state that our local HD was out… again.

Anyway, when the cable television service went completely dead, we called the customer support number. Instead of the usual sales pitch we got… wait for it… nothing. Yup. Apparently they use their own VOIP service, so when the cable system has a failure, you cannot reach anybody there by telephone. Brilliant! I was not even vaguely intrigued by the offering, but this definitely convinced me that my convictions against this technology (and Comcast) were not unfounded.

Not that I am any fan of AT&T either, but I am a believer in land lines. In the event of an emergency, when one really does need to have a phone, I am glad to have a system that will work even when the power is out. (Yes, we keep a standard handset telephone for just such an occasion.)

Our cable television signals did come back before prime time, but I think that all a satellite television company needs to do is add CBC and we are there. (Perhaps we should just move to the Bahamas where, oddly, Canadian programming is also available. Do they long for snow?)

Video Games are (still) Protected Speech

The ruling in a pivotal California case is upheld.

This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit announced its ruling in Video Software Dealers Association vs. Schwarzenegger, confirming, unanimously (3-0), the decision of the lower court that two 2005 California laws were “an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech.” They were also found to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The laws, California Assembly Bills 1792 & 1793, would have categorized ultra-violent video games (by a broad definition) as “harmful matter”, making their sale to minors illegal, and would have required games rated ‘M’ by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) to be placed in a separate section and require signage to explain the prohibition in stores where such games were sold.

The bills were championed by Assemblyman Leland Yee, who is a perennial windmill-tilter when it comes to this issue. Not surprisingly, he claimed that the decision was wrong and called for it to be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, despite the fact that California taxpayers have already been forced to pay $282,794 in attorney fees for the original go-round, and of 13 times this has been tried (in various US jurisdictions), the courts have never ruled that any of these bills was Constitutional.

You can download the entire ruling here [PDF, 570K, 30 pages] (courtesy of Video Game Voters Network).

Video Games 13, legislators 0. (Are we bored yet?)

Reminder: games.announce

Some game marketing is still essentially free.

If you are interested in marketing games, you can post announcements to the Usenet newsgroup,, a group for which I am the (sole) moderator.

To recycle the relevant portions of my original announcement here:

The beauty of using Usenet for marketing is that it is essentially free, making it one of those easy steps that an independent game publisher can take to get additional exposure for its titles. Google Groups carries, so your announcement is searchable there and quickly incorporated into the Google index as well.

This is an announcement group, rather than a discussion group, so messages will stand on their own, though the (unmoderated) ‘’ discussion group provides an outlet for conversations. For shareware authors, there are other software announcement groups on Usenet, but none that cater specifically to games, so this is an opportunity to be noticed.

Here is the official charter for csipga (as it is known for short):

This newsgroup is for announcements that are useful to the entire PC computer gaming population, including but not limited to new release announcements, software publisher news, bug information, and PC game reviews. Followups will be directed to, or another appropriate subgroup at the moderator’s discretion.

In practical terms, I will likely approve almost any message as long as it relates to PC gaming (not in a cheap spam way) under Windows, DOS, Linux, or even Mac OS X if I am feeling generous. Press releases are encouraged, as well as product announcements that may not warrant a full press release. Note also that game reviews are allowed, so it is perfectly acceptable to have a satisfied customer post a glowing game review (though it should come directly from the author, not via the publisher).

[Back to new information…]
Since this is a low traffic group, announcements will stand out, so I encourage anybody interested to take advantage of this game marketing opportunity.

Note that, due to the way moderated newsgroups work, you do not even need to have Usenet access. Simply email your message (press release or whatever) to the submission address,, and it will be queued. As long as the message is in plain text (HTML emails are automatically binned) and is on topic for the group, it will be posted. If you have any problems, you can reach me via comments here (or at my regular email address).

I look forward to some good submissions.