This is the section of my website with blog posts I’ve written.

2nd Grade Reading Log

This is an improved version of the reading log worksheet my son’s class uses for writing about what they’ve read. This one adds dotted lines to help with letter sizing and has a little bit more space for long book titles.

Reading Log PDF
Reading Log PDF

PopTrayU Bugtracker

Originally, for keeping track of issues with PopTrayU I attempted to use Sourceforge’s built in bug tracker. But, as I recall, I was less than enthralled with it for reasons I’ve long since forgotten.

putbugtracker2So then I started looking into other options, PHP based options I could run from the webhosting area on Sourceforge, and ended up selecting Mantis. I think I looked into bugzilla as well and I don’t remember what else. For the most part Mantis worked quite well, and had a slick-looking interface, and I loved the dashboard view where you could sort all the bugs by their status and it color-coded them in a way that just “made sense”.

But Mantis and Sourceforge just don’t play well together. Every time you submit a change to a bug, the next page you try to load returns a 503 “Guru Meditation” error due to the Varnish Cache Server installed by Sourceforge. Apparently it’s some sort of timeout error, and I’d spent a lot of time looking into fixing the issue, possibly more than once, without success.

So what ends up happening in reality? It’s too much trouble to update the bug-tracker in everyday use So I just keep track of “active” bugs in a spiral notebook sitting on my desk with a pencil and only using the bug tracker only for keeping track of “things I might implement someday”.

So I decided to give this version tracking issue another look. Wanting to stay away from Soruceforge’s cache server issues, I started looking at the options for bug tracking used by some other open source projects I follow.

Google Code is deprecated and on the verge of being shut down and not open to new projects, so although I’ve liked them in the past that was out.

Microsoft’s CodePlex I love how they prominently display options to vote on your favorite bugs. Super-useful when you’re thinking “which bug should I tackle next”.codeplexAnd it has a nice taxonomy for marking up the bugs–separate drop-downs for component, status, type, impact, etc for well-classified bugs. But it’s kind of boring and corporate, lacking color-coding, and the captcha nearly resulted in loss of data for both of the two first test entries I entered.

And then there’s the ever-popular GitHub. It’s bug tracker is simple–at times almost too simple. Component can’t be a separate field from the bug status–it’s all just a mashup of tags. I’d rather see the list of components in my project separate from the resolutions. But overall the bug tracker has some nice CSS and is quick and easy to add new bugs and update their status.

github-bugsIn the end I decided ease of entering and updating bugs was more essential than taxonomies and voting. If it’s not practically effortless to track the bugs, there’s a good chance I won’t use the bugtracker to keep track of features I’m considering developing.

So here’s the new bug tracker:

Add/Remove Gmail Labels using Indy 10 in Delphi

According to support threads, Indy’s TIdImap4 supports fetching Gmail labels but doesn’t have support built in for adding and removing labels. I’m still working on figuring out how to fetch and read the fetched labels, but by using the SendCmd function to manually send the IMAP commands I got adding and removing labels working. So I thought I’d share that code:

function AddGmailLabelToMsgs(const uidList: TStrings; labelname : string) : boolean;
    if HasCapa('X-GM-EXT-1') and (uidList.Count > 0) and (labelname <> '') then begin
      IMAP.SendCmd(ImapCmdNum(),'UID STORE '+uidList.CommaText+' +X-GM-LABELS ("'+ labelname + '")',['OK','BAD','NO'], true);
      Result := IMAP.LastCmdResult.Code = 'OK';
    end else
      Result := false;
    on E : Exception do
       //Dialogs.ShowMessage('Exception class name = '+E.ClassName);
       //Dialogs.ShowMessage('Exception message = '+E.Message);
       Result := false;

At the heart of it, I am using Indy’s SendCmd function to manually send the command. It was a little tricky figuring out how to use this function since documentation and examples are a little scarce. The first parameter is a sequence number so that the response can be matched up with the command. Second is the remainder of the actual command. Third parameter is what responses to look for to know this command is “complete”, and the fourth is whether to look for a single line response or multi-line response.

I also have some commented out exception handling that was helpful to debugging when my SendCmd wasn’t formatted correctly, but is neither needed nor useful for production code.

Remove label is basically the same thing but with a minus sign:

function RemoveGmailLabelFromMsgs(const uidList: TStrings; labelname : string): boolean;
    if HasCapa('X-GM-EXT-1') and (uidList.Count >0) and (labelname <> '')  then begin
      IMAP.SendCmd(ImapCmdNum(),'UID STORE '+uidList.CommaText+' -X-GM-LABELS ("'+ labelname + '")',['OK','BAD','NO'], true);
      Result := IMAP.LastCmdResult.Code = 'OK';
    end else
      Result := false;
    Result := false;

And here’s the helper functions, minus the global/class/whatever variables:

ImapCmdNum() generates a sequence number for the IMAP transaction, essentially a replacement for NewCmdCounter in IdImap4, since it’s a protected property and client code can’t use it. At first I tried using “A1”, “A2”, etc. but it turned out that using a C prefix, “C1″, C2”, etc. like Indy was important for using Indy to process the response when I got into debugging why things weren’t working right at first…but now I’ve completely forgot exactly where it goes wrong if you don’t use a C.

function ImapCmdNum(): string;
  Result := 'C'+IntToStr(cmdNum);

And HasCapa() is a function I added to make sure that the Gmail capabilities are actually available before trying to set/unset labels…Might not be totally necessary, but it seemed like a good idea. Under the hood, I just used Indy’s built in Capability function that calls CAPABILITY on the server, with a little caching so I wouldn’t need to do this more than once per session.

function TProtocolIMAP4.HasCapa(capability: string) : boolean;
  if (capabilities.count = 0) then begin
  Result := (capabilities.IndexOf(capability)<>-1);

PopTrayU Progress: Unread Message Filtering

There was a user requested feature for PopTrayU to add filtering based on read/unread status. This is something that is only technically feasible for IMAP since POP servers don’t store read/unread status. Anyway, I started working on implementing this feature, and decided that if you are only showing unread messages, you might need a mechanism to change the read/unread status–especially if previewing automatically marks the message read on the server.

So whip up some code for this…go to test it…and…nothing. No change to the message status.  Turn on some logging of server communication, and something looks off about the command set to the server…and the server response? Yeah, pretty sure that’s not what’s supposed to happen either.

Sent: C4 UID STORE 1264  (\Seen)<EOL>
Recv: C4 BAD Error in IMAP command UID STORE: Invalid STORE modifiers.<EOL>

This may not be so apparent in a non-monospaced font, but there’s a double space between 1264 and (\Seen) like a token got left out. But not being intimately aquainted with every nuance of the IMAP spec, I had to lookup the section on setting flags in the IMAP RFC for IMAP to be sure I even knew what the command was supposed to look like. It’s supposed to have a +FLAGS.SILENT in that missing token.

So, long story short, I had to update my copy of Indy from SVN to make sure the bug still existed on top of trunk, then I had to debug a variable type that disappeared in the new version of indy (it got replaced with something else), after retesting and trying a couple variants to see if it only exhibited this behavior when certain parameters were used, I filed a bug report to let the Indy team know about this issue, and left my code using a workaround with the better code commented out in the meantime. Remy and the Indy team are pretty responsive to fixing actual bugs, especially ones that are probably pretty trivial to fix like this (now incredibly useful but difficult to implement enhancements on the other hand, like IMAP IDLE I’m not about to hold my breath over…).

Aside from this particular sub-feature, there’s still quite a bit that needs to be done to make “unread only” mode happen. Like, the main window needs a whole new paradigm of basing the read/unread status off of the server for IMAP and off internal tracking for POP. And the message list needs to be using UIDs instead of relative message numbers for a bunch of different commands including but not limited to preview and delete.

And while I’m at changing it to download by UIDs, this would be a good time to evaluate whether it should be downloading only the “message envelope” (a limited set of headers that basically are the headers you see in your email client message list) instead of the “full headers” (including all the headers you usually don’t read like spam checker versions and hosts that redirected the email and so on that could be useful for rules) the way it does now. If you’re not making rules that use the extended headers, this could cut data transfer in about half, which could be a significant time saver on large inboxes, so it’s worth looking into, even though I’d probably still have to also support having the existing modes to support users who use those headers to create complex rules. And while I’m doing that…and so on and so forth it goes 😉

PopTrayU 5.1.0 Options Preview

I wanted to give you all a little preview of more of the new features I’ve been working on for the 5.1 version of PopTrayU.

To start here’s a screen-shot of a new panel/category on the Options tab to customize the Preview Window:

poptrayu_5.1_previewLots of subtle differences. Before we get too far, I’m sure someone is thinking “What’s with the font?” No, 12 point Segoe Print is not a new default (it’s something I picked arbitrarily for testing). But it does illustrate a new feature–large fonts support. 12 point isn’t exactly “that large”, but it’s large enough that things would be overlapping and cut off, and created a horrible user experience for for users who use windows large fonts feature, or just wanted a larger font in this application.

I’ve painstakingly gone through just about every screen in the application and added resizing code to make just about every screen “resize correctly” in both the vertical and horizontal directions if you use larger fonts. As an added bonus, this actually improves the user experience for users of languages other than English as well, because buttons and label areas that used to be fixed size now will resize intelligently, and increase in size, if the translated caption doesn’t fit on default sized button. At first I tried to do this with a grid layout manager, because that would have been the elegant, clean way to do things, but after wrestling with some frustrating bugs in how it auto-sizes, it ended up being more reliable to just position everything manually. So it’s quite possible somewhere I overlooked *something*, but we’ll call that a bug for now, and feedback on resizing issues that need to be addressed will be welcome.

Now, let’s talk about the list of tabs. I gave a minor overhaul to the list of categories, and made some changes to the order of the categories. Defaults has been moved to the first category, because it holds the option to change the language. And as a french-speaking user pointed out, you need to change the language before you change any other setting on a new installation. Seems sensible, so language selection is now at the very top of the first options screen. There are also two entirely new categories of options: Preview Window, and Rules.

The Rules options category gathers together existing options relating to rules that were previously spread across several tabs. Options like whether to log rules, whether messages marked as protected by rules require an extra confirmation to delete, whether to download part or all of the message body to make more sophisticated rules, and what happens when you blacklist something are all gathered in one place under a single logical category.

poptrayu_5.1_rules_panelYou may have also noticed that the old “Black List mark as Spam” checkbox has been replaced with the new “Blacklist Action” drop-down. I didn’t feel like it was intuitive what happens if you **don’t** mark blacklisted messages as spam–and the alternative involves things getting deleted. I take emails getting deleted seriously, and don’t want emails deleted because of bugs or because some configuration option was vague or unclear. So the drop down now forces an explicit choice between “Mark as Spam” or “Delete”. And I always do lots of extra testing (including on my own personal email) before releasing any changes that affect message deletion. I don’t want PopTrayU deleting your important mail–unless you really meant to do so.

The other new category in the list is Preview Window. There’s a couple of new features here, but previously, most of these options you had to change from a right-click menu on an actual preview window.

So, going back to that first screen-shot, you’ll see a new Tabs sub-category. This is for a new feature I’ve been wanting for some time. I’ve been torn over the design decision that PopTrayU should preview using the last selected tab or view type. I kept finding myself wanting PopTrayU to behave more like Outlook, where it automatically displays the email in HTML if the email has an HTML section, regardless of what view I was using to preview the previous email. But sine a lot of different people use PopTrayU in completely different ways to accomplish completely different goals, I didn’t want to eliminate the current option to have it display in the last used tab. So now you can choose between previewing with the last selected tab, or to always use a specific tab by default.

And, since Spam is sort of a special case, it gets its own independent selection. The main reason for this is that it’s likely that if you have images enabled, you may not want to display the email with images if it’s spam. So now you can choose whether you’d rather view spam as Plain Text, RAW headers, or any of the options supported for non-spam emails.

Back to the preview tab from the first screen shot. What can be customized for preview but isn’t on this tab? Fonts and Colors. When I first created this tab, initially I had put the options to customize the preview window font and colors (does not apply to HTML messages) on this new panel, however, I decided it would make more sense to have all of the font face, font size, and color customizations on the Visual appearance tab in one place.

poptrayu_5.1_visualAnd while I was at it, I finally fixed that eyesore that was the fonts selection panel. Originally I’d had the colors for the message list as separate drop-downs, which minimized the number of mouse-clicks needed to customize everything. But I decided it was getting a little too cluttered,  and confusing since only certain UI items can have the colors customized. I changed the previews to have borders–this was actually something I had wanted to do before, but there were some technical hurdles that required research to figure out how to make that happen.

Introducing the New Accounts Screen

For the upcoming 5.1 release of PopTrayU, I’ve redesigned the accounts screen:

5.1accountsIn the old design, which was basically the PopTray 3.2 layout with new features squished in around the edges wherever they’d fit without changing things too much, things didn’t resize well. Look what happens if you increase the font size:

5.0.15_largefontsEverything is overlapping, some of the captions don’t fit. It’s a bit…cluttered. And if you use a language other than English, the translations often had to be abbreviated to fit the space available.

The new design manually resizes and positions everything in both horizontal and vertical directions to accommodate the selected font size and language settings. The account settings are broken into logical groups, like splitting apart the server information for your server from the ways PopTrayU notifies you about, to make it the page easier to navigate. The sections are each collapsible as well, so the advanced options or notification options can be hidden if you don’t want to see those sections. Oh, and those buttons at the bottom? They are now intelligently sized…if the caption doesn’t fit, they will be resized larger to fit the caption. Users of languages other than English will also especially appreciate this new feature.


Todays Work is Tomorrow’s Raw Material

I saw this on Quora a while ago, and have been meaning to share it:

Software is one of the very few things where yesterday’s work output is most of today’s raw material. If you dig one ditch poorly, so what? You move on. But you can’t move on from a bad night’s coding. Your mistakes stick with you until you clean them up. Most people don’t, which is why a lot of software projects are a morass of bugs, messy code, and chaos, yielding low productivity and terrible morale.

-William Pietri on Quora

It’s good food for thought about technical debt. It doesn’t always make business-sense to go spend the time to clean up all the technical debt right away, but sooner or later it catches up with you if you continue to work on the same code-base.

How to Use Indy 10 Imap Intercept function for Logging

It took me a while to track down enough information to figure out how to use Imap.Intercept to log raw IMAP client/server communication to troubleshoot an SSL account issue, so thought I’d share a basic code snippet on how to have IMAP log to disk the communications.

idLogFile1 : TidLogFile;
IMAP := TIdIMAP4.Create(nil);

idLogFile1 := TidLogFile.Create(nil);
idLogFile1.Filename := 'C:\temp\imaplog.txt'; := True;

IMAP.Intercept := idLogFile1;


Log4D Basic FileLogger Example

Since there is lacking on “getting started” documentation for Log4D, I thought a basic example might be helpful to others who might be intimidated about getting started with logging to a file in Delphi. Log4D is very simple, and similar to other Log4J related logging packages but lacks basic “getting started” documentation.

I used XE4 Starter for this. At the time of this writing, I and others have submitted some patches to fix the compile errors in Log4D affecting XE4, but they have not been merged in yet. For the quick fix to make it compile in whatever recent version of Delphi you have, see my previous post, my previous post.

First, create a project. I created a VCL application project for this example, because I’m not writing console applications so it’d be easier to copy and paste from 😉

Open the .dproj file (right click on the .exe name in the Project Manager and select “view source”) and add the highlighted lines:

program Log4DbasicExample;</code>

Unit1 in 'Unit1.pas' {Form1};

{$R *.res}

Logger : TLogLogger;

TLogLogger.GetRootLogger.Level := All;
Logger := TLogLogger.GetLogger('myLogger');

Logger.Debug('initializing logging example program');

Application.MainFormOnTaskbar := True;
Application.CreateForm(TForm1, Form1);

When you run this application, it will create a log file called log4d.log in the directory the .exe file is in. Good enough for quick logging and debugging. Not adequate for production code.

Anywhere else in the project you need to log something, now it’s easy. I added one button to my VCL form, and double clicked the button to add an onClick handler, and then updated my VCL form unit as follows:

unit Unit1;


  Winapi.Windows, Winapi.Messages, System.SysUtils, System.Variants, System.Classes, Vcl.Graphics,
  Vcl.Controls, Vcl.Forms, Vcl.Dialogs, Vcl.StdCtrls;

  TForm1 = class(TForm)
    Button1: TButton;
    procedure Button1Click(Sender: TObject);
    { Private declarations }
    { Public declarations }

  Form1: TForm1;


{$R *.dfm}

procedure TForm1.Button1Click(Sender: TObject);
  TLogLogger.GetLogger('myLogger').Debug('Button 1 clicked!');


If you’re doing a bunch of logging in one part of your code, you probably don’t want to use the chaining syntax because calling GetLogger repeatedly is unnecessary overhead. Instead store the Logger in a variable:

procedure TForm1.Button2Click(Sender: TObject);
  Logger : TLogLogger;
  Logger := TLogLogger.GetLogger('myLogger');
  Logger.Debug('Button 2 clicked!');

Well, there you have it. Basic, just enough to get started example. Because next time I want to add logging to a different project, I’m sure I will have completely forgotten how to do it and what and where I added my code.