We try to release a significantly improved version of Democracy Player every 4-6 weeks (we shoot for 4 and usually end up at 6). Since we just released version 0.9.1, we’re at the beginning of the development cycle for 0.9.2. For each development cycle, we make a list of bugs, features, UI improvements, and other changes that we want to make. But there are virtually no new features planned for this cycle. Instead, we’re focusing on speed, memory use, and bug fixing. We want 0.9.2 to be fast and solid.
As you know, Democracy Player is still pre-1.0. We’ve been adding lots of functionality as we work towards our vision of what the software should be able to do. Feature wise, we’re very close to 1.0. Now that we have those features in place, there are lots of optimizations we can make that will improve the speed and responsiveness of the app. These changes will also reduce the amount of CPU that it uses. Just in the first few days of this cycle, Nick, Ben, Chris, and Luc, have already made a few major optimizations that dramatically speed up everything the app does. 0.9.1 is snappier than 0.9.0. And 0.9.2 will be much snappier still.
Democracy Player uses too much RAM. This can, arguably, be broken down into two issues: the overall RAM needed by the program and memory leaks, which are bugs that cause the application to suck up more memory than it actually makes use of. Overall RAM use is a tough problem. This is a complicated app that does a lot of things at once. That said, there are lots of ways we can reduce the memory needs and we’ll be chipping away at that steadily. The memory leaks are easier, in a way: if we can track them down, they should be relatively easy to fix and once fixed should simply disappear. 0.9.1 fixed a major memory leak and there might be a couple more we can knock out for 0.9.2.
If the app doesn’t start or if it crashes, it destroys the user experience (obviously). As we close in on 1.0, we are working very hard to track down and fix bugs. During this cycle, we will be overhauling our testing procedures and fixing dozens of minor bugs that we already know about. But there are also some big bugs that are eluding us. We’ve fixed every crash that we know of, but we’ve also heard that some people still see crashes or can’t even get Democracy Player to launch. These kinds of problems could be caused by very specific computer setups, 3rd party software, etc. That makes them hard for us to track down because they might only happen on 1 out of 100 computer s. If none of us at PCF have that 1 in a 100 setup, we won’t know about the crash until someone tells us and gives us enough detail to figure it out. A month ago, Nick Nassar fixed a bug that only happened on certain ThinkPads. Nick managed to find a friend in Worcester who had that type of ThinkPad and made a house call.
So, if you are seeing a major bug, like a crash, and error dialog, or if Democracy Player won’t run on your computer, please, please, please get in touch. You can leave a comment on this post, email me (nicholas|at|pculture.org) or file a bug. Whatever is easiest for you. The more detail you can give us, the better: type of computer, operating system version, 3rd party extensions, etc. Our developers are, as we say in Worcester, wicked good. They will be able to fix it if you tell us about it.