We (Clarkwood Software, LLC) in general and I (Bob) in particular are thrilled that after months of work, Peek-a-Boo is finally available on the Mac App Store.
The Two Variants of Peek-a-Boo
The Mac App Store is a new channel for us, so we’re still exploring how, exactly, we’re going to manage the two Peek-a-Boo variants or “flavors” going forward. And we’re going to have this conversation publicly (here!) so if you have opinions about what we’re doing right or (especially!) wrong, then please drop in a comment.
The plain old vanilla “Peek-a-Boo” name is migrating to the Mac App Store. If you use the variant of Peek-a-Boo downloaded from the Clarkwood Software web site, it will be named Peek-a-Boo ST.
(ST stands for Supplementary Technology because, as you’ll see, there are things that Peek-a-Boo ST can do that Peek-a-Boo cannot do.)
Mac App Store Technical Restrictions
There are some technical restrictions for applications that get sold through the Mac App Store. Peek-a-Boo needed to be changed for the Mac App Store version to avoid violating these restrictions. Basically Peek-a-Boo used to ask for authentication in order to extract process information (and perform some process management tasks) that require special OS permission.
(Some background is in this article about authentication.)
Peek-a-Boo ST still requires this authentication, and can still perform these tasks.
Peek-a-Boo Architecture Differences
Peek-a-Boo through version 2.8.5 installed a helper process (PeekHelperB) to do the low-level process information extraction, and to handle some of the more powerful process management features.
Peek-a-Boo ST continues to install and use this helper process.
But Peek-a-Boo (from the Mac App Store) does not install a helper process. Peek-a-Boo now relies on top. It turns out that with OS X 10.7 Lion, the included top command-line utility includes much of the raw information that Peek-a-Boo uses in an easy-to-parse format.
Peek-a-Boo Feature Differences
These are all mentioned on the Peek-a-Boo web pages, but here is a list of the differences between Peek-a-Boo ST and Peek-a-Boo all in one tidy bulleted list.
- Although the major process information properties are available in both Peek-a-Boo and Peek-a-Boo ST, there are a few properties only available in Peek-a-Boo ST. For example, Peek-a-Boo can get the CPU time used of a process, but only Peek-a-Boo ST can extract how much of that CPU time is user time and how much is system time.
- Peek-a-Boo ST lets you “kill” a process. It escalates through four increasingly-severe mechanisms (see the “kill” section on the process actions page). The final two mechanisms — the “most severe” — require the PeekHelperB daemon, so Peek-a-Boo omits these.
- Peek-a-Boo ST lets you “halt” a process and “continue” a halted process. Peek-a-Boo omits this feature.
- Peek-a-Boo ST lets you “renice” processes; Peek-a-Boo omits this feature.
- Peek-a-Boo ST gives you much finer control over the speed with which most of the windows update. (Some background information is available in the performance tradeoffs with a shout-out to Heisenberg article.) Peek-a-Boo removes many of these timing options.
- Since the Mac App Store handles updates whenever a new version of Peek-a-Boo is released, Peek-a-Boo no longer includes the (wonderful!) Sparkle autoupdate system. Peek-a-Boo ST continues to use Sparkle for automatic updates.
Peek-a-Boo Price Differences
Peek-a-Boo has been priced around $20 for its entire lifespan. We felt a little guilty charging a full $20 for a version of Peek-a-Boo that does not support the full feature set of Peek-a-Boo ST. We’ve priced the Mac App Store version of Peek-a-Boo at $9.99. I guess here’s how I think about it: 90% of Peek-a-Boo ST for half the price.
But that last 10%. Wow, that can be a doozie, if those features are features that you care about! So if you need the strong-arm tactics of a full-blown unix kill command, then Peek-a-Boo ST is still available downloadable from the Peek-a-Boo web site.
Pricing decisions are always an ongoing conversation, though. We may fiddle around in the months and years ahead.
Moving Toward the Future
Maintaining two variants of Peek-a-Boo — especially when their internal architectures differ as much as Peek-a-Boo ST and Peek-a-Boo — is tricky. We may try to merge these products.
One option — and this is me thinking out loud here — would be to have a single variant and a separately-purchasable downloaded component that handles the extra features of Peek-a-Boo ST.
In any case, we’ll be thinking about how best to continue moving Peek-a-Boo forward. Peek-a-Boo has been around for almost twenty years! Figuring out how it fits in with the Mac App Store is a very rewarding chapter in Peek-a-Boo’s story.