The Status of Marvin
#11  Faterson 09-02-2017, 11:45 PM
Naturally. But all of that depends on your own definitions of "politeness" and "pontificating on ideal solutions".

Which is more important to the developer? Improving their product, or to insist on politically correct, hyper-sensitive US definitions of "politeness"? If political correctness is more important to a developer than the quality of their product, then the customers themselves might say, "Screw you!", you know.

So the developer should be careful when dealing with customer feedback and not discard it just because it doesn't conform to someone's idea of political correctness. Outright rudeness is repulsive to me, but straightforward talk about an app's deficiencies is not. The trouble with MobileRead is, that the two are being put on the same level. For example, I'm not aware of ever having made a statement saying, or even implying, "Since this doesn't do xyz exactly like I want it, this product sux." There has never been even the slightest suggestion of this from me – not once. However, such an attitude is constantly being attributed to me by some voluble MobileRead posters who apparently see it as their duty to attack their fellow MobileRead posters if they don't conform to their idea of political correctness or "courtesy".

In dealing with user feedback, it's important for the developer to be able to separate grain from straw – useful feedback from bluster. Unfortunately, MobileRead makes that very difficult, because much of the "discussion" here is just one set of users launching personal attacks on other users, instead of discussing the app. Just look at this current thread: how much time and space have we already wasted in this thread by talking about our mutual relations and perceptions of "politeness", instead of about improving Marvin? That's meta-discussion, not discussion.

That is why it's so regrettable that Kris abandoned Marvin's GitHub. GitHub is fantastic thanks to its strict organization of "one issue per thread". Thread hijackers and trolls from MobileRead have no chance to succeed on GitHub, because malignant personal attacks on other GitHub contributors, spamming all threads with the same "pet peeve", and other common MobileRead tactics, would be immediately noticeable there, and such posters would get banned instantly. (And, to be sure, the worst MobileRead trolls have been noticeably absent from Marvin's GitHub; they just wouldn't be allowed to spin their politically correct theories of "politeness" and pontificate on them there.)

For these reasons, I hope Kris will – if Marvin's development in future is to continue in other ways than in these occasional cosmetic fixes – reconsider his decision to ditch GitHub, and will return to GitHub as the place-to-go-to to manage user feedback on Marvin. Naturally, if Kris no longer has the time or inclination to develop Marvin in other-than-cosmetic-fixes ways, then his decision to abandon GitHub makes perfect sense.

And, unfortunately, this is really my impression of what happened. It appears to me that Marvin 3 was Kris's last-ditch effort to generate enough revenue to enable him to develop Marvin on a consistent basis. It appears, though, that Marvin 3 has not generated sufficient revenue, and so we're back to the post-Marvin 2 mode of "only cosmetic fixes once or twice a year".

#12  rfog 09-08-2017, 03:57 PM
I only have one thing to say: I stopped using Marvin and went back to iBooks for the lack of syncing highlights and annotations.

#13  Faterson 09-09-2017, 05:07 PM
I have a few friends who have done just the same thing, although some have chosen Google Play Books, and others Kindle. I'm among the last ones from among those for whom I know syncing annotations is essential, who's still clinging on to Marvin.

We quite narrowly avoided a major catastrophe in Marvin 3: Kris was ready to ship it with the option for exporting annotations in HTML removed, as opposed to Marvin 2! (And that's the trouble with Marvin 3: overall, it's a nice improvement over Marvin 2, but some extremely useful Marvin 2 features have disappeared, and haven't returned since: let me only mention the missing three-finger-swipe gesture in Marvin 3, or the lack of signaling the presence of an annotation when it's attached to a highlight – in Marvin 2, this was shown by the highlight being underlined with a dotted line.)

So I certainly don't wish to boast here, but if anyone finds exporting annotations from Marvin into HTML useful, the only reason we still have it in Marvin today is because I pleaded like crazy with Kris, in the final stages of the (limited) Marvin 3 beta-testing, to restore the feature. And Kris did, at the last minute, which goes to his credit.

I can tell you, rfog, that if Marvin 3 indeed lacked the option to export annotations into HTML as in Marvin 2 (and it's an extremely buggy and deeply unsatisfactory export operation, but at least it's there!), I'd probably have deserted Marvin a long time ago, too.

So what I do instead now, is that after I finish reading a book (I have 3 iPads and 1 iPhone), I email the HTML export of annotations from all 4 Marvins to my desktop machine, then I fire up the SeaMonkey Composer there, and I manually collate all 4 HTML annotations files into one. (Yeah, theoretically, Marvin should be able to merge all those files on its own, but that process has been known to be buggy, too; I want to play it safe.)

You see, much as I hate the lack of highlights and annotations syncing in Marvin, when it comes to "digital typography", the way e-books look while we read them on the screen (and that is the one thing we spend most of the time with while using e-books!), I still find Marvin the best of them all – better than MapleRead, Hyphen, or Moon+ Reader on Android. (I have yet to look at tiReader.) Those other apps are pretty fine as well (while sharing many deficiencies with Marvin), but typographically speaking, in terms of rendering, Marvin still has an edge over them, I think. I'm not sure how much longer this prerogative alone will be able to keep me attached to Marvin... because those other apps, unlike Marvin, seem to be getting more updates recently, so there's reasonable hope they will be improving faster (and removing their current deficiencies) compared to what looks like a pretty stagnant Marvin in the last couple of years (minus the short-lived Marvin 3 outburst), unfortunately.

#14  JSWolf 09-09-2017, 08:22 PM
Marvin could be the best reading app, but it's missing a number of features to do this.

What needs to happen is Marvin needs to get rid of publisher mode and combine with with the non-publisher mode. Let the user decide which overrides he/she want to override and which not. Also, that would mean embedded fonts would work with the overrides and if someone wanted no overrides, then that can happen too. Also, mMarvin needs to have ADE page numbers because a lot of us also use RMDSK based Readers or other apps/programs. And the margin overrides also needs a second override to override (or not) indents of 0. Marvin gets it wrong. It's not allowing me to adjust an indent of 0. So if you get an ePub with paragraph spaces and no indents, then there is no way to fix this to remove that paragraph space and have indents. Also, Marvin should be syncing highlights, bookmarks, and annotations. These are things that would make Marvin much better.

#15  Faterson 09-10-2017, 05:54 AM
Yes, Jon, there are many things to improve in Marvin – and in its competitors, too. We may not agree on the particulars – which missing or misbehaving features should have priority – but I think most of us would agree there are many things to improve in Marvin. The dozens (hundreds?) of user requests listed in Marvin's GitHub speak volumes.

The trouble is, given the rate of Marvin's development from the last few years, these things will get fixed/improved in 10 years, 20 years, or never. (I use certain other pieces of software in which some bugs have been unresolved since the late 1990s, so I'm not exaggerating.) This is not meant to criticize Kris – we fully understand if he now has other priorities in life than developing Marvin at the frantic rate of the Marvin 2 era (especially when the financial rewards aren't what they should be). But it's a statement of fact that these improvements are unlikely to occur anytime soon if Marvin's development is to continue at the rate from the last few years (minus the Marvin 3 intermezzo).

#16  rfog 09-10-2017, 06:05 AM
As last resort, if he can't or does not want to maintain the program, he could make it open source and let community continue with the work. Or try to sell/give the program to other developer that will take the effort to continue it.

I always wanted to do an ebook reader software (I'm 30 years Windows developer), but the sum of my laziness and the fact that time used in develop will be time removed from reading, and as for own experience the starts are very grateful, but when the nasty bugs epoch arrives, you start to procrastinate at the level to get busy with your 10 years completely forgotten garden, makes me think that I will never finish what I theoretically start... And, of course, I'm Windows developer, not macOS/iOS developer, that will add the learning layer to all the stuff.

#17  Faterson 09-10-2017, 07:41 AM
My (reasonable) guess is that Kris is proud of his code and would hate to share it. And no wonder! Marvin is clearly superior over the likes of iBooks or Kindle. Gigantic multi-billion corporations like Apple and Amazon should be ashamed of what inferior software products they're offering in the guise of e-book readers.

Also, I understand Marvin 3 was a complete code re-write from Marvin 2, so that we, actually, already have 2 separate Marvins. A complete code re-write has its advantages, but also disadvantages. See all the missing/lost features from Marvin 2 that still aren't available in Marvin 3!

I have heard of solutions where there is a "fork" in software development at a certain stage, for whatever reason. Isn't that what happened to OpenOffice a few years ago, so that today, we have both OpenOffice and LibreOffice, and users can choose either package? And a few years earlier, I think the same thing happened with Mozilla, where it split into Firefox and SeaMonkey.

So, just in theory (but it may be unacceptable to Kris, and the very idea might offend him), Kris could retain his full rights to Marvin and keep Marvin to himself, for future development at a slower rate that is convenient to him. But, at the same time, if he shared the code, there could be a spin-off product from Marvin (called Malvin for all I care), where volunteer developers like yourself might attempt to improve/further develop the code.

I'm not optimistic that this will ever happen, but just in theory, it's possible.

By the way, Kris originally also mentioned he'd love to create a Windows version of Marvin. (Prior to that, though, it might be smarter to go for Android as the dominating mobile platform nowadays; Moon+ Reader Pro is certainly an excellent app, but not quite as good as Marvin, so it can certainly be "beaten on its home turf".) I also have a few friends who ditched Marvin precisely because it's not available on desktop. So, one of my friends switched to Google Play Books stating this as the primary reason: that at any time when he's at his Windows desktop machine, he can just fire up Google Play Books and see all his highlights and annotations right there before him, so he can process them right away without any manual export operations the way Marvin makes them necessary.

#18  rfog 09-10-2017, 08:32 AM
For my experience, re-writing code is not the best solution to resolve the old bloated code. New code will start clean but it will be bloated in a short time. As a metaphor, your old house lacks integrated heating. You rebuild it and after you have done, you want air conditioner and didn't left the circulation pipes. Then you star making holes in your wall/ceiling and end with a new house with a perfect heating solution but a patched air conditioner, and you will want start over to find you didn't prepare your third house rebuilding with support for solar panels...

Normally, when I read a software has "been rebuilt form new source code" I automatically think: new bugs and feauture lost, as it happened with Marvin. The solution for bloated/buggy/old code is slow refactoring while adding new features and resolve bugs. Sometimes source is the same and they only clean the face, as a marketing technique to convince customers to pay for the same thing a second time, because current Store model is completely broken. If you are used to Spanish you can read my last article about this, or can use an online translator.

(Currently I'm in charge of about 4.5 millions of lines of code in C++, and before each new feature I take an old part of the code and refactor it, improving and updating old parts of the code. If tell my employer to star over he will die of heart attack).

I'm afraid making Marvin work in Android/Windows will be a very difficult task. I assume Marvin is donde in Objective-C, and the only compiler I know for that in Windows/Linux is GNU one, and to say softly, is a piece of crap. Not to say of the API of each platform, completely different. Perhaps separating Marvin in two parts (backend/frontend, as it is done in CoolReader), and doing the backend in C++, perhaps and only perhaps, could be done. With a lot of effort.

The other solution is use one of the available multi platform toolkits. As a summary, all of them are crap, and the less crappy have important annual fees, like QT. (Yes, QT could be Open Source for Windows, Linux and MAC, but the interesting things are proprietary, and for mobile platforms the cheapest solution is about 600$/year for platform).

However, porting Marvin to MAC won't be a big task, and I think Kris could do it with not much effort.

Based on Marvin, what I would like to have is:
*File system based in iCloud, then all books will automatically be available in all devices.
*Synced of reading, bookmarks, comments, configuration, etc.

#19  Faterson 09-10-2017, 10:01 AM
Yeah, I've always assumed Marvin for Windows/Android would need to be wholly new apps, "inspired" by the original Marvin for iOS and striving to emulate all of its features, but perhaps written in different programming languages better suited for those other platforms. (We're talking in terms of pipe-dreams now.)

I think such things have been done with other apps before, and I don't mean corporate ones. My financial app is PocketMoney on iOS, whose (young!) developer tragically died of cancer a few years ago. His cousin nevertheless successfully created a PocketMoney version for Android. When you use the app on Android, you can just feel it's not really the same app, but it's still nearly identical to the iOS version (though not quite as polished), so it's pretty fine overall. I'm not sure if the two apps were written in different programming languages.

As to iCloud for syncing purposes, I'd really welcome if Dropbox were an optional alternative. iCloud keeps bugging me about my space running out. I pay a euro a month for the 50 GB option, whereas I pay €99 per year for Dropbox where I have a terabyte at my disposal, so I'd like to use as much Dropbox as possible.

$600 per year and platform doesn't actually sound quite that intimidating. Marvin's user base might perhaps cover it with relative ease? I know, that's the cheapest option, probably not the best quality.

PS: I'm not currently fluent in Spanish, but I see you mention the Day One journaling app in your article. I'm fine with their subscription model at €26 per year. I'd subscribe to Marvin, too, for a similar price, if Marvin at least offered highlights and annotations syncing. Day One is likewise planning to expand to Android, very soon now, perhaps in September or October. I wonder what programming language they are using to create the Android app? (Oh, and I intend to start learning Spanish soon, using the Duolingo and/or Babbel app, so I can talk to my 6-year-old half-Cuban niece in her half-native tongue one day.)

#20  rfog 09-10-2017, 10:49 AM
Normal non-corporate cross platform should be WebApps, that is even worse than Multiplatform Frameworks like Xamarin or QT. Normally, the only way to make an application feel and behave native is use their own native API and language (Objective-C or Swift for macOS/iOS, Java for Android and, well C# for Windows UWP).

Said that, general App quality is not the same in iOS than in Android, not because developer competence, but for the platforms. Think in iOS as a High Tech Car, Android as a dirty truck and Windows Phone... Well, thing Windows Phone as a dead skull...

Paying 600$/year is not a big issue for a company, but for a standalone developer could be his yearly app income. More if he need to pay 600 for iOS, 600 for Android and about 3000 for each desktop. Sometimes app income is not so much, and risk so many amount before know if you are going to get at least those money back in sales, for a home-brew developer, is a no-scenario.

Problem with Dropbox, as I understand the platform, is it is not a "drive" but a cloud. You must download from cloud each time you need a file, and iCloud, now with iOS 10 and 11, is a drive that replicates into the cloud. And consider pay 120$/year for 2 TB instead of 1TB Dropbox... I paid Dropbox but as I started abandoning Windows platform except for work, I prefer to pay for iCloud. Currently for 200 MB but will pay for 2 TB when needed.

Te blog post I refer before was a rationale about the current problem with Store application model, that tend to kill developers in flavor of the users. It is not a complain about subscriptions, of course, but companies must understand that people cannot support pay 500$ in monthly fees for subscriptions to Evernote, Dropbox, iCloud, Ulysses, Day One, Microsoft Office, etc... (BTW, I use Day One, but as I'm old user, I have enough with the current free account).

PS: Oh, man, you have me make go back to Marvin!

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