In previous versions of Automatic, the matching engine was a bit dumb when it came to duplicate items. If the option “Download every episode once” was enabled, it would discard all older duplicates and only match the latest (the reasoning being, the latest item was likely to be the best). However, matching a single item meant that if the link proved to be bad, there was no recourse (it kept trying the same bad link).

To improve this situation, the 2.1.5 engine will group up duplicate items, and will try to download them in succession. So if a link fails for whatever reason, it will try the next alternate, then the next, and so on, until it either downloads successfully or runs out of alternates. Note that this only applies when the “Download every episode once” option is enabled.

Posted on Tuesday, October 19th, 00:39. Filed under: Automatic, Features, Mac OS X

One of the challenges while designing Automatic was the variety (and unpredictability) that exists in feeds. Although their structure is rigid, whether it’s RSS 1.0 or 2.0, or Atom, there is no “minimum set” of tags that must be included – meaning, there can be very little to no assumptions about the content. For Automatic, the decision was made to use the date tag to drive the matching and filtering engine. While it worked quite well, it eventually became apparent that it didn’t work when a feed “backdated” items (this usually occurs when a site allows users to create feeds “on-demand” by adding items, and an item that was added later might actually have an earlier date). It also didn’t work with feeds that have no date tag, which admittedly, are a small minority.

So, in order to support these 2 scenarios, the engine in 2.1 has been redesigned to be largely date-agnostic. The result is better support for feeds that backdate, and of course, support for feeds that have no dates.

For some subscriptions, depending on the rules set up and the previous matches, you may notice a one-time download of old items. These items were not previously downloaded by Automatic, but were ignored by the old engine. Going forward, the behavior should be the same.

Posted on Friday, September 10th, 14:59. Filed under: Automatic, Features, Mac OS X

So far, the most frequent feature request for Automatic 2 has been the ability to customize the TV Show subscriptions in some way (alternate feeds, download folders, etc). The presets have been so popular that many previous users of Automatic used them to replace their own subscriptions, but then realized they wanted to tweak them.

In all honesty, a lazy solution was easy: the flip of a switch in the code could allow any TV subscription to be edited in the Custom interface. But that solution didn’t really address the question: “Why did users so strongly prefer the presets, even over their own, already configured Custom subscriptions?”.

Apparently, the answer lies in the TV data. Every preset has information attached about the show, such as the banner and episode list, and is presented in various areas. So in 2.1, it will be possible to attach show data to Custom subscriptions as well. Not only for shows that Automatic already knows about, but for any show. Also, episode data will be presented in the Subscription pane as well: you’ll be able to toggle between the subscription history or the episode list.

In light of the improvements to presenting show data with Custom subscriptions, converting a TV Show subscription to a Custom one now makes sense. Presenting a special interface for customizing TV Show subscriptions would be a bad idea, considering there is already a very powerful and robust rule creation interface in place. So in 2.1 you will have the ability to convert a TV Show subscription and tweak it to your heart’s content. The only difference between a TV Show subscription and a Custom one with show data attached will be the section they appear in (TV Shows vs. Custom).

This solution covers all the bases: it leaves the TV Show interface intact, allows users to customize TV Show subscriptions without losing the show data, and even enables subscriptions with show data that was not previously available in Automatic.

Posted on Thursday, August 19th, 03:30. Filed under: Automatic, Features, Mac OS X

In Automatic 1.x, there was an option called “Download every episode once”. If enabled, it would make sure that each episode in a series of episodic content would be downloaded only once, regardless of how many times it (re)appeared in the feed.

There was a catch, however: it only worked if the subscription was set up to match a single series. If the subscription was matching multiple series, and the episode numbers overlapped, there were false negatives. This was a one of the most common issues users had with subscriptions.

With 2.0, this feature can still be found for Custom subscriptions under the name “Try to download every episode once”. But it’s been upgraded to be a little smarter: it can now differentiate between episode numbers that belong to different series. So if a Custom subscription is grabbing multiple series, this option can now safely be enabled.

As an aside, the “Unless tagged as ‘proper’ or ‘repack’” option has been removed, and these tags are now universally respected for all subscriptions.

Posted on Saturday, April 17th, 23:57. Filed under: Automatic, Features, Mac OS X

For those that use Spotlight as an app launcher, Automatic 2.0 is hinted for indexing. What does that mean? You can type things like ‘rss’ or ‘tv’ in Spotlight or the System Preferences search field and Automatic will be recommended:

Rejoice!

Posted on Wednesday, April 7th, 03:10. Filed under: Automatic, Features, Mac OS X

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