What a Year

Wow, my last post was last year. Up to now I’ve tried to post something on a monthly basis, but I can’t sustain that anymore. Based on the first 2 months, I need to return this 2023–this one is defective. The news isn’t all bad, so don’t think this is a “Dear John, I’m done with Mensago” kind of post.

Captain: "What a year, huh?"
Detective: "Captain, it's March"

Setbacks and Challenges

I usually get a bunch of time to hack on Mensago at the end of the year — I take a lot of time off from work because (1) I can and (2) I need to use up all my vacation time before it expires at the end of the year. It didn’t quite work out according to plan this time. The U.S. experienced a widespread winter storm with unusually cold temperatures, and it played havoc with travel plans for many, including my family and I. Illness also ran rampant during my vacation time, too, so not so productive this time around. Burnout was a thing in January, and I also discovered that compared to good graphics toolkits like Qt and Flutter, developing anything graphical with JavaScript, CSS, and HTML is not just bad, it’s pathetic in terms of complexity and ease-of-use. Tauri’s documentation beyond the scratching-the-surface tutorial is also terrible. Not a great start to the year.

An Unexpected Journey

With all of the struggles in finding a proper technology over several months, I was done. I decided to stop working on Mensago for a bit and do something else. On a whim, one Friday night in the middle of January to read a bit about Java. It was fun just reading something for fun. This progressed to toying around with a notepad program in Java using the JavaFX toolkit. It was fun, too. Things snowballed from there. I messed around with Kotlin, which I felt like was a better Java than Java. I looked at TornadoFX and Kotlin Exposed, which made the much-more-concise language even more so, and discovered that the former is more or less an abandoned project and the latter didn’t do everything I wanted. The whole time during this little side quest I just went with an IDE which offered the least resistance: IntelliJ IDEA, a hulking behemoth of an IDE which eats RAM like a canister of cheese puffs. It’s slow, but for Kotlin, it’s really, really good.

For the first time in literal months, coding was fun again. I managed to reproduce the GUI I originally made with Tauri and Svelte in 3 days — which were filled with many ‘why is this not working?!!‘ moments — in less than a day with Java and on top of the faster development time, it felt easy, which is definitely not something I’ve felt in a long, long time.

Where are We Now?

In short, Mensago Connect is way ahead of where it was. Right now it’s just a database-backed note-taking app. It doesn’t look dramatically different from the last screenshot I posted aside from some colors, but it works and I’m confident I can keep going without running into any insurmountable brick walls. I have a generalized roadmap for the near future, too.

  • Rich Text Editing – Markdown is fine for many tasks, but it’s hard to beat a good, basic word processor
  • Document Import/Export – your notes are stored in a database, but getting them in and out of the app is also super important.
  • Cloud Sync – a Mensago server isn’t just for delivering end-to-end encrypted e-mail-like messages, it’s also for synchronizing your appointments, address book, and other stuff.

Once note-taking is actually something genuinely useful, I will probably put out a beta release for people to kick the tires and offer feedback. Then will come the address book followed by messaging. I’d love to see all three be done by the end of the year, but that’s probably a tall order considering the amount of work that rich text editing will require, but we will get there.

Going forward, I’m pretty sure I won’t be posting on a monthly basis, but I definitely will when there’s something worth telling or showing. Until next time, be safe and be well.