Jim's Blog Ramblings about novels, comics, programming, and other geek topics


Comicster Plug-In: Debugster

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Debugster is a suite of debugging and development tools for Comicster. I’ll go over each of the various tools below.

  • Property Window
  • Output Console
  • Dynamic Execution

Comicster Skin: The Hero Initiative

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For my first Comicster Skin, I decided to build a customized user interface highlighting the Hero Initiative. I’ve been a bronze member for the last couple of years (ever since I discovered the charity) and I felt that the idea of making a skin to highlight the Hero Initiative would be a great idea. At the least, I figure that it will bring a some exposure for the charity and maybe some of Comicster's users will read about the charity and become members.

A little bit about the Hero Initiative:

In late 2000, a consortium of comic publishers came up with the idea to create a financial safety net for comic creators, much in the same fashion that exists in almost any other trade from plumbing to pottery. By March of 2001, the federal government approved The Hero Initiative as a publicly supported not-for-profit corporation under section 501 (c) (3).

Since its inception, The Hero Initiative (Formerly known as A.C.T.O.R., A Commitment To Our Roots) has had the good fortune to grant over $400,000 to the comic book veterans who have paved the way for those in the industry today.

The Hero Initiative is the first-ever federally chartered not-for-profit corporation dedicated strictly to helping comic book creators in need. Hero creates a financial safety net for yesterdays' creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work. It's a chance for all of us to give back something to the people who have given us so much enjoyment.

The Hero Initiative, www.heroinitiative.org


Comicster Plug-In: Auto Save

My third Comcister Plug-In is to create an “auto save” feature that will automatically save my comic book collection without requiring me to click the “save” button. This auto-save feature will check every 60 seconds to see if the comic book collection has been modified and if so, then save the collection.

I’m re-using some of the code from my previous plug-in (Create Backup of Collection) and adding in a timer with an interval of 60 seconds. This plug-in also implements the newly created IToogleTool interface to allow changing the state from on/enabled to off/disabled. When enabled, a checkmark will appear next to the menu choice. If the extension is in the off/disabled mode, then the timer will not execute and auto-saves will not occur.


Comicster Plug-In: Create Backup of Collection

The second Comicster Plug-In I created was for the purpose of making backup copies of my collection. Although my collection isn’t huge, I feel that entering all of the data and having to go through all of my comics to get an accurate list was enough effort to merit making regular backups. With this plug-in, it only takes 1 click to safely create a back up and store it.

The easy way to accomplish this would be to use:

File.Copy(collection.FileName, backupFileName);

But that wouldn’t be any fun, so I did it a bit more complicated so that I could learn a bit more about how Comicster works. I used the below code to write out the collection in the CMXX format.


Comicster Plug-In: Reload Images

The first Comicster Plug-In I created was to assist importing of my previous Comicster v1 collection. After the import, the issue cover images needed to be refreshed/redownloaded.

The below code illustrates how the plug-in works. The code below is shown looping through each issue within the “Owned” folder within the source collection. This process is repeated for “Wanted Issued”, “Owned Trades”, and “Wanted Trades.”

foreach (Issue item in source.Owned.Issues)
   ThumbnailImage.Reload(item.Id, item.ImageSource);

Comicster Plug-In Development

I’ve been using Matt Hamilton’s Comicster application for a couple of years to manage my comic book inventory. The .NET based open source project written using Windows Presentation Framework (WPF) has worked great to keep track of my comics.

There’s several other comic book inventory management applications that’s available. However, most of them cost money and/or require annual license fees. For something that’s a hobby (comic books), I didn’t want to spend any extra money on an inventory application. At first, my developer instincts kicked in and I thought I’d just build my own application. Then I found Comicster – it had nearly everything that I wanted to code myself.

The current “beta” version of Comicster now supports plug-ins, which means that any functionality not included in the base application can be built and added via plug-ins. Matt speaks more about how to build a Comicster Plug-in on his blog at “Comicster Plug-Ins.”