The End of Pic-a-POD

I think I wrote the first version of Pic-a-POD in 2003 and have been updating and maintaining it ever since, but the time has come to shut it down.

I haven’t been able to find a picture of the original version, but here is one from 2005:

And here it is today:

It was written originally as a convenient way to download the daily picture-of-the-day from National Geographic and use it to set the Mac’s Desktop Picture automatically. From there is just grew with more sites added (9 at the moment although I think there have been up to 12 at certain times).

The main issue was keeping up with the site changes of the various sources. Early versions had each copy of the app interrogate the sites directly which meant that any change to the site broke the app until an update could be released. And without the App Store making updates easy to distribute, this was a problem. Later I switched to having PHP scripts on my server do the data retrieval and store the results in a database. The app then just had to request the data from my server. That way if there was a change, I could react quickly and a fix to the server-side scripts allowed all users to get the new data.

As my first Objective-C app and my first app on the Mac App Store, Pic-a-POD has always held a place in my affections, and until last week, it was the one app that was always running on my Mac. So what changed? macOS Mojave’s dynamic desktops! I turned off Pic-a-POD, and set the Desktop picture to change dynamically through the day and I loved it.

On the server, I have kept Pic-a-POD updated regularly, adding and removing sites, fixing the scripts to accommodate changes and so on. But the desktop app has languished and has needed an update for many years now. It’s networking is primitive and I know so much more about programming for the Mac now that looking at the code is positiviely embarrassing! But it has never been a big seller so a re-write is definitely not economically viable, it would only be for my satisfaction. And if even I am not using it any more, what is the point?

So I have made the sad decision to shut it down. But what does this mean for users of Pic-a-POD right now?

Firstly, it is not going away immediately. I will remove it from the App Store, but existing copies are still going to work. If any of the source sites change their data structure, I will not be monitoring this and I will not update the server-side scripts – just turn off that source and carry on with whatever still works. And finally, when the picapod.com domain name expires in 2021, I will not renew it and the app will cease to operate.

What can you use instead? The default dynamic desktops in Mojave are great although there are only two of them, but I have bought myself an app called 24 Hour Wallpaper which includes a great range of dynamic desktop pictures.

So thank you to everyone who has used Pic-a-POD over the years and especially those of you who took the time and trouble to contact me. It has been a fun journey, but there are other apps in my future now.

Pic-a-POD updates

Long time since my last post… for more active blogging, check out troz.net

A couple of updates today:

  • The Today’s PODs page is now working again – it had stopped due to a broken link to a JavaScript library.
  • Sadly I have had to remove Miniature Calendar from the list of PODs. I loved these pictures, but the site does not use https and my server is configured to insist on secure connections, which is rather ironic since this site is not secure!

Recent Pic-a-POD Changes

There have been several changes to Pic-a-POD over the past few months:

New POD sites:

Sadly Earth Shots had a server breakdown and after losing data decided not to continue to host a POD site, so that site had to be removed from Pic-a-POD.

The NASA sites and National Geographic have changed the way they serve POD data which makes it much easier to use, but it does change every now & then, so I am always grateful to people who let me know when their favourite sites are no longer working in Pic-a-POD.

Pic-a-POD caught in US Government Shutdown

Due to the current shutdown of the US government, the NASA web sites are completely offline. For Pic-a-POD, this means that the Astronomy and Earth Observatory PODs are unavailable.

Pic-a-POD for iOS will continue showing some info about the last pics available (1st October) but will be unable to download the images.

Pic-a-POD for Mac is in more trouble as it tries more actively to fill in the blanks. With  entire domain names off the net, this can take a very long time. So I suggest turning off Astronomy & Earth Observatory in the Sources menu until the government shutdown is over.

Pic-a-POD Offline

The Pic-a-POD web site and all associated files were transferred to a new server last night (December 3rd).

The site contains files & databases where Pic-a-POD gets it’s lists of sources, URL of pics, news etc.¬†It appears that these files did not survive the transfer!

So Pic-a-POD for Mac is currently incapable of getting any information or new pictures.
Pic-a-POD for iOS uses a different mechanism so it is still working but will not get any new pics.

Sorry for the inconvenience – I am working hard to get it restored as soon as possible.

UPDATE: Partial success – Pic-a-POD for Mac is now managing to get enough data so it can display the current pics (December 3rd). Changing the desktop will now also work. You may need to restart Pic-a-POD in order to see this.

However it is not yet capable of displaying any new pics – still working on it.

UPDATE 2 – 5th December: The server issues are gradually being resolved. Now it is reduced to a single problem – I cannot access the Pic-a-POD database on my server. Once that is fixed, Pic-a-POD for Mac & iOS should start functioning normally again.

UPDATE 3 – 6th December: Pic-a-POD for iOS is now working as expected. Pic-a-POD for Mac is still sometimes querying the wrong data (I think there is a caching problem caused by my multiple attempts to create a work-around), but some new pics are coming through now. The Lunar POD is causing some more problems, either by a massive coincidence or due to some incompatibility with my new server. Pic-a-POD is using computed addresses for the Lunar pics, but cannot get captions or text data. The computed addresses may be wrong sometimes, but I figured they were better than nothing!

UPDATE 4 – 8th December: Pic-a-POD should now be back online. There may be some issues with missing pics for 5th December but all new pics should now be coming in correctly. If there looks to be incorrect data for any day, refresh that pic and it might solve itself.