apple

First thoughts of the Apple Pencil

    

Installing XTrackCAD on OS X Yosemite

The open source track planning software XTrackCAD is a fantastic tool in anyone playing with model railways but without a stable release in 5 years it’s lagged a little behind Apple’s operating system updates. Installing on OS X 10.10 does not work out of the box but if you follow these steps you’ll have a running application in no time.

  1. Download and install the latest XQuartz

    You can get it from http://xquartz.macosforge.org.

  2. Download and install XTrackCAD as with earlier OS X installations

    The files are hosted on the project sourceforge page.

  3. Make sure you have allowed access to applications from any developers

    There are various instructions but try this walk through.

  4. Replace some out of date libraries in the XTrackCAD bundle

    Open a terminal and execute the following commands:

    cd /usr/lib
    cp libxml2.2.dylib  /Applications/XTrackCAD.app/Contents/Resources/lib/
    cp libiconv.2.dylib  /Applications/XTrackCAD.app/Contents/Resources/lib/
    cp libz.1.dylib  /Applications/XTrackCAD.app/Contents/Resources/lib/

There you go – everything should be working correctly after this. Thanks for the hints from tynewydd962 in the XTrackCAD forum.

Having been satisfied with the beta releases of OS X Yosemite all I can say is that the final release is a disappointment. My machine which ran stably from one beta to the next is now rebooting due to fatal errors almost every day since release.

Apple… Where are you?

Linux, is it ready?

So I’m trying out Linux for the first time in over 5 years. Mainly to get back on board with Enlightenment development, partly due to frustrations with Mac OSX and also because every software engineer should be up to speed with how it’s progressing. This leads me to the question if is it ready…

Ready for what? Wide stream adoption? Frustration free desktop? A better alternative to what’s out there? “Yes” and “It depends” get thrown in there as answers – it depends on your requirements and the ability to pick the right distro. Ubuntu offers a seamless install and gets you booted to a complete system with all the typical user software pre-installed, their software manager akin to Apple’s Mac App Store is essentially a recommendations engine on top of the apt-get package manager and works well. Of course as a geek it’s cheerful light grey rounded-ness and hiding of details quickly missed the point – Mac does that well and I don’t see Canonical beating Apple at the user experience game. Arch Linux is a widely used engineers choice – it offers close to the wire control without the pain and ricer obsessiveness over customised packages of Gentoo. There is no installation UI or default desktop but it does offer great control, a solid base for development (1 package sets up a full C/C++/autofoo environment) and it has a command line package manager called “pacman” ;).

So should I switch? Well as you’re already reading this then you should probably give it a shot, yes. Don’t ditch your current system and move completely – compatibility is still an issue and multimedia has a couple of issues (mostly due to closed source licenses, patents and no silverlight plugins) but it really does seem ready. Don’t recommend it to your Gran though – as much as I hate software monopolies they do enable people to easily discuss simple tasks or basic problem fixes with their non-techie friends. You do not want even more “help fix my computer” calls right?

So, given that it’s ready for use, will you like it? Is it really something that Microsoft and Apple should be worried about? I’ll cover that in a future post in my return to enlightenment series.

Or it seems like it! My latest MacBook Pro has frozen completely 3 times in the last fortnight. This machine has not been upgraded to mavericks yet either. Seems like whether or not you do the upgrade you’ve got problems on the OSX desktop.

I don’t think Apple can blame Gmail for all the issues I’m seeing…

Apple… Where are you?

Apple Computers. The renegades, the designers, the pirates, the company that “Thinks Different“, fighting big blue and bringing research projects to market. Fighting a world of desktop computer monopolies, leading the smart phone market and defining the tablet. And now struggling to differentiate themselves from all the other mass market software providers – really?

In my series on returning to Linux and the Enlightenment desktop I have mentioned a decreasing satisfaction with Apple Mac OSX but as Apple tries to discover who it is without Steve Jobs it’s got even bigger problems.

I didn’t want to jump on the “how will they cope without Steve Jobs” bandwagon – that seemed like propaganda designed to affect share prices, but something’s not the same. It’s been over two years since Steve passed away and the company is starting to show real signs of problems. Such a delay could be expected as he started many projects before he left the company that have only recently come to market. Unfortunately it’s not as simple as that – quality started dropping before he left.

We live in a world where people expect software to have problems, to be difficult to understand and to require constant updating. Apple believed in better – systems that just work, a focus on usability and encouraged thorough testing. This was a significant portion of what drove adoption – people were so happy with Apple products that they bought more, they told their friends and they pushed to use their own devices for work as well as play. Sadly the quality is no longer as pervasive. OS updates badly break well running systems, firmware changes can disrupt hardware features, updated system applications can simply not work and hardware failure rates are increasing.

How can this be? Apple is a company with a clear vision and the reputation and infrastructure to deliver. Very little reliance is placed on third parties and the software remains tightly coupled to the hardware it runs on. Vision, it seems, is not enough. Jobs was a visionary, and one that has changed the modern world, but he was also driven and demanded that people delivered what he envisaged. The hard work he expected of people and the perfection he required in everything that Apple released is now legend, but in more ways than one. We should learn from this and make software better. Uncompromising in quality and user experience but without driving people so hard that it’s no longer what they want to do.

Enlightened 2014

It was over 10 years ago that I started coding on Enlightenment, having discovered the window manager at Uni back when E 0.16 was what the cool geeks were using. The project was busy and full of excitement about the new libraries (EFL), the rewrite of the window manager for 0.17 and the many features this would provide. 3 years of fun coding later, many small applications and libraries and perhaps a heated debate or two and I somewhat lost touch with the project. Probably not coincidentally this was also around the time I moved to Mac and although it was possible back then to use a different window manager it was not without problems.

The years passed by and little visibly changed but at Christmas 2012 I heard that 0.17 had been released (over 10 years since we started developing it…) and it looked excellent. I slipped back into the habit of browsing screenshots, exploring what desktops could look like and what the EFL libraries provides these days. Dreaming once again of a geeks ideal desktop I realised how much Mac OSX had slowly removed flexibility and power features. But Macs just work and I was clearly productive using it.

That is until OSX Mavericks. The upgrade, whilst desirable for finally fixing virtual desktops, broke lots of other things. Mail doesn’t sync reliably with gmail and calendar has similar issues; the screen occasionally blanks then locks whilst in use and one day apps stopped launching altogether. I had to reinstall and create a whole new account to regain my computer – “just works” my foot. With such frustrations my reasons for being there were disappearing and I started thinking about realistic alternatives.

So back to exploring Linux, can it really be my full time desktop? Follow my explorations into Linux and the Enlightenment desktop in future posts.