First Impressions on Lion

OS X has been my operating system of choice since Tiger. It represented a realisation that you can have decent portable hardware and a great-looking interface that gave me quick access to the things I used most, whilst maintaining relatively easy access to things I didn't. I have always been pleased with OS X as an operating system, which is why I continue to use it professionally and in my leisure time today.

OS X Lion (10.7) brings a number of changes, presumably inspired by the fact that Apple's touchscreen devices have been so popular. After an afternoon's use, I am under the impression that a future generation of tablet computers will run this a convergence of this and iOS. By that time, I will not be using OS X as my main operating system.

Things I don't like about OS X Lion

Spaces. The concept of multiple desktops has been a staple of my computer usage since before Apple cribbed the idea from Linux. In a previous job, I used an Ubuntu-powered computer, where I discovered spaces and how much easier they can make your computing life. Until today, I ran a 6-desktop configuration in two rows of three desktops. I did this so that I had quick access to Desktop 4 (web browsers) from Desktop 1 (text editor) and quick access from Desktop 1 to Desktop 2 (databases and terminals). If you're interested, 3 is virtual machines and image editing, 5 is IM clients, notes and RSS and 6 is iTunes and stuff I don't really touch regularly.

Apple has completely removed the ability to configure Spaces with Lion. You get one row of desktops and that's it. This completely cripples my usage of the concept. I can access web browsers and terminals from text editors, but then I have to skip through two spaces from an IM client to get to a web browser. I seriously cannot justify - further than wanting a nice, pretty, single line of desktops in the abortion that is Mission Control - this decision. It's completely ridiculous!

Spaces also had a cool little feature where you could view your whole grid from way above, then invoke Exposé and move individual windows between desktops. This, too, is totally gone. In order to view a desktop's open windows, you have to invoke Mission Control whilst said desktop is selected.

Mission Control suggests to me that Spaces and Exposé had a child and found out that they were cousins when it was already too late to terminate the poor, unfortunate bastard.

Scrolling has now been inverted. To scroll down, you sweep up; to scroll left, you sweep right. Disabled (it didn't instinctively occur to me that Apple would allow you to disable this. My past, PC-using self would be very disappointed in me).

New Mail.app is nothing really to write home about. Still no ability to arbitrarily file things using only the keyboard. It's like Apple saw Sparrow and decided they would make something with a worse UI. I'll stick to GMail web UI, thanks.

iCal promised to bring a fantastic new UI. It's basically the same as old iCal, except they've made it look more like a leather journal with pages torn out of it.

Your username now appears constantly in the menu bar, with no apparent way to hide it. I am the only user of this computer and I know my name, thanks, Apple. Update: Maxim Harper tells me that you can remove this by CMD-dragging on the name. Thank Christ!

To view the desktop, you now have to "spread with thumb and three fingers", which is just about as difficult as it sounds. Rather than sweep up with four fingers, which was super easy to do on a whim.

CoreAnimation pervades your entire experience in Lion. It makes every single little thing you try to do take just that little bit longer. You do things by Apple's rhythm, now, punk. Pages turn, things zip about and flash and fade in-and-out. Why? I have no idea. I thought Windows 7 was a little over-animation-y, but this is ridiculous. Interface animation adds nothing to your ability to accomplish a task. If you want to stare at a pretty rectangle for a bit, buy some tropical fish.

Things I like about Lion

LaunchBar still works.


An open letter to Apple and Adobe

Guys, this bickering has got to stop. The problem you're having is that you're both as good and bad as each other. This could go on forever, but I detect that you're also both equally stubborn and have reached an impasse. This is why I have decided to try and make a couple of things plain to you. I really hope it helps.

Apple; you make amazing computers. Your hardware is sturdy and reliable, and when it's not reliable you have great customer services to back it up. Your operating system is Unix-compliant, attractive, relatively stable and easy to use. Your phones are well-made and have a pretty decent OS, which is improving at an acceptable rate. You as an entity are the only weak link in the chain. You are the overbearing mother of the technology world; you refuse to ever let your products truly go to their new owners.

Without the indie software scene, OSX would be nothing. Sadly, some parts of the OS are so frustratingly closed that some things become almost prohibitive. The software you build and sell is fit for purpose (on-par with industry in some cases, below in most), but not nearly adequately varied to rival Windows or Linux.

When you released your phone, it was like the popular girl in school - looked so good in every way, but forced to spend more than 10 minutes with it and you wanted to smash it against a rock. Then came the App Store, and things were good for a while. You still, however, refused to let go control and some trivial things became impossible. This prompted an incredibly talented and generous group of people to start hacking the device so that people were free to use it as they wished. This was, after all, their right (regardless of terms and licensing - you part with outrageous amounts of cash, the right is yours!). You struggled for a while, but now you seem to have given up, which is nice. Thanks.

All of this meandering leads me to the crux of my point. You might be able to pull the wool over some people's eyes regarding Flash on your devices, but you don't fool me. I hope your hypocrisy left a horrible taste in your mouth when you wrote your letter to Adobe. If you think that any piece of Mac hardware or software is open, you must be kidding yourself as well as everyone else. How dare you preach openness whilst you supply us with phones and iPods that you can't even change the fucking battery in?! How dare you preach openness when I have to run the risk of rendering my phone useless just so I can install software I want on it?! How fucking dare you preach openness when you actively and vocally restrict Flash from being installed in any capacity on a device that I own?!

And another thing; HTML5 may well be relatively open compared to Flash, but if I want to use HTML5 video, I guess I'll be needing the H.264 codec (at time of writing). That famously open source codec. What's that? It's not open source? So Firefox (truly open) will never be able to support it? Sounds great.

Before you preach openness, maybe you should do some research into what that actually is! Give your devices to your customers and let them do what they wish. If I want to deplete my battery in 10 minutes using Flash and all my simultaneous processes, that's my prerogative. If I want to consequently complain, you've got leverage to tell me where to get off! Honestly, sometimes your smug sense of superiority makes me hate you and everyone who makes excuses for you.

I hope I've made my point.

Onto you now, Adobe. This will be shorter.

Hey, Adobe. I see you're getting all upset because Apple won't let Flash run on their mobile devices. That's pretty annoying for everyone involved. Whilst I disagree with their methods, I am totally with their justification. If you can't even write a Flash plugin for a device with 2.66Ghz Dual Core processor, 4GB RAM and 512MB graphics memory without resorting to slowdown, memory hunger and frequent crashing, then you shouldn't be writing plugins for devices with a fraction of that power. Seriously, Flash is the number one reason I scream at my laptop every day, and I'm almost certain that there's plenty you can do about it. I wonder why you don't.

I heard that Apple also now ban apps from being distributed using their nice, open App Store if they've been compiled using IDEs you wrote. Man, that sounds just like something they'd do, but have you ever actually used one of the apps compiled with your IDE? As a technical exercise to prove it's possible, you've nailed it. Go you. But try using one. My God, it borders on harrowing it's so terrible.

Your problem is really quite similar to Apple's when you think about it. You give developers all of these great tools that can theoretically do amazing things, then you totally screw them by making a horrendous platform for their use. This subsequently screws their users, too, because people just don't want to use apps that frustrate them. I'm now at the stage where I close any website that looks like it's full-Flash. It's that bad.

In case I haven't made it apparent what might help you - make Flash better. Make it not crash browsers and eat memory and slow computers down all the time. I know it's not as simple as that, but if anyone can do it it's you. Seriously, no-one else could because, well, they're not allowed!

And now, to my avid reader. There you have it; Apple and Adobe are just as bad as each other. So bad, in fact, that it's created a convenient little blind-spot to badness that both of them can live in until the mighty Google comes along and sells the world to aliens after America accidentally signed it over to them without reading small print.

If you really care about open, buy an Android phone. Wait, that's Google. Buy a Palm. Wait, that'd be a pointless waste of your time. Uhh. Sell all your stuff and go live in the woods with hippies and the squirrels so that none of this inane shit really even matters any more.


jspr.tndy.me adium theme

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Iconpaper is a great website. Relatively trustworthy source of customisation stuff for OSX. Browsing today, I came across a large-type Adium theme, Bloc, which suited me down to the ground. It's tracked on Macthemes; basically a goldmine for people who like to tinker with how OSX looks.

After having had a couple of small problems with the original, I sleuthed to try and get in touch with the author of the theme. Turns out, he's a very nice bloke who agreed to do me a theme in the same style as my website. Whilst it may be difficult to believe, I love the way this site looks, and I couldn't be happier with it (sad, right?)! I'm pretty sure that those of you who use Adium and aren't lame should give it a go. If you don't like my personalised variant, there are some other great colour schemes bundled with it.

No real reason for this post, other than a big thanks to krayon (the author) and to try and throw some more links his way.


PHP 5.3, iconv, OSX, Symbols Missing _libiconv

I'm not sure how many people will have this problem, but I did so this will remind me.

PHP 5.3 release, for some reason, does not like my default install of iconv. Firstly, I made the grave mistake of failing to point PHP properly at an install in /usr/local/, so replaced my OS installation of iconv with a new one. This was all well and good until I started opening apps that needed specific parts of OSX's default iconv. So, an OSX restore later, we're at square one. PHP keeps telling me various crap when I'm trying to compile that it didn't work with iconv because it's the wrong version, but would fail during make because it couldn't find the correct symbols. <!--more--> I had compiled and installed iconv (./configure --prefix=/usr/local/iconv --enable-static) then pointed PHP at that (--with-iconv=/usr/local/iconv) and it was failing during make with Undefined Symbols: "_libiconv" then some stack trace of php string functions. Great. After much Googling and cobbling together my own way to do this with trial and error and a mixture of other people's part-baked solutions, I have come up with the following method:

  1. install iconv: ./configure --prefix=/usr/local/iconv --enable-static && make && sudo make install
  2. configure PHP with the following prefix: env LIBS="-lresolv -liconv" ./configure ......

    Mine is:

    env LIBS="-lresolv -liconv" ./configure \ --enable-pdo \ --with-apxs2=/usr/local/apache2/bin/apxs \ --with-mysql=/usr/local/mysql \ --with-pdo-mysql=/usr/local/mysql \ --prefix=/usr/local/php \ --enable-mbstring \ --with-mysql=/usr/local/mysql \ --enable-cli \ --with-curl \ --with-gd \ --with-png-dir=/usr/local/png \ --with-jpeg-dir=/usr/local/jpg \ --with-freetype-dir=/usr/local/freetype \ --with-zlib-dir=/usr/local/zlib \ --with-mcrypt=/usr/local/mcrypt \ --with-iconv=/usr/local/iconv

  3. After configure has finished running, hopefully there has been no problem. If there has I have no idea how to fix it. Normally this runs smooth as hell for me, this has taken me about 6 solid hours to fix and I can't be remotely fixing everyone else's, sorry.

    You'll need to be modifying the Makefile generated from your ./configure. Search for the following string (without quotes) "libs/libphp$" and replace that and the next line with the following:

    libs/libphp$(PHP_MAJOR_VERSION).bundle: $(PHP_GLOBAL_OBJS) $(PHP_SAPI_OBJS) $(CC) $(CFLAGS_CLEAN) $(EXTRA_CFLAGS) $(LDFLAGS) $(EXTRA_LDFLAGS) $(PHP_GLOBAL_OBJS:.lo=.o) $(PHP_SAPI_OBJS:.lo=.o) $(PHP_FRAMEWORKS) $(EXTRA_LIBS) $(ZEND_EXTRA_LIBS) $(MH_BUNDLE_FLAGS) -o [email protected] && cp [email protected] libs/libphp$(PHP_MAJOR_VERSION).so

  4. make
  5. You can run make test if you want, but it'll fail everything it doesn't skip
  6. sudo make install
  7. Restart apache
  8. Everything should work fine now. If it didn't, I'm sorry - I don't know why. If it does, hoorah! You just saved yourself 6 hours. You owe me a beer!

Again, I must reiterate, if this doesn't work for you I probably won't be able to fix this or even help you slightly. This is just what worked for me. There are plenty of things you can try with a bit of Google-fu, though.


Western Digital Drive Manager icons

If you're anything like me (and if you're a Mac user, chances are similarities exist!), your computer is just the way you want it. Depending on how finicky you are, your icons are just so, your desktop is carefully chosen and anything that could potentially upset that ranges from a chronic annoyance to wildly enraging. <!--more--> Recently, I bought a Western Digital MyPassport Studio 500GB. The transition to an external hard drive for some of my assets hasn't been an easy one. As well as having to get used to things being in different places, I have had problems with the drive being lazy. I don't know whether this is down to hardware or software, but installing all of Western Digital's drivers and software seems to have, at least, calmed the problem.

This is all well and good, but one of the pieces of software that comes with my sparkly new drive is Drive Manager. It doesn't do anything obvious, save tell me that my drive is connected (if it does do something else, please enlighten me!) and put a horrible icon in my menu bar. Well, here's how to make that icon a little easier on the eye.

The app, for starters, is in /Library/Application Support/WesternDigial/WDDriveManager/WDDriveManagerStatusMenu.app. Not /Applications or /Applications/Utilities. First annoyance! To get to where the icons are stored, ctrl/right click WDDriveManagerStatusMenu.app and "Show Package Contents". Navigate to Contents/Resources and you'll see WDLogoBlue1.tiff - this is the icon you want to change.

Annoyingly, I couldn't get to a stage where I was able to complete this using the Finder, so we'll need to drop to the Terminal. Firstly, though, create the icon you're going to be using. The one I used was a 16x16 version of a hard drive icon by David Lanham, but you can use whatever you want. The image needs to be in the tiff file format (Photoshop tries to save this with a .tif extension so you'll need to add the extra "f" in). Once you've got your new icon on your desktop, fire up the Terminal and enter the following:

cd /Library/Application Support/WesternDigial/WDDriveManager/WDDriveManagerStatusMenu.app/Contents/Resources sudo mv WDLogoBlue1.tiff WDLogoBlue1.bak sudo mv ~/Desktop/WDLogoBlue1.tiff ./WDLogoBlue1.tiff

If you go back to the Finder, you should now see that your icon is in the directory, and the original WDLogoBlue1.tiff has been backed up to WDLogoBlue1.bak. To use your icon, restart OSX, plug your drive in and you're good to go. Your fancy new icon will appear in the menubar instead of that horrible WD logo:

menubar