ewx: (geek)

I’ve not been having much luck with my Mac.

Firstly one of its hard disks has apparently failed; reading the contents of some file on its Windows partition reliably panics the kernel. (Granted it’s possible that this is just filesystem corruption toxic to Apple’s NTFS implementation; I’ll explore that on some system with better diagnostics than a hard crash at some point.)

I have backups and so have not lost anything but it remains a practical nuisance as it stops me playing Starcraft (which at 12 years since release is surely the game that’s held my interest for longest, bar none). I’ve been casting around for alternatives: my Windows 7 netbook (runs it but the colors are wrong; I think some other process is muscling in on the color palette), WINE (runs it but a little too slowly to be usable; reading around suggests that there’s an extra display copy going on over what there ought to be), the OS X version (the installer won’t recognize my CDs; I’ve no idea why and nor has the web).

Ultimately I expect to get things up and running on a replacement disk, but not one from Hitachi; this must be the third or fourth Deskstar I’ve had fail (and if you’re wondering why I continued to buy them with that level of bad experience, well, so am I).

Secondly one of its DIMMs has failed, reducing the available memory from 6GB to 2GB (it had 4x512MB plus 2x2GB, but the components must be paired). Conveniently the RAM riser boards have failure LEDs indicating which DIMM is broken. The components have a lifetime warranty, but it’s still annoying.

To answer the obvious question, yes I have checked that the disk is still broken in the absence of the bad RAM (which in any case the OS refused to use or even recognize that the slots had anything in them).

ewx: (geek)

I want access from my laptop to various services (web proxy and email) on my home network, even when I’m away. A convenient way to do this is to use SSH port forwarding. This is a nuisance to repeatedly initiate manually though; I would rather have my laptop run the SSH command automatically, and restart it after network outages.

How I set it up for Ubuntu, Mac and Windows laptops )

ewx: (geek)

I’ve released a new version of Autoztool. The main change in this version is Mac OS X support (with some limitations).

What is Autoztool? )

Get it from http://www.greenend.org.uk/rjk/2001/05/autoztool.html. Yes, it could probably use a better name.

ewx: (geek)

I was trying to get some (any) kind of network filesystem access from my Mac to a Unix box. I didn't have much luck (which is another rant entirely) but I was amused by the “it's broken a PC” icon...

ewx: (marvin)
chymax$ ls -lL /usr/X11/lib/libXdamage.*
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root wheel 88496 2009-03-13 00:38 /usr/X11/lib/libXdamage.1.1.0.dylib
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root wheel 88496 2009-03-13 00:38 /usr/X11/lib/libXdamage.1.dylib
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root wheel 88496 2009-03-13 00:38 /usr/X11/lib/libXdamage.dylib
-rwxr-xr-x 1 root wheel   936 2007-09-24 05:39 /usr/X11/lib/libXdamage.la
chymax$ grep ^library_names /usr/X11/lib/libXdamage.la
library_names='libXdamage.1.dylib libXdamage.dylib libXdamage.1.0.0.dylib'

Safari 4

May. 23rd, 2009 09:06 pm
ewx: (geek)

I downloaded the Safari 4 beta.

The obvious visual change is that tabs now replace the title bar. AFAIK this feature first appeared in Google Chrome. It seems a sensible use of vertical space.

I have a complaint about Apple's implementation of the idea though: when you have more than a few tabs (depending on the width of the window), the first thing to disappear is the close button towards the left. Fair enough, but when you hover over the tab (for instance to select it) the close button reappears. Since until you're there there's no visual indication you need to avoid that part of the title, the result is lots of accidentally closed tabs. Worse, there appears to be no undo close tab option.

In fact the closed tab will be the first thing you see in the history page, so it's not that hard to retrieve it. But you lose any state that you had in that page (unlike Firefox's undo close tab option, which does preserve at least some of the state).

The top sites page makes is effectively an adaptive bookmarks page, showing thumbs of the dozen sites Safari thinks you visit most often. It's initially populated with the NYT, Amazon, Apple, Wikipedia, CNET and various others. Wikipedia presumably got there for free but I did wonder if the others had to pay and if so how much. As you can see from the linked screenshot it's already accumulated a few of the pages I've visited recently.

The history page uses Coverflow (something that's turning up increasingly often in Apple software). Seems quite convenient and allowing visual recognition of pages is nice.

As in earlier Safaris, text entry boxes (such as Livejournal's update form) are resizable, a nice touch that I wish Firefox would pick up.

The advertised "full page zoom" buttons don't exist, though there are menu and keyboard versions. Zooming in randomly jumps around the page, making it very inconvenient to actually use the feature.

Hovering over a link still doesn't reveal what the destination is, unlike Firefox. It seems like a little thing but actually once you're used to it, not knowing for sure where you're going next makes browsing feel surprisingly uncomfortable.

It actually uses more memory than Firefox (RSIZE is the amount of real RAM used, VSIZE counts swap as well and is generally less interesting). It does seem to use less CPU when idle (where "idle" for a web browser means "running various bits of Javascript"), which would lend a bit of plausibility to Apple's performance claims if it weren't for the fact that visiting a page on Apple's own website took around 30s to load (and then proceeded to lag way behind user input, and SPOD some of the time, when scrolling) where Firefox managed to produce it just like that.

(I think it must be something about that page, since other pages don't produce the same problem. But you'd think they'd test it against its own website!)

ewx: (geek)

Mac support for Emacs (or possibly the other way round) has been a bit of an issue for a while.

The shipped /usr/bin/emacs only runs in a terminal, lacking any kind of GUI support, which is OK for quick edits but rather inferior for extended work.

Compile your own Emacs with X11 support (or use someone else's, e.g. Fink) and that works, but then you're at the mercy of Apple's deranged X11, which gets on badly with Spaces and has very poor cut and paste integration with native applications.

For a while there's been Aquamacs, which bills itself as a Mac-friendly version of Emacs, but I never really got on all that well with it.

A particular problem is that if you type anything while a selection exists, the selection is replaced with what you type. This is Macish enough but if you created the selection using the keyboard rather than the mouse then you can't make the selection go away with the keyboard - you have to use the mouse. The result ends up being a lot of undoing, even after months of use.

It also doesn't tell you what size your window is when resizing and creates new windows (frames, in Emacs's own terminology) with a size matching the last one. So getting a window of a particular size can be rather fiddly.)

Recently [livejournal.com profile] fanf mentioned the NextSTEP port of Emacs (or OpenSTEP, if you prefer) which has now been merged into the trunk of Emacs. NextSTEP's direct descendant is of course OS X, so this is a Mac-native Emacs.

The source can be retrieved via CVS. It built an Emacs.app without any trouble. It act much more like my muscle-memory expects Emacs should (no more destructive and un-dismissable selections), but also has concessions to the local OS - for instance it supports native cut and paste using ⌘C, ⌘X, ⌘V etc. Window size behavior is more sane and usable too.

Complaints so far:

  • Trying to save a buffer that doesn't already have a filename offers by default to save it somewhere in the guts of Emacs.app, which isn't very useful.
  • Mac-native means of entering “special” characters don't seem to be available. C-X 8 RET works fine, with tab completion over Unicode character names, but making ⌥⌘T behave as normal would be nice.

These are pretty minor; overall it's a clear improvement over what came before. Perhaps Apple can be persuaded to included it in future releases (with a link from /usr/bin/emacs into the depths of the application bundle)?

ewx: (geek)
Further to the instructions here, I'd add that you will need to randomly re-install the new layout from time to time, as Windows randomly breaks or removes it without even telling you.


Mar. 22nd, 2009 08:38 pm
ewx: (Default)

I tried building the DisOrder GUI, Disobedience, against GTK+ OS X (i.e. native GTK+ support, no X11 required).

Having the menu bar in the window rather than in the normal OS X menu bar is rather weird, but presumably that's fixable. It doesn't produce an application bundle yet either; it might be worth waiting until the GTK+ libraries are more stable before attempting that. Drag and drop is the only thing I've found that doesn't work so far.

ewx: (geek)

I used to have /usr/local be a symlink to /local, but after a recent update:

$ find /usr/local | xargs ls -ld
drwxr-xr-x 3 root wheel   102 2009-03-20 09:26 /usr/local
drwxr-xr-x 3 root wheel   102 2009-03-20 09:26 /usr/local/bin
-r-xr-xr-x 1 root wheel 43312 2009-03-10 22:30 /usr/local/bin/iTunesASUHelper
ewx: (geek)
Is there a generally accepted name for the Mac's completely bizarre mouse focus policy? If you don't know: click to focus for the left mouse button but point to focus for the others.
ewx: (geek)
#ifdef __APPLE__
# include <GLUT/glut.h>
# include <GL/glut.h>

(#2 in a series)

-dpi 96

Feb. 5th, 2009 07:05 pm
ewx: (geek)

How to change Apple X11's notion of display pixel size.


  • add -dpi 96 (or something) to defaultserverargs in /usr/X11R6/bin/startx
  • restart X11
  • xdpyinfo|grep resolution to check that it worked

You might want to do this if you find X11 programs choose stupidly small fonts.

ewx: (geek)

This image raises two issues:

  1. Why does the Mac disk get an anti-aliased font and the Windows one a pixelated one?
  2. Just how many fonts does a boot loader actually need?
ewx: (Default)

A while ago I wrote that Spaces was rather a disaster. I'm pleased to say that in the latest version of Leopard, 10.5.3, it's considerably improved. The key is the ability to turn off this option:

I no longer find myself being dragged from space to space at the whim of the window manager. X11 integration seems ropier, but it's not exactly perfect even with a single desktop anyway, and having installed Aquamacs I'm no longer reliant on X11 for one of my most-used applications.

ewx: (geek)

I've enabled Time Machine. It took a few hours to back up 70GB or so to an external disk. It didn't back up the Windows XP partition; I'm not sure I approve but considering that as a separate machine and therefore organizing backups of some form separately is not something that actually bothers me that much.

Not much more to say about it at this point; it's rather in the nature of backups that you don't just enable them and know all you need to know...

ewx: (geek)
=== modified file 'scripts/setup.in'
--- scripts/setup.in    2008-01-19 12:28:31 +0000
+++ scripts/setup.in    2008-03-29 15:24:01 +0000
@@ -220,32 +220,32 @@
 case $os in
 Mac )
   # Apple don't seem to believe in creating a user as a discrete operation
-  if dscl / -read /Groups/$group >/dev/null 2>&1; then
+  if dscl . -read /Groups/$group >/dev/null 2>&1; then
     echo "$group group already exists"
     echo "Creating $group group"
-    gids=$(dscl / -list /Groups PrimaryGroupID|awk '{print $2}')
+    gids=$(dscl . -list /Groups PrimaryGroupID|awk '{print $2}')
     gid=$(pick $gids)
     echo "(picked gid $gid)"

(etc etc). Amusingly this means their own example is now broken.

Last batch of ranting about Apple's hopeless approach to user creation.

Boot Camp

Mar. 15th, 2008 02:51 pm
ewx: (Default)

Further to my remarks on Leopard one of the reasons for buying it was to add a Windows partition to my Mac via Boot Camp.

Boot Camp comprises a partitioning tool, support for dual boot and a collection of drivers (on the Leopard install disk) for running Windows on Apple hardware. You need an Intel Mac and a sufficiently recent copy of XP or Vista. In this version only 32-bit software is supported even though I have a 64-bit CPU, but I hear that more recent Macs are shipping with 64-bit capable Boot Camp. 64-bit operation isn't particularly important for what I current want out of Windows anyway (games and the odd bit of software development).

Partitioning was perfectly easy. On booting into the Windows XP installer the keyboard didn't work initially; after I unplugged my USB card reader and rebooted it was OK, however. I'm not sure if this is Apple's bug or Microsoft's but it seems to be a common problem.

The network setup decided to apply the address I gave it to the firewire port rather than either of the ethernet ports. I disabled the firewire port (under windows) and the non-connected ethernet and it was happier. (As with my Windows/Linux dual-boot system) I'd given the Windows partition a different name and address to the MacOS partition.

SHIFT 3 on my UK keyboard produces £, which is not what I wanted; I type # much more often than £. Under Mac OS I was able to select a US keyboard layout but Windows doesn't offer me a US Apple layout (and the US layouts it does have have other keys in the wrong places).

Here's what I did to get around this:

  1. Install the keyboard layout creator from http://www.microsoft.com/globaldev/tools/msklc.mspx and run it
  2. Load the Apple UK layout
  3. Change £ to # and vica versa, using CTRL+ALT+3 to type #
  4. Select Project->Properties and edit the name etc
  5. Select Project->Test Keyboard Layout to make sure it works
  6. Save the source file
  7. Selected Project->Build DLL and Setup Package
  8. Quit the layout creator
  9. Install the new layout package
  10. Go to Control Panel->Regional And Language Options->Languages and make the new keyboard layout the default

Rather surpringly the choice of keyboard layout doesn't seem to be reachable via Control Panel->Keyboard.

I installed the following things without any difficulty:

  • PuTTY
  • Firefox
  • Windows updates (needed 2 restarts)
  • IE7
  • Starcraft and Brood War
  • Rome: Total War
  • Warcraft III
  • Visual C++ 2008
  • RealVNC
  • DirectX SDK (March 2008)

Half Life said it didn't like my OS (it predates XP by some years) and needed a patch, but after rather fruitlessly poking around the web for the right thing (which used to be on Sierra's website but isn't any more) I installed Opposing Force and it installed a patch and ran OK anyway.

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