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     Icon Machine 3.2
    Filed under: — David @ 8:41 pm

    Icon Machine has just been upped to version 3.2. Mostly minor modernizations. It uses the Mac OS X font panel for the text tool, with all the fancy typography settings involved, plus Quartz text drawing. It’s also Carbon Event driven, which basically means it uses less CPU time when it’s idle. One bug that was fixes is saving to a file server - you no longer get a weird error code when you try to do that.

    This version also requires Mac OS X 10.2; if you’re still using OS 9 or 10.1, you’ll have to stick with version 3.1.

    And before anybody asks, there is one problem with the font panel: you can’t select Helvetica Oblique or Courier Oblique. It’s actually a bug in Mac OS X.

     The importance of being obvious
    Filed under: — David @ 5:32 pm

    Every once in a while someone buys Icon Machine when they really shouldn’t have. Usually it has been because they didn’t realize that it’s a Mac-only app and they need something for Windows. Sometimes they don’t try it out before buying it, and discover later that it doesn’t meet their needs.

    It’s a surprisingly difficult task to put the right words in the right places to keep this from happening. It didn’t occur to me at first that anyone would think Icon Machine runs on Windows. I need to take a step back and reevaluate things from the viewpoint of a total novice. Make no assumptions. Walk myself through the download and first run, closing my eyes to all the knowledge I take for granted.

    It all seems very Zen.

     Batman Begins
    Filed under: — David @ 10:28 pm

    I’ve been thinking for a while now that the next Batman movie should have the Scarecrow as a villain. The previous films have missed something important: the reason Bruce Wayne chose the image of a bat. He wanted to scare the criminals. Batman is supposed to be scary, and Batman Begins finally takes that seriously.

    Another thing that was missing before was the relationship between Batman and Commissioner Gordon, complete with Batman disappearing in the middle of their conversations. This film finally gives us that too.

    I had a few complaints, though. Creating a love interest for Batman is always tricky, and I wasn’t satisfied with this attempt. For some reason I don’t think it fits to have it be someone from his past. In particular, the image of Batman yelling “Rachael!” doesn’t work for me.

    I was also worried about Ra’s (”Razz” in this version) Al Gul. It looked like they were going to mess up the character, as comic book movies tend to do. Why Ken Watanabe? He’s not supposed to look like that. What about the Lazarus pits, and Talia, and “Detective”? Well.. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I came out relatively satisfied on this.

    But I’m still waiting for a Batman that can actually turn his head.

     Carbon and Cocoa toolbars
    Filed under: — David @ 1:14 pm

    I made my first Cocoa toolbar last night. The most interesting thing about doing that was finally understanding the differences between Carbon and Cocoa toolbars. These differences affect how you approach having multiple windows share the same toolbar, as in the Finder: if you rearrange the items in one window, the other windows immediately update to match.

    The differences can be confusing if you come in with the assumption that the two are analogous, especially since there is shared terminology. Both have toolbars, toolbar items, and delegates.

    I think the fundamental difference lies in how commands are sent between objects. Carbon uses command IDs, which are just numbers. The command generally gets sent to the currently focused interface element, and it passes up the control-window-application path until it gets handled. In Cocoa, on the other hand, toolbar items are each wired to specific methods of specific objects.

    The result of these differences is that, in Carbon, there is more sharing of toolbar parts across windows because there is less information that is different. A toolbar item is created once for a toolbar, no matter how many windows it is in, since the command ID is all the information it needs in any window. The toolbar item view, on the other hand, is created for each window, since that’s the thing that gets clicked and enabled and disabled. All windows of the same type share a single toolbar instance, and that’s how they’re kept in sync.

    In Cocoa, there is no separation between the item and its view. This is because the item has to be (or can be, at least) wired to a different object for each window (like the window’s controller). Each toolbar type (like Mail’s main window versus the new message window) has a different identifier, and toolbars with the same identifier are kept in sync. Carbon toolbars have identifiers too, but I believe they’re only used for saving the user’s toolbar customization settings. You could have two toolbars with the same identifier, but Carbon wouldn’t synchronize them like Cocoa does. They would just end up writing over each other’s customization data.

     What goes through their brains?
    Filed under: — David @ 3:05 pm

    Once again I am perplexed by the curious behavior of spammers. I just checked my forums, and found two new identical posts: an anonymous guest saying “good, very good!” It’s the kind of non-content that is the mark of a spammer, and yet there were no URLs on the post or anything else to indicate their purpose. I think the most likely explanation is that someone’s forum-spamming script is broken. For good measure, I deleted another anonymous post that said “very interesting!” for no apparent reason. And then there was the most obvious one advertising an adult site. The interesting thing about that one was that it was posted in the miscellaneous Life, the universe, and stuff forum in what was apparently part of an actual attempt at making it look like a legitimate, intelligent post. Of course, being spam, it was doomed to fail from the start.

    On a related note, blog comments have been temporarily disabled because of a comment spam wave. The forums are still open, though.

     WWDC thoughts, part 4
    Filed under: — David @ 6:26 pm

    I went to the Aqua feedback forum today. As usual, lots of people had lots of things to say about interface issues in OS X.

    The first thing I complained about is that we have lots different button styles, but several of them are not documented in the guidelines. Many of them are also not available through the standard APIs, leaving third party developers to mimic them as best they can, but I think documentation is a higher priority so that at least we can use them consistently.

    Second was the new “unified” toolbar look in Tiger, as seen in places like System Preferences and Mail. The question is, why is it only used in certain windows, and how do they decide? I’ve found that a “unified” toolbar in text-only mode doesn’t look good because, next to the window title, you end up with a big mess of text. My suggestion is that the unified look should only be used when the user can’t change the view mode. In other words, leave it in System Preferences, and take it out of Mail.

    At the end I quickly threw in one of my Spotlight pet peeves: the search toolbar item in the Finder should let you change where it’s going to search before you start typing.

    Some of my favorite comments from other people:

    • An option to turn off all warnings from the Finder about changing file name extensions.
    • The interface inconsistencies across Apple applications lead users to want to hack their systems to fix those issues, which leads to more instability. People are going to want to skin their systems. Just accept it and give us custom themes again so we can have that without sacrificing stability.
    • You should be able to drop stuff onto windows in Exposé without having to wait for the window to expand.
    • Because there are so many fancy print settings (particularly in certain applications), the standard print dialog should have a “spotlight” style search feature like System Preferences.
     WWDC thoughts, part 3
    Filed under: — David @ 7:29 pm

    One interesting thing about the Apple Design Awards is that half of the winners are always apps I’ve never heard of, and none of them (except for the games category) are ever from big, well-known companies like Adobe or Microsoft. It’s certainly great that Apple is paying attention and giving recognition to smaller developers, but what the heck is wrong with the bigger companies that they can’t compete with the little guys when it comes to providing a quality user experience?

    I got to meet with an Apple person in the Human Interface Design Lab. A lot of what he said was really about concepts that I already knew about, but I just needed to take a step back and remember certain principles. One of the key things is the flow in the design of a window. Look at the order in which the user will usually interact with the different parts of a window, and see whether that course looks more like a smooth, comfortable path or an awkward zigzag.

     WWDC thoughts, part 2
    Filed under: — David @ 12:08 pm

    After I installed XCode 2.1 and the new WWDC sample code, I noticed my CPU usage was unusually high. I thought it was going to be a distributed compiling-related process like distccsched, since that often goes crazy for no apparent reason, even when I’m not connected to a network. When that happens, I use Activity Monitor to quit the process - using a regular “quit”, not a “force quit”, assuming that makes a difference. But this time it turned out to be Spotlight, processing all the new stuff I had installed. When I first installed Tiger, there was a dot in the Spotlight icon in the menu bar that pulsed until the initial indexing was done, and I suspect now that that’s the only time it ever appears. I’m not quite sure I like that.

    As I thought about the Intel thing more, I realized that I would actually have issues if I tried to compile Icon Machine for Intel. Apparently the main problem you’re likely to run into is endianness, and with all the byte manipulation I do in Icon Machine I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this caused problems. On the other hand, such a task would also involve moving Icon Machine from CodeWarrior to XCode. I don’t plan to do that until version 4, in which I already plan to rewrite all the stuff that might have been problematic anyway.

    There used to be lots of snacks available between WWDC sessions, but that seems to have been done away with. Now we just have drinks - coffee, canned drinks, and Odwalla, which seems to have replaced the Jamba Juice booth. At least there’s no line at the Odwalla fridges, but I’d rather have the snacks back.

    XCode 2.1 has some welcome additions. While the keynote only mentioned the ability to specify the target architecture - PPC or Intel - there are several other very significant changes. My favorite so far is build configurations, which replaces build styles. I had some problems getting build styles to fit what I wanted to do, and it sounds like configurations will finally do what I need.

    This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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