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     Layers of conversion
    Filed under: — David @ 10:51 pm

    I’m finally taking a serious crack at Windows icon importing/exporting in Icon Machine. My plan had been to use FreeImage, since it seemed to be a good open-source implementation. The first obstacle I ran into was that the open source nature of the code made it tricky to get it to work in CodeWarrior. While I had converted Icon Machine to Mach-O, I hadn’t made the switch to XCode yet.

    Now I’m in a position to try this again. Things are still complicated, though. 32-bit icons are working reasonably well, but indexed images are trickier. I’ve been tempted to just dump indexed images since they seem old-fashioned, but then there would be lots of icon files that Icon Machine couldn’t open. So I decided to go all the way.

    The next problem is translating between the FreeImage API and the Quartz and NSImage APIs. At this point I’m not entirely sure how to get the transparency data for an indexed image, and it’s enough to get me thinking I may as well eliminate the FreeImage layer. The purpose of FreeImage is actually to give a common interface to a variety of image formats, so using it for only one format isn’t quite so useful.

    There’s a bunch more stuff planned for Icon Machine 4. Originally, I designed it closely around the Mac OS icon format. Now I’m rethinking it, with a more generalized definition of what an icon is. This ought to enable me to keep up with things for a while yet.

     NSImageRep copies
    Filed under: — David @ 11:46 pm

    Cocoa lesson for the day: if you subclass NSImageRep and your subclass has some data storage, be sure to override copyWithZone: to copy or retain the data. NSImage makes cached copies of its representations and releases them apparently every time it draws, so be careful the cached copy doesn’t destroy anything when it gets deallocated.

    Next challenge: finding a way to work with indexed images using Core Graphics or NSImage APIs.

     Earth Planet, Leader Class
    Filed under: — David @ 10:24 pm

    Cybertron Optimus Prime is surprisingly sophisticated. I was especially interested by the way the leg pieces fit together. The overall shape of the truck mode is an interesting take on the old idea, since it’s not trying to look exactly like a real truck.

    This one also has more key action - in two places this time, though one tends to pop out. I still prefer Minicons. It looks like Vector Prime is the only one in the Cybertron line with a Minicon, plus one new set of three. It’s interesting how the Minicon concept seems to just be fading rather than disappearing with the end of the Armada line. I’d rather it faded more slowly, but this is better than nothing.

    One thing that had me puzzled for a while was the fact that the middle set of wheels can flip out to the side. I wasn’t sure what the point of that was, since it’s not necessary for the transformation and it isn’t mentioned anywhere in the instructions. Finally I decided it was so they wouldn’t get in the way if you wanted to bend the legs out that way. Vector Prime has similar hinges that allow the legs to be bent forwards. It’s really nice to see them adding little touches like that, so the figures don’t just transform but are actually poseable as well.

    Like Vector Prime, Optimus also requires two AAA batteries so he can have his flashing lights and sounds in one of the big guns. That, by the way, is the one where the key pops out.

    Starscream, by the way, is freaking huge. He actually rivals Unicron, and the store seemed to have more of him than anything else. It’s not at all apparent why he had to be so big. The transformation doesn’t look very complex, so he would have worked just fine at a smaller scale. I was tempted to spend the extra $10 and get him instead of Optimus. The coolest thing, though, is that he comes with a crown. Now all we need is a new Galvatron to step on it.

    Unfortunately, the TV show still sucks.

     Objective-C things
    Filed under: — David @ 8:16 pm

    Tip for the day: forgetting the “@end” at the end of an Objective-C file can cause the compiler to really go nuts. The process would keep churning away after I told XCode to cancel the build. Only occasionally would it also spew out endless repetitions of an error that I finally realized was caused by the absence of the @end tag.

    Among other things, I’m making an NSImageRep subclass that draws a CGImage. I’m surprised I couldn’t find an existing implementation somewhere. It seems like such an obvious thing.

    I would say the two big cool things about Cocoa are 1) the flexibility of the Objective-C language and 2) all the built-in stuff that I don’t have to write. Using the IconFamily class, for example, it’s trivial to convert icns files to multi-image tiff files. The flip side of that, though, is that when you need to branch out and do custom stuff, things get a lot hairier. I think the hardest part of that is just figuring out what approach to take, what with controls vs cells and images vs representations and so forth.

     Video game violence rant
    Filed under: — David @ 9:42 pm

    CNN quotes Rockstar Games saying it is “disappointed by comments that misrepresent Grand Theft Auto [San Andreas], detracting from the innovative and artistic merits of the game.”

    I would say, rather, that the game itself, with its violence and vulgarity, detracts from its own innovative and artistic merits.

    It does have those merits. The level of realism and being able to freely explore an entire city are pretty darn cool. But then the fact that this virtual world is designed for you to interact with it solely as a criminal really brings it down. Sure it’s all “edgy” and “gritty” and so forth, but that’s not the only way to sell stuff, nor is it the best. Why not combine the more positive theme of, say, Super Mario Sunshine with the realism of the GTA games? I mean, seriously, that’s combining two successful and popular things. And who’s going to complain when some disturbed high school kids go on a squirt gun rampage?

    Games with a theme like GTA should not be made. Which is not the same thing as saying they should not be allowed on the store shelves. I’m not advocating censorship, but rather wishing that game makers were more responsible in what they choose to produce.

     Batteries not included
    Filed under: — David @ 9:35 am

    If I hadn’t read about the upcoming Transformers Cybertron line, I would have thought the comeback that started with Armada had petered out. I didn’t find a single Energon toy worth buying, and Toys R Us has been marking them down for the past few months, including a Megatron-Optimus bundle that still doesn’t seem to be selling very well.

    Yesterday, I went in and saw the first of the Cybertron toys. There were two that tempted me: Optimus Prime and Vector Prime. I probably would have gotten Optimus, but anything after the 20th Anniversary version is unavoidably a letdown.

    So I got Vector Prime instead, reserving Optimus for a possible future purchase. There were two things that intrigued me. First, he comes with a Minicon, which surprised me. I had gotten the impression that with Energon they had abandoned the Minicon concept, but I’m glad to see that’s not true. There’s even a new three-pack of Minicons. Anyway, Vector Prime’s Minicon was a big plus. The other was the design and concept of this particular Transformer. He’s supposed to come from Cybertron’s ancient past, so he combines the intricate detail often associated with “ancient alien technology”, and the rounded, bulky shapes that evoke a paladin’s armor, complete with sword. I’m pretty satisfied with it, overall.

    I was surprised to find that it required two AAA batteries which were not included. This is the first Transformer I’ve gotten since Trypticon (almost 20 years ago) that required you to buy your own batteries. Trypticon had an excuse: he was big, and he actually walked, so he needed some relatively beefy batteries. Vector Prime just has sounds, so why he doesn’t just have a watch-sized battery like the noisy Armada toys I bought is beyond me.

    Then there’s the whole planet key thing. The keys are the MacGuffin device of the new Cybertron cartoon (which, judging from yesterday’s premier, sucks as much as Energon did), replacing the Minicons from Armada. They even have the same function in the toys: they unlock certain features when you plug them in. In Vector Prime’s case, he makes different sounds when you move his right arm, which is apparently his sword arm. This, of course, makes the battery issue that much more ridiculous.

    But back to Minicons versus keys: keys are boring. Minicons can transform, and they are characters on their own. They were a really good idea. Maybe they think it’s too hard to sell a new season of the cartoon based on the same idea, but the cartoon has bigger problems. The original show didn’t try to reinvent itself all the time, and look how many fans it got. But I guess things were different then.

     Something always happens
    Filed under: — David @ 5:47 pm

    Anybody else an Art of Noise fan?

    Anyway, I just posted a sort of emergency stealth update: Icon Machine 3.2.1. Unless you’re Japanese and/or haven’t registered yet, the fixed problems won’t affect you.

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

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