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     Cartoon Network on iTMS: The Bad Beginning
    Filed under: — David @ 7:45 am

    Don’t get me wrong… Clone Wars is cool and everything. But as the beginning of Cartoon Network content on the iTunes Music Store, this isn’t so impressive.

    First, the entire series is already available on DVD. Even the second season, which for some reason iTMS is delaying until next month.

    Second, they’re charging $1.99 for each 4-minute episode. That’s the same price they charge for the hour-long (minus commercials) shows. Come on. That model works for songs, but for the video stuff the disparity is really glaring.

    Third (and this is against certain users as much as Apple), judging from the first few “reviews”, initially there were no episodes listed for the show. I assume there was some technical glitch which was fixed by the time I looked. I really wish people wouldn’t post “reviews” to complain about technical or even pricing issues. If you’re going to review the show, review the show. Otherwise go rant in a forum somewhere.

    On the other hand, as I’ve said before, if they get some Justice League Unlimited up there (or maybe Freakazoid, which hasn’t been announced for DVD yet), then they’ll start seeing some of my money again. It’s kind of ironic that once iTMS got me into podcasts, I stopped buying music because I’m spending all my listening time on the podcasts.

     XVG page added
    Filed under: — David @ 7:26 pm

    Although it will be a while yet before I have an actual release, I’ve added an XVG page to the site with an overview of the project.

    Currently I’m still in the middle of object resizing - I need to do lines, polygons, and paths. Next will be creating basic shapes, and then possibly refining the inspector interface. I’m thinking of adding a Calatog palette, which will hold things like gradients, filters, symbols, and CSS styles.

    What I really want to do for the XVG web site is set up Trac at, but currently Trac requires that Subversion be set up on the same server which SourceForge doesn’t do. I can’t do it here at either, since I can’t run Subversion at all (unless I switched to a different web host, but that would be a big pain and probably too expensive). Hopefully there will be either a fix or a workaround soon.

     MacBook… nah
    Filed under: — David @ 9:27 pm

    I went to my local Apple store to check out the new MacBook today. They had about five on display. Overall, I think I’ll stick with my plan of waiting and getting a 15″ MacBook Pro later on, like when they fix the reported noise problem.

    The main changes in the MacBook are the latchless lid, the keyboard, the glossy screen, and the black version. Of those, I really like the latchless lid - mainly because my current PowerBook’s latch broke a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been making do with a rubber band. This is one feature I could use.

    I figure an Apple store is a good place to judge glare on a screen, it being all white and brightly lit. In that environment, the glossy screen actually wasn’t that bad. But seeing it side-by-side with the old anti-glare version, I don’t think glossy is for me. The thicker border around the screen also makes it feel more cramped.

    I also prefer the old keyboard. I think the curved key tops are more comfortable on the fingertips, and the contrast of the flat side keys (shift, return, etc.) makes it easier to find them by feel.

    For some reason the matte black finish seems cheap to me. Between that and the keyboard, it seems like something from the 80s.

    So although my PowerBook has to be rubber banded shut, and the cable-winding posts on the power adapter have broken off, it’s not time to replace it just yet.

     End of an era
    Filed under: — David @ 6:19 pm

    The final episode of Justice League Unlimited aired this past Saturday. It seemed to leave some unanswered questions (I won’t spoil the ending), which would leave things open for an additional season, but the official announcement has been made that this is really the end. The previous season was also supposed to be the end, and then they changed their minds, but I’m not holding out much hope for that happening again.

    Cartoon Network seemed to have lost interest in the show. It was only being shown once a week when it wasn’t preempted by something else, and I almost never saw an ad for it. I remember when they’d have it on Saturday and Sunday nights - one widescreen, one regular. It was even on Toonami for a while. I don’t know what the ratings were like, but it my book it was the best cartoon on TV.

    Juniper Lee was my second favorite, but it’s been pretty scarce lately too. I haven’t decided which show holds the distant third place, but basically now there aren’t any cartoons on that can hold my attention for very long.

    I kind of enjoyed Code Lyoko, but that seems to have disappeared too. The Batman is okay, but it lacks the depth of the previous series - not to mention Robin, who I assume is missing because of the Teen Titans, though that seems to have ended too. I don’t know why Xiaolin Showdown is suddenly everywhere.

    I wish Apple would work out a deal with Warner Bros. to put stuff like Justice League on the iTunes Music Store. I’d buy them, and I haven’t bought any TV shows yet.

    But at least the DVDs are coming out.

     Firefox moving forward
    Filed under: — David @ 10:02 pm

    This post in the Inside Firefox blog is, to me, the best Firefox/Mozilla related news I’ve seen in a while. What he’s saying is that XUL needs an overhaul. I didn’t know this, but if it’s true I’m all in favor of it.

    If you’re staring blankly at my summary, then I’ll summarize XUL. What HTML is for page layout, XUL is for window/dialog layout. It lets you specify the layout of buttons and other window parts in terms of structure and relationships rather than just numerical coordinates. It’s flexible and cross-platform, and all the windows in Firefox use it. I like the idea, even though I haven’t actually used it myself. I just think it’s cool.

    I’ve always been impressed by how Mac-like the Mac version of Firefox looks, especially given how thin the Mac-specific layer is. So I like the XUL concept partly because it can do stuff like that. I’ve considered redoing the Volley client as a Mozilla based application. I still think that would theoretically be the best approach, especially since it would be a huge step towards cross-platformness. The big obstacle is that the learning curve for the Mozilla framework seems pretty steep, as if they were more concerned with moving their current applications forward and not so much with attracting new developers.

    And that leads right back to that XUL overhaul. As one commenter on the article says, there’s a well-worn path that the savvy developers all use, and when the newbies try to explore they find that everything off the beaten path is rather wild and funky. So speaking as a potential new developer, I say I’m all in favor of taking that path and turning it into a nice paved road, complete with mailboxes and ice cream trucks.

    No, I think my metaphor is breaking down.

     Cutting corners
    Filed under: — David @ 11:54 am

    The basics of tool switching are in place, though of course the tools themselves have a ways to go. The arrow tool can still only drag. I also have a path editing tool, which so far just draws the anchor points, and a rectangle drawing tool which for the moment just has its own cursor.

    Being able to switch tools meant adding a window toolbar, with a custom multi-button item like the one seen in OmniGraffle. The twist in making the tool selection item was that I couldn’t quite do it through the Magic of Cocoa Bindings. The thing that was lacking was that NSMatrix doesn’t let you bind the images of its cells. Otherwise, I could just take my existing NSArrayController with its list of tools, wire it all up, and I’d be set. Fortunately, since my list of tools isn’t going to change, I can just set the tool images manually and content myself with binding the selection index.

    I was going to start on the resizing feature of the arrow tool, but somehow got sidetracked on round-cornered rectangles. A casual observer might think I already had that working, but I was missing something: SVG allows you to specify an x and y radius for the corners, yielding oval-shaped corners instead of circular ones. In Quartz, the only way to draw an oval arc is by scaling it by the ratio of the x and y radii. That’s where things got messy. Scaling happens relative to the origin, not relative to the current point, so you have to apply a translation on top of the scaling. And somehow I couldn’t quite get it right. For some cases it worked, but for others it was off by a few pixels.

    The Quartz documentation mentions that when you tell it to draw an arc, it actually approximates it with cubic Bezier curves - since Bezier curves can’t perfectly recreate a true arc. So I started to think maybe I should do that myself, since Quartz’s version didn’t work for me. Google gave me a page from a Stanford computer science class in which students were asked to approximate a 90° arc with a single Bezier segment. Fortunately this was the answer page.

    I plugged in their little formula, 4(√2-1)/3 multiplied by each radius, replacing one of my corner arcs with this approximation. I was assuming I’d need at least two curve segments to make it look really good. But just the one segment looked pretty good. So I did another corner, and then brought the result into Photoshop to get a more exact comparison (new layer via copy, flip horizontal, difference mode, and levels to enhance the differences). There were differences, but not nearly as much as I expected and definitely good enough. So I did the other two corners and called it done.

    This arc issue may come up again as I get into path drawing. Most drawing apps just use cubic Bezier segments for their paths, but SVG allows each segment to be one of four things: straight line, quadratic Bezier, cubic Bezier, or arc. And of course, that can be an oval arc. Not only that, SVG describes arcs differently from how they’re described in Quartz. So if I’m going to support arc segments, I’m faced with the choice of figuring out how to convert between SVG and Quartz arcs, or doing more cubic Bezier approximations. Before, I didn’t give the approximation route much thought, but now it’s looking a lot more attractive.

    It’s interesting what a little taste of success will do for 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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