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    Filed under: — David @ 10:31 am

    Diadem is a rewrite of something I did when I was working on Picasa. It’s a library for displaying and managing dialog windows, using the same code and resource files on Windows and Mac OS X, while also keeping a native appearance and layout on both platforms. Many of the windows in Picasa use it, including the Preferences window.

    I rewrote the library as Diadem for two main reasons. First, the original version was too closely tied with Picasa, so it could not be packaged as a separate library. Second, I came to regret some of the design decisions I had made, and changing them would have been too disruptive to Picasa.

    As a rewrite, Diadem only retains some of the most basic layout code from its predecessor. Beyond that, the similarities are pretty much only conceptual. The Mac and Windows parts have to be almost totally rewritten. The Mac version is functional, with some controls (most notably tabs) remaining to be implemented. On Windows, the cross-platform and XML parsing tests are working, while the native control implementations are still in progress. Additionally, there is a wrapper for using Diadem in Python.

    For the moment, Diadem is not being used in any application, but it has been an interesting project to work on, giving me opportunities to learn more about Windows, Python, and good old API design.

     Budget Machine
    Filed under: — David @ 8:19 am

    As I’ve mentioned previously on my blog, I’m now working on a personal budget application titled Budget Machine. This one is open source, and hosted on GitHub so you can see the work in progress.

    A quick overview of the features and goals:

    • The focus is on tracking expenses and budgets. Most other personal finance apps focus on balancing accounts, so I’m writing this because it suits my needs better.
    • I like charts, so I’m working on having charts that automatically update to reflect the current selection and view.
    • Extra fields for clickable package tracking numbers, product URLs, and so forth would be fun to have.
    • Of course, it has to look good. I’m looking at lots of other well-designed apps and aiming high for Budget Machine’s appearance and usability.

    I like GitHub because it adds a more social aspect to open source programming. Please feel free to leave any comments or ideas you have either here or in the project’s wiki or issues pages.

    Filed under: — David @ 5:49 pm

    Finally, a post that doesn’t have a turquoise title bar. In the early days of this blog, they were more the exception than the rule.

    I’ve undertaken a new software project, intended to replace the Numbers spreadsheet Lisa and I have been using to track our expenses. I’m calling it “Means”. Edit: It was later renamed “Budget Machine”.

    Of course, there are plenty of finance apps out there, but none of them seemed to fit the way we’re used to doing things. For one thing, we’ve focused more on tracking expenses and budgeting. Most apps out there are about managing accounts - syncing with online banking info, balancing checkbooks, and so forth. It’s kind of a subtle difference, but I don’t want to be forced into another way of doing things, or awkwardly use a tool for something it wasn’t quite intended for.

    So these are the goals I have in mind:

    • A database of expenses, covering all our checking, savings, and credit card accounts
    • Assign expenses to categories (health, groceries, etc.), as well as arbitrary tags like “Italy trip” so we can easily see how much certain events and projects are costing.
    • Display live charts & graphs according to the current view or selection (I’ve found a good library for that)
    • Make it easy to search by various things - date, category, etc.

    This will be my first real adventure in Core Data programming (that’s a framework Apple has produced to make it easy to write applications that deal with lots of data objects). It’s also one of the few attempts I’ve made at Cocoa programming. It occurred to me recently that I’ve only written Cocoa applications as hobby projects, and professionally I’ve only done bits of Cocoa inside Carbon apps.

    There will be a question of what to do with it when it’s done. Shareware? Open source? Just keep it for Lisa & me? On the other hand, given the amount of free time I have these days, I’m not taking it for granted if or when I’ll finish. I’m in it for the experience as much as anything.

     MacWorld 2009
    Filed under: — David @ 6:46 pm

    Finally, I can tell people about my day job - I’m one of the developers on the Mac version of Picasa, which was finally announced to the public last week at the beginning of the MacWord Expo.

    I was at the expo for a couple of days, giving demos and answering questions. Although it was tiring, it was fun because there was such a positive response to the product, in spite of the fact that a new version of iPhoto had just been announced.

    It was my first time going to MacWorld since about 2001; before that I had gone pretty much every year since high school. It was interesting to see what had changed, which was mainly in the overall focus of the products. Lots of digital video and photography, lots of iPod/iPhone accessories. Aside from that, though, nothing much struck me as different. This was ironic, since this year turned out to be so significant in the history of MacWorld. No Steve Jobs keynote, and Apple won’t be coming back.

    I had stopped going to MacWorld because WWDC was much more interesting. But I had forgotten how MacWorld gave me a glimpse into the larger Mac community, which WWDC really doesn’t do at all. So even though I wouldn’t go to shop for a new hard disk or something, I’m still tempted to go again next year just to see what people are doing.

    The new iPhoto does looks cool, with its new Faces and Places features. I look forward to trying them out. If I had known what they were going to add to iMovie, I might not have put Final Cut Express on my Christmas list. I’m still disappointed that iDVD is getting left by the wayside. I think Apple is still premature in abandoning physical media like that, especially after having originally been late to the party with CD burning. I still want to burn my high-def movies to DVDs, and the only software I’ve found to do that easily still requires Windows. I explained my situation to one of the Apple reps at their booth. Hopefully he’ll pass it on.

    I’m less likely to get the new iWork. Numbers is the only app in the suite that I use regularly, and none of the new features are all that exciting for me.

    As for the new 17″ MacBook Pro… yeah, definitely tempting.

     Carbon vs. the iPhone
    Filed under: — David @ 11:20 pm

    I was going to do my usual WWDC post this year, but I keep doing other things instead of blogging. Now that I’ve finally gotten around to it, I think I’ll just summarize.

    The overall impression I had was that things are seriously changing now. Carbon, the application programming interface that evolved from the original Mac OS, was almost completely absent from the conference. For years, Apple insisted that Carbon and Cocoa were equally good alternatives for Mac programming, despite some indications that at least some people inside Apple (not to mention outside) didn’t really believe that. Then came last year’s surprise of dropping 64-bit Carbon from Leopard. Few believe it was for technical reasons.

    Then there was the iPhone, the 800-pound gorilla of the conference. I wasn’t the only one who sometimes didn’t bother going to some of the iPhone sessions just because they would be too crowded. I have played around with the SDK some, and there are some very cool things in there. I just need to figure out how to devote time to software hobby projects like I used to, now that marriage has changed the definition of “free time”.

    Things are changing. Carbon was a link to the Mac’s past, and that link has been cut. Mac programming isn’t what it used to be, and I’m actually feeling nostalgic for the 90s. I thought that kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen to me for several more years at least.

     So much for reinventing the wheel
    Filed under: — David @ 7:26 pm

    My wife has this seven-week dinner menu system all worked out, and she wanted something on her computer to manage it so she could do cool things like automatically generate a shopping list. At first we looked at doing it in Numbers, but it soon became apparent that this was not a job for a spreadsheet.

    Fortunately, Mac OS X has Core Data, which makes it easy to write database applications. Just the thing for keeping track of recipes and grocery lists. One of the example Core Data applications is even a recipe organizer, though it’s too simple for our needs.

    I’ve toyed with Core Data before, but I haven’t actually used it. I looked into it for XVG, especially since the Core Data documentation frequently mentions a drawing program as something you might use it for. But the problem was that Core Data deals only in sets of things, not ordered lists. A drawing program needs to keep track of the front-to-back drawing order of the shapes, so Core Data was out for that project.

    But for recipes it’s just right. I had fun assembling a data model, figuring out a good UI design, and even learning some more tricks for using Cocoa’s tables and buttons.

    Then I decided I ought to look around and see what else was out there… and found YummySoup. It does pretty much everything I had in mind for my own app, plus cool stuff like you can tell it how to import recipes from any web site.

    So the good news is I don’t have to write a recipe organizer. The bad news is I was actually looking forward to it, and now I need a new excuse to learn Core Data. But I’ll probably go back to writing Flag Domination for Unreal Tournament 3 instead.

     A simple wiki
    Filed under: — David @ 10:43 am

    A while back I installed MediaWiki on my PowerBook for use as a personal journal and notebook. I chose MediaWiki because a) it was free and b) I thought the installation process would be educational. Well it was, but it wasn’t enjoyable enough to make me want to do it again on my MacBook Pro.

    So I’m thinking about alternatives. The problem with MediaWiki is that it’s not designed for the single-user scenario; just the opposite, it’s designed for super-sized situations like Wikipedia. I’ve looked at other wiki-like programs, but one of my concerns is being stuck with a proprietary format. As a personal journal, this is data that is going to be with me a long time, and it has a good chance of outliving whatever program I choose to use right now. So naturally the option of doing it myself has come to mind.

    Here’s my idea: an application with the easy inter-page linking of a wiki, but where each page is based on a simple standard format, like HTML (instead of choosing one of many wiki mark-up formats). Each page is also a separate document, and easily searchable with Spotlight. Most wikis keep an edit history for each page, but for my purposes that just isn’t important so I’ll skip that feature. I would use WebKit’s built-in editing features, with some stuff added on for easy links, categories, and a few other things. I suppose that, since it’s based on HTML, such an app could be used as a web site management tool. That depends on how it evolves.

    So, dare I take on another project? Well it looks like I can leave XVG in favor of GCDrawKit, so I just might have an opening.

    Filed under: — David @ 11:04 am

    We went to the Century City Apple Store (because we wanted to do some other shopping at that mall). There were 50 or so people in line when we got there, and the line nearly doubled by the time 6:00 came. As we walked in, the store people cheered us and handed us t-shirts. We did little besides wait in line and buy Leopard.

    Like many people I’m sure, I’m trying to decide on how to set up a Time Machine backup drive. The Apple Store sells LaCie and Western Digital drives. The Amazon reviews show that there is a failure rate to worry about, but it’s hard to gauge. Unfortunately it seems to be worse for the terabyte drives, so for the moment I’m leaning towards a 500GB LaCie drive.

    At first the installation was supposed to take 3 hours, but as usual the first couple of hours went by really fast and the last “about a minute” took much longer.

    When I launched iChat, it asked me for my AIM password, which it normally doesn’t. I typed something in, checked the box to store it in my keychain, and got a message that it couldn’t find my keychain.

    Further poking around revealed that my keychain was broken. The Keychain Access app couldn’t unlock it, display its contents, or even show a proper icon for it. There were no error messages to be found, either. Not in dialogs, not in the console log.

    I tried re-importing my ~/Library/Keychains/login.keychain file and deleting the old keychain. This left me with a keychain named “login” instead of “uncommon”, and apparently you can’t rename a keychain. But it’s working again.

    Some other initial thoughts:

    At first I thought the menu bar was opaque after all, but it turned out it was just that my desktop picture lacked detail at the top.

    The help viewer is now a floating system window instead of a separate application. This is a pain because the window is big and stays in front of everything else. I had already complained about this in the original WWDC seed.

    The same folder icons are there, with their spots and monochromatic badges. I still don’t like them. I’ve started working on converting some Paper Folder icons to 512x512. It’s harder than it sounds. If you want them to look good, that is.

    The window title bar controls look shinier than in Tiger, which is odd since the rest of the Aqua UI is heading towards duller gradients.

    Unfortunately, installing Leopard also installed iTunes 7.4.2, which threatens to kill my ringtones. Fortunately, I did an Archive And Install which preserved my old iTunes 7.4.1, and it still runs.

    I think Mail is getting bloated with its notes and RSS (I use Sage for RSS). I can see how, with the notes feature, they’re trying to accommodate people who were trying to use Mail before for things it wasn’t designed for - sending yourself notes by email. But people were doing that just because Mail happened to work well enough as a kind of document database. Making it an official feature turns Mail into something it’s not. I think this is a missed opportunity for innovation.

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

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