Compiling under Leopard

Since I upgraded my monster MacBook Pro I really haven’t looked back. I’ve suddenly started getting software by checking out the SVN repository and compiling it because it would be quicker than downloading an archive. Surely this is what a 64-bit operating system is meant to be like. It is giving me a warped view of the world and I now wish I hadn’t foolishly opted for a Dell at work. I could probably run a Virtual Vista quicker under Leopard than I could if it were running natively.

The MacBook Pro genuinely feels like a desktop replacement. I’m not sure I would go back to the box and screen for development now. Even the battery life feels like its been extended. It might even be responsible for these cartoon birds that keep singing all over the place.

OSX 10.5.2? An OS that actually seems to reflect its codename.


Running Virtual Ubuntu

So at work I need to be able to have access to a personal UNIX playground and the form that you have to fill in to get a licensed VMFusion instance is a nightmare so I decided to look at the alternatives. I already had Parallels installed on my MacBook Pro but I had not done anything with it. I also decided to try and get Ubuntu running on my Windows Vista machine using the free (to download) VMWare Player.

VMWare Player requires a special image (I used this one) however once the software and the image was downloaded (the images are sensibly torrented although the player software itself does not seem to be), getting the system running was extremely easy. You just click on the image, it loads up and you update within Ubuntu as normal.

Getting Parallels working was not as as easy. I tried a standard DVD from a Linux Magazine, that failed with an X error where the X window could not be started. So I downloaded a text based installer and ran through that. It had the same problem and after reading this item in the Parallels Knowledge Base I took a guess at the problem and set the resolution during the text installation to be 1024 by 768. That sorted the issue and after that the major problem was networking. The Parallels installation did not seem able to share my wireless connection. Once I connected my Ethernet cable then the instance updated fine. Oddly once I set the VM to use Shared networking I could use the Wireless connection but counter-intuitively setting the Ubuntu instance to use the Wired connection. I guess at that point Parallels was able to weave a little magic and make the connection available and the issue of whether the physical hardware was Ethernet or Wireless was completely irrelevant.

Both systems run their virtual machines very quickly but VM Player seems to be the better suited to rapidly stopping and starting the machine. It works pretty much like a normal application, you fire it up and close the window when you are done. The Parallels application is much less seamless. Both applications use a similar amount of space to save their state, VM Player perhaps runs a bit fatter from my experience.

VM Player is pretty amazing for a product that is offered for free and is definitely a well-done teaser product. If you have never run a virtual machine before I would definitely recommend giving it a spin. Parallels is a slick and excellent program but its focus on running Windows under OS X seems to have led it to not being able to create a trouble-free installation experience for the leading desktop Linux distribution of today. That is a big mistake and even Parallels’ relatively low price tag of £50 to £60 does not excuse it. Some things should just work. After all at some point you are going to appreciate having the flexibility to install a OS how you like and at that point you may be more tempted to upgrade your existing solution than switch to a new application altogether.


Woohoo! Leopard!

Today I finally took the plunge and installed Leopard on my MacBook Pro. So far nothing seems obviously broken and so I’m pretty happy. At the same time I haven’t really noticed much difference at the moment either. Preview might be sharper and shinier. Desktop icons now have little previews. The machine is maybe a bit faster and runs cooler when doing the same tasks, particularly compiling which is probably faster than I have ever seen on a desktop machine.

Mostly though I am glad that everything has been migrated with zero pain.

Macbook, Software

Music for the Mac

When I switched to OSX I was surprised to find that the “just works” system had no support for Ogg or FLAC. I also missed the simplicity and power of programs such as CDEx and MusikCube. I have had a look at all kinds of replacements but recently I was delighted to find a two programs that fill exactly the same niche on OSX. Max is a ripping program with a more elaborate interface than CDEx, this makes simple ripping a little more involved but it is possible to set up different encoding outputs for each rip so that once the track has been ripped it can then be encoded to different formats. You could produce a lossless FLAC version and a radio quality MP3 version for a small flash player. I haven’t been able to produce different encoding settings for the same output format and I am not sure that is supported.

Of course having encoded the music you also need something to play it on and finding a decent player on OSX is hard due to the smothering presence of iTunes. Cog is a player with a lot of features and decent format support that has a clean and simple interface. It is now my player of choice on the Mac and I would highly recommend it.


Oi! Quicktime! Noooo!

Halfway through a 350Mb download from Bleep I decide to upgrade Quicktime due to the serious security fixes that are available in Version 7.1 (or that is what the popup tells me).

During the install Quicktime tells me it has to close its running instances. Fine I think and click okay. Suddenly Firefox is shut down and a popup sensibly points out that if I close Firefox now I’ll lose 100Mb plus of the download that has already been stored on the PC. Do I really want to shutdown Firefox?

Thank god for Firefox I think! No, don’t stop downloading I tell it… Only to have Quicktime slyly close it anyway. And install itself once again into the Systray.

Apple stuff is easy to use, as long as you do what the program wants you to do and you don’t get any uppity ideas of your own. Sometimes though you actually know what you’re doing and its not down to a program to decide what you actually need to do. It is useability but at a stiff price.