Building Subversion on The Mac and using Ecto for Blogging

I finally upgraded my Subversion installation on my MacIntosh to the 1.4 version. I was waiting for the “official” packages to come out so that I could just install it, but in looking at the different places recommended by the downloads page, these distributions haven’t been updated since early 1.3 releases.

I’ve had a goal to keep my Mac somewhat pristine. I decided thats not really practical. There are a lot of things that I use that I just like having built from scratch, so that I’m on the most current software and not dependent on someone else’s schedule. Subversion is one of those tools.

One thing I was shocked at was how quickly and seamlessly the build happened on the Mac. These MacBooks are pretty fast machines. I think it took a total of roughly 20 minutes (if that) to build, run tests, and install. The build on the Mac is definitely the fastest configure/check/install cycle I’ve gone through in the many installations of Subversion that I have performed over the years.

I tell you, the more I’m on the Mac, the more I like it. I haven’t run into anything that I’ve found irritating.

Its all good.

This is also the first post I am writing using a trial version of Ecto. I have to say, this application is pretty impressive too. They have both a Mac and a Windows version. I like it much better than blogging in WordPress directly – and at $17.95 a copy, its practically a no brainer to purchase.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to milk the 21 day trial, but it feels like this application is a pretty good fit for me.

Is Apples MacBook Pro Rotten To The Core?

Articles like this top Digg article of the morning from ZDNet make me extremely nervous about my new purchase. I tend to be somewhat of an “early adopter” once I actually make a decision and I’m starting to rethink that purchasing strategy. I have (so far) had no problems with the MacBook, but according to the article it could take a couple of months for the symptoms to occur.

Vienna – An Open Source NewsReader For The Macintosh

Screenshot of Vienna News Reader

I had mentioned in a post earlier this year that I have outsourced many of the tools that I use to third party vendors. Google Reader was one of the applications that I started using.

Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of the “river of news” type of newsreaders, and would rather see a list of sites that I can categorize under folders that I can check conveniently. When I was on Windows, I used FeedDemon after hearing about it from Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and I really liked the application a lot. It was perfect for me.

Since moving to the Mac though, I’ve been unable to find something as easy for me to use as FeedDemon, so I’ve just made due with Google Reader.

That is, until I found Vienna.

Vienna is an open source RSS news reader for the Apple Macintosh. It has a feature set comparable to Feed Demon. It also supports “Smart Folders”, which are a way of defining search criteria to automagically group posts based on filter criteria.

The reader also supports tabbed browsing, using WebKit – really nice if you are looking for “continuity of experience” – not having to jump from app to app in order to finish a unit of work.

I was able to pull my current subscriptions from Google Reader as an OPML file and import them straight into Vienna. No muss, no fuss. The application is very stable, I’ve found no bugs or issues that have gotten in my way since starting to use it a couple of weeks ago – and I find it much more to my liking than Google Reader was. I can look for specific site updates without scrolling all over the place or trying to figure out keyboard shortcuts. There are too many features to list here without being redundant, but their site has a list of the features included in the application, so check it out if your curious.

The best part about Vienna is that the source code is available. If you don’t like something, you can tweak it.

I’ve had a very positive experience with this news reader and recommend it highly to anyone looking for a news reader for Mac OS X.

MacIntosh: The Chimes of Death

The Chimes of Death. I had never heard this term until last night.

Don’t worry, the new Mac Book Pro is running fine. I wish I could say the same for my wife’s iBook.

Jonna asked me for some help last night installing the Cisco VPN client on her work machine, a G4 iBook. As she turned the machine on, the fan started running and we heard three tones – and then nothing.

We tried everything. Remove the battery, remove the plug, insert the AC without the battery, insert the AC with the battery, hard reboot, reset the PMU (with some Vulcan key stroke that would make the most hardcore Emacs user cringe) – you name it, we found it on Google and tried it.

This is where, for me, the Mac fell down in usability. There is NO message on the screen whatsoever in this scenario. No clue as to whats wrong – just the three tones and the light on the front blinking. I wonder if this is something they got from the old Altairs?

In any event, it looks like the machine is dead. I’m sure that she will have to have her IT department send or take it somewhere to get the problem resolved. Most of what I read mentioned either bad RAM or a bad logic board. The RAM is doubtful, as the machine has been running fine for months and no memory upgrades have been done.

Apple definitely needs to work on the customer experience when these types of problems occur. These machines are brilliant until you have a problem. Then it seems that there is nothing you can do, including diagnosing the problem. You get literally NO information, just three chimes and a dark screen.

I can tell you, when something like this happens and you Google around for some answers, you find some pretty pissed off Mac users out there.

The Mac has Spoiled Me

On Sunday we went to Jonna’s company picnic and had forgotten the camera. Jake had his camera and we took some pictures there. When we got home I smugly hooked up Jakes Kodak EasyShare C330 4MP Digital Camera to the Mac and oddly got the message “No images to import”.

Checking the iPhoto camera compatibility list I found that the Kodak EasyShare C330 4MP Digital Camera is not compatible with iPhoto. You know what this means … time to boot up the Windows machine upstairs. It goes without saying that my puffed up chest deflated just a bit.

I put it off for a couple of days, but this morning I decided to grab the pictures off the camera to upload to Flickr, using my Windows machine. It literally took about 5 minutes for the machine to boot, if not more.

I’m extremely spoiled with the Mac. While I’ve done no official timings, it feels to me that I’m up and booted in about 20 seconds. A five minute wait for a system to boot and load all of its start up applications is just something that I now find intolerable.

Before grabbing the Mac, I used to come downstairs in the morning, hit the on button on the gateway, say good morning to Jonna, go to the garage to smoke, come back in, make a pot of coffee, hit the washroom — and by the time I was done the hourglass was just fading away and the machine was ready for me to finally hit my email.

Ed Gibbs wrote a post on Saturday about how fun PhotoBooth had been with his kids on visit to the Apple store, and mentions how this little application enriched the Apple Store experience. He mentions a number of positives he experienced just in the Apple Store itself, all true.

But I tell you, a key piece of the Mac experience for me over the past few weeks has been the complete rearrangment of my schedule in the morning. All of that stuff that I used to do in the morning still happens, but in a completely different order. Now I hit the on button on my Mac, run into the living room to say good morning to Jonna, come back to my desk, log in, check email, check my daily feed, and maybe get up at some point to make coffee.

The Mac has eliminated a LOT of wait time in the morning. For me, thats worth the price of admission. Photobooth is pretty damn fun too though.

iTunes Music Store Faster on a Mac?

I’ve been meaning to throw this question up here for a while. Is it just me, or is the iTunes Music store a hell of a lot faster on a Mac than it is on Windows?

While I like the convenience of iTunes, I absolutely dreaded hitting the music store on my Windows machine. It felt like it took forever to get any decent results. Since moving to the Mac though, the Music Store responds extremely quickly and I have no qualms about doing searches and browsing around now.

I’m just curious – has anyone else that has both types of machines noticed this behavior, or is it just my mind playing tricks on me?

New Things To Learn!

Learning Objective C

One of the really nice things about switching platforms is the plethora of new things one now has the capability to learn that you might not have found a reason to learn before.

I’m a stickler on having something practical to do when learning something. If I don’t have a real thing to shoot for when learning a language, its pretty much a guarantee that I won’t be able to learn it.

The conversion to the Mac platform, the availability of the development tools through the Apple Developer site, and some time spent reading iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business has given me a lot of motivation to dig down and learn Objective C.

Free tools have been around for Objective C programming for quite a long time. The GCC compiler has supported Objective C as far back as I could remember. But frankly, I saw no reason to learn it when I had all of these scripting languages available and most of my Unix work has been either web based, or command line driven tools.

However, the last three or four weeks sitting with the Mac and working within the Mac UI has gotten my curiousity peaked on this odd little language that really gets no visibility until a few guys from NeXT choose it as the basis of their development tools. I really want first hand experience to understand why the guys at NeXT chose this language as the basis of their platform.

Now, I’ve done a lot of C and C++ programming in the past, so one might think that learning Objective C would be no big deal. I have to tell you, I’m struggling a bit. One thing I do think is pretty cool is the dynamic nature of the language. To me, it seems very Python / Ruby – ish in that respect. However, its a lot to learn and I’m really going to have to spend some quality time with some books to get familiar with the concepts. Its very different than C++.

I’ve got three books on order from Amazon: Programming in Objective-C, Learning Cocoa with Objective-C, 2nd Edition, and Building Cocoa Applications : A Step by Step Guide. Unfortunately, I received #2 before #1, and #1 is definitely the book I need first.

I think its pretty cool that I have the excuse to learn something completely different. The past four weeks on a new platform has been interesting to me. Its really like starting all over again with a whole new world available to me — which is what attracted me to this field in the first place.

Objective C Resources

iTunes Finally Converted to MacBook

iTunes Converted - Song List

Well, after about two days of file copying, I finally got all of my iTunes stuff moved over to the new Mac. Why did it take so long you ask? I’m not really sure.

Copying between the Windows box and the MacIntosh using Windows File Sharing just didn’t work unattended. It kept failing for some reason. After about three tries at that, I decided to install cwRSync so that I could restart incrementally, but for some reason, this would not run unattended either, and I didn’t want to spend forever running back and forth between the family room and the living room (where my desk is).

Finally I decided to copy my iTunes library up to the Linux server. I started it at about 7:00am and by 7:30-8:00pm on Tuesday the file copy had completed with no interruptions. On Wednesday, I started an rsync from the Linux server to the MacBook. Another 12 hours later and that was complete.

I had heard horror stories about moving this stuff around if you had purchased music and was a little worried that I would have to spend a lot of time getting the machine authorized and stuff like that. Not so. As a matter of fact, I found these instructions on moving your iTunes library with metadata and they worked without a hitch. I now have all of my music on the MacBook. Nice!

I really do like this environment a lot better than anything I’ve used in the past. I’m not clear as to why I had all of the copy failures I had from machine to machine, but thankfully I’ve got the trusty SuSE server to back me up.