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.

More on Mind Mapping and MindManager

I’ve been playing around with MindJet MindManager over the last week or so and I have to say, overall I really like it. Mindmapping provides a great mechanism in getting your thoughts down on paper and establishing relationships between different concepts, especially for someone who suffers from “chronic editor” syndrome such as myself.

I’d love to post some examples of some of the things that I have been working on, but the only real “work neutral” mindmap I have available is the one I previously posted. Some really good examples can be found in the mindmaps that Cote produces. These are some really good examples of the complexity that can be represented using this technique.

I had first read about mindmapping quite a few years ago in the book Quantum Learning: Unleashing the Genius in You by Bobbi Deporter (with Mike Hernacki). Deporter and Hernacki describe the Mind Mapping technique as “a whole brain technique using visual images and other graphic devices to form impressions”. The key piece of this, for me, has been the connection and breakdown of different concepts into sub concepts. The graphical nature of a mind-map, coupled with the distilling of the key concepts and relationships and visual representation, have allowed me to retain much more information while taking notes over the past week than I have previously experienced.

I had attempted mind-mapping when reading Quantum Learning, but the extremely manual process (actual drawing) turned me off immediately. For me, it just seemed like too much work.

That’s where Mind Manager comes in. With a few natural keystrokes you can string all of these concepts together, attach images or URL’s to the key concepts for further reference material, and flag concepts as priorities or something to pay attention to. The additional benefit of a tool to do this stuff is the ability to dynamically refactor your mind maps without having to throw away your piece of paper and recopy everything. The refactoring of these concepts has been something that I have been doing quite a bit.

The folks at MindJet were nice enough to give me complimentary licenses for both the Macintosh and Windows environments. Since buying a Mac in June, I have decided to use it exclusively at home in order to learn as much about the environment as possible (and, of course, to justify the investment). So, I have had the opportunity to work on a few mind maps across the two environments. There is no ‘import’ or conversion necessary. I store the maps on my thumb drive, work on them at home, take them to work, and they just load and are ready for continued editing on the Windows platform.

There are some differences between the two versions of the product. The Windows version has quite a bit of Microsoft Office integration. You can export your mind maps to Visio, Word, Excel and even Microsoft Project, in addition to JPG and PNG image formats and PDF. Both versions allow you to add task information to map nodes, including flagging nodes as resources and flagging them as quarter, half, three quarters done, as well as completed. I have not experimented with taking these types of mind maps and exporting them to project, but I’m assuming these move along with them (I can mess with it later and validate this).

The Macintosh version has a more limited set of export formats. JPG and PNG are supported along with multiple flavors of RTF (Word, TextEdit) and PDF.

For me, the use of this tool over the past week has been a really positive experience – on the Macintosh. The Windows version has some pretty major performance issues that are being talked about in the support forums as well as being addressed specifically by the Vice President of Engineering on the companies blog.

The Windows machine that I am running MindManager on has 2G of memory and 80G of hard drive space. When docked, I run at a pretty high screen resolution (1280×1024 – maybe even higher). Docked, the software runs well enough to do the work I need to do as another connected concept hits me on some of the things I am working on.

The strange part is that as soon as I undock and run in ‘laptop’ mode at the standard 1024×768 resolution, performance drops to the point where the software isn’t even usable. I’m not sure why this is the case, but at a seminar the other day with the Windows laptop, I was unable to take notes using the software whatsoever, as the software began exhibiting the symptoms mentioned in the above links.

Overall, the technique of mind mapping is proving extremely helpful to me. As mentioned earlier, using the technique has increased the retention that I am experiencing while thinking through problems. The MindManager software is excellent – on a Mac. The Windows version needs some work to fix some of the performance challenges that I am experiencing.

The price tag for the software is not the cheapest in the world either. A single user license for MindManager 6.0 Pro weighs in at a whopping $349, with the Basic and Macintosh versions available at $229. The question then becomes is the price tag worth the value received from the software. While I’m receiving a ton of value from using the software, the price of a single user license would definitely stop me from even taking the time to try it in the first place. While the company does make trial software available (both a 5 day express trial with no registration required and a 21 day “premium trial” of which the premium is registering with the company), I rarely “do” trials on products in this price range for the fear of getting addicted to them and having to pay for them.

So the real question for me as I use the software further is whether I will buy it. Time will tell. I like to (and see it as an obligation) to support software I find useful with my wallet. The only real guarantee that useful software will continue to be available is if there is a community behind it, or, in the case of commercial software, people actually buy it. Once the “newness” of the software wears off, we’ll see if I continue to see value in the process and whether I keep using the software. At the point that I find it indispensable, I will definitely shell out the money to show my support for the product.

And when that happens, you’ll definitely be the first to know.

Related Links

Using a Mac – A MindMap

Photo by rbieber

Experimenting with MindJet MindManager, an application used to create mind maps. Tom the Architect has talked to me about mind maps a bajillon times, but I have been reluctant to start using them because the only "free" program was a Java app. The folks at MindJet shot me a complimentary copy of their software and I’ve started using it. Sat in a meeting yesterday and walked away with more content than I’ve ever walked away with note-wise. Excellent software.

This is something I used just to play with the software. These are things I like about the Mac, as a new user.

I’m really liking the complimentary copy of MindJet MindManager I received the other day from the folks at MindJet. I have been intrigued by mindmapping since first reading about it in a book and later watching Tom the Architect produce them as a form of meeting notes (using FreeMind). Lately, I’ve been watching Cote produce a slew of them. Playing around with the software, it makes note taking so much easier.

I just might buy a copy at some point to show my appreciation for the productivity gains I believe I will receive just from having this software installed on my machine.

As I use it more in “real life” I plan to write more about it. Mind mapping definitely puts you in a different state of mind in a meeting. I’m one of those people that has a hard time taking notes because I wind up editing sentences while people are talking rather than getting the data down. This process removes me from that mindset all together. I can see all sorts of uses for this to increase my productivity.

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.