Tag: Apple

ownCloud

My post on Unison remains one of the most popular things on this site. (The FF7 Trilogy remain my most popular posts, the ROM Collection Browser post is far and away the most popular hit on the site this month, and a number of people seem confused, as I was, by Netflix's reorganization of Doctor Who -- but Unison's still way up there.)

Well, I rebuilt my computer a few months ago, and I've opted not to go back to Unison. The main reason is that I don't just have Windows/Linux/OSX machines in the house now -- I've got a phone and a tablet both running Android now, and I'd very much like to be able to sync to them, too.

(Yes, okay, so Android is also Linux; good observation, gold star. It is technically possible to run Unison on Android. It is also, as far as I can discern, as big a pain in the ass as you would expect.)

I've decided to take a crack at ownCloud, and set my overworked G4 Mac Mini up as a server. It was a quick, easy setup, and a lot less fiddly than Unison (though it took a little bit of fucking around on the command line to enable SSL), but it's got its tradeoffs -- oddly, near as I can tell the desktop client can only set directories to sync, not individual files, while the Android client can only set individual files to sync, not entire directories.

And speaking of syncing with the Android app, it took me a day to figure out how to get it to sync in the first damn place. The sync toggle is under the system Settings menu, not, for some reason, anywhere in the app's interface, and it turns out that in order to set a file to sync, you have to upload or download it first, and then tap it in the ownCloud browser, and then there's a "Keep file up to date" checkbox. It's not exactly what you'd call discoverable, and the closest thing I can find to documentation is a damn YouTube video. (Can we talk for a minute about tutorials that are only available as videos? For my money, that trend fucking sucks. I mean, videos are great for some things, like showing you how to take apart a piece of equipment, or shave, or otherwise do something that's easier to watch than read about -- but much of the time, step-by-step instructions with the occasional illustration is a far superior method of walking someone through how to do a thing.)

So, not quite perfect. And there are some other pitfalls -- the filebrowser in the Android app can't seem to access the directory with my World of Goo save to sync it, SNESoid save files use a different extension than desktop SNES9X...plenty of rough edges that aren't actually ownCloud's fault but the fault of developers who didn't consider that users would want to sync save files across multiple systems. (It looks like you might be able to sync a file under a different name on the Android client than on the server; I'll look into that but I'm also thinking of switching from SNESoid to SNES9X EX on my phone and EX+ on my tablet. So far it looks like it's a lot more flexible than SNESoid, and while EX+ is too burly for my phone, EX runs all right once I turn off graphics filters, set scaling to integer-only, and turn on the GPU Sync Hack. Save states aren't compatible between versions, but of course save RAM is. As for World of Goo...maybe I can whip something up with symlinks or something; I'll look into it.)

And it's a pity there's no way to set up an automated wireless sync with my PSP.

More Triple-Boot Trouble

Getting Chameleon to run properly on my Mac Pro 1,1 continues to elude me. I've followed all the steps on the Netkas forum precisely, except that I made a smaller boot partition (because 1GB is just silly and I assumed that was only required because that's the smallest that OSX's Disk Utility will allow). I guess the next thing to try is swap in another hard drive and give it a 1GB boot partition and see if that works -- and then I guess I can start asking questions on the forum because I'm just about stumped.

Meantime, when I've got a helper card in I can boot OSX from EFI but not from GRUB -- meaning I can't boot it 64-bit. Windows definitely seems more crash-prone when the helper card is in and DirectX is running. If I pop the helper card out, I can boot OSX from GRUB (either 32- or 64-bit) but it's unstable as hell that way and a significant number of programs just hang when I try to run them; for some reason I can't boot OSX from EFI without the helper card. (Even if I hold Option at boot, arrow over the correct number of spaces, and hit Enter to boot from the OSX drive, it doesn't.)

There are other bootloaders designed for OSX but none of them seem to be as well-documented for use on genuine Apple hardware as Chameleon.

It's a pain in the ass, is what it is. This is an impressive damn machine, but I sure can't see buying another Mac anytime soon.

The Walking Dead: The Game: Initial Impressions

Some friends got me Telltale Games' The Walking Dead for Christmas. Today I finally got around to firing it up.

And it immediately bluescreened.

As I've mentioned before, I've got serious fucking problems with the GTX 570 in my Mac Pro. Could be a voltage issue -- still trying to figure it out. But I get a fuck of a lot of BSoD's when I'm gaming. Never could get past the opening cinematic of Bioshock. At this point I actually keep my DS or PSP handy so I have a game to play while I'm waiting for Windows to reboot so I can try to play my game again. (Today it was Dragon Quest 6.)

Anyway. I suffered through four more bluescreens over the course of the next few hours, but the play in-between all the bluescreening was pretty sweet.

I like the cel-shaded art style. The art credits in the intro are Art Director Derek Sakai, Lead Animator Peter Tsaykel, and Lead Cinematic Animator Eric Parsons -- no sign of Charlie Adlard's name, but they've done a damn solid job of reproducing his style. They also prove that you don't need a realistic art style for a good, scary Walking Dead game -- they opt instead for thick black lines, big expressive eyes, and the occasional "ink-splatter" shading. I've spoken about simple, iconic images in video games before, and this is a damn fine example. I've never seen a game that looks quite like it, even in Telltale's recent oeuvre.

Some spoilers follow -- mostly simple, early-in-the-game ones.

The choice to give Lee a leg injury right at the beginning of the game is a clever one -- the first two zombie encounters are intense. Lee limps and stumbles and fumbles; his hands shake and he drops the shell he's trying to load into the shotgun -- the point-and-click adventure genre is not known for its pulse-pounding action, but Telltale shows it can be done. A hard time limit and impending horrible death make even clicking on icons and repeatedly pressing keys tense. (Bill Amend made a similar point in Fox Trot some two decades back but I can't find the strip offhand. Myst with velociraptors; you have to solve the puzzles quickly.)

I do find that it gets a little too cute with the cameos -- Lee runs into both Hershel and Glenn? Separately, before the two of them ever meet? That's a bit much.

(There's also a Lilly, but the lettercol in the latest issue of the comic Word-of-Gods it that she's not the same Lilly from the comic and spinoff novel.)

But on the whole I'm really quite impressed with it so far. It's a smartly-made game; well-written, well-crafted, well-animated, well-acted. And I'm just getting started -- I'm looking forward to seeing the long-term consequences of my split-second decisions.

Games a-Breakin'

I can't get Windows to boot at all on my main computer -- the Win8 preview doesn't expire until next week, so I think it's because I stuck my helper card back in so I could get a stable Mac boot. Which apparently means I can't get a stable Windows boot.

I tried to play The Walking Dead on the HTPC in the living room, but the controls don't map right on my Cordless Rumblepad 2, x360ce doesn't work, and my Xbox 360 wireless controller receiver seems to have died when I tried disconnecting and reconnecting it. I've got a third-party wired Xbox controller, but for some reason that doesn't work either.

And my Wii is now ejecting every disc I put in it.

Come on, games! I've been productive this week! I finished two submissions, scheduled a job interview for Monday, and have a potential programming position lined up for a few months from now! I deserve a little time to kick back and play games!

...guess I'll just have to work on one of the several dozen on the list that aren't Walking Dead or a Wii game.

My Latest Barrier to Productivity

So yesterday I set up an external hard drive for my audio recording. Because as it turns out a 40GB hard drive is not a good long-term choice for audio production. (In fact I'm surprised I've gotten as far as I have using a 2005-vintage Mac Mini in the first place.)

Setting up an external hard drive turned out not to be as easy as it should have been. Pro Tools kept giving me a crypic "DAE error -9131", because apparently this is 1993 and it is still considered acceptable for a programmer to throw up an incomprehensible number for an error message instead of telling the user what the fuck is actually wrong.

An hours-long troubleshooting story short, I found the solution via Noize at Gearslutz. It involves not merely reformatting the external drive, and not merely repartitioning the external drive, but repartitioning it using the old, pre-OSX Apple Partition Map. (I also disabled journaling because another post somewhere recommended that, too. Plus that way I can hook it up to a Linux box and mount it read-write.)

After that, though, I had a good, fruitful few hours. And then I took a break and biked downtown. When I got back my voice was hoarse and I found I couldn't record any more for the day, but as it was I was already a week and a half ahead of schedule so I'm not too worried. And I came home to a note from my contact on the project about more possible work in the future.

It's early days yet but I've certainly received a lot of encouragement.

Loud Noises

Working on a project right now that involves some audio recording -- I'll talk more about it when I have something to show.

In the meantime, I'm going to talk about the actual logistics of recording.

I haven't rented out a studio; I'm doing this in my home office. And while I think I've got the acoustics set up nicely -- boxes of comics around the walls deadening much of the sound, blankets covering surfaces, the heat and all the fans turned off, and doing the whole thing on a very quiet 2005-vintage Mac Mini -- I'm still at the mercy of noises from the great outdoors.

Yesterday I got up, ate a breakfast bar, did 45 minutes on the elliptical machine while watching an X-Files, showered, and then sat down to start recording...and that's when a neighbor started using a weed eater. Damn it. Well, I was hungry anyway, so I went and fixed lunch (with an extra helping of Gas-X, because leaf blowers aren't the only background noises I don't want on the track) and watched Tron: Uprising.

Then I sat down and recorded for a couple of hours, mostly without incident. But as I was wrapping up the day's recording with some dead air (room tone), I heard a jet overhead. And then I had to wait for that.

And that's when my fiancée got home from work.

Clearly this is going to take some fine-tuning. I could try recording first thing in the morning and then working out -- but I don't have much of a voice when I get out of bed. I could shower and then record and then work out, but then I'd probably wind up having to shower again.

Anyway. Off to take another crack at it -- bit of a late start today but we'll see how I do.

...oh hell. Is that a fucking lawnmower?

Digital Demand

Two weeks ago I talked about how now is the greatest time in history to be a comics fan. Among other things, I mentioned Comixology. I've got concerns about Comixology -- it uses a proprietary, DRM-encumbered format, meaning there's a risk of a monopoly, same as any time a single major provider uses a proprietary, DRM-encumbered format -- but ultimately, I think that shit will work itself out. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be concerned, shouldn't complain, shouldn't put pressure on Comixology and the publishers who use it to find another way -- but the music industry ultimately realized that a standards-compliant, DRM-free format was in its best interest, and the book publishers are beginning to get the message too; I think it's only a matter of time for comics. (TV and movies will be dead fucking last to get the message and will, like the music industry, wait until their bottom line has seriously suffered for their foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging stupidity, but they'll come around too.)

At any rate, those caveats in mind, I think that the recent announcement that Comixology is the third-highest earning iPad app of 2012 is a fucking good sign for the comics industry. It shows there's a big demand and it's getting bigger.

Moreover, while I've heard people express concern for years that digital comics will spell the end of print comics, they sure don't seem to be posing a threat -- which makes sense. The way I see it, people who get their comics through Comixology aren't any less likely to buy comics in print; if you've never bought a comic before, then you're not a lost sale, and if you have bought comics from bookstores or especially from specialty shops, you're not going to stop doing that just because you can get them on your iPad or what-have-you now.

For my part, I'm about to get a Nexus 7. For starters, the thing looks pretty small and I'm skeptical that it will even be satisfactory for reading comics on. Even if it is, I am confident it will not compare to the experience of reading a full-size comic.

That said, as I mentioned in that other post, there are a shitload of comics that are not currently in print, and if I find that it is comfortable to read comics on the Nexus 7, I will certainly start reading comics on it that are not available in my local comic shop.

That doesn't mean I'll stop shopping at my local comic shop. It doesn't even mean that I'll spend less money there. It just means I'll have one more way to experience comics (whether they're ones I've bought or acquired for free).

And while I love my local comic shop, it also means that people can make money selling comics to a niche audience without having to worry about print costs or Diamond minimum distribution numbers.

Ultimately, it's not a zero-sum game (except insofar as every consumer's entertainment budget is a zero-sum game). Digital comics doesn't mean the same audience gets the same comics from a different distributor, it means the potential for a new audience and different comics. And those are good things that make the medium richer for all of us.

Hosiery: The Re-Brokening

Welp, broke my computer again, sort of.

See, I've confirmed that the instability I've been experiencing with the ol' OSX boot is definitely due to booting it from GRUB; it works fine from EFI.

So I decided I'd give Chameleon another shot -- maybe another bootloader would be more stable? Worth a try, right?

'Cept I can't get Chameleon to work this time, and it fucked GRUB up so it won't boot anymore either. (Edit to add: Apparently an MBR disk can't have more than one bootable partition? Guess it's been awhile since I took that A+ test. So okay, it's easy enough to get GRUB working again, but it doesn't help me get Chameleon working.)

The good news is that Chameleon boots just fine from CD, so I can still boot OpenSUSE that way.

The bad news is that, for some damn reason, holding down "C" to boot from CD doesn't work anymore on my Mac, so I've had to stick the damn helper card back in to access the boot menu by holding down Option when I power up.

(The other bad news is that AVG Free decided to flag fucking rundll32.exe as a virus and delete it, but Win8 must have restored it automatically because it worked okay on a reboot. But that's all the Win8 I did today.)

Anyway. Hoping I can get this damn mess fixed tomorrow. Because I've got better shit to do than keep fucking around with bootloaders.

Buggy Messes

I had some harsh words yesterday for the EaseUS software for Mac. Mainly, it constantly locked up and didn't do much of anything.

I'm not quite ready to let EaseUS off the hook just yet, but I'm seeing that same behavior in a lot of programs now. At this point I'm pretty confident that, in setting my Mac up to run like a Hackintosh, I have wound up with a system that has all the stability and reliability of a Hackintosh.

Regrettably, I'm having much the same problem with MIUI, which I installed on my phone the other day (as something to do while I waited for diags to run on my Windows 8 drive). It's slow and it crashes like a motherfucker. I really think the monthly release cycle is a pretty poor idea; what we've got is bleeding-edge code (in this case Jelly Bean running on a phone that was never meant to support it) instead of stable code.

Which is a pity because there's really a lot to love about MIUI. For starters, it's the most paranoid OS I've ever seen -- its security settings are granular as hell; it doesn't just tell you what data your program is going to have access to at install time, it defaults to warning you at access time, too -- and giving you the opportunity to refuse.

Trust the Chinese to be thorough about who's listening in on them.

It also comes with a lot of mostly-pretty-useful programs out of the box.

Except that weather program. The one that thinks I live in some place called Temperanceville (and that's not autocomplete on me typing in "Tempe", that's the location it automatically set itself to), consistently tells me I have no network connection even though I have a network connection, and can't be uninstalled. I don't like that one very much.

So I don't think I'll be sticking with MIUI. I guess the question is whether I should just restore CyanogenMod 7 from backup, or try some other ROM.

Decisions, decisions...

Triple-Booting a Mac Pro: Legacy Edition

Well, it's been a pretty exasperating few days, but I've successfully gotten my old (2006/1,1) Mac Pro set up to triple boot Lion (with a 64-bit kernel), OpenSUSE 12.2, and the Windows 8 Release Preview.

First, I set up Lion. I followed Jabbawok's Mountain Lion guide exactly, with one exception: since I was installing Regular Lion and not Mountain Lion, I didn't need to alter OSInstall.mpkg to skip the motherboard check. (As far as drive bays: I put the installer hard drive in bay 1 and the Lion drive in bay 2.)

After this I found that I could only get the 64-bit kernel if I used Chameleon's flag for Safe Mode (-x). Otherwise I got a blank gray screen on my helper card and a white screen with a frozen mouse pointer on my main card. This fixed itself once I yanked the helper card -- but I'll get to that in a minute. If you've got a helper card and you're following this guide, don't remove it until you've got all 3 OS's installed and get a nice clean GRUB menu when you boot. (Or a stupid-looking light-gray-on-bright-green GRUB menu, as the case may be.)

Anyway, after setting up Lion, I set up Boot Camp and tried to install Win8 (on a drive in Bay 3). I got the ol' "Select CD-ROM Boot Type" prompt where everything froze and failed to recognize any input.

I'd dealt with this years ago when I first set up Windows 7; I had to bootstrap my install disc. I decided I would just as soon not fuck with that procedure ever again, so instead of bootstrapping Win8, I used my already-bootstrapped Win7 disc to install Win7 and then upgraded to the Win8 preview from there.

And then I installed OpenSUSE (over the Lion installer partition in bay 1).

The OpenSUSE install DVD gave me the same "Select CD-ROM Boot Type" prompt freeze, so I tried the OpenSUSE KDE LiveCD -- that one worked just fine.

And after I'd installed OpenSUSE, I found that my computer had set itself up to automatically boot straight to the GRUB boot prompt. And, better still -- it had correctly set up Windows and both 32- and 64-bit kernel boots for OSX. Chameleon was totally redundant and unnecessary by this point.

The trouble? GRUB had the same problem Chameleon had: OSX would lock on boot unless I ran it in safe mode.

So that's when I popped out the helper card.

(Don't know what a helper card is? Then you don't need to know about it. But the gist is this: my Mac Pro came with a GeForce 7300GT graphics card. Last year I upgraded to a GTX 570. While current versions of OSX do recognize the GTX 570, the EFI boot firmware does not -- so I needed to leave the 7300GT plugged in to see the boot menu.)

Once I popped the 7300GT, everything worked great -- the GRUB menu came up, and booted any of the 3 OS's without any trouble. Success!


Or at least, success until earlier today when something got fucked up and broke everything and I spent my entire day trying to fix it. Ultimately it appears to have been a weird fluke -- I think my partition table got corrupted somehow, because I found that even a format/reinstall didn't fix the problem; I had to actually repartition (the Chameleon/OpenSUSE drive) to get it working again.

So that sucked. And is the second time in two days I found myself chasing down help pages for the last line of a boot log only to find it had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual problem I was having. What a damn bummer.

The upshot, though, is that I've got a 64-bit kernel working in OSX, which should let me set up the RAIDZ array I wanted to put together for my grandmother's home movies.

And last night I played Mass Effect 2 for an hour or so without getting a BSOD. Could be just a coincidence, but I'm hoping that removing the helper card and booting from GRUB instead of EFI fixed the constant crashes I'd been having before.

Next I'll try it under WINE -- maybe I won't have to reboot to Windows at all anymore.


As for how I feel about Macs, Windows 8, and OpenSUSE...well, those are all ripe topics for another day.