REAL Studio and PowerPC Support

REAL Software announced yesterday that REAL Studio 2010 Release 4 will no longer be actively supporting the PowerPC (PPC) framework.  This really means that only major bug fixes will be done to the PowerPC framework and nothing new will be added to it.

At the 2005 World Wide Developers conference Apple announced the move to Intel and many people were shocked that they would give up the PowerPC line of chips they spent a decade promoting as being better than their Intel counterparts.  Intel was the future and blah, blah, blah.  Many people said the Reality Distortion Field was on full blast.

In retrospect it seems so clear.  One could certainly argue that Apple’s resurgence is, in part, because of their move to Intel.  With a growth rates in the 30% range in year to year quarterly sales growths it’s not very hard to come to that conclusion either.

It’s been five years.  Most consumers have an Intel based Mac and most businesses will probably be phasing them out in the next couple of years if they haven’t already.  On BKeeney.com, only 10% of visitors are running a PPC Mac.  BKeeney Briefs and the ARBP site are both less than 2%.  When 90+% of total visitors to your websites are on Intel it’s safe to say the Intel transition is nearly complete.

The reaction to REAL Software’s announcement has been calm, I think, mainly because no one is shocked by the move.  Most developers are most likely on Intel Macs and I think a vast majority of software buying consumers are on Intel now as well.

Since Cocoa is Intel only and the IDE will eventually be built using Cocoa this presumably means that the IDE will no longer run on PPC machines.  This is probably not a big deal for most REAL Studio developers.

It might be a big deal for developers serving the education market, however.  But since they’ve said they will not remove the PPC build option for several years that market should be relatively safe for the foreseeable future.

Transitions can sometimes be painful.  The fact that Apple pulled off a major transition with very few problems is a testament to their engineering staff.  For companies that feed off of Apple this transition wasn’t always easy and REALbasic had its growing pains.  The transition to Cocoa has been painful but in the long run it will allow REAL Studio to grow with whatever is coming up next for Apple.

What do you think?  Do you still work on a PPC machine to do development?  Do you still serve PPC users?

Visual Studio For the Mac?

Interesting little blurb at http://blogs.barrons.com/techtraderdaily/2010/05/26/apple-will-steve-ballmer-show-up-at-the-wwdc-keynote/ about Microsoft presenting at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (otherwise known as WWDC) to show off Visual Studio for iPad/iPhone and general Mac OS X development.

Geeze.  How many levels of wrong is this rumor?  You think Apple is going to trust Microsoft with the keys to their iPhone/iPad kingdom?  I don’t think so.  Apple has worked too hard building xCode and Cocoa Touch to let a 3rd party develop for iPhone/iPad.  If this does happen, then Apple might as well give Adobe a call and let them know they can restart their iPhone/iPad programs too.  And we all know where that feud isn’t over yet.

Where this might make sense is desktop applications.  Microsoft, while doing all that work to write Microsoft Office for the Mac in Cocoa, wrote their own Cocoa libraries and other Mac GUI editors and put it into Visual Studio.  Seems like an awful lot of work with minimal gain for Microsoft unless they’ve decided to make a push in REAL Software’s corner.  They certainly have the knowledge and resources to do such a product.

While I don’t think this rumor has legs it does make you think.  No doubt Microsoft is feeling the pinch of developers learning Cocoa which does nothing for Microsoft.  If they developed a cross-platform Visual Studio it stems the bleeding because now developers don’t have an either/or decision to make.  Learning a new development tool and frameworks suck and letting all those Windows developers develop for Mac and Windows using their tool keeps Microsoft in the game.  It doesn’t help them with iPhone/iPad development (now) but in five years who knows.  If it does happen it will generate some serious buzz which is something Microsoft wants (needs?).

What does this do, if true, to our favorite development tools company located in Austin?  I don’t think it would be good news.

REALbasic IDE: Mac vs. Windows

Normally I run REALbasic on Mac OS X and remote debug in Windows.  This works 99.9% of the time but late last week I ran into a situation where I wanted the IDE on the Windows side as well.  So I installed RB and downloaded the plugins that I needed.  Then I started to use RB.

Using RB for Windows was…different.  I’m not sure that I can quantify it other than that it seemed less polished.  It just doesn’t feel like a normal Windows app and it certainly was not as smooth as the Mac OS X version.

The reason I was in Windows to begin with was of tracking down a printing bug that was affecting my product.  Turned out it was the Application.UseGDIPlus property that had been set to true.  The end result was that my reports were ‘blown up’ about 10 times bigger than they should have been.  This has been documented and is <feedback://showreport?report_id=10399>.  Turning off the property fixed the problem.  Some fix, eh?

I don’t think that Windows gets as much attention as the Mac OS X.  Why do I believe this?  The ARBP surveys consistently show Mac users being about 80% of the membership.  Likewise, traffic to this website is roughly 80% Macintosh.  What this means is that beta testers are predominantly Mac based.  I believe that most of the developers at RS are Mac users as well.

Currently, RS is in the transition to get Cocoa out.  It won’t be happening for 2010 R1…so it’s obviously a much tougher nut to crack than they originally thought.  Honestly, I’m not surprised.  Going from Carbon to Cocoa is like creating an entire new platform.  Eighteen months to two years isn’t out of the question for such a big undertaking.

I’m hoping that when Cocoa is out and working great (you think it won’t have some bugs in the first release?) that RS pays a lot of attention to Windows.  They’ve said in the past (sorry no reference for this) that a vast majority of new licenses are Windows users.  But yet, based on observation, the professionals and beta testers are mainly Mac users.  Does that not say something?  Would better Windows support translate into more Professional and Studio licenses?  I don’t know, but I suspect so.

Perhaps it’s time to kill support for Windows 2000.  I’d even suggest killing off XP but I know a lot of places in the world are still actively using it so that’s probably a non-starter.  I believe Cocoa support will effectively kill support for anything less than Mac OS X 10.4 so why not for Windows too?

I suggest that everyone that has a Studio license do a bulk of their work in Windows for a couple of weeks.  More Windows-specific bug reports will (hopefully) get some of the more obvious (and painful) bugs fixed.

What are your feelings about this?  Am I right, wrong, or somewhere in-between?

REALbasic Training Videos At BKeeney Software

Making a screencast video presentation is more difficult that you image.  First you figure out the script, then you do the recording (perhaps more than once), then do any editing (cut the coughs and um’s, speed up long typing sequences, etc), add any callouts or special effects, then convert to the appropriate video format, upload the video and finally create an accompanying article to go along with it.

Whew!  That’s a lot of work.  I’ve done this for over nine hours worth of material so far!

We, BKeeney Software, are now offering streaming videos for REALbasic training with over an hours worth of free video (you do have to sign up for an account though).  To say that this has been a labor of love is understating the scope of the project.  With nine hours of video we’ve barely scratched the surface of all that REALbasic has to offer.  We have many, many things still left on the plate. I look at this as a never ending stream of videos as REALbasic is always evolving (on a 90 day basis!) so the work will never be done.

With nine hours available now, what’s it mean for a month or year from now?  I don’t honestly know, but as I’m writing this I’m encoding and updating another twenty-six minutes of video.

Since this is REALbasic I spend a lot of time working in one environment, Mac OS X, and doing debug runs in Windows 7 and Linux (Ubunutu) and show you the big, little and sometimes subtle differences between the platforms.  You’re seeing how I approach a project from the ‘what I’m going to do’ to implementing it and doing final testing.  And yes, you get to see me make some mistakes (hey, don’t we all?) and through the magic of post editing I’ll point those out when I do them so you’re not confused and then we show the correction process.

This is not a typical video training program.  We have five hours of video just on the basic controls available for REALbasic.  Not only do we describe what it does and some of the things to be aware of, we use the control in a project and examine what it does in Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux when there are differences.

My goal is to make you a better REALbasic programmer.  I name EVERYTHING from RB objects to my variables in source code so that they mean something.  At a glance you should be able to tell what your source code is doing because you’re not just writing code for right now, but you’re writing code for six months and six years from now.

Sign up for an account and automatically get a free Guest Pass.  Poke around and take a look at the free videos.  We’d love it if you’d sign up for a subscription.  With our introductory pricing, a three month subscription costs $45.  A year subscription is $150 which is a 20% savings.

What’s great about the video training?  You can help direct what videos are done next.  REALbasic has thousands of classes – some with poor documentation and examples.  We can create the video training that helps you out sooner rather than later.

That’s it for now.  Happy coding!

Snow Leopard Disk Image Issues.

I’m not entirely sure what Apple changed in Snow Leopard but  we quickly discovered that disk images created in Snow Leopard don’t work the same in Leopard and earlier systems.  When we create our disk images we have something that looks like this:

Disk Image

Looks fine in Snow Leopard.  Acts fine in Snow Leopard.  But when you take it into Leopard you get a disk image that looks something like this (no background image):

SL Disk Image in Leopard

Long time Mac users understand what to do but new Mac users were a little mystified at what to do.  Unfortunately we didn’t find this out until after a couple of releases, but we did find a solution.

We use a postbuild script to automatically create our disk image.  The bit of code is:

hdiutil convert -quiet  -format UDBZ -o “${IMAGE_NAME}.dmg” -imagekey zlib-level=9 “./${IMAGE_NAME}.sparseimage” \
|| error_exit “$LINENO: Could not compress the DMG”

This leaves a sparseimage file laying around and normally we get rid of it.  While running this in Leopard we didn’t and copied it.  This sparseimage has the proper graphics and works in Snow Leopard so we now use it as our template when doing builds in Snow Leopard.

We changed the script to delete the OLD file on the sparseimage using:

rm -rf “/Volumes/${MOUNTED_DISK_NAME}/Task Timer 4.app/Contents” \
|| error_exit “$LINENO: Could not delete old build”

Then we copy our newly created RB app into the sparse image.

rsync -a “${MAC_OUTPUT}/Task Timer 4.app/” “/Volumes/${MOUNTED_DISK_NAME}/Task Timer 4.app/” \
|| error_exit “$LINENO: Could not copy into volume”

So, it’s kind of pain to do, and it’s not very efficient but it works.  We are still using RB 2009 R3 because build automation that was released in R4 doesn’t work for us.

Update:  If you want to see the entire script, there is an article in the Articles section on the ARBP members only site, which is available to any paid membership.

Sony eBook Library for Macintosh

Yay!  It’s about flipping’ time!  Sony finally came to their senses and released a version of the eReader software for Mac OS X.

The installation is fairly onerous as it makes you restart your Macintosh.  When’s the last time you had an installer do that that wasn’t part of the operating system?

Once you restart your Mac and start the eBook Library application (version 3.0) looks just like its Windows counterpart even down to the non-standard (on either platform) scroll-bars and generic listbox.  On the left side of the application you have a typical listbox with your library, a link to the eBook Store and a search field.

At the bottom of the listbox is bevel button that allows you to create a new collection.  The developers left a few things out that would have been handy like being able to right click in the listbox and a menu command to do the same things.

One of the things that I really dislike about the eBook Libarary software (on either platform) is that it makes absolutely no attempt at managing the book files.  Whether you import a file or a folder full of books it keeps track of its currently location.  So if you move your books or delete by accident the eBook software won’t know it until you try  to access them.

Perhaps worse is the cryptic message when you delete things from the eBook Library listbox.
eBook Warning Message
Huh?  Doesn’t that look like your files are going to get deleted?  Don’t worry, they’re not.

Drag and drop is a sorely needed addition to this application.  There are only two ways to import books into the library:  Use the Import File or Import Folder menu command from the File menu.  How long has drag and drop been around now?

One of the things that I like about iTunes is its ability to manage the files for me.  If I import a bunch of files it puts them into a single location.  I’m sure some people hate that feature but I have over 13,000 music files.  I like that it manages them and puts them in the proper spot.  I don’t have nearly that many eBooks titles but even managing a hundred soon gets tiring.

Why is it tiring?  Well, besides having to come up with my own location there’s no way to add/edit meta information about the books.  I’d love to have a Read/Unread field so I can easily track which books I’ve read and not read.  How about a rating field so that I can easily track which books I’ve liked?  After a couple of hundred books I don’t remember which book titles I do or do not like other than some vague recollections about which author it is.  Of course I can create my own collections to do this but it’s not very intuitive.

eBookApp

One thing that IS nice about the eBook Library software for Mac OS X is that you can now read your sony DRM books on your Mac without having to resort to running Windows in Parallels or VMWare or even rebooting using Bootcamp.  As far as I know, there is no way of doing this with the Kindle (although I know there is synchronizing between the Kindle and iPhone app).

All-in-all, the Mac OS X version is very simple application that lets Mac users work with their Sony eReader.  It is a poor port from its Windows brethren but I will give Sony for coming up with a Mac version.  However, all the things I don’t like about the Windows version they did to the Mac version too.  Sorry, Sony but I think you can do a better job and I’m hoping that the next version is better for both Mac AND Windows users.

iPhoto ’09 Face Recognition

By far my favorite new feature in iPhoto is the face recognition.  It’s pretty good too for an inexpensive application.  It makes me wonder how good the government software is.  🙂

My son is now 8 and we have a lot of pictures of him as a baby.  I picked out a few pictures and told iPhoto who it was and it went to town.  The more photos you confirm/deny identification on the better it gets.

A couple of times it picked out ‘faces’ that weren’t theirs, but for the most part it’s been pretty flawless.  One thing that gives it a little problem is my wife’s family.  She comes from a family of 6 kids and you know what?  They all have similar facial characteristics.  iPhoto, for a while, kept marking my wife’s siblings as her but after 10 minutes it was right nearly 100% of the time.

I don’t review my photos very often.  This has been an excellent excuse to waste some time and think about old friends and events.  Perhaps this a stop and smell the roses event.

Cocotron

More info on Cocotron can be found at http://www.cocotron.org/.  Their stated goal is:

The purpose of the project is to provide an easy to use cross-platform solution for Objective-C development.


There’s a blog post at Mac Daddy World at http://macdaddyworld.com/2008/10/27/adventures-in-cocotron/

Now I can say with some certainty that xCode and Objective C isn’t as easy to learn and use as REALbasic but a programming language is a programming language and we can all learn “one more” language and IDE.  Certainly one of the truths about REALbasic is that all of it’s controls are a compromise and not as feature rich as their .NET and Cocoa brethren.  Cocoatron has the potential of changing some minds of people who might be looking at REALbasic and go with Cocoa if controls on both platforms are nearly identical.


It seems that Cocotron isn’t an officially supported Apple product but that might not matter in the long run if enough developers start using it.  Stranger things have happened in other platforms where something becomes a de-facto standard.  It wouldn’t surprise me either that Apple has a skunkworks project that does this as well so it’s possible that at any point Apple could go, “Because of demand, here’s the official Cocoa for Windows frameworks.”


One major issue I see with Cocotron is that you can only do code development on the Mac.  That is certainly one of RB’s strengths where you can run on Windows, Linux or Macintosh OS X and compile and debug for the other platforms (Pro editions only).


One thing that is similar to RB is that it looks like you can debug your Windows app while running in the xCode IDE.  I wonder how fast or slow that is?  I might just fire up xCode this weekend.

Your thoughts?

AppleScript and REALbasic

I know it sounds crazy, but the author makes the argument that since a lot of low level type people know enough java now to make this feasible.  Meh.  I don’t necessarily agree with him, but I’ll go with the flow for a second.  If you can get javascript to work like (or better than) Applescript then I’d say it’s a no brainer.

I’m sure the AppleScript folks at Apple would disagree with that but everytime I look at AppleScript all I get is confused and then mad.  Confused because it doesn’t seem to follow logical assumptions.  After a few hours of fruitless searching on the internet I end up giving up mad.  This is why I’ve never actually implemented AppleScript in any REALbasic application even though it’s been on my list of things to do for years.

My opinion is that since AppleScript has so few resources on the web it’s a failed scripting language.  Without a thousand examples of how to do something most people will give up and since I’m not an average user I’d say that most people just give up.  People not using AppleScript is probably the biggest reason why Apple came up with Automator.  They needed to dumb it down because people didn’t get it.

Since I’m a REALbasic developer I think using RBScript or some variant thereof could be just as valuable.  I would argue that part of the popularity of VB6 was that all the people that could use VBA (Visual Basic For Applications) to create some additional GUI goodies for Excel or Word and even the dreadded Access could switch over to VB6 and create ‘real’ applications.  So with a little scripting knowledge one could start off doing insanely simple stuff and move to more complicated stuff.  BASIC is, well, basic and easy to understand.

Call VBA the gateway drug of programming languages.

So why not REALbasic as a scripting language?  Well, Apple would have to license or buy it from Real Software.  I don’t see that happening.  Apple wants everyone to use Cocoa and it strikes me as a long time Apple user as an ‘admission of failure’ from the folks in Cupertino.  I don’t see it happening anytime soon but then I’d love to be wrong.  It would make REALbasic an awesome choice for beginners which is a sweet spot for RS anyway.

Thoughts?