Xamarin Forms coming to macOS

Oliver Brown
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Since .NET and Xamarin were open sourced, I’ve kept a casual watch on their repositories for interesting things.

Recently I noticed this pull request “Change appearance of NSTabView”. This immediately stood out since NSTabView is an AppKit (i.e. macOS) API as opposed to a UIKit (i.e iOS) API.

A quick read of the details and is indeed about some difference between NSTabView and UITabBar. The pull request is targeting the branch “macos” and it seems it’s been in development since at least August 17th.

EVE Online for Macs!

Oliver Brown
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As of Tuesday it seems EVE Online will be officially supported on Macs and Linux. The Linux version seems to be just improved (and official) support for running EVE with Cedega (a commercial WineX fork). At the moment only Ubuntu, openSUSE and Linspire are supported (and come with nice packages). The Mac version was developed using Cider (a modification of Cedega for Macs) and only supports Intel Macs.

The minimum hardware requirements are interesting. Processor and RAM are the same at 1.8GHz+ 1GB respectively. Mac users require a better graphics card than Linux users but the Linux version doesn’t support ATI graphics cards. I would guess 6 months to a year down the line when AMD have finished releasing open source versions of the ATI drivers then ATI support will exist for everything in Cedega.

Full info about the Linux and Mac clients The other features in this release (Revelations 2.3) - incredibly minor

Language learning app is back on

Oliver Brown
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The language learning app which I went on and on about a while ago is now under development again. When I say again I mean I started again in a completely different way (at least from a technical implementation point of view - the user experience is intended to be the same).

You see I recently started a large project in C# at work (a desktop app by the way, not ASP.NET) after saying I was somewhat familiar with it and it should be easy to learn. The good news is after two days I realise it actually is really easy to learn, providing you let it do the work for you. (To any programmers intending to learn it, you’ll spend most of your time at first not actually writing code but finding whereabouts in the huge class library the functionality already exists is. Once you get used to it and get the hang of how it works it is surprisingly relaxing.)

Despite all that I decided I still needed some practice in it so I came up with the idea of doing the language learning app as a fully fledged desktop application - although at work I’m using System.Windows.Forms I’m using Gtk# so it can hopefully run on Mono (and therefore Linux, Mac OS etc). The biggest problem I have is actually playing the audio. A quick search for “C# MP3” comes up with a solution based on MCI, some clever thing embedded in a Windows DLL that obviously won’t be cross platform. My workaround at the moment is just use an external program via the command line that I suppress the window of. If anybody knows of a better way that would work on .NET and Mono, let me know…

Steve Jobs doesn’t like DRM

Oliver Brown
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Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple has announced that the “best alternative” for consumers regarding digital music downloads is the removal of digital rights management. Implications from previous interviews have strongly suggested that he personally doesn’t like it and having the largest share of the personal music player market means it would be good for business too.

The music industry (and the movie/TV industry to a less extent) have to be worried by this. The sales from iTunes are now significant enough that if Apple threatens to remove DRM anyway then they would lose too much by not complying.

Ideally Bill Gates will announce similar feelings. Surely it’s good PR all round for Steve Jobs and Bill Gates to be united solely to protect the consumer? I’m being a little hopeful perhaps…

Quake 2 Coop

Oliver Brown
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After discovering a universal binary patch for Quake 2 (a friend has an Intel Mac), I’ve started playing it again.

We had fun with deathmatch for a while and then figured we’d give coop a go.

Since Quake 2 doesn’t have coop built in I had a look around for a mod. There were quite a few but unfortunately I couldn’t get any of them to work. It seemed they were all designed to work with version 3.1, but we were running 3.2 (and 3.21 - a fix of OpenGL support to make it work on Linux and the one the Mac patch was based on).

The reason why was mind blowing. Apparently in their last update, id software actually added native coop support. Bring up the console and type “set coop 1” and voila, multiplayer single player gameplay (rolls nicely off the tongue eh?).

Although Quake 2 was definitely not designed with coop in mind though. A lot of fighting in corridors where one person can’t fire for risk of blowing his partner(s) up. Although we certainly tried from time to time - occasionally with dire consequences. But fun nonetheless :)

Oh yeah, one more thing. Make sure you change from the default skin as it looks just like one of the enemies…

PCs are the new UFOs

Oliver Brown
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What does UFO mean? In theory it’s “unidentified flying object”. Of course it doesn’t really mean that; at least when people say it they tend not to mean that. People say UFO and mean “alien ship”. This really annoys me. There are shows with quotes from people along the lines of, “Oh I definitely believe in UFOs”. You believe in UFOs? UFOs by the very nature of the definition exist. What they really mean is they believe in alien spaceships.

This sort of thing happens a lot: a general definition becomes implicitly more specific just from being used just to mean one thing. For example PC. Originally PC meant “personal computer”. This referred to many devices like BBC Micros, Amstrad CPCs, even Commodore 64s to some extent. But then one architecture took off and PC slowly got more specific. There was a transitional time when the phrase “IBM compatible PC” was popular but eventually they were all IBM compatible. So now PC means something based on x86. The most common use for PC now therefore (as opposed to computer) is just to differentiate an x86 machine from a Mac.

Which is a problem for one and a half reasons. Mac OS can now run on x86 computers and “PC software” can now run on x64 computers (only half a reason since x64 is designed to be compatible with x86). So what does PC mean now, a computer running Windows? Generally it does I suppose but you can a PC with Linux on it. Would you say you had a PC with Mac OS on it? No, you’d say you have a Mac. So apparently a PC is a desktop* computer that isn’t a Mac.

* Or maybe laptop. But probably not a server. So at least the “personal” part of “personal computer” still makes sense

Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005

Oliver Brown
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I’m getting a new computer. Well most of a new computer. And I’ve been considering whether to get Windows Media Centre Edition or not.

The first two versions of MCE were rather lacking but after reading a lot I’ve decided 2005 is actually quite cool.

What is Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005?

Good question. One I didn’t know the answer to until recently. It’s Windows XP a with range of new utilities for working with video, music and images (as well as bits of hardware associated with them) all wrapped inside one interface. The idea is to have your computer as the hub for your whole home entertainment system.

Digital Video Recording (DVR)

The most useful component is the built in DVR software (sometimes called Personal Video Recorder or PVR). Plug your TV into your TV tuner card and Windows can record stuff straight to your hard drive. But of course most TV tuners come with software to do this. Well MCE does it better to be honest. And you can also get a hardware bundle (ready built systems come with it) that includes a IR blaster. Basically it’s an infra-red transmitter you stick to the front of your set top box (Sky, cable, whatever) to allow your MCE computer to change channels.

Disk space

The lowest quality recording takes up between 1Gb and 1.5Gb per hour. Reasonable hard drives these days are about 200Gb which gives you about 100 hours of video (leaving space for other stuff). Not really suitable for storage but it does allow you to burn things to DVD. Most of the time. The software apparently supports any content restriction specified in incoming media and won’t let you copy such content of the computer that made it.

But it’s still a computer, right?

MCE is actually Windows XP Professional underneath. It took a while to confirm (most references are vague about whether it’s XP Home or XP Pro) but I did find a page on Microsoft’s website saying it’s XP Pro. This means you can do everything with it that you can normally do with a PC.

One final note… you could always install MCE on a Mac.

Switching to a Mac is getting easier

Oliver Brown
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of weeks (possible admittedly - you could have been on holiday) you’ve probably heard that you can now run Windows XP on an Intel Mac using Boot Camp. This could be a great step forward for Apple with regards to capturing Windows users.

Firstly I don’t think Apple will capture the casual market, at least not in the near future. However much certain Mac enthusiasts may claim Macs are easier to use, a Windows machine does everything the casual user wants it to do (and because of the market share of Microsoft it does it the way the expect it to. Not only that but some of the details about installing Windows on a Mac are too much for the casual user (look for the confused look when you explain to them that if they use an NTFS partition to put Windows on the Mac won’t be able to write it. Then see how they laugh when you mention FAT32 as an alternative). The slightly more technical fraction of the market is much more obtainable.

Those with enough confidence with computers to manage the transition may now be willing to make the change. Before, buying a Mac was a big step. Unless you wanted to have two computers it meant giving up a lot. Now you can have the best of both worlds with just one computer. For developers this could be great. With the increasing success of Mono as a cross platform development environment, have a single computer to test everything on (whether it’s been done or not I’m sure it’s technically feasible to run Linux on an Intel Mac). This will ultimate increase the number of developers able to work with Macs and the whole things spirals outwards.


Finally a use for Netscape!

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I’m a Mac user (and proud). When it came to the ‘big switch’ there were several things that I needed: my documents, my music, my pictures and my internet (emails and bookmarks and so on). All of these were easily copied across using a cross over cable, no problems there - but shock horror, my emails were another story. Microsoft Outlook Express stores emails in a non-standard format which can’t be read by Apple Mail - disaster! It was then that I remembered once installing Netscape to test compatibility of my web site. Netscape had very nicely offered to import the Internet and email settings from Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. Checking up on this I found that when it does this it stores the resulting emails in a standard .mbox format - which can then be read by any sensible email client. Wohoo! So the basic steps to import your emails from Outlook Express on Windows to Apple Mail on the Mac:

  • Install Netscape on the Windows box.
  • Allow it to import from your Outlook Express.
  • Copy the newly created .mbox files to your Mac.
  • Show Apple Mail where it can find them when it asks.

That’s it - yay! Ooo and make sure you remember to uninstall Netscape afterwards or your PC might become contaminated or something hehehe.