2011.10.09

A Respect for Cross Platform Developers

02.52.30 - Mark

I long time self declared geek, I'm a little surprised I've never really sat down and learned C++. I mean I've played around with a variety of programming languages, and I've had a copy of CodeWarrior for the Mac for a decade or so. So while I remember doing some "Hello World!" and tutorial work on it, I'm only now learning it between I'm taking a college course on it. While a lot of the basics are similar to the PHP and Arduino I already work with, the fact is I'm learning a bit more than I expected.

Specifically, as a happy Mac user, I'm comfortable with banging away in Apple's Xcode. Unfortunately, the course prefers Microsoft's Visual C++ Express, which no, does not play well with WINE like many other Windows apps do. So while I'm quickly picking up on the syntax of C++, defining my own rosetta stone comparing and contrasting the languages I know, I'm also working on the art of cross platform development.

Ten years ago when OS X was new and shiny and Macs still ran PPC processors, cross platform development was pretty rare. Only a few, like Adobe, Blizzard and Bungie would actually make an effort to straddle the fence. It always annoyed me that only the big (or at least Mac based ) companies would go cross platform, after all they were almost all using C, C++, maybe some PASCAL, so why not cross over? Was the Mac really that daunting?

Well, while I still don't considering the Mac daunting, translating even a "common" language can be a gauntlet. While I'm not going to claim to be a programming prodigy, it only took about an hour to read over the requirements and bang out a working program in Xcode. Add another hour to write up the documentation, and it was time to handle it on the Windows side. At which point I spent another 90 minutes trying to figure out what the windows side needed, rereading my code and googling the error codes. In the end I had repeatedly ignored the rather simple solution, one that probably should have been required on the Mac side, but the fact is, the people who manage to port software deserve a lot of respect, especially those who add linux into the mix...

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2011.09.26

Reincarnated Retro Games

19.25.37 - Mark

Tetris, Super Mario Brothers, Minesweeper and Solitaire. Games like have reached a cultural status that's just shy of godliness. Play them or not they are referenced, rebuilt, or outright cloned to the point where if you're using a digital device with a keypad, there's probably some way of installing some version of those classic games. Those also aren't the games I'm writing about.

Rather I'm talking about the obscure off the map video games. Ones I played as a 7 year old kid on an Macintosh IIsi / Quadra 610 and the internet was AOL or CompuServe, not the World Wide Web and HTML. I spent hours playing games so it's no surprise I remember them after nearly 20 years. Many of the ones I downloaded from AOL's Mac Game Section were buried when AOL shut down it's closed community to cater to the need for national ISPs. Even games where the parent company still exists, like Freeverse's Enigma, have drifted off into the ethers be it Apple's move to OS X or the later move to Intel processors (which from the 90's would have been an unimaginable treachery).

Then there are the ones that while not buried, live only from fan support. I've spent weeks of my life playing Ambrosia Software's Escape Velocity (whose registration postcard I still have floating around) and it's later sequels. While the originals are still sold, there's little hope to see them running on a modern mac, but thanks to the fans there's a plug in to at least replay the it's arcs.

As you dig deeper in the history of Mac games, there are a few, from the smaller firms to the larger, where those classic games still exist, and some that are still being developed. One of my all time favorites was Spectre, who could only afford the demo version, as on release it cost something like $60. I know the price dropped over time, but like all games so did my intrest in it. However a few months ago I learned that it had being ported to the iOS, and at $1.99 I instantly paid for it.

Spectre isn't the only one either. Today I learned an old Mac classic, Glider is not only available as freeware for OS X but is being ported to the iOS by it's original author. [via toucharcade]

While I don't play video games as much as I did at a child, I love the fact that not only can I still download and play some of my favorite games on my laptop, but that I can enjoy them on my iPod when I have a spare minute. Plus, if nothing else, I can send a few dollars to the people who's demos, shareware and freeware helped keep me entertained as a child.

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2010.11.05

A disconnect.

00.13.05 - Mark

Stupid on so many levels.

My old homepage.mac.com/g3head website is about to die. Not by my choice, rather, Apple's choice to pull the plug on the public websites hosted by Apple. When Apple released iTools as "Free for Life" I was hooked, and while I had other email addresses (then and now) the idea of a free webhost ment a lot to me at the time. iTools Homepage feature helped me really get myself online and hacking HTML code. While they designed for it to use their publication tools, I learned the tricks of code, and built my own site, and hosted files for a few others. After a couple of years, Apple took away the free part, and turned iTools into .Mac, and the high rate of $100 a year.

I bit the bullet and stayed onboard. While I didn't like the not-free part, I was using that email address a good amount at the time, and I knew I wasn't going to be looking for free hosting for mywebsite, as they all added ads, and had a far less cool domain name.

I've stayed onboard, as while the website part of .Mac became less important ("replaced" by using Blogger, and then real hosting), other features, maintained it's value. Plus, you know, my first site would stay online.

While I love how it helps me sync my computers and iPod touch, and to a degree still use the email account, I think we started seeing the death of hoempage.mac.com last year. In July 2009, Apple took down the HomePage publication tools they had developed. Supposedly, at that point websites could not be added or edited. While I had been planning on moving the content to my current servers and giving them a domain, but because of some things that happened to me at that time, that never happened, and as July 7th came and went, I figured they would be no more changes to that old website.

Tonight however, as I was backing up the site and putting thought into reworking the code to keep the site online, I figured I'd kick the tires one more time. I figured it wouldn't work, but sadly, it did. I still had full read/write access to that website part of my iDisk, and within seconds of adding it, a burried test page could be viewed online.

So much for a year of coded redirects. Now so much for the site. I always loved it when someone linked to homepage.mac.com/g3head even when I haven't touched it in years. So in a few days, I'll be feeling the same pain as other users of homepage.mac.com, who built a bit of an online reputation over the last 10 years.

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2008.01.17

Computer Merit Badge Circa 1969

00.00.00 - Mark

The Boy Scouts of America have had Computers Merit Badge since 1967, and the old book is pretty amazing. Beautiful fonts, weird photos, even some really neat looking projects. Not everything is horribly inaccurate (considering it predates the Altair 8800 and the personal computer revolution by over 5 years) Even some of the original requirements are still in the modern version! I'm going to have to look for some other old requirement books for merit badges, I'm sure there's some neat stuff to dig up. Here's a PDF of the book (mirrored copy from Dave's Old Computers)

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2007.02.15

Four Years

11.55.09 - Mark

This blog has come a long way in four years. Back on February 15th, 2003 I signed up with a blogger account and I've come a long way since - nearly 1600 posts, hundreds of comments, developing my own blogging engine and adding all sorts of features I never would have dreamed of four years ago.

I've been online far longer than four years however, I had a couple of static pages hosted online going as far back as late 2000 or early 2001. Long enough that I've since forgotten, but I still have some pages online going back to June 2002. Thankfully my taste and writing have both improved since I first started those sites.

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2006.10.31

A History of All-hallows Eve

18.33.42 - Mark

One of the best things about Halloween, other than free candy and geeks building haunted houses, is that it is one of the few holidays that has been completly secularized - so much so that its easy to find religious individuals (from a variety of faiths) that absolutly hate it and are calling for its destruction. Of course, part of their hatred of the holiday is that they are ignorant of its history, from Celtic traditions thousands of years ago to the Christian tradition of begging for "soul-cakes" which led to the modern trick or treating to the modern myths about apples with razor blades and poisoned candy.

For a more fleshed out Halloween History, check out this article on OmniNerd

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2006.02.13

Big, Dumb, and Lazy

16.07.04 - Mark

C|Net is buzzing about the 60th anniversary of ENIAC's first public demonstration, the big chunk of iron most people associate with being the first digital computer. There's a whole lot wrong with the article, like the hand waving gives towards the Atanasoff-Berry Computer.

Of course there's also the table comparing ENIAC to a modern Intel chip



I didn't know that square millimeters was a measure of weight...

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