Parallels wins

I’d mentioned recently how I’ve been using Crossover to run Internet Explorer for Windows from my MacBook Pro, without having to install Windows. That works rather well, but doesn’t give much flexibility – only a relatively small subset of applications run under Crossover.

Today, I downloaded the MacWorld-announced Parallels Release Candidate, and grabbed a WinXP SP2 install CD. It took about 2 hours to get Windows installed and updated, but once that was done, Parallels is pretty darned cool. Coherence mode is sweet, hiding as much of Windows as possible, and letting the Windows applications’ windows float freely as nearly first-class citizens on my Mac desktop. I installed iTunes and Quicktime to see how they perform – pretty darned well, surprisingly. I then went to install a real testing application – Quake3Arena – only to find that Parallels doesn’t support OpenGL. Yet.

It’s not perfect – I’ve had to let Windows run through a seemingly endless series of updates (now installing update 35 of 65, after 3 reboots). And I still have to see/ignore the offensively ugly and unhelpful Windows UI. The first thing that greeted me when I launched my newly-installed Windows XP was a scary dialog box warning me that I was running unsecurely, and that I should do something about that ASAP. But, I’d just launched it for the first time. Wouldn’t it make more sense to default to a more secure state? Oy.

Alan led me to Parallels. I thought I was being clever by using Crossover. I think I’ll be sticking with a full Windows system, but I’ll try to run it as little as possible. Now, if only they’d hurry up and add OpenGL support so I could, um, do work ‘n stuff…

Anyway, here’s my system, with Mac and Windows apps all singing Kumbaya. parallels coherence

Upgraded to Drupal 5

I just finished the first pass at upgrading this blog to Drupal 5.0. Looks like almost everything is working right out of the gate. I hit a few minor glitches:

  1. spam.module has a strange bug, where it fails to display nodes with ID larger than 1519. Node 1520 and higher failed to display at all until I disabled spam.module and switched to Akismet.
  2. CCK – my bikelog is MIA. not the end of the world – actually, I’d hoped to just go ahead and retire it and do what normal/sane people do: get a cyclecomputer. But, enough people find their way to that page from the CCK/Calculated Fields page that I’ll give ‘er a shot when I get a chance.
  3. The K2-derived theme I’d been using borks under D5. Again, not the end of the world. I’ll take a look at upgrading it later. For now, I’m kinda liking the new default Garland theme… Theme updated. Borrowed snippits from Garland to get the scripts etc… properly included.
  4. TinyMCE appears to be shy. It’s installed and enabled, but refuses to show up. Again, not the end of the world, as I’d just as often write raw text/html or use Performancing for Firefox, which works just fine.
    Update: I grabbed FCKEditor, and it’s doing a decent job. I miss having the user setting that let me turn off rich text editing by default, so it doesn’t bork embeded code, but maybe FCKEditor doesn’t do that…. Bork embedded code, I mean.
    I’m really not a fan of FCKEditor’s lack of semantic markup (using br br instead of wrapping paragraphs in p elements, for example) but it works.
  5. The code I’ve been using to automatically generate the colophon (list of active modules, etc…) borks under Drupal 5.

There may be other gotchas. I did the upgrade on my desktop box, then moved it into place so I’m relatively sure nothing is pouring smoke…

Crossover for MacOSX

Alan posted about the grief he’s been having with running Windows on his MacBook Pro. He rarely fires up Windows, but when he does, it’s a painful and ugly process. The last recommended updates just hosed his Windows install. Again.

But, there’s a better way. Crossover for Mac – it’s a polished commercial version of the open source Wine tool/library which provides a way to run Windows applications in MacOSX without having to install Windows. Basically, it provides a self-contained environment where applications are tricked into thinking they’re running on Windows, but they’re actually running on a bridge between the Windows API and MacOSX (and X-11 for display). You set up a “container” or a “bottle” to hold an application or two, and Crossover takes care of system-level stuff. You get an application icon that’s right at home in your dock, too.

Here’s what a cross-platform browser test might look like. Safari, Firefox and IE6/Win all on one screen:

crossover cross-platform browser testing

Text rendering goes from great to craptastic, from left to right. Also, apparently there are a few *cough*issues*ahem* rendering my blog in IE6/Win. Sorry. Shows how often I’ve used IE over the last year…

For something simple like browser testing, Crossover can’t be beat. It also runs with a bunch of other apps (including HalfLife). I tried to install NASA WorldWind, but didn’t get past the .Net install. I’ll try again after doing a bit of research first.

Northern Voice 2007 Travel Bursaries

Northern Voice is definitely the most community-oriented conference I’ve heard of. First, they keep the cost so low it’s essentially free when compared with other tech (and even non-tech) conferences. If you’re in Vancouver, there’s not much of a financial barrier to attend.

But, what if you’re not in Vancouver? What if you’re a blogger/student from Small Town BC (or beyond)? Well, now there’s the Northern Voice 2007 Travel Bursaries. All you have to do is write a blog post or record a podcast that describes how you meet a few criteria, and you may be awarded one of 6 travel bursaries of $500CDN each so you can offset the costs of attending. How freaking cool is THAT? There’s no mention of the source of the bursaries, whether a philanthropist or corporate donation was involved, or if they come from registration fees.  Either way, it’s awesome, and something I’d like to see from more conferences (many offer student discounts, some even comp admission to individuals, but this is the first time I’ve heard of a conference offering to reimburse people for travel expenses too).

I’m looking forward to seeing who gets these bursaries. Hopefully it really makes a difference in getting some people to join in, who would have not been able to be there otherwise.

As an added community-oriented bonus, how many other conferences have an all-hands spaghetti supper as one of the key events?

Front Row + Aperture?

I got a MacBook Pro this week, and am absolutely loving the thing. The little remote that controls Front Row (and other apps) is so elegant, and I miss it sometimes on my G5. At home, I set up the MBP on top of the fireplace so it’s visible everywhere, and fire up iTunes or Movies. Very handy and cool.

But, the Photo display is tied to iPhoto. I just moved up to Aperture. So, for now, I’ve got my end-of-life iPhoto library sitting next to my shiny new Aperture library. Wasting 18GB of disk space just so I can look at photos from Front Row.

Apple – here’s my wish: make Front Row work with Aperture. Bonus points for extending this to the AppleTV so I can display my photos on my TV…

iPhoto + Front Row (by D'Arcy Norman)

There’s simply no way I’m going to go back to iPhoto. Aperture freaking rocks. Every time I use it, I learn more about the app and its photo workflow ninja mojo.

Jeff Han on Tactile Interfaces

Jeff Han gave a presentation at last year’s TED conference, showing his tactile interface system. Forget mice and keyboards. This is a less-creepy version of Minority Report. Or Star Trek’s LCARS interface.

Jeff Han demos his Tactile Interface

I’ve watched it 3 times today. I want my next computer to work like this. How about a 30″ Cinema Display that tilts backward to become a tabletop surface with tactile interface…

It’s just synchronicity that this video happened to be next in the queue on my iPod this morning, less than 48 hours after the iPhone was demonstrated with its own mini version of this UI…

ps. I’d love to be a lurker at this year’s TED. I’d have to be lurking, because the caliber of the attendees is so unbelievably high. Maybe I could be an usher or something. It’d be totally worth it…

pps. aw, crap. TED2007 starts the day before I get on a plane with the family. Maybe 2008 🙂

CAREO: Resurrection

One of the tasks that’s been on my desk for awhile has been giving some love to CAREO. It sorta stopped working a few months ago, and nobody really cared enough for it to be a High Priority Urgent Fix. The hard drive started to corrupt, and services went from spotty to unavailable. And stayed that way.

Actually, I think it’s a pretty impressive statement about Institutional Repositories that something that was once trumpeted as The Next Big Thing can be out of action for 9 months without many people even noticing. Relevance of top-down, centrally ordained institutional Repositories?

Personally, I just kept feeding my stuff into del.icio.us, Flickr, and my blog, completely (and blissfully) unaffected by the crumbling of an aging prototype repository.

But, apparently, some people still wanted access, so I spent the day getting my head back into the code (mmm… spaghetti….) and realizing just how much I dislike Java (or, perhaps, all compiled languages). I spent SO much time wasted in compile-recompile-forcecompile-compile-deploy-launch-test-fix-repeat that it was way more frustrating than it needed to be. With an interpreted language, I could be modifying the code on the fly and seeing the changes in realtime. Much better for fixing and debugging stuff.

Anyway, CAREO is back on the air, with its library of 4145 contributed “learning objects” (of which, the vast majority don’t really provide much context for learning, but are rather simple assets or resources to be used in other contexts…

It’s now running on my old dual-800MHz-G4 desktop box, which would sound slow except that CAREO is now running on a box that has more than 4x the horsepower it did before The Fall From Grace. Pretty sure it won’t handle a Slashdotting, or even moderate use. But it should work well enough for people to refer to again.

My first reaction on seeing it again after over a year was “Blech! THIS was the best we could come up with?” – The interface is pretty hideous, especially by “modern” standards. And it’s so un-Web2.0 that it hurts. I did bolt on wiki and discussion features, but that’s what they are – bolted on grift.

Of course, it was pre-Web2.0, so it’s funny how perceptions change with experience.

ps. the CAREO Project Website, which was hosted by Athabasca, is unavailable for completely different reasons (they let the domain lapse and didn’t renew it. doh.)