February 4, 2011

Mac App Store, A Pirate's Best Friend?

Wolfire Games recently announced that their game app, Lugaru HD, has been pirated and sold by another company on the Mac App Store. What changes did the company make that fooled Apple? Apparently they changed the name from "Lugaru HD" to "Lugaru."

While Wolfire does make the source-code to the game available, they also explicitly state that they retain full commercial rights to the game. Three days after the complaint was made Apple has yet to respond to Wolfire Games and the counterfeit game is still listed as Lugaru. Most frustrating of all for Wolfire, the pirated game is selling at a lower price and ranked more highly on the store.

The long delay in replying to the complaint, along with the fact that the app is still available does not speak well for Apple's commitment to fighting software piracy or protecting the intellectual property of software developers. You also have to wonder if the slow response would exist with a larger company, since Wolfire is relatively small and does not have the legal resources to fight the way a larger corporation would.

It's sad to see a move designed to make game add-ons easier exploited this way. Wolfire was apparently thinking of it's users and fellow developers when they made the source code to the game open, presumably this is something they may wish to re-think for future games.

For a company with a reputation of strict app rules, it's also sad to see Apple's slow response on this issue. Lest you think I'm an Apple basher I do in fact own quite a few Apple products, and am disappointed to see that Apple is acting like a software pirate's best friend and no friend of the underdog.

Counterfeit Lugaru on Apple's App Store
Game clone raises questions about Mac App Store policing

January 14, 2011

How to Install MacPorts

The MacPorts project let's you bring Linux to your Mac. You could download the source code for your favorite Linux programs and compile them, but MacPorts brings the simplicity of installing to your Linux programs. Before installing MacPorts, or Fink, which we'll cover in a later article, you need to install the Apple Xcode Developer Tools, see my previous post for installation instructions.

Start by downloading the DMG image for the MacPorts version you need. Be sure to download the right one, because there is a different version for Snow Leopard, Leopard and Tiger. Follow the prompts to install the MacPorts program on your computer.

MacPorts can update itself and programs you install with a simple command. Let's start by opening a Terminal window, it's in the Utilities folder located inside the Applications folder. Double-click it to open a Terminal window that should be familiar to any Linux user.

Start by updating MacPorts itself, this will update the program and the catalogue of available programs. Type sudo port -v selfupdate to update MacPorts. The MacPorts program is command-line only, but don't worry, the commands are simple, and the program takes care of any dependencies.

Finding your favorite program is very easy. You can use the online search function at MacPorts, or you can type port search programname. For example, you can see if the mutt email client is available by typing port search mutt. This will return any programs with mutt in the name or description.

Once you've got the name of the program you want to install, just type sudo port install program. For example, to install the development version of mutt I'd type sudo port install mutt-devel. You don't have to worry about dependencies or required libraries, MacPorts will take care of that for you.

You can update all your MacPorts installed applications by typing sudo port upgrade outdated. Be sure to use the sudo port -v selfupdate command first to update MacPorts before upgrading your applications. This way you'll get the latest version.

If you do plan to compile programs yourself, either because it's not available in MacPorts, or for another reason, you can also use MacPorts to install dependencies for that program if they're available. Stay tuned, the my next post will cover installing Fink, a program similar to MacPorts.

January 13, 2011

Installing the Xcode Developer Tools for MacPorts and Fink

Apple's Xcode Developer Tools include a complete development environment. But even if you don't plan to develop Mac apps, you might still need to install the Xcode suite. For example, if you want to use MacPorts or Fink to bring open source Linux apps to your Mac, you'll need the Xcode suite on your system.

Don't worry if you don't plan to compile anything yourself, the Xcode Developer Tools don't take up much space and won't significantly modify your Mac. You need the Xcode Developer Tools with either Fink or MacPorts because both programs essentially take the headaches out of compiling your own program, but they do still compile.

Just insert your Mac OS X install DVD and click the shortcut to install the Xcode Developer Tools. This will open the setup program. Be sure to install the optional components for command line development. Be sure to restart your system after installing Xcode before you try using it, or before you install MacPorts or Fink.

December 7, 2010

Bringing Linux to Mac OS X

Mac OS X includes a lot of the programs and utilities you'd expect to find in your basic Linux or Unix system. But what about those open source programs you've come to depend on or prefer using from Linux? Sure you could compile them from source, and honestly sometimes that's the only way to do it. But, why compile it yourself when there's an automatic installation system available.

There are two systems available to help you do this, MacPorts and the Fink project. While they aren't technically incompatible it's a good idea to pick one system and stick with it so you don't forget which you used to install a particular program. What both of these programs do is compile and install the programs from source for you and help out with the dependency nightmare.

Dependencies are other programs, normally libraries, required by a program before it can be installed. If you decide to compile from source yourself, then you'll need to worry about installing all the dependencies. Both MacPorts and Fink will automatically install dependencies for you.

Upgrades are also simplified with this system. Instead of manually compiling and installing a new version, you can upgrade all your programs with a single MacPorts or Fink command. Set it up to run automatically so you can forget about upgrades.

Finally, if you do need to compile something, for example because it's not available in your source system of choice, things are still easier. Instead of compiling dependencies by hand, you can use MacPorts or Fink to install the dependencies, then compile the program. In the next series of articles we'll cover how to download, install and use MacPorts and Fink.

December 6, 2010

Integrating Emacs with the X11 Clipboard in Linux

The last post covered integrating Emacs with your Mac OS X clipboard. Integrating Emacs with the X11 clipboard in Linux is a little more work, but not much. The programming has already been done thanks to an add-on in the form of an .el file.

Linux users will need to do a little installing and downloading. First you'll need to install a program called xclip. Like pbcopy and pbpaste it works as a go-between for the X11 clipboard and console based applications. If you're on a Debian/Ubuntu based distro, just type sudo apt-get install xclip. On Fedora/Red Hat type su -c 'yum install xclip'. Be sure to include the single quotes.

Now we need to create a directory for your Emacs .el files. Emacs can be customized quite a bit, both by adding custom code to your .emacs file, and by using other add-ons that use the same programming language. These add-ons come in the form of .el files. First, let's make sure you don't already have an Emacs directory, type cd to switch to your home directory, then type ls -a and look for .emacs.d. If it's not there, then type mkdir .emacs.d to create it. Now download the xclip.el file, it's a text file, so you can right-click it and click Save as, make sure to include the .el extension, or go to the page and check out the code first if you prefer. Now switch back to the command line, type mv ~Downloads/xclip.el ~.emacs.d and replace the first directory with the directory you saved the xclip.el file in.

Finally we need to tell Emacs that the file is there. Type emacs .emacs to edit your configuration file. Add this line at the end of your file:
(load-file "/home/username/.emacs.d/xclip.el")

Save and exit Emacs. Next time you start up, you'll be able to copy and paste between Emacs and graphical X11 applications.

December 4, 2010

Integrate Emacs with the Mac OS X Clipboard

Mac OS X includes a terminal version of Emacs. There are a few GUI versions if you're looking for an XEmacs equivalent, but that's another article. Integrating Emacs and your clipboard isn't too difficult, and once it's finished, you'll be able to copy and paste in to and out of Emacs.

You're going to need to open a terminal to edit this file since it's hidden by default. In the ultimate irony let's use Emacs to edit it's own file. After opening the terminal window, type cd to make sure you're in your home directory. Then type emacs .emacs. Enter the code shown below, then save and exit Emacs.

(defun mac-copy ()
(shell-command-to-string "pbpaste"))

(defun mac-paste (text &optional push)
(let ((process-connection-type nil))
(let ((proc (start-process "pbcopy" "*Messages*" "pbcopy")))
(process-send-string proc text)
(process-send-eof proc))))

(setq interprogram-cut-function 'mac-paste)
(setq interprogram-paste-function 'mac-copy)

Next time your start Emacs you'll have copy and paste. The shortcut keys are still the same, so C-k will cut a line of text, then if you go to Firefox and press CMD-v, it will paste the text from Emacs. It works both ways with all applications. The secret is the pbpaste and pbcopy applications. These are Mac applications that interact with the terminal and clipboard, we're just adding this code in so that Emacs knows to use them to interact with the clipboard.

November 30, 2010

Enable Emacs Copy and Paste

Whether you're looking for a new text editor, coming back to Emacs, or switching to Mac OS X and looking for something familiar, copy and pasting between Emacs and other applications can sometimes be problematic. In case you aren't aware Emacs is a command line cross-platform text editor. However, fans will quickly explain that it's quite a bit more than that since it can be extensively modified with a variety of add-ons.

The basic Emacs might seem a bit bland to someone used to MS Word and other graphical word processors. But in reality it does have some advantages. For one thing, compared to MS Word, or virtually any other word processor, Emacs flies, even on old hardware. It can edit many different formats, anything from plain text files to HTML files, programming files, etc.

The only barrier for new comers is a lack of playing nice with other applications when it comes to the clipboard. For instance, let's say you're browsing and want to save a link to your Emacs notebook, the default configuration will unfortunately not let you copy and paste from Firefox (or Safari, Chrome, etc.) to Emacs. Fortunately, there is a work around. On Mac, you just need to add some code to your .emacs file, which is the Emacs configuration file. On Linux, there's an add on, an .el file that provides support, along with a program called xclip. My next two posts will show you how to enable clipboard integration for Emacs on Mac OS X and Linux.

October 26, 2010

Barnes & Noble Nook Color, a Step Backward?

Barnes & Noble has announced a new Nook Color. The previous Nook models have been examples of a new generation of e-reading devices. Let's take a quick look at the history before of e-readers before discussing why the Nook Color could be seen as a step backward.

The previous generation of e-readers had LCD screens. This meant shorter battery life than the typical 1 week minimum of the Nook, Sony Reader and Amazon Kindle. It also meant more eyestrain, staring at a screen causes more strain than staring at a piece of paper. E-ink changed all that. The e-ink generation of reading devices promised and delivered the same reading experience as paper, plus extremely long battery life. The downsides of e-ink include a lack of color, and that like regular paper, since there isn't a backlight you need light to read. Benefits include reduced eye-strain since it's just like reading a traditional paperback, and no problems reading outside, since it's not an LCD screen.

Now we have the Nook Color. Why do I say it's a step backward? The Nook Color doesn't use e-ink technology. It uses an IPS screen, like the iPad. This effectively removes the similarity to reading a book, adds the backlight, whether you want it or not, and reduces battery life to a paltry 8 hours. At the moment, the Nook Color looks like a device trying to be a tablet and an e-reader. It remains to be seen if it manages to fit both, or ends up falling short of either.

October 12, 2010

Amazon Singles Brings Back Short Stories

Today Amazon announced a new Kindle store category. Kindle Singles are described as being "twice the length of a New Yorker feature." Kindle Singles will be between 10,000 and 30,000 words, and cost less than regular ebooks in the Kindle store.

The price point and exact location in the store has yet to be announced. In a bold move Amazon categorized the announcement as a call to "serious writers, thinkers, scientists, business leaders, historians, politicians," putting itself in the position of bypassing publishers for this new format.

Kindle Singles show the advantage of ebooks. Traditional formats take into account printing, advertising and distribution costs, making shorter length works riskier. Kindle Singles can bring back old formats like short stories, and create new ones that weren't feasible in print.

October 5, 2010

Embed PowerPoint and Excel Spreadsheets Using Office Web Apps

Office Web Apps is Microsoft's answer to competitor products such as Google Docs. While not as full featured at the moment, Office Web Apps lets you work on Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations from anywhere. Microsoft recently released a feature that allows you to embed documents into a web page or blog.

The file must be shared to everyone and stored in a public folder. You can control the size of the frame used to embed the file on your site or blog. You can also customize the view in other ways. For instance by displaying a single sheet in a workbook. The embedded file can be display only, or you can allow visitors to interact with it, even type in it. You can even display a single chart from a spreadsheet, without displaying the rest of the sheet.

For more details on the available options and specific procedures, check out the Office Web Apps help system.