Archive for July, 2007

What I’ve been doing recently

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

I’ve been asked what I do for a living by a number of my loyal fans. For example, two of my parents. (The third doesn’t care.) Deplorably, I receive no residuals from “The Distinguished Gentleman”, so I guess that I’m a working man. I tried working for no pay, but as rewarding as that was, I couldn’t get my landlord to appreciate the value of my contributions to the open source community. Therefore, I had to sell out to The Man.

The man, in this case, was Marko Karppinen. Marko, you Da Man! Paul, you de Man. When I joined Marko Karppinen & Co., the hazing began immediately: my first assignment was to implement full disk encryption. I also had to purify myself in the waters of Lake Päijänne. I must have passed the initiation, though, because Knox 1.5 is here. It kicks ass! (It sure kicked my ass.) If you don’t believe me, you can download and try it yourself free for 30 days. Launch it from the distribution dmg for kicks. Knox makes encrypting your data effortless, disproving the proverb that you can’t put a price on security. In my opinion, Knox is under-priced, and I’m not saying that because I’m financially compensated by MK&C. Actually, I’m not financially compensated by MK&C.

No, Marko isn’t holding my cats hostage for code. I decided to leave the company recently to pursue another opportunity. Plus, the daily commute to Helsinki was kind of long. I left on good terms, hopefully, and I miss those Pyro-maniacs, my fellow MKCKittens (inside joke). They’re a great group of folks! The strangest aspect of my job was that I never met my coworkers, since I quit right before WWDC. D’oh! I like to imagine that the gang at MK&C is exactly like Dethklok. Did anyone see Toki at the Moscone Center? I guess that makes me Pickles, or maybe the rock & roll clown.

It should be noted that according to my careful tests — I checked my gut and Wikipedia — Knox 1.5 was entirely bug free when I finished. By that irrefutable logic, therefore, any problems that you think you may experience with Knox 1.5 are purely imaginary, and you should ask your doctor about Thorazine. I cannot say the same, however, about that whole Master Control Program I wrote, which got a little out of hand.

My other major project at MK&C was Pyro 1.6. If you use Campfire chat, then Pyro will blow your mind. Or anyway, it significantly enhances the experience. Among the new features Pyro 1.6 introduces is instantaneous switching between multiple chat rooms. (I’m partial toward automatic zip-archiving and uploading of folders and packages.) If you don’t use Campfire, you and your company should give it a try. We used Campfire extensively for internal communication and for customer support.

By the way, there are apparently some problems with Pyro under the deceptively-named Safari 3 beta. That’s not our fault, because Apple released it without any advanced notice to developers. The so-called Safari beta is actually an update to the WebKit system framework, affecting any application on your computer that uses WebKit, not just Safari. The Safari beta has caused problems for other apps too, including Vienna and Apple’s own Mail and iChat, so apparently it was a secret within Apple as well, or they didn’t test it enough. Brutal.

Ranting aside, I’d like to thank Marko for letting me hack on his public-facing apps. Not only would I like to thank him, but I shall. Thanks, Marko! I hope that he and everyone else enjoy the results. Now I must move on and take the next step in my goal of total world domination … by cats.

Working without a nib, Part 5: Open Recent menu

Tuesday, July 10th, 2007

Judging from the search phrases in my referrer log and from posts to Apple’s mailing lists, quite a few people are interested in developing Cocoa applications without using nibs. I’ve heard the demand, and you’ll be pleased to learn that the wait is over. I have a sweet solution. Today I’m announcing a Cocoa nibless SDK. You can download the SDK immediately — from the web! Specifically, from my blog. Just load this web page in Safari and select Save As… from the File menu.

(Don’t worry about me. I hear that the Chairman of the Board has a sense of humor. I’m sure that these two large gentlemen at my door are here to convey his appreciation of my wit and to deliver an invitation to lunch.)

(No! No! Stop, please! Not the iPod too! Have mercy!)

At the end of Part 4 of this series, I suggested that we needed to call setValue:@"NSRecentDocumentsMenu" forKey:@"name" to set the Open Recent menu. This is why they call me “Good Ol’ Oftenwrong”. Luckily, if you have a document-based application, Cocoa will generously create an Open Recent menu for you. All you need to do is put a menu item with the action @selector(openDocument:) in pretty much any menu, and Open Recent will magically appear as the next item in the menu. Now that’s a sweet solution!

If you want an Open Recent menu for a non-document app, on the other hand, you need to use an ugly hack. Although it was clear that the NSMenu ivar _name is set to @"NSRecentDocumentsMenu" for the Open Recent menu in a standard Cocoa MainMenu.nib, I couldn’t get the menu to populate with recent items in my nibless app even after setting _name. By pure trial and error, I discovered that you have to call _setMenuName:@"NSRecentDocumentsMenu" rather than setValue:@"NSRecentDocumentsMenu" forKey:@"name". (It was a natural choice after trying setName: and _setName:, which are not implemented by NSMenu.) The method _setMenuName: does set the _name ivar, but apparently it does some other crucial stuff too. Perhaps it asks a favor of the iGodfather. Anyway, I’ve updated my Nibless Xcode project to demonstrate this behavior.

In summary, we have succeeded (by we I mean the royal we) in creating a Cocoa application with a full main menu but without any nib (and without any error messages). For this purpose we’ve had to call two private methods, -[NSApplication setAppleMenu:] and -[NSMenu _setMenuName:], as well as poseAsClass: to override +[NSBundle loadNibNamed:owner:]. Not bad. And it’s taken us less than two months to reproduce what Interface Builder can do in less than two seconds. Isn’t this fun? The hardest part is finished, though. From now on, it’s just smooth sailing, on the Good Ship of Pyaray.

Oh, one more thing. Let’s dance! Anyway you want it.

Out of the ashes: Vienna 2.1.3

Thursday, July 5th, 2007

Yesterday was the Fourth of July, as long as you live below — that is, West of — UTC. In the US, we spend that day commemorating our victory over the UK in our War of Independence by recreating those war-like conditions for our children to experience. Sometimes the experience is so vivid that they end up in the emergency room with various degrees of burns. In the UK, on the other hand, it is traditional for the Brits (the English, Her Majesty’s Royal Subjects, people of no color, whichever term they prefer) to commemorate their own war experience by losing at Wimbledon.

I don’t wish to denigrate the Brits, though; I have every respect for them. After all, they did give us Isaac Newton and Led Zeppelin. Even more important (for our purposes here), they gave us Vienna, or at least Steve Palmer did. The latest stable version, Vienna 2.1.3, has just been released for your enjoyment. Downloads and change notes are available at SourceForge. This release includes an update of SQLite that fixes a potential database corruption issue, so it is important that you switch to the new version of Vienna.

An unstable version, Vienna 2.2.0.2202 (which also includes the SQLite fix), was also recently released. Actually, we didn’t really release it so much as it just got out. If you encounter build 2202 in the wild, it is recommended that you roll up into the fetal position and play dead. Running away will only make it angrier. Whatever you do, don’t try to hit it with a tennis racquet.