Tag Archives: mac

Ruby and Mac OS X Lion

When Apple switched from GCC to LLVM in Xcode 4.2, they made it significantly more difficult for me to run ruby 1.9.2. (What are the odds this will get easier with Mountain Lion?)

I was using rbenv and its rbenv-build plugin to install ruby 1.9.2 and it told me this:

$ rbenv install 1.9.2-p320

ERROR: This package must be compiled with GCC, but ruby-build couldn't
find a suitable `gcc` executable on your system. Please install GCC
and try again.

DETAILS: Apple no longer includes the official GCC compiler with Xcode
as of version 4.2. Instead, the `gcc` executable is a symlink to
`llvm-gcc`, a modified version of GCC which outputs LLVM bytecode.

For most programs the `llvm-gcc` compiler works fine. However,
versions of Ruby older than 1.9.3-p125 are incompatible with
`llvm-gcc`. To build older versions of Ruby you must have the official
GCC compiler installed on your system.

TO FIX THE PROBLEM: Install the official GCC compiler using these
packages: https://github.com/kennethreitz/osx-gcc-installer/downloads

You will need to install the official GCC compiler to build older
versions of Ruby even if you have installed Apple's Command Line Tools
for Xcode package. The Command Line Tools for Xcode package only
includes `llvm-gcc`.

Note: when you install that, it doesn’t (appear to) provide an uninstaller. Instead it says this:

If something doesn’t work as expected, feel free to install Xcode over this installation.

Once installed, you can remove Xcode completely with the following:

sudo /Developer/Library/uninstall-devtools –mode=all

Bummer for me, huh? Mercifully, the GCC installation package doesn’t mess up the llvm-gcc link in /usr/bin/gcc. But that means when I do the ruby build, I need to add:

export CC=/usr/bin/gcc-4.2

Mountain Lion

So I looked at the list of 200 new features in Mountain Lion and … meh.

If there’s a company in the world that they didn’t pick in preference to Google, though, I couldn’t figure out what it is. I mean, really: a feature to let you access Vimeo?

I wonder how much of that linkage is built on APIs where you can connect to other alternative services? I understand that Apple feels threatened by Google (why, I can’t imagine, except their legendary paranoia) and wants to partner with everyone else. (Vimeo!?) But I want to put together a best-of-breed workflow. I don’t want a Safari reading list, I want Instapaper. I don’t want Safari bookmarks, I want Pinboard. But I’ll get what Apple thinks I should have, which means the services that are dumbed down enough for computer novices to use on their phones.

Except when those services are business partners of Apples. Like Facebook. I don’t want or need hooks to Facebook, but I’ll be surprised if any way to turn them completely off, either. I wonder how much of my activity leaks over to Facebook, and how does much does Apple get for selling to to them? (And since when does Apple overhang the market like this? Fall availability? Why wasn’t it ready in time for the general release of Mountain Lion?)

As for iCloud…. I’d love it if iCloud did what I want, though. I’d love to share calendars with my family members. I can do that now with Google Calendar. Apple says I will be able to do it now with iCloud. That would be a welcome improvement. It’s not clear that you can do that with your contacts, bookmarks, notes, and reminders, though.

(That is another problem with all the social-media linkage, as well. The social media sites all want me to have one persona. What good is it if Twitter is linked into everything I do, so long as it’s just one Twitter account? And Facebook won’t even let me have multiple accounts.)


Useful Tools

Since I’ve been setting up a new computer, I’ve had the opportunity to think about the apps I use. I don’t have time or energy to put together a comprehensive list, but here are a few of my “can’t-live-with-them” apps.

Mac Mini at Work

Chrome (and the iReader extension), Safari, and Opera. Chrome is my main browser, but sometimes I need to work in two Google accounts at the same time. Then I fire up Safari. On very rare occasions I need a third online personality; when I do, I break out Opera. I also have Firefox, of course, but I hardly ever use it.

Xee and Skim. Macs come with Preview.app, which is fine, so far as it goes. It will let you open pretty much any type of image file. But it won’t let you go through a folder full of them in a hurry. That’s where Xee comes in. A side benefit of Xee is that it won’t screw up the EXIF data in your image files. Preview.app is fine for reading (and minor editing of) PDF files, too. But the user interface gets more bizarre with each release of Mac OS X. With Lion, I officially declare it a mess, and use Skim unless there’s a compelling reason to use Preview.app.

MacVim. Some people prefer Emacs or TextMate or BareBones BBEdit or TextEdit or whatever, but they’re wrong. Vi is right. MacVim is the best Mac implementation of VIM. Having said that, TextWrangler is a pretty awesome free-as-in-beer editor from BareBones software. It almost makes me want to try out BareBones’ BBEdit. I find TextWrangler especially helpful in converting text from one format to another.

NodeBox (and its derivatives, Nodebox 2 and Nodebox for OpenGL) are “generative design” applications. I’m not sure what that means, but whatever it is, it includes being able to write small programs to draw pictures. (Think of this as the modern equivalent of the venerable pic(1) and grap(1) programming languages. See also Graphviz.)

Handbrake and VLC. Handbrake is how I make backups of my DVDs. VLC is like the DVD Player application that comes with a Mac, except VLC works and it doesn’t crash all the time. How it does captioning isn’t the prettiest, I admit. On the other hand, it not only permits you to take screen captures, it provides a feature of its own to do it. I wish VLC remembered where you quit watching a DVD, but you can’t have everything.

MacPorts. Can’t live with them. Can’t imagine life without them. Therein lies the relevant conundrum. The HomeBrew project might ultimately supplant MacPorts, but I’m nervous about its install location. I’ve tried Fink, but not lately.

Dragon Dictate 2.5 – not interested

I won’t be taking advantage of the offer I was emailed today, announcing the opportunity to spend $100 to upgrade from 2.0 to 2.5 of Dragon Dictate.

I like that software, I truly do. In five or ten years it will be awesome, and everyone will use it, or something like it.

But today, using it can still be intrusive and clunky. (See my list of complaints here.)

But the real problem is that the company is simply insane with their pricing. For doctors and legal people, they have specialized products with even crazier pricing. But for ordinary people like me, I’m sorry, I quit. It just costs too much.

Take this release. (Please!) It’s a hundred bucks to upgrade. With the exception of the Microsoft Office Suite, I can’t think of a single product I use that costs over $100, brand new. The idea of an upgrade costing $100 is insane.

But maybe if it’s a really impressive upgrade? Like, from 2.0 to 3.0? No. A hundred bucks is still too much. And, frankly, I never saw that much improvement using Dragon 2.0 over MacSpeech 1.5, so I’m not even sure about major version upgrades. Maybe things improved for them, but for me, none of the changes I did see were improvements.

Besides, this isn’t 2.0 to 3.0. They call it 2.0 to 2.5, but there never was a 2.1, so calling it 2.5 is a feeble attempt to make it seem like a more major upgrade than it is, while admitting it really isn’t much of an upgrade. But Nuance or MacSpeech or whatever they were then pulled the exact same stunt with 1.5 just a couple of years back. “Fool me once…”

But version numbers are just marketeer’s puffery. What new features does it provide?

Supposedly, it gets in your way less than the old version. They now recognize that people use their keyboard and mice even when operating voice recognition software. Good for them. That’s a 2.1 feature if I ever heard of one.

  • Better integration with Microsoft Word 2011? That’s a 2.01 feature.
  • Using an iPhone as a remote microphone? Generously, a 2.1 feature.
  • Social media commands? Puh-lease.
  • Better auto-formatting of dates, numbers, etc.? 2.01.

Ah, but now, at last we come to the real reason they want me to upgrade: it doesn’t support Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion.” Whiskey-tango-hotel? That’s not a reason to buy an upgrade. It’s a reason to flood their tech support lines demanding a fix.

(Note: the ArsTechnica story says it’s a free upgrade to 2.0 users. Not so, according to the email I got from Nuance.)

iTunes playlists, Drag’n’Drop, and Wacom tablets

I noticed that with iTunes 10.4 (80) I can no longer drag songs from one playlist to another. It doesn’t matter whether the source is a smart playlist or a regular dumb one, or even the main music library.

As a workaround, I can copy (cmd-c) and paste (cmd-v), but this is … umm … sub-optimal, because you have to change playlists to do it. Then when you go back to the first folder, any search you might have used before is now gone.

My first thought was that it was a feature that Apple just dropped because that’s how they are, so I posted it to the discussion list on Apple’s site.

But when I made a more serious effort to find the solution, I found it. I found it a lot, in fact, which shows what a lousy job I did searching for an answer the first time. I summarized what I learned there, and I’m repeating the key points below because I’ll find them quicker on my own site.

The problem appears to be using a Wacom tablet. See the discussion here and (same thread) here and here. No idea when that will be fixed. I use a 8 or 9 year old Graphire, and drivers have been a problem for most of those. Sigh.

But this experience also made me learn that you can right click to add selections to a playlist.

I even learned how that first column works, which I never knew before.

VLC vs. DVD Player.app

Apple’s DVD Player.app has been broken for so long, I honestly can’t remember the last time I was pleased with it.

It’s very telling that if you go to Apple’s web site, you can’t find DVD Player there. If I was them, I’d be ashamed of it too. I wouldn’t be surprised if Windows Media Player worked better.

Since (at least) Snow Leopard version 10.6.4, and continuing now in 10.6.5, DVD Player has been impossible. Routinely it crashes before you get to the main disc menu, and I’ve probably sent in 20 crash reports.

But no more. I switched to VLC. And you know what? “It just worked.” It’s a shame Apple can’t make software like that any more.

irb with readline on mac using rvm – vi keystrokes

One last whack at this problem. I just got email from a reader of this blog. (Well, technically, a reader of Google, which reads everything, so I shouldn’t feel too impressed with myself.) Anyway, he found my blog post and emailed to tell me the problem with my .inputrc, which was that I needed these two lines:

set editing-mode vi
set keymap vi

I already had the former, but it’s probably been 5 years since I learned how to write a .inputrc file, and I must have missed learning then about the latter. So I added it, and it works like a champ!

Black Friday – Mac Office 2011

I’ve been trying to decide whether to upgrade my old copy of Office.

The problem with Office is that I only use Word. I’ve pretty much switched from Excel to Numbers, and Keynote is so good that it’s been years since I even thought about running Powerpoint.

So why upgrade? Well, I do use Word a great deal. And Word 2008 is so slow that I routinely type ahead of it (e.g., when applying different styles to two paragraphs) and get it confused. That’s when it’s running. But it’s so ridiculously slow to load, I always leave it running. Supposedly, it’s faster now, especially launching. (Opening .DOCX files is faster, but I never use those. I would, if the Antiword folks would support them, but I’m content to stick with .DOC until, well, forever.)

So should I upgrade? Probably. It’s not a slam dunk, but with these newly-announced Black Friday prices I can probably talk myself into it.