Apple’s X11 Beta and The Gimp

After installing Apple’s new X11 display server software (based on XFree86) and the Fink package manager, I was able to very easily install The Gimp (The Graphic Image Manipulation Program). This performs much better than previous installations of XFree86 I had tested, and The Gimp is finally a useable graphic design program on my PowerBook.

What really interests me though is, Apple’s X11 supports dual monitors. I can push all my Gimp palettes over to my second monitor and have my primary monitor dedicated to my illustration. I had tried to get this to work with previous XFree86 installations and had succeeded in getting it to crash consistently. With Apple’s X11, it just works, and works beautifully. The Quartz acceleration makes the graphic display nice and snappy, and every window is made to look and behave just like a Mac OS X window.

Fink still needs an equally sexy GUI implementation (I still cannot get FinkCommander to work reliably), but it is pretty solid now at version 0.5.0a. You will need to roll up your sleeves a bit and get dirty with some Unix commands and working within the Terminal, but I was able to use it to install The Gimp and a few other apps very quickly and with little hassle.

Here’s a high level overview of what I did to get The Gimp running on my PowerBook:

1. Download and install Apple’s X11 window server and Apple’s X11 SDK. Both must be installed for Fink to work.

2. Download and install Fink as per these instructions.

3. Once Fink was installed and configured, I used sudo dselect to install system-xfree86. This is a placeholder package that tells Fink that you have already installed an X11 server. If you press “/” in dselect, then you can search for a package by name. Once located, use “+” to mark the packages you want to download and install, and press Return when done with your selections. Be sure to run [I]nstall and [C]onfigure after selecting packages.

4. I then ran sudo dselect again and installed The Gimp. I went for the default list of dependent packages that dselect offered to install.

5. Then all you need to do is run Apple’s X11 and an xterm window will appear. Enter the command gimp and the Gimp configuration will begin. I accepted all default configurations and was on my way.

You really need a two button mouse for this to be useable, as most of the commands are accessed via a right click context menus rather than via a complete menu bar. The Gimp under Apple’s X11 is a pretty cool program and is actually rather useful. If you inherited a free Mac running 10.2.3 or better and are on a highly restricted budget, this is a viable option to get up and running with basic graphics editing capability.

Computer Recommendation for Small Business

I frequently get asked by my clients about what kind of computer they should purchase. In the past I was somewhat reluctant to recommend a new Mac to a longtime Windows user, especially one that did not have a huge amount of computer expertise. It just sounded like a hassle on their part to have to migrate a bunch of data and learn a new operating system, and there were stability issues with Mac OS 9 and interface issues with Mac OS X that just made me think twice.

After walking the floor of this year’s Macworld show at Moscone Center in San Francisco yesterday, my reluctance has changed to enthusiasm. There were many new announcements that make Mac OS X the ultimate small business computing platform. I am now officially recommending Macs, and especially the PowerBook line, to anyone that asks about what kind of computer they should buy for their business.

First of all, the Mac OS X experience has become quite excellent, from both a user perspective as well as an administrator perspective. Mac OS is the most user-friendly operating system out there, and the performance of the recent versions of Mac OS X is really quite good.

The stability of Mac OS X is really a huge advantage over what I have seen from the Windows lineup. One of my biggest complaints I hear from my clients is that their computer keeps crashing or that they experience erratic behavior with their email/browser/net connections. Macs seem far more stable in this regard. Since the OS is built on top of a Unix-based core, the operating system itself is rock solid and rarely crashes. If an application itself fails, it does so without clobbering the other programs that may be running. Net connections and network configurations seem to be much more stable on Mac OS X, too.

Which brings me to another issue. When I have multiple programs running at the same time on the latest version of Mac OS X, I experience no performance degradation. My Windows box with the same amount of RAM and a faster CPU slows to a crawl.

But perhaps most importantly is the issue of software. Of course, Microsoft Office has been available for a long time on Mac OS X and the file formats are the same as on Windows so there are no compatibility concerns. There have been several very good accounting packages released for Mac OS X, including the quite excellent M.Y.O.B AccountEdge. But a glaring omission was the lack of Mac OS X support from Intuit for QuickBooks Pro. Thankfully, Intuit has now released an excellent version of QuickBooks for Mac OS X. I sat and watched the live demonstration at the show and was quite impressed with what they have done for Mac OS X users.

With either AccountEdge or QuickBooks, Mac OS X users will be well off in managing their small business financials. I mentioned earlier that PowerBooks were especially attractive buys for small business owners and this is why: All new PowerBooks are now being bundled with QuickBooks. Basically, if you buy a new PowerBook, you get QuickBooks for free. Clearly Apple is looking to expand their presence and build a support base in the small business market, and this is an excellent strategy given that corporate PC sales are so sluggish lately.

The new PowerBook lineup is actually quite impressive. There is a 12″ screen model that is quite compact and starts at $1799, and there are higher-end 15″ and 17″ screen models. For the small business owner, I recommend the 15″ model in most cases. This offers excellent portability with plenty of horsepower, and it can be plugged in to a second monitor for higher resolutions or dual monitor configurations.

To make the migration a success, Apple has set up a website with simple instructions. For anyone considering a new computer and who is not happy with their Windows experience, the Mac platform is a very attractive alternative that you can approach with confidence that you are making a wise decision. Reluctance is most often due to fear of the unknown, but I have not found nothing but advantages these days in using Mac OS X over Windows and I can finally recommend with confidence that the small business user give serious consideration to the Mac option.

The Age of Destruction

In the space of 10 minutes, my almost-two-year-old son:

1. Pulled all the cushions off of the couch and used the resulting springs as a trampoline

2. Pulled all the DVDs and books out of the bookshelf and on to the living room floor

3. Pulled Yingwen’s makeup off the shelf from the bathroom and opened them in the living room

4. Unwrapped an entire package of Trident gum and left the pieces scattered on the floor

5. Pulled Yingwen’s mobile phone cradle off the kitchen counter, tied it to the back of his play fire truck, and pulled it around the house

6. Broke Yingwen’s headphones for her portable CD player

7. Pulled his fire truck up to the piano, climbed up on top, and proceeded to strip naked and scream

Keep in mind that as I chased him around trying to clean up, as one item became out of his hands he methodically would race to the next queued item in his quest for wanton destruction.

And now he is attacking my keyboardgggggggggggdddddddddd .ljh dfnb