Tag Archives: Mac OS X

Using Sublime Text with LilyPond on Mac OS X

Way back in 2009 I wrote up some instructions on how to use LilyPond with jEdit on Mac OS X. I never much attached myself to jEdit, but it was serviceable for LilyPond at least. Today however I use Sublime Text for just about all my coding, and it makes a perfectly fine replacement for the LilyPond app’s built-in editor, with a bit of configuration. Here’s how I have mine set up:

  1. Install SubLilyPond into Sublime Text via Package Control

  2. Add a build system to Sublime Text (Tools → Build System → New Build System…) based on these nice instructions. Specifically, I named my file lilypond.sublime-build and it had this code in it, which specifies the exact path to the Mac LilyPond binary in my Applications directory:

Now .ly files will get syntax highlighting in Sublime Text, and the F7 or ⌘+B keystroke will build my PDF file. I then keep the working PDF loaded in Google Chrome (which has a built-in PDF viewer), and just hit refresh on that window every time I want to view the results of the build.

Pimp my Reader

I am a fan of the Google Reader application for managing my RSS subscriptions. The advantage of having all my feeds organized in one convenient web repository is proving to be quite handy (much as del.icio.us has been for bookmarks) and I like Readers’ own ability to produce new RSS feeds from my content categories.

But the UI, much like a lot of Google’s apps, leaves a lot to be desired. (Gmail – I’m looking at you.)

Fortunately, Jon Hicks has put some lipstick on this pig. Enter Google Reader Theme. Installation is fairly trivial, and the result is a more pleasant and usable interface. As of this writing, it works for Firefox, Camino, Opera, Omniweb, and Safari.

Nice work! Looks much better now – thank you.

Jon also mentions he was using CSSEdit for the skinning work. I like this tool – have been using it since somewhere in the 1.x days. I find it very useful for quickly digesting the styles in an existing theme, such as an open-source project that I want to skin by leveraging existing styles. For starting from scratch, nothing can beat TextMate or Dreamweaver for cranking out standards-compliant XHTML and CSS in rapid-fire mode.

This is a great capability, to be able to create your own skins for sites you visit frequently. User customization supports even further the idea that we as web developers need to continue to separate content from design as much as possible, to produce semantic, meaningful markup, and to make our code as simple and as well-documented (self-documenting/semantic) as you can.

Acrobat Reader Feature Requests

I find it easier nowadays to use PDF documents and other screen-based formats for my reading needs than to use books. The reasons are that I can enlarge the fonts, I can scroll with minimal effort in a comfortable position (which helps with speed-reading), and text-to-speech features found in Acrobat Reader and the Mac OS X system-wide speech service.

The text-to-speech feature is particularly helpful for me. I have a very slight blind spot at the point of focus in my right eye, probably gained from neglecting to use the polarization filter during late-night moon observations with my telescope many years ago. It is difficult sometimes for my eye to focus on a line, especially if I’m a bit tired. The text-to-speech feature helps keep the focus moving along. For Mac OS X’s Preview application, I set a keyboard shortcut to start reading, although I couldn’t seem to get a shortcut to take hold to stop the reading. Good enough though. I keep Preview as my default PDF application on my system, although I would consider Adobe Reader again if it could address some of my concerns.

So on to my feature requests for the Reader freeware:

  • Add a feature to read aloud only the current selection.
  • Give me a way to change the voice and speed of the voice that is reading. It is not picking up my system preferences for speech and it reads way too slow for my tastes.
  • Get rid of the infernal Adobe Download Manager for installing and let us just download a binary package installer. The download manager does not work with my firewall configuration.
  • Make software updates a standard download and install feature rather than forcing it to go through the broken Adobe Download Manager. (No I am not going to disable my firewall to download your security updates. That is the wrong solution.)

The Download Manager really bums me out. This is probably the number one reason why I gave up on Reader.

AppleTV and iTMS

I had my first look at an AppleTV yesterday. Two things I could say right off the bat:

  1. The user interface is spectacular
  2. Why would you want to show sub-par quality videos on HDTV??

The user interface was incredibly easy to use. The only complaint I have is that the remote is small and feels cheap. On the other hand, it’s probably cheap to replace… those things have got to have a lifespan when small children are involved. In fact, the user interface was just startling – it was so simple to get at just about every bit of digital media I wanted to on the system. Very impressive. Selecting things to listen to or watch was such a piece of cake. And the Photos features were spectacular – very cool stuff.

So now really my complaint is the downloads from the iTunes Music Store, which is no longer solely a music store, nor does the “tunes” part really fit the iTunes brand. But I digres… the main point is that the quality of the videos one downloads from the iTMS are obviously not HDTV quality – the are jagged and grainy. The target market here cannot be the traditional Mac-using designer base, because obviously those folks all have their high-resolution monitors and are used to looking at imagery in excruciating detail. But even a casual user should notice that these downloaded video files, be they music videos, TV shows, or movies, all look poor on HDTV systems. The HDTV actually amplifies the poor quality of the media. These things look spectacular on iPod Videos, and presumably will do so as well on the iPhones, but that’s about the limit. Thinks like podcasts I can understand. But for movies, I really don’t see the point in downloading from iTMS for a low-quality video at this point.

Another thing I don’t like about the downloads is the lack of subtitles and closed captioning. This is an enormous omission for persons who cannot hear or speak different languages. Even an English language track with English subtitles can help someone who does not speak English all that well get more comprehension from the show, and I am seriously concerned about deaf users being completely left out of the loop on this one.

What I’d like to see on the iTunes Music Store includes:

  • An option to get a discounted purchase the full commercial DVD-version of the programming.
  • Video downloads with subtitle tracks and closed-captioning functionality
  • Higher-quality video downloads

While I’m a big fan of the music offerings of iTMS, I think the video offerings leave a lot to be desired.

Code for a lake or an ocean? Depends what you’re fishing for.

Recently some colleagues of mine were asked the question:

“Given the (relatively) small percentage of OS X installations today, why would it make sense to write something using Cocoa? Any time you’ve tied yourself to an OS you are in danger of marginalizing yourself.”

This is a good question, worthy of some consideration here. I think that question is best answered by asking oneself who their audience is, and you could indeed be catering to a niche market. Are you dealing with a lot of Mac users? In that case, Cocoa may be the best choice. Personal satisfaction is a factor too – I know some developers who just like working in Cocoa and choose to do so despite the fact that they are OS-tied and marginalized. I don’t think they care one bit.

Sometimes nice markets can thrive. Just make your apps compatible using open standards or supported formats for files and communications so that they integrate. It depends on what you’re fishing for. You can catch some big tuna in the ocean, but there’s plenty of catfish in the pond as well.

Or on the other hand, are you dealing with a bunch of nerdy scientists that insist on using every platform known to mankind including BSD and Solaris on their desks (as I am)? Probably in that case you want a web app, or a Java client, or at the very least a core base of cross-platform C++ code and putting different faces on the thing as needed.

The tradeoff has to be: Do you provide a ‘good enough’ product to the widest possible number of users? Or do you provide the best of breed product to a smaller target that demands it? Of course in most cases the answers will tend towards the widest number of users, but sometimes those niche areas need filling too.

Of course the point is kind of moot for me personally since I only deal with web apps which should, if done properly, be nearly universally accessible to any web browser or related device… πŸ˜‰