Browsing articles from "May, 2012"

Installing Cisco / Linksys AE2500 wireless adapter in linux

By Rob Warner  //  Linux  //  23 Comments

It took me several hours and missteps to convert my son’s Windows 7 box to Ubuntu, all because of the wireless adapter. It’s a Cisco branded Linksys AE2500. Here’s what I learned:

  • Use the 32-bit version of Ubuntu (actually, I didn’t try 64-bit after switching to the source for ndiswrapper).
  • Download the latest ndiswrapper from sourceforge — follow the instructions at to compile and install it.
  • The Windows XP drivers (don’t use Vista’s or Windows 7’s) are available at Cisco’s site.
  • This link was helpful as well — especially the part to do “sudo ndiswrapper -m” to automatically load on startup.

EDIT: The “sudo ndiswrapper -m” did NOT automatically load on startup; I had to add “ndiswrapper” to /etc/modules.

sudo ndiswrapper -m

If there’s any doubt that developers have moved to Mac OS X . . . .

By Rob Warner  //  Development, Mac  //  No Comments

A Kickstarter project that caused buzz amongst developers is Light Table, a development IDE that aims to fundamentally shift how we build software. As of right now, it has 5,726 backers (including me) and pledges of $256,145 (the project’s lead, Chris Granger, was seeking $200,000). Paul Graham’s YCombinator noticed the project and included it in its 2012 summer program. If you develop software, you should follow those links, watch the videos, and find out more.

Granger just sent a survey to his backers that said:

We’re trying to get a sense of what OS’s people are going to want to use light table on so we can focus on the most important ones first. Mind filling in this survey? It’s only one question 🙂

That single question was: Which operating systems would [you] use Light Table on?

You could obviously vote for more than one operating system, and the results show that many did. Limitations of the survey software allowed only some of the backers to vote; I didn’t click the link in time to have my say. I got to see the results, though, which are:

  1. OS X Lion: 60.05% (1201 votes)
  2. Windows: 39.25% (785 votes)
  3. Ubuntu: 33.65% (673 votes)
  4. Linux (other than Ubuntu): 16.65% (333 votes)
  5. OS X Snow Leopard: 13.45% (269 votes)

Combining different flavors of the same OS accentuate the migration:

  1. OS X: 73.5%
  2. Linux: 50.3%
  3. Windows: 39.25%

So, an IDE whose goal is to revolutionize software development interests almost twice as many Mac OS X developers as Windows developers. I find that noteworthy and telling.

Which operating systems would use Light Table on?


Three Things That Should Trouble Apple

By Rob Warner  //  iOS, Mac  //  No Comments

Three Things That Should Trouble Apple:

It’s a tag team wedgie patrol.

(Via Daring Fireball)

Great line.

I would add a fourth: with their continued emphasis on iOS-ifying Mac OS X, the end of the App Store gold rush for iOS developers, the Mac App Store restrictions, and other walled garden chicanery, Apple is starting to alienate developers — which could have deep consequences.


Why I Bought Coda 2 Directly From

By Rob Warner  //  Development, Mac  //  No Comments

With advance hype rivaling Diablo III’s, Panic has released the second version of their web development tool, Coda. It’s now on sale, as of this morning, for $49 — a 50% savings that’s good only through tomorrow. If you’re going to buy it, now’s the time.

As with several other Mac software vendors, Panic offers Coda 2 both through their own site and through the Mac App Store (MAS). It’s the same price to you either way (by Apple edict), but only 70% of the revenue to Panic if you go MAS. The MAS version, however, has one feature that the Panic download doesn’t: iCloud sync, which Apple opens only to MAS applications.

So, which version should you get? I chose the version, forgoing the MAS and the iCloud feature. Why? I could blather on about how I wanted to give more revenue to the publisher, but it really doesn’t matter to me. Apple isn’t gouging people by skimming 30% — it may or may not be the perfect percentage, but it’s at least reasonable for fronting the servers, bandwidth, payment collection, etc. It’s a fair enough business arrangement. Many app developers apparently appreciate this arrangement, as the MAS is filling up with more and more tools. Developers can focus on building the tools they want to build, and don’t have to worry about download sites or credit cards or making sure they’re getting paid. They also increase their chances of potential buyers finding their software.

No, what it boils down to is that I don’t want Apple to assume control of Mac software distribution. The recent flap about no hotkey apps in the MAS underscores that Apple’s vision may not align with my own, and I don’t want their vision imposed on my computing choices. I already chafe, at least a little, at the iPhone walled garden, and don’t want the Mac environment to creep its way there until all the applications I can run must stem from the MAS.

Do I completely eschew the MAS? No — I’ve bought several MAS apps, and will continue to do so. It’s a great place to find apps. Its payment system is easy (perhaps too easy, as my credit card statements show). Centralized updates are nice (although Bodega, Homebrew, and Sparkle work well). The MAS indeed adds value to the Mac software world. Let’s work together, though, to ensure it remains only a piece of that world, and that we maintain choice for where we get our software — and what software we can run.


How Steve Ballmer Predicted the Downfall of Mac OS X

By Rob Warner  //  Development, iOS, Mac, Rails, Ruby, Software  //  1 Comment

Back in the year 2000, Steve Ballmer danced, as they say, like a Monkey Boy, chanting, “Developers! Developers! Developers!” in an infinite loop. Sweating like an offensive tackle in August two-a-days, he hopped and pranced and bellowed his devotion to developers. He may have his struggles running a business, but Ballmer understands how important developers are to a platform, and that devotion, along with the ever-excellent Visual Studio (yes, I said that without sarcasm), keeps the Windows developer stable stocked with thoroughbreds. 

Switch gears. The reasons for Apple’s rebirth are often recounted as:

  • Steve Jobs’s genius
  • The iPod
  • The iPad
  • Jony Ive’s brilliant design
  • Apple’s insistence on simplicity

These reasons have all played a part, no doubt, in Apple’s ridiculous ascent, but absent from this list are Ruby on Rails and TextMate, which either run best (Ruby on Rails) or only (TextMate) on Mac OS X. Apple owes more to Rails and TextMate than anyone lets on. Why? Back up a few years, to around 2005. Just as enterprise developers everywhere began to tire of XML and WSDLs and EJBs and SOAP incompatibilities and JSP syntax and all the other stuff that Java Enterprise Edition uses to yank data from a database and show it on a web page, Rails poked its head out of 37signals and started a cult. People called it magic and mind-reading and crowed about its convention over configuration. Oh, it was so easy to create web apps with, and then oh, it was so easy to write them in TextMate! This fledging cult pushed its dogma until developers everywhere dumped Windows and Dell and even Linux and started tucking MacBook Pros into their backpacks. Speakers at developer conferences soon delivered their talks to a sea of shining silver rectangles sporting glowing Apple logos. Developers had moved to Mac OS X.

All these Rails developers on MacBook Pros needed tools, and discovered they could build them. Xcode was a download away, and you could write shiny apps, so why not? Then the iPhone came and the iPhone SDK that changed its name to the iOS SDK when it married the iPad, and the Xcode acolytes stuffed the iOS App Store full of apps. Some people prospered, most got by, but consumers bought iPhones and iPads faster than Apple could produce them because they could always find “an app for that.” After all, people don’t run OSes; they run apps, and Apple has a bunch of ’em.

Switch gears again. TUAW reports today that hotkey programs have until month’s end to enter the Mac App Store. After that, it seems that Apple will graciously allow grandfathered apps to have their bugs fixed, but can’t accrete any new features (hotkey-related or otherwise). The reports are a little fuzzy, and may pan out to be inaccurate, but they’re alarming. Why? Because developers love keyboards. They love automation. They drift to the mouse as little as they can get away with, express undying love for their keyboards, and never perform manual tasks that they can write a script for. And Apple is telling them they care more about protecting people that don’t know how to protect themselves from random downloads and phishing scams and trojan links. And someday soon they may rip Alfred from us and make us gesture our way to Launchpad and click on apps to launch them and then we’ll really have some gestures for Apple.

Note to Apple: don’t do this. Where developers go, consumers eventually follow. Right now you have the developers. Don’t push us away. And don’t think we wouldn’t dream of going elsewhere. As long as we have bash, vim, and a compiler, we’re pretty mobile. And we hate the mouse–and your mice suck anyway.


Daring Fireball: iOS Low-Hanging Fruit

By Rob Warner  //  Development, iOS  //  No Comments

Daring Fireball: iOS Low-Hanging Fruit: “iOS is by no means feature-complete. But it’s getting harder to identify the low-hanging fruit — the things you just know Apple has to be working on, not just the stuff you hope they are.”

Good post by John Gruber that explores the rumor that Apple will break from Google’s map data in iOS 6. He then goes on to say:

What else remains hanging low on the iOS new-features tree, though? I can think of a few:

Clever inter-application communication. Seems crazy that iOS, the direct descendant of NeXT, doesn’t have anything like Services, which were one of NeXT’s most touted features (and rightfully so). It’s also worth noting that Android has a pretty good Services-esque system in place, called “Intents”, and Windows 8 has an even richer concept called “Contracts”.

Third-party Notification Center widgets. Like the Stocks and Weather ones from Apple — information at a glance, without launching an app.

Third-party Siri APIs. Let other apps provide features you can interact with through Siri.

But that’s about it. And even the Siri API idea seems more like a “nice to have” feature idea than a low-hanging “Apple really has to do this sooner or later” idea. Again, I’m not saying Apple’s iOS to-do list is empty; I’m just saying the list of obvious they-gotta-do-it stuff is getting short.

I can think of one more developer API, though, that (unless I’ve missed it) remains glaringly missing: integration into the iOS search screen, aka Spotlight for iOS. Third-party apps should be able to plug into that search screen, offering up their data when users conduct searches. iPhones would be that much more useful if the search screen could be extended to cover third-party apps.

I’m sure Apple is concerned about malfeasance and abuse, but that’s what the app review program is for. The third-party apps that supported search would display in the Spotlight Search settings screen as well, so apps that matched terms too generously or otherwise misbehaved could be switched off from the privilege of responding to searches.

I’d love to see this in iOS 6.


Two Skeuomorphs: A Radio and a Weight Tracker

By Rob Warner  //  Development, iOS, Software  //  No Comments

The 2007 Transformers movie showcased three stars: Megan Fox, Shia LaBeouf, and an all-new, futuristic-but-retro Chevrolet Camaro. All men drooled over Megan Fox, but the car guys moved on to slobbering over the Camaro. Built to hearken the muscle cars from yesteryear, the Camaro combines old-school styling with today’s technological advancements. The dash, for example, incorporates oversized analog dials and digital readouts. The body shape is pure muscle, yet the windows automatically open slightly when the doors open and roll back up when the doors close to reduce cabin pressure. And it’s rollicking fun to drive.

I recently bought a 2010 Camaro SS with leather seats, premium sound system, and a V8 engine that mainlines gasoline. While I normally listen to podcasts and music from my iPhone (plugged in to the car’s USB port), I occasionally listen to the radio. The first time I used the radio’s tuning knob to change the station, I expected the radio display to remain static save for the frequency, which would increase or decrease as I spun the knob. Instead, the display changed to a skeuomorph, mimicking an old car radio band view, with the frequency spectrum displayed along a horizontal axis and a pointer indicating the current frequency, like this:

Camaro radio

My first reaction was, “Aw, cool!” but the excitement quickly waned. This skeuomorph tells you two things:

  • The breadth of the spectrum
  • The relative position of the current frequency to that spectrum

Neither datum is particularly useful — who cares how close I am to the end of the spectrum? — and I can no longer see the time while I’m tuning. The “tuning” view is gratuitous skeuomorphism that quickly becomes annoying. Good thing I’m a Jungle Insider and can just listen to Rome rants from my iPhone.

Switch gears. I’ve been tracking my weight on my iPhone with the Lose It! app, which is great for tracking calories consumed and expended, but not so much for weight (no graph, for example, that I could find). I tired of tracking my caloric consumption, and I log my runs in Daily Mile, so I really wanted an app optimized for tracking weight. Enter Weightbot, by the makers of Tweetbot. I bought it, weighed in, and went to enter my weight. I assumed I would type my weight using the onscreen number keyboard layout, but instead I saw another skeuomorph: a horizontally-rotating dial that mimicked an analog scale, like this:

Weightbot scale

This time, I didn’t think, “Aw, cool!” Instead, I thought, “This sucks!” Tapping out a number on the keyboard is quick and requires little precision, as the numbers on the keyboard are plenty big. Spinning the dial at the bottom of the screen takes longer and requires more precision. I felt disappointed.

After a couple days of use, though, I changed my tune. At my daily weigh-in, I have to scroll that dial up or down (well, left or right, but left is down and right is up. Stay with me). Scrolling it down reflects weight loss, which is exhilarating. The more weight I lose, the farther I get to scroll down and the more reward I feel. Scrolling it up, however, represents weight gain, and it hurts. Scrolling up motivates me to work harder not to have to scroll up the next day. Brilliant interface.

The message? Use skeuomorphs with care. Misapplied, they annoy. Correctly applied, though, they enhance the user experience. Make sure you spend some time using your interface yourself and don’t overlook the annoyances.

And I must confess: I’m not under 200 pounds. Yet.




I'm Rob Warner, and I'm a software developer. I live in Jacksonville, Florida, and work for Availity, LLC. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Availity.