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Mac Book 3, Software

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To finish the writeup of my first and second day impressions of the new MacBook, I want to write a few paragraphs on the software that came with it. First on the software that came with the machine as a bonus and on OS X and the whole issue of fat binaries.

Bundled Software

Apple have the nice habit of bundling not only iLife and a disk-filling (2GB) helping of iWork demos – which inexplicably live in a Folder called ‘iWork 06’ in the Applications folder, i.e. a folder containing two items only, rather than getting a conveniently accessible location next to their iLife siblings in the Applications folder itself – but also some little third party applications or games. Not that these see too much use – the World Book encyclopaedia that came with my iBook didn’t see any use beyond some initial exploration, for example – but it’s just nice to have some applications on the computer right away.

One application coming with the MacBook is Omni Outliner. While I don’t have much use for it, it’s an application that many people laud and it’s great to see Apple distributing not just any software with their machines. (I think the ‘Pro’ computers had a copy of GraphicCoverter included at some stage, which is cool as well.)

Another application coming with the MacBook is Comic Life, the highly lauded toy application that lets you easily create comics, particularly from your photos. While currently I have no use for it, it certainly looks like a cool application. I hope I’ll think of it the next time I need a small and fun present to bring along. – If I can stand that paranoia that comes from running the application, that is. It turns on the MacBook’s video camera the moment it is launched and doesn’t give me the (or at least an obvious) option to turn the damn camera off. So cool software, with a lack of finish that is. And that’s before I have to note that they managed to translate the ‘Edit’ menu as ‘Editieren’ in their German localisation. Where ‘Bearbeiten’ has been a standard that’s been with us since 1984. A standard that Even Microsoft and Adobe (who fail with the proper localisation of the ‘File’ menu) are able to follow.

Going further down the fun road, there’s more software by Freeverse, the makers of ComicLife, Big Bang Board Games. Yuck, what a crappy folder of software! Basically it’s just a bunch of classical board games (4-in-a-row, chess, checkers &c) which have been beefed up to contain 3-D graphics and the ability to play on the network. Perhaps that’s sweet for network play, but for local play it’s pointless. Never has a computer 4-in-a-row opponent been so easy to beat. And that’s taking into account the added handicap for the human player which the game creates by it’s mediocre graphics and really unhelpful viewing angle. Not my cup of tea. Not at all.

System Software

Of course the MacBook ships with MacOS X in a fat binary version. Not many surprises there. A little hassle with non-fat binary plugins there was but that’s about it. Problems I saw were the nmdb issue where a lot of processor time and heat is wasted by launching and quitting nmdb continuously. Which must be a known problem with Intel Macs by now.

Another glitch might be the fact that the old printer icons on my account were still PowerPC binaries. If Apple are serious about the Intel move – which they seem to be – the System should replace these with fat binary versions when they’re first used or so. Not a big deal, just a glitch. Finally I was curious about which of my old applications (or possibly plugins or frameworks) are not universal, so I could specifically look for updates where that makes sense.

My intuitive idea was that all required to achieve this should be a Spotlight query. Apart from the fact that this was a rather stupid idea of mine because Spotlight doesn’t even index most of your hard drive, Spotlight didn’t fail to disappoint in this respect. The processor support of an application doesn’t seem to be stored with the metadata for applications, so there’s just nothing to look for to begin with.

But a brief search later I found a Mac OS X Hints page giving the handy terminal command

find / -type f -perm +111 -exec lipo -info '{}' ';'

which does all the necessary magic and returns a list of all your binaries with information on the processor types next to them. Write this to a file, do a little catting and grepping for strings like ‘Non-fat’ and you’ll get an interesting list pretty quickly. Of course some old applications won’t be available in fat binary versions, but most of the others are. (Apple provided slim binaries are ChapterTool within Garageband as well as some frameworks in iWork and iWeb which I suppose are only used when they’re running on PowerPC).

While I needed to download updates for a few applications which just didn’t run on the MacBook in their old versions, the whole issue about fat binaries was refreshingly unspectacular. But then, my demands aren’t too high.

Patching

A little goodie at the end. From time to time I feel like I should manipulate and possibly break things, if only to make them work the way I want them to work. One of these patches is the one removing the metal texture from metal windows. It’s just a simple resource replacement. So I was surprised that it didn’t work on the MacBook.

A little investigation revealed that the graphics resources Apple use for many of their graphics seem to be stored resource files in a way that depends on the processor’s Endianness. And instead of fixing their old code, Apple just created another file which contains the relevant graphics in Intel-Endianness. Not particularly elegant, but simple and working.

Thus, I had to ‘invert’ the Endianness of my original patch file. Luckily there already is a tool for just that, Extras2Extras2 (the original file is called ‘Extras.rsrc’ and the Intel version is called ‘Extras2.rsrc’, funny name!). So here we go with the command to update the relevant files for Intel Macs (be sure to read the original post to know what you’re doing, to make backups, to be aware of the risks!):

cd /System/Library/Frameworks/Carbon.framework/Frameworks/HIToolbox.framework/Resources/
sudo mv Extras2.rsrc Extras2Backup.rsrc
sudo curl -o Extras2.rsrc http://earthlingsoft.net/ssp/blog/other/Extras2Patch.rsrc
sudo /Developer/Tools/ResMerger -append -srcIs DF -dstIs DF Extras2Backup.rsrc -o Extras2.rsrc

And then enjoy a metal free Intel world.

June 15, 2006, 0:49

Tagged as Mac OS X.

Comments

Comment by Nate Silva: User icon

Be sure to check your /var/log/samba folder. The nmbd restarts may have created a big log file. (It happened to me too.)

June 15, 2006, 4:28

Comment by ssp: User icon

Indeed the file was quite huge. Thanks.

June 15, 2006, 11:03

Comment by Stephen: User icon

UNO will do this without the need for terminal commands… . for those who are into that. http://gui.interacto.net/

June 15, 2006, 18:51

Comment by ssp: User icon

Looks like UNO is much more far reaching and powerful as well. I am not into the whole theming thing and was just going for a trivial hack here…

June 15, 2006, 19:59

Comment by Jonathan: User icon

There is a simpler way to find out which of your binaries are universal or not.

Open system profiler, click on software, then on applications. Sort by Kind.

June 15, 2006, 21:21

Comment by ssp: User icon

Great hint Jonathan, thanks. That should do the job in most cases. (It only seems to look inside ‘Applications’ folders and thus doesn’t cover command line tools or randomly displaced applications).

June 16, 2006, 2:39

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