Tag Archives: mac

Spotify – all the music on the world streamed to your computer

I always loved the idea of last.fm, oink and similar services that essentially allow you to discover new music and listen to lots of your favorites. The only problem is that last.fm mostly only gives you samples and they’ve shut down most of the music torrent trackers. On top of that, Slovenia still doesn’t have iTunes, so no legal music buying without actually going into physical store (how 60′s is that).

We Love Spotify
Image by Jon Ã…slund via Flickr

But fear not, there’s always a startup somewhere, that wants to solve such problems. This weeks savior is Spotify, Swedish company that will actually sell you full access to their music for 10€ /month, 1€ /day or free with ads in certain countries.

In Slovenia, only monthly passes are available, but I figured out that I’m willing to bet 10€ on getting lots of music, it’s less then one CD anyway. Purchasing with credit-card was simple enough, even though I missed paypal option as this would further help with my impulse buy.

They have a client for Windows and Mac and I went for later. The feel is very similar to iTunes, with extra bonus that almost all the music is there automatically. You just type a keyword in search box, or browse through popular music selection and you can instantly start listening.

Here’s how the interface looks:

Spotify Annotated

What’s best about it, is the fact that it actually allows you freely browse and discover new artisits. Everything in the interface is done with the mind to quickly get you to the best or at least most popular music. Lets say you go to Ting Tings artist view, there you can quickly find similar artists or just listen to their top hits.

But Spotify goes even one step further and also shows you the songs in different compilations, giving you another chance to click to one song left or right and discover a new artist once again.

Overall, I must say I’m moderately happy with the service, given that it has about 80% of the things I’m looking for. They’re mostly missing big European artists like Alizee and of course, no Slovenian or Balkan artists.

Spotify balloons
Image by bisonblog via Flickr

For the future, I’d be very interested to pay them even more money and let them them effortlessly transfer all these songs to my iPod or local cache, so I can go around the world without the Internet. But for now, it’s going to be a great service to discover and see if I like certain artists before I use alternative means of acquiring music.

Give it a go, 10€ a month is cheap enough for access to this much music with such a great application. Interface itself has problems, but I’ll keep this for another post when I actually get annoyed enough with it to care.

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Open source and your Mac

This week I gave a presentation on topic of Open Source and Mac OS X and how it affects your life as a Mac user. While the initial idea was to talk about Open Source alternatives on OS X, I quickly discovered that this might not be the best thing to talk about. The issue of talking of Open alternatives is quite educating, but I rather decided to use my time talking about the actual reasons why the state of Open Source in Mac is so much different from the Linux “scene”.


Source: hakore@flickr – CC-BY-NOC-ATTR

My basic premise is that taking some sort of controlled top-down approach towards assembling open project allows you to build a reliable set of components that do limited set of tasks very well and do not confuse the user. Throw some excellent design into the mix and you’re almost done. That’s the basic argument regarding the OS X itself.

Taking look at the software we can see one really big problem, the graphic toolkit. Since for historical reasons the GTK and QT toolkits were not very native to Aqua/Cocoa this presents quite some problem with porting issues. So what happens to projects is that they end up taking just the core libraries (like libpurple from Pidgin in Adium project) and then rewriting the user interface part using native Apple tools.

The good news is that the amount of new code and porting efforts are improving all the time as Mac are becoming one of the most loved hackers platforms, even though many of them choose not to actually use OS X.

A bit more practical things

There is an excellent resource for all things Open Source Mac – http://www.opensourcemac.org/.

Then there are my slides from the talk:

And lastly, there is my whole talk at vest.si (in Slovenian only).

How to fix iWork 08/Keynote/iDvd/Numbers/Pages NSInternalInconsistencyException crash

Some time after installing Leopard OS X 10.5 and second set of updats for iWork 08 the Keynote Application started crashing on start. Crash report said the following:


Process: Keynote [3724]
Path: /Applications/iWork '08/Keynote.app/Contents/MacOS/Keynote
Identifier: com.apple.iWork.Keynote
Version: 4.0 (591)
Build Info: Keynote-5910000~3
Code Type: X86 (Native)
Parent Process: launchd [152]
Date/Time: 2008-02-17 15:32:34.960 +0000
OS Version: Mac OS X 10.5.2 (9C31)
Report Version: 6
Exception Type: EXC_BREAKPOINT (SIGTRAP)
Exception Codes: 0x0000000000000002, 0x0000000000000000
Crashed Thread: 0
Application Specific Information:
*** Terminating app due to uncaught exception 'NSInternalInconsistencyException', reason: 'Invalid parameter not satisfying: (index >= 0) && (index < (_itemArray ? CFArrayGetCount((CFArrayRef)_itemArray) : 0))'

etc.

After much fiddling around I found a hint that this might be due to duplicated fonts that confuses Keynote so much on startup that it crashes.

Here is a quicke guide how to check if you have duplicated fonts on OS X:

First: Open Font Book (Applications -> Font Book)

Once you have Font Book open, check for any fonts that have black dots next to the name. This means that you have duplicates of this font installed. In my case I had a few dozens of duplicates on the system.

fontbook1.png

You can then either manually turn off conflicting fonts or choose Resolve Duplicates from Edit menu. This will automatically disable one of the fonts in duplicate fonts pairs. You can always turn them on later if you decide that you need the other font from the duplicated pair.

fontbook2.png

Second: Clear your Font Cache

Download neat little utility called Font Nuke (it’s free). After you run it, first Update Cache List and then Nuke Font Caches. After OS X reboot your system will automatically rebuild the font cache.

fontnuke1.png

Enjoy

At this point, you can try running Keynote or any other crashing application again and it should work as in good old Tiger days.

Why did this happen?

Taking a minute to think of the scenario that created environment for this crash. When I installed Leopard I updated my Tiger installation which it seems to transfer some fonts and thus create duplicates. This does not seem to affect any applications normally so you can survive a long time before you run the Keynote for first time and it crashes. It is also possible that these fonts are stored in your user profile, because of that Keynote will not crash if you create a new user and try running it from there.

Online forums recommend full OS X reinstall in somewhat Windows-horror story like scenario. Realizing that this will effectively clean up your font resource explains why this would work.

Usability Reflections: Provide a way to resolve and indicate failure

Observing how RescueTime, a neat application for tracking computare usage, behaves on my Mac got me thinking about fall-back mechanisms in applications. It seems that there is a bug that causes it to quit every few hours. What is left is grayed out menu bar with just a couple of options to “hide”. Launching application again seems to give me my options back.

RescueTime problem

What I, as a user, would prefer to see in this case is that there would be an option labeled “Restart RescueTime”, that would automatically kick in every time there is a problem somewhere. By leaving the title bar icon in place, the application is communicating that it is still “there”, but for whatever reason it is not taking any commands.

RescueTime is expected to be running all the time and is indicating this by having a icon. Looking at this icon being inactive enough time just means that I will not notice it, or click it since there is no real need for interaction.

In order to resolve this problem there is a number of ways developers can choose:

  • provide an alert indicator for icon when something goes wrong, and integrate restart option into the menu
  • just integrate fall back restart option into menu
  • make the icon go away, when application is not responding for any reason

There is also the most obvious option, just fix the bug, but provided it is impossible to find all the problems, one has to also consider other strategies.