sensible(ish) code print from flex builder (on MacOS X)

Continuing the theme of occasional Flex Builder hints and tips…

Occasionally I need to see code printed on paper. Unfortunately the printing capabilities of Flex Builder, or more specifically in this case, Eclipse, are a bit messy…

  • the font is huge, and only 49 lines fit on an A4 page
  • if you have a background colour set to your code window, it gets printed – decimating your ink-tanks
  • printing is a two dialogue process – you have to go through Page Setup each and every time.

Of course in the actual Print dialogue, you have the standard Mac ability to change the page layout, paper handling etc, and save that detail in a pre-set. However…

The key things I want to achieve is to print 2up full duplex black and white, which gives me four pages of code per sheet of A4, and with a slightly smaller font size I get a more respectable 68 lines of code per ‘page’.

However I’ve found the following approach, once set-up, a little more convenient, and becomes a one-click print…

The Mac has a GNU enscript installed which converts text files to PostScript to send directly to CUPS. In my case I had to update the old Gimp-Print drivers to the current Guten-Print drivers in order to achieve duplex printing.

More information on Guten-Print and access to the drivers on SourceForge. The DMG contains good documentation and a simple package installer.

Once the new drivers are installed, and I’d recommend a new, additional, print queue be set up with appropriate defaults for your code printing, you need to set Eclipse to run an external script to print the currently active code window. From the menu: Run > External Tools > External Tools…

  • Name: enscript
  • Location: /usr/bin/enscript
  • Arguments: -2rT4v -DDuplex:true -diP5000 ${container_loc}/${resource_name}

Obviously you’ll need to tweak the arguments according to your personal print configuration.

External Tools Dialogue

flex, mac, external browser

Ted Patrick has been quite prolific of late at publishing little productivity hints and tips. I think this one from a couple of weeks ago is worth echoing and noting the workaround for the problem it raises on a Mac.

We are setting up Builder to launch the help pages into an external browser. The key advantage of which being that the code samples can then be copy/pasted. On a Mac there is a recognised bug in eclipse that if you choose Firefox as the external browser, and it is NOT your normal system default browser. Basically Eclipse attempts to launch a second instance of Firefox which will generate the “Only one copy of Firefox can be open at a time” dialogue…

Firefox close dialogue

So to get around this, you have two options.

Option 1, if you have Firefox as your default browser for the entire system, simply choose “Default system Web browser” in the Eclipse preferences panel.

Option 2, if you want to keep something else set as your system default browser e.g. Safari, but would use Firefox for displaying Flex Builder help, you need to either edit or create a new external browser entry using a command structure as per comment 5 on the eclipse bug sheet. Essentially the following settings work…

  • Location: /usr/bin/open
  • Parameters: -a firefox %URL%

Flex Builder > General > Web Browser >Edit external browser

initial gripes with new Flash CS3 ui

I know – I’m turning into Victor Meldrew. I can’t seem to help it. Should Adobe sort out the current licensing and pricing nightmare I’m going through, I’m sure I will become more chilled.

While others have been hung up on the new icons, personally I have no issue with them. They remind me of Rowntrees Tooty Frooties – which is not a bad thing! My issues (admittedly minor) are with some of the work on the new user interface.

I can appreciate the general investment in improving the UI. However I find some of the additions odd, and on my system some seem poorly implemented?

1. Introduction of Windows style controls on the Mac.

Most of the palettes introduce a collapse control (-) and close control (x) in the top right-hand corner. Mac convention is for the close control to be top left control and in both cases I think aqua controls and positioning would have been better – more consistent with other (non Adobe) applications.

I also find it strange that most palettes introduce this new arrangement, but other ‘windows’ retain the standard Mac behaviour (e.g. document windows and the control window). Mixing it up in this way just feels odd.


2. Palette drag

When dragging a palette, it will go semi-transparent. Potentially useful – being able to see what will be covered up before dropping the palette into position. This is also part of the softening of the UI and should enrich the user experience. But on my system, when the mouse is released, the palette disappears briefly before being re-drawn opaque. This ‘flicker’ when a palette is released is plain ugly and detracts hugely from the user-experience. Until it is fixed I would have rather not bother with semi-transparent efforts.

I guess this might be an issue with my system being quite old? (Mac G4 Dual 1GHz Mirror).

3. Welcome panel links to the Adobe site are not working as intended

I think this is just an issue of the Adobe site not having been updated to service the links. You’ll find that from the Flash Welcome window, clicking on either “Getting started ››” or “New features ››” simply dumps the user at the flash product page. The problem seems to be server-side. The pages which flash attempts to take you to, simply re-direct back to the product page.

We fare slightly better with “Resources ››”. However most of the content on that page is written for FlashMX 2004 or Flash 8. I think by now there should be some CS3 articles on there.

Hopefully that’s the end of today’s grumpiness. Although I just read the SaveAs Gotcha written up by Aral. 🙁

Apple Security Update 2007-004 stuffed my Mac

Ok, this may be guilt by association, but since allowing this update to install last Friday, I have experienced serious problems. Many other folks around the web have reported problems with this update, but I haven’t yet found any postings covering the issues I encountered.

In recent years, I have been of the opinion that it is best to keep up-to-date with the latest patches, as the security risk of not being patched out-weighs the risk of the patch itself causing problems. This is the first time I have had cause to doubt this approach.

This entry attempts to describe some of the problems and the efforts I made to fix them. However I should probably have done this from the outset and saved myself a lot of time. I still have some residual problems, but the worst of it seems over. Note: None of this constitutes advice. Repeat any of my actions at your own risk.

The machine concerned is a Mac Dual 1GHz G4 Mirror.

My user data, and work data are all regularly backed-up using Retrospect, and I keep all my work data on a non-system disk. So I was able to tinker around confident in the fact all my important data is protected. However I don’t currently back-up the system or applications. The theory being that they can be restored by a fresh install of both the system and applications. That said, it would take a long time!

The symptoms…

  1. Firefox would crash almost immediately on launch
  2. FontBook crashed immediately on launch
  3. Most other applications would ‘unexpectedly quit’ after a few minutes operation. Such applications include:
    1. Safari
    2. Mail
    3. DreamWeaver
    4. Terminal
    5. TextWrangler
    6. The Dock !!!

Re-installing Firefox had no effect. It still crashed at the point after rendering the Mozilla title bar in the default site.

However, of these (3) is the most serious. Apart from anything else, crashing applications degrade document data over time. My first instinct was to think this may be due to a hardware problem, specifically failing memory?

I ran Apple Hardware Test a number of times, after-which I was relatively confident that the memory was ok. No problems were reported.

Using the Console utility to view the crash reports, it was clear that the applications where crashing each with the same instruction…

Exception: EXC_BAD_INSTRUCTION (0x0002)
Code[0]: 0x00000002
Code[1]: 0x902d6690
Thread 0 Crashed:
0 ATS 0x902d6690 AnnexFileFlushUnusedAnnexEntries + 24
1 ATS 0x902d5f54 ActiveContainerTimerFired(__CFRunLoopTimer*, __CFDictionary const*) + 248

I had no idea what ATS was at this stage. But stands for Apple Type Services. There are various MacFixIt articles describing some fixes with respect to ATS cache files. So I did spend a whole load of time as Super User in Terminal, deleting / moving the cache files and restarting to see if there was any difference – there was not!

I later read that starting in Safe Mode should effectively clear the user’s ATS cache, and only activates system fonts. However even in this mode, applications continued to crash in the same way.

My next consideration was that I may have a damaged font? So I ended up paying to upgrade my Suitcase X1 to Suitcase Fusion which includes FontDoctor. (My old copy of FontDoctor simply quit immediately when trying to launch it with the system in this state.) The new FontDoctor did run and did find fault with two of the system fonts – something to do with a finder flag. These were repaired. That solved the problem with regards to FontBook crashes. The remainder of the crashes continued.

The only thing that worked…

I downloaded and installed “Mac OS X 10.4.9 Combo Update (PPC)” from the Apple Downloads page. BUT! My first attempt was to do this on the machine concerned. Big mistake! The install failed, and at that point the machine would not shut-down normally nor would it fully start-up again when re-powered.

Fortunately I had an old G3 PowerBook to hand. Combined with a FireWire cable, I restarted the G4 in Target mode and re-installed the combo update onto the G4’s system drive from the PowerBook. (That’s the first time I’ve used Target mode and I’m well impressed – really useful)

This worked. I no-longer have applications crashing. Firefox now works fine. OpenOffice still failed, but once that had been re-installed, that is now working fine.

Residual problems…

There are still some residual issues I need to track down. For instance I can no-longer connect to my Windows server through SMB. It gives error type -50 – what that means I have no idea.

I can also see that I continually get errors I suspect from my use of RSS in Safari which seems to occur for each feed I am subscribed to.

2007-04-24 12:21:29.002 SyndicationAgent[410] WARNING: BestCalendarDateFromString – can’t interpret: ‘Tue 24 Apr 2007 03:12:14 -800’

In future…

  • Maybe it is time I started backing up the system and applications in addition to my home dir and projects drive – allowing me a quick revert should this kind of system update mess things up again in future.
  • Maybe I should give an update a week or so for brave soles to try out, before adopting it myself.

UPDATE 30/4/2007: Today I re-installed the security update. Doing so did not re-introduce the problems described above, and seems to have solved one of the residual problems: I can once more connect via SMB.

i finally hot-fixed flex builder

The hotfix was published a few weeks ago. I had been suffering the debug problem on the Mac (193086), so it was time to apply the fix. (NOTE: Unless you are suffering any of the problems listed you are adivsed not to bother applying this fix)

I found the instructions more confusing than they needed to be. They essentially boil down to ‘make a backup copy of your current installation prior to applying the fix’. This is kind of vital, because if you do a straight replacement of the old “Flex SDK 2” folder with the fixed version, and you happen to use charting, you’ll find that the charts.swc is missing!

Also you need to be aware that first time you run the application after the fix, you will need to re-enter your serial numbers.

apollo book available for download

“Apollo for Adobe Flex Developers Pocket Guide” available to download here.

Includes a link to get it from Amazon. Personally I prefer to have the printed document at my side. This book at 108 pages, is just about small enough to print at home, and with 2up full duplex I get four document pages per sheet of A4. However without introducing some scaling, you will end up with tiny text surrounged by huge white margins.

Which brings me to something of bug-bear with Adobe Reader on the Mac. It doesn’t allow me to do a sensible print preview. Nor does it give me the level of control over the print that I require. Fortunately this book renders correctly in Apple Preview. From which setting scale to 140% in page setup, then printing layout at 2 per page, full duplex gives me good results!

So all that remains is to get hold of the Apollo alpha. Watching this space. (Update: download now available)

apple update includes flash player (9.0.28)…

If, as suggested by JD’s post, the latest Adobe Flash Player will continue to be included in Apple System updates, this can only be a good thing for shoring-up and keeping the installed base current.

Unfortunately this morning’s update trampled over my debug player (already at version 9.0.28) replacing it with the standard plug-in. This is going to hit loads of developers similarly. It would be nice if Apple could add a rule to the updater to respect the presence of the debug player. That said, it isn’t a big deal to simply re-run the player’s installer from the Adobe Flex Builder 2 ‘Player’ folder.

a shakey first few moments with 2.0.1

I had a scary first experience with the Flex Builder 2 (2.0.1) Trial on the Mac, after having commenced a project using the Beta…

Before installing, I was aware of the following bullet in the release notes

Opening old Flex projects – The Flex Builder 2.0.1 update cannot open projects that were created with pre-release versions of Flex Builder 2. Flex Builder 2 beta-level projects must be recreated in Flex Builder 2.0.1.

So I zipped a back-up copy of my project files.

On installing and launching 2.0.1, I was suprised that my existing projects seemed to open ok. But ‘cleaning’ the project had the effect of removing the html files. Additionally seemingly spurious errors were generated on compile. The first being 1023: Incompatible override.

I keep my project files on a seperate disc away from the default location. So I deleted the folder and restored just my source files from a zip and recreated the project in builder 2.0.1 – still no joy. In-fact even creating a new application project with only the default stub resulted in errors reported at lines which didn’t exist. (Similar to these reported issues on Flexcoders).

I found the issue to be primarily that the 2.0.1 Builder looks for the same workspace files as the Beta – and they aren’t compatible. The solution…

Rename the existing “Flex Builder 2” folder to “Flex Builder 2 Beta” to accurately reflect the builder that created it. (Just to ensure you can revert to using the Beta if you need to – which I thought would be a likely prospect if my experiment failed) On the Mac:

/Users/username/Documents/Flex Builder 2
/Users/username/Documents/Flex Builder 2 Beta

(Note: for Flex Builder 2 Beta to pick up it’s workspace again, you need to choose “File>Switch workspace…” from the menu. Not that you’ll want to go back to the beta, once you have 2.0.1 running properly.)

Then when launching the 2.0.1 version, the “Flex Builder 2” folder will be re-created but this time containing a 2.0.1 compatible workspace. You can then start creating projects, porting your old source files as you see fit.

All the spurious errors are now cleared, and proper html files created. So far looking good with improved performance over the beta!

New flex dot-one, one day away

In case you missed it we have a new Flex dot release (2.0.1) due in the next 24 hours. Very significant for us Mac users – time to get the full version and pay for it!

I was hoping that there might be a simultaneous Apollo release. But while this version introduces development support for Apollo, the beta version seems to have a way to go yet.

More detail of the new features here.

Anyway, “Ted On Flex” seems excited! (A blog worth signing-up to if you are interested in Flex)