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Leopard, Seeker update, and MacWorld or Bust!
Richard S. Wright Jr.'s Blog

I’ve been running Leopard on at least one of my test machines for well over a year now. Each build has been give and take as Apple has honed in on the final release. One rather nasty rendering bug persisted until the very end, and finally turned out not to be a Leopard bug at all, but one of my own. Every programmer has run into this, a bug that only occurs during certain circumstances, that when you find it, you really can’t explain why it ever worked under any conditions!

Overall, Leopard is nice. The new GUI really looks nice on my MacBook, and it does feel like a new computer. It’s a bit perkier, and some of the features (which have been covered ad nauseum elsewhere) are pretty cool. I have had a few growing pains with old applications, and I seem to be having trouble reconnecting to external drives after waking up from sleep mode. Leopard is way more exciting I think for developers than end users. There are all kinds of cool new API’s, OpenGL improvements, and architectural updates. Apple made all the developers wait until the big launch last week before even allowing paid developer program members to download the final build. This was a bit frustrating for me, as there were a few other bugs that did get fixed in the final build, which still weren’t working as of the final release candidate. I wasn’t sure if they were going to get fixed, or if I was going to have to find some clever work around.

Fortunately, Seeker looks great, and runs a bit faster in Leopard with the only exception being really ugly planets… this has now been fixed and Daniel has posted a patch here:

Give it a try and let us know if this works or doesn’t work for you. Mac users are getting a little bit of a bonus with this update. It’s the same code base as Seeker-Dome, but with the dome specific functionality removed. There have been some tremendous performance improvements, and a good handful of tiny bugs and stability improvements. I have a new star rendering technique that is really fast, and looks way better that unfortunately is not in the patch yet (I had to remove it at the last minute). There is a bit of funny business going on between OpenGL drivers on the various Macs I test on that I have yet to nail down definitively.

I’m up to six Macs (a remarkable coincidence, I have the same number of telescopes!) in my collection that I can use for testing my various projects including, but not limited to Seeker and TheSkyX (TheSkyX is really Steve’s baby, and I make minor occasional contributions). I have two Mac Mini’s, one of which is really old and won’t even run Leopard. I have a G4 PowerBook, and an Intel PowerBook (that also run Windows), a G5 iMac, and a brand new core duo 2 iMac. The new iMac isn’t actually mine, it’s my son’s who bought it with his summers worth of grass cutting money. Pretty impressive for a 12 year old to save that much money (ok, I paid half) for his own computer. One really great thing about Macs for developers is you can boot off an external drive. I can actually run Leopard or Tiger on most of these too. That’s a pretty good spread for testing. I actually use the two laptops quite a bit, and the G5 iMac is my family surfing/homework/movie making machine. I still need a MacPro so I can swap graphics cards easily (some massive drive space would be nice too)… Bisque has one in Golden (a G5 that Daniel uses), but I’d like to get one of the newer ones with four cores. Amazingly, even with access to 5 different Macs, I have none with an NVidia (all my Windows machines use NVidia when I can get away with it) graphics chipset. With a MacPro, I’d definitely correct that situation. Maybe in the spring, for now I have bigger fish to fry.

The check has cleared, so it’s safe to say we will be at MacWorld again in January (we have paid for our booth space). For the next two month’s I’m helping out with TheSkyX, and wrapping up Seeker 1.1. We have a pretty fair amount of new moons, models, tours, etc. It will be a nice update. It’s also going to be significantly faster, and have a few improvements to some of the graphics.

And… I just got permission to say this… and I think I’m the first to let the cat out of the bag…. If all goes well, we will actually be selling copies of TheSkyX (Student Edition) in January at MacWorld! Woo hoo!!! This is the single biggest update to TheSky in it’s entire history. It’s not just a port to the Mac, TheSkyX (for Mac AND Windows) is a total rewrite, a totally new technology base, and way impressive graphics capabilities. I make a big deal of the graphics because that’s my specialty, but the changes to the GUI and feature set are really going to impress some people too. My single best favorite graphics feature, I had nothing to do with at all (it’s all Steve’s). Outside, in the dark, chart mode, with red screen on (whoops, I guess I did do the red screen code!). It’s nearly a religious experience. I promise you’ve never seen anything so beautiful, so clear and crisp, so make you want to through away your paper charts away gorgeous… Okay, I might be a little biased ;-) Anyway, device control is another matter and is going to take more time. I should be using it though to run my scope when I return to the Winter Star Party in February. We won’t ship this until it’s ready. The Bisque’s have a lot of device control experience on Windows that does not necessarily translate seamlessly to the Mac. Matt’s the chief of that particular project and he’s making great progress. It’s going to be worth the wait.

Don’t worry all you dome fans, we haven’t forgotten you either. We have three great test sites now, and Seeker-Dome is on target for a summer release at IPS. A dome version of TheSkyX is also on tap. It’s going to be an exciting year in 2008!

Posted 11-04-2007 10:03 PM by Richard Wright


David Toth wrote re: Leopard, Seeker update, and MacWorld or Bust!
on 11-09-2007 9:50 AM
Hey, don't forget that TheSkyX will also run on Linux!
I am typing this on my new Core 2 Duo running Ubuntu Linux. You know you can run that on your Macs too!

When can we expect to see the new Seeker stuff for Windows?

BTW, Daniel HAS been mentioning that the Student Edition for Mac would be at MacWorld ... sorry !

Richard Wright wrote re: Leopard, Seeker update, and MacWorld or Bust!
on 11-13-2007 11:05 AM
Seeker 1.1 is coming in January. It will be for both Windows and Mac!

TheSkyX is building on Linux, but we don't have a "plan" for that yet. ;-) I have yet to really make a strong effort in getting Seeker running on Linux. I think the only thing that might hold me up would be QuickTime movie making support. Otherwise I'm sure I could get the majority of it working. For my book, all the Mac samples built on Linux with very few gottchas... The Mac really is a Unix operating system (BSD) after all.

I keep Ubuntu in a VM on my Intel Mac. I might try a native PPC install on one of my older G4 Macs sometime.

mperata wrote re: Leopard, Seeker update, and MacWorld or Bust!
on 11-20-2007 6:31 PM
I saw The SkyX at AIC2007 and it looked great. It appears it will be best seen on a large screen (bigger than a laptop).

I have a usable spare box I can dedicate to my observatory. What video chip set do you recommend for Win XP SP2 and Open G/L.

Michael in San Jose
Richard Wright wrote re: Leopard, Seeker update, and MacWorld or Bust!
on 11-21-2007 9:14 AM
I always recommend NVidia for the best OpenGL performance and stability. The 3D requirements of TheSkyX are fairly modest compared to the latest games, so it doesn't need to be a real high end part. Any NVidia board you can buy new will run TheSkyX pretty well.

Chart mode also looks amazing... with or without OpenGL.


kellylummus wrote re: Leopard, Seeker update, and MacWorld or Bust!
on 10-12-2010 2:08 AM

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