Posts for #Software

Occasionally I do some translation from English to German for some of our products at DevExpress, and also for marketing content. Over the years, I have completed many such little projects and I find it hard to remember previous decisions – did I decide to translate certain terms at all, and if so, how?

Translation memory tools exist for such purposes, sometimes as part of larger CAT (Computer Aided Translation) suites, and there are quite a few of them out there. Many are the kind of software that I’m not really that interested in these days: maintained for 30 years as a Windows only application, and that kind of thing. However, I also found several that are reasonably nice-looking web apps, in the cloud and all that, convenient to use especially for the casual translator. I tested several tools, not to great extent, but to find out whether they would be at all usable for my purposes.

Liam twittered about VirtualBox a little while ago – not the first time I’d had a look at their page, but it’s been a while, so I went back. I’ve been a VMWare user for more than a decade myself. Always found it brilliant how I could take over a VM from one machine to another, and I have some VMs archived from 1998 or so, created on a Linux host at the time, that I can now still use on my Mac. I admit the need is rare, but the possibilities are great 😃

Anyway, so I thought let’s have a look at VirtualBox. After all there are enough things to hate about VMWare: they focus far too much on the Enterprise market, updates are slow to come, their support is non-existent (or rather, they expect you to pay money even to be allowed to send them bug reports… or something, I can’t claim I’ve ever really understood their crazy “support” model). If it wasn’t for enthusiasts in the company (like the guy who pushed Linux kernel support many years ago), I’m sure they would have had a much harder time remaining my virtualization system of choice for so long.

Yet another “note to self” type post. I was just fumbling around with Mailman, and for some reason the web frontend was always redirecting me to http://foo.com, while I had been working on the options at http://www.foo.com. For some other reason that I didn’t really look into, even though my server redirects foo.com to www.foo.com anyway, no changes were persisted that way. I was additionally confused because my mm_cfg.py configures the default url host to www.foo.com explicitly. I tried hacking around in the DEFAULT_URL_PATTERN, which has a %s placeholder, but when I took that out and replaced with www.foo.com directly, I got an error in the web frontend. After a while I found out that the url host is in fact configured with the list (not entirely sure what purpose this serves – seems to me like a per-machine config would suffice). More importantly, contrary to appearances the DEFAULT_URL_HOST set up in mm_cfg.py doesn’t seem to play any role in this whatsoever. Previously I had set up my new list like this:

> newlist mylist@foo.com owner@foo.com

I was just trying to record a Camtasia video in my Windows VM running in VMWare on the Mac. Couldn’t record any audio. Impossible. Of course the whole configuration isn’t exactly clear – VMWare doesn’t tell you exactly which “channels” (is that the word? I’m talking about mic, line in, …) it is connecting into the VM, and Windows doesn’t have any tools that are in the least helpful trying to find out if any channels deliver a signal. So I tried everything and it didn’t work. I had audio out for a good while and then suddenly it died. Well.

Now this was all very confusing to me because I’ve recorded many Camtasia videos with sound, through the internal mic, on my MacBook, in VMWare. In the end I searched and found that this is by no means an unknown problem and that I must have been lucky to ever get it working. Weird, again.

I’m using SoundTrack Pro to do editing on recordings for Sod This [LINK REMOVED], have done so since the first episode. Cool software, usually. But sometimes shit happens in it, and it’s just unbelievable. When recording, I always try to remember to switch the track to mono, but about half the time I forget. By default it records in 24 bit, 44100 Hz, and saves as an AIFF file. So a typical one track recording ends up being a cool 600MB or so, in stereo. Anyway, so I have to bring the thing down to mono before mixing it in. No problem – that’s what the Convert to Mono menu entry is for. Right? Yeah, theoretically. It works fine on the mp3 files Gary usually sends me from his end of the recording (yeah, somehow he can’t be bothered to set up that recording format to something more sensible). It usually works on my files as well. Sometimes it doesn’t, like today. When it doesn’t work, the result is simply an empty file. Not a single sample left. Well, that’s not true – it still shows 12000000 samples or some such number, but they are all empty, silent. No idea why it does this. I can only imagine it’s a bug, perhaps based on the precise details of the encoding of the audio data. I just can’t imagine where it comes from. I can be accused of leaving all the settings on their defaults, but definitely not of fiddling them to some creative new combination every single time I record. Nobody else in the world seems to have that problem, or at least I can’t find a single mention of it in Google. Brilliant, so I try fiddling around with the various encoding settings to try and work around that odd bug. Save my file in 16 bit (need to do that anyway, since a hard-learned lesson of the past is that Logic is too dumb to work with 24 bit files – not that it ever tells you so, it just doesn’t work), resample it to 32000, whatever. No dice. Hm, how come that the AIFF file I save for my recording is always called _.aiff, while the one I save from Gary’s recording is called _.aif (yeah, single ‘f’)? No idea – both are saved using the same file type in SoundTrack. Anyway, finally I think what the hell, I’ll save the file as an MP3, since that works with Gary’s thing. Stupid, but there you go. Just need to use that Export command in SoundTrack to do that, right? Hey, what’s that? Export is disabled? Interesting… wonder why. Well, Google once more is clueless. Not a single fucking result. Should never be inactive, by all accounts. Brilliant. Guess what I’m just doing? I’m using Audacity to encode the file as an MP3, hoping that I’ll be able to pull it into SoundTrack after that and finally start the actual work of editing it. Unbelievable but true. At least I have time to write this absolutely useless post in the meantime. If you ever see Sod This episode 6 come out, you know I’ve found a way to work around all this crap.

Update: Converting to mp3 didn’t help at all. I’m sure I’m not enough of an expert on this, but somehow I just can’t even guess what sort of a weird bug SoundTrack must have so it’s unable to do anything useful with my audio data. So, next idea: use Audacity to do the conversion to mono. No fancy menu option for it, but it seems to work so far…

Recently I was configuring some slide templates and I found it impossible to resize several font sizes at once. In Keynote, there are placeholders that have multiple levels, most notably the one for the body, which has multiple levels of bullet points by default. These levels each have their own format settings of course, including their font sizes. Now what if you want the whole thing a bit smaller? Maybe the first three are sized 42/36/30 and you want them to be 36/30/24. What do you do? Well, entering the font size in the combo box in the toolbar doesn’t work. Curiously, the combo box actually shows you several font sizes for the element if you have the entire placeholder selected, but you can only ever enter one font size there and all levels will be set to that size. Same with the Fonts dialog – I like the slider for the font size, but it sets all levels to the same size. Now, when I was first looking for this a few days back, I didn’t find a solution, so I just replicated my sizes manually in the few places where I needed them. After I was done, I found the real solution, and when I had the same problem again today, I could remember finding the solution, but not what it was. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Anyway, I remembered it eventually, and here it is: use the keyboard shortcuts or the menu entries from the standard Font menu to do the resizing. Command - + will increase the sizes (for all levels, but keeping the relative sizing) and Command - - decreases them. Cool, eh? Good luck!

I was just setting up Office in my Windows 7 VM, and something happened that I’ve never seen before: the activation process found that I had installed the license too many times and I should therefore call Microsoft on the phone and explain myself. Or something like that. Oddly, this time I had been using a license number that was in fact listed as an Office Professional key in my list of keys from my MSDN subscription. In the VMs, I rarely use anything but Access (to look at mdb files that I created during demos, mostly) and sometimes Excel. Somehow I always think I’ll install a bit more than these two apps, although I never actually end up using any of the other applications.

Anyway, this time I thought Professional should suffice, so I chose that key – the installer didn’t seem to care though, it listed Universal during the whole process, and since the key was then listed with too many installations though I’d never used it before, there must be some sort of unification going on behind the scenes.

I’ve been using Subversion for many years, probably since 2002 or so, and when I started using it, I imported my existing CVS repository, which contains stuff dating back to 1995 or so. It’s a big and (to me) very valuable archive, especially since I started early on to put all sorts of stuff in there – not just source code, I mean, but rather everything that may be versioned, and that just benefits from being backed up in that repository. All my business paperwork, things like that.

(As an aside, I’m regularly surprised that many people don’t seem to do anything similar – what do you guys do with important documents that aren’t source code? Every now and then I have this discussion where somebody has the opinion that a source control system only needs to be integrated nicely with Visual Studio to make them happy, and I find that position extremely weird.)

Here’s a problem that a lot of people are having: iTunes supports gapless playback since version 7.x. Okay, admittedly there are also people who think it’s great – to clarify, my personal negative reaction to it is not strictly about gapless playback as such, but rather about Apple’s implementation approach. Apple seem to assume a number of things:

  • everybody needs it
  • the process of gathering all the required info is short, painless and unintrusive
  • their implementation is perfect and doesn’t have any bugs

As I wrote previously, I’m using a MacBook now for almost all my daily work. On that post I got some comments about the quality and general availability of software on the platform, so I thought I’d take stock after using it for a while and see what applications I use and where I haven’t found good solutions yet.

Writing, authoring, note taking and similar