Monthly Archives: February 2016

Where does the time go?

With a title like that you might think I am about to launch into a sentimental post, but no this blog boils down to two buttons:

red_button Sliders

It all started many hours ago when I got the notion that I might like to create a  custom configuration button for my Mac app. I had hoped it would be a quick task but now I see it’s 9PM and my day is almost done. I feel a little cheated by time, but the truth is, I have been programming in Swift a lot lately and my brain needed a creative break from enums, optionals and NSUserDefaults.

I am still pretty much a newbie when it comes to vector art. I know the benefits of using vector over raster images but creating vector art has always felt unnatural. With raster you can just lay down the brush and go but working with vectors always felt more mathematical, like trying to create art using protractors, rulers and compasses. However, that idea was challenged when I started using Clip Studio Paint (also known as Manga Studios) last year. Vector software has gotten more sophisticated and the process isn’t so different anymore than using traditional paint programs.

This afternoon I decided to give Affinity Designer a go. It’s a program I purchased a while back after a brief foray into iDraw (now Autodesk Graphic). I can’t criticize iDraw too much because I have created a few neat images using it. At the time I was looking for a cheap alternative to Adobe Illustrator and iDraw certainly fit the bill.  Affinity is one of those programs I have been meaning to dive into but haven’t for some reason. Maybe the interface was a little intimidating or perhaps iDraw was just more familiar, but that changed this afternoon when I started playing around with all of the neat shape effects in Affinity. It is an amazing program and a good part of my lost time can be credited to hours of exploration and experimentation.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 9.16.09 PMWell, I hope you like my configuration buttons. Personally, I like them better than the overused NSAdvance button. I had a lot of fun creating them.

The Medium Distorts the Message

The weekend is here, so it must be time for another post to Adventures in Play. My dwindling site stats are prodding me to write something before my website completely flatlines, but then there is a certain freedom that comes with knowing only a handful of people will ever read my blogs.
In a way my blog is like writing in a personal journal that I intensionally leave out on a sidewalk or subway station for a passerby to discover. Most people either never see it, or just ignore it as they click to their usual Internet haunts. Occasionally, probably by chance, someone stops to give my writings a passing glance, but what they think of it I have no idea. This in itself is an experiment. I often wonder what has drawn a person to my website? Was it a poorly constructed Google search, or were they looking for something more adventurous and informative, or less whimsical or rhetorical? Given how I use Google, I can empathize with the impatient seeker who lands on my page and viscerally clicks away sensing the material lies well beyond their intended search criteria.

At times I question the need for a blog when I could post something on Twitter or Facebook, but after some reflection I know it wouldn’t be the same. The medium matters. I learned that years ago when digital art was still a new medium. Back then I read about artists who had gone digital, replacing their traditional brushes and paints for a digital art studio. They touted the virtues of creating art totally on a computer, a streamlined workflow where there is no need to waste time scanning work or using messy paints and expensive art supplies. A world where one can easily create and destroy with little apparent consequence. So, when I sat down in front of a computer monitor with my fancy Wacom pen in hand, I  wondered why I froze up creatively. At first I thought I was lazy or not focused enough, but after a while it dawned on me that something was getting in the way. For me, creating art from scratch on a computer was like trying to pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time. I wondered why things didn’t just flow, but why should it? I was sitting in a task chair in a dimly-lit, windowless room where I stared expectedly at a bright, blue-whitish monitor for inspiration and creative ideas.  Using a Wacom tablet, I had to get acclimated to a drawing experience where my hand and eye passed through a digital controller. Instead of drawing directly to paper, I needed to draw in one place while looking at the screen, and all the while thinking this was an evolution over pen and paper. However, the experience was entirely different and for me, not better at least not from a starting point. What I learned was I didn’t need high tech tools or software to create something, just imagination and practice. It’s an easy trap to fall into, the alluring idea that the right tool will take you to that next level, but of course you can’t shortcut the process. I am sure many artists can create amazing art directly on a computer, but I believe the path taken to create something, changes it in the process. The more translation between you and the medium means more distortion to the creative message. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but you should be aware of it. Perhaps that is why you often see artists going “retro” to tap back into a medium that speaks to their creative energy. I understand that.


So, if I were to use Twitter to convey the ideas in this post, I would need to somehow condense my meandering thoughts into a series of concise 140 character tweets, a process of reduction that would no doubt distort and mutate my message. This blog post might read something like, “The medium distorts the message #AdventuresInPlay”. Hmmm… not exactly everything I wanted to say, but seems a fitting title for my post. 😉

Proud to be Mac!

My progress working through the Cocoa Programming for OS X book has stalled a bit, but it’s not what you might think. I’ve been preoccupied by all of those cool-bean Cocoa concepts I’ve been learning over the past two weeks. Reading tech books is one thing, but you don’t really get it until you code it. My journey to the Mac platformbsod started back in 2003, a time when I had become increasingly frustrated with the many failings of Windows.

Not sure why I feel the need to segue to my Mac past, but here I go anyway… Queue the nostalgic soundtrack.

It was bad enough I had to use Windows all day at work, but I decided I wasn’t going to put up with it at home as well. I needed a reprieve and purchased my first Mac on Ebay, an iMac late 2001 model.


My first Mac, a late 2001 iMac. I got many years out of this awesome machine! *Technically, I my first Apple computer was purchased on Ebay months earlier but those computers arrived busted.

I was stoked to learn more about this new platform. Could it live up to the reputation as being something different and better? I went down to CompUSA to purchase a copy of OS X, Panther (10.3) on the day of the launch. When I arrived I was surprised to find other Mac users had gather to get their own copies. It was the first time that I got a sense that this computer was something different not just because of the machine but the people were special too. They were different and were happy to embrace a computer that seemed to get them. I was curious to know the essence of what made a Mac a Mac. I would tune in to watch the WWDC keynotes where interim CEO Steve Jobs would present the state of the Apple union. It was great feeling part of that special development community. It was so fun learning about the Mac and the unique culture that came with it. I especially loved how the Mac had always distinguished itself from the pack, particularly in the “Think Different” era. (Who doesn’t love Clarus the Dogcow? clarus_dogcow– Moof! )  Apple has evolved a lot since those early days, but I believe the Mac is still a strong, unique and viable platform. Through the years I have come to love using my Mac at home. I may use Windows and such at work, but that just makes me appreciate the Mac even more. There are those who do not see the Mac this way and that’s fine with me. Every now and then I still like to get into it with the IT crowd who often frame Macs in terms of parts or specs, but the Mac guy in me says let it go. I’m a Mac and your a PC and there is room for everybody.

Okay, so back to my Mac development plan, I’ve decided that this year I am going for it. No excuses! I am determined to write an app and get it into the App Store. There, I said it so it has to happen. The Mac platform has really matured since the early days of Xcode development. I am surprised at how far Swift has come in such a short time. Xcode 7 is a terrific development environment. It’s great fun to get instant feedback on how much CPU or memory your app consumes as it is being developed. It’s like a giant sandbox or playground- well of course Xcode actually has a “Playgrounds”, so right there you can see you’re in for a whole lot of fun. Back when I started learning to program on the Commodore 64 I used to love typing in code and seeing what happened on the screen. Playground gives you the same freedom to experiment with ideas and see the the results play out before you. I highly recommend experimenting with your code in Playground. It is a great way to hone your skills without ever having to build and compile your code. As a build engineer by trade, I really appreciate that feature!

Well, I am off to do some Mac development… 🙂


Cocoa Programming in the Swift Era

After ordering a book from Chapters last Friday, I was pleasantly surprised to find Cocoa Programming for OS X, The Big Nerd Ranch Guide in my mailbox when I got home from work the following Monday! Shipping was free, so I was amazed it got to me so fast. 🙂


Cocoa Programming for OS X series, 5th Edition is the gold standard for anyone wanting to learn how to program for the Mac.

I just love little surprises like this! I am a big fan of Chapters and although I love going out to the retail stores to grab a cup of Starbucks and peruse the latest paperbacks, it is nice to know that when you want a programming title, you can have it quickly and at a super price to boot – 33% off! That’s saying something now that our Canadian dollar is so weak. Yay for Chapters Indigo!

The Mac platform has changed a lot over the years, not to mention all of the language evolutions with Swift, so I needed a little help to bridge the gap and I am sure glad I picked up this latest edition of Cocoa Programming for OS X. Unlike my typical approach of skipping around to the good stuff, I’ve decided to diligently work my way through every chapter and do all of the programming challenges. I am already on Chapter 7 – Working with Table Views (ugh- I must confess that using Table Views is not my favourite Cocoa feature, not because it isn’t awesome but I am just not a fan of working with UI controls for spreadsheets). For the past week, I have been spending my every spare moment reading, programming and puzzling over the many mysteries of the Cocoa framework. This is not my first crack at Cocoa and I have to say there is quite a bit to absorb; programming in Cocoa is hhhhard… but really fun too. At first I was a little disappointed that Apple made the decision to abandon Objective C for Swift. I spent a good many years learning how to program in that language and I feared Apple was moving away from the technologies that made it great. What I found was that Swift is a really great technology, a worthy successor to Objective C. Now that I have been using Swift for the past month, I find that I love writing code in Swift. It is clear, succinct and easy to understand. To be honest, Objective C never really clicked with me and I don’t think it is a coincidence that I am having an easier time of learning Cocoa now that I can program my Cocoa apps in Swift.

Initially, I planned to do a post about my Cocoa adventures, but I have been a little distracted with all of the studying, learning and well, life. I am excited to apply my new skills to an app. I’ll keep you posted!

Happy Birthday Peady!  ???? ????