September 2009

Building Emacs from Source for Mac OS X

There are a few binary Emacs packages for OS X floating around out there, but I always build it myself from the sources. This usually results in an Emacs that works the way I expect, rather than the way some "helpful" distributor thinks it ought to work.

I'll assume you have the developer tools and bzr installed, and know how to open Terminal and type some commands. Here are the commands you need to type:

bzr init-repo --2a emacs/

cd emacs

bzr branch bzr://

cd trunk

./configure --with-ns

make install

When this is complete, you'll end up with in the nextstep subdirectory. You can run from there, or copy it to your Applications directory.

Update 2010/10/29: Discovered that the Emacs team now uses Bazaar (bzr) rather than CVS. Updated the instructions accordingly, following advice from and Also, found what appears to be a faithful binary distribution at

The iTunes UI Sucks

I like most of Apple's products, but iTunes is a very dark corner of the Mac universe.

For example, here is what you have to do to download updates to your iPhone apps:

  1. Click the Applications link in the upper-left corner of the navigation pane.
  2. Move the mouse over to the lower-right corner and click the tiny, tiny Check for updates button.
  3. Move the mouse to the upper-right corner and click the Download All Free Updates button.

Three steps, requiring moving the mouse pointer all the way across the screen between each. There is no automatic-update feature.

There is probably some way to write an AppleScript to automate this, but AppleScript sucks too.

Do a web search for "iTunes sucks", and you'll find a lot more examples.

To paraphrase Bjarne Stroustrup: There is software everyone complains about, and software nobody uses. One could chalk up the iTunes hate to the simple fact that so many people are forced to use it whether they like it or not. But iTunes really does suck. I wish Apple would do a complete re-design of its UI, and make it act like an Apple product.

We Loves the Preciousss

It's not always easy to be an Apple fanboy: read "In Nomine Jobs, et Woz, et Spiritus Schiller" by Merlin Mann

I've installed Snow Leopard on my old 13-inch white Macbook (which I don't use for anything important). I've had no problems with it, but I'm going to wait a month or two before upgrading the Macs that I rely on. I want to wait until Apple releases a patch or two, and I need to let some dinosaurs catch up.

Snow Leopard is a nice upgrade which is definitely worth the thirty bucks, but for most users, it doesn't provide any benefits that justify the pain of being an early adopter.

UPDATE: Have installed Snow Leopard on my work laptop. No problems, except that my HAL 9000 screensaver doesn't work anymore.

Menubar Countdown 1.2 Works with Snow Leopard

Menubar Countdown, my Mac OS X countdown timer application, has been tested with 10.6 Snow Leopard, and it seems to work just fine.

(But if anyone finds otherwise, please let me know.)