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The Slacker's Guide - VoodooPad and XLogo

by Chris Barylick
December 16th, 2005

When Text Editors Eat Their Wheaties: VoodooPad
It's one of the few universal tasks for any computer user, and if the software doesn't deliver, a fit is almost justified: word processing. It's a simple enough request. You want a program you can open, type an idea or note in, save and close. If it's reliable, so much the better.

Throughout the years, the general task has grown more intricate as new technologies became viable. Web development brought about the need for a quick means of encoding both simple and advanced HTML, while commercial grade word processors such as Microsoft Word forced almost all text editors to have comparable features. As a result, text editors have grown larger, more bloated and while they typically ran fine, tended to present the user with too many options at once. What had once been simple now bordered on intimidating.


Flying Meat's VoodooPad in action.

So, the new challenge has become to provide a simple, accessible interface with enough features to do everything a user could expect of the program. Until recently, I was happy to stick with Mac OS X's TextEdit program. Quick to load, easy to use, with the only caveat being that an active word count seems impossible, this would have been enough to keep going on had Lulio Vargas not introduced me to Flying Meat's VoodooPad, a shareware text editor that's become an ultra-cool jack of all trades.

Name the most random feature you ever dreamed of from a text editor and odds are VoodooPad does it. Word processing. Quick HTML layouts. Internal document searches. Movie and image support. Full export functionality to BBEdit. E-mail support. File encryption. Sketching. Fully supported exporting to an iPod's 'Notes category', and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Almost everything a user ever clamored for in a text editor, VoodooPad's creators threw into this little program and did it well.

Strangely enough, the program functions like a database, or at least oversees what are generally multi-part projects, such as web sites. For anyone who's ever created even a simple web site, the role of file wrangler is not too foreign an idea. Between dozens of individual pages, images, links and everything else that's involved, it was only logical that larger sites adopt a database-oriented structure such as PHP or Cold Fusion to centralize changes made to each document. VoodooPad takes care of these functions and allows for easy links to be created without needing to double check links for each page within the site.

Available in both lite and full versions, VoodooPad is available for a US$24.95 registration fee and requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later to run. The full version runs as trial-ware to a certain extent, limiting the user to 15 pages per document until registration has been completed.

One of the finest pieces of shareware it's been my pleasure to use, this is the digital equivalent of the extensively cool Swiss army knife you drooled over as a kid, but could never quite afford. Download it, play with it and see what you think, and whatever Flying Meat has planned for the future, I look forward to seeing it. Only rarely does a firm come out swinging with a product this feature-rich and it'll be nice to see them around for a while.

Beware the Turtle: XLogo

University of Maryland slogan aside, I've always has a soft spot in my heart for Logo, the Lisp programming language offshoot taught in various school systems. The premise was simple: start with a small character (the turtle) and provide instructions for it to move around on the screen. As the character moved about, it would leave a line behind it. In order to vary the line, the player could rotate the character however many degrees they wished, make the line disappear or adjust the distance the character moved.


A fully functional example of a Logo programming project, complete with turtle.

Put all of this together and you had a simple program in which users could enter sets of instructions to carry out, then see what happened after they had been executed. Programming at its simplest, this taught the programming mindset via an application that was fun to experiment with.

Jeff Skrysak's XLogo has brought this back. Completely free to anyone who wants it, this program resurrects the old Logo program and adds an attractive Mac OS X face to something that many of us remember from the command line Apple II days. Open the program, type in your instructions, then hit the "Go!" icon to see your instructions being carried out. Errors are reported in the debugger window and the pace of the instruction execution can be adjust through a scroll bar. For beginners, XLogo includes two completed projects while its help contents (just open the program and pull down the Help menu) includes cool items such as a history of Logo and commands to use.

XLogo requires Mac OS X 10.2 or later to run and is available as a 260 kilobyte download. The project is accessible through sourceforge.net, so anyone looking to help or pick up the reins and improve the program can probably download and modify the source code as they desire. If something has value, it never truly dies, especially on the Internet. And for anyone who ever played with and loved Logo, this logic remains true.

Continuing a New Effort: TeamSpeex beta 2
A while ago, I mentioned TeamSpeex, the current effort to bring a TeamSpeak-compatible client to Mac OS X led by Yun Zheng Hu. The project continues and has entered the beta two stage as of this month with the following changes having been made to the client:

  • Voice Activation
  • Client/Admin commands
  • Send Text Message
  • Register with Server
  • Create/Edit/Delete Channels
  • Kick/Ban players
  • Move players (drag n drop)
  • Grant/Revoke Server Admin permissions
  • Mute a player
  • All these are accesable using the context menu (ctrl-click player or channel), or use the main menu.
  • Unicode Support
  • Also for Panther users.
  • Full support for "Public Server" servers.
  • Lowered the overall CPU usage
  • Toolbar now has flexible space and has its own menu item
  • Added more known error codes
  • Changed default PTT button from Fn to ?
  • Mac users not hearing other Mac users
  • Errors on "Public Server" type servers
  • Not getting unsupported codec error after reconnect
  • Fixed some assertions
  • Better TeamSpeak URL handling
  • Password protected channels still asked for a password even when you can join without a password.
  • Deadlock on timeout of resending packets.

TeamSpeex now stands at beta two of the project.

Still a work in progress, there's work to be done, but it's nice to see some fairly hefty feature additions and bug fixes. TeamSpeex is available for free, is a 458 kilobyte download and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later to run. For more information, take a look at the project's web site and offer your comments.

That wraps things up for this week. If you've seen anything new or interesting in the Mac universe, please e-mail me.

Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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