Nathan’s blog about software development, design and the people behind it.

Opensource Download: Creative Zen Support for Mac

Written on January 9th, 2009

My sister upgraded to a new Apple Mac mini the other day. She was disappointed that her Creative Zen V player did not work with it.

After a few minutes of research, we found that Creative does not supply any type of MacOS X download for their Zen MP3 players. Fortunately, the opensource community has their own solution to this: XNJB.

XNJB is a downloadable Mac application that supports transfering of music, recharging, and general management of many types of MP3 players that generally are not supported on the Mac platform. XNJB makes use of the fantastic opensource libnjb and libmtp libraries to make support for these MP3 players possible on many unofficially supported platforms including: Linux, BSD, Solaris, and of course, MacOS X and Windows.

To use your Creative Zen player on MacOS X, go directly to the XNJB application download page and download the Binary. You can find out more about XNJB at the official XNJB website.

Posted in Download, Open Source

HOW TO: Copy, backup and restore your Firefox bookmarks, settings and add-ons.

Written on December 7th, 2008

Firefox Logo

I formatted my workstation the other day and needed a way to transfer all of my Firefox bookmarks and settings. I stumbled upon a very simple and quick method through copying the Application Data folder. Interestingly enough, this method also has the welcome side-effect of transferring all of your add-ons as well; so things like DownThemAll and Firebug will all stay intact.

The folder you need to copy is: C:\Documents and Settings\USERNAME\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox (in my case C:\Documents and Settings\Nathan\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox).

The Application Data folder may be hidden on your system. To enable hidden system files do the following:

  1. From the explorer window, go to the “Tools” menu.
  2. Select “Folder Options…”
  3. Select the “View” tab.
  4. In the “Advanced Settings” area, enable “Show hidden files and folders”.
  5. Hit the Ok button.

The previously hidden Application Data folder should now be accessible.

Once you have this folder backed up, you can paste it into a Firefox Application Data folder on another system and have your entire user profile and customizations fully restored.

Note: This method has only been tested with Firefox 3 under Windows XP.

Posted in Firefox, How To Guide, Open Source

Carrier has Arrived!

Written on October 8th, 2008

I would like to dedicate a post to my computer scientist friend, Josh Carrier. It was his Birthday yesterday; happy birthday Josh!

His brand new blog over at is fantastic; it details his work on many interesting and geeky subjects, including but not limited to: Robots, Linux, Artificial Intelligence and of course, Java. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Josh complete a skynet equivalent in the future (..without the apocalyptic tendencies, of course).

Speaking of Java; Josh is quite obsessive about Java. As a computer language guy myself, I find this to be a good thing (what can I say, Java is awesome). Josh uses Java for many of his projects, one of which included solving a complex tetris cube using the awesome power of distributed computing.

The distributed computing project was born one evening after Josh and his roommate purchased one of the tetris cubes and attempted to solve it by hand. The tetris cube puzzle itself is quite complex; before you even crack open the package, it challenges you with a slogan like “9,839 solutions, we dare you to find one!”.

After many days of trying to solve the cube, Josh became inspired to build a distributed computing system to help. He went on to build a solving client, and a central server (which worked with the clients, collecting stats and managing workloads). Running these clients on any processing power he could spare, he also enlisted the help of a number of his willing colleagues, myself included.

Leveraging my new dual-core, I joined “the collective” (as Josh liked to call it). A number of days, and a few billion iterations later, the group of about a dozen computers, using Josh’s software, solved the tetris cube. Interestingly enough, it was my own AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ (absolutely shameless plug for AMD) which ended up finding the first solution to the puzzle. It was certainly a fun project to be involved with.

Congratulations to Josh on his new blog; I find it excellent how our humble network of geek blogs is gaining more momentum every day.

Posted in Java, People, Programming

Dina Programming Font in TTF format

Written on October 7th, 2008

For a long time now, Dina has been my favorite programming font. I find it crisp, clean and very readable for the amount of pixel space it takes up (wide bowls, no unnecessary serifs). It’s certainly a nice change from Courier New. In my opinion, a great programming font is just as important as any other tool in the programmers toolbox.

Unfortunately, Dina does have one big pitfall. It’s only available in the bitmap based .fon format, which is notorious for bad portability. Incompatible on anything but Windows, and even some Windows applications will not read this format (Sun’s Java Netbeans IDE for example does not support it).

After a long day of various hacks and adjustments, I was able to convert the Dina font to a working TTF format. You can now benefit from the fruits of my labor using the link below:

Dina truetype font pack

Here is a preview for your viewing pleasure:

For those interested, this is a screenshot from the Netbeans IDE. I have been recently giving Netbeans and Eclipse a test drive in preparation for my upcoming developments in Java.

Posted in Download, Programming, Typography

A Suggestion from Michael’s Blog

Written on September 16th, 2008

I was reading some of the comments posted about the Berserker Reset over at Michal Marcinkowski’s blog. The following comment perked my interest enough to share it here:

#  Anon-O-Mus  Says:
April 5th, 2008 at 7:15 pm

You should make an entirely open-source game.

Where you make a basic shell, and the community has X weeks to do whatever the hell they want to it before it gets shutdown and released as a final game. Not only would it be fun, but the end product would probably be hilarious.

I know i’m not the only one out there who would like to see this attempted.

Posted in Game Development, Open Source