Archive for the 'News' Category

CuteClips and Snapplr for sale

Monday, January 5th, 2015

The last few years have been pretty busy on my end. I still work as a full-time Smalltalk developer and in my spare time I’ve released some new versions of my Apps, most of which are available on the Mac App Store. Last year I’ve even released my first iOS App:

However, I’ve also neglected two of my products severely. Both Snapplr and CuteClips have not seen an update in years. During a longer journey before Christmas I made the decision to sell both apps because I believe my customers deserve better than me not having time to update the apps.


Camouflage 2.0

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

After several years without update, Camouflage 2.0 was just released. It is available in the Mac App Store for only $1.99.

Probably the most important new feature is compatibility with upcoming versions of Mac OS X. There’re were several bugs and crashes fixed, especially the bug where the Camouflage menu would be all gray after choosing a HotKey. CoreAnimation is now used for wallpaper transitions. So if you change your wallpapers it now fades like on the original Desktop.

One more thing of notice is that Camouflage 2.0 will now tell other applications when it hides the Desktop Icons. I’ve already contacted the developer of GeekTool and he likes the idea to support Camouflage, so stay tuned for news on that. On a technical side, this works by posting the distributed notifications “CamouflageWindowsAppear” and “CamouflageWindowsHidden”. The first notification also includes a dictionary with the window numbers and window levels. So if you’re writing a software that shows information behind the Desktop icons, you might want to register for those notifications and in case Camouflage activates, increase your windows’ window levels in order to be in front of Camouflage.

A word on version 1.25, which was and still is free. If you’re using Mac OS X prior to 10.6, you can still use that version. It has its limitations, but works. If you’re using 10.6 i can’t stop you from using version 1, but if you feel like supporting an indie mac developer, please update to version 2.


NSConf 2011 recap

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Already two weeks ago, NSConference 2011 closed after three full days of joy. Three days of meeting lots of interesting people. Three days of listening to insanely great talks that both widened your view as well as broadened your horizon.

One point that was mentioned throughout the conference in almost all of the talks: Pay attention to the details! Go that extra mile, it’s totally worth it!

And NSConf payed a lot of attention to the details. Here’re some details that I’d like to point out:

– the talks were always 30 minutes long with a 30 minute pause to the next talk. In this 30 minute pause there was a 15 minute Blitz-Talk. The Blitz-Talk was in a room 50m to walk from the main room. So every 30 minutes people were getting up and had a little bit of an exercise. Or they were getting up for some coffee and food 🙂

– 30 minute talks were extremely good to follow. Even if you were not interested in the subject at all, you didn’t even have time to do something else, cause 30 minutes later the talk was already over. So you could as well just stay and listen.

– there was only one track of talks to follow, no multiple tracks.

– The Wifi was free, but it was slow. ICQ et al didn’t work, only Skype. Twitter worked very good and for mail it was enough too, so people typically followed the talks instead of surfing the webs.

– I cannot remember how many talks exceeded the 30 minutes time limit, but it must have been only very few, so thanks again to the speakers for not talking too long.

– the people from the US were happy to have one hour less of a jet-lag due to the conference falling in the two-week gap between US summertime and european summertime.

– not only were the days scheduled for the talks, but the evenings were also taken care of. So you basically only needed to book the hotel for bed and breakfast!

– the first night was a dinner with fantastic food. I really didn’t expect that great food in the UK (no offense, but the UK is not famous for their food as France or Italy are). But not only was the food extraordinarily delicious, the wine was excellent, too!

– the food also proved to be a great foundation for the party after the dinner 😉

– the second night was a party with rodeo riding, sumo wrestling and playstation… and an iPad2 lottery

– they even had a magician at the party! how cool is that?

– did I already mention that there was drinks and food served every break? During lunch we could even sit outside in the sun eating our food.

– the sun was shining! (when I visited London in July that was not the case, so I’m a bit surprised here)

– the bar had Staropramen beer (lovely czech beer) this year!

– the hotel replaced their public pc’s with some shiny iMacs.

– probably the most important part: in the lobby was the conference help desk! Whenever you thought you had a problem, you could go there and you would see that there is no problem that could not be solved. These guys not only managed the checkin, they were there the whole conference and they even helped with checking out and getting to the airport in time!
I only needed to tell these guys when my flight went and they figured the trip out for me. They even got me to the mortimer train station. Thanks a lot, that was amazing!

I’m already looking forward to next years NSConf!


Handcrafting object files

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

The Problem:

Image you’ve got a c-file with the following code:


unsigned char text[] = { 0x53, 0x6f, 0x20, 0x69, 0x6d, 0x61, 0x67, 0x65, 0x20, 0x79, 0x6f, 0x75,
 			 0x27, 0x76, 0x65, 0x20, 0x67, 0x6f, 0x74, 0x20, 0x61, 0x20, 0x63, 0x20,
 			 0x66, 0x69, 0x6c, 0x65, 0x20, 0x77, 0x69, 0x74, 0x68, 0x20, 0x74, 0x68,
 			 0x65, 0x20, 0x66, 0x6f, 0x6c, 0x6c, 0x6f, 0x77, 0x69, 0x6e, 0x67, 0x20,
 			 0x63, 0x6f, 0x64, 0x65, 0x3a, 0x0a, 0x0a };
long textSize = sizeof(text);

not too hard to imagine, isn’t it? Now imagine you’ve got a bit more data. Like 20MB of data. Storing 20mb of data in a c-file probably doesn’t use the best compression. You would end up in a text-file of 100mb+. Compiling such a file takes quite some time and more importantly takes plenty of ram. Dealing with that kind of files isn’t the best thing to do so I thought about a better solution.

It would be much better to store the binary file in…a binary file ;-). But you can’t just link to a random binary file and access its data. One would also want to have the data’s value available in a variable.

The solution pretty easy actually: store the data in a static library and link your app against that library. This library could also export a symbol or two. One to get the data, one to get the size.

But as easy as the solution sounds, how do you get a static library out of a binary file? Or more importantly, how do you generate an object file? That’s pretty easy with a compiler. One could use gcc to compile the object file. Only problem is that gcc takes c-files as input, which kinda defeats the purpose.

I’ve chosen a different compiler, I’ve chosen as. As, for those who don’t know, is the assembler in gcc. It takes cpu instructions and converts them to bytes in an object file. But it can actually do a lot more. There’re plenty of special instructions available that don’t convert to machine code but rather decide where things go in the resulting object file. There’re instructions to declare a global, to define data, etc. A very handy instruction is the .space size, fill instruction. It allows us to create an area of bytes of a certain length. The instruction is just one line, but can generate space for tons of megabytes if you like. Using the .space instruction we can generate object files of a certain size, free to be filled with whatever we like.

The workflow for putting binary files inside a static library is like so: you generate the assembler file, compile it into an object file, link it to a static library via libtool and then you replace the placeholder inside the static library with the contents of the binary file.

Don’t worry. There’s no need to do that by hand. I’ve released DataLibraryCreator which does exactly that.

Using this technique you can do other pretty cool stuff, too. Like creating symbol files for times when you want to debug c-tools that don’t ship symbols (like here). If you compile a c-file via

cc -S myFile.c

you’ll get a myFile.s which contains the assembler code generated out of the c-file. If you aren’t to sure about which instructions you can use in the assembler file, just try and see what the c-compiler generates.



Dealing with Crashlogs

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

I’ve already written about why every developer should know his way around with otx so this is sort of like a follow up on this topic.

Today Peter Hosey asked on Stack Overflow about an interesting stack trace. Obviously the writeWithFormat() function didn’t crash recursively. So it appears that the crashlog is lying to us about the function that makes trouble. No need to panic, there’s plenty of useful information left in the crashlog to help us find the bug. First of all there are offsets:

0   com.growl.GrowlSafari        0x179d383c writeWithFormat + 25
1   com.growl.GrowlSafari        0x179d388e writeWithFormat + 107
2   com.growl.GrowlSafari        0x179d388e writeWithFormat + 107

So the first frame is at offset 0x179d383c and all the other frames are at offset 0x179d388e. The only way to make sense out of these numbers is to use otx to disassemble the binary and look at the offsets to find out what’s really being called (the current svn version of otx is much more current, if you don’t mind compiling the tool yourself).

Before we can start disassembling we first need to know which file to disassemble. Fortunately the crashlog contains that information at the very beginning.

Process:         Safari [2062]
Path:            /Applications/
Version:         5.0 (6533.16)
Build Info:      WebBrowser-75331600~5
Code Type:       X86 (Native)
Parent Process:  launchd [84]
PlugIn Path:       /Applications/
PlugIn Identifier: com.growl.GrowlSafari
PlugIn Version:    1.2.1 (1.2.1)

So i’m sure everyone agrees that Safari doesn’t need to be disassemble, even though the crashlog says so in the Path. The crashlog is kind enough to tell us which plugin causes the crash, so we can take the plugin’s path as input to otx and pipe it to TextWrangler‘s command line tool:

otx -arch i386 /Applications/ | edit

Another indication to disassemble the plugin are the frames, as they all contain the identifier of their bundle: com.growl.GrowlSafari.

So now we have the disassembly of the plugin, but the offsets of the crashlog cannot be found. The offsets produced by otx start at 0x00000f54 and go to 0x000024f3. That’s not nearly close to 0x179d383c. The reason behind that is simple: the plugin’s code is mapped into the memory where the linker things it got some space left. So we need to find out where the plugin was mapped in order to find the right spot in the disassembly.

Again, the crashlog got all the information that is needed. At the end of the crashlog is a list of all the plugins, frameworks and bundles, that are loaded into the application at the time when the crashlog was taken.

It looks like:

Binary Images:
    0x1000 -   0x526ffb 5.0 (6533.16) <5CC91F2A-7709-6B9E-069D-C6E408F1A14B> /Applications/
 0x1340000 -  0x1340ffc +com.growl.GrowlSafariLoader 1.1.6 (1.1.6) <BF586D9F-39A9-BD06-1C83-6F1E527822CA> /Library/InputManagers/GrowlSafari/GrowlSafariLoader.bundle/Contents/MacOS/GrowlSafariLoader
 0x13b3000 -  0x13b3ff7 13.2.0 (13.2.0) <6330F04D-3250-2071-42E4-0ABB54216529> /System/Library/Frameworks/JavaVM.framework/Versions/A/Resources/JavaPluginCocoa.bundle/Contents/MacOS/JavaPluginCocoa

So the first two numbers are the start and end offsets of the mapped binary. The application itself is typically mapped to the beginning, which always starts at 0x1000. The provided information also includes the bundle identifier, version numbers, a unique id and the path. I have actually no idea what the + before com.growl.GrowlSafariLoader stands for, so if anyone knows, please tell me :-).

Searching for our bundle identifer reveals this line:

0x179d2000 - 0x179d4ff7 +com.growl.GrowlSafari 1.2.1 (1.2.1) <10F1EF69-D655-CCEE-DF3A-1F6C0CF541D3> /Applications/

It appears that 0x179d2000 is our base offset. Subtracting that from our offsets gives us the offsets 0x183c and 0x188e. Subtracting is pretty easy in our case, but in general subtracting hex numbers is done easiest in gdb:

p/x 0x179d383c - 0x179d2000

Now that we have our correct offsets, we can have a look at the disassembly of that offset to see what’s going on.

SafariGrowl disassembled

i’ve already added some comments at the two offsets that are shown in the stack trace. First thing that one sees is that the disassembly has proper method names and the offsets both are inside the myInitWithDownload:mayOpenWhenDone:allowOverwrite: method. At offset 0x188e (the offset that all the frames show) there’s a movl instruction, but this is not the instruction we are looking for. The instruction right before the movl is a calll instruction. As the name suggest, it calls a function but on return it continues at offset 0x188e, which is why we see this offset in the stack trace. Otx is kind enough to annotate the calll instruction with Objective-C-like comments that show which function is called. It appears that the function calls itself, thus causing a recursion and the crash. Usually one wouldn’t program a function to call itself, but in that case the method is part of a MethodSwizzle, where this is normal behavior (MethodSwizzling can be done easily with Wolf Rentzsch‘s JRSwizzle project).

So why is the method swizzling not working in our case? The answer is again shown in the crashlog: there are actually two versions of the plugin loaded into Safari at the same time.

 0x140c000 -  0x140efff +com.growl.GrowlSafari 1.1.6 (1.1.6) <1E774BDF-5CC5-4876-7C66-380EBFEAF190> /Library/InputManagers/GrowlSafari/GrowlSafariLoader.bundle/Contents/PlugIns/GrowlSafari.bundle/Contents/MacOS/GrowlSafari
0x179d2000 - 0x179d4ff7 +com.growl.GrowlSafari 1.2.1 (1.2.1) <10F1EF69-D655-CCEE-DF3A-1F6C0CF541D3> /Applications/

I think the reason for the crash is that both plugins define the same method and when the second plugin swizzles its methods, the original implementation of Safari is probably swizzled out and only the two patched methods are left. I think the older patch is called first, resulting in a call to the new patch, which then recursively calls itself. Maybe before swizzling two methods one should check if there was a swizzle before and reverse it before applying a second swizzle.

But those mind swizzling details are probably not too important for the actual fix for this crash and also don’t have much to do with our little excursus to crashlogs-wonderland. I hope you enjoyed the trip 😀


Xcode Run Script Build Phase debugging

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

So I wanted to add a new build phase to my Xcode Project to run some shell script. It didn’t want to work and I’ve tried to find out why it didn’t work so I’ve tried some Logging. That turned out to be a bit tricky first as i’ve set Xcode to hide all messages and only show warnings and errors. To work around this you simply need to create warnings or errors. That’s pretty easy actually as you only need to write “warning: ohoh” or “error: meh” and Xcode will automatically annotate the message as warning or error:

echo "warning: ohoh"
echo "error: meh"

Error Messages in Xcode


PlistExplorer on GitHub

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Ok, your wishes are heard. I’ve cleaned up the code and added PlistExplorer to GitHub.

you can find it at:

Karsten (@_karsten_)

Inspecting NSCoder Files

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

One of the very handy features in Cocoa is NSCoder, it allows you to easily write your objects to a file. Your objects need to know how to encode and decode themselves with an NSCoder and that’s it.

While this is pretty handy it also ties the created files tightly to your application. If you try to open such a file you need to have all the needed classes at hand. That’s a pretty ugly problem if you just want to know what’s inside the file.

Yesterday I had this exact problem and I’ve played around a bit until I had a tool that allows me to inspect any file that was written with an NSKeyedArchiver. NSArchiver is not yet supported.

Thanks to ObjC 2 this was relatively easy to do: If a class is missing, create it and retry to unarchive. That’s pretty brute force but I didn’t see no other way. With some private methods in NSKeyedArchiver I was also able to get all the keys of an Object. With the classes present and with the keys available I could then read all the Objects.

The tool is available here:

Usage: PlistExplorer <file>
It’ll write the content to stdout so you might want to pipe it to something like TextWrangler.

The tool comes with no warranty whatsoever. Use at your own risk.

Karsten (@_karsten_)

Monster Localization

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

CuteClips 3 has been out since last May now and I’ve still had one big thing to add: Localization. Even though I’ve had the localized Nibs and strings files around, I didn’t find time yet to release a localized version. The long know problem was again that features were added I needed to update all those Nibs again.

After reading Pimp My Code 17: Lost in Translation I knew that this was gonna be the way to go for CuteClip’s Localization. I’ve finally had time to implement things. However, it was a bit messy and didn’t work out of the box as I would have expected it. So here’s a small Q/A of the questions that I came up with during the change.

Which strings go to which file?

Strings from the application that are used like NSLocalizedString(“key”,”comment”); go to Localizable.strings. Same as usual. Strings of Nibs however go into NibName.strings.
I.e: MainMenu.nib or MainMenu.xib has its strings in MainMenu.strings.

CuteClips uses plugins a bundles a lot. How are those Nibs looked up?

The lookup-change in DMLocalizedNibBundle.m is implemented on class-side in NSBundle. Every instance call is sent to [NSBundle mainBundle]. So all strings-files need to go to the MainBundle’s Resources folder.
If your plugins have a MainMenu.xib then there’s no separate file. If your plugin has a different name, like in CuteClips, you end up have multiple strings files.
I.e: Here i’ve got Localizable.strings, MainMenu.strings and OldUI.strings

How the heck do I convert my existing localized Nibs to strings files?

That’s a bit tricky! First you need to get the strings out of the Nib, which can easily done by using ibtool:
ibtool —generate-stringsfile MainMenu.strings MainMenu.nib

Not too difficult, but the devil is in the details: If that was a german Nib and you got a button called “Abbrechen” you wouldn’t find a line like “Cancel” = “Abbrechen”; in the strings-file. Instead you’ll have “Abbrechen” = “Abbrechen”. That doesn’t help much when your application tries to translate “Cancel” as it wouln’t find the key. Luckily that’s not the only information that you can find in the strings-file. Each translation also has a comment next to it that contains an ObjectId. Using this ObjectId you can use the english MainMenu.strings to convert the keys of the german MainMenu.strings. That doesn’t work for all translations though, so you need to fix the files by hand as well.

Another problem here is that many translations appear multiple times, so you might want to get rid of the clones.

I’ve written a little Smalltalk tool in VisualWorks but it should work in any Smalltalk Environment. Usage is simple:

    to convert the translation-keys to english:
    Converter new convert: '/Path/To/Project/German.lproj'
    to filter out the clones:
    Converter new filter: '/Path/To/Project/German.lproj'

The tool will create *.fixed.strings files by default.

You can load the tool at:TranslationScanner

I think that’s it.

One thing that i’d like to add: One of my resolutions for this year is finally joining Twitter. I did so on the last day of 2009 and my nick is _karsten_.

Happy New Year!


Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Today all our services (,, have been down for about 10 minutes. Some however may have had problems for much longer time, as we changed our IP address and DNS takes some time to propagate.

This was caused by the fact that we migrated to a new, more powerful server in order to better satisfy the sudden increase in traffic generated by the incredible interest Snapplr caused 😀

I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you, but now we are Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger 😀