Run early Macromedia Director CDROM apps with ScummVM

I hadn’t heard of this software before but ScummVM is a program which allows you to run certain classic graphical adventure and role-playing games on modern hardware and operating systems. They just recently announced support for some early Director 2 and 3 CDROM software:

After 5 years of active development, we are glad to finally announce the first MacroMind/Macromedia Director-based games to be supported.

https://www.scummvm.org/news/20210817/

As someone who spent quite a bit of time developing CDROM software whilst studying and working at DJCAD in the 1990’s it’s great to see efforts like this. So much interesting software from that era is unavailable for people to try out unless you’ve got old hardware and OS to run it on.

The CDROM era boomed in the 1990’s, as the internet and world wide web was still it’s infancy bandwidth was a huge limitation for distributing multimedia content. So alongside more mainstream uses such as Microsoft Encarta the CDROM became a way to try more experimental output such as bands including additional interactive content on music CDs and publishers making CDROM magazines such as Blender.

Cover of Blender magazine (Photo via WikiCommons)

Ultimately a lot of these efforts were unsuccessfully financially, but there were so many great, experimental CDROM made by artists and musicians so it’s unfortunate that so much of it is inaccessible from a historical perspective.

For people studying interactive media today I think being able to use and try out some of the CDROMs from the 1990s / early 2000s would be really useful in regard to understanding trends and seeing what experiences did and didn’t work, as well as just what it was like to use interactive media back in those days.

I’ve often thought that the big rush to create interactive iPad apps to “save publishing” after the iPad came out in 2010 would have greatly benefited if more people were familiar with some of the failed experiments in the 1990s as I think they basically repeated some of the same mistakes with iPad apps as were made with CDROMs.

So any efforts like ScummVM are great to see, I’m hoping they will eventually be able to support later versions of Director so that I can try out some of the CDROMs I still have in my collection. In the meantime I can still run pretty much all of it on my tangerine iBook G3 :)

“The Gaze” – by Barry Jenkins

I came across this on Kottke.org, I’ve been planning on watching Amazon’s new “The Underground Railroad” series so it caught my eye. It’s effectively an unplanned side-project they made whilst filming the actual series, it portrays an array of actors standing before the camera:

I don’t remember when we began making the piece you see here. Which is not and should not be considered an episode of The Underground Railroad. It exists apart from that, outside it. Early in production, there was a moment where I looked across the set and what I saw settled me: our background actors, in working with folks like Ms. Wendy and Mr. and Mrs. King – styled and dressed and made up by Caroline, by Lawrence and Donnie – I looked across the set and realized I was looking at my ancestors, a group of people whose images have been largely lost to the historical record. Without thinking, we paused production on the The Underground Railroad and instead harnessed our tools to capture portraits of… them.

(I’ve also been replaying “Red Dead Redemption II” which has an incredible level of detail of late 1800’s America and the scenery and costumes of the video above reminded me of some of the areas of the RDII environment. RDII is actually set in 1899, so almost 50 years after the time of The Underground Railroad series, it kind of blew my mind that the house I own here in Scotland was built in 1899!)

11 years of iPhone images

Back in 2011 I started compiling short videos with all of the images that had been on my phone over the year. I did 2010 through to 2015 and then after that year I just never got around to compiling the following years. But with a welcome break over the holidays and 2020 over and done I finally made time to compile the missing years videos. In some of the previous years I’d made a custom audio track, but for these ones I just looked for suitable tracks amongst YouTube’s free audio, I think they work quite well though.

I’m tempted to make one massive video with 11 years of video but I think this may be a bit too long! :) Here’s all 11 videos so far:

iPhone view of 2020

iPhone view of 2019

iPhone view of 2018

iPhone view of 2017

iPhone view of 2016

iPhone view of 2015

iPhone view of 2014

iPhone view of 2013

iPhone view of 2012

iPhone view of 2011

iPhone view of 2010

How to fix – “LSLaunchProhibited Info.plist key is unsupported on Mac”

I don’t do a lot of iOS development but I do have a sticker pack and an app in the app store. I recently got an email from Apple developer support with the following message about my sticker pack:

Compatible iOS and iPadOS apps will automatically appear on the Mac App Store when the first Apple silicon Macs become available this year. However, we noticed the following issues with one or more of your apps that are opted in to appear.

The following apps will not be made available on Mac until a new version addressing these issues is submitted.

These apps contain the LSLaunchProhibited Info.plist key, which is unsupported on Mac:

I wasn’t quite sure what that meant and the email didn’t really give any indication as to how to fix it. A quick google search only came up with one single result, a forum post on Apple developer forums by someone trying to find an answer to the same question! :)

After having a quick look around in Xcode I *think* I’ve found the answer to the issue. Basically with the new Apple silicon Macs that have been announced it will be possible to run iOS apps on Mac and by default all iOS apps will be included in the Mac App Store. It is possible to specifically opt-out of having your app in the store but by default it will be included, so in this case the message relates to the fact that my sticker pack isn’t currently set to be available on Mac, only iPhone and iPad.

To resolve this you need to go to the sticker pack extension file of your Xcode project, under the “General” tab there should be a “Deployment Info” section. In there you can set whether it will work on iPhone and iPad, and if you’re running the latest version of Xcode there should also be a “Mac” checkbox. Checking that box will make the sticker pack available for Mac. Once that is done and a new build submitted to the app store this should then resolve this issue.

Playdate by Panic

Panic is a Mac and iOS software company whose software I’ve used myself or many years. Having followed them online through social media and their blog over the years they’ve always had a keen interest in gaming (one of my favourite posts was when they made 1980’s-esque fake packaging for some of their apps!).

In recent years they’ve moved into games publishing, “Firewatch” being the first title they supported and more recent the massively popular “Untitled Goose Game“.

Last year they announced an even bigger step into gaming with the announcement of their “Playdate” handheld gaming console. It might seem a bit crazy to try and launch an all-new hardware platform (never mind one with a hand crank as part of its UI!) but as in many things Panic does it seems there’s a method to their madness.

It’s due to launch sometime in (hopefully early) 2020, I’m looking forward to getting my hands on one of these. I’m a huge fan of Game Boy and retro tech so the aesthetics and design for the Playdate look pretty awesome to me!

Go read the full Playdate FAQ to get all the details about it. Also Edge magazine issue #333 has a great interview / sneak preview of it.

A Spacious place

I had a request the other day to find login details for the administrator of an old client website that we built for Dundee University in the earlier years of wideopenspace, the web design company I used to run. I hadn’t realised that the old client site was still up and running all this time after having been launched in 2006!

It was an amazing nostalgic blast-from-the-past to log in to the site’s control panel and see our custom-built content management system again! I’d kind of forgotten about the 100’s (actually, more like 1000’s!) of hours worth of time and effort that my business partner Andy and I put in to developing it and implementing it on client projects.

The CMS was called ‘Spacious’* and actually came in two versions, the full version with a multi-level navigation system and various custom modules and a ‘Spacious Lite’ version which was made for really small sites with single level navigation and also had access to certain modules.

Last logged in on 14/07/11, it had definitely been a while!

When we started development of our CMS around 2004 we hadn’t really used any third-party CMS platforms (WordPress V1 actually came out in 2004 but it wasn’t really on our radar). Instead we wanted to make something that suited our own specific purposes and client needs. So we didn’t really look at how any other CMS’s were doing things but in a kind of intentionally-naive way built it to work how we wanted it to work for the sites we were building for clients.

We used Spacious for a quite a lot of sites and we actually tried to secure funding to enable us to develop it into a fully fledged CMS product to sell to other companies, but sadly we never succeeded in getting funded. Eventually we stopped developing Spacious and as a company we increasingly moved our focus to WordPress as a platform around about 2009 (probably WordPress 2.7 I think?).

Client budgets were getting tighter and awareness of open source systems like WordPress was increasing. As such it was getting harder to sell clients a licence for a commercial CMS so financially the time spent building and maintaining our own one made less and less sense.

From a development perspective I found that WordPress had a lot of technical similarities to how we’d chosen to structure our CMS. Spacious had similar concepts of posts and pages, a plugin system offering various functions like Events, Email contact forms, Staff directories (‘modules’ in Spacious’ terminology), comments and even a form of multisite that could run more than one site from a single installation. (Spacious had some really cool features built into it that I’m pretty proud of in retrospect!)

From a client-facing perspective I liked the simplicity of WordPress, it was cognitively easy to use – especially compared to the complexities of something like Joomla at the time (I remember seeing all the steps that an incoming new client had to go through to edit their existing site in Joomla and it was extremely complex and confusing!).

As WordPress became our main focus the list of live client sites running Spacious grew shorter. So it’s very cool to see not just one but actually two sites that are still live and running on Spacious after all this time!


* Originally we wanted to call it ‘Fabric’ and trademark it but we weren’t successful – that’s a whole other story!