Monday, 9 April 2012


Only bother reading the rest of this if you are one of those clever techy types...
"Okay, I finally accepted my decrepit old computer wasn't about to spring back into life, so went out and bought a new iMac. Assuming my bank manager isn't reading this post, so far to the good. It starts up when it's supposed to (a big advantage over it's predecessor) and I can indulge in long-forgotten habits like watch the iPlayer and listen to Spotify. I'm facing two fairly big problems, however, and if anyone reading this has any advice I'd be grateful.

Firstly, pretty much all my old software has been rendered useless at a stroke - as it's incompatible with the new machine. (Presumably since Macs started using Intel processors.) Following advice from Mr. Google, I downloaded the shareware Open Office, which works pretty much the way I hoped it would. It does about everything Microsoft Word did, except you don't have to make Bill Gates richer for using it. It even happily supports the password-protected files I had. (TextEdit was just shrugging at those and walking off.) It does some distracting predictive texting thing, but I'd guess there's a way to switch that off. 

I also downloaded the Photoshop alternative Gimpshop, and things there ran less smoothly... This claims it needs something called X11 to open, which does indeed seem to strike up when bidden. But from there nothing happens! I simply stare nonplussed at an empty screen which sits where I hoped my new software might be. As I know nothing of this 'X11' business (unless it's a very late 'X-Men' sequel) I am now at something of a loss. Is there a way to get it going? Or alternative shareware I could try?

I'm also going to need some alternative to Quark/InDesign and (ideally) Illustrator for the next time I bring out a comic, so I'd gratefully receive any advice over those.

Secondly, I had a pile of stuff (including most of my half-completed Lucid Frenzy postings) saved on Zip discs. And (you've guessed it!) the new machine won't accept the software to install the drive. Probably more a question for Brighton-area folks, but if anyone has a PowerMac I could borrow for an hour or two so I can switch the data to CD I would be a very grateful man. I still have my drive and the installation software, so all I'd need is access to the machine.


  1. I am, in an indirect way, partially responsible for your predicament, so I'll try to help even though I am not a Mac user. (There used to be software in OS X called Rosetta, that let you run PPC programs on Intel Macs. That software was made by the small startup I worked for. That small startup was bought by an Incredibly Big Megacorporation, and Apple don't like said corporation, so they wouldn't renew the license, deciding they'd rather break everyone's software instead.)

    Firstly, a nit-picky point -- the pieces of software you're using aren't shareware, they're Free Software (or 'open source' if you like businessspeak instead of activist-speak). Shareware requires payment, Free Software doesn't (there are other differences too).

    Rather than OpenOffice, I'd get LibreOffice if I were you. A little over a year ago, all the developers for OpenOffice got pissed off at Oracle, who own the OpenOffice name, and took the code off with them and called it LibreOffice instead. OpenOffice has stagnated since and will probably die soon -- if you want decent updates, or ever want support, I'd switch.

    X11 is one of several incompatible graphics protocols for UNIX-based systems. You shouldn't need to ever know anything about it - it just allows some programs to draw things to the screen.

    Rather than GIMPShop, I'd use The GIMP instead. The GIMP is the program that GIMPshop is based on -- GIMPshop is just a hack on top of it that makes it look like Photoshop, but the learning curve for the GIMP is shallow enough that you should be able to figure it out, and you'll be able to get FAR more help with it than with GIMPshop. The download page for GIMP for OS X is , and here are some instructions for installing it, which look out of date but may be helpful --

  2. Thanks for your info, Andrew, and clarification over free software. Apple's official position seems to be that the move to Intel processors was unavoidable and backwards-incompatible, so it's interesting to read what you say about Rosetta. (And certainly, when I bought my PPC those many years ago, it had a shell of the old OS which allowed you to access old software. I was still using that when the thing finally died!)

    I read about Gimp but figured that, it being GimpShop minus the interface, if one wouldn't play ball the other wood. But following your advice I tried it and it works! Only briefly looked around but it seems so similar to Photoshop I have a hard time figuring out what GimpShop does.

    Interesting what you say about LibreOffice but I probably won't move while OpenOffice is still doing my bidding. I'd guess if they can open Word files they could open each other if needed?

    Now if someone else comes to my rescue over those Zip discs all will be well...

  3. "if one wouldn't play ball the other wood"

    Make that "if one wouldn't play ball neither would the other." New iMac not helping my ability to speak the English good...