Two Weeks with Coda

One Window

Two weeks ago I finally decided to give Panic’s newest Mac OS X offering, Coda, a thorough test to see if will better serve my web development needs. I had known about it since its initial release, hailed by many as the perfect solution to web developers needs, while downplayed by some due to lack of features. Coda is an 80% solution — an application that tries to simplify the average coder’s workflow, unifying the standard multi-program arrangement into one window, with configurable tabs for various purposes. Panic won’t win everyone over with this tactic, but the idea of opening a single, dedicated program to do my work in really appealed to me both as a designer and a programmer. Coda’s icon, a simple green leaf, subtly hints “keep it simple” at every launch. Panic’s developers have taken this approach to heart, crafting a straightforward interface which rivals that of the best Mac applications.

One week ago, I purchased Coda. It doesn’t have Subversion support and it doesn’t have fullscreen mode. What I did find, though, is a unique application that neatly organizes most of the tools I need to get web development done. A syntax-completing text editor, visual or textual CSS editor, terminal, and live web preview are among my most used tools, any of which can be swapped for another, or split into multiple views. With my preferred syntax coloring set up, Coda’s split tabs make me feel right at home, editing HTML and CSS side by side with a preview of the results just a click away.

Get Back to Work

Coda makes getting back into “the zone” really quite easy with its Sites feature, which keeps track of each project’s tab arrangement, FTP settings, public URL, and more. Double-click a Site to start working right where you left off. As for publishing, Coda leverages Transmit’s FTP engine, which keeps folders in sync between your computer and web host with little effort.

A Few Shortcomings

I often work with MySQL as my data store and use CocoaMySQL as a front-end, but switching applications goes against the one-window flow that Coda tries so hard to bring together, so I installed phpMyAdmin and just use it inside a Preview tab within Coda — couldn’t be simpler. The same goes for online documentation not covered by the built-in PHP and JavaScript references. For Subversion, I’ll just use command-line ‘svn’ calls within a Terminal mode, as it’s surprisingly straightforward for a command-line utility.

Only the Beginning

As of this writing, Coda is just at version 1.1, so there’s plenty of room for it to grow. At the very least, I hope to see fullscreen mode similar to NetNewsWire’s in the near future, so I can really get into my code and ignore little distractions like menu bar extras, Mail badges, etc. Panic has dropped their biggest application yet on the Mac web developer community, and overall, I’m very satisfied with Coda and am getting so much more done in so fewer windows.

Two Weeks with Coda

Rackmount G4

g4_front

I took a trip out to my previous employer’s business to check out an interesting find he stumbled upon in a purchased lot of computer equipment. Among other official Apple-branded machines and workstations were several apparently custom built 3U rackmount G4 servers. I took a bunch of pictures documenting the meticulous overhauls that were done in readying the new machines for about 8 hard drives, plenty of PCI cards, and proper cooling. Judging by the labels left on the converted towers, they were intended to be used as ProTools workhorses, mixing audio and piping effects around someone’s once-elaborate pro audio setup. Aside from the unique form factor (for a Mac-based server, anyway) and the sheer geekiness of such an undertaking, the power controls and cooling system are of particular interest.

g4_top

The one really interesting bit of circuitry in the whole system is one tiny Marathon power board, which connects to the relocated front panel board of the original tower. Several years ago, Marathon Computer offered rackmount conversion kits for Apple’s G3, G4, and even iMac systems. These enclosures appear to be made by I-Star, despite similarities to Marathon’s PowerRack kit, though pictures and documentation about Marathon’s kits are now extremely hard to find.

To keep the system and its veritable wall of hard drives running cool and trouble-free, large fans were employed in conjunction with a simple, off-the-shelf fan controller which combines the feedback from multiple fans into one monitoring port, complete with overheating alarm and adjustable temperature settings (via jumpers).

For completeness, a SCSI card and stealth serial port were added, leaving room for ProTools PCI audio cards. In its day, this was a screaming system that bested even Apple’s top PowerMac offerings. Someone clearly spent many hours getting the physical layout and electrical systems just right, which I thought was worth preserving and sharing.

Rackmount G4