Red Tape

Modern technology was supposed to make our lives easier, but much of it reminds me of the worst excesses of cold war Eastern bloc bureaucracy.

Take TexturePacker for example. It’s not the worst offender by any means, and I feel a little mean picking on a program developed by an independent developer, but I am a customer, and I did part with money. I bought this program in October 2012 after it came highly recommended by I think Steffen Itterheim of cocos2d tutorial fame. I have yet to use it.

This morning I wanted to use a little time to migrate Alphabite code from Cinder, which is clean, powerful, transparent and utterly amazing, to cocos2d-x, which is easy to use, has great tools support, but is perhaps a little more opaque and so harder to fix when things go wrong. From being able to draw sprites individually, I needed to be able to draw them from a sprite sheet. You don’t have to, but I thought I might as well get it right from the start.

I remembered buying TexturePacker. I like buying software tools, even those, like TexturePacker, I don’t use. It’s the digital equivalent of a well-stocked tool shed. Sometimes, a man just wants to peruse his amazing collection of unsullied SnapOn metal and not necessarily ever get around to building that armoire, or customising that chopper, but it’s good to know that should the occasion demand it, he’d have the tools to do it.

Similarly, I like to kid myself that I can still program. Chimera is not exactly the greatest achievement, but it makes me think that should it come down to it, if my country ever needed my programming ability, I’d be ready to deliver; and I’d have the tools to deliver with.

Except that the tools that I buy are digital. I downloaded TexturePacker again, and activated it. Or at least, I tried to activate it. I was met with a message informing me that I was outside my update period, whatever that meant, and that I wouldn’t be able to use it. Not to mention it features the stupidest clip art I’ve ever seen.Screen Shot 2013 04 26 at 06 44 44

My tool wasn’t in my shed of course. I’d changed my Mac, so I was redownloading the tool. Imagine my set of shiny tools actually live in the SnapOn van and I have to pay to use the latest tool, or I have to find the original van that had the tool I paid for in the first place.

Except that I can’t find the original SnapOn van. And I can’t find the version of TexturePacker that I paid for on the site.

Now you can see why people like the Mac App Store. And why I’ll be using SpriteHelper. Which incidentally, I also bought ages ago and never used. It was ugly. I don’t like ugly tools. I like shiny. TexturePacker was shinier. Except for that clip art. But at least I know where to go to download SpriteHelper and I know I won’t have to pay any more than I did in the first place.