Friday, January 1, 2021

What to do when OpenRocket no longer works...

Some of you may know that I switched from Windows/PCs to MacOS/Macs several years ago - I got tired of all the issues with drivers, the "blue screens of death", the endless stream of updates, and the relentless virus/malware attacks. However, this change came with costs - the first being that Macs are very expensive compared to the equivalent PC in terms of horsepower. There is also less software available, especially in the engineering area, and you pretty much sell your soul to Apple. Microsoft only wants to own your computer's operating system - Apple takes the whole shooting match, hardware and OS. But I will say that things work very well the vast majority of the time - practically no system crashes, and the software that is available works smoothly and has a "better polish" than the Windows equivalent. I have had no problems with software from the Apple App Store; it's only the stuff one downloads that causes the fits.

Which brings me to OpenRocket...

On all my past Macs (including my MacBook Air laptop), OpenRocket has worked flawlessly; it even worked fine on my new Mac until yesterday, when I upgraded the operating system from Catalina (10.15) to Big Sur (11.1). I did the usual reinstall of Java you have to do when you perform such an upgrade, checked to make sure the Java was working, and then fired up OpenRocket as a test. That's when I saw this:

Well, crap.

I spent the next couple hours googling and trying things with permissions and stuff - nothing worked. My frustration mounted, and I began to understand the feelings of TARC newbies who struggle to get OpenRocket working on their computers. I had often shrugged off their issues by telling them their Java installs were not right, and that if Java was working, there would be no problems with OpenRocket. Well, darn it, my Java was working and the stupid program would not run! I can tell you, I will be much more sympathetic in the future.

For a few minutes, I thought OpenRocket's performances on the screen of my shiny new Mac were a thing of the past, and that I would have to run it on my laptop (which I am not going to upgrade to Big Sur anytime soon!). Then my searching revealed this page, in which someone had posted links to OpenRocket run times and executables compiled for different operating systems. I downloaded the MacOS version, and voila! OpenRocket once again graced the screen of my Mac!

Big sigh of relief.

However, this whole experience once again drove home the fact that major updates to our computer operating systems, driven by security and technology advances, are just as, if not more, frequent than software updates. This is especially true for hobby programs like OpenRocket, which hasn't been updated since 2015, and also for altimeter drivers/codes like those from PerfectFlite. Keeping these legacy codes running often involves hacks or bypassing OS security features, and eventually things reach a point where even that is not enough. Catalina did that to me, as 32 bit codes no longer work. Unlike Microsoft, which provided a fair amount of backwards compatibility, Apple simply forced developers to upgrade their programs to 64 bits. So now I have to find a Windows box to download data from my Perfectflite PNUT. This is the major reason I have largely switched to Bluetooth altimeters like the FlightSketch, as small vendors like PerfectFlite focus on the Windows platform, which is over 90% of the market. Macs are an afterthought, if there is a thought.

I understand that we can expect a new version of OpenRocket sometime in the foreseeable future, which would make me quite happy. It's a great program and needs to be maintained/upgraded.

Back to designing rockets...

1 comment:

  1. I never got past the body tube. Consider yourself fortunate. I'm still designing on a stone tablet with a chisel.