Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Poser 9 and Mountain Lion - Serial Reg Failboat

Here's a quick brain dump of a few findings and fixings after a frustrating day trying to get Poser 9 working properly on my MacBook Pro running Mountain Lion.  If you are just here for my fixes scroll to the bottom.

I bought Poser 9 when it was on sale by Smith Micro, some time ago.  I've been using Manga Studio for quite a while for my line work and cartoon style drawing.  I needed a good animation product and bought Anime Studio recently as well.  Both of those Smith Micro products are great and get a lot of use.

However I had not really needed Poser - I just bought it because it was cheap enough on the special deal Smith Micro was offering.  Its normally quite pricey - and I had a plan to use the modelling tools in it to basically give me a pose-able artists dummy that I could use to draw from.

Anyway I pulled out the DVD from its case, checked out the ReadMe - which did not mention any of the known issues with Lion listed on the Poser site.  I installed, and before the UI came up I got the "Please enter your Poser Serial Number" dialog.  Filled that out, and then - first problem - no content library.

Instead there is a weird message saying that I had to install Flash from Adobe before I could use the content library!!  Gaah!  I absolutely do not want to have Flash on my laptop, but apparently if I want to use Poser there is no choice.  Sigh.  What I had always done on Mac is use Chrome for those annoying sites that require flash, and had a nice Flash-free browsing experience for general web-use with Safari.

I quit out of Poser, and ranted and raved and shook my tiny fist at the air.  Poser has Flash!?!?  I hate Flash!!  You might not have realised it if you're a long time Poser user.  Try right clicking on the Poser Library and you'll see something like the dialog to the right.

Why they feel the need to embed Flash in their UI I don't know.  I guess its using the so called "Flex" programming system.  It seems (based on a bit of inspection) that Poser was originally written with wxWidgets and some other fairly arcane technologies - so maybe they though Flex might save some development time.

I checked the Smith Micro website and found that there was an update - the SR1.3 update for Poser 9.  It was 114MB in size and took a while to download.  But maybe this would fix some of the issues!

Nah.  Still needed Flash - and weird - I had to do the registration again too.

So then I installed Flash from Adobe's website, and also before doing anything else, the "ClickToPlugin" extension for Safari, which blocks all attempts by web-pages to load flash or other browser annoyances.

Since later versions of Safari do not support the old faithful "ClickToFlash" add-on, the baton has been picked up by the fantastic author of ClickToPlugin.  Same great features but it now also works not just for flash but also Java, and a range of other noxious things that are trying to make your Safari slow, unstable and annoying.  I also love how it blocks flash movie players and subs in the Safari native HTML5 media player instead.  Very nice - means that those YouTube embeds now play just how you'd like without using an instance of Flash.

Note that if you "always use Firefox" or whatever, fine, but you should consider using a flash blocker for Safari anyway - its just so much more secure.  I bet that you'll find yourself viewing web-pages through Safari quite a bit because of its integration with programs on the Mac.  Its also faster and more lightweight than Chrome (my default browser of choice when I know I have to use Flash on Mac) for most usages.

Anyway.  With Flash on-board, and feeling a bit dirty - I fired up Poser 9 again.  Guess what I get another "Please enter your Poser Serial Number" dialog.  Filled that out, and then - just for giggles - quit out again - started up Poser - you guessed it - "Please enter your Poser Serial Number" dialog again!  Something was defeating the Poser serial number registration process.

I googled around a lot, checked forums, and even sent in a support request via the Smith Micro support on-line form.  The response was fairly lack-lustre:
Thank you for contacting Support. This is a Permission Issue.
Try this...
Create a new user account on your system with Admin Rights. Reboot and Log In to that new user account. Launch and activate Poser.
This will resolve the issue with having to activate on each launch, even after rebooting and returning to your normal user account, but also indicates that your user account is corrupted. If that does resolve the issue, you can either start using the new user account, or try to repair your current user account permissions using Disk Tools.
Well, my user account already had Admin Rights.  And I did not want to create a new user id.  But this got me thinking - Poser is probably trying to persist the registration of the Serial Number somewhere, and having trouble.

I fired up XCodes "Instruments" app which allows me to trace the execution of programs, and ran Poser under its watchful eye.  I used a File System monitor so I could check for attempts to open a file that failed.  Sure enough - I saw it attempt to open the following file:

/Users/Shared/Library/Application Support/Poser/9/PoserReg.dta

Somehow when "Installing for all users of this Mac" Poser had set up a lot of files under the "Shared" user.  The known issue web page about Lion (which I later discovered by Googling for the above path)  had a sort of fix for this issue - but it talked about the "root" user, not the "Shared" user.

To fix the issue I opened up my trusty Terminal and typed the following at the command line:

sudo mkdir -p /Users/Shared/Library/Application\ Support/Poser/9/
find /Users/Shared/Library/Application\ Support -exec sudo chown sez \{} \;

Now, one more Poser 9 registration and the issue was fixed.  I gave the Smith Micro support guy the information so maybe it will filter back through their knowledge base.

There are still a number of really annoying issues with Poser 9 on Mountain Lion - as described on the known issues page, and the most irritating is the one where you cannot use the color palette controls for any of the materials.  Instead you have to use the tiny button at the top right to open the Mac native color picker, which does work.  Another one is the "flashing black" library - I guess another issue with Flash.  As per a hint I found for a similar issue with Poser 2012, docking and undocking the library (drag by its bar at the top of its window) seems to fix the issue for that session.

So if you have Poser 9, and are about to install on your MacBook (which does not have Flash installed) your recipe becomes
  • start the download of the SR3.1 update from the Poser updates page
  • download the Flash player from Adobe
  • create the /User/Shared/Application Support/Poser/9 folder
  • install Flash (and I recommend a Flash blocker for Safari or your browser of choice)
  • Now finally install and register Poser 9 using your Serial number
  • Prepare for color picker, library and other frustrations
Note that for the 3rd step you can just use the Finder if you're not comfortable with the command line.

Good luck with Poser!