Linked List: August 2005

Creative’s Patent Claims 

Philip Michaels smells desperation in Creative’s claim of a patent that covers the iPod UI.

Making New Fake News 

Khoi Vinh discusses how Behavior redesigned the web edition of The Onion, America’s Finest News Source. Great design work; Vinh is a master of complex grid-based layouts. And don’t miss the announcement from Onion publisher J. Phineas Zweibel. In the words of former publisher T. Herman Zweibel, “Huzzah!”

Edd Dumbill Interview With David Heinemeier Hansson 

Interesting interview with the creator of Ruby on Rails.

Terrible Graphic Design From Apple 

Remember when I zinged Adobe for the horrible typesetting on their web site and the PDF FAQ announcing their acquisition of Macromedia? Well, take a look, if you dare, at “My Mac Cheat Sheet”, a PDF document from Apple, apparently intended for clueless new Mac users. That’s some serious fugly. I think Jobs would have an aneurysm if he saw this. (Via Ken MacGray, via email.)

Cheesesteak of Suffering 

Dashboard widget that “lets you know, up to the second, just how long it’s been since either the Flyers, Eagles, Phillies or Sixers won a championship.”

The last Philly team to win a championship was the 1983 Sixers. Good thing I’m a Yankees fan. (Via Red Sox and Patriots fan Rich Siegel, via AIM.)

Free Opera Licenses 

Opera is giving away free licenses for its web browser to celebrate the company’s tenth anniversary. Today only.

MacInTouch: NewerTech MiniStack Review 

Ted Silveira reviews the MiniStack FireWire drive enclosure, which is intended to stack underneath a Mac Mini, for MacInTouch:

In addition to performance, we were curious about three things going into the review:

  • Heat: With the miniStack positioned directly under the Mini, would the heat from the 3.5” hard drive cause the Mini to run too hot?

  • Noise: Although the Mini does have a fan, it’s very quiet in operation, even in a room with no other computers or noisemakers. Would the miniStack’s fan preserve that quiet?

  • Fit and finish: The Mini is a good-looking box in its understated way. Would the miniStack live up to that standard and really look like it fit in, or would it look like tennis shoes under a tuxedo?

The Transparent Society 

An excerpt from David Brin’s non-fiction The Transparent Society, published in Wired back in December 1996:

In opposing this modern mania for personal secrecy, let me first emphasize that I happen to like privacy. Moreover, as a novelist and public figure, I need it, probably as much or more than the next guy. All my instincts run toward reticence, to protecting my family from invasions of our private space. Going back to the earlier example, I would find it hard to get used to living in either of the cities described in those early paragraphs.

I don’t care to be peered at by hovering cameras.

But a few voices out there — Stewart Brand, Nick Arnett, and Bruce Sterling, for instance — have begun pointing out the obvious: that those cameras on every street corner are coming, as surely as the new millennium. Nothing will stop them.

(Cf. the aforelinked interview with Brin.)

NYT: Motorola-Apple Cellphone ‘Imminent’ 

Supposedly coming next week; made by Motorola, sold by Cingular.

Inequality and Risk 

Paul Graham:

Like all illicit connections, the connection between wealth and power flourishes in secret. Expose all transactions, and you will greatly reduce it. Log everything. That’s a strategy that already seems to be working, and it doesn’t have the side effect of making your whole country poor.

I’m reminded of a clever interview in Wired magazine from several (many?) years ago, in which the subject of the interview, a security expert, adamantly and convincingly pushed the idea that if we’re going to cover our cities’ public spaces with surveillance cameras, then we ought to make the footage available publicly as well. Privacy goes away regardless if access to the surveillance footage is limited to law enforcement authorities; but if the footage is available to everyone, then it can’t be abused.

Wish I could find a link to the interview, but, alas, Google is failing me. If anyone can find a link to that interview, let me know. Update: Got it; it was this interview with David Brin. Thanks to everyone who sent the link.

Use Option+Delete to Trash Tracks Selected in an iTunes Playlist 

I did not know you could do that. Useful.

How Much Does iTunes Like My Five-Star Songs? 

Brian E. Hanson:

To test the option’s preference for 5-stars, I created a short playlist of six songs: one from each different star rating and a song left un-rated. The songs were from the same genre and artist and were changed to be only one second in duration. After resetting the play count to zero, I hit play and left my desk for the weekend. To satisfy a little more curiosity, I ran the same songs once more on a different weekend without selecting the option to play higher rated songs more often. Monday morning the play counts were as shown in Table 1.

(Via Nat Irons, via email.)

Amputator 1.2 

Updated version of Nat Irons’s nifty little plug-in for Movable Type that alleviates the burden of escaping ampersands in HTML. Now includes support for dynamic publishing.

Esquivalience 

Henry Alford has a terrific little piece in this week’s New Yorker about the apparently-longstanding practice at dictionaries and encyclopedias of putting small fake entries into their books; the idea being that if the fake entries are spotted in other dictionaries / encyclopedias, they’ll know they were plagiarized.

Word spread that the New Oxford American Dictionary had a fake word that started with ‘e’, and lexicographers narrowed it down to esquivalience, a made-up word that supposedly means “the willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities”, and the word was later spotted on Dictionary.com.

The New Oxford American Dictionary, of course, is the dictionary behind Mac OS X 10.4’s new Dictionary application, and, indeed, there’s an entry for esquivalience, complete with usage examples and fake etymology. (Go ahead and look it up with a Command-Control-D.)

(Via Kottke.)

When You Are Your Own Client, Who Are You Going to Make Fun of at the Bar? 

Jim Coudal, writing in the newly relaunched A List Apart:

At SXSW this year, I answered the question “should my business have a weblog?” like this. If you need to make copies of documents you should have a Xerox machine and if you have information about your product or service that needs to be updated regularly then you should have a blog. But the really interesting question is this, “Should my blog have a business?”

Setting a Customized ‘From:’ Address on Outgoing Message From Gmail 

You can change the Reply-To: header, too.

Tim Bray Gets His Mom a Mac Mini 

Her experience, good and bad, is pretty much exactly what I’d expect.

Helpful Tiger: Mail Enhancement 

Long article on how to hack Apple Mail so you can move your mail store to another volume. (With Mailsmith, all you need to do is create an alias to your Mailsmith User Data folder. Just saying.)

Search Engine Spam or Text Ad? 

Tim O’Reilly:

I do recognize that Google’s preferred form of advertising — context-relevant ads via Adwords — is a real advance in making ads useful and targeted. However, at least so far, our experience has been that Adwords revenue will not even remotely make up for the other forms of advertising we carry on our sites. So our alternatives are to: a) convert the sites from advertising to subscription, b) continue to support them via advertising, or c) shut them down.

The Long Tail: “Just Enough Piracy” 

Chris Anderson:

The lesson from these examples is that zero-percent piracy is not only unattainable, it’s economically suboptimal. If your content is uncrackable, it means you’ve probably locked the market down so tight that even honest consumers are being inconvenienced.

Brad Choate: MT 3.2 and LightTPD/FastCGI 

Brad Choate:

One of the other exciting features of MT 3.2 is some improvements we made for persistent Perl environments. As such, we are providing some preliminary support for FastCGI. MT 3.2 can now run under LightTPD and FastCGI.

This is terrific news for MT users with a high volume of comment traffic.

Apple, Digital Music’s Savior, Earns Record Industry’s Scorn 

Jeff Leeds, in the New York Times:

Two and a half years after the music business lined up behind the chief executive of Apple, Steven P. Jobs, and hailed him and his iTunes music service for breathing life into music sales, the industry’s allegiance to Mr. Jobs has eroded sharply.

Mr. Jobs is now girding for a showdown with at least two of the four major record companies over the price of songs on the iTunes service.

If he loses, the one-price model that iTunes has adopted — 99 cents to download any song — could be replaced with a more complex structure that prices songs by popularity. A hot new single, for example, could sell for $1.49, while a golden oldie could go for substantially less than 99 cents.

Mac OS X Tiger Quirks 

#4a525a sure is a nice background color.

A List Apart 4.0 

Jeffrey Zeldman on the relaunch and redesign of A List Apart. Built by an all-star team, including Jason Santa Maria, Eric Meyer, and Dan Benjamin. Don’t miss the t-shirts.

Adobe Blogs 

Bill McCoy:

Yet I know that to some, Adobe has appeared somewhat opaque in its internal workings, if not out and out secretive. I’m hopeful that through blogging we will expose more of us to more of you in the community (and visa-versa) and help change that perception.

The Disposable Laptop 

Philip Greenspun on $600 ThinkPads.

EasyEnvelopes 1.0 

A decade ago, Andrew Welch and Ambrosia Software had a cool desk accessory called Easy Envelopes, a terrific little envelope-printing utility. As of today, it’s back, reborn in the form of a free Dashboard widget that integrates with your Address Book and prints postal bar codes. Very cool.

Kottke to Technorati: You Suck 

I gave up on Technorati over a year ago. Their search results for “daringfireball.net” often include people who link to this site from their blogrolls, and yet they miss lots of actual links.

USB Overdrive 10.4 Now Supports Mighty Mouse 

Minor update to add Mighty Mouse support to the premier USB mouse driver for Mac OS X.

Photoshop About Boxes 

A gallery of Photoshop about boxes, from version 0.07 in 1988 through this year’s version 9.0 (a.k.a. CS2).

Woman Pisses Herself to Maintain Spot in Line for $50 iBooks 

CNN:

A rush to purchase $50 used laptops turned into a violent stampede Tuesday, with people getting thrown to the pavement, beaten with a folding chair and nearly driven over. One woman went so far to wet herself rather than surrender her place in line.

Some other woman lost a flip-flop.

iBook Sale Erupts in Chaos, Stampede 

Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Chaos erupted this morning at the Richmond International Raceway as thousands of people stampeded through the gates in a rush to buy iBook laptop computers for $50 each.

Several people were injured as others trampled them outside a warehouse where the 4-year-old Apple laptops were being sold. None of the injuries appeared to be serious.

For $50 iBooks, I guess I would have trampled someone, too.

Textpattern 4 Stable Released 

Dean Allen:

Textpattern 4, darling friends and beloved comrades, is now available.

Teleport 

Another freeware utility for sharing a single keyboard and mouse with several computers. Unlike Synergy, Teleport is Mac-only, but it offers much a more polished UI (no Terminal hacking whatsoever) and better clipboard synching.

Using PyObjC for Developing Cocoa Applications With Python 

Jonathan “Wolf” Rentzsch’s introduction to PyObjC. See also: Rentzsch’s notes on the article.

The Google-iTunes Rumor 

There’s rampant speculation that Apple and Google are on the cusp of announcing some sort of deal to connect the ITMS to Google. For example, as of this writing, if you go to http://google.com/itunes, you’ll get redirected a few times and land at an AdWords marketing page; whereas http://google.com/whatever generally results in a 404 (“Not Found”) error for most cases of “whatever”.

On ‘First-to-File’ Patent Reform 

Good Groklaw article on the state of U.S. patent law and the recent news that Microsoft secured a patent on parts of the iPod user interface — with a patent application filed six months after the original iPod debuted.

Everybody Loves Eric Raymond 

“Everybody Loves Eric Raymond” is an online comic. It depicts the real lives of Richard Stallman, Eric Raymond and Linus Torvalds as accurately as comedically possible.

If you enjoy cruel satire of open source celebrities, I highly recommend going through and reading the entire archive — there are only 15 episodes to date.

DrunkenBlog on Lux 

DrunkenBlog’s paean to Lux, a cross-platform, customizable, networkable Risk game.

Synergy 

Cross-platform TCP/IP-based software KVM switch; lets you share a single keyboard, mouse, and clipboard across multiple computers. It’s not yet fully-baked, but it’s open source, and some Mac OS X users are quite happy with it already. (Via Nat Irons, via email.)

Hollywood Controlling Parts of Windows Vista Design 

Ed Felten on a new Microsoft white paper describing the “output content protection” in Windows Vista:

The document reveals that movie studios will have explicit veto power over what is included in some parts of Vista. For example, pages 22-24 describe the “High Bandwidth Cipher” which will be used to encrypt video data is it passes across the PC’s internal PCIe bus. Hollywood will allow the use of the AES cipher, but many PCs won’t be able to run AES fast enough, leading to stutter in the video.

Paparazzi 0.2 

New version of the terrific little freeware screenshot tool for capturing entire web pages in a single image.

Wired News: Mac Hacks Allow OS X on PCs 

Mark Baard, reporting for Wired News:

Imagine if your next Mac cost you only $300, and ran faster than any G4 or G5 you’ve ever used.

It is entirely possible that cracked versions of Mac OS X are running on PC hardware; and it is definitely possible that when running on a top-of-the-line PC, it’s faster than on “any G4 or G5 you’ve ever used”. But the idea that Mac OS X is faster on a $300 PC than on a dual G5 PowerMac is absurd. This lead is just a shameless bit of sensationalism.

Ulysses 1.2 

New version of Blue Technologies Group’s text editor for writers. New features include a Spotlight importer and performance improvements.

SteerMouse 

$20 third-party mouse driver for Mighty Mouse (and other USB mice). Allows for more customization options than Apple’s driver, and works on Mac OS X 10.3.9. Note also that Alessandro Levi Montalcini is working on an update to USB Overdrive to add support for Mighty Mouse. (Via 2lmc Spool.)

Quadrivio General Edit Lite 2.0 

The excellent freeware version of Quadrivio’s hex editor has finally been ported to Mac OS X. (Too bad the download is a binhex file. Attention Mac developers: StuffIt is no longer included with Mac OS X.)

Paul Thurrott Still a Dipshit 

Someone took apart a Mac Mini and concluded that the total cost of its components is around $280; Paul Thurrott quotes this and says:

Huh. How does that $499 starting price look now? Cheap?

Considering their analysis explicitly did not include the cost of software, yes, that’s cheap.

Image Tricks 

Freeware image editor that gives you access to “around 35” Core Image filters. (Via Rui Carmo.)

Rainer Brockerhoff on the TPM Thing 

Rainer Brockerhoff’s astute analysis on the Developer Transition Kit TPM flap. Somehow I missed this last week.

Try Before You Buy Fonts 

Khoi Vinh:

And now you know why I use Helvetica for everything I do.

Google News Feeds 

Phil Ringnalda:

So, if you like the sort of content Google News delivers, and especially if you enjoy making a political choice between RSS and Atom feeds, yay for you! Google News has feeds!

I’ve never understood why users should be asked to choose between different syndication feed formats.

BBEdit 8.2.3: Universal Binary 

Bare Bones Software:

This version of BBEdit runs natively on both Apple-branded hardware powered by Intel processors and PowerPC-based Macs. At this writing, only the systems provided as part of the “Developer Transition Kit” fit the former description.

Otherwise, bug fixes and a few minor new features.

DTV Beta 

Sort of like podcasting for video (using RSS for “channels”), but with built-in support for BitTorrent to alleviate the hosting/bandwidth cost of delivering video. Free and open source.

Spam, Math, and π 

If you want to send comment spam to Ridiculous Fish, you have to help compute π.

Late Night Software Acquires FaceSpan 

Huge news for AppleScript developers: Mark Alldritt’s Late Night Software has acquired FaceSpan, the AppleScript-based rapid application development tool that has languished in relative obscurity ever since AppleScript-Studio shipped. This is great news. The current version of FaceSpan is sort of like AppleScript-Studio without Xcode — it’s a bit easier because it’s more coherent, but in some ways a bit more limited. At the very least we can expect FaceSpan’s debugging capabilities to improve.

Reddit 

User-rated “what’s new on the web” page. I think this is the first product to ship from one of the startups funded by Paul Graham’s Y Combinator. For what it’s worth, according to the blurb on Graham’s home page, Reddit’s written in Common Lisp.

Paul Graham: ‘What Business Can Learn From Open Source’ 

New essay from Paul Graham, derived from a talk at Oscon 2005. Best line:

The atmosphere of the average workplace is to productivity what flames painted on the side of a car are to speed. And it’s not just the way offices look that’s bleak. The way people act is just as bad.

He also points out:

At this point, anyone proposing to run Windows on servers should be prepared to explain what they know about servers that Google, Yahoo, and Amazon don’t.

Another reason I think companies like Google, Yahoo, and Amazon don’t use (and probably never even considered using) Windows-based servers is that they see Microsoft as a major competitor. It’d be foolish to depend upon a major competitor for critical infrastructure.

Mighty Mouse Dissected 

Ars Technica has photographs and diagrams of a disassembled Mighty Mouse.

Walter Mossberg Reviews the Mighty Mouse 

He doesn’t like it because secondary-clicks (“right-clicks” is the term he uses) don’t register consistently. Mossberg prefers a new mouse from Microsoft, but the main feature of which that he likes is a screen magnifier that is obviously part of the software driver, not something intrinsic to the mouse hardware.

Strongspace 

Nifty new secure file-hosting service from my friends at TextDrive. (And note their pedantic use of GiB and MiB units rather than GB and MB; smart.)

MochiKit 

MochiKit is a highly documented and well tested suite of JavaScript libraries that will help you get shit done, fast. We took all the good ideas we could find from our Python, Objective-C, etc. experience and adapted it to the crazy world of JavaScript.

Using Perl to Manage Plist Files 

Nice introduction to Apple’s PerlObjCBridge by James Reynolds. Part two is here.

Regarding the ‘Reverse Razor/Blade’ Strategy 

David Pogue:

The story so far: I cited, in my Times column, the clever observation by John Gruber, writing on DaringFireball.net, that Apple’s iPod strategy has reversed the old “Give away the razors, sell a lot of blades” business plan.

As you know from my last blog entry, several readers chimed in to point out that it wasn’t Mr. Gruber who first made that remark, but was in fact tech columnist Robert X. Cringely.

But Mr. Gruber himself gets the last laugh on this one. […]

‘Make Tag’ BBEdit AppleScript 

Marc Liyanage:

I wrote this AppleScript for BBEdit. It takes the word immediately preceding the cursor and makes an opening/closing tag pair with it, e.g. you type “div” and hit the keyboard shortcut assigned to the script, and it will insert

<div<##>><##></div>

The “Go To Previous/Next Placeholder” menu commands, which you should also assign to keyboard shortcuts, take you to the two <##> placeholders for attributes and contents.

I was just thinking about writing something like this after reading about a similar feature in TextMate.

Jason Snell: Mighty Mouse Review 

Jason Snell:

But the Mighty Mouse marks the end of 21 years of Apple’s one-button mouse policy. In that way, it’s a little bit like the Berlin Wall coming down. Except, y’know, with mice.

Buzz Andersen on Brushed Metal Window Design 

Buzz Anderson:

[…] I at least understand the cardinal, unwritten rule of metal window design: for God’s sake, minimize the amount of visible metal!

Russell Beattie: Hands-On Mighty Mouse Review 

He likes it. They’re hard to get ahold of today: Beattie bought the second-to-last of only ten that his local Apple Store had in stock; I called the King of Prussia store to see if they had any, and was told they didn’t expect any until the end of the week.

Michael Tsai on Mighty Mouse 

Instead of a scroll ball (or wheel), he’d prefer being able to drag the page around when squeezing the side buttons.

Mighty Mouse 

At least everyone can finally shut up about Apple releasing a multi-button mouse. Two buttons, force-sensitive squeeze-the-side buttons, and a 360° scroll ball in lieu of a scroll wheel. It sounds as though the “buttons” aren’t physical buttons, but are trackpad-like touch-sensitive surfaces:

Mighty Mouse even sounds as good as it feels. The audio feedback built into Mighty Mouse provides an aural sensation that responds to your movements. A tiny speaker inside Mighty Mouse produces button-clicking and Scroll Ball-rolling sound effects.

So I’m guessing the scrolling sound is rather similar to the scrolling sound generated by iPods. Also interesting: it’s only available as a USB device — no Bluetooth.

Cisco Harasses Security Researcher 

Bruce Schneier:

I’ve also written about how security companies treat vulnerabilities as public-relations problems first and technical problems second. This week at [BlackHat], security researcher Michael Lynn and Cisco demonstrated both points.

Lynn was going to present security flaws in Cisco’s IOS, and Cisco went to inordinate lengths to make sure that information never got into the hands of the their consumers, the press, or the public.

More Mac Mysteries 

Steven Frank on iPod Shuffle Déjà Vu and the Curse of Spotlight.

Apple’s Safari Team Is Hiring 

Darin Adler, who manages the Safari and Web Kit teams at Apple, says they’re hiring engineers for both. He also mentions a bunch of the things they’re working on, including several JavaScript performance improvements, improved support for contentEditable sections, and a new form control implementation from Dave Hyatt (which implementation will allow for form controls to be styled with CSS). No other team at Apple is developing out in the open like this.

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