Linked List: February 2006

‘Audiophile’ Quality? 

Tim Bray on “audiophile” quality:

It seems fantastically dubious that something 43 cm wide, with a listed bass floor of 53 Hz (the bottom string on a bass is 42 Hz), weighing 6.6 kg, and costing $349, could actually produce “audiophile” sound. But you know, it’s not impossible; if they design for truth and accuracy as opposed to fake-bass thump and scary volume, it could turn out to be pretty useful. In which case, it’d be a complete waste to play your average iTunes-store-sourced lo-rez lossy-compressed MP3 through it. But you can get audiophile sound out of your iPod, and for quite a bit less than $349.

Original iPod Announcement Thread at MacRumors 

Jason Fried pulls some choice quotes from the MacRumors forum in the wake of Apple’s special event to announce the original iPod. Just in case you’re tempted to trash the iPod Hi-Fi.

Bill Bumgarner on Mac Mini Video 

Bill Bumgarner has a look at the new Mac Mini specs and concludes:

Clearly, the Mac Mini is not intended to deliver 3D gaming performance comparable to the iMac or MacBook Pro.

It is, however, designed to deliver absolutely smokin’ video playback to displays more traditionally found in the home; TVs, home theaters, etc…

Using Ruby on Rails for Web Development on Mac OS X 

Apple Developer Connection article on getting started with Rails development on Mac OS X. (Via Scott Stevenson, who points out that it makes even more glaring the lack of attention Apple has shined on WebObjects in recent years.)

Apple, Circa 2005, on ‘Integrated Intel Graphics’ Chips 

From the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine cache of Apple’s Mac Mini Graphics page from March 5, 2005:

Go ahead, just try to play Halo on a budget PC. Most say they’re good for 2D games only. That’s because an “integrated Intel graphics” chip steals power from the CPU and siphons off memory from system-level RAM. You’d have to buy an extra card to get the graphics performance of Mac mini, and some cheaper PCs don’t even have an open slot to let you add one.

What a difference a year makes: the new Minis use an “integrated Intel graphics” chip that siphons memory from system-level RAM and doesn’t have a slot for another video card.

(Thanks to Jesper for the link.)

New Intel Mac Minis Use Shared Memory for Video 

Footnote 4 on the new Mac Mini features page:

Memory available to Mac OS X may vary depending on graphics needs. Minimum graphics memory usage is 80MB, resulting in 432MB of system memory available.

These machines are using very different — and decidedly inferior — graphic cards than the MacBook Pros and iMacs. Instead of a separate pool of video RAM, the video card uses regular RAM. 512 MB was barely tolerable on the old Minis — it’s probably not even close to enough memory on the new ones. I figure if the minimum graphics memory usage is 80 MB, then it’ll probably use at least 128 MB in real-world use, leaving only 384 MB for the system and applications.

Apple Event: Intel Mac Minis, ‘iPod Hi-Fi’ Boombox 

Base price of the Minis jumps from $499 to $599, but performance jumps around 3x by Apple’s (suspect) benchmarks. The Minis also now have IR ports for the Apple Remote and come with a new version of Front Row that can stream music, photos, and video from other machines via Bonjour.

The iPod Hi-Fi boombox supposedly offers “audiofile” quality sound and costs $350. They also introduced $99 leather iPod sleeves. If there are going to be billions of dollars spent on iPod accessories, Apple wants in on the party.

Mousesposé 1.3 

Nifty little freeware utility from Boinx: it highlights your mouse cursor with a spotlight visual effect. Useful for focusing audience attention when presenting.

Microsoft Redesigns the iPod’s Packaging 

It’s only funny because it’s true. (Via John Siracusa via AIM.)

Ingy döt Net 

Famed Perl programmer Brian Ingerson is changing his legal name to his domain name, Ingy döt Net. (Via Tim Bray.)

VMware Under Linux on the Intel-Based Macintosh 

Amit Singh:

We now have Windows XP running on the Intel-based Macintosh — as a guest operating system under the Linux version of VMware. This is quite exciting and promising, especially since the performance of Windows XP seems quite amazing (based on our limited test run so far) — mind you, the kernel and the environment we are using are experimental and unoptimized, so it would not be unreasonable to expect even better performance.

The Life – Day 1 

Luis de la Rosa, author of WebnoteHappy Lite:

This week, I’m taking a vacation from my day job and spending it working on WebnoteHappy full-time. I’ve done all the development on WebnoteHappy in my spare time, on weekends, nights, holidays, but never have dedicated a full workday to it until today.

Apple Sells Billionth ITMS Song 

To commemorate, Apple has established a scholarship at Juilliard in the name of Alex Ostrovsky, the guy who purchased the billionth song.

SpamSieve 2.4.2 

Now with even better spam-catching.

Apple Profiles New York Times Photographer Vincent Laforet 

Page two has a bunch of details on the workflow The Times uses to start making selects while the event is still going on. (Via Jesper via AIM.)

Kottke Ends His Micropatron Experiment 

About 1,450 micropatrons contributed a hair under $40,000 during his funding drive last year, but he decided against doing it again.

Apple Teases Launch of ‘Fun New Products’ Next Tuesday 

Ina Fried:

Apple Computer confirmed on Tuesday that it plans to introduce some “fun new products” next week, but declined to say more about what those products might be.

Cameron Moll: Why I Passed Up the Chance to Work at Apple 

Cameron Moll:

Let it be said that the chance to work at Apple, the prestige that comes from doing so, and the challenge of working with a highly talented team was undeniably attractive. But regrettably, it was the other parts of the equation that weren’t, well, quite as attractive.

Design and Web Development Job Openings at The New York Times 

Khoi Vinh, design director for NYTimes.com:

Perhaps most importantly for those reading this weblog, I’m also hiring several full-time positions for the design group that I lead, and I’m looking to do this pretty soon. So maybe you’re an awesome visual designer, information architect, or design technologist and you want to come work with me?

Safari Automatically Executes Shell Scripts When ‘Open “Safe” Files’ Pref Is On 

Heise Online:

Problems ensue if a shell script is stored into a ZIP archive without the so-called shebang line. If this line is omitted, Safari no longer recognizes the content as potentially dangerous and executes shell commands without a confirmation prompt.

Yet another Safari security problem caused by the dangerous “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading” preference switch. Turn this off and you’re safe from this exploit.

(Via John Siracusa via AIM.)

Malicious Bundles on OS X 

Google’s cached copy from January 25, 2006 of an unbylined article published on MacHacking.net, entitled “Malicious Bundles on OS X”. This article is pretty much a how-to guide that could have — and I’m guessing, probably was — used by the author of the recently-released Oompa Loompa Trojan horse. The original URL for the article is now a 404, and the source code examples are not in Google’s cache and, like the article itself, are no longer available at MacHacking.net.

(Via today’s issue of MDJ, which contained an exemplary feature on the Oompa Loompa saga. If you’ve never tried a trial subscription to MDJ or MWJ, you ought to.)

Joy of Tech on Dvorak 

Severe delusions and intense psychosis.

Mythbusters: The Office 12 New UI 

According to Jensen Harris, Microsoft’s lead user experience program manager for Office, the UI theme shown in all existing screenshots of Office 12 is not the theme they intend to ship. I don’t care what the final theme looks like, though, I still think the new “ribbon” is cluttered.

Paths in the Grass 

John Siracusa on why the Mac OS X haxie situation defies a simple summary:

People are inscrutable; Mac users, doubly so. Their computing desires follow suit. You can waste all the time and energy you want explaining why some feature is dumb or foolish or will actually make the people who use it less effective or efficient or whatever objective metric you’re using to judge such things. But if it makes someone happy, you’re sunk. Argument over.

Dipshit Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen Claims Algebra is Useless 

P.Z. Myers calls him out as the moron that he is. (Via Atrios.)

Windows of Perception 

Daniel Jalkut explains why there are more windows, a lot more, in Mac OS X than you probably think. E.g. NSStatusItem icon menus are in fact drawn in a “window”:

I’m running Adium right now, with a single chat window open and activated. Adium is configured to show its NSStatusItem-based window in the menu bar. The above script, instead of returning the focused chat window, returns the sneaky little NSStatusItem window! So a user who relies on the functionality of AppleScript now has to know that “for Cocoa applications with NSStatusItems installed, the secret status item window is window 1.” That’s total BS. This window is broken.

This also explains why, if you click on a regular menu item title (like “File”) and then run your mouse across the menu, NSStatusItem menus won’t drop down, but NSMenuExtras will.

Outlook 12 for Windows User Interface Chrome 

Believe it or not, Outlook product manager Michael Affronti is apparently proud of this user interface. (Via Michael Sippey.)

Hidden Anti-Bootlegging Poem in Mac OS X for Intel 

Cute.

Gold-Medal Winner Dale Begg-Smith Made Big Bucks on Spyware 

I’m not going to hold my breath, but it’d be great if this dirt bag had his medal stripped for violating the Olympic Code of Ethics:

The Olympic Code of Ethics says participants “must not act in a manner likely to bring the reputation of the Olympic Movement into disrepute.” How about blackmailing Internet users by displaying pop-ups advertising spyware removal software?

(Via Kottke.)

Intel-based Mac Boot Incompatibility 

Scroll to the bottom for Rentzsch’s latest update:

The plot thickens — the installer DVD that ships with the iMac is bootable. It’s also APM. So, the EFI subsystem does know how to handle and boot from APM disks. Following tips from Robert Mohns and Jolin Warren (pointing to http://appleintelfaq.com/imac/diskutil.html), I successfully populated a single Firewire drive that can boot both types of Macs

Will Microsoft Adopt Darwin? 

Nicely written “Fuck you, Dvorak” piece by Chris Holland.

Andrew Welch: New Mac OS X Trojan/Virus Alert 

Andrew Welch (El Presidente of Ambrosia Software) has analyzed and disassembled a new Mac OS X Trojan horse:

A file called “latestpics.tgz” was posted on a Mac rumors web site http://www.macrumors.com/ , claiming to be pictures of “MacOS X Leopard” (an upcoming version of MacOS X, aka “MacOS X 10.5”). It is actually a Trojan (or arguably, a very non-virulent virus). We’ll call it “Oompa-Loompa” (aka “OSX/Oomp-A”) for reasons that will become obvious.

Coincidentally — or perhaps not? — its vector for propagation is an input manager it installs into /Library/InputManagers/ if you’re foolish enough to be running as the root user or ~/Library/InputManagers/ otherwise.

Ostensibly ‘Online’ Office Live Requires Office 2003, Windows XP, and Internet Explorer 

Sure, that’s a web app.

Opera for Nintendo DS Coming Soon 

Web browser for Nintendo’s dual-screen handheld game player. (Via Waferbaby.)

Talking About Apple Mail 

Interview with yours truly at Tim Gaden’s Hawk Wings; part of a series of interviews he’s conducting regarding Apple Mail. Looks like my pet peeve about Mail is the same as Drunkenbatman’s: the asinine “magic bars instead of ‘>’ characters” quoting.

Waxy.org Joins The Deck 

One of my very favorite weblogs.

Google Acquires Measure Map 

Google today acquired Adaptive Path’s Measure Map web stats visualizer — which hadn’t even shipped yet. All your stats are belong to Google, indeed.

MacBook Pro vs. Dell Inspiron Comparison 

Dan Frakes puts to rest the notion that MacBook Pros are significantly more expensive than comparable Dell laptops. (Via Daniel Bogan via AIM.)

Working With Quartz Composer 

James Duncan Davidson, writing for Apple Developer Connection:

This article introduces you to Quartz Composer, walks you through a simple sample composition and provides a hands-on exploration to familiarize you with the way you can use it in your own projects.

Mac OS X 10.4.5 

Bunch of bug fixes, including several that are Intel-specific. Intel-specific bugs will likely continue to trickle out for a few more revisions, but the list in 10.4.5 is fairly short.

Apple Begins Shipping MacBook Pro 

Weird, but weird in a good way: Apple announced today not only that they’ve begun shipping MacBook Pros, but that they’re faster than the machines previously announced (and pre-ordered). Instead of 1.67 and 1.83 GHz, they’re 1.83 and 2.0 GHz, with build-to-order options that let you ramp the speed up to 2.16 GHz.

Camino 1.0 

Mike Pinkerton:

Today is the day that we take that step from obscure open source project to real, non-alpha, non-beta, feel-safe-to-tell-your-mom-about-it project.

Congratulations to the entire Camino team. See also: Om Malik’s brief interview with Pinkerton.

Yahoo UI Library 

Open source JavaScript UI toolkit for web developers from Yahoo. They also released a “Design Patterns Library” comprised of their solutions to common web UI problems.

(Via Nat Torkington.)

U. of Wisconsin-Madison Releases Package for Using ‘grants.gov’ on Macs 

MacNN reports:

Following reports of the new Mac-incompatible grants.gov electronic service, the University of Wisconsin has released a standalone package for using Grants.gov on Mac OS X as a service to the community.

Go Badgers, go.

(Via Daniel Lawson via email.)

Job Openings on the Apple Mail Team 

They’re hiring a software developer and a QA engineer.

New Grant System Excludes Mac Users 

The U.S. federal government’s new online grant system only works with Windows. The same U.S. federal government that successfully nailed Microsoft in an anti-trust suit for abusing their Windows monopoly. What makes this even worse is that Macs are hugely popular with the very scientists who are supposed to be applying for these grants.

Daring Fireball T-Shirt on Front Page of Boston Globe 

Aaron Swartz was featured by The Boston Globe in a front-page story on Wikipedia volunteers, and wore his Daring Fireball t-shirt for the accompanying photograph. Everyone should wear a Daring Fireball t-shirt when they’re in the newspaper or on TV.

SF Tech Sessions: Groupware With Joyent and Zimbra 

Niall Kennedy, introducing the SF Tech Sessions:

Companies should not have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to present their product to a technical and knowledgeable audience. Everyone is burned out on big conferences, big ticket prices, and we want to create more interesting in-depth experiences. I am proud to announce SF Tech Sessions, a new free monthly event that will highlight the latest technologies, products, and companies live and in-person in the San Francisco Bay Area.

First up is a shoot-out on Thursday, 23 February between Zimbra and my company, Joyent. Attendance is free, RSVP via the comments on the SF Tech Sessions weblog.

Synchronicity 

How Dan Benjamin synchronizes data between multiple machines.

Step Into Xcode 

Jon “Wolf” Rentzsch:

My compatriot Fritz Anderson has shipped Step Into Xcode, an Addison-Wesley tome covering Xcode 2.2.

I highly recommend it. Fritz delivers exactly what Xcode has needed for so long: a deep narrative covering common development tasks.

Apple Gives 12 WebKit Contributors MacBooks 

Nice gesture. Plus, five of them are getting free passes to WWDC.

18 × 18 Pixel Renditions of Classic Video Games 

I’m embarrassed to admit how much time I just spent squinting at Pac-Man. (Via Andy Baio.)

Delicious Library 1.6 

Now a universal binary and can use the built-in iSights on new iMacs.

Script Debugger 4.0 

Major upgrade of Late Night Software’s excellent AppleScript editor and (duh) debugger. I’ve been beta-testing it for months, and it’s just terrific, better than Script Debugger 3 in every way except one, which is that it is no longer a scriptable application itself, due to certain bugs/shortcomings in Cocoa.

It’s hard to describe just how much easier it is to write AppleScript code with Script Debugger than with Script Editor.

Linotype Typeface Catalog A-Z 

Complete catalog of the entire Linotype type library, including 542 pages of typeface displays, for just $16. Shipping to the U.S. runs another $25, alas. Ordered. (Via Cameron Moll.)

Luxagraf: New Adventures in HiFi Text 

Great essay on the joys of writing in plain text; specifically, using Markdown in conjunction with LaTeX.

Subpixel Anti-Aliasing’s Achilles Heel 

Michel Fortin’s interesting analysis as to why subpixel anti-aliasing isn’t used in some Mac apps: it’s a necessary side-effect of the performance optimization of drawing to an off-screen buffer with a transparent background. Maybe this explains why Dashboard widgets don’t use subpixel anti-aliasing, either.

Using GPC with BBEdit on Tiger 

Peter N. Lewis explains how he set up BBEdit as a development environment for GNU Pascal. Interarchy is the only major Mac app I’m aware of that’s still written in Pascal. (Pascal was originally the preferred language for Mac development — the examples in the original Inside Macintosh developer documentation were all Pascal.)

Update: GraphicConverter is written in Pascal, too.

What Would Panic Do? 

Note to self: try to get DF bracelets made to pass around at SXSW.

Internet Lions Turn Paper Tiger in China 

Tom Zeller Jr.:

Let’s play “What if?”

What if the Chinese authorities didn’t simply force Google to exclude sites like hrw.org (the Human Rights Watch Web site) and lesbian.com from the Chinese version of its search engine results, or insist that Yahoo hop to whenever the government fancied the identity of one of its e-mail users, as the authorities have done?

What if they also stipulated that the chief executive of any Internet company doing business in China had to have “Mao Zedong — Luv U 4 Eva” tattooed across his back? Would the companies leave China?

Google Imposes a Ban on BMW Web Site 

BMW tried playing games with visitors coming to bmw.de via Google; Google de-lists the site in response.

Gmail Now Offers Web-Based Chat 

Ties into Google’s Jabber-based chat service, allowing you to use it without a standalone IM client.

Apple Introduces 1GB iPod Nano, Drops Shuffle Price 

New 1 GB Nano: $149; 512 MB and 1 GB Shuffles now $69 and $99.

TheCodingMonkeys State of the Union 

Martin Pittenauer, on the revenue growth of SubEthaEdit:

As you can see the first bunch of months are really low on sales. And trust me, when I say low, I mean “not enough to pay for the server”, not “not enough to buy a red Lotus Elise”.

(Via Brent Simmons.)

Where Did Firefox Come From? 

Ben Goodger’s brief history of Firefox.

SubEthaEdit 2.3 

New version of The Coding Monkeys’s nifty collaborative text editor is now available to paid users only (there’s a 30-day demo period, of course); version 2.2 will remain available for use by those who don’t want to pay. Consult the release notes to see the full list of changes.

The Curious Case of Font Smoothing in Pages 

Pages — both versions 1.0 and the new 2.0 — always displays type on screen using the system’s “Standard” anti-aliasing (a.k.a. font smoothing) algorithm, which is optimized for CRT displays. Most applications obey the preferred anti-aliasing algorithm specified in the Appearance panel in System Prefs. The result is that if you use Pages with an LCD display, you can’t get it to render type using the Light, Medium, or Strong algorithm, which were all designed to look good on LCD displays.

Pierre Igot thinks this is due to incompetence. Michael Tsai, on the other hand, speculates that it might be more complicated than it seems. Whatever the explanation, it does strike me as curious.

Alt Weeklies, San Francisco, Curiosity, and Bullshit 

Anil Dash on why alternative weekly newspapers are getting their asses kicked by Craigslist.

Dell Discontinues Hard-Drive MP3 Players 

In the words of Nelson Muntz, “Ha-ha!”

Someone should make a list of all the pundits and tech columnists who, back in October 2003 when Dell first introduced the DJ, predicted that it was the beginning of the end for the iPod. (Via Gareth Bourne via email.)

The iPod Ecosystem 

Damon Darlin, reporting for The New York Times, pegs the iPod accessory market at $1 billion per year:

Not when making add-ons for the iPod is a $1 billion business. Does that sound like hyperbole? Consider this. Last year, Apple sold 32 million iPods, or one every second. But for every $3 spent on an iPod, at least $1 is spent on an accessory, estimates Steve Baker, an analyst for the NPD Group, a research firm. That works out to three or four additional purchases per iPod.

Matt Neuburg Reviews Yojimbo 

Matt Neuburg:

Bare Bones’s Yojimbo Web page asserts that the program has “no learning curve”; and this, allowing for the usual pedantic disagreements over what the phrase “learning curve” means, is absolutely true. Download it and run it; in less than a minute, you will know exactly how to put data into it and find what you’ve put in.

17-inch iMac G5 No Longer Available From Apple.com 

And 20-inchers have been marked down to $1499, $200 off.

IPac: Your Senator Needs an iPod 

Intellectual Property Action Committee:

But Senator Stevens, the 82-year old committee chairman from Alaska, surprised the audience by announcing that his daughter had bought him an iPod, and suddenly Stevens had a much greater understanding of the many ways innovative technology can create choice for consumers. Content industry representatives at the hearing found themselves answering much tougher questions than they typically receive.

That’s why we think all Senators ought to join Stevens’ esteemed company as iPod owners. Rather than wait for every Senator’s daughter, we’re taking matters into our own hands and buying a video iPod for the campaigns of Senators who work on legislation affecting technology.

Stop Stop Stop Hurting the Internet 

Jon Rentzsch on the look and feel of the new IE7 beta.

Transmit 3.5 

Free update for Transmit 3 users. Long list of additions and improvements includes universal binary support and a new “Edit in Whatever” feature that lets you remotely edit any file in any application.

Playlist: Deauthorizing All iTunes Computers 

Christopher Breen explains how to deauthorize all computers for your ITMS purchased music.

Paul Thurrott on Office for Mac 

Tom Yager: Wrong. Paul Thurrott: Right.

TidBITS: Booting an Intel iMac from an External Drive 

Comprehensive analysis from Jon Rentzsch on the new GPT hard disk partition scheme used by the new Intel-based Macs. A serious side-effect of this change is that you can’t create a single drive — internal or external — that can boot both a PowerPC and Intel Mac.

See also: Rentzsch’s follow-up on his own weblog, which includes both good news (Intel Macs can boot from USB drives) and bad (GPT might only work on drives up to 2 terabytes in size, and GPT drives can’t even be mounted by Macs not running 10.4.2 or later).

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