Linked List: May 2006

Slashdot CSS Redesign Winner Announced 

I like it — a big improvement that preserves everything that’s good about the classic Slashdot brand.

Apple’s ‘Mac Maintenance Quick Assist’ No Longer Recommends Periodically Repairing Permissions 

Remember that goofy support document Apple posted last month, which advised periodically running Repair Permissions along with weird tips like dusting your computer and assigning your saved documents sensible file names? Well, it’s been revised, and it no longer mentions Repair Permissions. It also no longer mentions disk defragmentation or restarting your Mac every few days just for kicks.

(Thanks to Jonathan Tyrrell for pointing this out.)

All the Lovely Browsers 

Detailed analysis and benchmarks for the major modern web browsers, on both Windows and Mac OS X. (Via Andrew Sheridan via email.)

The Mac Observer: Adobe to Drop GoLive, Freehand 

The Mac Observer:

Adobe Systems France announced at Adobe Live that the development of GoLive and Freehand will be phased out. Adobe representative Robert Raiola stated that Dreamweaver will get a new interface and replace GoLive as the Web development application in the Creative Suite 3 package, due out in spring 2007.

Glenn Fleishman Chases Down ‘GoLive and Freehand Are Dead’ Rumors 

It’d be more surprising if either of these apps survived than if Adobe were to discontinue development on them.

ADC: Shell Scripting Primer 

Apple Developer Connection introduction to shell scripting on Mac OS X (although it’s almost entire applicable to any Unix-style OS). (Again via Scott McNulty.)

Bizarre Rant From Mom Whose Six-Year-Old Wasn’t Allowed to Drag Stool Around Apple Store 

An Apple Store employee refused to allow Amy Ridenour’s six-year-old son to drag a stool from the Genius Bar to the laptop area so that he could play with the MacBooks; somehow Ridenour sees this as a gross injustice. I’m interested in knowing which stores do allow her son to rearrange their furniture. (Via Scott McNulty.)

MacBook/MacBook Pro Comparison Chart 

Somehow I missed this last week.

Doug Bowman: Google Visual Design Lead 

Doug Bowman confirms it:

The cat’s out of the bag. I made the announcement here in New Zealand at Webstock, so I’ll confirm that, yes, the rumors are not just rumors. After a bit of negotiation and a lot of internal debate, I recently accepted an offer to join Google as Visual Design Lead, a position that did not previously exist there. I’m charged with helping the company establish a common visual language across all their collaborative and communication products. This includes products I’ve already had some hand in like Blogger and Calendar. But it will also include other highly used products like Gmail, Writely, Page Creator, and other projects in the pipeline.

This is a great move by Google.

Mini-Microsoft Calls for Layoffs 

Echoing several of the points I tried to make in “[Confidence Game][cg]” today, Mini-Microsoft explains why he wants Microsoft to reduce its head count:

So one fundamental problem with my big layoffs idea is that the folks who have been responsible for us getting to this stage are most likely not going to be swept up in any house cleaning, but rather it will be the people that they have led.

Differentiation 

Jasper Hauser on the app icon for Dashcode.

Office 12 and the Forthcoming UI Cargo Cults 

Ian Griffiths predicts that we (or at least Windows users) are in store for an avalanche of crummy Office 12-inspired “ribbon” UI designs. (Via John Siracusa via AIM.).

E-Theft at E-Trade 

Wil Shipley gets screwed over by an identity thief and E-Trade.

Web Sites Markup as Graphs 

HTML tags for popular web sites visualized as graphs. Beautiful and interesting — and there’s a Java applet to generate graphs on your own. (Via Cameron Moll.)

Gentlemen Prefer PDFs 

Tim O’Reilly:

One of the interesting outcomes of our Rough Cuts early access program is some great data on the strong preference of our customers for downloadable PDFs over print books. Based on a little less than 3 months of data, we see that of the customers who’ve bought Rough Cuts, 60% chose the PDF-only option; 36% chose the bundle of PDF plus print book, and only 4% chose to pre-order the print book only.

FireBug 0.4 

JavaScript debugger for Firefox.

Columbine, Videogames as Expression, and Ineffability 

Interesting discussion as to why people are repulsed by the mere idea of a game based on a real-life tragedy, but not books or movies. (And yet another example of the Associated Press emphasizing controversy above all else.)

1983 Apple Lisa Sales Marketing Binder 

Charles Eicher:

I have painstakingly scanned the original Lisa Sales Marketing Binder that was issued to Apple dealerships in 1983, and I am releasing it for download as a 33 MB PDF file. […]

I thought the most interesting part of this binder was the section on the Lisa’s rivals. Apple produced a competitive analysis of the Lisa vs. computer and software systems from IBM, DEC, Corvus, Fortune Systems, and Xerox. It is a snapshot of high-end office computing in 1983, just before the Macintosh was released.

Doug Bowman Goes to Google? 

According to this report from an attendee of the Webstock conference in New Zealand, Doug “Stopdesign” Bowman announced that he has accepted a position at Google. Perhaps this signals an end to Google’s rather crummy visual design? (Via Chris Clark).

Update: This might just be a reference to Bowman’s contract gig helping to design Google Calendar, which Bowman mentioned last month on his weblog.

Cork’d Blog 

They tripled their wine database in the first week.

Buggy Cinema Display 

Matt Thomas’s 23-inch Cinema Display is literally buggy.

InDesign CS3 Sneak Peek 

Adobe demos features from the upcoming CS3 release of InDesign, including universal binary support and more Photoshop-style object effects.

Dashcode for Ajax App Development 

Apple’s upcoming Widget IDE is marketed at Dashboard development, but it ought to prove useful for general Ajax development, too. But it’s hamstrung by Web Kit’s sub-par Ajax support.

SmackBook Pro 

Hilarious hack — switch virtual desktops by smacking your MacBook.

Avoid Using Apostrophes in Your iWeb Page Name 

iWeb can’t handle web pages with apostrophes in the title; 2lmc is appropriately scornful.

Purer Garbage 

Jesper notes updated Objective-C garbage collection documentation in Xcode 2.3’s updated GCC compiler.

Khoi Vinh Interviews Jason Fried 

Fried:

And I think it also begs the question: Why have small teams as exceptions? Why not make them the norm? If they do better work, and communicate more clearly, why not encourage more small teams?

Apple Laptops: Good, Cheap, Fast – Pick Three 

Jeff Atwood on the pricing of Apple’s MacBooks and MacBook Pros:

I cut my computing teeth on the Apple II, and to a lesser extent, the Macintosh. I can personally attest that these were incredibly expensive machines at the time. But the current crop of x86 Apple laptops are cheaper than nearly every other x86 laptop of equivalent spec. That’s amazing.

She Said Yes 

Kottke follows up on the “guy who proposed marriage via the Fifth Avenue Apple Store’s time-lapse camera” story.

Take Control of Font Problems in Mac OS X 

Sharon Zardetto Aker’s new 120-page $10 e-book from the TidBits Take Control series; covers a wide range of font-related troubleshooting in Mac OS X. Also check out her companion book: Take Control of Fonts in Mac OS X.

TextExpander 1.3 

Formerly the donationware “Textpander”, Peter Maurer’s excellent text expansion utility is now a $30 product from the oddly-named SmileOnMyMac. This helpful comparison chart compares it against the still-in-beta TypeIt4Me version 3.

Google Pushing Blended AdSense 

AdSense ads will soon switch to a default appearance that doesn’t have borders, which makes them less distinguishable from actual content. Depending upon the surrounding whitespace and design elements, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. (Via Andy Baio.)

Password Assistant 

Nifty little app from Codepoetry that simply opens the Mac OS X Password Assistant window. I.e. you can use this app so you can use Mac OS X’s Password Assistant to generate new passwords whenever you want.

Jobs’s Sneakers 

BusinessWeek Online’s Arik Hesseldahl has the scoop: Jobs was wearing a pair of the not-yet-released Nike Moires, the iPod-compatible shoes that were being announced. (Thanks to Leonhard Becker for the link.)

Proxi 1.0 

Intriguing freeware automation tool from Griffin Technologies. Offers a bunch of hooks for triggering actions and running tasks related to various Griffin gadgetry, but it’s a general-purpose automation utility that can be used for just about anything. Check out their Proxi weblog for a bunch of interesting ways people are using it.

Dreamhost on Overselling 

Josh Jones from Dreamhost on the standard practice of overselling:

Imagine we didn’t “oversell” at all. We still offer 20GB of disk space and 1TB of bandwidth on our $7.95/month plan because that’s what the competition has forced us to offer. 1TB of bandwidth is about an average of 3Mbs. 3Mbs for a month costs us about $90/month. The 20GB of disk space actually costs us about $200 (BELIEVE IT OR NOT!), because of the level of availability and backups we provide. So, we’d be losing about $200 up front and $82 / month on each and every customer!

Camping 

A tiny Ruby web app framework by Why the Lucky Stiff. Only 4 KB, and it’s meant for writing simple web apps contained in a single file. (Via Tim Bray.)

Steven Frank: We’re in the Nike Plus Ad, Sorta 

Panic’s office is in the background of the new ad for Nike+.

MacBook Pro: The Thermal Paste Question 

James Duncan Davidson documents the intricate procedure he undertook to reapply thermal paste to his MacBook Pro, in the hopes of getting it to run cooler. His conclusion is that it isn’t worth the trouble and risk.

Creative Mac: 13-Inch MacBook Benchmarks 

Despite the aforelinked item where Apple states that Final Cut Studio isn’t supported on MacBooks, Creative Mac benchmarked them and found that they not only run Final Cut Pro, they run it very well indeed.

Parallels Desktop Release Candidate 

Still not a final release, but worth noting because you get $10 off if you buy it before they officially ship.

Final Cut Studio Is Not Supported on MacBook 

Apple on why MacBooks don’t meet the minimum system requirements for Final Cut Studio:

The integrated graphics processor in the MacBook does not permit float processing in Motion and will result in degraded performance and other issues in Motion and other Final Cut Studio applications.

QuarkXPress 7.0 

Looks like they’ve finally added OpenType support to QuarkXPress.

I’m not saying Quark is in trouble or that they don’t have tons of users, but I personally don’t know a single designer who hasn’t switched to InDesign.

SubEthaEdit 2.5 

Lots of new scripting and mode-specific features.

Videator 

New Core Video-based “wacky effects” video editing app from Stone Design. Leading candidate for “Schizoid User Interface of the Year”.

Xcode 2.3 

Lots of bug fixes and new features to Apple’s free development toolkit. Just a small 915 MB download.

Circuit Design With Quartz Compositor 

George Boole would be proud. (Via Gus Mueller.)

lsof: Your New Best Friend 

Nifty tip from Steven Frank: when you get that annoying “Such-and-such file cannot be deleted because it is in use” alert when you attempt to empty the Trash, you can use the command-line lsof tool to find out which app is using the file. (It’s the fact that the dialog doesn’t tell you which app is using the file that makes it so annoying.)

Apple, a Success at Stores, Bets Big on Fifth Avenue 

New York Times reporter Steve Lohr on Apple’s retail strategy and their new 5th Avenue Store:

Revenue for each square foot at Apple stores last year was $2,489, compared with $971 at Best Buy, the big computer and electronics retailer, according to Forrester Research, a market research firm.

Another interesting bit is that Apple’s retail stores are big (as in square footage)because they’re designed to match the size of Apple’s brand, as opposed to their relatively small product line-up.

Apple: Nike+iPod 

Apple’s sub-site on the upcoming Nike/iPod gear. Also: Apple’s press release from the announcement in New York. (Semi-serious question: I wonder if Jobs wore his trademark New Balance 991s, and if not, what sneakers did he wear?)

Nike+ 

New sport kit from Nike and Apple; sneakers and running apparel from Nike that work with iPod Nanos to give you audio feedback about your pace and distance while you run. Looks interesting — and, I assume, signals the end of Nike’s foray into their own line of MP3 players (which were all manufactured by Philips, I think).

Headdress 1.1 

Twinsparc’s new $15 Apache configuration GUI for Mac OS X; lets anyone easily configure virtual hosting so you can host multiple web sites from one Mac (as opposed to Mac OS X’s default Web Sharing feature, which only allows for one top-level web site, hosted out of /Library/WebServer/Documents/).

Steve Jobs CNBC Interview From 5th Avenue Apple Store 

Video at YouTube.

Dell Going Retail Without Inventory 

“JC” on Dell’s upcoming foray into retail stores, which won’t stock inventory but will instead allow customers to order from Dell’s web site:

Dell, as a brand, doesn’t drive people to malls. People will not line up at 2 a.m. to be the first into a new Dell Store. On a busy Monday before Christmas, Dell’s store will not draw more than a thousand visitors looking to go home with a late Christmas present and, even if it does, that’ll be a thousand disappointed customers when they realize that they can’t buy anything.

Jason Tomczak and the iPod Nano ‘Scratch’ Class Action Suit 

Jason Tomczak was listed as the lead plaintiff in the class action lawsuit filed against Apple regarding iPod Nano scratchability, but according to this open letter from Tomczak, he never sought even to participate in the suit:

At no time did David P. Meyer & Associates or Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro ever receive any attorney-client agreement form from me. On their own time and based on their own schedules and plans, they prepared the paperwork and filed the iPod Nano Class Action suit in California using my name as Lead Plaintiff, however this was done without my knowledge or consent. […]

The senior partner of David P. Meyer & Associates and one of his representatives called me during the afternoon of October 21, 2005 to urgently request my signature on an attorney-client agreement — two days after the Class Action suit was filed; two days after they began their action against Apple; two days after the press had begun running the story. They then warned me that my family, friends, clients and I should expect to hear from the media and others interested in the iPod Nano Class Action suit.

Print Dialog Extensions vs. Application Print Settings 

Rich Siegel explains — with source code — a clever workaround for a problem with saved print settings in BBEdit and TextWrangler that stemmed from the switch from app-modal print dialogs to window-modal sheets.

Google Web Toolkit — Build AJAX Apps in the Java Language 

Looks like a very nice web application framework for Java developers, including browser support for IE, Firefox, Mozilla, Safari, and Opera.

SanDisk Launches ‘iDon’t’ Anti-iPod Campaign 

Phony grassroots guerrilla marketing campaign attempting to start an “iPods aren’t cool because too many people have them” movement. Good luck with that, SanDisk.

Introducing Cork’d 

Dan Benjamin on the genesis of and backstory behind Cork’d. And then there’s the other Dan.

Winners Take All in Rockonomics 

Princeton economist Alan Krueger claims concert ticket prices are going up up up because record sales are going down down down — but it’s led to a situation where the top 1 percent of artists are receiving 56 percent of the total concert revenue.

Professor Krueger says this tendency was spotted by David Bowie, who told the New York Times in 2002 that “music itself is going to become like running water or electricity”.

Bowie has advised his fellow performers: “You’d better be prepared for doing a lot of touring, because that’s really the only unique situation that’s going to be left.”

(Via Kottke.)

Apple May Yet Release the x86 Darwin Kernel Source Code 

Ernest Prabhakar, Apple’s product manager for open source, points out that Apple hasn’t announced anything regarding the source code to the x86 Darwin kernel — just because they haven’t released it yet doesn’t mean they aren’t going to release it.

MacSaber 1.0 Beta 

A more elegant waste of CPU cycles on your sudden-motion-sensor-equipped Mac laptop, from a more civilized time.

Marriage Proposal at the New 5th Avenue Apple Store 

Apple put up a time-lapse webcam in front of their new 5th Avenue Apple Store, and some clever nerd took advantage of it to propose marriage to his girlfriend. Kottke is trying to track the guy down.

Photos of Steve Jobs at New Apple Store on 5th Avenue 

Inspecting the details.

Delaying the Xnu-x86 Source Release 

Drew Thaler speculates on why Apple closed the source to the x86 version of the Darwin kernel.

Clint Ecker Reviews the MacBook for Ars Technica 

Interesting observation on just how fast the new MacBooks are: the low-end model is just about equal, performance-wise, to the original MacBook Pros from a few months ago.

Amazon’s “One-Click” Patent Reconsidered 

The $2500 fee to get the USPTO to re-examine the patent was raised by the readers of this guy’s weblog after he got some bad customer service from Amazon.

DarthBook 

Greg Storey has a new black MacBook — he likes the screen and thinks the keyboard is just fine.

And We All Shine On 

John Siracusa absolutely nails it on the glossy-MacBook-screens issue:

Glossy displays have effectively taken over the entire laptop market. Why are they so popular? Here are three possible reasons.

  1. They are better than matte-finish displays.
  2. They are cheaper than matte-finish displays.
  3. People are idiots.

I won’t spoil it, but you can probably guess what his conclusion was.

Ridiculous Fish: ‘… and Statistics’ 

Peter Ammon neatly dissects an overwrought “Mac OS X is way slower than Linux or Windows” benchmark.

Flickr Revamped 

And goes from “beta” to “gamma”.

Trump Gets Fired Up About Design 

Nick Fruhling:

Graphic Design Lesson A: Get the latest hardware and software, and you will win. Always.

Graphic Design Lesson B: Touch a designer’s computer screen, and you will lose. Always.

(Via Kottke.)

WebnoteHappy 

New $25 bookmark manager with Delicious integration and a gay name.

Blue Security Folds 

Blue Security is the anti-spam company that, when faced by a counter-attack two weeks ago from a network of zombie PCs controlled by a spammer, cowardly redirected all incoming traffic to its web site to Six Apart’s network (where Blue Security hosted their TypePad weblog), which caused an hours-long outage that brought down all TypePad and LiveJournal sites.

Well, it ends up that Blue Security has decided to fold rather than fight. The spammers are bastards, but considering Blue Security’s track record, I’m not sure this is a bad thing.

Apple Closes the Source to x86 Version of Darwin Kernel 

Tom Yager writes on Apple’s decision to at least temporarily close the source code to the x86 version of the Darwin kernel. I think he takes things much too far with his conclusions, though:

Apple’s retreat to a proprietary kernel means that all users must accept a fixed level of performance. The default OS X kernels are built for broad compatibility rather than breakneck speed and throughput. That doesn’t matter at present, because all Intel Macs are built on the same Core Duo/Core Solo 32-bit architecture. But Apple’s workstation and server will be built using next-generation 64-bit x86 CPUs. […] Macs will inherit the benefits of Core Microarchitecture’s evolution, but OS X is limited in the degree to which it can exploit specific new features without creating branch after branch of OS code to handle each tweak to the architecture.

The insinuation here is that if the source code to Darwin’s kernel were available, users of high-end Power Macs (or whatever they’re going to call them) and Xserves would be able to run their own hot-rodded kernels and yet still run Mac OS X. I suppose technically that might be possible, it certainly doesn’t sound plausible. I highly doubt one could just plop down a recompiled kernel and expect the rest of Mac OS X to continue “just working”.

The truth is that other than serving as a nice symbolic gesture, I’m not sure there’s been any practical benefit to the fact that the Darwin kernel has been available as open source. In other words, I think it’s hard to make a case that most Mac users should care whether the Darwin kernel is open source or not.

Cork’d 

Lovely new community site for wine aficionados from my friends Dan Benjamin and Dan Cederholm. Terrific design and a great idea — you rate and comment upon the wines that you drink, and you get recommendations based on the ratings from other users.

I’m particularly fond of their domain name: very short, very memorable. If Flickr operated like the patent trolls at Creative Labs, they’d have filed for a patent for “a technique to remove the ‘e’ from the suffix of a common word for use in creating a distinctive, memorable domain name for a web application.”

The “Zen Patent”: Creative Sues Apple Over Media Player Interface 

This is the last-ditch effort from a company on its way down the toilet. They’ve lost in the battle for customers, and they’ve lost in the stock market (Creative’s stock is at a 4-year low). In spirit, this lawsuit reminds me of Apple’s doomed “look and feel” suit against Microsoft in the early 1990’s, when they decided to fight the rise of Windows through litigation instead of innovation.

My gut feeling is that Apple feels confident they will win this suit; if they were unsure, I think they would have settled. (It’s possible, though, that Apple tried to settle and Creative held out for too much money.) The iPod almost certainly does violate the patent; the problem is that this patent never should have been issued — it’s way too broad and way too obvious.

Secret Advanced iPhoto 6 Edit Mode 

Press Control-Caps Lock-9 while editing a photo in iPhoto 6.

MacBook Cheaper Than Comparable Machine From Dell 

It’s not even that close, really. These MacBooks are priced very aggressively.

Google Notebook 

This is apparently Google’s answer to Delicious — a way to store and share URLs with notes. Except it’s not a web app, it’s a browser extension, and it’s only available for IE and Firefox.

Curmudgeon Gamer: History of Console Prices 

In light of the recently-announced $500 starting price for the upcoming PlayStation 3, an inflation-adjusted graph of video game console prices since 1976.

Macworld: First Look: Apple’s New MacBook 

Jason Snell does a great job with these first impressions.

MacBooks Use Glossy Screens 

I mentioned this a few months ago, that many PC manufacturers have switched to glossy laptop displays and I that I was glad the then-new PowerBooks hadn’t switched. A lot of readers wrote in to say that they like glossy displays, because they make blacks blacker and whites whiter, but many others wrote in to agree with me that they find the glare distracting.

Update: The new glossy screen finish is also now available as a BTO option on the MacBook Pros, as well — but they do still default to the traditional non-glossy displays.

Ctrl-Alt-Del Comic Spoofs New Mac TV Ads 

PC nerds really can’t stand the fact that Mac users aren’t bothered by viruses. I’ve made this point before: Even if for the sake of argument we concede that the only reason Macs aren’t plagued by viruses / malware / adware / spyware is that they’re just not popular enough — how exactly is that a bad thing for Mac users? By that logic, the Mac will always be safe from crapware, and Windows will always be doomed.

(Via Chris Pepper via email.)

Wiretap Update: Big Three Telecoms Sued While Government Invokes State Secrets 

Eric Bangeman:

Shortly after more details of the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program were revealed, a new lawsuit was filed against three of the telecoms alleged to have collaborated with the NSA. Naming AT&T, BellSouth (which is in the process of being acquired by AT&T), and Verizon, the lawsuits allege the companies violated communications privacy laws dating back to 1934 and seek US$50 billion in damages. Meanwhile, the government is now trying to get the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s lawsuit against AT&T dismissed.

This is why I love the EFF.

iLife ’06 Updates Available 

Mostly bug fixes, but iWeb 1.1 gets some big new features, like comments and search for weblogs. Available via Software Update.

Tim O’Reilly Commencement Speech at SIMS 

I’m a sucker for commencement speeches. Thank to Nat Irons for the link, and for this apt summary: “Couple of good anecdotes in the first third, but the gist is ‘Here’s why Web 2.0 is great, and don’t worry too much about money.’”

Justices Set Aside Patent Ruling Against eBay 

Good news from the U.S. Supreme Court on the patent-reform front:

In a significant victory for eBay and the technology industry, the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that judges do not have to automatically bar companies from using patents that they have been shown to have violated.

Mac OS X 10.4: Pasting a Phone Number Into a Fax Dialog Sheet With Some Applications 

Very strange fax dialog bug in Mac OS X 10.4. (The “This document will be updated as more information becomes available” line at the end is — as MDJ has pointed out a few times — an Apple euphemism for “It’s a known bug and we’ll update this document when it’s fixed.”)

New Web-Based Inquisitor UI 

Very slick, very useful web-based meta-search from David Watanabe. (Via Jesper via email.)

Dastardly Dialogs 

Unsanity’s Rosyna on the extraordinarily poorly-written dialog that System Preferences displays when it attempts to load a PowerPC-only pref pane on an Intel-based Mac. It looks like an over-the-top example of how not to write an error message.

ZigVersion 1.0b3 

Public beta release of a new GUI Subversion client for Mac OS X. (Via Daniel Bogan via email.)

That’s Why macosxhints.com Isn’t a Wiki 

I’m not saying macosxhints.com “should be” a wiki, but I agree with Chris Clark that a more wiki-like format would make it a better resource. Or perhaps the point is that there’s an untapped opportunity right now for a wiki like this. (Via Jesper via email.)

Frameworks, Kits and Caboodles 

Daniel Jalkut on the “Web Kit”/”WebKit” consistency thing. He argues that Apple is being consistent; that “Web Kit” is the umbrella technology, and “WebKit” is the framework.

Softbank-Apple Mobile Phone Rumor 

Even if it’s true, this sounds more like Apple’s deal with Motorola than it sounds like an Apple-designed, Apple-branded “iPhone”. I.e. another deal for an iTunes-compatible phone, not a deal for an iPod phone.

How Much Is That Browser in the Windows OS? 

Khoi Vinh on the true cost of the ostensibly “free” Internet Explorer:

Even setting aside that admittedly rickety fiscal argument, I’m not aware of any single piece of software that’s made Web designers unhappier than Internet Explorer.

BBC Cable News Channel Puts Cab Driver on Air to Comment on Apple v. Apple 

The Mail:

He is the BBC’s latest star — the cab driver who a leading presenter believed was a world expert on the internet music business.

The man stepped unwittingly into the national spotlight when he was interviewed by mistake on the corporation’s News 24 channel.

With the seconds ticking down to a studio discussion about a court case involving Apple Computer and The Beatles’ record label, a floor manager had run to reception and grabbed the man, thinking he was Guy Kewney, editor of Newswireless.net, a specialist internet publication.

Actually, he was a minicab driver who had been waiting to drive Mr Kewney home.

The video footage is pretty funny. He does a good job bluffing his way through the interview, but the look on his face when he realizes what’s going on is priceless.

(Via Rod Begbie.)

‘Geek’ vs. ‘Nerd’ 

This is why I use “nerd” in positive or neutral connotations, and “geek” only in negative connotations.

Dave Girard Reviews Aperture 1.1 

Improved RAW importer and other improvements garner an 8/10 (after 1.0 scored just 4/10).

Diebold Spokesman Dismisses Gaping Security Flaw in Voting Machines 

From a report by Monica Davey in The New York Times regarding the recently-publicized security flaws in Diebold electronic voting machines:

David Bear, a spokesman for Diebold Election Systems, said the potential risk existed because the company’s technicians had intentionally built the machines in such a way that election officials would be able to update their systems in years ahead.

“For there to be a problem here, you’re basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software,” he said. “I don’t believe these evil elections people exist.”

That’s flabbergasting.

I agree with Kevin Drum:

The technical details don’t even matter here. A company that doesn’t believe anyone would ever try to steal an election shouldn’t be in the voting machine business. Jeebus.

Blogging from Word 2007 

Word 2007 (for Windows) is going to have an integrated weblog editor. The markup still looks bad (empty <P></P> paragraphs after every sub-head?), but it’s nowhere near as awful as the HTML output from previous versions of Word.

AppleCared: My Life Inside Apple and AppleCare 

Adam Knight’s detailed look inside life as an AppleCare tech support agent.

The greatest challenge in technical support is matching the level of the customer. Some folks see windows, menus, and icons while others see their own little world with their own little names. For one fellow, the system still had lines of text. Line one was the menu bar, line two the window’s title, line three the toolbar, and so forth. That was a very interesting night, and oh, it did last into the darkness of the night, that one.

Major Vulnerability Found in Diebold Election Machines 

Appalling, but considering Diebold’s track record, not surprising.

Airfoil for Windows 

Rogue Amoeba expands into Windows development — interesting! Unsurprisingly, Airfoil on Windows looks cool, pretty much like how I’d imagine it would look if it were an Apple product that came with the AirPort Express.

Timeline of iPhone Rumors 

Just in case you’ve got your knickers in a knot over the line in Mossberg’s column this week about Apple being at work on an “iPhone”, splash some cold water on your face by perusing Rui Carmo’s extensive timeline of iPhone rumors dating back to July 2004.

Under U.K. copyright law, it’s illegal to rip music from CDs to other formats, but 59 percent of poll respondents believe otherwise, and 55 percent actually break the law.

Engineering Management Hacks: The BigBook Technique 

Very funny “Mythical Man-Month” anecdote from Marc Hedlund.

Mossberg on Apple’s ‘End-to-End’ Strategy 

Walter Mossberg speculates that Apple’s end-to-end product design strategy — where they design and control everything from the hardware to the software — is a better overall strategy than the open component model typically championed by Microsoft (and the model of the personal computer industry).

This line has drawn a lot of attention:

Now, Apple is working on other projects built on the same end-to-end model as the iPod: a media-playing cellphone and a home-media hub.

in that it doesn’t read like he’s speculating, but rather it reads like he’s revealing something he knows as fact.

I continue to believe that the best reason to believe that Apple is going to do a mobile phone is that (a) you know Steve Jobs uses a mobile phone; and (b) there’s not a single existing mobile phone that’s good enough to make Jobs happy.

A History of the Camino Application Icon 

From the icon’s designer, Jasper Hauser. (Via Scott McNulty.)

Note to the Press: AAC Is Not ‘Apple’s Format’ 

Ars Technica editor-in-chief Ken Fisher nails it on the Sony-AAC news.

Security Update 2006-003 and QuickTime 7.1 Released 

Looks like QuickTime 7.1 is a bug-fix release. Security Update 2006-003 updates a bunch of crashers caused by malformed images, along with a bunch of other fixes. Also notable: the release notes give credit to Brent Simmons for reporting one of the JPEG-parsing crashers.

Moment of Mac Zen 

From the annals of zen koan dialog boxes.

(Thanks to Nick Gaffney for the link.)

Omni Group Is Hiring Support Ninjas 

Perhaps of interest for those of you looking for jobs at top-notch indie Mac development shops.

Skype Universal Binary 

Skype 1.4.0.49 is out, and it’s a universal binary.

Apple Adds Web Access to iDisk for .Mac 

Neat new web-based UI for iDisk access.

The Perfect Mark 

Terrific New Yorker story by Mitchell Zuckoff about a Massachusetts psychotherapist who fell for a Nigerian email scam. Being both gullible and dishonest is a bad combination. (Via Kottke.)

Ridiculous Bootleg ‘PowerPC G6 Macintosh’ 

POS Pentium 4 system that’s being sold as a “PowerPC G6 Macintosh”. Hilarious.

Input Remapper 

Even better than Pogue’s suggestions regarding MacBook Pro keyboards under Windows is this little utility that lets you configure all sorts of useful remappings, such as Fn-Delete for Forward Delete, Fn-click for right-click, makes the Eject key work, and more. It’s a beta, but then, so is Boot Camp. (Thanks to Nate Silva for the link.)

Yahoo UI Library: Grids CSS 

More than 100 CSS-based browser-tested page layouts, available under a generous BSD-style open source license. (Via Simon Willison.)

New Release of Yahoo User Interface Library 

Looks like a great library of web UI code, but why can’t they get WordPress to generate reasonable-length URLs?

The Right-Click Challenge 

David Pogue on how to right-click and how to invoke Ctrl-Alt-Delete while running Windows on a MacBook Pro.

NYTimes.com Weblog Coverage of E3 

Seth Schiesel, video-game reporter for The New York Times, is covering the E3 expo in a weblog at NYTimes.com. His entry today contains this laugher:

I spent years covering some of the world’s biggest corporations, like AT&T and Time Warner, and that’s why I feel confident saying that there may be no company in the world that puts on more effective convention-type presentations than Microsoft. They almost always do an excellent job of simultaneously bombarding you with news bites and delivering a smooth, sensual performance.

What’s funny is that I don’t think he’s joking.

(Via Nat Irons via email.)

Flickr UI Changes Coming Soon 

New UI design slated to roll out this week, emphasizing better navigation and a useful search feature.

The Dreck 

“The awful, self-contradictory advertising network for reaching few people, if any.”

Calling All Designers: Learn to Write 

Derek Powazek in A List Apart No. 216:

It’s time we designers stop thinking of ourselves as merely pixel people, and start thinking of ourselves as the creators of experiences. And when it comes to experience on the web, there’s no better way to create it than to write, and write well.

Stairways Software Weblog 

New weblog from the developers of Interarchy and Keyboard Maestro.

NetNewsWire 2.1 

Another great release for the leading desktop feed aggregator — and, again, a free update for all registered users. The extensive change notes document everything that’s new. Leading the way are the new NewsGator synching features, which allow you to sync a single set of subscriptions with all NewsGator API-compatible readers, including the web-based NewsGator online and FeedDemon on Windows. This is a killer feature for anyone who reads feeds from more than one computer.

Developing the Invisible 

Luke Wroblewski:

Development teams are responsible for putting interactive features and content into a product. Empty space is neither feature nor content. Therefore, it is not a requirement. For a designer, however, whitespace is often just as important as the content.

I’ve always thought Apple was particularly good with their use of whitespace in dialog box layouts.

Samsung Rips Off Apple Icons and Wallpaper 

Shameless icon theft. (Via Chris Pepper via email.)

Microsoft Uses Licensing Threats as Sales Tactic? 

According to this Computerworld story, a Microsoft sales rep used threats about bogus software licensing compliance issues to try to get a sales guy in the door at a large IT shop. If this tactic is widespread and not just the work of one rogue hack, it’s just awful.

SGI Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy 

Over $600 million in debt and only half that in assets. Market cap down to just $18 million. Looks like the end is near for a once-great company.

Yahoo Is Unleashing a New Way to Turn Ad Clicks Into Ka-Ching 

Amazing that Yahoo is now in the role of David (vs. Googliath). Nice graph shows how Yahoo’s ad revenue is growing year-over-year, but they’re falling behind because Google’s ad revenue growth is so much higher.

Long-Term Backup 

Mark Pilgrim — yet another convert to the church of DiskWarrior — asks:

How do you back up 100 GB of data per year for 50 years?

(I think 100 GB per year is a low estimate — we’ll probably all be shooting much higher-resolution digital video a decade from now.)

WouldjaDraw 1.1 

Feature update to new drawing app; now with arrows, easier rotation, and more export options.

StickyBrain 4.1b3 Gets Yojimboed 

Tim Gaden on new features in StickyBrain seemingly inspired by features in Yojimbo.

Apple Wins Trademark Case With Beatles 

Reuters:

Apple Computer won its courtroom battle against the Beatles on Monday when a judge ruled the company’s iTunes Music Store did not infringe on the trademark of Apple Corps, which represents the band’s interests.

Reduce OS X Security Threats: Ignore Security Software 

Great ZDNet UK editorial slams McAfee for trying to scare Mac users into buying their Mac anti-virus software with exaggerated and false claims regarding the current state of Mac OS X security:

It may be true, as McAfee says, that from 2003 to 2005 the number of discovered Mac vulnerabilities increased by 228 percent while Windows only saw a 73 percent increase. But that’s like saying that in the last decade, deaths caused by choking on ice cream were up by 200 percent while deaths from smoking only went up by ten. Like the ice cream, shining light on McAfee’s claims makes them melt away — when we asked the company how big the risks actually were, it admitted that there was “no significant risk” at the moment.

Garbage-Collected Objective-C Coming in Mac OS X 10.5? 

John Siracusa on updated gcc documentation that indicates that garbage collection is a planned feature for Objective-C Cocoa applications in Mac OS X 10.5. If this comes to fruition and works well, it’s going to be very popular with Mac developers — but it’s also only going to be available for apps that run only on 10.5 or later.

Apple’s ‘Mac Maintenance Quick Assist’ Recommends Repairing Disk Permissions 

Amidst other tips for morons such as keeping your desktop tidy, wiping dust off your computer, and giving your documents sensible file names, this Apple support document recommends running Repair Disk Permissions periodically. Just because it appears in a goofy support article doesn’t mean it’s gospel.

IndieKarma 

Kottke on IndieKarma, a new one-cent-per-visit micropayments system.

Web Hosting’s Dirty Laundry 

DreamHost Blog exposé on the pay-for-play practices of web-hosting review sites:

Phoney baloney sites like hosting-review.com are skidmarks on the underpants of the hosting industry and we want to expose them for what they are — totally biased money-making fronts. They may all swear up and down that they provide a helpful and fair service, but when you’re getting kickbacks from every single company that you recommend it’s hard to take that claim sitting down.

David Pogue Reviews the Samsung Ultra Mobile PC 

Remember that “Origami” gadget Microsoft was teasing about a few months ago? They’re out now. And Pogue pretty much skewers them:

Stylus, cursor-control nubbin, two on-screen keyboards, handwriting recognition, mouse-click button combinations — what a lot of workarounds! And how unnecessary; the mouse and keyboard solved the problems of text input and cursor control decades ago. It’s as though Microsoft invented a car with an opaque windshield — and then devised camera and periscope attachments so you can see where you’re going.

The Rip-Off Express 

Delightful gallery of sites that have ripped off icons (usually the Transmit truck) and other graphic elements from Panic. IP theft has never been so funny.

Microsoft and Gall’s Law 

Interesting post from Marc Hedlund regarding Microsoft’s stated goal of building data centers to rival Google’s. He invokes a quote from John Gall, known as Gall’s Law, which I’d never heard before but which I like very much:

“A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked….A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.”
— John Gall

Dave Winer: Apple Apps Promote Lock-In 

Dave Winer, yesterday:

Another one — the apps Apple bundles are marvels of lock-in. Try to get your data out of them. No no, says Uncle Steve. We own your ass. Or at least your data.

I’m not sure what Winer’s talking about here. iPhoto stores your photos as JPEGs and lets you export as JPEG. iTunes lets you share any music file that isn’t from ITMS by just dragging it out of iTunes. (And you can share ITMS songs with up to five other computers.) iMovie imports and exports standard movie file formats. iCal publishes and subscribes to the open-standard iCalendar (ICS) format. Address Book imports and exports open-standard vCard files.

What’s his beef? That they don’t use OPML for anything? (Update: That’s obviously not it, since Winer has previously praised iTunes’s OPML export. Thanks to Jeremy Phillippe for the link.)

Apple Responds to Rumors of Aperture’s Demise, Releases Update 

Official statement from Apple’s Kirk Paulsen, senior director of pro application marketing, regarding the company’s commitment to Aperture. Plus they released a 1.1.1 update to the app.

Thermal Greasy: Apple Sics Lawyers on Something Awful 

Gizmodo:

After a Something Awful denizen took apart his MacBook Pro and discovered that Apple had slathered on far too much thermal grease, he found that using a more modest amount dropped his MacBook Pro’s temperatures by several degrees. Now the forum has recieved a threatening letter from Apple’s legal staff, requesting a link to this image [pictured above] be removed because “The Service Source manual for the MacBook Pro is Apple’s intellectual property and is protected by U.S. copyright law.”

That’s just sad, and it shows how tone-deaf to PR Apple’s lawyers can be. They’re going to get way more bad press out of this story (deservedly so) than they would have had they simply let this go. Not only does it paint Apple as a corporate bully, but it draws more attention to the MacBook Pro heat problems.

Lucas to Release Original Unaltered Trilogy on DVD 

Lucasfilm Ltd.:

In response to overwhelming demand, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release attractively priced individual two-disc releases of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Each release includes the 2004 digitally remastered version of the movie and, as bonus material, the theatrical edition of the film. That means you’ll be able to enjoy Star Wars as it first appeared in 1977, Empire in 1980, and Jedi in 1983.

Bastards. I broke down and finally bought the current DVD trilogy collection just a few months ago — now I’ve got to pay for it yet again just to get the versions of the films that I really want. If they ever diddle with the Han-vs.-Greedo scene again, they ought to have Han shoot George Lucas.

Camino 1.0.1 

Bug fixes and security updates to my second-favorite browser for Mac OS X.

The Dishonor of Blue Security 

Great post from Jason Levine showing how yesterday’s hours-long outage at Six Apart (which included all TypePad and LiveJournal sites) was the result of a cowardly act by a company called Blue Security:

The best analogy I can think of is that it’d be like you dealing with a water main break in your basement by hooking a big hose up to the leaking joint and redirecting the water into your neighbor’s basement instead.

(Via Andy Baio.)

Neutrality of the Net 

Tim Berners-Lee:

When, seventeen years ago, I designed the Web, I did not have to ask anyone’s permission.

The Art of No 

Derek Powazek:

If I could give one piece of advice to the designer just getting into client work, or even some who’s been doing this for a while, it’s this: The next time you want to say “no” to a client, boss, or colleague, say this instead: “Why?”

Brian Krebs on Apple and Mac OS X Security 

Krebs shows that Apple’s average time between receiving notice of a security bug and releasing a software update to fix it is about 90 days — quite a bit longer than the response time for most Linux distributions. He interviews Apple’s Bud Tribble about this, and Tribble reasonably argues that it takes Apple longer to release updates than most Linux distributors because Apple’s standards for updates that “just work” require more QA testing.

Krebs also (rightly) takes Apple to task for the way they under-document security fixes. A genuinely fair and balanced look at the state of Mac OS X security, overall.

Mac OS X Gets Wrong Kind of Attention 

Scott Bradner, with a completely reasonable essay on the state of Mac OS X security in Network World:

Recently there has been a growth industry in pundits whining about the security of the Apple Mac OS X operating system. To read some of the coverage, you would think someone deciding to use OS X instead of Windows would have to be dumber than a fence post. Methinks the security worries are rather misplaced and may be the result of hyperventilating, nontechnical reporters and some gloating on the part of Windows users.

System-Wide iPhoto Browser 

Great tip from MacOSXHints.com — a simple Automator action lets you access a browser for your iPhoto photos, without having to launch iPhoto itself. I’ve added this to my Scripts menu. (Via Michael Tsai.)

iPod Relief for Trapped Miners 

The Age:

Two men trapped in a Tasmanian mine for more than a week are listening to iPods while rescuers prepare to start a new drilling operation in a bid to free them.

Gartner Says Microsoft to Delay Vista Yet Again 

Reuters:

Microsoft Corp.’s long-awaited release of the upgrade to its flagship Windows operating system will likely be delayed again by at least three months, research group Gartner Inc. said on Tuesday. […]

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company disagreed with the Gartner report and it was still on track to meet its launch dates.

(Via Daniel Bogan via AIM.)

Google’s Double Standard 

Jeremy Zawodny:

If Google actually cared about user choice, they’d have asked the Mozilla Foundation to configure Firefox to prompt you to choose your favorite search engine the first time you ran it. You know, a level playing field.

[…]

And let’s not forget about Safari, where Google is the default and it’s very hard for normal people to change that.

Michael Tsai on the ‘Get a Mac’ Ads 

Michael Tsai isn’t thrilled:

Windows and PCs have all sorts of problems, but I don’t think that, for most users, frequent restarting and trouble talking to digital cameras are among them. How is this supposed to appeal to the millions of PC users who already work with digital photos? By insulting them? I’d rather the ads showed what people can do with Macs.

I think what he’s missing is that the ads are actually funny. They definitely won’t appeal to everyone, but almost no ad ever does. And those that try to appeal to everyone are usually so bland they wind up appealing to no one.

Riot Slimer 

Patent for non-lethal “gun” for police to use against mobs; sprays a super-slippery slime that causes people to fall down. (Via Coudal.)

Siracusa on the ‘Get a Mac’ Ad Campaign 

John Siracusa likes the new ads, except for the “Viruses” one:

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Mac OS X will soon suffer a plague of viruses and malware. I don’t think it will, at least not to the degree that Windows has suffered. But that’s not important. The threshold for backlash is much lower. A single, legitimate Mac virus spreading in the wild is all it’ll take to start the snowball rolling downhill. The media is already hungry for stories about Mac malware. Apple’s new ad makes this into an even bigger story. “Apple Touts Immunity, Then Gets Infected.” One virus makes that headline. The reality of the overall malware situation on Macs and PCs is irrelevant.

I disagree here. If and when Mac OS X gets hit by an actual destructive virus, there’s going to be an overwhelmingly disproportionate reaction in the mainstream media no matter what. So why hold back? It really is a legitimate selling point, and the media reaction isn’t going to be that much different now that Apple is actually advertising based on this.

Napster Turns to Advertising 

Jefferson Graham reporting for USA Today:

All the songs on Napster are free again.

In a bid to gain traction against Apple’s dominant iTunes online music store, Napster over the weekend shifted to an advertising-supported model. Visitors can listen to any of the 2 million tunes in its catalog without having to fork over a credit card or download the Napster software application.

But there is a catch. You can only listen to a song five times. After that, you have to either buy it for 99 cents or sign up for a monthly subscription.

(Via Larry Angell.)

Apple Launches ‘Get a Mac’ TV Ad Campaign 

Swinging hard against Windows with my favorite weapon: humor. I just saw the “Viruses” one on tonight’s Daily Show With Jon Stewart. These are good commercials.

Update: In “Network”, the Japanese girl playing the digital camera says something (in Japanese) near the end that causes both herself and the Mac guy to crack up. Thanks to Takaaki Kato, I have a translation: “He looks like a nerd”. (The Japanese word she uses is Otaku.)

Apple Sets Tune for Pricing of Song Downloads 

Joshua Chaffin and Kevin Allison reporting for the Financial Times:

Apple Computer on Monday revealed it had renewed contracts with the four largest record companies to sell songs through its iTunes digital store at 99 cents each. The agreements came after months of bargaining, and were a defeat for music companies that had been pushing for a variable pricing model.

UKCrashReporter 0.1 

Uli Kusterer’s UKCrashReporter is an alternative to Unsanity’s Smart Crash Reports:

It’s a simple function that checks for a newly-changed crash log file at application startup, and if it finds one extracts the topmost crash dump and offers the user to send it to a CGI-script on a server. where you can do with it whatever you think is appropriate.

Compared to Smart Crash Reports and other such tools, this doesn’t require any signal handlers, daemons or software patches.

Hivelogic: Preventing SVN Exposure 

Capistrano is a popular tool that allows Rails developers to deploy their apps right from their SVN repository. However, the default configuration of most web servers exposes information about your SVN repository. Dan Benjamin shows how to fix it, by either (a) not publishing your SVN metadata along with your deployed app; or (b) configuring your web server not to allow external access to this metadata.

In iTunes War, France Has Met the Enemy. Perhaps It Is France. 

Austan Goolsbee, writing in The New York Times:

In their fervor to free listeners from the shackles of their iPods, French politicians have abandoned one of the guiding principles of antitrust economics: penalize companies that harm consumers, not the ones that succeed by building better products.

New Microsoft Browser Raises Google’s Hackles 

Steve Lohr, reporting for The New York Times:

Microsoft insists it has no intention of deploying its browser as a weapon in the search wars.

“Who, us? Abuse a monopoly in one area to ram something down our customers’ throats so as to build a new monopoly that damages our leading competitor? What would ever make you think we’d do that?”

Thermal Grease and MacBook Pros 

Something Awful forum poster suggests that the misapplication of thermal grease could be the leading cause behind over-heating MacBook Pros (and, therefore, some of the associated noise problems). I sure as hell wouldn’t monkey with this myself, but, it’s interesting.

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