Linked List: August 2008

Ideas That Will Never Die 

It doesn’t matter how well Apple is doing, how remarkably profitable the Mac has become, how remarkably fast Mac sales are growing — the idea that Apple “must” or “should” license Mac OS X to other computer makers will never die.

‘Lucky Star’ 

Adam Lisagor on Lucky Star, a cool-as-shit fake trailer Michael Mann shot as a promotion for Mercedes-Benz in 2002.

Eric Wijngaard, Winner of Android Developer Challenge, in His Own Words 

Eric Wijngaard, objecting to the English translation of his remarks to a Dutch newspaper I ran Friday:

Then a follow-up question about what’s next and if there will be an iPhone version. This was my reply:

“Right now, I am focusing on Android and I want to make sure that PicSay will run on the actual Android-based phone when it is launched. It is possible to create an iPhone version of PicSay, and I would like to do that some day, but there is no time for that now.”

Even more miraculous the above ended up as:

“I guess I could invest it in my software company, but first I want to port PicSay to the iPhone.”

Mozilla Labs: Ubiquity 

Aza Raskin introducing Ubiquity, a research project from Mozilla Labs to add natural language mashups to the web browser. The simple examples make me think it’s LaunchBar or Quicksilver (or Enso) but only for the web. The more ambitious examples (which don’t work yet), make me think it’s trying to do what AppleScript tried but failed to do. E.g.:

Book a flight to Chicago next Monday to Thursday, no red-eyes, the cheapest. Then email my Chicago friends the itinerary, and add it to my calendar.

That’d be incredible. I’m not holding my breath.

Nikon D90 ‘D-Movie’ Sample Footage 

Impressive quality.

CNet Cans the Macalope 

Moving back to his old digs, at least for now.

Matt Haughey on Weblog Comments 

Matt Haughey:

I have a feeling that if you’ve only seen blogs in the past five years (which is probably 95+ percent of people reading blogs today) you consider comments to be de rigueur and they are entirely divorced from the original concept of a conversation between the reader and the author of the original post. It’s not an intimate conversation, it’s just another content management feature available to you on the web.

Drobo 

My thanks to Data Robotics for sponsoring this week’s Daring Fireball RSS feed. Their original Drobo was a terrific and innovative storage device. Their new second-generation Drobo, with FireWire 800, is even better. Drobo features data redundancy, instant expansion to more storage, and plug-and-play ease of use. For more info, here’s Macworld’s 4.5-mouse review of the original Drobo.

Mad Men Gets All the Details Right — Except One 

Andrew Hearst on the art direction of Mad Men:

The art direction is so immersive that there are no clangy wrong notes to distract you from the rich psychological world the characters inhabit.

Until the show ends, that is. When the last frame flickers off the screen and the credits start to roll, careful observers — okay, just the font freaks — will notice a curious thing: The end credits are set not in the iconic sans serif used in the opening-credits sequence, and not in, say, Helvetica, which was designed in 1957 and became popular soon thereafter, but in Arial, the controversial Helvetica knockoff that Monotype cobbled together in the late 1980s to avoid paying license fees on Helvetica.

Now That’s Gratitude 

The page is in Dutch, but DF reader Rene Brouwer sent the following translation:

27 year old Frisian developer Eric Wijngaard won $275,000 in Google’s Android Developer Challenge for his ‘PicSay’ application.

In an interview with a Dutch website he says he likes Google’s SDK but “What I really wanted to do was develop an iPhone app. The iPhone SDK wasn’t out yet, though.”

Asked what he would do with the cash, his response was “I guess I could invest it in my software company, but first I want to port PicSay to the iPhone.”

Here’s a Google translation of the whole article.

Update: Wijngaard objects to the above translation.

Android Market 

Eric Chu:

Developers will be able to make their content available on an open service hosted by Google that features a feedback and rating system similar to YouTube. We chose the term “market” rather than “store” because we feel that developers should have an open and unobstructed environment to make their content available. Similar to YouTube, content can debut in the marketplace after only three simple steps: register as a merchant, upload and describe your content and publish it. We also intend to provide developers with a useful dashboard and analytics to help drive their business and ultimately improve their offerings.

I have a tangentially related question. I wonder whether anyone is planning to create an iPod Touch-like Android device? Something without the phone features but with Wi-Fi.

Red 3K Scarlet 

Upcoming (“early 2009”) prosumer-range camera from Red. Sign me up. (Via Uncrate.)

Apple Adds ‘Blocks’ to Clang 

Chris Lattner, who manages the Clang, LLVM, and GCC groups at Apple, announces Blocks support for Clang. Blocks are, more or less, closures for C and Objective-C — and Clang, the C language front-end for LLVM, will soon be Apple’s replacement for GCC.

Generous cash prizes — 10 developers were awarded $275,000; another 10 got $100,000. Most of the apps look interesting, but I can’t say any of them really jumps out to me.

Update: Not much visual consistency in the UIs, either. This gets back to the iPhone having no SDK until March, and the App Store not debuting until a year after the original iPhone. By the time the SDK arrived, developers had a sense of what an iPhone app should look and feel like. With these initial Android apps, developers created apps without ever being able to use them on an actual phone.

Instant Messaging Market Share by Country 

Interesting data. AIM leads in the U.S., but not by much. MSN and Yahoo lead in most of the rest of the world.

Adam Engst on BBEdit 9 

Adam Engst:

Another related feature that has changed significantly, and for the better, is BBEdit’s Find Differences. In BBEdit 8.5, Bare Bones added the capability to display which characters within a line were different between two similar files. That was huge for us, since it enabled us to use BBEdit in conjunction with the Subversion version control system to work with TidBITS articles. Though code may have relatively short lines, a line of prose is a paragraph, and without knowing what within a paragraph has changed, knowing only that two paragraphs are not the same isn’t particularly helpful. In BBEdit 9.0, Bare Bones has enhanced the Find Differences feature such that it not only shows the changed lines, and the changed characters within each line, it also lets you see and replace individual spans of differing characters within each changed line.

This, along with the live word count and auto-completion that ties into the system-wide dictionary, makes BBEdit an even better tool for prose than before.

Michael Tsai on BBEdit 9 

I forgot to mention the new non-modal Find dialog in my blurb yesterday.

Some Quick Comparisons Between the New Kodak Zi6 and the Flip Ultra 

I got my Kodak Zi6 last week, and have been shooting footage side-by-side with my Flip Ultra. Here are two examples I’ve posted to Vimeo. Be sure to turn on the HD option for the clips from the Zi6. More soon.

BBEdit 9 

Now this is the good stuff. New features include Projects, an outstanding text completion feature (automatic, explicitly invoked with a keyboard shortcut, or both), and, at long last, the ability to edit text directly in search results and disk browser windows. Oh, and the UI for projects and disk browser windows has been completely modernized — if you like the way Yojimbo looks, you’re going to like BBEdit 9.

I’ve been beta testing it for months; it’s simply a fantastic upgrade.

Buzz Andersen on Funding iPhone Development 

Buzz Andersen:

Funding has its place, but, realistically, how many application ideas that could actually be implemented with the iPhone SDK require the level of up-front investment that would make the tradeoffs of venture funding and the overhead of a large organization necessary? Not many people, in my estimation, are building anything for the iPhone that requires significant research and development, infrastructure, or engineering resources beyond a few capable coders with a good work ethic. By taking money from other people and assembling a whole team you always run the risk of compromising your vision, which, after all, is what working for yourself is all about.

I couldn’t agree more.

Fuck the VCs 

John Casasanta on VC funding for iPhone developers, and the hype they’re fueling.

Chase Jarvis: Advance Testing the Nikon D90 

Speaking of amazing cameras, the upcoming Nikon D90 DSLR shoots video. Video, I say, with all the exposure and depth-of-field control of an SLR camera. Should sell for around $1300.

I’m not aware of any other SLR that shoots video, included the just-released and similarly-priced Canon EOS 50D.

PCalc for iPhone 1.0.2 

My favorite App Store app keeps getting better. New in version 1.0.2 is a very nifty multiple-undo implementation — just swipe the numeric display to go back one level in the undo stack. (In addition to being a better calculator than Apple’s, PCalc is a full-fledged unit calculator too.)

iPhone Password Lock Can Be Bypassed With Double-Tap of Home Button 

The worst part is Apple fixed this months ago for the 1.1 OS.

Red Digital Cinema  

Terrific profile in Wired by Michael Behar on Red Digital Cinema. Founded and led by Oakley founder Jim Jannard, their Red One movie camera is, dollar-for-dollar, the best and most amazing camera in the world. It sells for $17,500 — but if you think that sounds expensive, consider that the equivalent film camera rents for $25,000 per month, not including the (very expensive) cost of film.

The most amazing part is that the core technology didn’t come from a company like Canon or Sony — Red created it themselves.

Social Networks: The Case for a ‘Pause’ Button 

Merlin Mann on FriendFeed’s “fake follow” feature.

‘All the Parts’ 

iPhone commercial banned in the U.K. for claiming “all the parts of the Internet are on the iPhone”. Flash and Java are cited as exceptions.

PMC Software: Build Your Bundle 

Buy great software for a great cause.

Update: Hold your horses for now. Seth Dillingham, who put this promotion together, emailed to say he can’t keep up with the orders that have been placed already.

Mike Lee Forced Out of Tapulous 

Here’s the thing about Tapulous. Their apps are good, and their popularity is well-deserved. But they’ve struck me all along as the iPhone development shop that most resembles the dot-coms from a decade ago.

Venture-funded teams that give everything away for free make it hard for smaller indie shops which are trying to turn an honest profit by charging for their software. But they also inevitably wind up being run by business guys, not product guys. Mike Lee is a product guy.

Coda 1.5 

Free update to Panic’s excellent $99 “hyphen-busting all-in-one web development app”. New features include Subversion support, multi-file search and replace, and much-improved syntax coloring.

I wrote about Coda 1.0 in April last year.

Mouse Events in MobileSafari 

Peter-Paul Koch explores the way touch events map to web-standard “mouse” events in MobileSafari.

A Tale of Two Tetrises 

Jason Snell on Tris and Tetris and the little things, like fast launch times, that make a big difference with casual iPhone games.

Tris 

Noah Witherspoon is pulling his free Tetris clone Tris from the App Store under pressure from The Tetris Company, who own the Tetris copyright. The official iPhone Tetris from EA costs $10 and takes 30 seconds to launch.

The Birth of a Faster Monkey 

Mike Shaver announcing TraceMonkey, the next-generation JavaScript engine for Firefox. The preliminary benchmarks are stunning.

John Nack on ‘Dear Adobe’ 

Adobe’s John Nack on “Dear Adobe”, a site where users file their own one-liner gripes about Adobe. Adobe’s problems are real, but at least they’re listening and have a sense of humor about it. There is no one at Apple in a position to respond like Nack has to an equivalent “Dear Apple” site.

YouTube Comment Snob 

Firefox extension that filters YouTube comments based on grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Via Andy Baio, who has a screenshot demonstrating the results.

iPhone 3G Antenna Test 

Swedish lab puts it through controlled testing; ends up the iPhone 3G compares well against 3G phones from Sony-Ericsson and Nokia.

USA Basketball Returns to the Top 

Gold for the U.S., but Spain played a terrific game.

MobileMe Syncing 

Insightful, albeit pessimistic, take on the science of syncing.

Radar Magazine’s Ugliest College Campus in the U.S.: Drexel University 

They’ve pretty much got my alma mater nailed:

Cracked sidewalks, decrepit classrooms, structural blight, megatons of gray concrete, and a giant, looming smokestack will leave you wondering what brutalist fiend slapped together this sorry excuse for a campus. There are just three athletic fields (two of which are Astroturf) for 13,000 students; the only other strip of vegetation at Drexel is endearingly called the “rape garden”.

MacBook Air Update 

Released by Apple yesterday:

This update is recommended for all MacBook Air computers, and addresses issues with video playback and processor core idling.

Olympic Taekwondo Fighter Banned for Life After Kicking Referee in Face 

Well, that’s one way to file a post-match protest. (Via Justin Williams.)

Wurdle 

Addictive fast-paced iPhone word game from Semi Secret Software. Terrific use of the touch screen for gameplay — just drag your finger to trace the words you find. $2 at the App Store. (Via Scott Simpson.)

iPhone GUI PSD 

Free library of iPhone UI controls for use in creating interface mockups in Photoshop.

Red-Light Cameras 

Vito Rispo, on the danger of red-light cameras:

In fact, six U.S. cities have been found guilty of shortening the yellow light cycles below what is allowed by law on intersections equipped with cameras meant to catch red-light runners. Those local governments have completely ignored the safety benefit of increasing the yellow light time and decided to install red-light cameras, shorten the yellow light duration, and collect the profits instead.

Despicable. (Via Jack Shedd.)

How to Launch Software 

Aaron Swartz:

I’ll call this technique the Gmail Launch, since it’s based on what Gmail did. Gmail is probably one of the biggest Web 2.0 success stories, so there’s an argument in its favor right there. Here’s how it works.

BusinessWeek on Apple’s Ambitious iPhone Plans 

Peter Burrows, reporting for BusinessWeek:

While final sales can’t be known until after the fact, clues are emerging as to Apple’s production plans. As of mid-August, they were ambitious, BusinessWeek has learned. Apple plans to build 40 million to 45 million iPhone 3Gs in the 12 months through August 2009, according to a person familiar with the company’s plans.

That’s a pretty big number.

DS Media Labs 

My thanks to the iPhone game studio DS Media Labs for sponsoring the Daring Fireball RSS feed this week. Two of their games are coming soon to the App Store: LightBikes (“an ’80s throwback thriller in which you and up to 4 other players via Wi-Fi”), and Dark Age of Reality (an MMO for the iPhone that uses GPS). Already in the store is FLOverload, a clever $2 race-against-the-clock puzzle game.

(DS Media Labs are hiring, too.)

Gawker on Microsoft’s Decision to Hire Jerry Seinfeld as a Spokesman for Vista 

Ryan Tate:

Yes, because if there’s one surefire way to convince everyone Vista is cool, cutting edge and not liable to get frazzled by life’s minor complications, it’s hiring a 1990s sitcom star and professional kvetcher! Who, um, very visibly owned a series of Macs on his show.

Mobile Computer Compares Web Browsing Speed Between BlackBerry Bold and iPhone 

Julian Prokaza:

Unfortunately, as excellent as it is in delivering a desktop-like web browsing experience on a small screen, the BlackBerry Bold’s web browser is just far too slow to be a serious alternative to the iPhone. The Bold is the first BlackBerry with 3G support, but even over a more reliable Wi-Fi connection, our iPhone 2G repeatedly finished downloading a web page several seconds before the Bold had even got past a blank screen and a “Requesting…” message. Even with just its 3G connection active, the Bold still lagged behind the iPhone 2G with its EDGE connection. Either Apple is doing something right or RIM is doing something wrong with their respective web browsers, but whatever the case, it’s a pretty poor show for the Bold.

Scroll down and watch the side-by-side video shootout. It’s painful.

Update: Prokaza has updated the article, stating that the comparison was flawed because the BlackBerry was using the cellular network rather than Wi-Fi. The bottom line remains that web browsing performance on the Bold seems poor.

Great Olympic Moments on YouTube 

Jason Kottke:

One of the best ways to watch the Olympics is to chase down all the references made by NBC’s commentators on YouTube and watch them in addition to (or instead of) the regular telecast. Here are some of the ones I’ve found.

Design and Branding of the Olympic Games 

Colour Lovers has an excellent collection of posters from each summer Olympics since 1896. My favorite is from the Tokyo games in 1964, with Mexico 1968 and Moscow 1980 right behind. Don’t get me started again on the upcoming London 2012 branding.

Palm Treo Pro 

The new Palm Treo Pro is only available in the U.S. unlocked. It costs $549 and runs a version of Windows Mobile. Good luck with that, Palm.

Scott Stevenson’s Kodak Zi6 Review 

Looks like Kodak is shipping the Zi6, their Flip-esque $180 HD video camera. Scott Stevenson:

The hardest thing to explain is how satisfying the overall experience of using the thing is. If you just glanced at the product site, you might think it’s a somewhat awkward, bulky device. But that’s not the impression I’m left with. It completely gets out of the way and just delivers great-looking video with minimal fuss and super-simple import.

Marian Bantjes and Her Toothbrush 

Marian Bantjes, posting on the Objectified weblog:

If everything in our lives were afforded the design attention that my toothbrush has, we would sit in chairs that floated while tickling our troubled backs, have tables that yielded at our aching elbows while remaining firm on top, walk on floors that tingled like active sand, and sleep on pillows that would never allow our ears to flatten against our heads.

Very Meta 

YouTube clip, uploaded from TapeDeck 1.1, of the MacBreak Weekly guys talking about how cool TapeDeck is.

Ed Baig Confirms iPhone OS 2.0.2 Addresses 3G Connectivity Bugs 

USA Today’s Ed Baig:

Apple acknowledged Tuesday that a software update for the iPhone partly fixes the connection snags that have caused a global firestorm for the new iPhone 3G.

Though mum on details, Apple spokeswoman Jennifer Bowcock said on Tuesday, “The software update improves communication with 3G networks.”

Another iPhone SSH Client Comparison 

Including a brief look at a fourth SSH client in the App Store, the plainly-named “SSH”.

What Makes for a Good Blog? 

Pretty good list from Merlin Mann.

Ain’t That the Truth? 

Nedra Pickler, reporting for the AP on McCain’s vice presidential selection (emphasis added):

His top contenders are said to include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Less traditional choices mentioned include former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, an abortion-rights supporter, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential prick in 2000 who now is an independent.

(Via Atrios.)

Things Touch 1.1 

Cultured Code’s $10 iPhone task manager now syncs with the Mac version of Things via Wi-Fi.

Comparing Apple’s MobileMe Contrition With Google and Netflix 

Adam Engst nails it:

Both MobileMe Mail and Google’s Gmail went down on 11-Aug-08 for a few hours. Apple’s recent email doesn’t mention that outage as part of the rocky transition, and the only acknowledgment I could find of it was a pair of entries in the MobileMe System Status page (bookmark this page, folks!). There was no mention of the outage on the semi-anonymous MobileMe Status blog at all, with the most recent posting being from 29-Jul-08, claiming that lost email had been restored and promising (but not delivering) another post later in the week.

Google, in contrast, quickly posted a highly apologetic message on the Official Gmail Blog titled “We feel your pain, and we’re sorry.” It outlines in reasonable detail what went wrong, why it happened, and what Google is doing to prevent the problem in the future. I don’t know if Google offered paying subscribers for Google Apps for Domains Premier Edition (who are guaranteed 99.9 percent uptime) a credit, but since Gmail is free to most users, an apology is mostly what’s warranted.

The kicker is that the MobileMe Status blog was in fact updated today, but only to state that the blog will no longer be updated. Apple’s biggest problem isn’t with its product quality (which, overall, remains very high), but with its communication to customers. The insulting “Bug fixes” release notes for the 2.0.1 and 2.0.2 iPhone OS updates are another example.

Three iPhone SSH Clients Reviewed 

Ben Gross reviews iSSH, pTerm, and TouchTerm.

Blockbuster CEO ‘Confused by This Fascination That Everybody Has With Netflix’ 

How does Jim Keyes still have the job as CEO? Netflix is kicking his company’s ass and he thinks Netflix is the company that’s doing it wrong:

Equally bewildering to Mr. Keyes is the emphasis on catalog size. Why would anyone want to watch anything other than new releases, he wonders.

“I don’t care how many movies are available to me. As my personal taste as a customer, I want to watch the new stuff so whether we have 10,000 movies or 200 movies doesn’t matter if I don’t want to see any of the movies that we have … our assortment is heavily weighted toward newer releases and mainstream staple titles.”

‘Flailing’, Eh? 

Mike Arrington, extrapolating from his own personal experience with some apparent lemon MacBooks:

They need to get their house in order or they risk alienating all these new customers they’ve added over the last few years. The new buyers aren’t Apple fanatics and won’t sit quietly as they try to access broken services via failing hardware.

Let’s see what the just-released 2008 American Customer Satisfaction Index says:

Apple Inc. trounced rival computer makers selling Windows-equipped PCs by historic margins in an annual customer satisfaction survey, the poll’s chief researcher said today.

“We haven’t seen anything like this before, where a company scores 10 points over its nearest rival,” said Claes Fornell, the head of the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), conducted quarterly by the University of Michigan.

Apple’s customer satisfaction score of 85, an ACSI record in the personal computer category, was 10 points higher than the closest competitor, Dell Inc.; 12 points higher than Hewlett-Packard Co.; and 13 higher than Gateway, which was acquired by Acer last year.

Is Apple perfect? No. Does it suck when you buy a new Mac that doesn’t work right? Yes. But is Apple doing a far better job than any of its competitors? Yes.

Daring Fireball RSS Feed Sponsorship 

A heads-up to anyone considering sponsoring the DF RSS feed: summer’s sold out and fall is selling fast. There are only five unsold weeks for the remainder of 2008. If you have a product or service you’d like to promote to the DF audience, get in touch.

Apple Offers Additional 60-Day MobileMe Extension 

This is in addition to the previous 30-day extension. At this rate, they’re either going to fix it or we’ll never have to pay again.

I wonder how many MobileMe customers there are? If there are a million — and I’m pretty sure they hit the million-customer mark a few years ago — then three free months of service costs Apple at least $25 million.

Tim O’Reilly:

At the time, I noted the way that more and more information that was once delivered by independent web sites was now being delivered directly by search engines, and that rather than linking out to others, there were strong signs of a trend towards keeping the link flow to themselves.

This thought re-surfaced when TechCrunch launched CrunchBase. Now, rather than linking directly to companies covered in its stories, TechCrunch links to one of its own properties to provide additional information about them. I noticed the same behavior the other day on the New York Times, when I followed a link, and was taken to a search result for articles on the subject at the Times (with lots of ads, even if there were few results).

This is the natural tendency for any site using an ad model where page views are directly correlated to revenue. This is why news sites break up stories over multiple pages, too. It’s a crummy practice, and in the long run, sites that succumb to this temptation are doing so at the expense of their credibility. Readers learn, remember, and resent when links on a certain site tend to be a waste of their time.

iPhone OS 2.0.2 

Entire release notes: “Bug fixes.”

‘Someone Is Clearly Doing Their Job Horribly Wrong’ 

Xkcd on the recent news that Premier Election Solutions (née Diebold) is blaming Windows anti-virus software for their voting machines “dropping votes” in Ohio.

MobileMe and (Lack of) Encryption 

Thomas Robinson on the lack of SSL support in MobileMe’s web apps.

Most Wine Should Be Sold in Boxes 

Tyler Colman, reporting for The New York Times:

A standard wine bottle holds 750 milliliters of wine and generates about 5.2 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions when it travels from a vineyard in California to a store in New York. A 3-liter box generates about half the emissions per 750 milliliters. Switching to wine in a box for the 97 percent of wines that are made to be consumed within a year would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about two million tons, or the equivalent of retiring 400,000 cars.[…]

What’s more, boxed wine is superior to glass bottle storage in resolving that age-old problem of not being able to finish a bottle in one sitting. Once open, a box preserves wine for about four weeks compared with only a day or two for a bottle. Boxed wine may be short on charm, but it is long on practicality.

Via Atrios, who notes that the problem with most boxed wine in the U.S. today is that it’s crap wine.

Dell Denied Trademark for ‘Cloud Computing’ 

Sam Johnston on a decision by the USPTO to deny Dell a trademark for the term “cloud computing”:

Furthermore, they have declared “cloud computing” generic, in that it is “incapable of functioning as a source-identifier for applicant’s services”. This makes sense given that few of us think “Dell” when we think of “cloud computing”, even in this context.

I’d say no one thinks of Dell when thinking about “cloud computing”, except for their silly trademark application for the term.

1 in 3 Business PCs Drop Vista for Windows XP 

They just haven’t realized yet how awesome Vista really is.

Jens Alfke on MobileMe Web App Security 

Jens Alfke, regarding the security of Apple’s MobileMe web apps:

The most glaring problem is that, since the main page resource (HTML and JavaScript) aren’t loaded over SSL, there’s no way to tell whether they’re genuine. By now everyone ought to be aware of DNS forgery attacks; if the coffeeshop where you’ve gone online has an infected WiFi router, it would be nice to know whether its DNS record for “me.com” points to Apple’s servers or to a phishing site. But without SSL there’s no way to tell. Obviously, if you’ve loaded a hacked forgery of me.com’s web-app, any assurances made about “authenticated handling of JSON exchanges” are completely pointless, because your JSON exchanges are probably going straight to a pwned server in Uzbekistan.

Better Markdown Libraries for Ruby: RDiscount and rpeg-markdown 

Compared to implementations for Perl, PHP, and Python, Markdown support on Ruby has generally been inferior — very slow and somewhat buggy. Ryan Tomayko has solved this with two new Ruby extensions that wrap extremely fast (and accurate) C libraries for Markdown: David Loren Parsons’s Discount and Jon MacFarleane’s peg-markdown. I prefer the RDiscount extension — it’s faster, easier to install on Mac OS X, and has a liberal BSD-style license — but they’re both good, and far better than the old BlueCloth Ruby extension.

MobileMe Web Apps and SSL 

“Prince McLean” writing for AppleInsider on the security of the new MobileMe web apps:

Data transaction security in MobileMe’s web apps is based upon authenticated handling of JSON data exchanges between the self contained JavaScript client apps and Apple’s cloud, rather than the SSL web page encryption used by HTTPS. The only real web pages MobileMe exchanges with the server are the HTML, JavaScript, and CSS files that make up the application, which have no need for SSL encryption following the initial user authentication. This has caused some unnecessary panic among web users who have equated their browser’s SSL lock icon with web security.

Update: Jesse Hollington claims that SSL encryption is only used for reading, and that writes are sent from the browser to me.com in the clear. And I’ll mention again that with Gmail and Google Calendar, you get SSL for free — I can’t see how there’s any excuse for MobileMe not to at least offer the option of using SSL for everything.

Update 2: Looking at traffic with tcpdump, it appears to me that nothing other than your initial authentication/login is encrypted. All the XMLHttpRequest data, both reads and writes, appears to be sent as gzip-compressed plain text. This is not secure at all.

Steven Frank on the App Store 

Steven Frank:

What I have here is a list of what I consider to be basic developer rights and a distribution model that uses that list as toilet paper, while in return presenting me with an equally long list of genuine and tangible benefits. How do I respond to that?

Michael Phelps’s Finish Frame-by-Frame 

A fantastic finish, and stunning photography from Sports Illustrated.

Harry McCracken Does the Old ‘Are Macs More Expensive Than Comparably-Equipped PCs?’ Thing 

Short answer: No, they’re not, but Sony Vaios are.

TapeDeck 1.1 

New features in the $25 audio recorder include uploading to YouTube (example).

Tim Bucher Leading Dell’s Music and Entertainment Initiative 

Remember Tim Bucher? Back in 2004 he was an executive at Apple, and was promoted to lead the company’s Macintosh hardware engineering division. Six months later, he was fired. According to a wrongful termination lawsuit Bucher later filed, Steve Jobs told him, “People think you are sometimes manic-depressive…. I think I’m going to have to ask you to leave the company.”

BusinessWeek’s Peter Burrows reports that Bucher is now at Dell:

He’s spearheading an ambitious plan at Dell to break Apple’s dominant hold on the digital entertainment market. He won’t challenge Apple head on, with iPod knockoffs or a Dell version of the iTunes music store. Instead, Bucher’s 120-person team is trying to create a potent alliance among Apple’s many rivals, from cell-phone makers and record labels to online music sites.

How can he lose with Rob Enderle on his side?

Mobilize Conference Startup Launchpad 

GigaOm’s upcoming Mobilize conference includes a startup launchpad; might be a good opportunity for iPhone developers seeking publicity.

Walt Disney Animation Studios 

Crackerjack new branding and web site for Disney’s animation division. Simple, crisp, strong design. (Via Gus Mueller.)

Using Photographs to Enhance Videos of a Static Scene 

Impressive technique for enhancing and altering video.

iPodRip 

My thanks to iPodRip for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. iPodRip is a $20 Mac utility that lets you recover songs and playlists from an iPod — so you can use it for tasks like copying music from an iPod to a Mac other than the one whose iTunes library the iPod is synced to.

Jackass of the Week: John Beyer 

From a story in The Daily Mail on MadWorld, an upcoming violent game for Wii:

John Beyer, director of Mediawatch-uk, said: “This game sounds very unsavoury.

‘I hope the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will view this with concern and decide it should not be granted a classification. Without that it cannot be marketed in Britain. What the rest of world does is up to them. We need to ensure that modern and civilized values take priority rather than killing and maiming people.”

I have problems enough with mandatory rating labels of any sort for games or movies. But hoping for a game not to be rated at all and therefore unmarketable? Despicable.

APC’s BlackBerry Bold Review 

David Flynn reviews the new BlackBerry Bold.

Nancy Heinen Settles With SEC for $2.2 Million 

She admits no guilt or wrongdoing. Are there any remaining loose ends regarding Apple’s options backdating?

Use the Best Available Ampersand 

Dan Cederholm, on applying a bit of Robert Bringhurst’s advice regarding ampersands to the web.

PhotoCalc 1.0 

New $3 iPhone app from Adair Systems:

PhotoCalc offers handy calculations for professional or hobbyist photographers working in the studio or in the field. PhotoCalc provides exposure reciprocation, depth of field and hyper-focal distance calculations, and flash exposure calculations.

(Via Charlie Sorrel.)

Aquaman Is a Pescepublican 

John August on the political leanings of superheroes:

I’d argue that the thematic success of comic book characters, and comic book storylines, comes from how closely they can approach the line separating Real from Too Real, without crossing it.

BusinessWeek: ‘What’s Behind the iPhone 3G Glitches?’ 

Peter Burrows, reporting for BusinessWeek:

Complaints over dropped calls and choppy Web connections on Apple’s iPhone 3G have sparked a wave of debate in the blogosphere over the root cause of the problems. Two well-placed sources tell BusinessWeek.com the glitches are related to a chip inside Apple’s music-playing cell phone. The sources add that Apple plans to remedy the problems through a software upgrade rather than through a more disruptive step, such as a product recall.

The news reinforces analysis by Richard Windsor of Nomura Securities, who said in an Aug. 12 report that the problem involves a communications chip made by Munich-based Infineon Technologies.

The 3G networking glitches may well be real, but it’s worth pointing out that Richard Windsor is the same jackass who issued a report a year ago about the supposedly faulty “film” on the iPhone touchscreen, when in fact there was no such film.

Secrets of the JavaScript Ninjas 

Jeff Atwood on the rise of cross-browser JavaScript frameworks:

But now something else is happening, something arguably even more significant than “JavaScript now works”. The rise of commonly available JavaScript frameworks means you can write to higher level JavaScript APIs that are guaranteed to work across multiple browsers. These frameworks spackle over the JavaScript implementation differences between browsers, and they’ve (mostly) done all the ugly grunt work of testing their APIs and validating them against a host of popular browsers and plaforms.

When Apple’s Reach Exceeds Its Grasp 

I hate to pick nits in an otherwise insightful article, but I think Jason Snell overemphasizes the importance of Apple’s “size” in this piece.

When the iPhone first shipped, developers immediately began clamoring for a system that would allow them to write programs for it. Apple had no doubt been planning for such a system from the earliest days of iPhone development. But the company didn’t unveil it until March 2008.

I don’t think being bigger, whether in terms of employee head count or in terms of cash on hand, could have made the iPhone SDK appear significantly sooner. Most companies that are bigger than Apple tend to move slower, not faster. I don’t think the lesson to be learned from July 11 is that Apple needs to get bigger, but rather that they need to ease off slightly on the accelerator.

Although when you do compare employee head counts between Microsoft (91,000) and Apple (21,000), it’s essential to note that at least half of Apple’s employees work in its retail stores. (And, also — who am I kidding? — I love to pick nits in otherwise insightful articles.)

Apple’s Market Cap Passes Google’s 

Still $100 billion short of the big one, though.

On the Intertwinement of Design and Engineering 

Jack Shedd, “The Great Divide”:

The idea of there being these two separate things has to be forced away from our thinking. They are one team, which produce one product.

Mac OS X Tip: Text Field Auto-Completion 

This is one of those great tips that I suspect many Mac users don’t know about. The unmodified Esc key works in most contexts, too.

The History of Predictive Text Swearing 

Perhaps this explains why the iPhone OS 2.0 now auto-corrects “fucking” to “ducking”.

The Curious Job of Kevin Cornell 

Kevin Cornell on his work as the illustrator for a graphic novel adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Looks gorgeous. The hardcover is available now for pre-order through Amazon.

Rolling Stone Switching to a Smaller, Rack-Friendly Size 

Understandable, but a bit sad nonetheless. The large format is definitely part of Rolling Stone’s brand. But don’t give me this bunk about the new size being “advertiser-friendly” — this is about printing and shipping costs, the same reason why newspapers have gotten so small.

Best Buy to Start Selling iPhones in September 

The Associated Press:

Best Buy Co. will start selling the iPhone on Sept. 7, becoming the first U.S. chain to do so outside of Apple Inc.’s and AT&T Inc.’s own stores.

(Why does the AP use those “Co.” and “Inc.” abbreviations? The sentence would read so much cleaner without them.)

Because They’re Spiteful Small-Minded Idiots Who Hate Their Own Customers 

The number two item in PC World’s “11 Things We Hate About iTunes” list is “DRM (Boo!)”:

iTunes gave us the 99-cent song download, thus paving the way for honest people to buy music at a fair price. So why does the iTunes Store still employ digital rights management (DRM) for the majority of songs in its library? Blaming the record labels no longer holds water: AmazonMP3 and Rhapsody are among a growing number of services selling DRM-free MP3s from all the major labels, not just EMI. At least iTunes no longer charges extra for the latter’s “iTunes Plus” selections, but why hasn’t Apple given DRM the heave-ho once and for all?

Because the music labels (other than EMI) won’t let them.

Pirating the Olympics, Then and Now 

Andy Baio:

Back in 2004, the place to go for illegal Olympic videos wasn’t BitTorrent, popular trackers like Suprnova, or mainstream P2P clients. The best coverage, surprisingly, was found in the old-school Usenet binaries. It was a mish-mash of events, skewed heavily towards events with bikini-clad women, Brazilians, or bikini-clad Brazilian women, but other popular events and the opening ceremonies also showed up.

iPhone-Optimized Google Translate 

Terrific web site for the iPhone.

Kottke’s Jakob Nielsen Winamp Skin 

Still funny, eight years later. (Thanks to Dave Miller.)

Steve Jobs on ‘Concept Cars’ 

Speaking of Apple and “concept designs”, here’s an apt bit from Lev Grossman’s 2005 “How Apple Does It” profile for Time magazine:

Ask Apple CEO Steve Jobs about it, and he’ll tell you an instructive little story. Call it the Parable of the Concept Car. “Here’s what you find at a lot of companies,” he says, kicking back in a conference room at Apple’s gleaming white Silicon Valley headquarters, which looks something like a cross between an Ivy League university and an iPod. “You know how you see a show car, and it’s really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, What happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! They grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory!

“What happened was, the designers came up with this really great idea. Then they take it to the engineers, and the engineers go, ‘Nah, we can’t do that. That’s impossible.’ And so it gets a lot worse. Then they take it to the manufacturing people, and they go, ‘We can’t build that!’ And it gets a lot worse.”

(Thanks to Scott Stevenson.)

Why Apple Doesn’t Do ‘Concept Products’ 

Brilliant essay by Kontra at Counternotions:

Why hasn’t Apple, the most innovative and visionary company in computing, produced a single concept product or vision in over a decade? Because, to paraphrase Jobs, real artists ship.

Hank Williams: UI Guru Jakob Nielsen’s Site Is Unreadable 

The conventional wisdom on Jakob Nielsen and useit.com has always been something along the lines of, Sure, his site is ugly, but his advice is great. I’ll just come out and say it: I think Jakob Nielsen’s advice tends to be trite. And his writing style never comes across as actual prose; rather than feeling like reading an essay, reading Jakob Nielsen always feels like reading a summary of an essay.

And then there are the people who declare that useit.com is in fact brilliantly designed, and that those who criticize it as ugly or cluttered or childish just don’t see how brilliant it really is.

The Onion Weighs In 

Insightful as ever.

Launchpad Chicken 

Jean-Louis Gassée on the MobileMe launch:

Simple is hard. Easy is harder. Invisible is hardest.

Wall Street Journal Interview With Steve Jobs Regarding App Store 

Nick Wingfield:

In the month since Apple opened an online software clearinghouse called the App Store, users have downloaded more than 60 million programs for the iPhone, Chief Executive Steve Jobs said in an interview at Apple’s headquarters. While most of those applications were free, Apple sold an average of $1 million a day in applications for a total of about $30 million in sales over the month, Mr. Jobs said.

Regarding the kill-switch feature for third-party apps:

Mr. Jobs confirmed such a capability exists, but argued that Apple needs it in case it inadvertently allows a malicious program — one that stole users’ personal data, for example — to be distributed to iPhones through the App Store. “Hopefully we never have to pull that lever, but we would be irresponsible not to have a lever like that to pull,” he says.

We still don’t know how that supposed kill-switch works, though. I’m pretty sure it is not related to the Core Location blacklist that was publicized last week.

Ghosts of Macintosh Past 

Cool new t-shirt by Gary Gao.

John Edwards, Hypocrite 

John Edwards on Bill Clinton in 1999:

“I think this President has shown a remarkable disrespect for his office, for the moral dimensions of leadership, for his friends, for his wife, for his precious daughter. It is breathtaking to me the level to which that disrespect has risen.”

I love Edwards’s politics. I wanted to vote for him this year. But I never get tired of finding these quotes from those who wagged their fingers at Clinton who later get caught running around on their own wives.

RIP, Bernie Mac 

Jesse Thorn on Bernie Mac.

An Interview With Armen Antranikian 

Coudal Partners interviews Armen Antranikian, director of the three-minute short film Kubrick.

How an Apple Ad Sets the Wrong Expectations 

Jason Fried calls bullshit on the web browsing and GPS performance in Apple’s “Unslow” iPhone 3G commercial.

‘$50 for Worse Brand Name Than Knol’ Winner Announced 

Congratulations to Drew Thaler for a truly terrible idea.

California Supreme Court Rejects Non-Compete Clauses 

Freedom prevails. Bob Egelko, reporting for the San Francisco Chronicle:

Californians have the right to move from one company to another or start their own business and can’t be prohibited by their employer from working for a competitor in their next job, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Pennies 

My thanks to Design by a Knife for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed, to promote their new iPhone budget-tracking app Pennies. Visually, Pennies looks great, and the interaction design is clever too. Entering new expenses is easy, obvious, and requires very few taps.

Check out the Pennies web site for screenshots and an animated demo. It’s available for $2.99 from the App Store.

‘iPhone Killer’ of the Week 

Apparently even when the form factor looks like a BlackBerry — hardware keyboard and small 2.3-inch 320 × 240 display — it counts as an “iPhone Killer”.

Another One Yanked From App Store: Slasher 

“Slasher displays a common kitchen knife on the screen and plays a ‘horror’ sound when you make a stabbing motion.”

Looks like PhoneSaber, the “swing your iPhone around and make lightsaber sounds” app, is gone too, but in the case of PhoneSaber, it was the developers’ decision to pull it, due to licensing issues:

As of now, PhoneSaber will no longer be available, I’ve had a chat with a guy from THQ Wireless (who own the rights for Star Wars apps on mobiles) and as we were always expecting, PhoneSaber is not allowed to be on there.

Author Claims Eight Copies of ‘I Am Rich’ Sold Before Apple Yanked It From App Store 

The L.A. Times’s Mark Milian interviews I Am Rich creator Armin Heinrich, who claims eight copies were sold.

After initially approving it for distribution, the company has since removed it from the store. Heinrich, a German software developer, has yet to hear back from Apple concerning the removal. “I have no idea why they did it and am not aware of any violation of the rules to sell software on the App Store,” Heinrich said in an email with The Times today.

I don’t believe him, frankly. This quote from Heinrich doesn’t ring true to my ears:

“I’ve got e-mails from customers telling me that they really love the app,” adding that they had “no trouble spending the money,” he said.

Gary Krakow, Jackass or Just Stupid? 

This piece by TheStreet.com’s Gary Krakow is so jacktastic it’s hard to know where to start. (See also: this not-jacktastic-but-still-wrongheaded piece by Tom Yager, upon which Krakow’s “analysis” is based.)

What I wrote in October still stands: unsupported means “not supported”. Jailbreaking has never been supported, and has only worked because of bugs in the iPhone software that have been exploited. When Apple fixes those bugs, they’re not taking anything away that they had previously allowed.

Group and Organize Your iTunes Sales Stats 

Of possible interest to iPhone developers: Jonathan Johnson has written a Python script to parse the sales data from the App Store:

Introducing appstats.py, a simple script that scans its own directory looking for daily dumps from the iTunes store. It will then gather all the statistics and output several reports in a tab delimited format that Numbers (and I’m sure Excel) can read. It makes it a couple clicks to get a great graph for your data.

Chuq Von Rospach on MobileMe 

Unlike everyone else who’s commenting on MobileMe and Apple’s ability to do large-scale web infrastructure, Von Rospach speaks from experience inside Apple.

The $1000 iPhone App 

Kottke makes the case for “I Am Rich”, the $1000 do-nothing iPhone App:

Excluding I Am Rich would be excluding for taste…because some feel that it costs too much for what it does. (And this isn’t the only example. There have been many cries of too many poor quality (but otherwise functional) apps in the store and that Apple should address the problem.) App Store shoppers should get to make the choice of whether or not to buy an iPhone app, not Apple, particularly since the App Store is the only way to legitimately purchase consumer iPhone apps. Imagine if Apple chose which music they stocked in the iTunes store based on the company’s taste.

But on the flip side, here’s a screenshot of a comment from I Am Rich’s App Store page, from someone who claims to have purchased and been charged for the app accidentally. If everyone who “buys” this app is then demanding a refund or credit card chargeback, you can see why Apple, or perhaps its author, Armin Heinrich, would take the app down. And what makes me think it was Heinrich, not Apple, who pulled the app is that with the App Store, developers pay the refund fee. It’s entirely possible that Mr. Heinrich is already on the hook for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars in refund fees.

Derek Sivers: ‘Ideas Are Just a Multiplier of Execution’ 

I love this short piece by Derek Sivers from back in 2005:

To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.

Using OpenDNS for Phishing Protection 

Rob Griffiths:

Consumer Reports touted Firefox or Opera over Safari because of the built-in anti-phishing tools in those first two browsers; Safari has no such built-in capability. There is, however, a free service you can use that will give every browser on your Mac a full set of anti-phishing tools (and additional tools, if you choose to use them). This service is called OpenDNS, and it’s a free replacement for your Internet service provider’s (ISP) domain name servers.

The other thing about OpenDNS is that it is fast, fast, fast — for me, it makes web surfing noticeably faster than using the default DNS servers I get from Comcast. I was on the other side of the fence about OpenDNS’s “DNS+” a few months ago, but I’ve come around again.

Apple’s Ability to Deactivate Malicious App Store Apps 

Jonathan Zdziarski claims to have identified the URL of a blacklist Apple has created in case it needs to remotely disable an app distributed through the App Store.

Scott McNulty Joins MacUser 

Ever notice how good writers leave TUAW for other weblogs, but never the other way around?

Microsoft Misses Windows Mobile Sales Target 

Good post from Paul Thurrott on the news that Microsoft, after proclaiming several times over the last year that it would sell “more than 20 million” Windows Mobile licenses in fiscal year 2008, missed the mark by over 2 million, and is now trying to spin it as no big deal.

If, say, Apple were to fall short by 10 percent on its prediction of 10 million iPhones sold in calendar 2008, somehow I’m guessing it’d be considered a big deal.

The Lightroom vs. Aperture Plugin Situation 

John Nack:

Pound for pound & click for click, “external editor presets” in Lightroom 2 and “plug-ins” in Aperture are the same thing. In both cases you pick the external engine that you want to use on your image; jump into that editing environment to make adjustments; and return to your LR/Aperture library with an edited bitmap image that sits alongside your original raw file. You get the same results with the same number of clicks.

I upgraded to Lightroom 2 last week, and I’ve only had time to scratch the surface with regard to learning what’s new. But so far, every single change that I’ve noticed has been for the better. It’s a remarkable improvement over what was already one of my favorite pieces of software ever.

The Ampersand 

Now this is a focused weblog. (Via Bryan Bedell.)

The Talk Show, Ep. 25 

New episode of America’s favorite podcast; this week’s topics include the upcoming Kodak Zi6, NetShare, the 2.0.1 update to the iPhone OS, and our new Talk Show Call-In Hotline. I don’t know if it’s a good episode, but the ending is great.

From the DF Archives: Ronco Spray-on Usability 

Thanks to a link at the end of Matthew Paul Thomas’s free software usability piece and subsequent discussion on Slashdot, etc., this piece I wrote four years ago is the most popular article on DF this week. Holds up pretty well.

AT&T’s iPhone Data Plan Terms and Conditions Forbid Tethering 

From AT&T’s iPhone Terms and Conditions:

Furthermore, unlimited plans (except for DataConnect and BlackBerry tethered) cannot be used for any applications that tether the device (through use of, including without limitation, connection kits, other phone/PDA-to-computer accessories, Bluetooth or any other wireless technology) to laptops, PCs, or other equipment for any purpose.

The question is whether Apple is obligated to enforce this.

WSJ Backtracking From Sketchy ‘Beanpole’ Obama Story 

The Wall Street Journal ran the following “correction” for that shoddy “Is Obama Too Fit to Be President?” story from a few days ago:

A Weekend Journal article Friday about Barack Obama’s weight included a quote from a Yahoo bulletin board that was posted in response to a question from a Wall Street Journal reporter who initiated the discussion. The article should have disclosed that the reporter used the bulletin board to elicit the comment, “I won’t vote for any beanpole guy.”

It’s not so much a correction as it is an admission that the story never should have run.

Om Malik on MobileMe’s Infrastructure 

Om Malik:

One of my sources opined that Apple clearly wasn’t too savvy about all the progress made in infrastructure over the past few years. If this insinuation is indeed true, then there is no way Apple can get over its current spate of problems. It needs a crash course in infrastructure and Internet services. Apple’s problem is that it doesn’t seem to have recognized the fact that it’s in the business of network-enabled hardware.

But the iTunes Store does gangbuster traffic and has a terrific track record for uptime. The message I read from yesterday’s reorg that put MobileMe under Eddy Cue (Apple’s VP for iTunes) is that MobileMe could and should be as responsive and reliable as the iTunes Store.

Throwing the Baby Out With the Bath Water 

Rene Ritchie reviews MagicPad, the $4 iPhone notes app that offers text selection, styled text, and copy/paste, and gives it a rating of 4.5 out of 5. Here’s his list of pros and cons:

Pros

  • Working cut, copy, and paste on the iPhone, come on!
  • Rich text styling
  • Did I mention CUT and PASTE

Cons

  • No auto-correction for spelling
  • Uses 3rd party email server

I bought and have been testing MagicPad for the last few days, and I’d pretty much create the same list of pros and cons. But for a rating, I’d assign it a zero. Without auto-correction, the app is utterly useless. Half the words I type are misspelled, some beyond recognition. It’s an interesting test of how important the iPhone’s auto-correction is in making its on-screen keyboard usable. The answer is “utterly essential”.

The text selection UI works pretty well and copy/paste is nice to have, but you still can’t copy/paste between different applications. So you can change the font and text size, but you can’t actually type.

NetShare Coming Back to App Store? 

Nullriver:

We’ve finally gotten in contact with Apple. Looks like the lack of communication was due to automated e-mail systems being employed on both ends, which resulted in e-mails being lost in transit. We’re working with Apple to get NetShare back up on the AppStore.

The NPD Group: iTunes Continues to Lead U.S. Music Retailers 

The only two download stores that matter are iTunes and Amazon. And CD stores are mattering less and less.

Update: From the description of the methodology used to compile the list: “NPD only tracks digital music sold by the song or album, not music purchased under subscription from services like eMusic, or subscription revenues from Rhapsody and Napster.” Thanks to reader Eduardo Leoni for catching this.

Larrabee: Intel’s Biggest Leap Since the Pentium Pro 

Jon Stokes on “Larrabee”, Intel’s forthcoming big-deal new product:

Indeed, if a computer maker who controls the whole OS and firmware stack for its desktop systems were to support symmetric multiprocessing over the PCIe bus, and if that computer maker had some kind of cooperative task system that let it assign threads to specific cores, then it could probably make very good use of Larrabee as a many-core x86 coprocessor with robust media processing capabilities.

It seems likely we’re going to be hearing a lot more about Larrabee soon.

MobileMe Reorg 

The clusterfuck that has been the first month of MobileMe — a botched launch, permanently lost email messages, and syncing features that sometimes don’t sync — has resulted in the inevitable: a reorg. “Reorg” being Apple-speak for “this shit had better change”.

In a company-wide email, Steve Jobs today announced that Eddy Cue, whose former title was Vice President of iTunes, has taken on what I believe to be the new title of Vice President of Internet Services, overseeing both the iTunes Store and MobileMe. Jobs:

It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store. We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence.

Tap Tap Tap Reveals Last Week’s iPhone App Sales 

John Casasanta reveals Tap Tap Tap’s App Store sales from last week for Where To and Tipulator ($9,547 and $349, respectively, for a post-Apple take-home cut of $6,928), and has some good words regarding the efficacy of sponsoring the DF RSS feed.

More on the iPhone NDA 

A correspondent of Chuq Von Rospach suggests an interesting, and plausible, reason why Apple has not lifted the iPhone SDK NDA: because it prevents people who work at competitors from looking at it.

‘Why Your Computer Is Running Slow’ 

One thing I’ve noticed in the hour or so in which I’ve been running iPhone OS 2.0.1 is that the UI, system-wide, is snappier — typing, animations, launching apps. It feels like the 1.1 OS in this regard. Perhaps this old Spamusement comic from Steven Frank explains what changed with those unspecified “bug fixes”.

iPhone OS 2.0.1 

In the history of Apple’s crummy release notes, this one might take the cake:

This version of the software includes the following improvements and supercedes all previous versions.

  • Bug fixes

One can hope, given how many bugs there were in 2.0.0, that the full list of fixes is actually pretty long. I’m also hoping that Apple soon updates the “recent security updates” page I’m linking to with at least some of the specific changes in 2.0.1.

Distorted for Readability 

Interesting parking garage signage designed by Axel Peemöller. (Thanks to DF reader Derek Matyas.)

TidBITS on Security Update 2008-005 

Glenn Fleishman and Adam Engst:

Twenty-four days after the rest of the industry mobilized to patch a serious flaw in the domain name system (DNS) protocol that’s core to the functioning of the Internet, Apple has at long last released Security Update 2008-005, which includes its fix for the regular and server flavors of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and 10.5 Leopard. If 24 days doesn’t sound like a long time, note that Apple was notified privately on 05-May-08, nearly 3 months ago, and this is for a vulnerability with significant exposure that had the potential to be disastrous for Apple’s business and hosting customers, as amply described in an opinion piece for Macworld by Mac system administrator John Welch.

Today’s issue of MDJ had this to say:

In the face of theoretical zero-day exploits, the question had remained: can Apple produce a zero-day patch if a real exploit shows up? Now we have the answer: no. The company’s deliberative and opaque security process can benefit customers by not rushing ill-considered patches out the door that might need subsequent patches a day or two later. Yet when a real zero-day exploit arrives, Apple has shown it has no mechanism for dealing with it.

Amazon Rebates on Mac Hardware 

Rebates between $50 and $150 for various MacBooks, and $200 on the Mac Pro. Use this link and I’ll get a juicy kickback from Amazon, which I’ll in turn almost certainly squander on something else from Apple.

Apple’s Lack of Candor 

Michael Tsai simply nails it.

Mike Ash: ‘Welcome to iPhone: Your Crappy Mac of Tomorrow, Today!’ 

Mike Ash argues the other side:

But as they say, familiarity breeds contempt, and after using it more these past few weeks, I’ve come to realize that the iPhone platform is really pretty crappy in a lot of ways. And these ways are mostly not due to hardware limitations, but rather artificial limitations put in place by Apple. And mostly these are limitations which have been put in place For Our Own Protection, and which have been, shockingly, praised from many quarters.

Update: The problem with Ash’s argument is that it all hangs on this:

I am concerned that a lot of people have forgotten how resource constrained their once-powerful desktop systems of yesteryear were. 128 MB of RAM and a 600 MHz ARM is more than enough to run a modern mobile operating system, a music player, a chat client, and a web browser.

They might be enough to run a modern mobile OS, but they’re not enough to run the one that Apple has actually built. MobileSafari, by itself, can barely keep two typical pages in memory for me with iPhone OS 2.0. The number one complaint about the iPhone 3G is battery life — and battery life would be worse if third-party apps could run in the background.

Matt Gemmell: ‘iPhone Developer Complaints’ 

Matt Gemmell:

I’ll just never understand this magical thinking process; it seems that whenever we don’t get access to a juicy API, or when Apple uses a new type of window appearance that isn’t yet publicly available, or when something gets locked down so that we can get access to it at all, normally sane and rational people contract some kind of temporary freetard rabies.

I think Gemmell is spot-on regarding the current limitations in the iPhone APIs, and whether it’s fair that Apple’s own software isn’t similarly limited. But I don’t see why he’s so sure that there’s a good reason behind the non-lifting of the NDA, or that it’ll be lifted any time soon. Game console development for Sony or Nintendo is under permanent NDA — I certainly hope that’s not what Apple plans for the iPhone, but I’ve seen no evidence that it’s not.

Rob Enderle Is a Hack 

Dan Moren on the latest “column” from Rob Enderle, wherein Enderle is bullish on the prospects of Dell’s purported upcoming music player, but doesn’t mention that he was (is?) a paid consultant for Dell on the project.

Black Hat Talk on FileVault Encryption Flaw Pulled 

Brian Krebs:

Charles Edge, a researcher from Georgia, had been slated to discuss his research on a weakness that could be used to defeat FileVault encryption on the Mac. But sometime last week, Black Hat organizers pulled his name and presentation listing from its schedule of talks.

Contacted via cell phone, Edge said he signed confidentiality agreements with Apple, which prevents him from speaking on the topic and from discussing the matter further.

Me, Myself, and I 

Caroline Winter, subbing for the on-vacation William Safire:

Why do we capitalize the word “I”? There’s no grammatical reason for doing so, and oddly enough, the majuscule “I” appears only in English.

MPT: ‘Why Free Software Has Poor Usability, and How to Improve It’ 

Matthew Paul Thomas is back with a thoughtful and detailed look at the reasons why open source software tends to suffer from poor user interfaces. But he’s dancing around the root problem, which is that of authority.

I posit that the usability and elegance of any product, software or hardware, tends to reach and seldom surpasses the level that satisfies the taste of whoever is in charge of the product. This applies universally, not just to free and open source software. For example, it explains why Microsoft produces such crummy software even though the company employees thousands of talented programmers and even designers — Microsoft’s decision makers have no taste. But the problem is endemic to open source.

The people in charge of most free and open source software products tend to have poor taste in user interfaces; people with good taste in user interface design are seldom in charge of open source software projects.

Put another way, if you have to ask for better design, you will lose. You need to be in a position to demand it.

Hard to Believe Some People Thought The Wall Street Journal Would Go to Hell After Rupert Murdoch Bought It 

The Wall Street Journal ran a 1,400-word news article today addressing the issue of whether Barack Obama is “too physically fit” to be elected president. Reporter Amy Chozick’s source for this nonsense? An anonymous comment on a Yahoo message board thread that she herself started.

I especially enjoy seeing a Wall Street Journal reporter sign off with a “Thanks!”.

C4[2] 

Wolf Rentzsch’s very fun, very smart Mac developer nerd conference is back for a third edition. The session line-up looks terrific. My understanding is that it’s already nearly sold-out, so I’d act quickly if I hadn’t registered already. Here’s my write-up from last year’s C4[1].

Update: Sold out.

The Talk Show, Ep. 24 

A half-hearted run through the last month worth of news, including the new iPhone and MobileMe.

HoudahSpot 2 

My thanks to Houdah Software for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. HoudahSpot 2.2 is a terrific search utility for Mac OS X. It uses Spotlight for the back-end, but provides its own interface for queries and results, which interface is better than Mac OS X’s built-in Spotlight interface in every single way. Complex queries are easier to build and more precise. Simple queries, using HoudahSpot’s new “Blitz Search” feature, feel much faster than with the Spotlight menu item, because HoudahSpot doesn’t mimic Apple’s asinine “start trying to show results after you’ve typed a single character” behavior.

Check out Houdah’s screencasts for more info on how it works. HoudahSpot costs €15 (US$23 at this moment), but DF readers can save 20 percent using the coupon code “DF2008”.

Nullriver NetShare 

This story is downright bizarre. Nullriver — the company that spearheaded the Installer.app jailbreak installer project — created an App Store app called NetShare, which enables an iPhone to share its EDGE or 3G Internet connection with a Mac or PC via Wi-Fi. That seems like a crazy app to build, given that there’d seemingly be no chance that Apple would accept it. But Apple did accept it, and it appeared on the App Store yesterday, selling for $10, and it apparently works as advertised.

Soon thereafter, though, NetShare disappeared from the store. Assuming that Apple does not wish to allow phone network tethering, it seems crazy that this app got through in the first place. The name alone — let alone the product description, or the fact that it came from the creators of Installer.app — makes it very clear what it does.

Update: As of this moment, NetShare is back in the App Store. I just bought a license a moment ago, as did Andy Baio.

Flip Ultra vs. Creative Vado 

You know the picture quality of a camera is bad when it’s described as “not quite good enough for YouTube”.

McCain Makes Historic First Visit to Internet 

The Borowitz Report:

In a daring bid to wrench attention from his Democratic rival in the 2008 presidential race, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) today embarked on an historic first-ever visit to the Internet.

Perhaps the Name ‘Jongeorge’ Was Already Taken 

Neven Mrgan on the new Palringo multi-network IM app for the iPhone.

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