Linked List: December 2008

The Day the Zunes Stood Still 

Last night, between midnight and 2 am, all 30 GB Zunes in the world apparently broke.

Town Hall Meeting on the Future of Macworld Expo 

Jim Dalrymple:

IDG World Expo, organizers of the Macworld Conference & Expo, on Tuesday announced plans to hold a Town Hall Meeting at next week’s show. The Town Hall meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 7, 2009, at 5 PM PT in Moscone’s Gateway Ballroom, room 102.

Open to all attendees, the purpose of the meeting is to help shape future Macworld Expos. The company said future shows “will have a sharpened focus on the Mac community.”

‘Call Mike’ (App Store Link) 

Developer Jerry Beers has a suite of 15 $1 apps in the iTunes Store along the lines of “Call Mike” — a home screen speed dialer designed for calling someone named Mike. I.e. each of the 15 apps is hard-coded with a different first name. Don’t worry, there’s also “Call Michael”, in case Mike is too casual. No “Call John” or “Call Amy” yet, so it looks like our family is out of luck.

This is not a joke. (Thanks to DF reader Jeff Feng.)

TechCrunch Says Apple Tablet Coming in Fall 2009, Running iPhone OS 

My question is, what happened to the TechCrunch Web Tablet? Seems like Apple will be unable to compete against that wonderful device, which I’m sure will be appearing any day now.

Steve Jobs Health Speculation 

Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz reports “Steve Jobs’s Health Declining Rapidly, Reason for Macworld Cancellation”. CNBC’s Jim Goldman retorts that Jobs is fine, citing “sources inside Apple”. Goldman:

I was told two weeks ago by sources inside Apple that the decision had nothing to do with Jobs’ health. I got the same message today. Period.

I will say again: if Apple is lying, holding some truth back, manipulating its own stock by manipulating the truth, someone — indeed a lot of people — could be going to jail. Do I like the way Apple has handled this ongoing story? No. But do I traffic in rumors to fill the void the company has created by not choosing to be more forthcoming about Jobs’s health? Absolutely not.

I’d believe CNBC over Gizmodo anyway, but the quoted passage Gizmodo includes from their “source” reads like a speculative forum posting from an illiterate.

On the App Store and Free Markets 

I like Brent Simmons’s angle here:

But let’s set aside Apple’s ownership — it’s still not a free market. It’s a market that has a certain shape (with hot-lists but no demo versions), and that shape rewards very cheap apps over higher-quality, more expensive apps. It’s a guided market.

The App Store Effect 

Thought-provoking piece by Paul Kafasis on the App Store, comparing it, more or less, to Wal-Mart. (Paul makes reference to the aforelinked story regarding Snapper lawnmowers.) The important thing to remember is that most arguments, including this one, are not about black and white. They’re about shades of gray. It’s not that the App Store “sucks”, it’s that there’s something not quite right about the way it’s currently set up.

There are plenty of counter-examples showing that high-quality iPhone apps, which are priced accordingly, can thrive in the App Store. The Omni Group’s Ken Case announced last month that they’d sold 40,000 copies of OmniFocus for iPhone, a $20 app. And, in the same “productivity” category, Things for iPhone ($10) is, at this writing, #3 in the App Store bestseller list. But perhaps they’re thriving despite the App Store’s current setup, not because of it — in the same way that there are exceptions where high-quality, accordingly-priced items sell well in Wal-Mart stores, like, say, the iPhone itself.

The Man Who Said No to Wal-Mart 

Terrific story from Fast Company about how Jim Wier, then the CEO of high-end lawnmower company Snapper, went to Wal-Mart’s corporate headquarters to inform them that he was pulling Snapper’s entire product line from Wal-Mart. He concluded — correctly, it seems — that it was incompatible with Snapper’s high-quality strategy to sell their products in a store where the only important factor is price. (And it ends up when you visit with a Wal-Mart vice president, you sit in a cheap lawn chair left behind by a previous vendor.)

Software Alex Payne Paid for but No Longer Uses 

Interesting idea for a list, especially the “do I regret having paid for it?” question.

Digital Simulacrum of John Lennon Promotes XO Laptops in OLPC Ad 

Creepy as hell. See for yourself.

NYT: ‘Skaters Jump in as Foreclosures Drain the Pool’ 

Interesting NYT piece on the upside to the wave of home foreclosures in places like Fresno, CA: the empty swimming pools are attracting skateboarders from around the world.

Mobile Carriers and the SMS Gold Mine 

Randall Stross in The New York Times on the cost of text messaging:

Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin and the chairman of the Senate antitrust subcommittee, wanted to look behind the curtain. He was curious about the doubling of prices for text messages charged by the major American carriers from 2005 to 2008, during a time when the industry consolidated from six major companies to four.

So, in September, Mr. Kohl sent a letter to Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, inviting them to answer some basic questions about their text messaging costs and pricing. All four of the major carriers decided during the last three years to increase the pay-per-use price for messages to 20 cents from 10 cents.

Smells like price-fixing to me.

VHS, RIP 

John August on the death of VHS:

Still, I have almost no nostalgia for the VHS format itself. With its springs and gears, each tape was built to fail. I can’t think of another technology that seemed so inelegant even when it was new.

User Interface of the Week: BestPlay Internet Radio Tuner 

It’s the brick background that cinches it.

Streaming Satellite Radio Anywhere in Your House 

Jason Fried on using StarLightXM and and Airfoil to stream Sirius radio to AirPort Express speakers.

Evolution of Game Controllers 

Great illustration by Damien Lopez showing handheld video game controllers over the past 30 years. It’s a shame, though, that he skipped the Intellivision — I think its controllers were the forefathers of the modern D-pad. (Via Dan Benjamin.)

Mike Ash on Blocks in Objective-C 

Nice summary of Apple’s innovative new addition to C.

Yes, Virginia, Wal-Mart Is Set to Start Selling iPhones 

And, of course, the $99 4 GB model that was only going to be sold at Wal-Mart was complete bullshit made up by Boy Genius Report.

Jason Snell Reviews Frenzic 

One of my favorite iPhone games.

Rolando 

So today you unwrapped your brand-new iPhone or iPod Touch, and you’re wondering, “Which game should I buy?”

May I suggest: Rolando. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and it is very iPhone-y.

HTTP Client 0.9, Mac Developer Tool for HTTP Debugging 

New free (and open source) web developer tool by Todd Ditchendorf; lets you create, inspect, and save HTTP requests, primarily for debugging HTTP services. I’ve been wishing for something like this for years.

Textcast: The Story 

Behind the scenes look at the technology in the app, most of it Leopard-only.

Textcast 1.0 

Neato:

Textcast turns any text — documents, web pages and entire blog feeds — into personal podcasts you can listen to right on your iPod and iPhone.

The text-to-speech technology is built into Leopard; what Textcast adds is the automation framework for generating personal podcast feeds you can sync to iPods and iPhones. From Bit Maki Software, a new joint effort from Dave Dribin and Wolf Rentzsch.

Brand New: Best and Worst New Logos of 2008 

I don’t disagree with a single choice.

E-Book Banned From iPhone App Store for Obscene Content 

So M-rated games are OK but books with R-rated content are not?

The Mac Giving Tree 

My thanks to The Mac Giving Tree for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. This is the second year of their holiday-themed promotion. Sign up now and get two free apps — Pangea’s Enigmo 2 and the iTunes extender Synergy. Come back on Christmas day and get four additional, as-yet-unrevealed software gifts.

99 Cent Movie Rental of the Week: ‘Reservoir Dogs’ 

An absolute masterpiece; one of my very favorite films. And, doubling your fun, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is also a 99 cent rental this week.

‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, iPhone App Edition 

From Magnetism Studios and designer Jonathan McNicol, a $1 iPhone edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Excellent typesetting (in Adobe Jenson Pro) and very smooth interaction design, especially with regard to page-turning.

Noted for the Claim Chowder File 

Michael Robertson, former CEO of MP3.com

The iPod is dying off and in a few years it will be just a footnote in history. Hardware advances ensure mobile phones are destined to be the next generation MP3 player.

Maybe what Apple should do is make some iPods that do more than just play music.

Update: Surprise, surprise, it ends up the web site Robertson is claiming will relegate the iPod (and iTunes) to a footnote is his own creation. He certainly proved his genius with that whole MP3.com thing.

People Will Talk 

Matthew Bogosian on a curious ad for Jawbone:

I came across this advertisement in The New Yorker (Dec 22, 2008) and thought I would point out the amazing differences in post-production of the 2 images. The first image of the Indian-looking woman has scars on her face and facial blemishes. The second image of the Caucasian is heavily retouched to give her perfect skin and rosy cheeks. Hmm… What is this supposed to mean?

You can see the difference in the scans he posted, but it’s even more pronounced looking at the ad in print.

John Hodgman on Rick Warren and Etcetera 

John Hodgman:

I have confidence that, in no short order, Prop 8 will be repealed, and the gay marriage debate will look as absurd at the miscegenation debates of the 20th century do now. I have confidence this will happen not because it is merely right, or because the electorate will suddenly love gayness, but because opposition to gay marriage has no logical foundation in a civil society that is premised on equality.

That’s it exactly.

PCalc Lite for iPhone 

New in the App Store: a free, light version of James Thomson’s outstanding PCalc.

Andy Mangold’s Monopoly Repackaging 

Perfect design work by Andy Mangold:

Monopoly, in spite of being the classiest of all board games, unfortunately is packaged just as boringly and uncreatively as every other garbage board game on the shelves. So, I decided to repackage it… turning the class up to 11.

(Via Michele Seiler.)

Newsweek on Steve Jobs 

Newsweek columnist Dan “Fake Steve” Lyons wrote the Steve Jobs profile for Newsweek’s “The Global Elite” special issue. The subhead describes him as “the ailing creator of the iPhone and iPod”. Lyons has been hammering on Jobs’s health since June. Maybe the guy is in fact ill — I don’t know. But at what point has Newsweek published any evidence whatsoever that he is “ailing”?

Keep in mind that Lyons is the guy who wrote in June, “If Jobso is still running Apple at year-end, I’ll be shocked.”

Chris Breen Reviews Radioshift Touch 

Chris Breen:

Radioshift Touch performs well. Unlike WunderRadio, which has crashed several times, Radioshift Touch behaved itself in my testing. And its stability versus that of WunderRadio’s helps explain why Radioshift Touch offers far fewer streams than WunderRadio.

Rogue Amoeba’s Paul Kafasis explained that he felt the open source ffmpeg engine used by WunderRadio to stream Windows Media Audio files wasn’t reliable—it was prone to crashing and takes down any application using it. Also, its results were hit and miss—some streams play and other don’t. And, from my experience, he’s right. As I said, Radioshift Touch has proven to be more stable than WunderRadio—there are occasions when WunderRadio offers a stream that simply won’t play.

Another case of more not necessarily meaning better.

A Signature Cadence 

Rands:

Mostly, I like the authentic tone that came with Web 2.0.

Craig Hockenberry’s Instructions for Setting Up iPhone Beta Testing 

As Hockenberry says, Apple’s instructions for setting up iPhone beta testing are not well-documented. His instructions are the best reference I’ve seen.

The ePhone 

Why not save a few bucks, right?

Update: Unboxing video, and an older video that shows the software interface.

Gizmodo Reviews Prototype Intel Convertible Classmate 

Running Windows, but, oddly, Intel ripped off Apple’s icons from iPhoto, Script Editor, Final Cut Pro, and Calculator.

Lenovo to Release Dual-Screen ThinkPad 

New 11-pound, $3,600 ThinkPad with a secondary 10-inch display.

Flick Bowling (App Store Link) 

My thanks to Freeverse for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Their new iPhone game Flick Bowling is exactly what it sounds like: bowling for the iPhone. Impressive graphic quality (right down to a Christmas wreath hanging in the bowling alley), fun gameplay, and you can even customize your own bowling ball. Just $1 in the App Store.

George Oates: ‘Not Quite What I Had in Mind’ 

George Oates, on finding out she was laid off from Flickr:

Sent a quick, unsatisfying goodbye to the team. I watched as my access to various parts of the guts of Flickr fell away. I noticed how naturally I searched for any and all bits I could think of, just in the hope that it still existed. But no. I was shut out entirely within about 14 hours of the phone call.

‘Steve Jobs Didn’t Make the First Macworld, Either’ 

David Bunnell, founder of Macworld magazine, on the first Macworld Expo in 1985.

Is a Netbook a Cheap Laptop? 

Dave Winer argues no, that “netbooks” are something new. I do agree that what people are calling netbooks are more than just inexpensive — they’re small and lightweight. I think my disagreement is merely semantic, though.

The innovation isn’t that it’s a new product category. The innovation is that people are now willing to make trade-offs against performance. For the entire history of the PC industry, computers have been too slow, so trade-offs were made in favor of faster CPUs: higher prices and heavier laptops. But today, for many common tasks, the type of CPU you get when you build a $400 lightweight laptop is fast enough. That’s the breakthrough.

Weightbot 1.2 

Speaking of Tapbots, they just released version 1.2 of Weightbot, their iPhone app for tracking your weight. It’s a simple premise with an absolutely splendid user interface. I think it’s up there as one of the very nicest apps on the platform.

In fact, it might be of as much interest to iPhone UI designers as it is to anyone trying to lose weight. It doesn’t just look good, it sounds good. It feels more like a game than an app, and very much in a good way. Even the Help screen is exquisite.

The Latest App Store Cheat 

Paul Haddad from Tapbots on the latest App Store cheat: SEO-style keyword gaming in the app’s description text. Apple should just kick these developers out of the store — how can this be defended as anything other than cheating?

Update: For exhibit A, check out the app descriptions for every single app in the store by developer Andrew Borland. Each contains this exact paragraph at the end:

Customers who purchased this game also liked:
Enigmo, Bejeweled, Moto Chaser, Super Monkey Ball, Poker, Spore, Ocarina, iHunt, Guitar, Scrabble, Solitaire, Tanzen, iFish, Shazam, Loopt, Tetris, Poker, iBeer, FieldRunners, AIM, Remote, Facebook, Star Wars, Trace, Guitar Rock Tour, Flick Fishing, Touchgrind, wurdle, Night Camera, and Koi Pond.

Not only is this flagrant keyword spam (Borland’s junky-looking apps now show up in the results when you search for the names of the popular apps he lists) but it’s also phrased in a way to make it seem like the list of apps is generated by the App Store’s recommendation engine.

Apple Gets a Letter From Mom 

Tonya Engst:

You are old enough to realize that the world does not revolve around you. Macworld Expo is our family’s annual reunion. You don’t go to reunions because they are convenient, or because they are cheap. You go to reunions because you are a member of the family, and that’s what families do.

Good piece, but I’ll bet Steve Jobs doesn’t go to family reunions.

Ski Lodge 1.0 

New $5 iPhone app by David Watanabe. I don’t even ski and I want to buy it, that’s how cool it looks.

Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes 

Fabulous: Jon Ronson’s documentary Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes — “A biography of a remarkably talented man as seen though the rich collection of material he left behind” — is now available in its entirety on Google Video. I posted a few still frames from the film in July, regarding Kubrick’s collection of notebooks and stationery.

(Via Andy Baio.)

Apple Buys Stake in Mobile Graphics Chip Designer 

Apple bought a 3.6 percent stake in British chip designer Imagination Technologies, makers of the PowerVR mobile graphics line.

Big Announcements From Apple at Venues Other Than Macworld Expo 

Faruk Ateş takes issue with Andy Ihnatko’s assertion that “Every important and game-changing product Apple has introduced in the past ten years (beginning with the first iMac) started on the Tuesday morning keynote address at Macworld Expo.”

Actually, even the original iMac didn’t debut at Macworld — it was announced at a special event in May 1998 and started shipping three months later.

Andy Ihnatko on Apple and Macworld Expo 

Andy Ihnatko:

Macworld has always been a real freak on the tech-show calendar. All big trade shows are a combination the flamboyance of Burning Man, the crowds of any mall on the day after Thanksgiving, and the sensory overload of a symphony orchestra being dropped from a great height. […] But as I say, Macworld Expo is unique. It’s all that, with a few drops of Extract Of Sci-Fi Convention thrown in.

Arik Hesseldahl Asks: ‘Might Apple Be Ditching Macworld for CES?’ 

No.

Gizmodo’s Coast-to-Coast 3G Data Test 

Sprint wins for download speed, AT&T wins for upload.

How Tom Preston-Werner Turned Down $300,000 From Microsoft to Go Full-Time on GitHub 

Great story from one of the founders of GitHub.

PopPhoto Reviews the Canon EOS 5D Mark II 

Philip Ryan:

Let’s cut to the chase — the Canon EOS 5D Mark II does live up to its billing. It takes a great full-frame DSLR, the original 5D (Pop Photo’s 2005 Camera of the Year), boosts damn near everything, adds high-definition video capture, and turns in an overall performance that makes it a virtual steal (or at least as close as a steal comes in this price bracket).

Siracusa on Apple’s Expo Exit 

John Siracusa:

Though painful and jarring in the short term, these kinds of moves are a big part of what makes Apple great. While other companies are paralyzed with indecision, or cling relentlessly to what has worked in the past, or are seduced by sentimentality, Apple is busy murdering its darlings.

Apple Expo Paris Canceled 

Apple had already announced back in June that they wouldn’t be participating; the Expo couldn’t make it without them.

Bill Higgins: The Uncanny Valley of User Interface Design 

A good argument against trying to build web apps that closely resemble desktop apps. Google gets this — consider that Gmail is beloved, but MobileMe’s webmail is not. (Via Jeff Atwood.)

User Interface of the Week: SonicMood 

Our first winner from the Mac.

Google Now Serving iPhone-Optimized Search Results From MobileSafari’s Toolbar Search Field 

Remember a few weeks ago when I complained that while Google had started serving iPhone-optimized results for searches initiated via the google.com web page, they weren’t doing so for searches initiated using the MobileSafari toolbar search field? Well, now they are.

Jason Snell on Apple and Macworld Expo 

Snell’s is the best piece I’ve seen on today’s news:

I’m stunned that Apple has taken a 25-year-old event that has been the single best meeting place for the entire community of users and vendors of Apple-related products and treated it like a piece of garbage stuck to the bottom of its shoe. But I’m not really surprised: Apple has been leading up to this moment for a long time now.

The timing of the announcement stinks. It’s three weeks before the Expo keynote, and now Apple has decided to announced its plans not just for the keynote, but for the 2010 show? Why now?

Why Is Steve Jobs Skipping Macworld? 

Time’s Josh Quittner on today’s Expo news:

Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, deflected any questions about Jobs’ health. When asked if Jobs canceled because of illness, Dowling said, “Phil is giving the keynote because this is Apple’s last year in the show, and it doesn’t make sense for us to make a major investment in a trade show we will no longer be attending.” Asked again about Jobs’ health, Dowling gave a similar answer, never using the word Jobs or anything related to his condition.

I do not think today’s news is related to Jobs’s health (and, via email, Quittner quotes me as saying so in the article). But, that said, the timing of this announcement is just weird. Update: Maybe weird isn’t the right word. Spiteful might be better.

The End of an Era for Macworld Expo 

Nice piece by Rob Griffiths on how today’s announcements herald the end of an era:

As a business person, I think I completely understand Apple’s decision — not being tied to a huge annual event, occurring just after the Christmas buying season, is a good thing. Not spending a small fortune on everything involved in participating in a huge trade show is a good thing. Having more flexibility in releasing products whenever you want to is a good thing. Not having to come up with One More Thing every year is a good thing. So really, I get it; it makes perfect business sense. As an individual and Mac enthusiast, though, I think it’s one of the worst things to happen to the Mac community in many years.

Paul Kent on Apple’s Exit From Macworld Expo 

Paul Kent, vice president and general manager of IDG World Expo:

Macworld Conference & Expo has thrived for 25 years due to the strong support of tens of thousands of people in the Mac community worldwide who use Macworld as a way to find great products, partake in professional development training and cultivate their personal and professional networks.

We are committed to serve their interests at the Moscone Center, January 4-8, 2010.

Jim Goldman: ‘Steve Jobs Is Fine. It’s Macworld the Expo That’s on Its Last Legs.’ 

CNBC’s Jim Goldman:

I can tell you that sources inside the company tell me that Jobs’s decision was more about politics than his pancreas. Sources tell me that if Jobs for some reason was unable to perform any of his responsibilities as CEO because of health reasons, which would include the Macworld keynote, I should “rest assured that the board would let me know.”

If the only news were that Schiller was subbing for Jobs as keynote speaker this year, I’d be more willing to entertain rumors of Jobs being sick. But announcing that they’re done with Macworld Expo, period, full stop? That’s not something Apple would do just because Steve Jobs wasn’t up to it this year.

E3 Video Game Trade Show Shrinks, Too 

Dan Ackerman, reporting for Reuters back in 2007:

When the annual trade show once known simply as E3 kicks off this week, attendees will discover a distinctly downsized event.

The video game industry’s premier trade show has been scaled down considerably after years of an escalating arms race of ever-larger booths, expensive parties and legions of game fans hoping to skirt the Electronic Entertainment Expo’s notoriously lenient “trade only” attendance policy.

It’s not just Macworld Expo.

Apple Announces Last Year of Christmas 

“Apple has been steadily scaling back on holidays in recent years, including Valentine’s Day, Columbus Day, President’s Day and Grandparents Day in Japan.” (Via Jacqui Cheng.)

From the DF Archives: Exposed 

This isn’t the first time Apple has stopped participating in an annual event called “Macworld Expo”. For those of you new to scene, traditionally there were two Macworld Expos — San Francisco in January and an east coast show in Boston (or, for a handful of years, New York) in July. Here’s what I wrote in October 2002, when Apple decided to stop participating in the summer show:

So, to sum it up, the twice-yearly Expos (1) cost Apple millions of dollars; (2) put a lot of pressure on the company to make major product announcements on the Expos’ schedule, not when the products are actually ready; (3) are not under Apple’s direct control.

Daring Fireball was two months old at the time. And:

A Macworld Expo without Apple is like an airport without any airlines. The duty-free shop isn’t going to keep the lights turned on.

Newsweek Story on App Store Smash Hits 

Dan Lyons, reporting for Newsweek:

“It’s kind of a gold rush,” says Brian Greenstone, who runs a tiny outfit (it’s just him and a few freelancers) called Pangea Software in Austin, Texas, that has created several hit games for the iPhone, including Cro-Mag Rally and Enigmo. Greenstone, 41, has been writing games for Apple’s computers for 21 years. But he says he’s never seen anything like the iPhone apps phenomenon, which this year will deliver $5 million in revenue for him. “It’s crazy. It’s like lottery money. In the last four and a half months we’ve made as much money off the retail sales of iPhone apps as we’ve made with retail sales of all of the apps that we’ve made in the past 21 years—combined.” Business is so good that Greenstone won’t even bother writing for the Mac anymore.

Apple Announces Its Last Year at Macworld Expo; Schiller to Deliver Keynote 

Bombshell:

Apple today announced that this year is the last year the company will exhibit at Macworld Expo. Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, will deliver the opening keynote for this year’s Macworld Conference & Expo, and it will be Apple’s last keynote at the show. The keynote address will be held at Moscone West on Tuesday, January 6, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. Macworld will be held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center January 5-9, 2009.

Wow. So much for bullshit netbook speculation being the topic of the day.

2001: A Space Odyssey, the Chicken Cordon Bleu Danube Cut 

Sacrilegious, but I couldn’t turn away.

On Leaky Abstractions and Objective-J 

Francisco Tomalsky on the thinking behind Objective-J. Its relationship to JavaScript is very much the same as that of Objective-C to C — a strict superset.

Paul Thurrott on the State of Windows Mobile 

Paul Thurrott:

As I noted previously, I did meet with Windows Mobile this week. They’re good people, smart people, and they seem to understand the issues. They also seem to value the business market more than the consumer market, but that might only be because that’s what they pretty much offer at this point. I will be writing more formally about Windows Mobile by the end of the year, but I wanted to at least mention one thing I found vaguely alarming. When asked about the success of the iPhone and how that impacts Windows Mobile, I was told that the iPhone “validated” Microsoft’s approach. That’s some weird combination of revisionism, wishful thinking and, perhaps, delusion.

It could well be that this “the iPhone validates our approach” thing is just bullshit doublespeak — that the Windows Mobile team knows full well just how bad a position they’re in at this point but they can’t bring themselves, or are not permitted to, admit it publicly.

But if that’s truly the mindset of those leading Microsoft’s Windows Mobile team, that’s delusion, and they’re pretty much dead. Microsoft’s response to the original Macintosh, Windows 1.0, appeared by the end of 1985. Their response to the iPhone is nowhere to be seen.

The Morning News Annual 2008 

The best pieces from The Morning News in 2008, collected in a handsome 200-page volume.

MobileMe Service Updates 

Perhaps the biggest change with 10.5.6 is with regard to the periodicity of MobileMe syncing:

Contacts, calendars, and bookmarks on a Mac sync automatically within a minute of the change being made on the computer, another device, or the web at www.me.com; Mac OS X 10.5.6 is required.

Undrln 

Sort of like Digg or Reddit but for advertising and graphic design.

Tweetie 1.1 

Speaking of Tweetie, version 1.1 is out. It now supports a custom ‘tweetie:’ URL scheme:

If you’re in Safari and want to post a link, just tap on the URL field and type the text “tweetie:” (without the quotes) before the URL. So for example if you’re at http://google.com, change it to tweetie:http://google.com. When you hit “Go”, Tweetie will launch, automatically shrink the link using bit.ly and bring up a new compose view so you can type a message and post it to Twitter.

There are instructions for creating a bookmarklet to automate this here, but it’s a lot easier to just create the bookmarklet in Safari on your Mac and then sync it to your iPhone.

BBEdit 9.1 

There’s lots new in 9.1, including major improvements to the built-in FTP/SFTP features, but the most notable change is this:

BBEdit now includes a copy of Consolas Regular, an excellent antialiased code editing font. This font is licensed from Ascender Corporation for use only with BBEdit. […]

The factory default font is now Consolas-12. If you never chose a default font before, your documents may now display in Consolas-12. If this is not to your liking, adjust the display font accordingly in the “Editor Defaults” preferences.

Notable because (a) Consolas is my favorite anti-aliased coding font, by far; and (b) the previous default font, Monaco 9, remained unchanged dating all the way back to BBEdit’s public debut in April 1992.

(Preemptively answering the inevitable question: I use Monaco 10 for text documents, but Consolas 12 for shell worksheets.)

Taiwan iPhone 3Gs Are SIM Unlocked Out-of-the-Box 

Joining those from Hong Kong.

Fast Scrolling in Tweetie With UITableView 

Loren Brichter, author of Tweetie:

Cutting to the chase, here’s the secret: One custom view per table cell, and do your own drawing. Sounds simple? That’s because it is. It’s actually simpler than dealing with a ton of subviews of labels and images, and it’s about a bzillion times faster (according to my informal tests).

Includes example code.

Lawrence Lessig: ‘The Made-Up Dramas of the Wall Street Journal’ 

Lawrence Lessig on a story in today’s Wall Street Journal that misrepresents Lessig’s own views on net neutrality.

Scott Rosenberg:

The Google Blog Search results have generally been the fastest and most useful tool of this kind (Google displaced Technorati, which had long served in this role, some time ago). But a couple of months ago Google Blog Search started becoming pretty much useless. Instead of only reporting links from the “main” blog content, it reported all links on a blog page, including the so-called “sidebar” or blogroll, where many bloggers place a lengthy static list of blogs they read. So this means that, for instance, every time JD Lasica adds a new post to his blog at Social Media, which includes Wordyard in its blogroll, I get a new listing in the Google Blog Search for Wordyard, even though the post has nothing to do with Wordyard.

I noticed this immediately. Google Blog Search went from being incredibly useful to utterly useless for me. Google Blog Search results for links to daringfireball.net now include every single update from any site that links to the Markdown Syntax documentation, for example.

Mac OS X 10.5.6 Update 

Various bug fixes.

Palm’s Next-Generation OS, Nova, to Debut at CES 

I hope it’s great. I bet it’s not.

Backblaze 

Joe Kissell on the now-in-beta Mac version of Backblaze, an online backup service that’s been available on Windows since September.

Seadragon Mobile 

The first iPhone app from Microsoft: a free mobile version of Seadragon, their gigapixel image browsing and zooming system. Works great, very fun, and makes good use of the iPhone’s touch gestures. I especially like the “Running the Numbers” piece.

iPods Dominating Amazon’s MP3 Bestseller List 

Remember a few years ago, when the conventional wisdom held that lower-priced knockoffs were poised to swoop in and that Apple’s domination of the MP3 player market was sure to soon end? Well, it hasn’t happened yet. Right now, iPods occupy 21 of the top 25 spots on Amazon’s MP3 player bestseller list, including spots 1 through 17. The only non-iPod on the list that costs more than $70 is the black 120 GB Zune ($240), at #18. (Amazon recompiles the list hourly, so it might look different by the time you read this.)

Also worth noting: the iPod Touch occupies the top two spots on the list, for the 8 and 16 GB models respectively. The $399 32 GB Touch is at #6 (but Amazon sells it for $370). I doubt that means the Touch is outselling the Nano overall, because the Nano lineup is broken up between 18 different models (nine colors in two capacities), but it’s further evidence that the iPod Touch is growing into a smash hit product. The iPhone OS market is a lot larger than the number of iPhones sold.

Apple Wrongly Rejects iPhone App for Use of Private APIs 

After waiting 33 days to hear from Apple after submitting their app Peeps to the App Store, Plausible Labs found out the app had been rejected. Here’s what Apple told them in the rejection notice:

Upon review of your application, Peeps cannot be posted to the App Store due to the usage of a non-public API. Usage of non-public APIs, as outlined in the iPhone SDK Agreement section 3.3.1, is prohibited:

“3.3.1 Applications may only use Published APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any unpublished or private APIs. “

The non-public API that is included in your application comes from the CoverFlow API set.

The problem? According to developer Landon Fuller, they didn’t use any private APIs — they created their own Cover Flow implementation using the public APIs.

So, Google can publicly admit that their iPhone app uses private APIs and that’s OK, but a small indie developer gets rejected for cleanly creating a feature that looks like Cover Flow.

Pastebud Privacy Bugs 

Pastebud is a new solution for the lack of copy and paste on the iPhone. To get around the lack of centralized shared application storage space on the iPhone, it’s a server side storage system. It works in MobileSafari via bookmarklets, and “works” in MobileMail by asking you to forward messages from which you want to copy to Pastebud, which then turns the email into a web page you can select text from. Sounds (a) convoluted, and (b) like a potential privacy problem, right?

The privacy problem is apparently a disaster: Harry McCracken reports that his clipboard data contains the contents of text copied by other users, including complete copies of random Pastebud users’ email.

‘Pull My Finger’, iPhone Fart Joke App, Now in App Store 

Developer Sam Magdalein:

The very kind Apple Team Member told me that they didn’t want to reject it originally, but that they were sorting out how this “genre” of apps were going to be handled. She told me they’d be lifting the restriction on them, and more apps will follow that may have been previously not allowed.

Classics for iPhone and iPod Touch (App Store Link) 

My thanks to Classics for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Classics is a book reading app for the iPhone and iPod Touch, with content from classic public domain books such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Time Machine, and more. As time goes on, they’re adding additional titles via free software updates. The UI is exquisitely crafted; paper actually curls when you swipe to turn pages, each book has a custom-designed cover, and the content of the books are formatted specifically for the iPhone screen.

Screenshots and animated examples from the UI are available at the Classics web site. It’s available in the App Store for just $1.

What Happens When You Drop a New MacBook Pro on Asphalt? 

Do not try this at home, kids.

Flickr Hit by Yahoo Layoffs 

Laying off talented web designers seems like the worst possible strategy for Yahoo.

Update: Good point from the Macalope.

Peter Cooper on the Popularity of 99 Cent iPhone Apps 

Interesting data, but the presentation is atrocious — grouping all apps that cost more than 99 cents together spoils the whole thing.

Update: Now includes a better graph at the bottom, where the Y axis correlates to price.

Deck Ads in FeedDemon 

Interesting discussion in the comments.

Killer App Store 

USA Today’s Ed Baig calls the iTunes App Store the iPhone’s killer app. Hard to disagree, and I think iPod Touch sales reflect this — my sources indicate the Touches are selling nearly as well as the Nanos this year, despite being much more expensive.

The Forgotten Sidekick 

Aaron Swartz thinks the Danger Sidekick deserves more credit than it gets.

Browser CPU Usage 

Brent Simmons:

The thing is, web developers should test their pages for CPU usage the same as app developers do. And anytime a page is idle, CPU usage should be at 0%. Same as with any other app.

Hallelujah.

Stephen Fry on the State of the Mobile Industry 

Stephen Fry, in a wonderfully rambling essay:

Apple have shown that there is a huge demand for exciting, innovative, lovable and imaginative consumer devices. All the rivals have to do is to … is to what? To produce cut price lookalikes or truly to pioneer and innovate? Well, the latter is what they should do, but the former is what most of them will do of course, because these dumb firms never ever learn. They are afraid to be good. They will blame stockholders, consumers, anyone but themselves.

Don’t you sometimes long to be CEO of a company like Sony Ericsson, Samsung, Nokia or Microsoft? So that you can say to your coders, your designers, your development teams and your software architects: “Not Fucking Good Enough. I haven’t said ‘Wow’ yet. I haven’t gasped with pleasure, amusement or admiration once. Start again. Not Fucking Good Enough.”

Obama Nominates Nobel Physicist for Energy Secretary 

World-renowned scientist rather than oil company shill? Change.

Another List of iPhone Shortcuts 

From Jeff Richardson’s new site, iPhone J.D. (Via TechnoLawyer.)

Gmail Adds SMS Text Messaging 

You’ve been able to do this from AIM for years, and it comes in handy.

10 Useful iPhone Tips & Tricks 

Good list of tips and non-obvious features.

Google Zeitgeist 2008 

Number one is not surprising.

Software Updates for New MacBooks 

“Improves stability.”

TV Has License to Kill Movies at iTunes, Netflix 

This is the sort of stupidity that drives even those who want to be honest customers toward bootlegging.

The Yankee Group on Apple and the Enterprise 

Macs are increasingly welcome in corporate IT. I don’t know if the trend is toward the Mac so much as away from Windows.

Classic Photos From Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade 

Gorgeous. Apparently from the 1940s and early 60s.

More Time, Shorter Letter 

Great list of quotes that fit right in with my current theme regarding UI design.

The Macalope on the Latest Jackassery From Rob Enderle 

I agree with The Macalope that Enderle is willfully obtuse, but I also think he (Enderle) is just plain dumb. That’s Enderle’s secret sauce: he says some things he knows aren’t true just to get attention, but he’s wrong about everything else, too.

Enderle’s premise is that Apple’s new MacBook lineup is too expensive and they’re not going to sell well and it’s going to put the company in financial trouble because would-be MacBook buyers are going to buy cheap laptops from Dell instead.

It’s only going to take a few weeks for us to get Apple’s results from this quarter, at which point we’ll find out that the new MacBooks are selling like hotcakes.

Google Book Search Now Includes Magazines 

Great idea, but the magazines should have done this themselves years ago, no?

Ring Tone Apps 

Craig Hockenberry on the economic dilemma facing large-scale iPhone apps: set the price high enough and your app won’t make the best-seller list, and if you don’t make the best-seller list too few people will see the app.

What Apple could do is weight the best-seller list by revenue rather than unit sales. That way a $10 app with 1,000 sales could get ahead of a $1 app that sells 5,000.

MacFUSE 2.0 

Lots new in Google’s open source userspace file system framework.

Sony Laying Off 16,000 Employees 

8,000 full-time, 8,000 part-time. Jiminy.

Twitter Etiquette 

Margaret Mason:

Everyone agrees that members of the other group are total jackasses who don’t know how to use Twitter.

Keyboard Maestro 3.5 

Remote control your Mac from your iPhone using Keyboard Maestro’s new iPhone companion program. I’ve been beta testing it — works like a charm.

Gmail Tasks 

Lightweight to-do lists added to Gmail.

Broadcom Launches 802.11n Chip for Cell Phones 

The best part about an iPhone with 802.11n wouldn’t be the speed — it would be that I could switch my home network to n-only, rather than g/n dual band.

Android Devices for Developers 

No-contract, SIM-unlocked G1 for $399, intended for use by developers. So would this just work if you pop in the SIM from an iPhone 3G on AT&T?

Update: Readers say yes, it should work. The scenario I’m envisioning is that iPhone developers who are curious about Android would be far more likely to spend $400 once than to sign up for a two-year contract they’re only planning to use for development and testing. I’d still like to see a $250 non-phone Android device like the iPod Touch, though.

NBC Expected to Give 10 P.M. Show to Jay Leno 

Bill Carter, reporting for The New York Times:

NBC is expected to announce Tuesday that it has signed its late-night star Jay Leno to a new contract that will keep him at the network in a new format that will give him the 10 p.m. time period each weeknight for a show similar to the one he has done on NBC’s “Tonight Show” show since 1993.

Effectively, NBC is getting out of the game of providing traditional network programming at 10 P.M., and instead expanding its late night lineup by an extra hour. It seemed inevitable that they’d do something to keep Leno, but I didn’t expect this.

Bloomberg: Wal-Mart to Sell iPhones Later This Month 

No word on pricing, but they quote often-wrong analyst Shaw Wu endorsing the “$99 4 GB iPhone only at Wal-Mart” rumor that Boy Genius Report published last week.

That seems unlikely to me. iPhone and iPod storage capacities tend to go up, not down, over time. Apple hasn’t sold 4 GB iPhones since last summer. And the difference in terms of component costs between 8 and 4 GB of flash memory is not $100 — Apple would make less profit on each one sold. My guess is that Wal-Mart will be selling the same 8 and 16 GB iPhones as everyone else, but for like $197/297 instead of $199/299.

New Google AdWords Options for iPhone and G1 

Google is treating the iPhone and Android phones more like real computers (or, from their perspective, real ad targets), and less like “mobile” devices.

Photographs of Old Computers 

Beautiful machines.

Flip Off: Ultra vs. Mino HD 

Beau Colburn compares the Flip Ultra and Mino HD side-by-side, regarding field-of-view and white balance. The Ultra has a significantly wider lens — this not only helps with framing in close quarters, but also helps minimize the effects of camera shake with hand-held footage.

Some App Store Answers 

Good overview from Paul Kafasis.

User Interface of the Week 

It’s cool because the “virtual keyboard” has a transparent background.

How They Shot ‘The Godfather’ 

Mario Puzo on the making of The Godfather, with fabulous behind-the-scenes photographs from Taschen’s new $700 book, The Godfather Family Album. Apparently Frank Sinatra wasn’t too fond of the Johnny Fontane character.

The Merlin Mann Amazon Store 

My friend Merlin Mann has opened his own Amazon storefront, with the simplicity dial turned to 11. And he’s taken it to a new level by starting a separate weblog dedicated solely to his Amazon store.

In an attempt to keep pace, I’ve added this new category to DF Paraphernalia.

LaunchBar 5 Beta 

I generally shy away from linking to public betas, but man, there is some cool-ass shit in LaunchBar 5.

Not My Gorilla 

Developer Jamis Buck, on why he’s no longer concerned about Windows compatibility for Capistrano, his remote server automation tool:

Something has to give. In this case (and among other things), it’s Windows. Microsoft may be an 800 lb. gorilla, but it’s not my gorilla, and it’s not in my room. If you need to appease the gorilla, that is (with all due respect) not my problem.

This was in response to a message that concluded with, “I am no fan of Microsoft, but, like it or not, they are the 800 lb. gorilla in the room.”

Similarly, I no longer concern myself with how Daring Fireball renders in Internet Explorer. It’s easier for me to ignore IE because the DF audience predominantly uses Safari, Firefox, and MobileSafari (roughly 53, 25, and 8 percent, respectively, with IE coming in around 4 percent). I have no idea whether the DF Paraphernalia store is even legible under IE, because I didn’t even bother to check. It almost certainly doesn’t look “right”. I crafted the CSS using Safari, then checked it in Firefox, and I called it done.

There are a lot of people who’d be a lot happier if they stopped worrying about other people’s 800 pound gorillas.

Let’s Talk About Python 3.0 

Thoughtful essay by James Bennett in support of Python 3.0. Love the opening.

The Simpsons: ‘MyPods and Boomsticks’ 

Not sure how I made it through the week without linking to it, but here’s last week’s Simpsons episode, a big portion of which is a parody of Apple, Apple’s retail stores, and Steve Jobs. (Because it’s Hulu, the link only works in the U.S., alas.)

The App Cubby Icon Saga 

The iterative design process behind App Cubby’s brand identity.

Hotwire.com 

So Hotwire is more or less a direct competitor to Priceline — you book hotels, airfare, etc. at discount rates. I’d never used it before, but on the recommendation of a few friends, I used it to book a room for next month’s Macworld Expo, and scored a great room at a crazy low rate.

The only catch with Hotwire is that you don’t find out exactly which hotel you’re booking until after you pay, but they do offer star ratings and tell you the hotel’s distance from an arbitrary starting point. Right now, if you enter the Moscone Center (“747 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103”), there are two “4-star” hotels at $109/night and a “4.5-star” at $169, all within easy walking distance.

This is, I believe, the first frugal traveler tip ever to appear on Daring Fireball.

Star Wars: A New Heap (Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Death Star) 

Terrific essay by John Powers on the design and art direction for Star Wars:

A flying saucer had never been a slum before. The immaculate silver sheen of the saucer was reinvented as a dingy Dumpster full of boiler parts, dirty dishes, and decomposing upholstery. Lucas’s visual program not only captured the stark utopian logic that girded modern urban planning, it surpassed it. The Millennium Falcon resisted the modernist demand for purity and separation, pushing into the eclecticism of the minimalist expanded field. Its tangled bastard asymmetry made it a truer dream ship than any of its purebred predecessors. It is the first flying saucer imagined as architecture without architects.

The Millennium Falcon is my single favorite bit of art direction ever. Nothing so fantastic has ever seemed so utterly real. (Via Kottke.)

Apple: 300 Million iPhone Apps Downloaded 

That’s a big number — not too far away from 100 million per month. I’d love to know how many are for paid apps, though.

Belkin Drops Out of Macworld Expo 

This follows the news from earlier this week that Adobe dropped out. In trade show terms, dropping out now is dropping out at the last minute. Big companies like Adobe and Belkin surely had most, if not all, of their promotional materials prepared already.

How Alex Payne Uses TextMate 

I love pieces like this — experts writing about how they use their tools — even when they’re about apps I don’t personally use.

Python 3.0: What’s the Point? 

Jens Alfke questions whether the benefits of Python 3’s improvements outweigh the costs. Not a flame — just honest questions.

Defaults Preference to Show Full Path in Finder Window Title Bars 

Neat trick.

Sound Studio 3 

My thanks for Freeverse for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Sound Studio 3, their outstanding audio editing and recording app. Sound Studio is one of those apps that makes the easy things easy and the hard things possible. Sound Studio offers everything from levels and EQ adjustment to extensive AppleScript support.

I’ve used Sound Studio to record every episode of The Talk Show, and couldn’t be happier with it. Through December 8, use coupon code “FIREBALL” and save 20 percent.

SlideShare Now Supports Keynote Files 

All you need to do is zip the Keynote document bundle before uploading.

Google Apps Now Get ‘Labs’ Features 

Dan Benjamin reports that Google Labs features are now appearing in most Google Apps accounts.

Google Reader Redesign 

I don’t use Google Reader, but I know from my server logs that a slew of you do.

‘The Incredible Convenience of Mathematica Image Processing’ 

Mind-bending programmatic image manipulation. Just drag images directly into the source code to use them as input.

Reader Reaction to Pogue’s BlackBerry Storm Review 

Speaking of the BlackBerry Storm, David Pogue offers a glimpse at some of the feedback he got regarding his scathing review.

From Apple to RIM, With Love 

Jeff Ventura on the BlackBerry Storm:

The BlackBerry Storm, in my opinion, is a wonderful illustration of how Apple’s innovation and market appeal can force a smart company like RIM to invest millions of dollars in a product that’s way outside its core competency. You don’t see Apple trying to create a full-on enterprise/e-mail device, do you?

Python 3.0 

Major new version of the Python programming language. Here’s what’s new. Not sure why I ever wrote this, frankly.

Workaround for a Ducking iPhone Annoyance 

Works like a fucking charm. Great tip.

Flickr Videos Now Play on iPhones and iPods 

Fantastic news from Flickr:

First, the sexy part — you can now view Flickr videos on your mobile phone! Videos uploaded by members will be immediately viewable through our mobile site, thanks to our friends in the Yahoo! Video Platform group. As of today this particular feature is available to iPhone and iPod Touch users only, but we expect to rapidly expand the number of devices that we support.

Right now it only works for clips that were uploaded today, but eventually they should catch up with all the video that’s been uploaded to Flickr. Here’s an example I uploaded earlier today (and the non-mobile Flickr page for the same clip).

Nokia’s ‘Ovi’ Service 

The Economist on Nokia’s drive to become a major service provider for maps and email.

Adobe Laying Off 600 Employees 

Brandon Bailey, reporting for The San Jose Mercury News:

On the heels of other tech company layoffs, Adobe Systems said Wednesday that it will cut 600 jobs — or about 8 percent of its workforce — because of the global economic downturn and slow demand for one of its flagship software products.

Gartner: iPhone OS Moves Past Windows Mobile in Worldwide Market Share 

MacDailyNews has numbers from a Gartner report on worldwide smart phone market share. The OS numbers are interesting: Symbian at 50%, RIM at 16%, iPhone OS at 13%, and Windows Mobile at 11%. But it’s the year-over-year growth where you can see who has actual momentum: Symbian is down 12% and Windows Mobile is down 3%; RIM is up 82% and iPhone OS is up a staggering 328%.

Now seems a good time to recall Steve Ballmer’s prediction regarding the iPhone’s prospects back in April 2007.

Macworld’s 24th Annual Editors’ Choice Awards, a.k.a. The Eddys 

A worthy list of winners, including Hulu, the Kodak Zi6 pocket camcorder, VMware Fusion 2.0, Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil 3.1, BusySync 2.1, CSSEdit 2.6, Lightroom 2, and more. (But Flock? That’s a head-scratcher.)

Real Advice Hurts 

Merlin Mann:

We can’t get good at something solely by reading about it.

Fray Issue 2 

This issue’s theme: “Geek — True Stories of People Taking Things Too Seriously”. Free online, but even better in print.

How Helvetica Took Over the NYC Subway 

Jennifer 8. Lee takes a typographic tour of the New York subway system with Paul Shaw, author of the encyclopedic “The (Mostly) True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway” for AIGA last month.

(As a publishing nerd “future of the newspaper industry” side note, it’s worth noting that Lee’s piece runs about 1500 words but I think it’s online-only, appearing only in the Times’s City Room weblog and not in print. The prose is also hyperlink-heavy — much context would be lost if it ran in print without the links.)

Apple Removes Poorly-Worded Anti-Virus Support Page 

Jim Dalrymple:

A support page on Apple’s Web site recommending users purchase antivirus software for their Macs received a lot of attention over the past couple of days, but on Tuesday Apple removed the page from its Web site.

“We have removed the KnowledgeBase article because it was old and inaccurate,” Apple spokesman Bill Evans, told Macworld. “The Mac is designed with built-in technologies that provide protection against malicious software and security threats right out of the box.”

The support document in question read, “Apple encourages the widespread use of multiple anti-virus utilities so that virus programmers have more than one application to circumvent, thus making the whole virus writing process more difficult.” Yes, that could be interpreted as meaning they recommend that Mac users install multiple anti-virus packages. No, that is not what they meant.

The Coming Credit Card Debacle 

Joe Nocera publishes a letter from a banking executive describing the insanity of the U.S. credit card industry.

Notes From Adobe Installer Management 

The first step to fixing any problem is acknowledging it. This is a remarkably honest look at the state of Adobe’s installers from the people responsible for them. (How can you not love an article that describes John C. Welch as “colorful and not very shy”?)

Wouldn’t it be great if there were someone at Apple writing a weblog like John Nack’s?

Vlingo 

New free voice recognition app for the iPhone. (It’s been available for the BlackBerry for a while.) Lets you do things like voice dialing, web searches, and dictating updates to Facebook and Twitter.

It’s inevitably going to be compared to Google Mobile. Accuracy-wise, it seems to be as good or better. And with the Twitter/Facebook updates and voice dialing, Vlingo does more. Google Mobile has the “just lift to your ear and talk” feature, and Vlingo doesn’t, but given that Google implemented that by using undocumented APIs, it seems unfair to hold it against Vlingo.

Amazon Mobile for iPhone 

Official Amazon iPhone app, available now as a free download from the App Store. In addition to shopping, it has an interesting “Remembers” feature: snap a picture with your iPhone, and it gets saved to your Amazon account. Plus, Amazon sends the image to a team of humans to identify what it is and offer links to similar items for sale at Amazon. (I presume it’s powered by Mechanical Turk.) And, yes, it seems safe to presume this is why Amazon rejected Mazo.

Weird web-design note: Nearly the entire web page, including text, is made of JPEG images. I guess that’s one way to make pages that display properly in IE.

Update: Via Andy Baio, proof that it’s Turk-powered. Also worth mentioning SnapTell, an app Andy showed me a few weeks ago that does the image-recognition trick for any book, game, or DVD.

Apple Tells Court It Believes Someone Is Behind Psystar; Adds New Claims, Including DMCA Violation 

Groklaw on the latest in Apple’s legal battle against would-be Mac cloner Psystar.

App Store Now Supports ‘Promotional’ Licenses 

Arnold Kim:

Apple has finally started allowing developers to issue free promotional copies of their iPhone applications. Once an application has been accepted to the App Store by Apple, developers can issue up to 50 promotional codes. The codes allow the recipient to download a full copy of the application for free.

Price and Popularity in the App Store 

Interesting analysis from Mobile Orchard, multiplying App Store popularity (in terms of downloads) by price, to get a rough measure of who’s actually making the most money.

How to Answer the Phone 

Seth Godin:

The only reason to answer the phone when a customer calls is to make the customer happy.

If you’re not doing this or you are unable to do this, do not answer the phone. There is no middle ground on this discussion. There are no half measures. Saving 50 cents a call with a complicated phone tree is a false savings. Think of all the money you’ll save if you just stop answering altogether. Think of all the money you’ll make if you just make people happy.

The Grid System 

Antonio Carusone:

The Grid System is an ever-growing resource where graphic designers can learn about grid systems, the golden ratio and baseline grids.

Lovely.

Magic/Replace 

Very impressive spreadsheet “data cleanup” tool. Check out the demo to see just how cool it is. (Via Andy Baio.)

Google Calendar Now Supports iCal 

Google Calendar’s CalDAV support is out of beta. What would make this really great would be for the iPhone to support CalDAV directly.

Six Apart Buys, Shuts Down Pownce 

Seemed like a potential rival to Twitter at first, but never took off.

Klicko 1.0 

New (freeware, donations accepted) utility from Rainer Brockerhoff that disables click-through system-wide. Lets you enable click-through by holding any modifier key while you click, and lets you configure an exception list of apps where click-through is enabled. (If you don’t know what click-through is, my 2003 “The Problems With Click-Through” piece describes it.)

I’m giving Klicko a try, but I’ve lived with Mac OS X’s inconsistent click-through policies for so long now that my resistance has been worn away.

America’s Other Auto Industry 

The Wall Street Journal on the industry for U.S.-manufactured cars from companies other than Detroit’s Big Three.

‘How Bad Is Bad?’ 

Chris Fahey nobly attempts to defend the UI design of Bulk Rename Utility:

So if it’s not the number of features that’s bad, let’s focus on the UI itself. The signature quality of this design is that every single feature is shown on one page. There are no layers of dialog boxes, no multistep wizards. The fields are numbered, too, which seems to suggest the order the transformations are processed. The entire transformation is right there for the user to see, no surprises. What’s more, showing all the possible transformations on this one screen educates the user on what the application can actually do: No poking around through menus and manuals to find out what this app is capable of. It’s all right there.

Exposing all functionality on one screen can be useful in some cases, but once a certain level of complexity is reached, it’s no longer a reasonable idea. Bulk Rename Utility is well past that level of complexity. If your UI even vaguely resembles an airplane cockpit, you’re doing it wrong.

Put another way, it’s a worthy goal to reduce the complexity of software to the point where it can be cleanly exposed on a single screen. That’s very different than cramming any arbitrary amount of complexity into a single screen.

A Better Finder Rename 8 

Another example of a reasonably-designed file renaming utility. There’s even a Windows version.

Name Mangler 2.0 

In the wake of yesterday’s User Interface of the Week winner, several readers asked for recommendations for a Mac file renaming utility with a good UI. Many Tricks’ Name Mangler is a good one. Donationware.

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