Linked List: September 2004

Windows Server Crash Nearly Causes 800-Plane Pile-Up 

Matthew Broersma, reporting for Techworld:

The failure was ultimately down to a combination of human error and a design glitch in the Windows servers brought in over the past three years to replace the radio system’s original Unix servers, according to the FAA.

The servers are timed to shut down after 49.7 days of use in order to prevent a data overload, a union official told the LA Times. To avoid this automatic shutdown, technicians are required to restart the system manually every 30 days. An improperly trained employee failed to reset the system, leading it to shut down without warning, the official said.

(Via Wilfredo Sánchez.)

Apple v. Apple 

Business Week Online’s Alex Salkever with a look at the Beatles’ lawsuit against Apple:

This time the outcome is far from a lock for Apple Corps. Make no mistake: There will be a settlement. No one benefits from pushing a case all the way through a full trial and appeals because the costs are prohibitive. But analyst predictions that the case could cost Apple Computer hundreds of millions of dollars in settlement payments, even the use of its own name on music products, are way out of line.

Secure Keyboard Entry 

Jonathan ‘Wolf’ Rentzsch examines Terminal’s “Secure Keyboard Entry” mode; includes an example app he wrote that sniffs keyboard input system-wide.

BBEdit 8.0.2 

A rare BBEdit update containing just one change: a fix for a bug when saving files via the built-in “Open From FTP/SFTP Server” command.

.Mac Storage Increased to 250 MB 

Up from 100 MB; can be split between iDisk and email.

Brent Simmons on Bloglines Web Services 

More about the syncing and bandwidth-saving.

Bloglines Web Services 

The leading online aggregator and leading desktop aggregators are working together to reduce the bandwidth consumed by RSS polling.

Preferential Treatment 

Preferential Treatment is a donation-ware app by Jonathan Nathan; it’s a simple wrapper around the plutil command linked a few items ago. Preferential Treatment is specifically designed to look for corrupt preference files; unlike the plutil tool, which can check any plist files.

(Via Brian Christiansen, via email.)

Mailsmith 2.1.4 

Small bug-fix update.


plutil is a Mac OS X command-line tool that lets you syntax-check plist files. Could be used to check for currupt preference files (as in the linked-to article at Mac OS X Hints); I’ve been using it to syntax-check my Codeless Language Modules for BBEdit. (I’d previously been using xmllint for the same purpose.)

Solarian II for Mac OS X 

Holy crap — Ben Haller has ported Solarian II (a Galaga-esqe shoot-’em-up) to Mac OS X:

Solarian II was first written about 15 years ago, and was one of the first color games for the new color Macs that came out in 1988. It ran happily for years, but Mac OS X broke it — it never ran well under Classic. We kept getting email about this, and so we’ve ported it to Mac OS X. It’s now a native Cocoa app (!), and should be good to go for another 15 years, we hope!

(Via MacBlog.)

BBEdit 8.0.1 

BBEdit 8.0.1 is out, with the usual x.0.1 assortment of bug fixes and improvements.

Interview With Camino Project Head Mike Pinkerton 

By Eric Bangeman at Ars Technica.

End Draws Near for Watson; Vaporware Java Port From Sun Lost in Vapor 

Dan Wood:

I am sad to say that it looks like Sun doesn’t seem to be focussing on getting the port of Watson released any time soon.

Of course, this wasn’t the plan. The intention when Sun acquired the Watson technology was to have a port released by this time. But as all of us are familiar with how public companies behave when pressure is put upon them by Wall Street for profitability; it seems that the release of the Watson port is not on Sun’s critical path right now.

I’m saddened by this for many reasons. First of all, I hate to see the end of Watson’s support period come in a very short while.

Differences Between Mac XML Feed Readers 

Buzz Anderson:

What really intrigues me about the aggregator marketplace right now is how different each of the major Mac players is. NetNewsWire has become a highly flexible Swiss Army Knife of an application to please the most demanding users (I heard someone compare it to BBEdit, and I think that’s apt), Safari RSS uses a fairly minimalist “RSS as browser bookmarks” design, PulpFiction adopts an email-like interface, NewsFire takes its UI cues from iChat, and Shrook models itself on iTunes. Clearly we’re still in the early stages of figuring out what the best ways to do syndication are, and the next few years, as more and more neophytes discover syndication and weblogs, should be very interesting indeed.

Sony to Support MP3, but Only in Flash-Memory Players 

CNET reports that Sony is going to start supporting MP3 audio files later this year; but with a big exception: they’re only adding MP3 support to their flash-memory-based players. I suspect it’s only a matter of time before they face reality and support it in their hard-disk-based players as well. They’re so far behind the iPod it’s embarrassing.

(Via MacBlog.)

BBAutoComplete 1.3 

Michael Tsai has released an update to his nifty freeware auto-completion tool for BBEdit (and other properly-scriptable editing apps):

BBAutoComplete 1.3 adds support for Affrus, improves support for BBEdit 8, and has more modern packaging and documentation.

BBAutoComplete is one of my login items.

Ranchero: NetNewsWire 2.0 and MarsEdit 1.0 Public Betas 

NetNewsWire 2.0 is now in public beta. Perhaps the single biggest change from 1.0 is that it no longer contains a built-in weblog editor; instead it ships with a companion standalone weblog editor named MarsEdit. MarsEdit is well done — and for what it’s worth, I didn’t like the old weblog editor built into NNW 1.0 at all. I’ve been using MarsEdit for months during private beta testing to edit Daring Fireball and the Linked List.

Stairways Software Releases Keyboard Maestro 2.0 

Michael Kamprath’s long-standing macro utility is now a $20 product from Stairways Software (makers of Interarchy):

Keyboard Maestro consists of three functions: powerful macros, program and windows switching, and clipboard switching.

Using Keyboard Maestro’s macros you can control applications, windows, or menus; insert text; open documents, applications or URLs; execute scripts; control the system, iTunes, or a PowerMate; and more, all with the touch of a key, click of the mouse, periodically or at specific times, or even when an application is launched, running or quits.

The Program Switcher lets you cycle through applications or windows, closing, hiding, launching, and more. Keyboard Maestro can help you regain control of your crowded screen by letting you close or hide multiple windows or applications, especially useful in the Finder.

The Clipboard Switcher lets you select from a number of named clipboards, storing information away for later retrieval. Store the details you are working with and access them by name again and again.

MPAA Lawyers Are Morons 

The MPAA is apparently sending out cease-and-desist orders based solely on naïve keyword matching.

(Via Daniel Bogan via AIM.)

SpamSieve 2.2.1 

Update to Michael Tsai’s amazing anti-spam utility.

SimpleBits: CSS Centering 101 

Dan Cederholm:

The following is documented in order to provide a neat and tidy way of responding to a frequently asked question here at SimpleBits:

How do I center a fixed-width layout using CSS?

Telegraphics: ICO Format Photoshop Plug-in 

Simple plug-in allows Photoshop to read and write Windows ICO icon format; useful for creating ‘favicon.ico’ files for web sites. Free software licensed under the GPL; developers ask for a $5 PayPal donation. I coughed it up.

(I just used this plug-in to open and re-save my existing favicon.ico file for Daring Fireball, and it cut the file size from 1,400+ bytes to 300+ bytes. If anyone notices that my favicon now looks hinky in their browser, let me know.)

MT PHP Dynamic Publishing: Architecture Overview 

Brad Choate’s overview of MT 3.1’s new PHP dynamic publishing architecture.

Wal-Mart Now Selling HP iPods 


Wal-Mart has begun selling the HP-branded iPod on its online store. The world’s largest retailer is currently offering the 20GB model along with a slew of iPod accessories. Wal-Mart is pricing the HP iPod from Apple below retail at US$290.86—a little less than $10 off. Wal-Mart makes it clear that the HP iPod is an online exclusive (not available in brick and mortar stores) and that the player is not compatible with the Wal-Mart online music store.

This is exactly why Apple’s deal with HP is such a big deal.

MacMinute: Apple Details iChat Security Flaw 

New security update fixes a iChat security hole.

David Pogue: A Computer With the iPod’s Bloodlines 

David Pogue reviews the iMac G5 for The New York Times:

If you couldn’t help noticing a resemblance between the two Apple products, though, you’re forgiven; Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief designer, made the new iMac look so much like his iPod design, it ought to come with white earbuds. The new desktop computer was clearly designed to send a message to the world’s four million iPod fans: “If you think our music player is great, you should check out our computers.”

Plus, he rightly calls Apple out on the iMac G5’s biggest flaw: 256 MB of RAM is simply not enough.

A9 Out of Beta 

Search war rages on.

High-tech Job Market Has Lost More Than 400,000 Jobs 

Allison Linn, Associated Press:

The nation’s information technology industry lost 403,300 jobs between March 2001, when the recession began, and April of this year, the researchers found.

Perhaps more surprising, just over half of those jobs — 206,300 — were lost after experts declared the recession over in November 2001.

Surprising to whom? These numbers just confirm what everyone already knows: the U.S. job market for nerds just keeps getting worse.

(Via Slashdot.)

Luxagraf: BBEdit 8.0 ActionScript Language Module 

A nice treat for Flash hackers from Scott Gilbertson.

2-Column Tableless CSS Layout 

Nice look at a clever CSS layout technique from Petr Stanicek. (Via Stopdesign Links.)

Phil Ringnalda: mt.cfg Dark Matter 

Phil Ringnalda on two of the many under-/non-documented configuration settings for Movable Type:


From Johan Sørensen, a free GUI Mac app inspired by webkit2png. Given the URL for a web page, it creates a PNG screenshot of the entire page, no matter how long or wide.

It’s worth noting that you can do the same thing from within OmniWeb 5, using the Save as PDF command (hold down the Option key while looking in the File menu). Gleaned from the previously-mentioned list of OmniWeb shortcuts from Jon Hicks.


Wow. Paul Hammond:

webkit2png is a command line tool that creates screenshots of webpages.


With tall or wide pages that would normally require scrolling, it takes screenshots of the whole webpage, not just the area that would be visible in a browser window.

What a great idea. It requires PyObjC, but that’s easy to install.

Nisus Writer Express 2.0 

Now with user-defined stylesheets.

Some Omniweb 5 Tricks You Might Not Know 

Jon Hicks:

This is my favourite! Pressing Enter will trigger any ‘next page’ links. When looking through search results in photo libraries, this feature is a god send.

PreFab UI Actions – Public Beta 

Scripting utility from Bill Cheeseman:

With UI Actions, you attach an AppleScript script to a native Mac OS X application. From then on, the script will be triggered automatically every time the user performs the actions you specify in the target application. A UI Action script can respond to all manner of user actions, such as opening or closing a window, selecting a menu item, editing a text field and many others.

Netflix RSS Feeds 


Cringley on the iTunes Affiliates Program 

Robert X. Cringely, on how Apple’s iTunes Affiliates program has the potential to supplant the RIAA. (The iTunes part comes after the stuff about disaster preparation and data backups; don’t skip it, that’s good, too.) Flip Flopping Blog Software 

After switching from MT to WordPress, Unsanity goes back to MT — a major reason behing comment spam management. Which goes to show how well-deserved Jay Allen’s first-place finish in the MT plug-ins contest was — MT-Blacklist is arguably more popular than any feature that’s actually built into MT.


Tantek Çelik:

LazyChat is the iChat / instant messenger equivalent of lazyweb.

In short: set your IM status to a question that you think has an obvious answer, and wait for one of your buddies to answer it, either with a chat message, or, perhaps by setting their own status.

Developing Cross-Platform Unix Applications with Mac OS X 

From Apple Developer Connection. (Via Dan Benjamin.)

Migrating to Trac 

Michael Tsai documents his experience migrating from CVSTrac to Trac (which is the Subversion equivalent to CVSTrac).

Security Update 2004-09-07 Release Notes 

Apple’s recent trend of issuing useful release notes for security updates continues. Ever since the uproar in May over vaguely-worded, PR-filtered security update documentation, Apple has been doing a great job.

Eyetrack III 

Tracking people’s eyes as they look at web pages from major news sites. (Most interesting factoid: text ads draw much more attention than graphic ads.)

(Via Jason Perkins, via iChat.)

Ecto 2 Public Beta 

Most interesting new feature: a rich text to HTML converter. In other words, WYSIWYG for weblog writing. That’s a bold feature, because I’ve never seen anyone get it right.

Jobs Back at Apple 

Dawn Kawamoto reporting for CNet

Jobs, who underwent successful surgery to remove cancer from his pancreas, is attending some company meetings and plans to return to full-time work later this month, Apple spokeswoman Katie Cotton said.

Happy Cog Redesigns Amnesty International USA 

Nice write-up from Zeldman and company on the thinking behind the design decisions.

Cornell and Napster 

Cornell has a one-year deal to provide students with free downloaded music from the new Napster — but it’s unpopular because Napster’s music doesn’t play on iPods, and over half the students with digital music players have an iPod.

(Via Nick Matsakis, via email.)

Rich Siegel on ‘Your Mac Life’ Tonight 

Talking about BBEdit 8.

The Register: iTunes Japan Hits ‘Inadequate DRM’ Hurdle 

Tony Smith in The Register reports that Japanese music labels don’t want to allow downloaded music to be burned to CD, and want the prices raised.

Link Presentation and Fitts’ Law 

Dunstan Orchard with a nice tip for making links easier to click.

iMac G5 Success Prediction 

There’s no surer sign that the iMac G5 will be a smash hit: Paul Thurrott thinks it’s “derivative and uninspiring”. Buy Apple stock now.

Mac OS X Hidden Files & Directories 

Includes Mac OS 9 invisible files, too.

Using Markdown on Windows 

Michael Sippey explains how to run on Windows.

iMac: The Missing Memory 

I agree with Dan Frakes: 256 MB of RAM is not enough. It’s penny-wise, pound-foolish for Apple to save a few bucks this way — these machines are going to be slow for anyone who doesn’t add additional memory.

Searching and Filtering 

Ben Hammersley, astute, as usual:

It’s always said that the future of intellectual development is in being able to wrangle search engines. You don’t need to teach anything, the half-idea says, other than basic Boolean notation and Advanced Googling. This has a lot to be said for it, for sure, but perhaps it can be paired with the other key life skill for the 21st Century: filtering. Without spam filters, virus filters, spyware removers, pop-up blockers, email filters, ad-blocking proxies, smart subscriptions and smart lists, life using the internet would be much more difficult.

Khoi Vinh: OmniWeb Tweaks I’d Like to See 

I like his idea for getting rid of folder icons from the favorites bar.

Report: Apple Offered Sony iTunes Deal 

So reports Paul Kallender of IDG News Service. If true, Sony made a huge mistake.

(Via MacSurfer.)

Application Upgrade Allows User To Achieve Nirvana 

Crazy Apple Rumors.


Instiki is wiki software by David Heinemeier Hansson that supports Markdown formatting syntax. Written in Ruby, installs easily on Mac OS X.

Using Markdown With MT 3.1 Dynamic Templates 

Perl-only plug-ins don’t work with MT 3.1’s new PHP-powered dynamic publishing templates. That means neither Markdown nor SmartyPants work with dynamic templates. (They work just fine with regular static templates on MT 3.1.)

Until I add official support, BP’s Weblog has instructions for using Michel Fortin’s PHP Markdown with MT 3.1 dynamic templates. (The official support will likely use his port, too.)

MSN Music Store Debuts as ‘Beta’ 

Web-based, but Windows-only. (Not terribly surprising.)

Note to web nerds: Do not view source; it will burn your eyes. Unbelievably bad markup for a brand-new site.

iTunes Affiliates 

A nickel here, a nickel there, and all of a sudden you’ll have a dime.