Linked List: January 2008

Windows Vista Help: Opening the Windows Vista box 

Even the packaging suffers from poor usability. Jiminy. (Via Rands.)

Myths About Helvetica and Mac OS X 10.5 

Ralf Herrmann straightens out some of the confusion that has resulted for design professionals regarding Helvetica and Mac OS X 10.5. In previous versions of Mac OS X, you could disable or delete the system’s default Helvetica, and many design pros did so to use a PostScript version instead. In Leopard, though, Helvetica is a system font, meaning it isn’t easily disabled or removed and must be present for the system to function properly. I agree with Herrmann that the system’s default Helvetica is beautiful and suited to any purpose, even high-end printing. (Thanks to Joe Clark.)


Speaking of Twitter, Prologue looks interesting: it’s a WordPress theme that serves as a standalone Twitter-like server for a small team. This sort of idea — more reliable and private — sounds perfect for distributed teams.

Twitter/Joyent Divorce 

Let’s see if Twitter’s reliability changes.

Garmin’s Nüvifone Site 

Upon further examination, I’m getting a much stronger vaporware vibe from this. For something due by September, they’re awfully short on details. Their screenshot gallery is entirely comprised of mockups, not actual screenshots or photos from an actual prototype. (Unless the Nüviphone is going to pack a 1400 x 795 display, which is pretty unlikely.) When Apple pre-announced the iPhone six months in advance, they had real screenshots and actual prototype hardware. No word at all on how you type, what OS the device is using, Mac/PC connectivity or synching, or what rendering engine the web browser users. Whole things smells less-than-half-baked. Update: Engadget has “hands-on” photos, but none with the prototype turned, you know, on.

Garmin also seems to be implicitly encouraging direct comparison to the iPhone and Apple: the hardware is obviously iPhone-esque; the screenshot mockups are entirely set in Myriad (the iPhone uses Helvetica, of course, but Myriad is Apple’s branding font); and even the name, “Nüvifone”, contains the substring “ifone”.

Gartner Predicts Apple Will Double U.S., Europe PC Share by 2011 

Even if you don’t believe it, it’s interesting in that even a few years ago, you’d never have seen a prediction like this from Gartner. And if they’re right, the math is just spectacular for Apple: it’s not like Apple is expanding into the low-end budget computer market, so if they do double their share, it’ll take place entirely in the middle-to-high end of the market.

Update: Nice reminder from The Macalope regarding Gartner’s Apple-savviness (where by “savviness”, I mean “jackassyness”): a little over a year ago two of their analysts called on Apple to entirely quit the hardware business and license Mac OS X to Dell.

DiskWarrior 4.1 

The best disk utility for the Mac, period — now fully compatible with Leopard. If you don’t have DiskWarrior, you should.

EDGE Network Down in Midwest U.S. 

Works fine here in Philadelphia.

SimpleBits Joins The Deck 

The latest member of The Deck advertising network: Dan Cederholm’s SimpleBits. Coincides with another swell redesign.

Amazon to Buy Audible for $300 Million 

Seems like both a good match and a good deal for Amazon.

MarsEdit 2.1 

New release of Red Sweater’s best-of-breed desktop weblog editor. Adds top-notch support for tagging, improved live preview, local search for drafts and entries, and much-improved support for saving drafts on the server. The last one (drafts on server) includes a very clever workaround for Movable Type’s utter inability to handle this properly.

Garmin Announces Nüvifone 

First new phone I’ve seen since the iPhone that looks interesting. The UI looks clean, and the hardware looks nice, too. (Why do so many companies insist upon putting ad-like decals all over the front of their cases?) As phones gain GPS features, it makes sense for Garmin to start making phones — the days of dedicated handheld GPS units seem numbered. Let’s wait and see what the price is, and how the UI really works, though.

Jason Fried makes similar comments, and notes:

Aside from Apple, Garmin is the only company I’ve seen that understand UI design for small devices. The Nuvi is dead simple to use. If they can translate their GPS UI chops into a phone UI, they may be on to something big.

I have a several-year-old Garmin handheld GPS, and I agree: the UI is pretty good.

Thick Review for Thin Notebook 

Wonderfully exhaustive review and analysis of the MacBook Air by Jason Snell at Macworld:

There is no denying that the MacBook Air’s thinness makes it visually striking. But I’m not convinced of the utility of that thinness. Other than allowing Apple to declare the Air the current winner of the race to design the thinnest laptop, it seems that the Air has slimmed down in the least important dimension.

Woody Allen’s Typography 

Cristian Kit Paul on the consistent typographic branding of Woody Allen’s films. Since Annie Hall in 1977, only 1978’s Interiors used anything other than EF Windsor Elongated for the titles and credits. (Via Kottke.)

Kottke’s Liveblog Coverage of Mythbusters’ ‘Airplane on Conveyer Belt’ Episode 

I guessed wrong.

Dell Abandons Mall Kiosks 

Another mainstream dud from Dell. Told-you-so credit to JC at Ungenius, who called it back in May 2006. (Thanks to Nick Matsakis.)

xScope 2.0 

A joint production of Artis Software and The Iconfactory, xScope is my favorite utility for zooming in on and measuring on-screen graphics. Terrific utility for any designer. $27 new, $10 upgrade for xScope 1.0 owners.

The Times (U.K.) Spamming Social Media Sites 

Nice detective work by Andy Baio at

Yesterday, I discovered that The Times (UK), a well-respected newspaper owned by News Corp., is involved in an extensive campaign to spam social media websites with links to articles.

Since 2004, The Times retained the established SEO consulting firm Sitelynx to handle their search engine marketing. Working on behalf of The Times, an Sitelynx employee posted thousands of links to community and social news websites, including Mahalo,, StumbleUpon, Metafilter, Yahoo! Answers, Ma.gnolia, and Netscape’s Propeller. His actions were done without any disclosure of his affiliation to Sitelynx or The Times and were, in some cases, posted under the assumed identity of his wife.

Johnny Chung Lee’s Wii Projects 

Fantastic software projects based on the Nintendo Wiimote controller; check out the “Head Tracking for Desktop VR Displays” video halfway down the page.

Apple TV Update Still ‘Week or Two’ Away 

Dan Moren on Apple’s small-print style of delivering bad news.


Lovely little web app service by Tumblr developer Marco Arment. Here’s how he describes it:

  • You come across substantial news or blog articles that you want to read, but don’t have time at the moment.
  • You need something to read while sitting on a bus, waiting in a line, or bored in front of a computer.

It’s like Delicious but much simpler. It’s just your own personal list of links to read later. I’m really digging it as a way to shuttle URLs between my iPhone and Mac (in both directions).

Also note the clever sign-up experience: you just pick a name or email address to use, and that’s it. If you want a password, set one, and if you don’t, leave it blank.

Campfire for iPhone 

Jason Fried, 37signals:

Today we officially announce that Campfire has been optimized for the iPhone. Just visit your Campfire site with Safari on the iPhone and you’ll automatically see the iPhone optimized version.

I love Campfire, and this new iPhone version is outstanding. One of several nice touches is that when you scroll up to read previous parts of the transcript, you get a small down arrow at the bottom of the screen. Tap the arrow and you jump back to the end of the transcript.

MacBreak Weekly 75, Follows Up on MacHeist 

Phill Ryu from MacHeist and Andrew Welch of Ambrosia Software (whose Snapz Pro X was included in this year’s MacHeist bundle) respond to criticism of MacHeist’s business model. Welch makes the best case for it I’ve heard, which is that it’s not about the money, at least primarily, but about the promotional value.

I will point out that I stand completely behind my reporting on what developers made last year. Phill Ryu mentioned in this show that my numbers last were “labeled as speculation”, but that’s not the case. My estimates regarding MacHeist’s advertising expenditures and hosting costs were speculative, but my numbers regarding developer payments were based on first-hand sources. Gus Mueller is on the record, publicly, that he was offered $5,000 as a flat fee, that it was non-negotiable, and that all developers were supposedly getting the same deal. (To reiterate, that’s last year, not this year.)

One-Dollar Image Stabilizer for Any Camera 

Clever idea: use a string and a washer as a makeshift super-portable camera stabilizer.

Update: I thought this rang a bell; Bill Bumgarner suggested the same thing back in October and dubbed it a “stringpod”.

Arc’s Out 

Paul Graham on his new Lisp implementation, Arc:

The kind of dirtiness Arc seeks to avoid is verbose, repetitive source code. The way you avoid that is not by forbidding programmers to write it, but by making it easy to write code that’s compact. One of the things I did while I was writing Arc was to comb through applications asking: what can I do to the language to make this shorter? Not in characters or lines of course, but in tokens. In a sense, Arc is an accumulation of years of tricks for making programs shorter. Sounds rather unambitious, but that is in fact the purpose of high-level languages: they make programs shorter.

John Resig: ‘Meta Madness’ 

OK, one more link on the version-targeting proposal, from John Resig (the man behind the very nifty jQuery JavaScript library):

So, with that in mind, why even the attempt at making this sound like a “generally beneficial standardization issue”? Why go through the song-and-dance? Because if it was called:

<meta http-equiv="X-IE-VERSION-FREEZE" content="IE=8" />

then developers would surely, excuse me, shit the bed in frustration over being forced to add markup just to make their web applications render in a standards compliant manner.

It’s easy for me to say, I suppose, given the nature of DF’s audience, but I’m more likely to deliberately start blocking traffic from IE users than I am to add this bullshit tag to my markup. I want IE users to switch to another browser, so the last thing I want to do is help Microsoft hang onto IE users who might otherwise be tempted to switch to a standards-compliant browser.

IE 8 Version Targeting Roundup 

If you want to read more about the IE 8 version-targeting proposal, Matthew Pennell’s roundup of over two dozen responses is a good place to start.

The B-List: ‘Legacy’ 

James Bennett’s take on the IE 8 version targeting proposal is my favorite, perhaps because it’s the most optimistic. If you only read one, make it this one.

Surfin’ Safari: ‘Versioning, Compatibility and Standards’ 

Maciej Stachowiak from Apple’s WebKit team, on why they have no plans to support this version-targeting proposal:

Finally, while we sympathize with the tough road that the IE team has to travel to achieve a high degree of standards compliance, we haven’t really experienced the same problem. The IE team has mentioned severe negative feedback on the IE7 release, due to sites expecting standards behavior from most browsers, but IE6 bugs from IE.

But WebKit already has a high degree of standards compliance.

Ian Hickson: ‘Mistakes, Sadness, Regret’ 

Ian Hickson, lead author of the excellent in-progress HTML 5 spec (and, to keep any potential biases clear, Google employee), is adamantly opposed to IE’s proposed version targeting:

If Web authors actually use this feature, and if IE doesn’t keep losing market share, then eventually this will cause serious problems for IE’s competitors — instead of just having to contend with reverse-engineering IE’s quirks mode and making the specs compatible with IE’s standards mode, the other browser vendors are going to have to reverse engineer every major IE browser version, and end up implementing these same bug modes themselves. It might actually be quite an effective way of dramatically increasing the costs of entering or competing in the browser market. (This is what we call “anti-competitive”, or “evil”.)

Personally, I’m in complete agreement with Hickson. This switch would be harmful to every other rendering engine than IE. There’s a fork, where many new sites are built against cutting edge web standards, and many old sites (often corporate intranets) only work with non-standard IE behavior. Microsoft wants to have it both ways, so that IE can continue to work with new standards-based sites, but can also continue to support non-standard intranet sites with IE lock-in. The only purpose of this proposal is to help maintain IE’s lock-in with existing sites.

Jeffrey Zeldman: ‘In Defense of Version Targeting’ 

Zeldman says yes for IE 8’s proposed version targeting, on the grounds that it’s the only way Microsoft will bring IE 8 into further compliance with standards:

  • With version targeting, IE stays on the path of web standards.
  • Without it, ineptly made websites “break,” putting IE’s standards compliance at risk.
  • If IE were to stop supporting standards, standards would stop working.
Beyond DOCTYPE: Web Standards, Forward Compatibility, and IE8 

So an interesting web standards debate began last week. Aaron Gustafson published this piece in A List Apart proposing a new means of targeting specific web browser rendering engines, which apparently is going to be introduced by Microsoft for IE 8. The basic idea being that Microsoft can’t fix the rendering bugs currently in IE to make IE 8 standards-compliant without breaking the layout of web sites that assume or depend upon IE 7 (and earlier) layout bugs and non-standard behavior.

I’ll follow-up with my favorite reactions as separate items.

Office 2008 for Mac Annoyances 

New Flickr group from nit-picker extraordinaire Joe Clark.

iPhonesque Theme for Growl 

Nice-looking Growl theme by Matthew Robertson, based on the look of Mobile OS X’s alert dialogs.

Five Whys 

Joel Spolsky on uptime guarantees:

Really high availability becomes extremely costly. The proverbial “six nines” availability (99.9999% uptime) means no more than 30 seconds downtime per year. That’s really kind of ridiculous. [...] Think of it this way: If your six nines system goes down mysteriously just once and it takes you an hour to figure out the cause and fix it, well, you’ve just blown your downtime budget for the next century.

On the Design of the NetNewsWire First-Run Assistant 

I love how he sweats the details of every single word in the UI. Brent’s a great UI writer.

Dumbest Question of the Week 

Seth Weintraub asks if Apple is “taking a cut of movie rentals”, on the theory that maybe Apple is making a profit on iTunes movie rentals, and that this might be how they cut the price of Apple TV by $70. This never occurred to me. I thought maybe they were selling movie rentals at cost, as a favor to the movie industry.

How to Fix Security Issue in Office 2008 Installer 

Erik Schwiebert:

First of all, if you have already installed Office 2008, you can run two commands in the Terminal to fix the file ownership and remove the security concern (see instructions below). Second, the MacBU is working on an update to Office 2008 that will automatically fix the file ownership for you.

Palm Closes Retail Stores 

John Paczkowski pretty much sums it up with his title: “Wait. Palm Had Retail Stores?”

Qtrax: ‘Where By ‘All’ the Major Music Labels, We Meant ‘None’” 

P2P music distribution site snookered Wired and Reuters into publishing stories touting their new ad-based music distribution system with support from all four major labels; after stories go out, it turns out they have signed deals with none of the labels.


New geometric slab serif family from Hoefler & Frere-Jones, originally developed for Martha Stewart Living. H&FJ describe it thusly:

Sweet but not saccharine, earnest but not grave, Archer is designed to hit just the right notes of forthrightness, credibility, and charm.

Rich Mogull Joins TidBITS as Security Editor 

Probably the most knowledgeable security expert in the Mac media today.

Doomed, Eh? 

Best iPhone doubter in months. Mitchell Ashley:

The iPhone is certain to fade into history as another cool Apple innovation, that others soon rushed competitive, like-products to market, blowing away any significant lead Apple might have. The iPod MP3 player is an industry Apple essentially created, the iPhone isn’t. Too many major players are in the mobile phone market, who have and will bring iPhone-like products to market over the coming months and years. LG has already done so with the LG Voyager phone, and now Microsoft’s plans for Windows Mobile 7 OS have been leaked and described in considerable detail by InsideMicrosoft blogger Nathan Weinberg.

The crux of his argument is that Windows Mobile 7 — which isn’t due until 2009 — is slated to add a bunch of “iPhone competitive” features. As the Macalope says, “It’s amazing how future Microsoft products beat current Apple products time and time again, isn’t it?”

I also enjoy his putting the LG Voyager up as an iPhone peer. I actually got to use one of these turds for a few minutes at Macworld two weeks ago, and it’s a joke. You know the iPhone-like home screen? The one LG and Verizon show in all their promotional photos? That’s actually not the main UI of the phone. That’s just the interface for accessing secondary features of the phone. The main UI is just like that of any other crap LG phone, and one of the “apps” you can launch is the iPhone knock-off “shortcut” mode. And, when you open the slider, the inside screen has a third different UI. The overall experience is worse, way worse, than that of a typical LG phone.

The Autumn of the Multitaskers 

Pretty good article by Walter Kirn in The Atlantic on the neuroscience that shows that multitasking makes us less effective, not more effective. At least I think it was a good article; I read it last night on my iPhone while watching a movie. (Via Rands.)

Restoring From Time Machine 

James Duncan Davidson: “In short, Time Machine passed the ‘Trust, but Verify’ challenge with flying colors.”

An Introduction to ExpressionEngine 

Nice overview by Sean Sperte of the ExpressionEngine CMS.

Dvorak Wrong? That’s Unpossible. 

Dvorak’s always easy pickings, but this is just indisputably factually wrong:

For the first time in recent memory, Apple Inc.’s stock declined after Macworld, its showcase expo in San Francisco. Generally speaking, the event highlights Chief Executive Steve Jobs and a slew of new products that have usually been kept secret for years.

Apple’s stock always goes up a few points immediately after the show. This year the stock plummeted.

A quick look at Apple’s actual stock prices on the day of MWSF keynotes shows that, unless 2005, 2004, 2003, and 2002 are outside recent memory, he’s wrong.

Update: Clearly Apple’s stock price has taken a hard hit this month — as has the stock market as a whole. But it has nothing to do with what was or wasn’t announced during the Macworld Expo keynote. It was the earnings call last week that started the AAPL sell-off, not MWSF.

SitePoint CSS Reference 

Outstanding online CSS reference by Tommy Olsson and Paul O’Brien; worth a bookmark for anyone who writes CSS.

Gene Munster, Voice of Reason 

So there’s this silly pseudo-scandal surrounding the gap between the number of iPhones Apple has reported as sold and the number of iPhones AT&T has reported as activated, based on a theory from analyst Toni Sacconaghi that there are too many iPhones sitting in inventory on AT&T (and, in Europe, other carriers’) retail stores. I.e. that Apple has “stuffed the channel”, which is the retail sales equivalent of padding one’s underwear or bra.

Gene Munster does the math that shows that, given an inventory of 500,000 phones and Apple’s normal five-week channel inventory, it comes out to 100,000 iPhones per week — which is less than the pace at which the iPhone has actually been selling to date. In other words, several hundred thousand iPhones in inventory is exactly what we should expect.

Macworld: MacBook Air: First Lab Tests 

Jason Snell, Macworld:

Our tests reveal that the slower processor and disk make the MacBook Air quite a bit slower than the other portables in Apple’s product line. The MacBook Air was also outpaced in our tests by the its closest desktop cousin, the ultra-compact 1.83 GHz Mac mini Core 2 Duo.

Beanstalk Subversion Hosting 

My thanks to Beanstalk for sponsoring this week’s RSS feed. Beanstalk is a hosted Subversion system, offering a simple web-based UI for creating and managing repositories. They also offer smooth integration with systems such as Basecamp, Campfire, FogBugz, Twitter, and Lighthouse. You can get started with a free account — free, I say — in just minutes, and can upgrade to a paid plan at any time. Beanstalk is a perfect example of a “do one thing and do it well” service.

Cancel Your Friday Afternoon Appointments 

Friday afternoon, the Layer Tennis season finale features two simultaneous matches:

The games begin at 3 pm EST, noon PST. Update: Match previews are up from Baldwin and me.

How To Set an Apple Touch Icon for Any Site 

Simple but very clever bookmarklet from Drew McLellan that uses DOM script to add (or override an existing) Apple touch icon for use in creating web clips on the Mobile OS X home screen. (Cameron Hunt offers a variant with presets for Delicious, Flickr, RSS, and more.)

A Rookie Guide to Digital SLR Cameras 

Solid introduction to digital SLR photography by Mike Davidson.

Apple Releases the Leopard Edition of the HIG 

Brandon Walkin:

Apple has released their updated HIG with well thought out Leopard specific information such as making 512px icons, system provided images, transparent panels, and window-frame controls.

I haven’t perused the whole thing yet, but so far I agree with Walkin that it’s a good update, finally codifying some design patterns and control styles that have been implicit standards for years.

TED Talks: J.J. Abrams: The Mystery Box 

Wonderful talk by J.J. Abrams at TED on his love for “the unseen mystery”.

How to Open Multiple Inspector Windows 

Great tip from Cory Bohon: hold down Option when switching tabs within an inspector to open a second inspector instead of switching the view of the current one. The current iWork apps have a New Inspector command in the View menu, but this shortcut is more direct.

Peter Sichel on Why Time Machine Doesn’t Support USB Drives Attached to AirPort Extreme Base Stations 

Peter Sichel (of Sustainable Softworks) in a comment at MacInTouch:

There is an option to have Time Machine show other network attached disks:

defaults write TMShowUnsupportedNetworkVolumes 1

But Apple is hesitant to enable this as the default since it places the integrity of interrupted Time Machine backups at risk. So Apple is in a difficult spot with respect to supporting 3rd party NAS devices.

I heard a similar explanation from a few people at Macworld Expo last week, albeit regarding AFP, not USB — more or less that the AFP implementation in current AirPort base stations isn’t robust enough. Backups seem to work, but fail when you attempt to restore from them.

YouTube: How Camera Lenses Are Made 

Captivating video from the Discovery Channel; starts with a block of optical glass, ends with a full lens assembly.

Extending iTunes Rental Times 

Christopher Breen found that a rented movie played from an iPod, then paused, will let you resume playing after the 24-hour playback period has expired. It’s a shame that Apple hasn’t explicitly documented the rules for this.

NSURLConnection Crashing Epidemic on 10.4.11 

Daniel Jalkut:

If you’re a developer and your application uses WebKit or NSURLConnection, chances are you’ve noticed an increase in crash reports, too. Always on 10.4.11, always involving NSURLConnection. If you’re a user running 10.4.11, chances are you’ve noticed that network-enabled applications seem to be a bit more flakey and crash-prone.

The fact that the bug seems to be fixed in Leopard makes me think that this is a bug whose source was identified and fixed. Now the question is, will Apple ever ship a 10.4.12 containing a fix? Or will those users be stuck in crash-ville forever?

Michael Tsai dittos the bug. Maybe they’ll sneak a fix in as a security update? Somehow I doubt we’re going to see a 10.4.12 release.

OLPC Without an XO 

Chris Hanson:

If you want to try the OLPC operating system, but don’t have an XO-1 laptop, it’s become extremely easy to just grab a virtual machine image and boot it in VMWare.

MacBook Air Attack 

The Macalope, responding to PC World’s Mike Barton’s “MacBook Air Amiss: Time to License Mac OS X?”:

Good question! Like “I Have Stubbed My Toe And Find It Painful: Time to Commit Suicide?”

Half Million Private MySpace Photos Show Up in Massive BitTorrent Download 

Kevin Poulsen at Wired News:

The creator of the file says he compiled the photos earlier this month using the MySpace security hole that Wired News reported on last week. That hole, still unacknowledged by the News Corporation-owned site, allowed voyeurs to peek inside the photo galleries of some MySpace users who had set their profiles to “private,” despite MySpace’s assurances that such images could only be seen by people on a user’s friends’ list.

Macworld Expo 2008 Photo Set on Flickr 

My photos from last week’s big show.

Edward Tufte: Interface Design and the iPhone 

Smart video presentation by design genius Edward Tufte, demonstrating the cleverness of the iPhone’s UI, with particular emphasis on the way it maximizes available screen space by eliminating pixel-wasting “computer administrative debris” (e.g. scroll bars). I agree with his disparagement of the Stocks UI, but I don’t like his re-imagined Weather app at all — it seems convoluted and de-emphasizes the most important data. (Thanks to David Magda.)

Update: This link went down shortly after I first linked to it Monday, but is now working again. According to Tufte, they’re now serving the movie from Amazon S3.

Derek Powazek: Hey Apple, Don’t Make Me Think 

Derek Powazek observes that in Safari, the left-to-right order is Reload/Location Field/Search, but in the new MobileSafari, the order is Search/Location Field/Reload. I don’t think it’s a big deal, but I agree with Derek that MobileSafari’s order should be reversed — not just to match Safari’s, but to match the overall “go to the top right for Search” pattern that Apple has established system-wide in recent years.

Introducing EveryBlock 

New startup (with a stellar team behind it):

We aim to collect all of the news and civic goings-on that have happened recently in your city, and make it simple for you to keep track of news in particular areas. We’re a geographic filter — a “news feed” for your neighborhood, or, yes, even your block.

Today we’re launching in three American cities: Chicago, New York and San Francisco.

Inventive Labs: Tabulate 

Outstanding JavaScript bookmarklet for MobileSafari that adds “open in new tab” behavior to any web page, including the very convenient option of queueing up several links to open in new tabs at once. (Via Cameron Hunt.)

Electronista: MacBook Air’s External Superdrive Requires Special USB Port 


While external optical drives have existed that rely on the USB port alone, the particular power demands of the Apple-made drive should prevent it being used elsewhere; the sole USB port has been boosted past its specifications to supply enough power to use the drive with just the data cable rather than a direct power connection, say contacts.

The Betamax Doctrine 

Paul Kafasis on’s streaming music catalog and the implications for recording tools like Audio Hijack Pro.

Coda: The One-Window Wonder 

Extensive Coda review by Shawn Blanc. Free the Music 

Richard Jones of

Something we’ve wanted for years — for people who visit to be able to play any track for free — is now possible. With the support of the folks behind EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner — and the artists they work with — plus thousands of independent artists and labels, we’ve made the biggest legal collection of music available to play online for free, the way we believe it should be.

Ad-supported revenue model, with payments based on popularity — the more a song is played, the more money they pay to the artist.

James Surowiecki on the Psychology of Product Pricing 

James Surowiecki, a few weeks ago in The New Yorker:

In an experiment in the early nineteen-nineties, people were first asked whether they preferred a $110 microwave oven made by Emerson or a $180 oven made by Panasonic. Only forty-three per cent chose the Panasonic. But when a higher-priced Panasonic model, costing $200, was introduced into the mix, people’s choices changed in a curious way: suddenly, sixty per cent wanted the $180 oven. Just adding a more expensive model made the medium-priced version look more attractive and boosted Panasonic’s total sales. Change what surrounds a product, in other words, and you can change what people think of it.

Exercise for the reader: Consider how Apple takes full advantage of this phenomenon with products like the iPod Nano (and, before, the iPod Mini) and, now, the MacBook Air. Next, consider a hypothetical $249 iPhone Nano.

Andy Ihnatko’s Alcatraz Photo Set 

Speaking of Andy Ihnatko, he’s got a fantastic photo set from a visit to Alcatraz last week, including a slew of shots from areas not normally available to the public.

MacBreak Weekly Ep. 74 Discussion on MacHeist 

Good discussion on the merits of MacHeist from the perspective of indie Mac developers on this week’s episode of MacBreak Weekly, with Leo Laporte, Merlin Mann, and Andy Ihnatko. The MacBreak discussion starts around the 8:00 mark, and then picks up again around 38:00 when they’re joined by Rich Siegel from Bare Bones Software. Siegel makes two main points against selling software at such a spectacular discount: (a) customer support costs; and (b) that it lessens the perceived value of software.

NetNewsWire and Other Desktop Apps: Your RSS Router 

Brent Simmons on the myriad ways NetNewsWire integrates with other applications.

‘No Country for Old Men’ and ‘There Will Be Blood’ Lead Oscar Nominations 

I’ve only seen three films in the theater this year, and all three were nominated for Best Picture: Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, and There Will Be Blood. Clayton was good, but the other two are truly great pictures. Sometimes the Academy gets it right.

Apple Q1 2008: Best Quarter Ever 

Best quarter in Apple history, including a $1 billion in profit. And so, of course, Wall Street’s reaction to this best-ever quarter is for Apple’s share price to tank, dropping over 10 percent in after-hours trading.

Late Update: I moved my commentary to a separate article here.

Apple Adds Pink to the iPod Nano Lineup 

Looks pretty good.


$70 vector illustration app, and Best of Show award-winner from last week’s Expo. Sort of a modern-day MacDraw.

Macworld Expo Best of Show Award Winners 

Great job by the editors at Macworld Expo picking the best products from this year’s show. The show was huge this year — far bigger than in at least a decade, it seemed — making it harder than ever to choose a handful of winners.

Office 2008 Installer Assigns Most Files to User ID 502 

Joel Bruner on a bizarre bug in Office 2008’s installer:

First things first: They’ve moved to Apple’s Package Maker (.pkg) installer files, good news for the enterprise rollouts? Well, unfortunately they’ve created all the packages to install most all of the files with the owner set to 502.

This will grant a non-admin user — if that user is the second one created on the machine — ownership of some top-level folders in /Library/ and /Applications/.


Shorter Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: If Microsoft greatly improves every single aspect of Windows — including performance, the UI, the driver model — and also adds some cool new features, then Windows 7 will be the best version of Windows ever.

Talking About AT&T’s Internet Filtering on AT&T’s ‘The Hugh Thompson Show’ 

Boing Boing Gadget’s Joel Johnson:

Yesterday, I was invited to talk about gadgets on The Hugh Thompson Show, a television-style talk show sponsored exclusively by AT&T for distribution on the online AT&T Tech Channel. I eventually did talk about gadgets, but in light of AT&T’s shocking and baffling announcement of their plans to filter the internet, I thought that a much more interesting and important topic.

So that’s what I talked about.


So let’s play “Who’s the Better Independent Tech Journalist?” In one corner, Johnson, who confronted AT&T on their own turf to draw attention to their odious net-snooping plans. In the other corner, Brian Lam and Gizmodo, whose “homage to the notion of independence and independent reporting” was to sabotage promotional presentations and humiliate innocent spokespeople by turning off their TV sets at CES.

Heavier than Air 

Charles Miller on the MacBook Air:

The tech press, it seems, has a bad record on judging products on criteria you can’t fit on a feature matrix.

Which is a problem, because feature matrices suck. A feature matrix says: “Here is what everyone else is doing. To be competitive you must do the same.” Where’s the differentiation? Where’s the innovation in doing exactly what everyone else does, ticking the boxes, shaving off one or two points in each row so you get the green tick?

I think his comparison to the iPod Mini is spot-on.

Depends What the Meaning of the Word ‘Expected’ Is 

MacNN, on this afternoon’s upcoming quarterly finance conference call from Apple (emphasis added):

Apple is expected to post better-than-expected earnings based on strong Mac sales, newly-introduced iPods, and favorable commodity pricing during the quarter.

Adam Lisagor’s Macworld Expo Coverage 

Outstanding four-part Macworld wrap-up by Adam “Lonelysandwich” Lisagor. I’m linking to part one, regarding the MacBook Air, but don’t miss parts two (iPhone 1.1.3 update), three (iTunes movie rentals and Apple TV), and four (location-awareness in iPhone Maps), either.

Campaign Reporting in Under 140 Taps 

Noam Cohen reports for The NYT on Twitter as a “microjournalism” tool on the campaign trail. I thought Twitter held up great and proved quite useful last week during Macworld Expo. (Via Andy Baio.)

That’s One Way to Look at It 

Mike Barton at PC World doesn’t like the MacBook Air, which, apparently, somehow proves that Apple should license Mac OS X so that he can run it on a $600 ThinkPad. I’m sure Apple will get right on that. He’s also convinced that a future Air update will include a replaceable battery; I’m sure that will arrive right after the iPhone-with-replaceable-battery.

Exploiting Sound, Exploring Silence 

Dennis Lim on the sound design for No Country for Old Men, which has almost no musical score whatsoever:

What is unusual about “No Country for Old Men” is not simply the level of audio detail but that it is a critical part of the storytelling. Skip Lievsay, the sound editor who has worked with the Coen brothers since their first feature, “Blood Simple” (1984), called “No Country” “quite a remarkable experiment” from a sonic standpoint. “Suspense thrillers in Hollywood are traditionally done almost entirely with music,” he said. “The idea here was to remove the safety net that lets the audience feel like they know what’s going to happen. I think it makes the movie much more suspenseful. You’re not guided by the score and so you lose that comfort zone.”

(Via Buzz Andersen.)

Inquisitor Update Marks Affiliate Links in Search Results 

David Watanabe:

In response to user feedback, Inquisitor 3.0 (v52) now explicitly tags product/affiliate links in search results and, furthermore, now includes an user preference to disable these links all together.

About That $20 Upgrade 

The Macalope on why Apple has to charge for the iPod Touch upgrade, but not for the iPhone or Apple TV ones.

DTrace Opt-Out on Mac OS X 

Adam Leventhal, after getting seemingly inexplicable results from DTrace (Leopard’s new super-low-level debugging tool) while iTunes is running, discovered that Apple’s DTrace implementation allows apps to opt-out of it:

Wow. So Apple is explicitly preventing DTrace from examining or recording data for processes which don’t permit tracing. This is antithetical to the notion of systemic tracing, antithetical to the goals of DTrace, and antithetical to the spirit of open source. I’m sure this was inserted under pressure from ISVs, but that makes the pill no easier to swallow.

My guess is that this has more to do with making it harder to use DTrace to examine/reverse-engineer secretive code like FairPlay and DVD playback. Same thing goes for GDB.


My thanks to H-Squared for sponsoring the DF RSS feed this week. H-Squared produces a line of well-designed mounts and trays, custom-made for Apple hardware. E.g. the Air Mount, a wall mount for the AirPort Extreme Base Station, or the Mini Mount and Mini Shelf, which are custom-made for the Mac Mini. Through Monday, Daring Fireball readers receive 15 percent off their orders when using the code “DF08” at checkout.

The Talk Show, Macworld Expo Special Edition 

Yours truly with Panic co-founders Cabel Sasser and Steven Frank for an hour-long discussion regarding this week’s Macworld Expo news.

My favorite line was Cabel’s: “Always bet against the Internet!”

Malware and Market Size 

Ian Betteridge:

They simply refuse to believe the “security through obscurity” line which states that the Macs low market share helps it safe.  This is largely because they have an outdated view of what malware is produced for - they simply don’t understand that a lot of malware is produced not for kudos but for profit, and when you’re going for profit it makes more sense to hit the biggest possible market (i.e. Windows).

There’s no doubt this is partly true. If you could somehow prove that Mac OS X and Windows were, in fact, equally “secure” from a technical standpoint, Windows would still suffer from more malware because of its dominating market share.

But, and I’ve argued this before, it doesn’t explain why the Mac has, effectively, none. If it’s true that malware developers who want to make money will only write software for the vastly larger Windows market, then why doesn’t the same logic apply to non-malware commercial developers? There are two halls full of commercial Mac developers here at Macworld Expo. I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s not just Windows’s massive market share advantage.

Gawker Hosting Nutty Tom Cruise Scientology Video 

Nine minutes of the most-sensible-sounding vapid nonsense you’ll ever hear. Really hurts your brain if you try to make sense of it.

A Keynote View From the Cheap Seats 

John Moltz on the keynote experience:

Some people with general admission passes lined up the night before to ensure their chances of glimpsing some shiny new Apple products, others got up at the crack of dawn. And when you’re out partying past dawn, that tends to present a bit of a logistical problem. Fortunately, there’s a Starbucks right next to the Moscone West. Unfortunately, the line to get into that is actually longer than the line to get into the Keynote.

Sun Buys MySQL 

Is this brilliant or stupid? I’m leaning toward stupid.

The Windows ClearType Fonts Come With Mac Office 2008 

They’re great screen fonts. I especially like Consolas, Microsoft’s new monospaced coding font.

Gizmodo Interview: Sony’s Thoughts on the MacBook Air 

Gizmodo’s Brian Lam talks to Sony Vaio product marketing executive Mike Abary about the MacBook Air:

I asked Mike who they thought the computer was for. “Beats me” was the initial reply, but came up with an answer: The extremely design conscious. I asked what feature he’d bring back to the Air, and without hesitating, he thought it should have 3G [networking].

Totally agree re: ubiquitous wireless networking, but so far, judging from email from DF readers who’ve pre-ordered Airs, it all boils down to weight.

Jobs Chides BusinessWeek Reporter for Wrong Story 

Peter Burrows, BusinessWeek:

My posterior had hardly hit the couch for my post-keynote interview with Steve Jobs when he ribbed me: “Well, I guess your story looks pretty dumb.” He was talking about a story Ron Grover and I did earlier this month that suggested Apple would probably not be able to get Universal and Sony to support Apple’s new movie rental service.

I still stand behind that story. As I told Jobs, we had multiple reliable sources. But Jobs insists there was far less drama involved than we, and some other pubs, suggested.

Markoff and Pogue Interview With Steve Jobs 

Steve Jobs on the Kindle:

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

So, either (a) Jobs think the Kindle is a bad concept; or (b) Apple is working on a portable e-book reader.

Apple’s Documentation Is Wrong Regarding Web Clip Icon Size? 

Ends up you get better results if you create a PNG file larger than 57 x 57 px. (Via Jon Hicks.)

Explanation for 24-Hour Movie Rental Playback Window: Placating Cable Companies 

Saul Hansell:

Amid the frenzy, it’s worth noting that Apple did not get Hollywood to change the key restrictions it had placed on Internet downloads. Once people start watching their rented movies, they can only see them for a 24-hour period. (Apple does allow a movie to be started on one device and finished on another.) The studios want to keep this restriction so Internet rentals have the same terms as cable pay-per-view movies.

Hansell doesn’t quote a source for that, but I heard the same thing from someone in the know here at the Expo: the 24-hour playback limit was imposed by the studios, specifically because they (the studios) didn’t want to antagonize cable (and, I suppose, satellite TV) companies selling video on demand with 24-hour expirations.

They’re idiots, because I think they’d make more money with a longer window, say, 48 or 72 hours, because more people would rent movies.

Best Unintended Irony in the History of Book Cover Design 

Quite a find by Jonathan Hoefler.

First Look: iPhone 1.1.3 

Dan Moren has a nice rundown of what’s new in the iPhone 1.1.3 update.

Skyhook Wireless 

This is the company Apple has partnered with to provide “where am I?” positioning in the iPhone/iPod Touch Maps app based on nearby Wi-Fi networks. The iPhone also gets positioning information via Google based on cellular towers, but the Touch, obviously, only gets positioning data based on Wi-Fi. A few Touch owners here at the show report that it works great, at least here in San Francisco.

Hands on With the MacBook Air 

Jason Snell has a hands-on look at the MacBook Air. By the way, any readers who’ve already ordered an Air, I’d love to hear why (and let me know whether I can publish your comments).

More on Custom iPhone ‘Web Clip’ Icons 

Cameron Hunt:

Most people have Mint in a subdirectory like /mint/. This is a problem if you want to set an iPhone favicon for your root domain but change the favicon in subdirectories. This is because the iPhone looks in the root directory for the icon. That is, unless you tell it different. The friendly Apple engineers look for a special link tag before looking in the root for “apple-touch-icon.png”.

Paul Boutin on the MacBook Air 

Like me, Boutin was hoping for ubiquitous wireless networking. The more I think about this, the more certain I am that it’s just silly that my phone always has a network and (as of yesterday) knows where it is, but my Mac doesn’t.

That’s My Boy 

Happy birthday to my boy, Jonas. This kid kills me.

iPhone ‘Web Clip’ Icons 

To create a custom icon for iPhone/iPod Touch home screen bookmarks, save a 57 x 57 px PNG with the name “apple-touch-icon.png” at the top level of your server. (Without one, the default icon is a scaled-down screenshot of the web page you’re making the shortcut for.)

The 27-Hour Day 

David Pogue agrees with me regarding the 24-hour video rental viewing window.

Google iPhone Web Apps Makeover 

Various improvements and customizations added to Google’s MobileSafari-optimized web apps. They’re sort of building a web-based alternate iPhone software universe — using Google Calendar and Gmail in MobileSafari as an alternative to the iPhone’s own Calendar and Mail apps. Plus Google Notebook vs. Notes, etc.

Time Capsule 

“Automatic wireless backup for your Mac.” 500 GB for $299; 1 TB for $499. My question is whether they’re also going to enable the “just plug a USB drive into a base station” feature in Leopard, too, or are network Time Machine backups limited to Time Capsule? (“Time Capsule” is a great name for this product.)

TextWrangler 2.3 

Feature upgrade to Bare Bones’s excellent freeware sibling to BBEdit. (Note too, that Bare Bones is having their annual Macworld Expo Show Special discount — save 20 percent across the board.)

Iris 1.0b1 

Public beta release of Nolobe’s new (Intel-only) image editing app; on sale now for $39, regular price will be $79.

Keynote Twittering 

I have no faith that either Twitter’s servers or the EDGE network here inside the keynote hall will hold up, but if they do, I’ll thumb out some live keynote coverage from my iPhone.

The Talk Show, Episode 14 

While away the time before the keynote starts with The Talk Show.

The Early Bird Gets the Bad Grade 

One more from today’s Times (can you tell what I read on the plane?): Nancy Kalish argues that high schools and middle schools should start later in the morning to accommodate teenagers’ natural sleep cycle. Great idea. But she also argues that the school day should be expanded from 6.5 to 8 hours, quoting some jackass who says “Trying to cram everything our 21st-century students need into a 19th-century six-and-a-half-hour day just isn’t working.” The last thing kids need is to be cooped up in school for more hours each day.

BusySync 2.0 Will Sync iCal with Google Calendar 

In beta soon, scheduled to ship next month. BusySync makes iCal work the way it ought to work right out of the box. (Order now and save $5; the upgrade to 2.0 will be free for all existing BusySync users.)

Google Sees Surge in iPhone Traffic 

Miguel Helft in The New York Times:

On Christmas, traffic to Google from iPhones surged, surpassing incoming traffic from any other type of mobile device, according to internal Google data made available to The New York Times.

Requiem for a Rendering Engine 


Having laid out these feats of strength, it is time to remind everyone of the most shocking fact about iCab: all of this was done by one person, Alexander Clauss.

In spite of all the obstacles the modern web threw at browser developers, the fact that one man could single-handedly write an entire rendering engine that “kept up with the Joneses” and ran natively on Mac OS 8.5 - Mac OS X 10.5 inclusive is nothing short of miraculous.

(Via Michael Tsai.)

Music Industry, Souring on Apple, Embraces Amazon Service - New York Times 

Jeff Leeds, reporting for The New York Times on Pepsi’s upcoming billion-song giveaway promotion with Amazon, on why iTunes only has DRM-free music from one major label:

A senior executive at another record company, who requested anonymity out of concern about irritating Mr. Jobs, said he was prepared to keep copy restrictions on his label’s songs on iTunes for six months to a year while Amazon establishes itself.

Mmm, smell that spite.

Feltron 2007 Annual Report 

Magnificent, clever, thoughtful design.

Hivelogic Podcasting Equipment Guide 

Great audio equipment advice for podcasters from my Talk Show co-host Dan Benjamin.

ZFS for Mac OS X FAQ 

ZFS binaries and source code now available for Mac OS X. Can’t boot off ZFS, yet, but it works for storage.

A Public Service Message Regarding the ‘W’ in ‘Macworld’ 

It is lowercase — “Macworld” — both for the magazine and the expo/conference/keynote extravaganza. Thank you.

(Stay tuned for my sequel regarding the “s” in “Photoshop”.)

The Best Peanut Butter in the World 

Splendid essay from peanut butter aficionado Dave Pell:

It’s all natural. But wait. Don’t squirm. I am not going for health here. I am not talking to the parental, or nurturing or healthful, caring, responsible person inside you. I am talking to the dirty, nasty, caution to the wind you. The one who came home a little too buzzed, got rid of the baby-sitter, put the wife to bed and sat down in front of the TiVo with a joint, a boda bag of Don Julio and six hours until daylight.

Great. Expectations. 

John Siracusa on the Stevenote prognostication game:

So here we are again, with MWSF 2008 looming. Do you feel like you know pretty much everything that will be announced, plus or minus a few surprises that won’t be all that interesting to you anyway? (“Starbucks + WiMAX: Stimulants any time, anywhere!™”) I know I do, and it’s a feeling I’ve had for the past few keynotes. If I let myself get any more optimistic, I’ll just be that much more disappointed in the end.

This leads me to one inevitable conclusion: an upcoming keynote is going to blow us all away. Maybe not this one, maybe not the next one, but soon. Why? Because we’re ready, and we’re due.

Good piece, as usual, but for me at least, last year’s Macworld keynote was that “keynote we’re always hoping for”. The whole thing was totally unexpected, start to finish. Three minutes in and “We’re not going to talk about the Mac today”? No iTunes status update? And while some people were expecting an announcement of an Apple phone, no one was expecting the mythical “stripped-down lightweight version of OS X” phone that we actually got.

MacHeist II 

My thanks to this week’s RSS feed sponsor, MacHeist. (That’s right, MacHeist. More on that in a bit.)

This year’s MacHeist II bundle contains another batch of great software for the crazy price of just $49. Snapz Pro X alone normally retails for more than that, and CSSEdit, although it normally sells for $30, is so good that it could easily sell for $50 or more all by itself.

Rory Prior on the Impact of NetNewsWire’s Release as Freeware 

Rory Prior, developer of NewsLife, a competing feed reader:

Honestly I am a little bitter about this, what NewsGator has done is effectively anti-competitive, NNW has somewhere between 10 to 17% of the entire RSS market (that’s across all platforms) and probably 70% or more of the Mac share (I’ve not been able to dig up any conclusive figures on this however). To suddenly make that product free is obviously going to decimate the competition.

For what it’s worth — and keep in mind that DF’s traffic almost certainly isn’t representative of the Mac market as a whole — NetNewsWire utterly dominates the desktop feed reader share in my server logs. According to Mint, 16 percent of my feed traffic goes to NetNewsWire users, and another 19 percent goes to NewsGator online, much of which I suspect goes to NNW users with synching turned on. The only other desktop apps that account for 1 percent or more of my feed traffic are Vienna (2%), Firefox (1%), and NewsFire (1%). For comparison, Google Reader has 10 percent, and AppleSyndication (the framework for RSS in Safari) is under 1 percent.

Alex Payne: Shared Hosting Is a Ghetto 

Alex Payne:

Well, the Java community ignored shared hosting users. The Python community ignored shared hosting users. Basically every development community save Perl and PHP have stayed the hell away from shared hosting. Why? Because shared hosting is a ghetto.

James Bennett on Modern Web Frameworks and Shared Hosting 

James Bennett:

As I see it, there are three major issues facing frameworks on shared hosting.

First off, the new wave of popular frameworks all make a clean break from a traditional CGI-style model where the application is simply loaded and executed fresh on each and every request; this is a necessary change (reloading a framework like Rails or Django on every request would result in horrific performance), but one that causes headaches for web hosts.

Exciting Macworld Expo News From Apple 

News from Moscone: a banner from Apple that’s using a new identity font: Myriad Pro Light. (Or, I think, a slightly customized-for-Apple variant of Myriad Pro Light. Apple’s usual Myriad Pro is slightly customized.)

Oh, also, a slogan for the show: “There’s something in the air.” Guesses: (mild) an AirPort-enabled network backup storage device for Time Machine; (medium) some sort of ubiquitous wireless networking for new MacBooks; (hot) the long-fabled touchscreen tablet-sized Newton-y thing, replete with ubiquitous wireless networking.

The Easiest Way to Charge Money for Software 

Matt Linderman:

Q: What’s the easiest way to charge money for software? A: Build software that helps people make (or save) money.

Layer Tennis: Veerle Pieters vs. Cindy Li 

Very fun, very stylish match.

The Joy of Tech: Macworld Expo Celebrity Checklist 

It’s highly unlikely that I’ll be wearing one, but you should.

Interarchy 9.0 

Nice update to my favorite file transfer utility. Adds support for a new transfer protocol built on top of SSH; listings and mirror updates are significantly faster than via SFTP. UI-wise, the best new feature is drag-reorderable tabs. And who doesn’t love a release notes entry like this one:

Interarchy now has much improved resolution independence. If Apple ever get their act together and finish Mac OS X’s resolution independence support Interarchy should be ready.

Amazon MP3 to Add Sony BMG Music 

Maybe they’re not so dumb after all.

Airfoil 3.0 

Rogue Amoeba’s “send any audio stream you want to an AirPort Express” utility gets a big update, with support for synchronized streaming to multiple AirPort Express units, streaming directly to another Mac (instead of to a base station), and video support.

Jens Alfke Goes Indie 

Can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

Wired’s Behind-the-Scenes iPhone Story 

Fred Vogelstein’s engaging but sketchily-sourced (no one from Apple is named as a source) look at the creation of the iPhone at Apple.

What a Free NetNewsWire Means 

Rogue Amoeba’s Paul Kafasis has an insightful essay regarding NetNewsWire’s release as freeware:

If competing with a popular, well-designed product is tough, competing with a popular, well-designed product that happens to be free (while remaining fully-funded) is damned near impossible. And that’s unfortunate, because ultimately, it’s likely to lead to stagnation. The developers at NewsGator have done great work, but the more minds there are attacking a problem in different ways, the more great solutions we see. Look no further than the late nineties, when IE effectively killed Netscape. Web browsers stagnated shortly thereafter - Microsoft, with browser share at or above 90%, had little incentive to innovate, and smaller players just couldn’t break in.

Paul acknowledges in a footnote that, after years of stagnation, the browser market has experienced a resurgence of innovation with Firefox and Safari. But it’s worth considering that both were funded by billion-dollar companies (AOL and Apple), and even now that the Mozilla Foundation is independent, they’re making money from Firefox through search referral revenue.

On the other hand, NetNewsWire, even though free, is not bundled with any OS, let alone the dominant monopoly OS, so comparisons to IE aren’t perfect.

Idle Hands 

Clever idea from Paul Kim:

I recently submitted a patch for Sparkle+ to deal with a similar situation. It can be annoying to get an alert about a new version when you are working. A new version is not a “drop everything and deal with this now” type of alert. With this patch, when a new update is found, it will check the user’s idle time and hold off showing the panel until a certain amount of time has elapsed. This minimizes the chance of the user being in the middle of something when the alert comes up.

Apple to Lower Prices of U.K. iTunes Tracks 


Apple today announced that within six months it will lower the prices it charges for music on its UK iTunes Store to match the already standardized pricing on iTunes across Europe [...]. Apple currently must pay some record labels more to distribute their music in the UK than it pays them to distribute the same music elsewhere in Europe. Apple will reconsider its continuing relationship in the UK with any record label that does not lower its wholesale prices in the UK to the pan-European level within six months.

This is about compliance with European regulations.

Paramount’s Commitment to HD DVD 


Paramount Pictures denied a newspaper report that the studio is poised to follow Time Warner Inc. in abandoning Toshiba Corp.’s HD DVD technology.

“Paramount’s current plan is to continue to support the HD DVD format,” Brenda Ciccone, a spokeswoman for Paramount, said in an email today.

Where by “current”, I suspect she means “however long it takes to sell our current stock of HD DVD titles and shift production to Blu-ray”.

Network Solutions Squats on Available Domains Looked Up Via Their Whois Server 

Yet another chapter in the ever-popular saga, Network Solutions: Shitbags Extraordinaire.


MacJournals on MacFixIt:

No one, except maybe [Artie MacStrawman], argued that you should never repair disk permissions. If you’re having trouble, especially if you suspect it’s permissions related, you should by all means repair permissions and see if that fixes the problem. You just shouldn’t imagine that performing this task at other times is doing you any good, because it’s not.

David Watanabe on Inquisitor’s Affiliate Ads 

I’ve gotten a slew of emails asking for my thoughts on this report (which got picked up at TUAW) regarding the way David Watanabe’s freeware Inquisitor input manager hack for Safari inserts Amazon and Apple Store affiliate ads in its search results for certain terms. Watanabe has responded on his weblog, and I largely agree with him. It’d be better if Inquisitor’s affiliate link results were visually tagged as such in the result list, but I don’t think there’s anything scandalous about it.

The Vanishing Numeric Keypad 

David Pogue reports that new MacBooks are shipping with keyboards without the embedded number pad:

I asked my PR contact at Apple, and she confirmed that it’s true: the embedded number pad was eliminated to make the MacBook more closely resemble the aluminum Apple keyboards, even though the MacBooks manufactured up until now had one.

Sure, Everyone Loves IE 

Michael Calore speculating on the possibility of browsers other than MobileSafari once the iPhone SDK ships:

Safari is a great browser and all, but many are itching to see other browsers like Opera, Firefox and Internet Explorer (don’t scoff, there are plenty of reasons) running on their Apple gadgets.

Firefox (or at least something Gecko-based)? Sure. Opera? Maybe. But IE? “Many”? I’d say the number of iPhone users who wish there were a version of IE for it is zero.

Update: A couple of emails from readers who say they’d want this, as they need to access web sites that only work in IE. Back when Mac IE was the default and dominant Mac web browser, most IE-only web sites only worked in Windows IE, because they depended on Windows-only Active X stuff. So, sure, if by “iPhone version of IE” you mean “iPhone version of IE that somehow works with web sites that depend on Windows-only components”, sure some people want that. Isn’t going to happen, though.

Brand New: ‘Xerox, The Very, Very, Very Shiny Company’ 

Armin Vit: “Why is that marble not rotating? Or exploding? Or building out of thin air?”

Rails : Shared Hosting :: Oil : Water 

Dallas at Dreamhost:

The feeling I get from the Rails community is that Rails is being pushed as some sort of high-end application system and that makes it OK to ignore the vast majority of user web environments. You simply cannot ignore the shared hosting users. In my opinion, the one thing the PHP people did that got them to where they are today is to embrace shared hosting and work hard to make their software work well within it.

It’s certainly the case that Ruby on Rails simply is not suited for use in a shared hosting environment. The basic gist of Rails is that it’s easy and convenient from a programming perspective, but very difficult from a hosting perspective. It’s easy to say “The Rails team should make it easier to host”, but it’s sort of the nature of the beast, and I’ve never seen a good recommendation for specifically how they could do so.

ClearType Rendering Forthcoming for Safari on Windows? 

Good news for Windows users who don’t like that Safari for Windows uses Mac OS X-style anti-aliasing. (Via Grant Hutchinson.)

Three Students Stabbed, Pa. School Evacuated 

Surreal; this was my high school, and a bunch of people in my family work there now.

Brent Simmons on NetNewsWire 3.1’s Release as Freeware 

NetNewsWire developer Brent Simmons:

But I will say that, for me personally, this is a dream come true. Every developer wants to be able to work on the software they love, make a living at it, and give it to the world for free.

Usually you get to pick two out of three — if you’re lucky. Me, I get all three.

NewsGator Releases NetNewsWire and FeedDemon as Freeware 


NewsGator also announced that all of its client RSS reader products are now available free of charge and include free synchronization along with other services.

Adobe and Omniture: Further Details 

John Nack:

Q.: Why does Adobe use a server whose name is so suspicious-looking?

A.: I’m afraid the answer is that we don’t really know.  The fact is that this SWF tracking code already existed on the Macromedia side at the time the companies merged, and it was adopted without change by a number of products for CS3.  The people who wrote the code originally did not document why they used that server name, and we can’t find anyone who remembers.  I’m sorry we aren’t able to provide a more solid, definitive explanation.

Q.: Follow-on: Given that you can’t give a good reason why Adobe is using a server whose name is so suspicious, are you going to change the name?

A.: Absolutely. [...]

Kudos to Nack for the way he’s dealt with this.

Scalzi on Sony BMG’s Ridiculous ‘DRM-Free Music’ Scheme 

Sony BMG, the dumbest of the dumb.

Bento 1.0 

FileMaker’s new iWork-style personal database ships.

OmniFocus 1.0 

Long-in-development task management app from The Omni Group ships. $80, or just $60 for owners of OmniOutliner Pro.

New Xserves, Too 

Apple PR: “Starting at just $2,999, the new Xserve has up to two Quad-Core 3.0 GHz Intel Xeon processors for 8-core performance, a new server architecture, faster front side buses, faster memory, up to 3TB of internal storage and two PCI Express 2.0 expansion slots for greater performance and flexibility.”

Apple Releases New Eight-Core Mac Pro 

Why announce now, a week before Macworld Expo? Clearly because they have plenty of other, more consumery, new products to introduce. (Plus, now that Apple is using Intel CPUs, and because Intel publishes a roadmap, these new systems, while impressive, weren’t exactly out of the blue.)

How to Read The New Yorker in 10 Easy Steps 

Heather Champ’s technique largely overlaps with mine, except I never read the back page Cartoon Caption Contest first, and I think Anthony Lane is a terrible film critic.

Casio EXILIM Pro EX-F1: 60 fps 

This new $999 camera from Casio sounds amazing:

Capturing up to 60 frames per second at full resolution and a staggering 1200 fps if you drop the image size to 336 x 96, this innovative camera will also shoot 1920 x 1080 Full HD movies at 60 fps.

Financial Times: Paramount to Switch to Blu-Ray, Killing HD DVD 

Matthew Garrahan and Mariko Sanchanta reporting for The Financial Times:

Paramount is poised to drop its support of HD DVD after Warner Brothers’ recent backing of Sony’s Blu-ray technology, in a move that will sound the death knell of HD DVD and bring the home entertainment format war to a definitive end.

[...] Paramount, which is owned by Viacom, is understood to have a clause in its contract with the HD DVD camp that would allow it to switch sides in the event of Warner Brothers backing Blu-ray, according to people familiar with the situation.

(In case you missed it, Warner Brothers did just that last week.)

Nikon D3 / D300 vs. Canon 

Michael Reichmann of Luminous Landscape has a terrific comparison of Nikon’s and Canon’s latest DSLR camera bodies. The key is that he was a long-time Nikon user in the film era, switched to Canon 8 years ago because of Canon’s then-enormous lead in digital technology, and recently bought a complete Nikon kit, including both D3 and D300 bodies.

Usable Keychain Scripting 1.0b3 

Leopard and Intel compatibility update to Daniel Jalkut’s excellent freeware tool for accessing keychain entries from AppleScript.

NYT: Xerox Hopes Its New Logo Doesn’t Say ‘Copier’ 

It may not say photocopier, but neither did their elegant and distinctive old logomark. But their new mark does say “copier” to me, in the sense of “copied from every other 3D-glassy-spheres-and-swooshes logo of the last few years”. (Via Neven Mrgan.)

It’s not that companies with old logos should never scrap them for new ones, but that when they do, they ought to strive for new marks that will serve them well for decades to come. This new Xerox logo is going to look dated in five years.

Final Post 

Posthumously published post from U.S. Army Major Andrew Olmsted, who was killed earlier this week in Iraq:

This is an entry I would have preferred not to have published, but there are limits to what we can control in life, and apparently I have passed one of those limits.

The NYT Introduces a Wordsmith 

James Fallows on neo-conservative William Kristol’s cliché-ridden debut as a NYT op-ed columnist:

Perhaps this is more proof of a cunning, leftist NYT master plot? Bringing in a conservative who will demonstrate that conservatives have little interesting to say?

John Siracusa: MWSF 2008 Keynote Bingo 

Second column strikes me as the most likely winner.

The Truth That Dare Not Speak: The CES Keynote Sucked 

Duncan Riley: “The Microsoft keynote at CES sucked.”

Shocking. I’ve never understood why Bill Gates and Microsoft have been awarded a perennial slot as the CES keynote. Microsoft is a tremendously successful company, but they’ve never been particularly successful in the field of consumer electronics. Their two big successes are the Windows OS and software that runs on Windows. Xbox has been semi-successful, but they’ve lost money to build the second- or maybe even now third-place console platform.

Cringely: Why the Best Voting Technology May Be No Technology at All 

Cringely, back in 2003:

Forget touch screens and electronic voting. In Canadian Federal elections, two barely-paid representatives of each party, known as “scrutineers,” are present all day at the voting place. If there are more political parties, there are more scrutineers. To vote, you write an “X” with a pencil in a one centimeter circle beside the candidate’s name, fold the ballot up and stuff it into a box. Later, the scrutineers AND ANY VOTER WHO WANTS TO WATCH all sit at a table for about half an hour and count every ballot, keeping a tally for each candidate. If the counts agree at the end of the process, the results are phoned-in and everyone goes home. If they don’t, you do it again. Fairness is achieved by balanced self-interest, not by technology. The population of Canada is about the same as California, so the elections are of comparable scale. In the last Canadian Federal election the entire vote was counted in four hours. Why does it take us 30 days or more?

Update: Lots of email from Canadian readers who say that Canada’s ballots are far simpler than those in the U.S.; fewer candidates and issues to decide on each election day, and thus far better suited to a simple paper-based system. That may be, but certainly electronic voting machines are not necessary — the U.S. held plenty of elections before computerized voting machines existed.

Andrea Jung Joins Apple’s Board of Directors 


Apple today announced that Andrea Jung, chairman and chief executive officer of Avon Products, was elected to Apple’s board of directors.

Jung is the eighth member of Apple’s board, and the only woman.

More on E-Voting 

Dan Wallach at Freedom to Tinker offers an expert critique of yesterday’s New York Times Magazine story on electronic voting machines.

From the DF Archive: ‘Select Word’ Script for BBEdit 

An AppleScript I wrote back in 2003 to give you a simple command to select the “current word” in the front BBEdit document. Just fixed a few terminology issues that have changed in the intervening years. Tog be damned, I use this script at least a dozen times every day.

Can You Count on Voting Machines? 

Clive Thompson in The New York Times, with a comprehensive look at electronic voting machines:

The earliest critiques of digital voting booths came from the fringe — disgruntled citizens and scared-senseless computer geeks — but the fears have now risen to the highest levels of government. [...]

This has created an environment, critics maintain, in which the people who make and sell machines are now central to running elections. Elections officials simply do not know enough about how the machines work to maintain or fix them. When a machine crashes or behaves erratically on Election Day, many county elections officials must rely on the vendors — accepting their assurances that the problem is fixed and, crucially, that no votes were altered.

It’s a good story overall, filled with specific instances where electronic voting machines have either failed completely or simply failed to produce verifiable records for recounts (which is just as bad). But so the computer security experts who’ve been loudly critical of electronic voting machines all along are “the fringe”. They were kooks because they were saying the states were crazy to use these voting systems, because only kooks would argue that states were putting highly suspect and unverifiable voting machines into use; but, now that it’s become apparent from actual elections that these machines are, in fact, highly suspect and unverifiable, it’s just apparently some sort of coincidence that the kooks were right, rather than proof that the officials who put these machines into use were adequately and accurately warned.

Transmission 1.0 

As a general rule, open-source cross-platform apps generally aren’t best-of-breed apps on Mac OS X. Transmission is an exception. Looks swell and has a very thoughtful, utterly Mac-like UI.

An Interface of One’s Own 

Virginia Heffernan, in a piece for The New York Times Magazine, says good-bye to Microsoft Word and hello to Scrivener. She offers good mentions to a bunch of other indie Mac word processors/writing tools, like Ulysses and Nisus Writer. (Via Merlin Mann.)

Fraser Speirs’s Photo Editing Workflow 

He uses Aperture, but some of his ideas seem applicable for any photo library app.


Art Deco style typeface by Mark Simonson. Caught my eye in the latest Veer catalog.

Yes, Virginia, Any Idiot Can File a Lawsuit 

The Macalope on Stacie Somers of San Diego, who filed a lawsuit against Apple for not supporting DRM-protected Windows Media music files.

Lightroom Export Plugin for Flickr 

Freeware from Jeffrey Friedl. (Via Duncan Davidson on the Inside Lightroom weblog.)


My thanks to Inco for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Inco is a web-based remote system administration utility optimized for use with iPhones and other mobile handhelds. It offers a nice interface for manipulating and monitoring processes, transferring files, and more. For $36, you can use Inco on as many machines as you want. Check out the Getting Started PDF for more info.

Things 0.8.6 Public Beta 

$49 task manager from Cultured Code.

Passive Resistance, Like Gandhi 

He’s right, that was easy.

The 2007 Cabel Yay! Awards 

(a) Totally agree re: the new Coke branding; (b) Emacs? Cabel?

Sears Exposes Customer Purchase History in Violation of Its Privacy Policy 

Benjamin Edelman has more bad news regarding Sears’s appalling online privacy standards:

Sears offers no security whatsoever to prevent a ManageMyHome user from retrieving another person’s purchase history by entering that person’s name, phone number, and address.

Choose Your RSI 

David Smith:

In addition to the exceptions that Tog and Gruber point out (two-handed input and repetitive actions), I would suggest another win for keyboard shortcuts: learned reactions.

Sure, when you first start using an application or operating system, it takes you time to remember the keyboard shortcuts, probably longer than hunting for it with the mouse. But after a while, you tend to learn the shortcuts for the actions you use most, and for those actions, the shortcut is probably going to be faster than using the mouse.

Flickr Guest Pass 

From the I-Did-Not-Know-That Department: how to share private Flickr photos and sets with non-Flickr members. (Thanks to Steve Marshall, who picked up on my ignorance of this feature from The Talk Show.)

Vanity Fair Feature on ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ 

Vanity Fair cover story by Jim Windolf on the upcoming fourth Indiana Jones movie. Don’t miss the web-only interviews with Spielberg and Lucas.

For the record: My money says it’s going to be, at the worst, as good as Temple of Doom or Last Crusade. (I can’t bring myself to hope that it’ll be as great as Raiders of the Lost Ark, which I consider one of the very best movies ever made, full stop.) The second Star Wars trilogy has spooked a bunch of people regarding this movie, but the Indy movies are at least as much Spielberg’s as Lucas’s, and if anything, more so. Spielberg and Lucas have very different weaknesses (sentimentality and woodenness, respectively) and balance each other almost perfectly.

Self-Publishing Is the New Blogging 


When you’ve flown that far from Gutenberg, the only place to travel is back.

Om Malik 

Om Malik:

I had a heart attack on Dec. 28. I was able to walk into the hospital for treatment that night and have been recovering here ever since. With the support of my family and my team, I am on the road to a full recovery. I am going to be OK.

Best wishes to Om.

Live Disc 

Clever idea from Rogue Amoeba for their giveaway CDs for Macworld Expo.

The Iowa Scam 

Christopher Hitchens on the Iowa caucuses:

It’s only when you read an honest reporter like Dan Balz that you appreciate the depth and extent of the fraud that is being practiced on us all. “In a primary,” as he put it, “voters quietly fill out their ballots and leave. In the caucuses, they are required to come and stay for several hours, and there are no secret ballots. In the presence of friends, neighbors and occasionally strangers, Iowa Democrats vote with their feet, by raising their hands and moving to different parts of the room to signify their support for one candidate or another. … [F]or Democrats, it is not a one-person, one-vote system. … Inducements are allowed; bribes are not.” One has to love that last sentence.

Setting Up Local Virtual Hosts on Leopard 

Nice write-up from Jeremy Keith on setting up local virtual host web sites on Leopard — it’s a bit different on Leopard because Mac OS X now includes Apache 2.

GrabFS: The Screenshot File System 

Amit Singh:

In a pinch, GrabFS is a file system that shows you a live view of the window contents of currently running applications. In a GrabFS volume, folders represent running applications and image files represent instant screenshots (”grabs”) of the applications’ windows. You simply copy a file or just open it in place, and you have a screenshot. Open it again, and you have a new screenshot!

I’m not sure I’d ever find this useful, but I love it anyway.

Sears Installs Spyware 

Jacqui Cheng on security researcher Benjamin Googins’s discovery that a supposed “community” service on and (Kmart is a Sears subsidiary) is actually an atrocious spyware system.

Raymond Babbitt said it well in Rain Man: “Kmart sucks.”

Macworld: Add More Power to 10.5’S Screen Sharing 

Rob Griffiths reveals hidden features in Leopard’s Screen Sharing app.

Regarding the RIAA’s Lawsuit Against Jeffrey Howell 

A few days ago I linked to a Washington Post story regarding Atlantic v. Howell, a lawsuit the RIAA filed against Jeffrey Howell. The Post, and many other media outlets, reported that the RIAA’s attorneys have argued in their brief that merely ripping music to MP3 files from the CDs you legally own constitutes copyright infringement.

Ends up this isn’t what the RIAA’s legal brief states. What the RIAA claims, and which led them to file suit against Howell, is that he both ripped 2,000 songs to MP3 and shared them publicly via Kazaa. Big difference.

Fortune Ranks Steve Jobs Most Powerful Businessperson in World 

Followed by Rupert Murdoch, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and Google’s Schmidt/Page/Brin triumvirate.

Regarding Apple’s Hard Drive Repair Policy 

Matt Deatherage, on Dave Winer’s argument that Apple’s “we keep your old hard drive if it needs to be replaced during servicing” policy is a security issue:

The “problem” isn’t that Apple kept his hard drive. The problem is that Dave handed his sensitive data to a third-party in the first place. You don’t leave your router open out of an “expectation” that bad guys won’t touch your network, and you don’t hand your hard drive to third parties with the expectation that they’ll decide not to look at it.

Update: Matt has extensively updated his piece to address the question of what to do if the drive is so severely damaged that you can’t even erase it. That seems to be an actual problem with Apple’s policy.

iCab 4.0 

Talk about a blast from the past — Alexander Clauss has released a major new version of iCab:

iCab 4.0 is completely rewritten and is now based on Cocoa instead of Carbon. It is much faster than iCab 3 has a polished user interface and also some new features.

I’m pretty sure iCab is now using WebKit as its rendering engine. Previously, iCab used its own rendering engine, which, way back in the day — as in prior-to-IE-5-for-Mac back in the day — was my favorite rendering engine for the Mac. Check out the readme file for full details regarding some of iCab’s nifty new features.

(Via Michael Tsai.)

Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ on Sale at iTunes Store 

The songs are all available as singles, too. You can buy it from Amazon instead and save two bucks.

Twitter Navel Gazing 

My Twitter use in 2007, compiled and graphed using Damon Cortesi’s very cool Twitter Stats.

Most interesting to me is the big hourly spike around 2-3 pm, which is usually right after lunch for me. Rands has a big post-lunch spike too.

Rands in Repose: Year in Twitter 


The only thing better than data is data about data. Data about data is information that, in quantity, becomes knowledge, which is just a short hop away from wisdom. And when wisdom shows up, you know you’re this close to figuring it all out.

U.S. Bans Spare Lithium Batteries From Checked Bags 

Useful information for anyone heading to Macworld Expo:

New rules will go into effect on Jan. 1 that prohibit air passengers in the U.S. from carrying spare lithium batteries in their checked baggage.

The new rules, announced Friday by the U.S. Department of Transportation, are designed to reduce the risk of fires in aircraft. Lithium batteries have been identified as a possible cause of several aircraft fires.

You can still pack extra batteries in your carry-on bags, however. Update: Here are the actual TSA guidelines.

On Horseshit, and The New York Times 

Screenwriter John August on having one of his weblog posts grossly misrepresented by New York Times reporter Brooks Barnes in a story about the ongoing WGA strike:

Worse, by omitting what I actually said, the article creates the implication I said something much worse. Something — gulp! — unprintably awful. Which I didn’t. I said that the AMPTP’s offer on the table was horseshit. Which it was.

I think what’s especially wrong is that in addition to not quoting any words from the blog entry in question, The Times also neglected to include a URL to the post (or even to the home page of August’s weblog). I see this all the time — but only, of course, from publications rooted in print. I think anyone who reads what August actually wrote would agree that Barnes’s characterization of it as “vulgar” is, well, horseshit.

Trading for Their Own Account 

Tim O’Reilly:

Everyone applauds when Google goes after Microsoft’s Office monopoly, seeing it simply as “turnabout’s fair play,” (and a distant underdog to boot), but when they start to go after web non-profits like Wikipedia, you see where the ineluctible logic leads. As Google’s growth slows, as inevitably it will, it will need to consume more and more of the web ecosystem, trading against its former suppliers, rather than distributing attention to them.

Comicraft New Year’s Day Sale on Comic Book Fonts 

Some nifty comic-lettering fonts on big, big sale, today only. (Via Andy Ihnatko.)