Linked List: September 2008

Esquire: ‘Steve Jobs and the Portal to the Invisible’ 

Long piece for Esquire by Tom Junod. Doesn’t cover new ground, but it’s a good attempt to place Steve Jobs — his influence and lasting impact on the world — in context.

My only significant gripe is that Junod trots out the old the Mac got crushed because Apple kept the Mac closed and the DOS/Windows PC was open chestnut, and attributes the decision to Jobs’s penchant for control. But Junod also acknowledges that Jobs was ousted from Apple in 1985, just a year or so after the original Mac shipped. Whatever happened to the Mac between 1985 and 1996 had nothing to do with Jobs.

Dell Opens Movie Store With One Title 

Heck of a job, Bucher.

Stainless 0.1 

Very impressive work from Mesa Dynamics: Stainless is a new multi-process WebKit-based browser for Leopard, inspired by Google Chrome. Same basic architecture as Chrome, in that each browser tab gets its own process. It’s a “technology demo” at this point, missing all sorts of stuff like bookmarks, history management, and even shortcuts for switching between tabs, but it definitely works.

Incomplete though it may be, what’s there now is very nice. The tabs offer better dragability than Safari’s, and I love the visual feedback for a tab in “private” mode.

Using iPhone-Optimized Web Apps on the Mac 

Dan Cederholm is using Hahlo (an iPhone web app Twitter client) on his Mac, via Fluid.

NIN Edition of Tap Tap Revenge 

This is a brilliant idea: a licensed version of Tap Tap Revenge with a visual theme and music from a specific band. I predict big sales and lots of press about it. Why settle for selling music when you can sell games? No surprise that Trent Reznor is ahead of the curve on this.

(The announcement also notes that Tapulous has hired my good friend and former Joyent colleague Bryan Bell.)

The Survey That Squashed AAPL 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt takes a close look at the IT purchasing-plan survey that sparked the dramatic sell-off on Apple’s stock yesterday:

So there are indeed signs of a cooling trend for Apple, but it’s not at all clear that they justify an 18% drop in its share price. Dell, by comparison, dropped 5.9% on Monday and its ChangeWave chart is disaster.

In short, it seems like Apple’s stock took a disproportionate hit for a downward turn in IT purchasing industry-wide. Plus, quite obviously, it was the single worst day in 20 years for a bad forecast about any publicly-traded company to be released.

Technologizer’s iPhone Survey Results 

Unsurprising but interesting nonetheless. For example, 97 percent of respondents were running the updated 2.1 OS; I don’t think any other cell phone maker could get that sort of number. It’s a testimony to Apple’s tight iTunes/iPhone integration. Also, three-quarters of respondents have downloaded 10 or more apps from the App Store.

Differences Between Google Update Engine and Sparkle 

Google Groups thread with comments from Google’s Greg Miller and Sparkle creator Andy Matuschak.

Focus and Recompose 

Duncan Davidson has a splendid, illustrated explanation regarding the shortcomings of focus-and-recompose. A good follow-up to his piece about the shortcomings in the auto-focus system in Canon’s just-announced EOS 5D Mark II.

Apple Selling Unlocked iPhones in Hong Kong 

From an AP report on Apple’s official unlocked phones in Hong Kong:

“Phone 3G purchased at the Apple Online Store can be activated with any wireless carrier,” it said on the site.

Offering free shipping, the 8-gigabyte phone goes for $5,400 Hong Kong dollars ($695) while the 16-gigabyte version costs HK$6,200 ($798).

Since the global rollout in July, Hong Kong buyers could only purchase the multimedia phone from Hutchison Telecommunications International Ltd. with a two-year mobile contract, even though the device was widely available on the black market.

At those prices — roughly $700/800 for 8/16 GB, respectively — I would presume it’s just as profitable for Apple, if not more so, than the subsidized iPhones including the carrier kick-back.

But why only in Hong Kong? Why not sell unlocked iPhone 3Gs at those prices everywhere? Is it that Hong Kong consumers are particularly willing to spend $800 on an unlocked phone? Or is it that the black market was particularly strong there?

Jon Hicks on Billings 3.0 

Billings 3 sounds like exactly the app I always wished for back when I was freelancing.

Google Update Engine 

New open source Mac OS X software update engine from Google. Unclear at a glance how it compares to Sparkle.

SousChef 1.0 

New $30 “digital cooking assistant” from Acacia Tree Software. Lets you publish and share recipes with other SousChef users, and will find recipes based on the ingredients you have at hand. And I love this idea:

It doesn’t make any sense to print out a recipe every time you want to cook, so SousChef includes a ten foot mode so you can place your computer somewhere safe but still read your recipes from across the room. Ten foot mode features a high contrast fullscreen display with smooth transitions and only the info you need to know. While in ten foot mode SousChef can read your recipes to you and can be controlled via speech or a remote.

‘You Can’t Fight in Here!’ 

Brief interview with production designer Ken Adam, regarding the iconic war room set he designed for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. (Thanks to Gord Locke.)

Here’s a small scan of Adam’s final concept drawing.

Top Draw 1.0 

Daniel Waylonis, from Google’s Mac team:

Top Draw is an image generation program just launched in the Google Mac Playground. By using simple text scripts, based on JavaScript, Top Draw can create surprisingly complex and interesting images. Even cooler is that the program has built-in support for installing any image of yours as your desktop image.

Oddica Returns 

After a brief hiatus, my friends at Oddica — with whom I’ve partnered to sell DF t-shirts the last two years — are back with some excellent new shirt designs. Also check out the new Oddica weblog, which today features an interview with’s Ben Pieratt.

Admit It, Brushed Metal Was Ugly 

Here’s GUIdebook’s archive of screenshots from Mac OS X 10.3, released five years ago, at the height of you-know-who’s infatuation with brushed metal. It’s worse than you remember.

Paul Goracke on the ‘iPhone Black’ UI Look 

Paul Goracke:

Gratuitous use of a black UI only serves to distance an application from this smooth interface flow — maybe not as bad as a yellow, green or pale blue background, or an application that doesn’t even use standard navigation, tool and tab bars — but distanced nonetheless. Ironically, as more applications use the black UI, any one app using it is no longer differentiated — it’s now just noticeably “not Apple.”

His comparison to brushed metal is interesting and apt, but I do see one important difference: brushed metal looked bad, in and of itself. The black iPhone UI look doesn’t look bad, per se, it’s just different than the standard theme.

AAPL Taking a Bath Today 

Bunch of analysts downgrade Apple stock. As of this moment, the stock’s down 14 percent for the day.

You Wild, Beautiful Thing. You Crazy Handful of Nothin’ 

Roger Ebert:

Paul Newman seemed to represent the best of what we could hope for. He was handsome, yes. He had those blue eyes, yes. Helpful in making him a star, but inconsequential to his ultimate achievement. What he expressed above all was grace, and comfort within his own skin.

The Big Picture: The Singapore Grand Prix 

Gorgeous photographs from the first-ever Formula One race held at night.

Late ’80s Apple France Ad 

Terrific old commercial for Apple by Claude Miller. (Via Coudal.)

Android vs. iPhone 

Paul Kafasis on how competition between Apple and Google could make both Android and the iPhone better. Includes links to videos demonstrating Android features like multi-tasking and copy-and-paste.

Coop: ‘Making Art With Analog Technology’ 

Speaking of photography, a good piece from Coop regarding his Leica M6.

Obama, Behind the Scenes at the First Presidential Debate 

Candid behind-the-scenes photos from Obama campaign photographer David Katz. I love this one, from about five minutes before the start.

Tim Bray: ‘Video? I Doubt It’ 

Tim Bray nails the difference between high-quality consumer still photography and video: good software tools. They’re available for photography, but not for video.

App Store Reviews Now Require Download or Purchase 

Matt Gemmell:

Just a small positive note amongst the gloom of NDAs, app rejections and approval delays: Apple have today changed how the customer reviews system works for App Store applications: you now must have downloaded or purchased the app before you’re allowed to post a review on it.

This is a big deal, a huge improvement, because the reviews for most not-free apps in the store are riddled with useless, inane, zero-star reviews complaining about the price of the app from idiots who haven’t actually used the software.

Windows Mobile 7 Delayed 

Matt Marshall:

Microsoft is delaying the update to its mobile operating system, called Windows Mobile 7, with the new phones carrying the operating system now increasingly unlikely to hit the market before 2010, according to sources.

It’s one thing when major new releases of desktop Windows run late — that doesn’t hurt Microsoft much, because, as a monopolist, their primary competition for Windows Vista is Windows XP. But they’re embarrassing themselves in the very competitive handheld market. Microsoft appears to be dysfunctional.

Mini-Microsoft: ‘Compensatory Arrangements of Certain (Microsoft) Officers’ 

Mini-Microsoft on the company’s new executive compensation plan:

Microsoft is dying from the inside, and the folks sucking it dry have zero motivation to change things. It’s working out pretty damn well for them.

Google Comes Out Against California’s Proposition 8 

Proposition 8 is a ballot initiative in California, which would change the state’s constitution to “eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California”. Google has taken an official corporate stance. Sergey Brin:

While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 — we should not eliminate anyone’s fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love.

Good for Google. I hope they put some money behind it too; anti-gay bigots are putting a ton of money into a campaign to pass this initiative.

Paul Newman Dies at Age 83 

One of the greats. The definition of cool. And his Newman’s Own brand, in addition to making delicious cookies, has raised more than $200 million for charity.

Larry Ellison on Cloud Computing 

Say what you want about Larry Ellison, but he’s not much for bullshit.

Technologizer’s iPhone Satisfaction Survey 

Harry McCracken:

Enter Technologizer’s iPhone Satisfaction Survey. We’re going to collect data from a bunch of iPhone users (both the original model and the 3G) on what they like, what they don’t like, what they’re doing with the phone, and what they’d like to see future iPhones do.


My thanks to Loopt for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. In a nut, Loopt is a location-aware social network that can link to other services like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp. It lets you do things like find nearby restaurants that are recommended by your own friends. Version 1.1 of their free iPhone app just hit the App Store last night.

Loopt, you may recall, had an onstage demo during the WWDC keynote this year, which I mocked on Twitter. What was cool is that when they contacted me to inquire about sponsoring the DF feed, they took the jokes in stride, and offered to pay for the ad in polo shirts.

Sonic Lighter 

Mike Arrington on Sonic Lighter, a $1 “virtual lighter” iPhone app that is spreading quickly thanks to being location-aware. When you light it up, it registers on a global map.

Impressive when you consider that every dot on the map is a dollar. Update: My mistake, apparently every dot is just an “ignition”, so each dot doesn’t correlate to a unique user. Still, though, the thing looks crazy popular.

A New Interrobang Design!? 

Stephen Coles:

I submit that the reason the interrobang didn’t catch on is due mostly to its design. The smashing of straight and curved vertical strokes atop each other is hardly a graceful combination, and it gets especially messy at text sizes (‽). Were it drawn more thoughtfully like those of Christian Schwartz’s Amplitude and Fritz, the interrobang might be part of our standard punctuation today, a member of the basic Latin character set, and common in our written vernacular.

I’ve never been a fan of the interrobang, but Schwartz’s designs for it are so clever that they might change my mind. I think Coles is right that the problem with the interrobang as we know it is that it’s ugly. To my eyes, in most typefaces that have an interrobang glyph, it always looks better to just use adjacent exclamation and question marks — ‘!?’ rather than ‘‽’.

‘Organizing Our Marvellous Neighbours’ 

Joe Clark’s new e-book, subtitled “How to Feel Good About Canadian English”. $17.83 (CAD, of course). Just bought my copy.

Lightsaber Unleashed 

Finally, some good news regarding an app that had been removed from the App Store. The Mac Box’s PhoneSaber was a fun little accelerometer-based lightsaber simulator — fire it up, wave your iPhone around, and it made lightsaber sounds. The developers pulled it from the App Store shortly after release, however, due to licensing concerns.

As of today, it’s back, renamed Lightsaber Unleashed, as a free (and apparently licensed) promotion for the new Force Unleashed game.

Third, Never-Aired Seinfeld Ad for Microsoft Was Filmed? 

Asher Moses, reporting for the Sydney Morning Herald:

Microsoft has already run two ad spots featuring Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld awkwardly meeting in a discount shoe shop and attempting to reconnect with real people by moving in with a normal family.

But even though a third ad featuring Seinfeld was filmed, Microsoft dumped the comic last week in favour of new ads featuring more current celebrities such as actress Eva Longoria, singer Pharrell Williams and even author Deepak Chopra declaring “I’m a PC”.

But all three are Mac fans, Silicon Valley gossip blog Valleywag revealed.

I don’t care about the fact that the ads themselves were produced on Macs. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any major ad agency that doesn’t produce their creative work on Macs. Making fun of Microsoft for this would be like making fun of Apple because they use Windows PCs for things like SAP.

What’s interesting to me is the report of a third, never-aired Seinfeld spot. I heard the same thing last week, privately, from a friend in Seattle. But now here it is in print. If true, it’s proof that Microsoft’s claim that they’d only ever planned to run two Seinfeld ads and for just two weeks is, in fact, a crock.

Head of Skate 

Apropos given the previous link.

Sarah Palin on Russia 

Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, in her own words, on her previous claims that Alaska’s proximity to Russia lends her foreign policy experience:

“It’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia, as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, right next to our state.”

You really need to watch the video to get the full effect. Taken at her word, she seems to believe that Vladimir Putin is preparing to launch an air strike against the United States, and that she as governor of Alaska would play a role in our response.

Designing the UI of Things for iPhone 

I don’t agree with all their decisions, but I do love the way the Cultured Code guys are so willing to share their design iterations.

The Dark Bailout 

“Why don’t you call me when you want to start taking things a little more... seriously.” (Via Rands.)

Bad Satire 

P.Z. Myers on Roger Ebert’s attempted satire of young-earth creationism (the belief that the entire universe is just 6,000 years old):

But Ebert is no Jonathan Swift. Imagine if, in 1729, there had been a number of letters to the editor by various authors proposing that Irish children be exterminated and eaten. Imagine that laws of that nature were being seriously debated in Parliament, and that one of the parties had made it a part of their platform. While the laws were being regularly defeated, opponents still had to stand up and seriously debate why it was unethical to eat babies. Imagine that a candidate for prime minister actually solemnly suggested that we ought to at least consider the merits of eating Irish children.

In that context, Swift’s essay would have fallen flat as a cowflop dropped from the Tower of London.

To satirize the creationism movement, you’d have to, say, posit that the earth is just 60 years old.


You got to admit it’s a good title.


New web site dedicated to custom letter design, from Ray Frenden and Brian Jaramillo. First up: an interview with Doyald Young.

Update: Alas, popularity has knocked LetterCult temporarily offline.

Now This Is How You Make a TV Commercial 

Fantastic. (Via Andrew Sullivan). Update: Changed the link to a higher-quality version hosted by Hovis.

T-Mobile Lifts 1 GB Bandwidth Cap for Google Phone 

That didn’t take long.

David Letterman Reacts to John McCain Suspending Campaign 

Highlights from last night’s show. Very funny.

Jason Snell: ‘Don’t Drive iPhone Developers Away, Apple’ 

Jason Snell goes deep with a comprehensive look at the App Store situation:

If you don’t want to sympathize with developers, let me rephrase it to describe how this will affect users: If developers are afraid to write programs for the iPhone that aren’t games, to-do lists, and tip calculators, for fear that all their hard work will be wasted by a malicious or capricious Apple rejection notice, they will stop writing programs for the platform. And the well of innovative, interesting iPhone software will dry up.

A must-read essay. Apple’s stewardship of the App Store, to date, can only be explained by malevolence or incompetence. Either way, they should change course.

‘Killing Our Enthusiasm’ 

Craig Hockenberry:

You should also be aware that much of the discontent is being masked by the NDA that’s currently in place. I, and many others, do not want to anger Apple and there are no forums to voice our concerns privately.

Because of the NDA, and because of some unpublicized incidents of petty intimidation from people at Apple to iPhone developers, there is a climate of fear in the Mac/iPhone developer community. You cannot judge the depth of long-time Apple developers’ unhappiness with the current situation by the available public comments, because it isn’t being expressed publicly. It’s a tip-of-the-iceberg situation.

Pragmatic Cancels iPhone Programming Book 

The Pragmatic Programmers:

We’ve had the iPhone book ready to go beta for some months, but were prevented from publishing it because of the iPhone SDK’s Non-Disclosure Agreement (which affects all publishers regarding this material, regardless of whether the reader is a member of the ADC or not). [...]

It now appears that Apple does not intend to lift the NDA any time soon. Regrettably, this means we are pulling our iPhone book out of production.

Dan Moren on the iPhone NDA 

Dan Moren:

There may very well be a good reason for the NDA to remain in place—but that shouldn’t prohibit Apple from explaining that reason to its developers.

It’s that simple.

T-Mobile G1 Video Hands-On 

Good example footage of a G1 in use side-by-side with an iPhone 3G.

Beneath Apple 

Brent Simmons:

This behavior is definitely beneath the company that makes the software and hardware I adore and love developing for.

I’m starting to get The Fear.

Android and T-Mobile G1’s Five Worst Flaws 

The lack of multi-touch is a hardware deficiency in the G1, not an Android deficiency. But it highlights the problems developers will have if they want to create iPhone-quality experiences. If you require multi-touch in your app then your app won’t work on some Android phones. If you don’t require multi-touch, then you’re stuck writing extra code and designing alternative interface gestures.

If Android developers tend to take the easy way out and just target the lowest common denominator of device capabilities, then the platform will never rival the iPhone — and it will only fall further behind each successive year.

Walt Mossberg on the G1 

Walt Mossberg:

In sum, the G1 is a powerful, versatile device which will offer users a real alternative in the new handheld computing category the iPhone has occupied alone.

HTC G1 Specs 

Update: I’ve updated the link to point to HTC’s official page. Corrections below.

At $179, it costs $20 less than an 8 GB iPhone 3G, but the G1 only comes with a 1 GB SD card. It also only has 64 MB of RAM. The G1, however, comes with 192 MB of RAM; the iPhone has just 128 (although Apple doesn’t publicly state how much RAM it has). The overall size is about the same, except the G1 is 16mm thick, vs. 12 mm for the iPhone. The display has the same pixel count (480 x 320), but is smaller at 3.2 inches vs. 3.5 for the iPhone.

Some limitations are much like the iPhone’s: it’s SIM-locked to the carrier, has no VOIP app yet, and doesn’t allow tethering the data network to a PC.

The G1’s Achilles Heel: T-Mobile’s Network 

DSL Reports on the G1:

T-Mobile insists that they’ll have HSDPA up and running in 21 markets by mid-october when the phone officially launches — and 27 markets by year’s end. AT&T got a pretty sound beating for releasing the iPhone 3G with more than 200 HSDPA-enabled markets

And, worse, “unlimited data usage” means “limited to 1 GB”. From T-Mobile’s fine print:

If your total data usage in any billing cycle is more than 1 GB, your data throughput for the remainder of that cycle may be reduced to 50 kbps or less.

I just checked, and for my last AT&T billing cycle, I used 360 MB of data on my iPhone 3G. That cycle includes five days at the Jersey shore and three days in Chicago for C4, both of which trips I used the data network for as long as the battery would allow. Other than that, though I spent the rest of the month at home, where I use the AT&T data network just a few times a day. I can see how someone who uses the cell network for data every day would go over 1 GB a month easily.

Apple ‘Solves’ Problem With App Store Rejections 

Arnold Kim:

Aparently, Apple has now started labeling their rejection letters with Non-Disclosure (NDA) warnings:


I.e. if you’re a developer whose app has been rejected from the App Store, you are not allowed to say that your app has been rejected from the App Store.

(Via Paul Kafasis.)

G1 Overview 

Rob Beschizza has a nice overview of today’s HTC/T-Mobile/Google G1 announcement. Highlights include that it doesn’t do any sort of desktop syncing; it syncs only with Google servers. It costs $179 and requires a contract with T-Mobile, so it’s only $20 cheaper than an iPhone.

I’m still rooting for it to be good.

The World, Justified 

Typography meets cartography.

T-Mobile G1 Has No 3.5mm Headphone Jack 

Given how many complaints there were about the original iPhone’s recessed headphone jack, it seems weird that HTC would make this decision with the G1. The accompanying photo also serves as a good illustration of how much thicker than an iPhone the G1 (which features a slide-out keyboard) is.

Good Ideas and Lies 

This strikes me as a very good rule of thumb:

Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.

Cheap, Easy Audio Transcription With Mechanical Turk 

How Andy Baio used Mechanical Turk to get a 36-minute audio interview transcribed for just $15.40.

Field Notes Brand Calendar Pre-Order 

From my pals at Coudal Partners and Drapin Design Co., the best-designed calendar you’re likely to see. Update: The site was down for a bit, but is back up now.

NetNewsWire for iPhone Stats 

Over 200,000 users; average user subscribes to 26 feeds.

I subscribe to far fewer feeds in NetNewsWire on my iPhone than I do on my Mac. On my Mac, I use NetNewsWire to track feeds for everything I’m interested in. On my iPhone, I use it only for those feeds which are the most important and/or most interesting.

Five iPhone Racing Games Reviewed 

I bought Freeverse’s Wingnuts Moto Chaser. Pretty good game.

‘Reverie’, Sample Video From the Upcoming Canon 5D Mark II 

Short from by Vincent Laforet, shot using a pre-production EOS 5D Mark II. Unbelievable quality. No jelly movement here. This is film-quality motion picture footage in a $2,700 camera. Update: With regard to jelly movement, several readers point out that the film doesn’t feature much panning, and what panning it does feature is slow, so jelly movement may well be a problem.

CS4: Sweating the Details 

Adobe’s John Nack:

I’m a perfectionist, and I deeply, viscerally want to smooth & polish every aspect of Photoshop. Doing it all in any one cycle is impossible, but I’m proud to say we’ve put a ton of effort into sweating the details in CS4.

You’re going to see tons of flashier features in other write-ups, and of course I’ll cover them here, but for this cycle I want to lead with the little stuff — things you might not read about otherwise, but which can make a big difference while working.

I love weblog posts like this. Some good news for Mac users, too, such as:

Cmd-~ (tilde) is now assigned to switching among open documents, as is Ctrl-Tab, meaning Photoshop is now consistent with both Mac and Windows conventions.

(Not sure why Nack’s post is riddled with underlined phrases that aren’t links, though. I keep trying to click on them. The use of underlining for any purpose other than indicating hypertext links died a decade ago. Update: Perhaps it was a formatting error; the underlines are gone now.)

Adobe Creative Suite 4 

Maybe I’ll finally upgrade from CS1 this time.

Wil Shipley on the App Store: ‘Let the Market Decide’ 

Wil Shipley has a very good proposal for how Apple should be handling the App Store:

The App Store needs to think of itself as two different parts - it already implements these parts, but the people who run the store need to understand that these two parts are fundamentally separate. [...]

Everyone can get into the warehouse. Only the select few can get into the storefront.

Lights Off 

Craig Hockenberry took the source code to Lights Off — a simple, fun iPhone game from Lucas Newman and Adam Betts written against the jailbreak APIs a year ago — got it working under the official iPhone APIs, and has released it as open source.

‘All of a Sudden’ 

Senator Bernie Sanders:

For years now, they’ve told us that we can’t afford — that the government providing healthcare to all people is just unimaginable; it can’t be done. We don’t have the money to rebuild our infrastructure. We don’t have the money to wipe out poverty. We can’t do it. But all of a sudden, yeah, we do have $700 billion for a bailout of Wall Street.

In just one week.

Via µ Slabs.

Badass Pony 

Armin Vit on Ford’s subtle but very effective redesign of the Mustang badge.


Newt Gingrich, on the Bush administration’s “hurry up and immediately approve a $700 billion bailout” push, and the Democratic congress’s apparent willingness to go along with it:

Congress was designed by the Founding Fathers to move slowly, precisely to avoid the sudden panic of a one-week solution that becomes a 20-year mess.

And so we’ve now reached the point where I’m in full agreement with Newt Gingrich on the most pressing political debate of the day.

‘Nuh-Uh, My Mom Thinks I’m Cool’ 


That’s the problem with Microsoft’s ads. They’re still #1 and the bigger company, but by referencing Apple’s successful ad campaign, they’re acting like Apple is #1.

We Are All PCs 

Amelie Gillette on Microsoft’s new “I’m a PC” ads:

Also, it would have been simpler for Deepak Chopra to just say, “I’m a PC, and I will gradually wear down your patience with verbal slingshot after verbal slingshot filled with bullshit.”

Update, December 2016: The commercial in question can be seen here.

What Advertising Can’t Fix 

Seth Godin on Microsoft’s Apple envy:

Microsoft may very well not be broken. The world needs reliable bureaucracies that mollify the needs of corporations and individuals in the center of the market. But if it is broken, advertising isn’t going to fix it.

Microsoft’s cultural problem is that they seem utterly dissatisfied with the perception that they are a company that makes boatloads of money selling (a) boring but profitable business software and (b) the lowest common denominator PC operating system, even though that’s exactly what they do.

A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You 

Last night the Yankees beat the Orioles 7-3, in the final baseball game ever played in the most celebrated sporting venue in the world, Yankee Stadium.

Nikon’s New AF-S Nikkor 50mm ƒ/1.4G Lens 

If you own a Nikon SLR, you should buy this lens.

MailWrangler, Gmail-Specific Email Client Rejected From App Store 

Angelo DiNardi wrote an iPhone app called MailWrangler. It’s a WebKit wrapper for Gmail’s iPhone web interface, with support for multiple Gmail accounts. He submitted the app to Apple on July 17; six weeks later, he got this response from Apple, rejecting it from the App Store:

Your application duplicates the functionality of the built-in iPhone application Mail without providing sufficient differentiation or added functionality, which will lead to user confusion.

This is depressing. One other iPhone developer told me about a week ago (in the wake of the Podcaster saga) that he was told by a friend at Apple not to bother working on an iPhone email client — that alternatives to MobileMail wouldn’t make it into the App Store.

MailWrangler presents a significantly different (but still iPhone-specific) interface than does MobileMail. And while you can use MobileSafari to access Gmail’s iPhone web UI (which is the UI MailWrangler presents), using MobileSafari requires you to log out and log back in manually for each separate Gmail account you wish to check. MailWrangler sounds like a terrific app for people who use multiple Gmail accounts and prefer the iPhone web UI over MobileMail.

Apple Ultracompact USB Power Adapter Exchange Program 

You know those adorable little USB power adapters that Apple ships with the iPhone 3G? Well, they’re being recalled:

Apple has determined that under certain conditions the new ultracompact Apple USB power adapter’s metal prongs can break off and remain in a power outlet, creating a risk of electric shock. We have received reports of detached blades involving a very small percentage of the adapters sold, but no injuries have been reported.

Neven Mrgan Joins Panic 

Good for Neven, good for Panic. What a great fit.


New extra-blocky block serif by Silas Dilworth.

The Value of Keeping an Open Mind 

Jason Santa Maria on Jan Tschichold’s change of heart regarding sans serif typefaces. Without an open mind, we’d have never had Sabon.

Cisco to Buy Jabber 

Not sure if I should care.

Where To? GPS Points of Interest 1.1 (iTunes Link) 

My thanks to TapTapTap for once again sponsoring the DF RSS feed. They’ve just released version 1.1 of “Where To? GPS Points of Interest”, their $3 location-based “find stuff near you” app for the iPhone. Locate everything from restaurants to hotels to stores, using a thoughtful, very slick UI.

Check out TapTapTap’s weblog for more info and an inside look at their development process.

‘Jelly Movement’ 

So DSLRs from Canon and Nikon now shoot video. And Red, the upstart digital video camera company, is planning to start making digital still cameras. Red CEO Jim Jannard claims that it’s easier for Red to move from video to still than for Canon and Nikon to move the other way, and he points to this example footage from a Nikon D90 as proof.

More JavaScript Engine Benchmarks 

Some interesting performance differences between Mac and Windows with the Dromaeo benchmark: Safari and Firefox nightlies come out just about even on Windows, but Safari wins big on Mac OS X.

JavaScript Engine Performance Leapfrog Continues 

As I suspected, SquirrelFish retakes the lead.

SquirrelFish Extreme 

Maciej Stachowiak introducing a “major revamp” of WebKit’s next-generation JavaScript engine, now available in the nightly builds. More than twice as fast as the version of SquirrelFish announced on June 2, and more than three times faster than the shipping JavaScript engine in Safari 3.1. I’m pretty sure it out-benchmarks Google’s V8 and Mozilla’s TraceMonkey, at least for now. JavaScript engines may well be the most competitive field in applied computer science today.

Here’s Stachowiak on the improvements they’ve made since June:

SquirrelFish Extreme uses four different technologies to deliver much better performance than the original SquirrelFish: bytecode optimizations, polymorphic inline caching, a lightweight “context threaded” JIT compiler, and a new regular expression engine that uses our JIT infrastructure.

The new regex engine is near and dear to the nerdiest regions of my heart:

Not all code spends a bunch of time in regexps, but with the speed of our new regular expression engine, WREC (the WebKit Regular Expression Compiler), you can write the kind of text processing code you’d want to do in Perl or Python or Ruby, and do it in JavaScript instead. In fact we believe that in many cases our regular expression engine will beat the highly tuned regexp processing in those other languages.

That’s a bold statement.

Microsoft’s ‘I’m a PC’ Ads 

Pathetic. So sad. This campaign (which feels utterly unconnected to the Seinfeld spots) might as well be titled “Please stop making fun of Windows, Apple.” Redesign 


This Is Why iPhone Developers Put Up With All the, Well, How Shall We Say It?, Bullshit From Apple 

Trism, the $5 gravity/tilt-assisted iPhone puzzle game by Steve Demeter, has made $250,000 since July 11.

Distant Replay 

Mark Bowden watches the 1958 NFL Championship game film with current Eagles coach Andy Reid. A good look at how much the game has changed in 50 years.

The iPhone Development Story 

The 22-step process to shipping an iPhone app.

Microsoft Aims to Redefine ‘I’m a PC’ 

This Microsoft advertising story just gets weirder. Now they’re rolling out a commercial with a John Hodgman lookalike who declares, “Hello, I’m a PC, and I’ve been made into a stereotype.”

Directly responding to Apple’s campaign is weak. It’s playing Pepsi to Apple’s Coke, Burger King to Apple’s McDonald’s. It’s an explicit acknowledgement that Microsoft is the second-place brand.

Valleywag: Microsoft to Announce Jerry Seinfeld Ads Cancelled Tomorrow 

What a mess Microsoft is in.

What’s the Deal With the 4 GB Fourth-Gen iPod Nanos? 

Oddly, in addition to the two advertised capacities for the new Nanos (8 and 16 GB), there are also 4 GB models available in some European stores. Jeremy Horwitz speculates that Apple was originally planning 4 and 8 GB capacities, and moved to 8/16 late in the game in response to the new Zunes from Microsoft.

Inside the iPhone App Store Acceptance Process 

Niall Kennedy on the App Store and the Podcaster saga. Includes this fascinating nugget regarding Podcaster developer Alex Sokirynsky’s decision to sell the app on his own, via ad hoc provisioning:

As of yesterday afternoon Podcaster had provisioned 1130 devices for distribution across 12 different copies of the application hosted on Google Code. Each new uploaded build included up to new 100 authorized devices after the publisher received payment via PayPal. It’s stretching the Ad-Hoc distribution model a bit but the application may have collected approximately $11,000 over the weekend through suggested donations of $10 per handset. At the time of writing Apple has not pulled the application or developer certificates from their central certificate authority.

Regarding the Original iPod’s October 2001 Debut 

In my “Greatly Exaggerated” piece last week, I wrote:

To claim that this week’s [iPod/iTunes] event was in any way not normal is to ignore the fact that Apple has scheduled an event just like Tuesday’s during September every year since the iPod debuted in 2001.

This was followed by a footnote, which read:

The original iPod debut was in October, not September, 2001, pushed back one month in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

I based this footnote on my recollection of an interview with Steve Jobs in Steven Levy’s book about the iPod, The Perfect Thing. My recollection was wrong, however. Here’s the relevant passage from the book:

The subject turned to September 11. A lot of conversations back then did that. Jobs said that after the attack, Apple had given the introduction a lot of thought, fearing that the wrong note might offend. “I think that we’re feeling good about coming out with this at a difficult time,” he said. “Hopefully it will bring a little joy to people.” Such questions led to a discussion of Apple’s relatively low-key iPod launch event, which in other circumstances might have been held in a big city — if not San Francisco, maybe even New York. “It’s a tough time,” Jobs finally said. “But life goes on. It must go on.”

And so while the scale of the introduction was scaled back in light of the September 11 attacks, there is no indication that the date was changed. I’ve edited the footnote accordingly, and I regret the error.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II 

21 MP, improved high-ISO performance, and a 1080p video mode. MSRP $2700, on sale in November.

Sample pictures and video footage here, but be warned that the link will resize browser windows.

My Gal 

George Saunders’s piece on Sarah Palin in this week’s New Yorker is an instant classic:

I’m finding it hard to concentrate, as my eyes are killing me, due to I have not blinked since I started writing this. And, me being Regular, it takes a long time for me to write something this long.

Where was I? Ah, yes: I hate Élites. Which is why, whenever I am having brain surgery, or eye surgery, which is sometimes necessary due to all my non-blinking, I always hire some random Regular guy, with shaking hands if possible, who is also a drunk, scared of the sight of blood, and harbors a secret dislike for me.

Average Nintendo Employee to Generate $1.6 Million in Profit 

Sounds like Nintendo employees deserve some nice bonuses this year.

From the Department of Snappy Answers to Simple Questions 

Craig Grannell:

In July, Apple noted that an upcoming “product transition” would affect future profit margins, prompting speculation. For once, such speculation has started to fade, but now rumors regarding the new MacBook are beginning to surface: an aluminium case, LED backlit display, multi-touch. Does that sound like anything to you?

Is Apple going to ditch the “Pro” from MacBook Pro and streamline its laptop range, leaving just a “standard” MacBook (with different screen sizes and minor tinkering possibilities under the hood), and the Air for people who happily set fire to $50 dollar bills?


Also, Apple’s “product transition” was the explanation for their lowered gross margin guidance for this financial quarter, which ends in two weeks. The product transition therefore must have been a reference to something that Apple has already done, for products they are already selling. Like, say, the new iPods introduced last week.

Timothy McSweeney Is Devastated and Lost 

McSweeney’s is running memories from those who knew David Foster Wallace. Dave Eggers:

There’s something very strange and uniquely powerful about meeting a guy whose writing you find world-changing but who also comes from your part of the world—and who seems exactly like someone who would have come from your part of the world. He was funny, decent to a fault, and thoroughly unpretentious. He was, as everyone has said and will say, exactly what you would hope; he was the human you wanted writing those books. You knew it within two or three minutes with him. He was an actual human, far more colloquial and normal than you could imagine, given what he engineered on the page.

Zadie Smith:

He was my favourite. I didn’t feel he had an equal amongst living writers. We corresponded and met a few times but I stuttered and my hands shook. The books meant too much to me: I was just another howling fantod.

(Via Kottke.)

Podcaster: What All the Fuss Is About 

Chris Breen reviews Podcaster. The nut:

A very useful application for streaming and downloading podcasts on the go—and one whose capabilities are definitely not found elsewhere on an iPhone or iPod touch.

Bluff: Beautiful Graphs in JavaScript 

James Coglan:

Bluff is a JavaScript port of the Gruff graphing library for Ruby. It is designed to support all the features of Gruff with minimal dependencies; the only third-party scripts you need to run it are a copy of JS.Class (about 2 KB gzipped) and a copy of Google’s ExCanvas to support canvas in Internet Explorer.

(Via Geoffrey Grosenbach.)

Sarah Palin Baby Name Generator 

My Sarah Palin baby name: Stick Freedom Palin.

(Thanks to my wife, Clop Clutch Palin.)

7digital Now Selling High-Quality DRM-Free Music From All Major Labels 

Distorted Loop:

This is highly significant, and means 7digital is the first digital music store in Europe to offer downloads from all four major labels, Sony BMG, Universal Music, Warner Music and EMI Records. Tracks are sold free of DRM rights restriction as high-quality (320 kbps) MP3 files — better quality than offered by iTunes Plus.

Apple’s Capricious Rules for iPhone Apps 

Podcaster-gate is percolating upward in the media hierarchy. Saul Hansell has a good piece on it for the NYT Bits Blog. “Capricious” is a good word for what’s wrong.

Gears for Safari Requires Input Manager Hack 

Gears, Google’s API for offline web applications with local storage, is now available for Safari. Alas, it requires an input manager hack:

When you install Gears, you’ll notice that it’s composed of 2 components: an NPAPI plugin which lives in “/Library/Internet Plugins” and an InputManager. Gears needs to load first thing upon browser startup, for cases in which the first page loaded into the browser is from the Gears offline cache. NPAPI provides no mechanism for loading that early (it only provides support for loading plugins the first time a page specifically includes them) so we needed a small InputManager to do the work for us.

David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Commencement Speech at Kenyon College 

Thoughtful and true. But this bit, in hindsight, is painful to read:

Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

VMware Fusion 2.0 

Free upgrade for existing users. New features include the ability to run Mac OS X Server in a virtual machine.

Hewlett-Packard Cuts 25,000 Jobs After E.D.S. Purchase 

Ashlee Vance, reporting for the NYT:

The computer and printer maker Hewlett-Packard announced on Monday that it would eliminate 24,600 jobs, or 7.5 percent of its work force, as part of its plan for digesting the computer services giant Electronic Data Systems, which it acquired for $13.9 billion in August.

For comparison, Apple only has 22,000 employees total, including retail; Google: 20,000. That’s a lot of jobs.

DFW: ‘Roger Federer as Religious Experience’ 

Another terrific non-fiction piece by David Foster Wallace: this August 2006 piece on Roger Federer for The New York Times’s Play Magazine.

From the DF Archive: Closed Is Open 

Vis a vis the aforelinked item regarding Microsoft’s “choice” mantra, here’s a DF piece from 2003: “Reading between the lines as Dave Fester, general manager of the Windows Digital Media division, lays out Microsoft’s shamelessly Orwellian party line regarding digital music.”

Joe Wilcox on Microsoft’s ‘Choice’ Strategy for Windows Mobile 

Joe Wilcox on Windows Mobile:

Microsoft executives harp on about choice. That’s fine if businesses or consumers choose your product. The local supermarket offers lots of choice, but I can walk to the pricier convenience store. The point: Choice is good but it’s not a market differentiator. People need good choices, and Windows Mobile doesn’t feel like one of them right now.

The “choice” mantra was Microsoft’s oft-repeated response to the iPod back circa 2002–2004, and their entire explanation as to why PlaysForSure was going to win and the iPod would be relegated to some sort of Macintosh-sized niche. I’ll have to do some research to see how that turned out.

LED Football for iPhone 

Peter Cohen reviews TouchGrove’s LED Football game for iPhone — a replica of the late-’70s handheld electronic game from Mattel. Could just be that, at age 35, I’m in the bull’s-eye for this game’s demographic, but I love it. At just $1, it’s a steal.

HP Working on Their Own Desktop OS? 

Interesting report by Aaron Ricadela at BusinessWeek:

The ecosystem that Microsoft has built up around its Windows operating system is showing signs of strain. In one of several recent moves by partners that sell or support the company’s software, Hewlett-Packard, the world’s No. 1 PC maker, has quietly assembled a group of engineers to develop software that will let customers bypass certain features of Vista, the latest version of Windows. Employees on a separate skunk works team are even angling to replace Windows with an HP-assembled operating system, say three sources close to the company.

It’d be a big bite to chew, but if there’s any company in the world that could do it, it might be HP. I hope it’s true.

Mac OS X 10.5.5 Update 

In Software Update now. Long list of fixes in the release notes.

Best Buy Buys Napster for $121 Million 

Seems like a clear response to the iTunes Store’s rise to the top spot in the U.S. retail market. Selling music on CDs is quickly turning into a niche.

You’d think they could have built their own online store from scratch for less than $121 million, though. I think Best Buy’s been taken to the cleaners on this deal.

A Modest Proposal 

Jeffrey Zeldman:

If you’re selling toothpaste, your claims must be vetted by legal and medical professionals. But not if you’re selling a candidate.

If you’re selling a candidate, not only can you lie about his record, but more to the point, you can lie about his opponent.

Harper’s Magazine: David Foster Wallace, in Memoriam 

Harper’s has published its collection of work by David Foster Wallace. “Ticket to the Fair” and “Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars Over Usage” are two of my favorites, but it’s all good. “Shipping Out: On the (Nearly Lethal) Comforts of a Luxury Cruise” became the title piece of his essay collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.

Air Sharing 1.0 

Air Sharing is a terrific utility for the iPhone. It uses Bonjour networking to run a WebDAV file server. You mount the server as a volume in the Finder (or on Windows or Linux), and you can send files back and forth to your iPhone. On the iPhone, it provides file viewers/players for a slew of common formats, such as iWork, Safari web archives, PDF, RTF, movies, audio, and images.

The regular price is $7, but the introductory price is free. (Via Michael Tsai.)

Financial Russian Roulette 

Paul Krugman on today’s Wall Street news:

For example, today much of the Fed’s portfolio is tied up in loans backed by dubious collateral. Also, officials are worried that their rescue efforts will encourage even more risky behavior in the future. After all, it’s starting to look as if the rule is heads you win, tails the taxpayers lose.


Photograph by Michael David Murphy.

Trip Cubby 

Remember TripLog/1040, the mileage and expense logging app for the iPhone with the, uh, questionable UI aesthetic? Trip Cubby is the same idea, done right. Looks like a winner if you need this sort of app.

NYT: In Frantic Day, Wall Street Banks Teeter 

Lehman goes bust, Merrill Lynch sold to Bank of America, AIG teetering. Perhaps this will refocus presidential campaign coverage on the economy rather than bullshit.

NetShare Verdict: Banned From App Store 

So reports Nullriver.

David Foster Wallace Dead of Suicide at 46 

Oh, this is just awful:

David Foster Wallace, the novelist, essayist and humorist best known for his 1996 tome “Infinite Jest,” was found dead last night at his home in Claremont, according to the Claremont Police Department. He was 46.

Jackie Morales, a records clerk at the Claremont Police Department, said Wallace’s wife called police at 9:30 p.m. Friday saying she had returned home to find her husband had hanged himself.

Wallace was my favorite writer, period.

Gawker has an excerpt of a 2005 speech at Kenyon College wherein Wallace talked about suicide.

Harry McCracken on the App Store 

Harry McCracken:

Way back when, if software distribution for the Mac had been handled via a Mac App Store with a don’t-duplicate-Apple-products policy, Photoshop might have been refused distribution on the grounds that it was too similar to MacPaint.

Updated Version of iTunes 8 for Windows 

The initial release was a disaster, causing BSODs for many users.

Why the iPhone Is an Unreliable Platform 

Dave Winer:

It’s pretty simple, Apple could decide not to approve the app, and if they don’t approve it you can’t sell it. You can’t even give it away. You don’t find out if you’ve been approved until the last step, after you’ve fully invested, which you could lose, totally, if Apple says no. 

It’d be different if Apple had published an explicit rule stating, for example, that podcasting apps are prohibited. But there is no such guideline. Podcaster seems to fully comply with Apple’s published guidelines, and yet it was rejected for violating a secret rule.

A Bridge Too Far 

Paul Kafasis on Podcaster and Apple’s App Store policies.

Dan Moren on What’s New and Improved in iPhone OS 2.1 

The iPod app now features more information in song lists (a la the Remote app), triple-clicking the earbud clicker goes to the previous track, and more

Jeremy Horwitz Reviews the New iPod Nano 

Detailed, thorough review. Here’s the nut of it: “Doubles past year’s storage capacity for same price. Best audio quality yet in an iPod Nano.”

The Worst Case Scenario Extrapolating From the iTunes App Store, Fully-Expressed in the Form of a Single Tweet by Steven Frank 

This is where it leads.

iPhone ‘Podcaster’ App Rejected Because It Duplicates iTunes Functionality 

Flabbergasting. This is the worst reason for an app to be rejected yet. As the author points out, by this logic, Apple could have rejected PCalc (for duplicating the built-in Calculator app), or any of the various note-taking apps. Check out the demo — Podcaster is clearly a serious app that provides functionality far beyond the iPhone’s built-in podcast support.

This stinks to high hell. Jon Rentzsch nails it in this tweet: the NDA is a mere annoyance, but a “you can’t compete against Apple” policy is so wrong it breaks the platform. It is indefensible.

Security Updates in iPhone OS 2.1 

The application sandbox peeping I wrote about with regard to OpenClip is listed as a security fix.

BBEdit 9.0.1 

World’s best text editor gets a tiny bit better.

iPhone 2.1 Software Update 

I’m installing now. Can’t be worse than 2.0.x. I’ve archived a copy of the release notes here on Flickr.

Second Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates Spot for Microsoft 

I don’t get it.

(Via MacDailyNews.)

New iTunes Visualizer Based on Magnetosphere 

The Barbarian Group:

We’re insanely, ridiculously proud to say that Magnetosphere now lives in iTunes.

(Via David Dahlquist.)

Apple Refutes NBC’s Pricing-Policy Claims 

Eddy Cue tells CNet that Apple conceded nothing to NBC to get their shows back on iTunes.

Jason Kottke on Merlin Mann 

Kottke on Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders:

I never really read 43F too much before this summer — spending a lot of time reading about all those little productivity tricks and whatnot seemed oxymoronic — but I’m paying attention now.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Justin James Interviews HTML 5 Editor Ian Hickson 

Ian Hickson:

The users have to come first, with the Web authors a close second, but the problem is that if we ever specify something that the browser vendors disagree with, they will just ignore the specification, and we might as well go home. If we write a specification that is ignored, we’re just fiction writers.

Obama on Letterman 

Obama was funny, and Letterman once again proved to be a better interviewer than those in TV news.

Free HD Episodes of NBC Shows on iTunes 

Good way to show off the HD quality.

Has the Large Hadron Collider Destroyed the World Yet? 

There’s an XML feed, too, in case you don’t want to repeatedly check the site.

U Scream, I Scream: We All Scream When iTunes 8 Goes UI Crazy 

Dan Moren on inscrutable button icons in iTunes 8.

What Your Global Neighbors Are Buying 

Outstanding interactive graphic showing how people in different countries around the globe spend their discretionary income. It functions both as a map and a chart.

Al3×’s Rules for Computing Happiness 

A fine list of 25 rules for computing happiness, from Alex Payne. I only disagree with numbers 4 and 11, and even in those cases, the general idea is correct.

Erin McKean Redefines the Dictionary 

Here’s McKean at TED back in 2007, making the case for descriptivist lexicography. (Thanks to Ben Artin.)


Lexicographer Erin McKean:

Instead of being defensive, demand that any who dare to quibble over your use prove that your word is, in fact, not a word. In short, if it seems wordish, use it.

History of the Browser User-Agent String 

What a mess.

MacUpdate Back-to-School Bundle 

My thanks to MacUpdate for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed, to promote their back-to-school software bundle. Ten apps, with a regular combined retail price of over $600, for just $50. Apps in the bundle include Mellel, DEVONagent, MacJournal, and more. The promotion ends tonight.

Apple Buys Out Ad Space Above Fold on 

More like a print campaign, where they pay for whitespace. Update: Here’s another one.

Apple’s New Accessibility Web Site 

With sections for Mac OS X, iPhone, and iPod/iTunes.

Apple Publishes Actual List of Changes in iPhone OS 2.1 for iPod Touch 

Screenshot captured by Patrick McCarron. Included in the list is a fix for the “backups to iTunes take way too long” bug.

Another Accessibility Win: Spoken Menus on New iPod Nanos 

Great feature. I wonder if the new iPod Classics get this too? Update: The answer is no, only the Nanos have this feature.

QuickTime Stream of Today’s Special Event 

Still wish they’d go back to streaming them live, somehow.

Michael Quinion on ‘Funner’ and ‘Funnest’ 

Interesting history of fun as an adjective, apropos Apple’s description of the new iPod Touch as “The funnest iPod ever.” The word is certainly legitimate enough for use in advertising copy, but it doesn’t sound good to my ears. I’m not outright offended, though, as many seemingly are. A more substantial gripe than questioning the word’s legitimacy is that it’s too easily misread as funniest. (Via Paul Kafasis.)

Switch Off the iTunes 8 Genre Browser 

Paul Mison has the scoop on the defaults command that disables “Genre” column in the browser view in iTunes 8. The visible preference to control this was removed from the iTunes prefs dialog.

Gizmodo: Nike-Plus Only Works With New Second Generation iPod Touch 

The built-in Nike-Plus integration requires hardware that isn’t present in the iPhone or original iPod Touch.

iTunes 8 Now Available 

“Genius” playlists (and Store recommendations), a new grid view, HD TV shows, and a new visualizer. On the accessibility front, iTunes is now “screen reader friendly” on both Mac OS X and Windows.

Macworld’s Live Coverage of Apple’s ‘Let’s Rock’ Event 

Gizmodo has good coverage too. I’m jotting notes on Twitter.

Love the way Jobs opened the event.

How Videogames Blind Us With Science 

Clive Thompson, on kids using the scientific method to get better at video games:

One of the reasons kids get bored by science is that too many teachers present it as a fusty collection of facts for memorization. This is precisely wrong. Science isn’t about facts. It’s about the quest for facts — the scientific method, the process by which we hash through confusing thickets of ignorance. It’s dynamic, argumentative, collaborative, competitive, filled with flashes of crazy excitement and hours of drudgework, and driven by ego: Our desire to be the one who figures it out, at least for now. It’s dramatic and nutty and fun.

(Via Tim O’Reilly.)


Philippe Casgrain’s entry to the C4[2] IronCoder contest: “a clean-room implementation of Apple’s CoreLocation.framework, complete with sample application.”

The Continuing Correlation Between Apple’s Share Price and Steve Jobs’s Weight 

Speaking of Dan Frommer, he sums up the thinking on Wall Street regarding tomorrow’s “Let’s Rock” special event:

New iPods — expected to be announced during an Apple media event tomorrow — are key to Apple’s holiday sales. But key to Apple’s (AAPL) stock activity tomorrow: How CEO Steve Jobs — who’s expected to deliver a keynote — looks on stage.

Robert Holmes, writing for, questions whether Jobs will even appear on stage:

Jobs has previously battled pancreatic cancer, but his frail appearance during the launch of the iPhone 3G in early June ignited speculation that he is continuing to battle the disease, sending Apple shares tumbling more than 7% during the week. Many Apple shareholders hope Jobs will be the keynote speaker during tomorrow’s event, assuaging fears.

Spoiler: Jobs will be on stage, in his usual role. But he remains just as thin as he was in June. This isn’t some sort of state secret, though. Jobs is a common presence on the Apple campus. He eats in the cafeteria, he walks around between buildings. He’s not and has never been a recluse.

Dan Frommer: ‘Zune Gets New Features That Won’t Help Sell Zunes’ 

Sometimes the whole story fits in the headline.

Tony Kaye About Kubrick 

A few weeks back, I linked to Armen Antranikian’s “Kubrick”, a short film for the UK’s Channel 4 featuring people talking about their personal experiences watching the films of Stanley Kubrick. The whole thing is just three minutes long, but Antranikian posted to YouTube a 20-minute outtake of Tony Kaye’s interview.

The film is terrific, but the Kaye interview is just fantastic. The URL for the YouTube version recently changed, so I’m re-linking to it here.

Umbrella Today? 

“It’s like totally the simplest weather report ever, Julie.”

(Via Rands.)

Ryan Block Disassembles Dan Lyons’s ‘Apple as Monopolist’ Newsweek Piece 

Ryan Block:

Maybe it’s just me, but I think Dan did a much better job at cutting to the heart of what makes Cupertino tick when he was doing so with subversive parody.

Laptops Go Live 

Sasha Frere-Jones in The New Yorker, on the growing use of computers in live music performances:

Last December, a friend and I went to a release party for Mary J. Blige’s “Growing Pains” album. Near huge screens showing Blige videos, a d.j. was playing records on two turntables. The d.j.’s eyes, however, were trained on an Apple MacBook on a shelf above them. As a succession of Blige songs faded from one into the next, the d.j. never changed the records. My friend asked, “Is there a new Mary medley I don’t know about?”

The answer was no. The d.j., like many today, was using a program called Serato Scratch Live, which uses a turntable as a knob or a switch.

Daniel Lyons: ‘Apple Is What Microsoft Was — Bigfoot’ 

Dan Lyons’s first piece for Newsweek is out:

Just as Microsoft controls both the operating system and the applications that run on top of it, Apple owns popular hardware platforms (iPod, iPhone) and operates the only store that can sell music, movies and software programs for those platforms. Apple sets prices and takes 30 percent of the money.

That is true for iPhone apps, but it’s not true for movies and music. This makes his argument weaker: the iPod’s support for music and movies from sources other than the Apple Store is an example the App Store could follow. Apple should be so lucky as to have the App Store be as successful as their music store.

(And, as many readers have pointed out via email, it’s of course also not true that Apple “sets prices” on the App Store apps.)

First Look at Cappuccino and Objective-J 

Scott Stevenson looks at the just-released Cappuccino and Objective-J, and is impressed:

What’s most shocking initially is how practically anyone could mistake Objective-J for Objective-C.

Cappuccino co-creator Ross Boucher gave a presentation on it here at C4 yesterday. Impressive as hell.

Apple’s Bug Reporting Guidelines 

Along the same lines as Steven Frank’s advice.

How to Report a Bug in a Mac OS X Application 

Solid advice from Steven Frank.

New iPod Nano Picture Leaks to Engadget 

Apple seems to have some leaks in the iPod division. The iPhone news, however — which the iPod division doesn’t know about — hasn’t leaked.

Hi, I’m a Mac… Beep, Beep! 

Insightful analogy from Charles Miller: John Hodgman’s PC character is like Wile E. Coyote.

Preventing Paranoia: When Does Google Chrome Talk to 

Good summary of Chrome’s phone-home integration from Matt Cutts.

Nokia Lowers Third Quarter 2008 Market Share Outlook 

Key phrase: “certain aggressive pricing of some competitors”.

Sandvox 1.5 

Major update to Karelia’s $49 ($79 for Pro version) web site creation app.


My thanks to Data Robotics for once again sponsoring the DF RSS feed. I’ve praised Drobo before and I’ll do it again: it’s a terrific data storage device. It acts like a single volume, but uses up to four physical hard disks for storage. Data is stored redundantly, so if one disk goes bad your data is OK. You can instantly expand to more storage by adding another disk or replacing an existing disk with a larger one. And the new second-generation Drobo offers FireWire 800 (in addition to USB 2) for faster performance. It’s a terrific product.

Dan Frakes Reviews PCalc 1.0.2 for iPhone 

Dan Frakes:

PCalc also takes advantage of the iPhone’s touchscreen and accelerometer. When performing calculations, a swipe of the LCD to the right invokes the Undo feature; a swipe to the left invokes Redo. (Multiple levels of undo and redo are supported.) And if pressing the Clear and Clear All buttons is too pedestrian for your iPhone-loving hands, give the phone a left-right shake; two shakes equates to Clear, three to Clear All.

Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good 


Columbia Pictures is getting serious about scaring up a new installment of its blockbuster “Ghostbusters” franchise. The studio has set “The Office” co-exec producers Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky to write a script for a film designed to bring back together the original cast of Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson.

Ray Parker Jr. is going to plotz.

Dell Inspiron Mini 9 Offers Built-In 3G 

Sure would be nice to have an option like this for MacBooks.

Document Startups in Chaos as Adobe Discontinues Flashpaper 

Hard to believe anyone was dumb enough to base their business around this technology — or that they kept going with it after Adobe acquired Macromedia.

Shoe Circus 

The first Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates commercial for Microsoft. Not a bad skit, but I’m not sure how this does anything for the Microsoft brand. Makes Gates seem cool, though.

USB Hub Slows Down iPhone Syncing? 

With both my original iPhone after upgrading to the 2.0 OS and with my iPhone 3G, syncing with iTunes has been a lugubrious affair, typically taking an hour or more. After quipping about it on Twitter today, Scott Paterson directed me to this write-up of his, describing how his hours-long syncs were reduced to 5 minutes after switching from plugging his iPod into a USB hub to a direct connection on his Mac.

I use a USB hub, too. I tried the direct connection, and damn if it didn’t complete a full sync in five minutes.

Update: A lot of readers are reporting that even without a hub, they still get hour-plus iPhone sync times. Could be that my fast syncs yesterday were the result of having just completed a full sync and backup earlier in the evening.

The Story Behind Google Chrome 

Niall Kennedy’s comprehensive look at the people and the teams Google has assembled to build Chrome.

Steven Levy: Inside Chrome 

Good line from Steven Levy’s behind-the-scenes look at Google’s Chrome project:

Speed may be Chrome’s most significant advance. When you improve things by an order of magnitude, you haven’t made something better — you’ve made something new.

iPhone Stencils for OmniGraffle 

Along the lines of this library of iPhone UI elements for use mocking up interfaces in Photoshop, Patrick Crowley has released a comprehensive set of stencils for use with OmniGraffle.

Objective-J and Cappuccino Released 

JavaScript library and web app framework modeled after Objective-C and Cocoa released as open source. See them in action in the Keynote-esque 280 Slides.

‘MLB At Bat’ Adds Gameday 

One of my favorite iPhone apps gets even better.

Nikon D3 Shutter Release in Super Slow Motion 

Nice frame-by-frame animation from Jeffrey Friedl and Marianne Oelund illustrating how an SLR works. (Thanks to Jacob Rus.)

Apple Rejects Fart-Joke iPhone App 

MacRumors has a story on Pull My Finger, an iPhone App that plays a variety of fart sounds. The demo video shows that the app is clearly well done for what it is — it even vibrates the phone while it toots — but Apple rejected it:

We’ve reviewed your application Pull My Finger. We have determined that this application is of limited utility to the broad iPhone and iPod touch user community, and will not be published to the App Store.

With all the absolute crap that has made it into the store, which includes apps based on nothing more than sample code from Apple’s SDK, it seems ridiculous for Pull My Finger to be rejected on these grounds. The current number one app in the store is Koi Pond, which is utterly useless but extremely well-done.

I’ve already heard from a top-tier developer this morning who, in response to this story, is dropping an idea for a very cool iPhone app out of fear that the work to create it would be for naught as Apple might reject it.

Google Chrome’s Full List of Special about: Pages 

If Apple did this, the pages would feature good graphic design.


Stephen Band:

Parallax turns a selected element into a ‘window’, or viewport, and all its children into absolutely positioned layers that can be seen through the viewport. These layers move in response to the mouse, and, depending on their dimensions (and options for layer initialisation), they move by different amounts, in a parallaxy kind of way.

Very cool. Try the demo and you’ll be impressed. (Thanks to Daniel Bogan.)

The Torrances 

Art by Kirk Demarais. (Via Coudal.)

Straight Out of Compton 

John Siracusa:

It’s not that any particular feature of Chrome is so wonderful, or even that the sum of those features puts Safari back on its heels in the browser wars. It’s the idea that someone other than Apple has taken such clear leadership in this area. Google Chrome makes Safari’s user interface look conservative; it makes Apple look timid.

Tilt Scrolling in Instapaper Pro 

Adam Lisagor on the innovative “tilt scrolling” feature in Instapaper Pro.

The Future of the Instapaper iPhone App 

Marco Arment, developer of the terrific Instapaper iPhone app (and the Instapaper web site):

I compiled a feature list for what I want in 2.0, and it’s huge. It’s easily 6 months of work. I can’t do this and anything else — it has to just be this. I can only devote a few hours per week to Instapaper as it is. But if I can pull off the product I want for 2.0, I’ll really have something amazing.

Instapaper (and, now, the new $10 Instapaper Pro) is one of my very favorite iPhone apps. In a nut, you set up a free account (super quick setup!), then use a bookmarklet in MobileSafari (or any desktop browser) to flag web pages you wish to read later. The Instapaper iPhone app stores local versions of these web pages, so you can read them (a) offline; and (b) in a text-only iPhone-optimized format.

If you like to read and haven’t at least tried the free version of Instapaper, you’re missing out.

Being the Platform 

David Weiss, reacting to Chrome:

Today, it’s clear to me why I’ve felt this way: Google isn’t interested at all in “being a citizen” or part of a platform, they are interested in being the platform. If you look at the way Chrome is designed, it’s not so much designed to be a good browser, as much as it is a good operating system for web applications. Google’s desire is very much the same as Microsoft’s, except abstracted a little higher up the stack. They want to own the platform upon which web applications are built, just like Microsoft wants to own the platform upon which desktop applications are built.

Hence the “each tab is a separate process” architecture behind Chrome. The idea is that it makes every web app an independent citizen. It turns Chrome into a meta platform that sits atop a traditional “OS”. Chrome is to web apps what preemptive multitasking is to an operating system — a way to keep one wedged or crashed task from bringing down the whole environment.

NFL TV Distribution Maps 

Via Kottke, a terrific resource for NFL fans wondering which games will be available on their local TV stations.

McCain’s Voice Mail to Palin 

“Is this some sort of joke? Am I getting punked here?” (Via Scott Simpson.)


Mike Pinkerton, long-time Mac web browser developer, and one of the leaders behind the Gecko-based Camino, is also involved in Google’s efforts to create a Mac browser based on Chromium.

Advice From James Baker on Selecting a Vice Presidential Nominee 

James Baker, former secretary of state and long-time Bush family counselor, on the lesson to be learned from Bush 41’s selection of Dan Quayle:

The best way to handle a proposed vice presidential nominee who has not been tested in national or big-state politics or high appointive office — and I have the obvious benefit of hindsight — is to float the name a few weeks before the convention and let the games begin. By opening gavel, the candidate will have run the gauntlet of press scrutiny or opposition research, or have dropped out. This approach wouldn’t necessarily work in a contested convention, and, unfortunately, it eliminates the drama of dropping the name at the convention. But it would pretty well guarantee that the news from the convention would not be dominated by questions about the vice presidential selection.

Jesper on Chrome 

“Google Chrome is a funny creature.”

How Far Along Is Chrome for Mac? 

Google engineer Amanda Walker on the status of Mac (and Linux) versions of Chrome:

Right now, both are in the “pieces build and pass tests, but there’s no Chromium application yet.” While we’re working hard and fast on catching up to the Windows version, we’re not setting an artificial date for when they’ll be ready—we simply can’t predict enough to make a solid estimate, and we expect to learn a lot from the Windows public beta as well.

In other words, not very far along.

Chrome UI Notes 

I don’t have a copy of Windows handy, so I haven’t used Chrome yet. Just gleaning from the screenshots and from notes John Siracusa (who is using it) sent me via IM:

  • Overall, the UI takes minimalism much further than Safari. Google has rethought far more of the standard “web browser” conventions that we’ve been saddled with since Netscape 1.0.
  • No menu bar. Just two pop-up menus in the toolbar: a “document” and a “wrench”.
  • No persistent status bar. Just a “status bubble” that pops up contextually.
  • Tab dragging works the way I wish Safari’s did: you can drag a tab out of a window no matter which direction you initially drag, but there are 40 pixels of vertical slop space before it switches from “rearrange tabs within window” to “move to another window” mode.
  • No bookmarks menu or window. You create bookmarks by clicking the “star” button in the toolbar; after that, you retrieve them by typing their name, URL, or text from the page content in the location field.
Chromium Developer Documentation 

Developer documentation for Google’s new Chrome browser. Most interesting to me is the User Experience section:

In the long term, we think of Chromium as a tabbed window manager or shell for the web rather than a browser application. We avoid putting things into our UI in the same way you would hope that Apple and Microsoft would avoid putting things into the standard window frames of applications on their operating systems.

Google Chrome vs. Safari 3.1 Rendering Comparison 

Faruk Ates compares the just-released Google Chrome to Safari 3.1 for Windows:

Sadly, it seems the WebKit build that Google Chrome uses has been mutilated to an extent: the text-shadow property has been stripped out (Why?!) and, worse, the CSS border-radius rendering is not anti-aliased (Why?!?!).

Gmail Account Hacking Tool 

This is why it matters that MobileMe’s web apps don’t use SSL.


New t-shirt search engine.

Annual New iPod Event: Next Week 

“Let’s Rock” is the invitation theme.

Getting Closure With Objective-C 

Drew McCormack on the new “blocks” feature Apple is adding to C and Objective-C.

Killer Kowalski, Wrestler, Dies at 81 

One of the original stars of professional wrestling.

Indexed: Or Just Pray It Doesn’t Happen to You 

Jessica Hagy draws the correlation.

Google Chrome — Upcoming New Web Browser 

Introduced in the form of a comic by Scott McCloud. Based on WebKit, not Gecko. Sounds more like an application runtime than a web browser, though.

Juno in Juneau 

Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter Bristol is five months pregnant. McCain campaign claims he was aware of this before selecting Palin as his VP, despite evidence and rampant speculation that Palin was not seriously vetted. Governor Palin is a strong supporter of abstinence-only sex education.

Tom Eagleton lasted 18 days before withdrawing from the McGovern ticket in 1972. My money says Palin doesn’t last that long.