Linked List: February 2009

Amazon Retreats on Kindle’s Text-to-Speech Issue 

John Paczkowski:

Rather than argue with the Authors Guild over the text-to-speech feature of its new Kindle 2 e-book reader, Amazon is modifying the device’s software to make it optional. Authors and publishers will now be able to decide if they want the function enabled or not on titles for which they own the rights.


Stanley Kubrick: The Napoleon Film 

Jeffrey Wells on the upcoming book, Stanley Kubrick: The Napoleon Film:

Written by Allison Castle and edited by Christiane Kubrick (i.e., Kubrick’s widow), it will focus entirely on the famous Napoleon biopic that Kubrick began working on in ’68 and bailed on four or five years later — i.e., “the greatest film that Kubrick never made.”

Wells has a bit from a 1969 interview with Joseph Gelmis where Kubrick describes his interest in the project, and this link to the screenplay (PDF), which has been floating around for years. Amazon’s listing for the book says it runs 1,900 pages, and is due in June.

Apogee Discontinues Windows Development 

The table is turning.

Daniel Sandler Experiments With Using Twitter for Weblog Comments 

It’s an interesting idea, but the big problem is the metadata you need to include in a tweet to have it associated with a specific post — it looks like gibberish and it counts against the 140-character limit.

Querious vs. Sequel Pro 

Andrew Bednarz compares the two leading MySQL admin utilities for the Mac.

Hey Mac Software 

My thanks to Hey Mac Software for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Briefcase, their iPhone file transfer app. Briefcase can exchange files between a Mac and iPhone, and from one iPhone to another. Connections are initiated from the iPhone, so you don’t have to diddle with software on both the Mac and iPhone to start a transfer.

In fact, Briefcase is really a full SSH file transfer client, so you can use Briefcase to connect to Linux and Unix servers, in addition to Macs, and to connect to machines that aren’t on the local Bonjour network. The user experience is very well-done; check out the demo movie to see it in action.

Briefcase costs $5, and Briefcase Lite (Bonjour only, and without support for downloading entire directories at once) is free.

Mike Monteiro’s List of Words It Is Not OK to Ever Say 

Every time I hear someone call pizza “za” I want to hurt them.

Translating ‘The Economist’ Behind China’s Great Firewall 

Andy Baio on a team of volunteers in China who translate the entirety of each week’s Economist, and publish the work as a PDF:

It’s an impressive example of online collaboration with simple tools, a completely non-commercial effort by volunteers interested in spreading knowledge while improving their English skills. In the process, they’re taking a political risk in translating controversial articles about their homeland behind the Great Firewall.

O’Reilly Webcast: Developing Applications for Palm WebOS 

Webcast presentation by Palm CTO Mitch Allen on developing software for the upcoming WebOS.

My Safari 1.0 Review From January 2003 

Me, on the then-one-day-old Safari 1.0 public beta, in January 2003:

Apple’s stated goal is to make Safari the best browser on the Mac. What’s unstated, but clearly their larger goal, is to make it the best browser in the world, period. A noble goal, but clearly reachable. The public beta unveiled yesterday is a remarkable start.

To put how long ago that is in context, Firefox didn’t exist yet, OmniWeb was still using its own custom rendering engine, and the default Mac browser was Internet Explorer. And, more importantly, web browsing on the Mac, using any of the available choices, was significantly slower than browsing on Windows with IE. Times change, huh?

Helvetica Trade Advertising From 1966 

“Helvetica, of course.” (Via Mike Davidson.)

Sony, Philips, Panasonic Plan Single Blu-ray License 

Perhaps this will reduce the “bag of hurt” factor, which has, so far, kept Blu-ray drives out of Mac hardware.

What Paul Graham Has Learned From Hacker News 

Paul Graham:

Hence what I call the Fluff Principle: on a user-voted news site, the links that are easiest to judge will take over unless you take specific measures to prevent it.

The Evolution of 20 Corporate Brand Logos 

I love how the GE logo has hardly changed in 100 years.

Zen Bound 

Gorgeous, fun new $5 game for the iPhone from Secret Exit: “A calm and meditative game of wrapping rope around wooden sculptures.” A simple concept implemented with tremendous panache. Warning: seems like a good way to lose a whole day.

Dr. J and Larry Bird Go One on One 

Speaking of Dr. J and Larry Bird, who could forget this classic game from my youth? This photo from the packaging says everything that needs to be said about basketball and mustaches in the ’80s. (Thanks to Bryan Bedell.)

Google Blocks Unlocked G1 Users From Paid Android Apps 

Very strange.

Update: To be clear, these unlocked G1s aren’t unofficially hacked or anything like that — these are developer phones that Google sells, and which Google handed out as year-end gifts to its employees a few months ago.

Safari 4, Coda, and Conceptual Hierarchies 

Insightful analysis by Lukas Mathis regarding Safari 4’s and Coda’s mapping of conceptual hierarchy to visual hierarchy.

Update: Interesting response from Panic’s Steven Frank.

Anthony Piraino: ‘Vagabond Tabs’ 

Same fundamental complaints as Reece’s, but Piraino sees it as a fundamentally flawed design.

Manton Reece: ‘Defending Safari 4 Tabs’ 

He likes the new design overall, but points to the click-through implementation as the biggest problem.

Good Design: The Ten Commandments of Dieter Rams 


John Welch: ‘On Installers’ 

Detailed, thoughtful treatise on the art of producing good software installers:

Look, writing installers is not glamorous, it’s tedious, and it’s also completely fucking important. The installer is either the first or second experience someone has with your work. (It’s second if physical media, first if a download.)

The Omni Group Releases Four Apps, Including OmniWeb, as Freeware 

OmniWeb, OmniDazzle, OmniDiskSweeper, and OmniObjectMeter released as freeware. When OmniWeb 5 first appeared, it really moved the state-of-the-art forward.

Alex Payne on Weblog Comments (and ‘Everything Buckets’) 

Alex Payne:

I think people do their best writing when they’re forced to defend their ideas on their own turf. It’s one thing to leave a comment on someone else’s blog, but quite another to put your argument in front of your own readers. It forces a level of consideration that, without fail, results in a higher quality exchange of ideas.

June, Eh? 

Rex Crum, reporting on analysts’ thoughts on Apple:

Shaw Wu of Kaufman Bros. holds a buy rating on Apple’s stock. However, on Tuesday, he trimmed his second-quarter revenue estimate on Apple to $7.7 billion from $7.8 billion, and left his $1.06 a share earnings target unchanged. Wu said Apple’s Mac business looks weak in the current quarter, and he isn’t expecting the line of iMacs to be refreshed until June, at the earliest.

I say March. Let’s see who’s closer.


280 North’s new web-based IDE and visual interface tool for the Cappuccino framework. What Cappuccino is to Cocoa, Atlas is to Interface Builder. Impressive.

I still think building web apps that look and act like fake desktop apps is the wrong way to go, but if anyone is going to prove me wrong on that, it’s probably going to be these guys.

Good Example of Firefox as Bad Mac App 

It looks like you can customize menu key shortcuts using the Keyboard Shortcuts panel in System Prefs, but the custom bindings don’t work, and the factory shortcuts continue to apply, even though they no longer appear in the menu bar.

Safari 4 Benchmarked: 42 Times Faster Than IE 7, 3.5 Times Faster Than Firefox 3 

Feels snappy, that’s for sure.

Magic Johnson: ‘When I Played, Larry Bird Was the Only One I Feared’ 

I love how this highlight reel is just as much about Bird’s passing ability as his scoring. (I have a framed photo here in my office of Bird and Dr. J choking each other.)

Rogue Amoeba Is Hiring 

Full-time openings for a Cocoa UI engineer and user interface designer at one of the leading Mac development shops. Great opportunity for a rock star UI designer.

Apple’s PR for Safari 4 

I didn’t notice this morning that the marketing name for WebKit’s new JavaScript engine has been changed from SquirrelFish to Nitro.

Safari 4 Hidden Preferences 

You can switch back to the old-style tab bar with one of them, and restore the old “progress bar inside the location field” feature with two others. I’m willing to give the new-style tabs at least a week — don’t be a chicken and switch back already. (Via Matt Gemmell.)

Update: The site has crapped out, alas. Caius Durling has put the highlights here.


DoubleTwist, the universal media hub from a team led by Jon Lech Johansen, is now available as a public beta for Mac OS X. Interesting and ambitious: DoubleTwist acts as a sort of universal digital hub — imagine if iTunes worked not just with iPods and iPhones, but with portable players from other manufacturers. E.g. the demo movie shows DoubleTwist syncing video to an Android phone. And DoubleTwist acts as a social networking service, for exchanging photos, video, and audio files with friends and family.

In addition to handling device communication, it also handles any necessary format transcoding to move audio and video from your Mac to your gadgets. The UI looks very polished, and it seems to integrate very well with existing iTunes and iPhoto libraries. The overall wow factor is high.

Also interesting: it’s Mac-only, at least for now. This is the sort of thing that ten (or maybe even five) years ago would have shipped for Windows first. Update: Ends up there is a Windows version, which did ship first, albeit in very different form.

Safari Dev Center 

Tons of new web developer documentation and tutorials from Apple, to go along with the release of the new Safari 4 public beta.

Pre-Release iPod for Sale on eBay 

Mike Evangelist:

I’ve decided to part with my rare pre-release first generation iPod. While I was at Apple, I was one of a bunch of internal testers for the iPod. When the testing was done, all the volunteers had a chance to trade in their beta iPods for ‘real’ ones, but I never got around to it. So I still have the pre-release unit.

Update: And, just like that, it’s gone, pulled by eBay at Apple’s request.

(Thanks to Joe Clark.)

Marco Arment on ‘RSS’ as a Feature 

In response to Daniel Jalkut’s observation that today’s new Safari 4 beta doesn’t have any significant new RSS features, Marco Arment astutely observes:

RSS is valuable, but like other underlying technologies and data formats of the internet (HTML, HTTP, IMAP, MPEG-4), it needs to be packaged into consumer-friendly and consumer-relevant concepts, terms, and products.


Gmail Down for Four Hours 

Seems back to normal now.

Oh No You Didn’t 

Chris Messina tweets:

Safari 4 looks effing amazing but breaks 1Password. Fail.

Assuming he’s right and 1Password indeed doesn’t (yet) work in Safari 4, let’s just get things straight. 1Password’s Safari integration is an input manager hack. There are no supported plugin APIs to enable what 1Password does. Apple can’t “break” something they never supported in the first place.

New Safari 4 Beta 

New Safari 4 beta, available for both Mac and Windows. Browser tabs are a new style, now on top of the window. The history window now offers a Cover Flow view. And there’s a new feature, “Top Sites”, that gives you a visually impressive Cover-Flow-esque fan of favorite sites to choose from. The address field (née “location field”) and search field are now smarter — the search field, for example, offers Google Suggest-powered as-you-type results.

Does TechCrunch Publish Scurrilous Unsubstantiated Bullshit but Lamely Attempt to Cover Their Asses by Ending Their Sensational Headlines With Question Marks? 


The Award for Best Super-Hero Movie 

Khoi Vinh:

To fail to acknowledge “The Dark Knight” or its director accordingly is, to me, just more evidence that the Academy Awards is a credible measure of nothing other than timid fickleness.

‘Do You Really Think Apple’s Going to Take Business Advice From a Bunch of Cheapskates?’ 

I suppose it had to happen sooner or later, but I’m surprised nonetheless to be writing the following sentence. I completely agree with Adrian Kingsley-Hughes.

Tropicana to Abandon Craptacular New Brand and Packaging 

That didn’t take long:

“Do any of these package-design people actually shop for orange juice?” the writer of one e-mail message asked rhetorically. “Because I do, and the new cartons stink.”

Sasha Obama Keeps Seeing Creepy Bush Twins While Riding Tricycle Through White House 

The Onion:

While some White House staffers believe the visions to be nothing more than a child’s plea for attention, others are less skeptical, claiming that the building’s last resident committed horrible atrocities.

Banking on the Brink 

Paul Krugman:

The Obama administration, says Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, believes “that a privately held banking system is the correct way to go.” So do we all. But what we have now isn’t private enterprise, it’s lemon socialism: banks get the upside but taxpayers bear the risks.

Sequel Pro 0.9.3 

Open source successor to CocoaMySQL; a slew of DF readers emailed to recommend it after I linked to Querious yesterday. Certainly seems much improved over CocoaMySQL after a few minutes of tire-kicking here. Would love to see a detailed comparison against Querious.

David Letterman’s Final Episode of ‘Late Night’ in 1993 

Thought Conan’s show last night was a bit of a dud. This is how you close out a show. Man, I watch these opening credits and it feels like the show aired yesterday.

Querious 1.0b2 

New $25 MySQL database tool by the Araelium Group. They call it “beta” but it’s faster and more stable than any version of CocoaMySQL ever was for me.

Feeds Hit the Big Time 

Aaron Swartz:

The new stimulus bill’s implementation instructions require that each government agency report the money it gives out in RSS.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized 

Fantastic 11-minute high-level overview of the worldwide credit crisis by Jonathan Jarvis. Well-designed graphics and a strong narrative make sense out of a complex problem.

‘Small and Scared Behind That Mask’ 

A.V. Club’s Scott Tobias on Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut:

But the charge that his Manhattan looks nothing like the real thing strikes me as completely irrelevant: Just a rough translation of the source material’s title, Arthur Schnitzler’s Traumnovelle (“Dream Story”), should erase any expectation of gritty verisimilitude. Once Cruise is jettisoned into the night, Kubrick’s New York becomes a kind of backlot ghost town, populated only by figures that play a role in his waking dream.

Daring Fireball RSS Feed Sponsorships 

Speaking of RSS feed sponsors, the current schedule is sold out through the end of April, but wide open after that. If you have a product or service you’d like to promote to Daring Fireball’s audience, check out the sponsorship page for more information and current rates.

Delicious Library 

My thanks to Delicious Monster for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Delicious Library 2, their award-winning tool for cataloging your books, movies, software, toys, tools, electronics, and video games. It even lets you use your Mac’s built-in iSight camera to scan bar codes for adding new items to your library. There aren’t many apps that can be described as swanky, but Delicious Library is one.

Delicious Library sells for $40, and you can purchase it, and find out more information, at their web site.

HTC Accounts for 80 Percent of Windows Mobile Handset Sales 

Tricia Duryee:

At Microsoft’s press conference yesterday at Mobile World Congress, if you tied two threads together, you learned a very interesting fact about HTC, one of the company’s closest handset makers—the Taiwanese company is responsible for 80 percent of Windows Mobile phone sales. The number is astonishingly high when you consider the next fact: Microsoft has 50 handset partners.

Joe Wilcox on the iPhone’s Competitive Advantage 

Smart piece by Joe Wilcox:

Apple’s platform will grow stronger and maintain huge advantages over competitors as long as there continues to be one iPhone OS version for all handsets from all carriers. Apple did something quite extraordinary with the original iPhone launched in June 2007: It broke carriers’ control over mobile operating system updates. Rather than there being multiple mobile OS versions, further fragmented by carrier distribution, Apple controls and distributes the updates.

Fixing OAuth 

Loren Brichter:

I have a tendency to think of things that have already been thought of, so I apologize if this has already been discussed and rejected. I also have a tendency not to think things entirely through, though I’m hoping this post is a starting point, not a complete solution. In any event, I think there may be a way to fix OAuth and you’d only have to change 4 words of the spec.

Hulu’s Superbowl Ad and the Boxee Fight 

Marc Hedlund on the Hulu/Boxee fiasco:

Emphasis added: portable computing devices. Not to your TV — from your TV. To your dumb-ass laptop, you smelly, hairy, friendless, gamer-freak nerd. (Sorry, I hate to talk about you that way, but that’s how they think of the Internet. I think you smell great.) To your TV is something completely different, and from the “content providers’” point of view, completely wrong.

Hulu Pulls Content From Boxee 

If you read between the lines on Hulu’s weblog entry on the decision, it’s clear that it wasn’t Hulu’s decision, but rather that of their “content partners”. Read: the studios and TV networks. As Hulu CEO Jason Kilar writes:

While we never had a formal relationship with Boxee, we are under no illusions about the likely Boxee user response from this move.

Hulu gets it. The studio executives do not. They want a level of control that is no longer feasible — allowing us to, say, watch their movies and shows on Hulu on our computer screens, but not on our TV screens.

A Classic App Store Rip-Off 

Positively shameless rip-off by Diego Dominguez Ferrera.

Unnoticed Problems 

How Oxo designed a better measuring cup.

Regarding Microsoft’s Foray Into Retail 

Farhad Manjoo, recommending in Slate that Microsoft shamelessly copy Apple’s retail store design in their own upcoming stores:

The Microsoft stores might also cut down on tech problems by selling a small range of specially designed PC systems, machines that would come with an Apple-like promise of free tech support for life. Indeed, this would neatly solve Microsoft’s perennial problem — the perception that Windows computers are cheap and prone to failure.

I say the problem isn’t with perception, but rather that Windows computers really do tend to be junkier and more prone to failure. Apple’s retail success doesn’t start with perception, it starts with well-designed products.

What’s telling to me is that Microsoft’s new retail chief, David Porter, comes from Wal-Mart. Apple’s retail chief, Ron Johnson, came from Target. Target stores are nice. Wal-Mart stores are hellholes. And don’t forget that Mickey Drexler — long-time CEO of Gap, currently CEO of J. Crew — is an Apple board member. You are who you hire.

Pepsi Throwback, With Real Sugar, Coming to the U.S. in April 

So sad that Pepsi is doing this but Coke is not. If you’ve never had real Coke — Coke made with sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup — you don’t know what you’re missing.

Gregory Raiz’s Proposed Kindle Redesign 

The Kindle’s new hardware design is clearly better than the original’s, but my first impression is that it’s still way too noisy. Why are the side buttons labeled with text? And why is there a huge “Amazon Kindle” logo at the top of the device? The front face of the Kindle is effectively white space surrounding the text of each page you read — so it’s like reading a real book where the publisher has stamped a two-inch logo at the top of each page and printed “turn here” in left and right margins of each page. The iPhone gets it right: no logos on the front face, no text on hardware buttons.

Gregory Raiz’s proposed redesign is much better. I disagree with Raiz that a color screen is essential, but I’m completely on board with his central premise: reducing the visual clutter.

Windows Mobile 6.5’s Shortcomings 

Microsoft introduced Windows Mobile 6.5 at Mobile World Congress this week; Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky runs down the list of reasons it’s disappointing. Still no support for capacitive touch screens, for example. But I think the most damning thing is that it’s not even set to ship until the end of the year. What seems so odd is not just that Microsoft is way behind the state-of-the-art in mobile OSes, but that they don’t seem set to catch up any time soon.

Mike Clark’s ‘Becoming Productive in Xcode’ Screencasts 

I agree with Duncan Davidson — screencasts are an extremely productive way to learn how to use software. Mike Clark’s new series of screencasts on Xcode seems like a winner.

Replacement iPhone Earphones 

Alex Watson reviews half a dozen sets of earphone replacements for the iPhone.

Aragom Space War 

New iPhone game from Peter N Lewis:

Aragom is a fast paced space war game, reminiscent of the old TRS-80 Star Trek game.

It’s not going to win any awards for the graphics, but, for such an old concept, it’s surprisingly well suited to touchscreen play. And it’s not just nostalgia on my part — my five-year-old son digs it too. $3 at the App Store.

Twitter Groups 

Loren Brichter on the problems faced by Twitter client developers tempted to add “group” features.

Why Lucius Kwok Writes Software 

Lucius Kwok, on his path to full-time indie Mac development:

Sound Studio 1.0 had a very basic set of features, bugs that would cause crashes, and not a very good data model. But it worked well enough that the day after I released it, I got my first purchase through Kagi. One sale a day isn’t much, and I only made about $1,888 in shareware sales in 1999, including sales from my other shareware products.

In Defense of Readers 

Mandy Brown, writing at A List Apart:

The web is still a noisy, crowded place — but it’s also limitless, and surely we can find space enough for reading — a space where the text speaks to the reader and the reader does not strain to hear.


“English translations of Eastern Bloc LOLcats.”

Palm Developer Network: Overview of WebOS 

Palm is hosting HTML and PDF versions of the first chapter of Mitch Allen’s upcoming book on developing apps for WebOS. Allen is vice president and software chief technology officer at Palm. (Thanks to DF reader Adam Black.)

Android Not Dead 

Ian Betteridge reports that there is a new Android phone debuting at Mobile World Congress — the HTC Magic, a.k.a. the G2.

From the DF Archive: Deal With It 

A piece I wrote two years ago proposing a simple rule of thumb for measuring the perceived complexity of a user interface. There was also a brief follow-up piece a few days later. Might be worth a re-read, as I’m referencing it in the piece I’m working on now.

Tree 1.3 

Interesting Mac outliner from Japanese developers Top of Tree. Simple, clean UI with an option to toggle the display between a traditional list view and an innovative tree view, where child elements expand into new columns to the right. A little pricey at ¥3,980 JPY (roughly $45 USD today) but I’m really digging it. (Via Alex Payne.)

Raising Prices 

Craig Hockenberry on iPhone app pricing. I had missed James Thomson’s post about average daily PCalc sales doubling after the release of the free PCalc Lite.

(Update: Sorry for the s/DragThing/PCalc/ typo in the initial post, folks. I get all those various James Thomson apps confused sometimes.)

No New Android Phones at Mobile World Congress 

Eric Zeman:

We’re only halfway through the first day at Mobile World Congress and already things are looking bleak for Android. Many of the major manufacturers have already announced their new products at the show, and not one Android handset has been seen.

(Via MacDailyNews.)

NYT’s Prototype ‘Article Skimmer’ Interface 

The thinking behind the design, and some keyboard shortcuts for navigation, are discussed here. I really like this. (Via Andy Baio.)

Specify Your Canonical 

Google now supports a <link> tag syntax for specifying which URL, when several equivalent URLs point to the same resource, is the canonical one.

Update: Yahoo and Microsoft are also supporting this same syntax.

‘Usability Is the Only Reason Mac Survived’ 

Jakob Nielsen, on the 25th anniversary of the Macintosh:

During its first decade, the Mac offered clearly superior usability compared to competing personal computer platforms (DOS, Windows, OS/2). Not until Windows 95 did the PC start to approximate Mac-level usability. Despite this Mac advantage, PCs have sold vastly better in every single year since 1984, and the Mac has yet to exceed a single-digit market share.

The Mac’s miserable marketplace performance seems to pose a strong argument against usability. Why bother, if it doesn’t sell? The counter-argument is that usability is the only reason Mac survived.


On Rating Systems 

Steven Frank on social rating systems:

So, it’s nearly pointless to have scales of 5 stars, 10 stars, or 100 stars, when all you really need is: “Liked it, Didn’t Like It, and Neutral”.

Or maybe even just go full-Siskel/Ebert, and offer users only two choices: thumbs up or thumbs down.

John Markoff Asks: ‘Do We Need a New Internet?’ 

I answer: No.

Harper’s Index on the Web 

Searchable, linkable, tweetable archive of the entire 25-year history of Harper’s Index.


My thanks to Bjango for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. iStat is their new iPhone utility that displays statistics regarding your iPhone and your network connection (both Wi-Fi and cell), and for remotely monitoring your Mac. The remote Mac monitoring includes CPU usage, memory, temperature, and uptime. Network tools include ping and traceroute. Regularly $3, currently on sale for $2 at the App Store.

Paid Apps Hit the Android Market 

U.S.-only for now.

Early Pre-Release Version of Chrome Running on Mac OS X 

Includes a screenshot.

Layer Tennis Today 

The 2009 Layer Tennis season starts today, in a match pitting Threadless creative director Jeffrey Kalmikoff against author, designer and programmer Brendan Dawes, with play-by-play commentary from yours truly. Read the match preview now, then follow the action live starting at 3pm EST / noon PST.

OpenMeta Is a Hack 

Long forum thread between Michael Tsai and the developers of the OpenMeta project. In a nut, the OpenMeta project description makes it sound like it’s entirely legitimate, but they’re storing the data in a name space owned by Apple, which Apple has explicitly stated is not supported for third-party software. Tsai has far more patience than I do.

‘A Helluva Long Wait’ 

Lou Cannon, on Barack Obama’s comfort level as President:

For one thing, he follows his own timetable, as Reagan did. Before he was elected, Reagan grumbled when his staff awakened him too early. Stuart Spencer, an adviser, told him to get used to it because when he was president “that fellow from the National Security Council” would be there to brief him at 7:30 a.m. every day. “Well, he’s going to have a helluva long wait,” Mr. Reagan said.

Om Malik Dumps His iPhone 

He blames AT&T — lots of dropped calls and spotty 3G networking. Anecdotally, I’ve found that AT&T service is pretty good here at home in Philadelphia and everywhere I travel on the east coast, but sketchy in San Francisco.

‘I’ll Come to Your House and Chew Gum’ 

Joaquin Phoenix on Letterman last night. Dave’s never better than with an interview gone wrong.

Security Update 2009-001 

Includes a fix for the Safari RSS security problem publicized last month.

Daniel Sandler on How the Twitter ‘Don’t Click’ Trick Worked 

A lot of panicked Twitter users thought their account had been compromised, but it was far simpler than that:

The attack page creates a button labeled “Don’t Click” that does nothing at all, but it also loads in an <IFRAME> directly on top of the button. That IFRAME is then made completely transparent using CSS.

When you click the button, you’re actually clicking on the (now invisible) ‘Update’ button on Twitter’s web interface instead; assuming you’re logged in to Twitter, you’ll immediately post whatever’s in the form input box.

Is there a good reason why browsers should allow <iframe> elements to be transparent?

Matthew Baldwin’s List of Mindfuck Movies 

“Some movies inform. Some movies entertain. And some pry open your skull and punch you in the brain.”

Shooting With the Quad Camera 

Quad Camera has an odd, retro, pixel-font interface, but it’s a cool app.

Lawrence Yang’s Response to the New Pepsi Logo 

That’s about right.

When Are Mac Hardware Updates Coming? 

Chris Seibold argues that Apple is “neglecting” the Mac, pointing to how long it’s been since the Mini, iMac, and Mac Pros have been updated as proof. Here’s the thing, though: Mac sales are higher now than ever. The desktop models are overdue for updates, though, and Apple’s recent quarterly unit sale numbers reflect this. I think it’s simply the case that Apple is aiming for a roughly annual schedule for all their hardware products — Mac, iPod, iPhone. No reason to get your pants in a knot. I expect the new Mac Mini and speed-bump iMacs and Mac Pros in March, if not sooner.

Authors Guild Claims Text-to-Speech Software Is Illegal 

Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken on the text-to-speech feature in the new Kindle:

“They don’t have the right to read a book out loud. That’s an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law.”

That seems like a silly argument to me. Neil Gaiman agrees.

The Great Atlantic Ocean Swimming Hoax 

Chris Chase on Jennifer Figge, who “swam” the Atlantic Ocean:

The real issue stemmed from the fact that swimming 2,100 miles in 25 days is impossible. […] It’s infinitely more impossible when somebody only spends 21 minutes swimming during one of those 25 days. Michael Phelps swimming his fastest would take about 20 days to cover that distance. And that’s his fastest pace, sustained for three weeks, without ever stopping. Impossible.

QuickLook for Markdown 

Free plugin by Michael Dominic K. (based on an older plugin by Phil Toland) that adds QuickLook previews and Spotlight indexing for Markdown-formatted text files. Very cool. Uses the fast Discount C library for Markdown processing.

WhatTheFont for iPhone 

MyFonts’s excellent WhatTheFont tool is now available as a free iPhone app:

Ever seen a great font in a magazine ad, poster, or on the web and wondered what font it is? Whip out your iPhone and snap a photo, and WhatTheFont for iPhone will identify that font in seconds!

Works great in my quick testing. (Via Swiss Miss.)

Panic’s Founders Room 

Buzz Andersen on the “Founders Room” in Panic’s new headquarters in Portland. He neglects to mention that said Founders Room is behind a secret door. (I posted a few photos from last weekend’s grand opening festivities on Flickr.)

‘Whiskey’ vs. ‘Whisky’ 

Eric Asimov successfully petitioned the editors in charge of the NYT style guide to allow the use of “whisky” when referring to Scotch and Canadian liquor. His original piece on the topic is worth a read, too.

Sirius XM Prepares for Possible Bankruptcy 

Doesn’t look good:

Sirius XM, which never turned a profit when both companies were independent, is laden with $3.25 billion in debt. Its business model has been dependent, in part, on the ability to roll over its enormous debts — used to finance sending satellites into space and attract talent like Mr. Stern (who was paid $100 million a year) — at low rates for the foreseeable future until it could turn a profit.

The company’s success and failure are also tied to the faltering fortunes of the automobile industry, which sells vehicles with its radio technology installed and represented the largest customer base among Sirius XM’s 20 million subscribers.

‘Criminally Stupid’ 

John Siracusa on Apple charging $30 for QuickTime Pro, back in 2005:

But please, Apple, give up on the QuickTime Pro thing. It’s always been annoying, but when viewed alongside today’s suite of bundled Apple software, it’s downright ridiculous. Worse, it makes the Mac platform look bad when the bundled QuickTime Player application can’t do all of the things that make QuickTime so cool: cut, copy, and paste together different kinds of media into a single file, extract and recombine tracks, import and export a huge number of formats, and yes, view video in full-screen mode.

Our Long National Nightmare of QuickTime ‘Pro’ May Be Coming to an End 

According to Arnold Kim, in the latest Snow Leopard seed QuickTime Pro features are baked right in to regular old QuickTime, just like they should have been all along. QuickTime “Pro” has been a rare nickel-and-dime move from Apple.

Give Up and Use Tables 

Give Up and Use Tables:

We’ve scientifically determined the maximum amount of time that you should need to make a layout work in CSS: it’s 47 minutes.

SitePoint: The Bushfire Relief Sale 

Southern Australia has been hit by a series of severe, deadly bush fires. Check out The Big Picture’s coverage to get an idea of the magnitude of the devastation.

Technical publisher SitePoint is running a 5-for-1 sale on PDF books — five books for just $30  — and they’re donating 100 percent of the proceeds to the victims of the fires. A great deal for a worthy cause.

Sony Releases New Stupid Piece of Shit That Doesn’t Fucking Work 

“We listened hard to what our customers said they wanted most out of their home entertainment system, and then we pumped out this impossible-to-use piece of shit.”

Everything Buckets 

Buzz Andersen’s retort to Alex Payne’s “The Case Against Everything Buckets”:

Maybe Alex is right that I can even approximate tags and VoodoPad’s multifarious connections among documents using UNIX-ey constructs like symlinks, but why, when apps exist that do that in a more natural way? Isn’t this just making the Finder another “everything bucket” that has more obscure UI?

The Talk Show, Episode 29 


Steven Heller on the New Tropicana Branding 

One of the worst redesigns in memory. The plastic jugs look even worse than the cartons. The overall aesthetic is that of a cut-rate generic brand. (Via Kottke.)

Tog: ‘Apple’s Flatland Aesthetic’ 

Bruce Tognazzini on the scaling limitations of the Dock, iPhoto, and Safari’s bookmarking features. I agree with him that none of these apps scale to handle the needs of advanced users, but I disagree that it’s necessarily a problem. By his own admission he’s worked around these shortcomings with third-party software. To me Apple’s unstated policy this decade has been that they’re going to knock themselves out making outstanding software that does the simple things for typical users very well. Software meant for advanced users is where the third-party opportunities are.

One Free Interaction 

Chris Noessel on “free interactions”: little do-nothing actions you can take with software or hardware just because they feel satisfying. I do the page-snapback thing with iPhone apps all the time. (Via Buzz Andersen.)

‘A Twitter Decision’ 


Twitter spam. Really? Are you even paying attention? I’ll say it again, you choose who you follow. If you’re following a newsbot, you’re going to get news spam. If you follow a good friend who can’t stop RTing, you’re going to get retweet spam, but complaining about it is like standing the middle of a freeway asking, “Why do these cars keep hitting me?”

(Speaking of Rands, some of his luxurious t-shirts remain available. They’re printed on fabric that’s 70 percent bamboo, 30 percent cotton.)

The Sopranos, Uncensored 

“This is every single curse, from every single episode of the sopranos, ever.” (Via Chris Long.)

Canon 5D Mark II Available at Amazon 

Speaking of Amazon, they’re finally taking orders for the Canon 5D Mark II digital SLR, at list price. Granted, list price is $2700, but, hey, you get free shipping.

For additional make-me-rich Amazon kickback referral money fun, the DF Paraphernalia store remains open.

Kindle 2 

Looks like a nice improvement over the original: thinner, lighter, more storage, better display, and better button placement. $359. Here’s Engadget’s live coverage from the announcement event earlier today.

Jeff Bezos sums it up: “Our vision is every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.”

Woz to Appear on ‘Dancing With the Stars’ 

Competing alongside Steve-O and Belinda Carlisle.

Reporting in Real Time 

NYT public editor Clark Hoyt on the different pressures between print and web publishing:

Even in the print world, Roberts said, editors often have to make snap decisions on deadline. “I don’t think we should be driven to throw out any rules or standards for the sake of haste,” he said, “and generally I don’t think we do.” That’s true, as far as it goes, but print deadlines are established, and journalists work all day toward them. The Web has no deadlines, just the anxiety that the guy down the street will beat you to the story, and you have to get yours published fast.

Some Excellent Claim Chowder 

Rob Enderle in January 2007, on DRM music subscription service Ruckus:

As these students leave school, much like it was for the Mac, they are more likely to not want to support Apple and if Ruckus continues to expand, that represents a long term downward trend to both iTunes and the iPod unless Apple moves directly to provide a similar service and address the need that Ruckus is addressing.

Granted this will take several years to develop and probably won’t become pronounced until 2009 or later but this is how a monopoly is typically taken down, by eating away at the fringes and, in this case, drilling holes in the future market by attacking successfully young consumers.

Ruckus, today:

Unfortunately the Ruckus service will no longer be provided.

PearC: Der PC Mit Mac OS X 

German PC-maker now selling machines with Mac OS X pre-installed. Spiegel magazine reports that the company does not fear legal consequences on the grounds that they don’t think Apple’s Mac OS X license agreement applies in Germany. The article is in German; here’s a Google translation. (Thanks to DF reader Utz Westermann.)

Rich Animation Using CSS in WebKit 

You have to be using a recent WebKit nightly build to see the examples in action — but they already work in the shipping version of MobileSafari for iPhone OS. Impressive as hell. It’s pretty much exposing a big chunk of Core Animation to web developers.

On The Job 3 

My thanks to Stunt Software for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote On The Job 3, the new version of their excellent time-tracking and invoicing app. It looks cool and works smoothly, but it offers powerful features like support for multiple currencies, customized layouts for invoices, and idle time detection for the time-tracking.

From a UI design standpoint, On The Job is a delight to explore. There are a ton of thoughtful little touches. And that bee has got to be in the running for best app icon of the year.

On The Job costs $40, but through the end of this week, you can save 20 percent using the coupon code “FIREBALL”.

Tags 1.1 

Interesting new $29 utility from Gravity Apps. Tags implements what is effectively a system-wide cross-application universal tagging system for Mac OS X. The UI is like Quicksilver or LaunchBar, in that you can invoke it from anywhere with a keyboard shortcut. But what’s novel is that you get to apply the same set of tags to everything from files in the Finder to Mail messages to Safari bookmarks. The tagging data is stored as file system metadata, and is thus searchable via Spotlight.

It’s not clear to me whether they’re using Mac OS X’s xattr metadata system in a way that’s strictly according to Hoyle, though — Tags is writing its metadata into Apple’s Spotlight namespace, because that’s the only way to get it indexed by Spotlight. To my knowledge that’s not officially supported.

Can’t say I care for the paper-y visual appearance, either. Reminds me of the old Drawing Board theme for the Mac OS 8-9 Appearance Manager.

Setting Custom Shortcuts for Popup Menu Items 

I didn’t know you could do this — the custom menu key shortcuts in the Keyboards & Mouse System Prefs panel work with popup menus, too.

John Siracusa on E-Books  

The essay’s subtitle, “On Reading in the Digital Age”, captures what it’s all about.

Penn and Teller Explain Sleight of Hand 

“Looks simple, doesn’t it?”

‘Broken Gets Fixed. Shoddy Lasts Forever.’ 

Rings true.

Ruled and Plain-Paper Field Notes 

I’ve been waiting for plain-paper Field Notes since before they even debuted in summer 2007.

Speed Matters 

Greg Linden:

This conclusion may be surprising — people notice a half second delay? — but we had a similar experience at In A/B tests, we tried delaying the page in increments of 100 milliseconds and found that even very small delays would result in substantial and costly drops in revenue.

Not a new post, but still interesting.

John August Reviews iMovie ’09 

John August:

In short, iMovie 09 makes it easy to do very complicated things, and complicated to do very easy things.

I pretty much agree with everything in this review. I too find the “word wrap” style timeline to be confusing, but overall I’m really impressed with the new iMovie.

Shawn Blanc Reviews ‘Things’ 

Detailed review of both the Mac and iPhone versions of Cultured Code’s Things.

‘Communicating With Code’ 

Paul Buchheit:

We did a lot of things wrong during the 2.5 years of pre-launch Gmail development, but one thing we did very right was to always have live code. The first version of Gmail was literally written in a day.

Bill Keller’s BBColors Color Schemes 

I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but BBColors is a hack I put together a while back that lets you save and load text coloring schemes for BBEdit and TextWrangler. Bill Keller just published a few nice schemes for use with it.

Spacesick Is Making Something Cool Every Day 

The whole set is cool, but my favorites are the series of imagined novelizations of movies. E.g.: Highlander, Face/Off, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and The Temple of Doom. And of course, Caddyshack.

How Twitter Was Born 

Dom Sagolla on the origins of Twitter.

Don’t Work for Assholes 

Derek Powazek:

Nine times out of ten, the first impression someone gives you is exactly who they are. We choose not to see it because we need the money, or we want the situation to be different. But if someone rubs you the wrong way at the first meeting, chances are, it’s only going to get worse.

‘Peeling Cucumbers on the Front Stoop’ 

Nice piece by Dave Pell.

Crackulous, Automated App Store Piracy Tool 

The biggest downside to the App Store from an anti-bootlegging perspective is that the FairPlay DRM protection is applied the exact same way to all apps. So if you figure out how to crack one, you now have a working method to crack them all. So what’s now common with jailbreakers are tools like this to allow you to create completely unlocked versions of any app from the App Store.

The other factor is that this has been going on for months, and is getting worse, but so far there’s not been a single indication that Apple cares or plans to do anything about it. I suspect we’ll soon start seeing high-profile App Store apps that take matters into their own hands and attempt to detect whether they’re running on a jailbroken phone, and, if so, quit.

‘I Lego N.Y.’ 

Christoph Niemann represents iconic elements of New York City in Lego. My favorite is the “regular coffee”.

Worst Installer Ever 

John C. Welch on the installer for Garmin Communicator:

Yeah. That’s right. It kills Firefox and Safari, without warning, without dialog, without any kind of “You might have been working on something, I’ll ask you if I can do this”. Nope. None of that shit. You run this installer, bang, Safari and Firefox are dead.

Twitter Chatter During the Super Bowl 

Fabulous data visualization by Matthew Bloch and Shan Carter for The New York Times.

Comic Book Lettering Grammar and Style 

Nate Piekos:

Comic book lettering has some grammatical and aesthetic traditions that are quite unique. What follows is a list that every letterer eventually commits to his/her own mental reference file. The majority of these points are established tradition, sprinkled with modern trends and a bit of my own opinion having lettered professionally for a few years now.

(Thanks to reader John Saxton.)

The Steelers 

Six-time Super Bowl champs. What a great game.

Peter Cohen Reviews LED Football 2 

I love this game.

It’s a Challenge, All Right 

So Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said this to Bloomberg in an interview, regarding Adobe’s efforts to get Flash on the iPhone:

“It’s a hard technical challenge, and that’s part of the reason Apple and Adobe are collaborating,” Narayen said today in a Bloomberg Television interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “The ball is in our court. The onus is on us to deliver.”

One way to read this is that he’s spilled the beans and Adobe and Apple are actively working together to make this happen. That’s how AppleInsider and TUAW read it, for example.

Another way to read it is that “collaborating”, without any details of what that collaboration entails, is just an empty word that could mean anything.

The Technical Story of Muxtape 

Luke Crawford:

The thing that’s so wonderful about using beautiful, appropriate tools is that they become an extension of you, your body, you fingertips, and your mind. They get out of the way and let you directly interact with the problem you are solving. Everyone’s tried to remove a screw without a screwdriver; a task quickly becomes impossible that otherwise would be trivial.

Who Is on Twitter? 

Sasha Frere-Jones:

  • people who are just back from a really awesome run
  • people who are involved with “computers”
  • DJs
  • DJs at the airport
  • DJs who are drunk
  • people who don’t seem to have anyone else’s email address
  • people who have forgotten how to use email
  • people who have forgotten how to text