Linked List: May 2009

How the Web and the Weblog Have Changed Writing 

Philip Greenspun:

Our literary culture is impoverished when every idea is stretched or amputated to fit the Procrustean bed made up by magazine and book publishers. When an author runs out of relevant stuff to say after 20 or 30 pages, that’s how long the essay should be.

Google Wave 

I’ve been thinking about Google Wave since it was announced earlier in the week at Google I/O. It looks brilliant and impressive as technical accomplishment. But I don’t understand what it is. It seems not just technically complex but also conceptually complex.

Communication systems that succeed are usually conceptually simple: the telegraph, the telephone, fax, email, IM, Twitter. So color me skeptical regarding Wave’s prospects.

See also: Buzz Andersen’s take.

Update: Facebook is a good counter-example of a conceptually complex communication system that is very popular. My pessimism/skepticism regarding Wave is probably biased by my own strong preference for conceptual simplicity; I have not and don’t intend to sign up for Facebook.

Boy Genius Report Reviews the Palm Pre 

High marks for the display and WebOS. Low marks for the keyboard. No benchmarks for battery life or performance. Interesting that BGR got a unit to review so far in advance of release.

New Mac Clone Maker to Open Retail Store in Los Angeles 

I’m sure this will work out just fine for them.


My thanks to The Little App Factory for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Evom, their brand-new Mac app for video format conversion. I’ve used it Evom several times this week and it’s exactly the app I’ve wanted. I like HandBrake, and I used to use VisualHub before its developer pulled the plug on it, but 99 percent of the time I don’t want to fiddle with detailed conversion options. I just want to convert video for use on devices like my Apple TV or iPhone, and I just want the output to look good without taking up too much space.

That’s exactly how Evom works. Drag-and-drop input, then select a destination device or location, and it just works. And, in addition to converting files on your computer — such as AVIs, WMVs, and MKVs — Evom will also work to archive Flash-based movies from the web to files on your computer. I really like it.

Jon Lech Johansen Speculates on How the Palm Pre Syncs Music and Video With iTunes 

I think he’s got it: the Pre is masquerading as an iPod over USB. Johansen expects Apple to block this in a future update to iTunes. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, but I’m not so sure.

Also, answering my questions from yesterday, Pre iTunes syncing works on Windows, too, and because it’s masquerading as an iPod should work in both directions.

Jon Rubinstein and Roger McNamee Interview at AllThingsD Regarding the Palm Pre 

I’m linking to John Paczkowski’s notes from the interview, but they have a nine-minute video of highlights as well, and the video includes a new Pre demo.

New Yorker iPhone Cover Boosts Sales for Brushes App 

Jenna Wortham on Steve Sprang’s Brushes, the iPhone app used by artist Jorge Colombo to paint this week’s New Yorker cover:

The novelty and popularity of the cover has provided a healthy boost in sales for the 32-year-old who works shifts in a coffee shop when he’s not developing applications for the iPhone and Mac.

On Monday, Mr. Sprang said the application had its highest selling day since it was first released into Apple’s App Store in August, with 2,700 copies at $4.99 apiece flying off the virtual shelves.

Update: Via email, Steve Sprang tells me:

I just wanted to mention that the NYTimes article you’re linking to has many errors and misquotes. The primary one being that I don’t work in shifts at a coffee shop. I do occasionally take my laptop to the coffee shop to work (the source of the confusion), but I am not employed there.

Not that there’s anything wrong with serving coffee — I love coffee and the people who make it — but it did strike me as odd that someone who’s doing pretty well selling software would need a side job like that.

Google Expects 18 Android Models by Year’s End 

That’s a big jump, since there are only two right now, and just one — the G1 — that’s available in the U.S.

Chrome Extensions 

Slides from Aaron Boodman’s presentation on the upcoming Chrome extension API at the Google I/O conference. Looks very good, and very Google-y: Chrome extensions are simply signed bundles of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, taking advantage of HTML5 features for drawing and database storage.

Introducing Typekit 

Jeffrey Veen announces Typekit:

That’s where Typekit comes in. We’ve been working with foundries to develop a consistent web-only font linking license. We’ve built a technology platform that lets us to host both free and commercial fonts in a way that is incredibly fast, smoothes out differences in how browsers handle type, and offers the level of protection that type designers need without resorting to annoying and ineffective DRM.

Launching this summer. If this is even half as good as it sounds, it’s going to be awesome. The one eyebrow-raiser for me, though, is that they’ve announced the project without naming a single participating foundry.

Palm Pre Syncs Music With iTunes 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

Plug a Pre into a Mac and it syncs, seamlessly, with Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes.

In fact, the iTunes Store treats the Pre just as it would an iPod or an iPhone with one exception: it can’t handle old copy-protected songs.

Questions: Does it also sync with iTunes on Windows? If you add a song to your Pre elsewhere, will it sync back to your Mac? Or is it one-way?

Public Builds of Chromium for Mac 

Not yet ready for prime time, but definitely getting there fast. I like what I see.

Update: Chromium is the open source browser on which Google Chrome is based, but they’re not synonymous.

The Panic Three-Day Sale 

50 percent off the entire selection of major Panic apps, including Coda and Transmit.

Update: This informative infomercial explains how it works.

iLounge Has a Mock-Up Showing the Purported Next-Gen iPod Nano 

The screen gets wider, the click wheel shrinks (to accommodate the bigger screen), and a camera is added to the back.

Star Wars ABC — Illustrations by Michael Fleming 

“A is for Ackbar.”

(Thanks to Daniel Bogan.)

On Redesigning the Front Page of Talking Points Memo 

Alexander Shaw on the redesign of Talking Points Memo, one of my favorite web sites.

Ovi Store Launches 

Nokia’s answer to the iTunes App Store. Reaction seems negative thus far.

Claim Chowdhry 

Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry, in an interview with Reuters:

Investors should not think the upcoming version of iPhone 3 is going to be as successful as iPhone 2.0 because it will have solid competition from Palm Pre, developed by ex-Apple designer Jon Rubinstein.

Palm Pre has a superior operating system than iPhone. It runs on a better network — Sprint CDMA — versus iPhone which runs on GSM.

I think Palm’s WebOS looks very good. Maybe it will prove itself better than iPhone OS, even. But given that it’s not even out yet, it seems a little early to make that call. The bigger error, though, is in thinking that there’s only room for one mobile OS. I expect iPhone sales to grow this year regardless of how well the Pre sells.

Bruce Lawson Interviews Ian Hickson, Editor of the HTML 5 Specification 

Ian Hickson, asked whether browser makers have too much influence on the spec:

The reality is that the browser vendors have the ultimate veto on everything in the spec, since if they don’t implement it, the spec is nothing but a work of fiction. So they have a lot of influence—I don’t want to be writing fiction, I want to be writing a spec that documents the actual behaviour of browsers.

Whether that’s too much, I don’t know. Does gravity have too much influence on objects on earth? It’s just the way it is.

I’m just a spectator, albeit a very interested one, but I have long thought that Hickson possesses just the right mix of pragmatism and idealism for this job.

Kindle Formatting for Web Geeks 

John August on the simple HTML formatting supported by Amazon’s Kindle publishing system. (Sounds like a good match for Markdown.)

Roast Pork Sandwiches 

Peter Mucha makes the case for roast pork as the best sandwich in Philly. Tony Luke’s and DiNic’s both make great ones.

Obama Selects Sonia Sotomayor for Court 

The New York Times:

President Obama announced on Tuesday that he will nominate the federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court, choosing a daughter of Puerto Rican parents raised in Bronx public housing projects to become the nation’s first Hispanic justice.

Says Jeffrey Toobin:

She’s a prudent, careful liberal, respectful of Supreme Court precedent, but willing to push its limits to defend the rights of the individual.

This Week’s New Yorker Cover Painted Using an iPhone 

The New Yorker:

Jorge Colombo drew this week’s cover using Brushes, an application for the iPhone, while standing for an hour outside Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Times Square.

Includes an animation showing how he drew it, step by step.

Eucalyptus Now Available at the App Store 

James Montgomerie:

Earlier today I received a phone call from an Apple representative. He was very complimentary about Eucalyptus. We talked about the confusion surrounding its App Store rejections, which I am happy to say is now fully resolved. He invited me to re-build and submit a version of Eucalyptus with no filters for immediate approval, and that full version is now available on the iPhone App Store.

It really is a beautiful, very thoughtfully-designed app. In addition to the page-turning animation, Montgomerie devised his own typesetting algorithm to allow for hyphenation. I believe Eucalyptus is the only iPhone e-book reader with hyphenation. Update: I stand corrected: Stanza has (optional) hyphenation as well. We regret the error.

The Deck Readership Survey 

We, where by “we” I mean the Deck ad network, have never done this sort of thing before, but Jim Coudal and his crew have put together a readership survey. A lot of sites and ad networks do this because it provides information that can help sell ads, but this survey is different. Example questions:

5. Are you one of those people who thinks you’re right all the time, and that if everybody would just listen to you things would be a whole lot better?


7. If you were to become romantically involved with a typeface, which one would it be?

And there’s even a trig question which Jim claims DF readers are faring poorly against. (Update: Don’t look until you’ve finished the survey, but here’s a cheatsheet for the trig question from DF reader Steve Nicholson.)

‘The Variant’ 

John August, screenwriter of such films as Go and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, has self-published a short story called “The Variant”, which he describes as:

It’s a spy thriller with a strong dose of science fiction, in the vein of The Prisoner and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., or the short stories of Jorge Luis Borges.

It costs just $1, either as a PDF or on Kindle. August sent me a pre-release version earlier this week, and I really enjoyed it. (Actually, I went ahead and bought the Kindle version so I could give the new 1.1 Kindle iPhone app a proper test drive.) There’s also a free 13-page preview — give it a read and I bet you’ll cough up the buck for the rest of the story.

“The Variant” is both a good, fun, smart story and an interesting experiment in indie self-publishing for fiction.

Delicious Library 

Delicious Library is a well-designed Mac app that lets you scan and track your DVDs, books, CDs, video games, software, board games, tools, electronics, cameras, jewelry, shoes, and clothes. My thanks to Delicious Monster for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote it.

My favorite feature is its ability to use your Mac’s built-in iSight camera to scan bar codes. Other features include the ability to publish your library on the web (with beautiful page templates and iPhone-optimized pages, of course), sharing over Bonjour, and “three-click” selling of your books and DVDs via Amazon.

University of Virginia First-Year Student Computing Survey 

Remember the survey from UC Davis I linked to a few weeks ago, showing that Mac ownership had tripled from 2006 to 2009? Here’s another similar survey, this time from the University of Virginia, showing similar trends. (Via Glenn Fleishman.)

American Checkers 1.13 

Speaking of updates to 8x8-square board games for the iPhone, the latest version of Igor Diakov’s American Checkers adds a more attractive wooden board style, among other niceties. Diakov also offers a few other checker variants, including Russian and Brazillian checkers. I’ve probably spent more time playing American Checkers than all others on my iPhone combined.

Deep Green 1.1 

New version of Joachim Bondo’s outstanding iPhone chess game, adds cool sounds and improved (but very subtle) animations. Without question the best iPhone chess game — beautiful, fun, and an intricate, thoughtful design.

Regarding Eucalyptus 

Eucalyptus is a new e-book reader for the iPhone, created by James Montgomerie. Content comes from freely available books from Project Gutenberg. The main draw for Eucalyptus is that the user interface is simply exquisite. See for yourself here. Montgomerie sent me an ad hoc beta last month, and the page-turning animation is simply amazing. It’s really one of the most amazing things I’ve seen on the iPhone yet.

But: Eucalyptus has been rejected by Apple, for the absolutely outrageous reason that one of the books you can search for and download from Gutenberg is Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana. Not only can anyone load and read this exact same book on any iPhone using MobileSafari, but it’s also available through other e-book readers already in the App Store such as eReader, Stanza, and Kindle.

This might be the shittiest and most outrageous App Store rejection to date, and that’s saying something.

Biscuit Tin 

Fun $1 iPhone app from MagneticNorth — give your iPhone a shake and it loads random pictures from your Flickr acccount.

Andy Ihnatko Reviews Verizon’s MiFI 

The 5 GB monthly cap, and the nickel-per-megabyte overage charge — are the only downside I can see to this. I hope Apple announces iPhone tethering at WWDC next month.

‘Last Day Dream’ 

Sweet 42-second short film by Chris Milk.

Amazon Updates the iPhone Kindle App 

Now supports tap-to-turn-page and screen rotation. (The rotation feature has a nice extra: you can disable auto-rotation for times when you don’t want it, like when you’re lying on your side).

FaceSpan 5 Development Suspended 

Understandable, because I’m not sure how big the market for it would have been, but a genuine shame, because it really is a remarkable developer system.

Landon Fuller on Mac OS X Java Security Vulnerabilities 

Seems inexcusable that Apple has let this one linger so long.

I’ve had Java turned off in my web browser preferences ever since Thomas Ptacek’s excellent “everything you need to know about Mac security” talk at C4[2] last August. You should turn it off, too.

The Fucking Weather 

It’s fucking nice today here in Philadelphia.

Best Buy Will Sell Palm Pre With Instant, Rather Than Mail-In, Rebate 

If you’re going to buy a Pre, looks like Best Buy is the place to do it. Instant rebates don’t suck at all. (Via Dan Moren.)

User Interface of the Week: Aquamacs 

This dialog box is too good to pass up, even if giving the award to an Emacs derivative is like taking candy from a baby. (Thanks to Matt Deatherage.)

John Paczkowski on Mail-In Rebate Redemption Rates 

Only a little over half tend to get redeemed; the forms are designed to be complicated and annoying to discourage redemption.

June 6 Release Date for Palm Pre 

$299, but there’s a cheesy $100 mail-in rebate. (Rebates suck.)

Seems crazy to release it just two days before the WWDC keynote, but I’m guessing if they could have released it earlier, they would have.

43 Folders Joins The Deck 

The premier ad network of the indie web just got better.

Seth Godin on Luxury vs. Premium 

Interesting distinction. Apple is a premium brand, but Microsoft’s new campaign is trying to paint Apple as a luxury brand.

Wired Can’t Sell Ads 

The New York Times on Wired magazine:

But Mr. Anderson has yet to solve the equation for Wired. Under his editorship, the magazine is an editorial success, winning three National Magazine Awards last month, which tied it for the most honored magazine. And Mr. Anderson’s own profile is higher than ever, thanks to his books, which roll messy business trends into neat canapés that executives pass around. He gives 50 speeches a year for an estimated $35,000 to $50,000 apiece.

But that has not equaled success for Wired in the downturn. The magazine has lost 50 percent of its ad pages so far this year, ranking among the worst off of the more than 150 monthly magazines measured by Media Industry Newsletter. Only Portfolio, which Condé Nast shut down last month, and Power and Motoryacht fared worse.

Power and Motoryacht?

Hivelogic: Top 10 Programming Fonts 

Dan Benjamin on monospaced programming fonts for Mac OS X. A few observations:

  • Unlike Times and Times New Roman (which I can’t tell apart even under scrutiny), Courier and Courier New are very different. Courier New is anemic, so thin and wispy that I find it hard to believe anyone can bear to use it for anything.

  • I still use Monaco 10, not anti-aliased, for nearly all my programming and writing. Could be that I’m old and curmudgeonly and that’s just what I’m used to, but I like to think that the whole point of using a monospaced font in the first place is to aid in character-level precision, and non-anti-aliased pixel fonts render characters more distinctly.

  • To my eyes, Consolas is the best anti-aliased monospaced font.

Profit Per Head 

I think this is an interesting metric. Google and Microsoft top the list, but Nintendo wasn’t included and would have won handily if it had been.


Fascinating well-sourced piece for GQ by Robert Draper on Donald Rumsfeld’s disastrous stint as George W. Bush’s secretary of defense. (Via Frank Rich.)

‘Hackers Can Sidejack Cookies’ 

First dogcow in The New Yorker?

(Via Christopher Frizzelle.)

Wolfram Alpha Soft Launch 

Has a nice iPhone-optimized version, too.

Another Source on iPhone Background Tasks  

MG Siegler:

Basically, my source says that while this is in no way a done deal yet, Apple is definitely trying to come up with a way to offer background support for third-party apps. They went on to note that while Apple may have something to say about it at WWDC, it’s very unlikely that any solution would be ready at that time, and could be a situation similar to how Apple announced Push Notification at WWDC last year but said it was coming in a few months (which it later was delayed until iPhone 3.0).

Sounds about right to me.

(My only niggle is with Siegler’s description of iPhone OS as not being designed for multi-tasking. It’s every bit as capable, technically, of multi-tasking as Mac OS X, and some of the built-in apps like Mail, Safari, Phone, and iPod already run in the background. The question is when Apple will deem the hardware powerful enough to allow third-party apps to do it.)


My thanks to Sophiestication for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote the new 2.0 release of Groceries, the excellent grocery list manager for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Groceries has a beautiful look and feel, and a slew of convenient features. Check out the screencast to see it in action. (Also: there’s a preference setting to use Helvetica instead of Marker Felt.)

Groceries is on sale for a limited time for just $1.

Rumors Regarding Background App Support in iPhone 3.0 

Dan Frommer reports:

Here’s two potential scenarios we’ve heard. Treat these as anecdotal rumors for now, as we don’t know how realistic they are.

  • Apple might allow users to select two apps that can run in the background.
  • Apple might selectively allow some apps to run in the background. We assume that developers could apply for permission to run in the background, and that Apple might approve or deny them based on the resources they need and how well they behave with the operating system’s stability.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t link to something as sketchily sourced as this, but: I heard something very similar from a decent (but second-hand) source back in January during Macworld Expo. What I heard then was that Apple was working on a vastly improved dock for your most-frequently used apps, and that there’d be one special icon position where you could put a third-party app to enable it to run in the background. Take it with a grain of salt, though: my source in January described it as an idea Apple was working on, nothing more.

The major limiting factor right now is RAM. There just isn’t much left for third-party processes on the current hardware’s 128 MB.

New ‘Get a Mac’ Ads 

This one, I think, is clearly a response to Microsoft’s recent ads, and a good one.

About Those iPhone App Store Revenue Numbers  

Good analysis from MG Siegler. (Hiring Siegler is the smartest thing Arrington has done at TechCrunch.)

FTC Cracks Down on Car-Warranty Robocalls 

These dirtbags were calling my cell phone a couple times a week last year. (Via Josh Marshall.)

What a Two-Hour Google Outage in North America Looks Like 

Google’s official explanation was very weird. I’m not saying a two-hour outage, even from Google, is deadly serious. But the jokey analogy to a NY-to-SF flight being re-routed to Singapore is strained — if I were on a North American flight re-routed around the world to Asia, I wouldn’t assume it was an inadvertant misconfiguration. I’d assume the pilot had gone insane.

Google, Apple, and Firefox 

Matt Asay argues that Apple and Google should abandon WebKit, Safari, and Chrome, and instead get behind Firefox:

For this same reason, however, both would do better to invest in Firefox, the “Linux of browsers.” In some ways, the browser efforts of Apple and Google are much like the Unix efforts of IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Sun Microsystems: they threaten to splinter the browser counterattack on Microsoft rather than solidify it.

This would be reasonable advice if Apple and Google were in the browser racket primarily to “attack IE”. But they aren’t. They’re simply in it to make as good a browser as they can, to suit their own needs. For Apple, that means top-notch native browsers for the Mac and iPhone (and who knows what other future devices). For Google, that means a top-notch runtime environment for their own web applications.

Apple Hires Ex-OLPC Security Chief 

Ryan Naraine:

Former director of security architecture at One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Ivan Krstic has joined Apple to help thwart hacker attacks against the Mac operating system.

Krstic designed the Bitfrost security architecture, which I thought was the most interesting OLPC innovation.

IE8 and the X-UA-Compatible Situation 

Faruk Ateş on the confusing rendering engine rules for IE8.

Sony Reports First Full-Year Loss in 14 Years 

I wonder how many “just wait until next year”s Howard Stringer will get.

MG Siegler on the Twitter Reply Thing 

You know you’ve made a mistake when you render something simple complicated.

The Difference Between Security and Safety 

Dennis Fisher:

Little, if anything, gets Mac users more exercised than a mention of their favorite machine’s security problems. Despite the fact that security experts believe Macs to be much easier to exploit than Windows machines, Mac users simply trot out the old saw about there not being any virus attacks on Macs. Not only is that assertion demonstrably false, but it misses the point entirely: Virus attacks are not an indicator of the security of an operating system.

That probably sounds like clueless trolling to many of you reading this, but it’s not, and it highlights an important distinction. Security is about technical measures, like the strength of the locks on your doors and windows. Safety is about the likelihood that you’ll actually suffer from some sort of attack. Microsoft has in fact implemented more advanced security measures in Windows than Apple has in Mac OS X, but that’s not surprising, because Windows is where nearly all the malware is.

But it rings untrue to most ears to claim that Apple is doing a bad job with regard to security. The evidence suggests that Mac OS X has been and remains secure enough to be safe, and safety is what real people actually care about.

Cabel Sasser on the Canon SD960: Great Pictures, Great Video 

I like my Flip, but I think the whole Flip class of pocket video cameras is ultimately doomed — the distinction between “still” and “video” cameras is quickly disappearing. Soon they’ll just be “cameras” that do both.

A New iPhone Means New APIs 

Gene Munster:

As indicated in today’s press release, we believe Apple will focus on the new version of Mac OS X, Snow Leopard at WWDC. While some investors may be expecting Apple to launch redesigned iPhones at WWDC, we do not anticipate the launch in early June. Rather, we expect Apple to host a special event in late June or early July to launch a family of iPhones.

That’d be goofy. Last year’s iPhone 3G was announced at WWDC in early June, so why wouldn’t this year’s? Plus, if there are any new hardware features — like say a video camera or magnetometer — that means new APIs, and if Apple wants to have WWDC sessions for the new hardware-specific APIs, they have to announce the hardware first.

Munster is an analyst for Piper Jaffray who is supposedly an expert regarding Apple. But he’s such an ignoramus that he isn’t even expecting a new iPhone to be announced at WWDC — probably the easiest and most obvious Apple prediction of the year.

WWDC Keynote Announced 

Answering the question on everyone’s mind:

Apple will kick off its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) with a keynote address on Monday, June 8 at 10:00 a.m. A team of Apple executives, led by Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, will deliver the keynote.

My gut feeling is that we’ve seen the last Steve Jobs keynote address. I don’t think he’s leaving the company — and his medical leave has been scheduled to run through the end of June — but I wonder if he’s done as the company’s spokesman.

EU Fines Intel a Record $1.45 Billion in Antitrust Case 

A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

SlingPlayer for iPhone Restricted to Wi-Fi Only 

A version that played lower bit-rate video over 3G was rejected, apparently at AT&T’s behest, despite the fact that other iPhone apps stream video over 3G. And what’s really odd is that AT&T allows the SlingPlayer app to stream over 3G on BlackBerrys.

Mac OS X 10.5.7 

Bug fixes and security updates.

What’s Behind Microsoft’s Bond Offering? 

They’ve got $25 billion in cash but yesterday sold nearly $4 billion in bonds, fueling speculation that they’re gearing up for a large acquisition. (My wild guess: RIM — Windows Mobile has “loser” written all over it.)

Jeff Atwood on the Location Field as the New Command Line 

The title is similar to my “The Location Field Is the New Command Line” essay from 2004, but the topic is very different. Atwood focuses on the ways that modern browsers such as Chrome allow you to type Google queries directly in the location field, which allows for classic command-line style commands.

The big difference between old-school command lines like the Unix shell or DOS prompt and new-style command-line interfaces like browser location fields, LaunchBar, or Quicksilver is that the new ones aren’t dangerous. With the old ones, you’re playing with a live wire, never more than one mistake away from deleting or modifying something important. Location fields aren’t dangerous, they’re just convenient.

Book Bootlegging 

From a NYT story on e-readers like the Kindle leading to an increase in book bootlegging:

For some writers, tracking down illegal e-books is simply not worth it.

“The question is, how much time and energy do I want to spend chasing these guys,” Stephen King wrote in an e-mail message. “And to what end? My sense is that most of them live in basements floored with carpeting remnants, living on Funions and discount beer.”

Christ do I love Stephen King.

Mac Use at UC Davis 

Survey results from students at UC Davis:

Mac ownership has more than tripled, from 7.2 percent in winter 2006 to 23.4 percent in winter 2009.

This is the sort of trend that has Microsoft so freaked out.

Nintendo Reports Record Profits 


So far Nintendo has weathered the economic storm better than some of its rivals, mainly due to the success of its Wii console and portable DS device.


Sony — maker of PlayStation systems — and Microsoft, which produces the XBox 360 console, have both announced job cuts.

Sounds more like Nintendo is weathering the recession better than all, which is to say both, of its rivals.

NBC Previews ‘The Jay Leno Show’ 

Looks even cornier than his Tonight Show.

Atlantis Lifts Off 

Seven astronauts on a last-chance mission to save (and vastly improve) the Hubble Space Telescope.

Garmin Further Delays Nuvifone 

Amy Gilroy, reporting for Twice:

Garmin will again delay the launch of its nuvifone GPS/smartphones to the second half of the year, it said during a conference call with analysts May 6.

This is the problem with vaporware pre-announcements. If the product is ready, you can just announce it, sans pre- prefix. If the product is not yet ready, it’s not possible to know exactly how long it’s going to take until it will be.

Times Reader 2.0 

Now built using Adobe Air instead of Microsoft Silverlight. They keep going from one cross-platform runtime to another, but I suppose this is a step up. (No idea if it’s any good — I don’t want to install Silverlight or Air on my machine.)


My friends at Airbag Industries have made a nice thing. Twitshirt lets you buy t-shirts with your favorite tweets printed on them. $20 per shirt, and $1 goes to the author of the tweet.

Now, the other nice thing is that they initially launched last month with an opt-out policy. I.e. if you didn’t want them to sell shirts with your tweets printed on them, you had to fill out a form. They listened to the criticism, thought about how to address it, and boom, they’re back with a redesigned system that is now opt-in.

Jackass of the Week: Michael Wolff 

Michael Wolff:

Forget about whether Apple buying Twitter is a boneheaded move. Here’s what it is: It isn’t a Steve Jobs move. This is the first sign of the post-Jobs Apple.

So let’s get this straight: something that Apple probably is not actually going to do, at a time when Steve Jobs remains the CEO of the company and active in all major decisions, is the first sign of “the post-Jobs Apple”.


How can I not link to this Flickr group?


Adam Lisagor on Tumblr’s new “Tumblarity” metric (which, Lisagor points out, would sound a lot better and have a more natural adjectival form if they’d called it “tumbularity”; i.e. tumbular rather than the god-awful tumblarious). Anyway, I like this bit of analysis:

I haven’t a clue what my Tumblariety score means. Thus, it’s not much of a score, which makes it not much of a game. I stay away from games that I don’t understand. Granted, I’m dense, so this rules out Monopoly, the stock market, World of Warcraft, and dating, but I can’t see myself getting much into a game I feel a near-complete lack of control over.

I too prefer games with very clearly defined simple scoring rules.


My thanks to Jumsoft for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Jumsoft offers a wide array of products including Mac OS X apps (for accounting, CRM, project management and more) and templates and themes for Apple apps such as Keynote, Pages, iWeb, and Apple Mail — everything designed with style and attention to detail.

Daring Fireball readers can save 20 percent on all Jumsoft products with the coupon code “DARINGFIREBALL”.

Exploded 128 

Neat new t-shirt by Garry Booth: a detailed rendering of the internals of the original Macintosh.

Jim Goldman Calls on Eric Schmidt to Leave Apple’s Board 

Jim Goldman:

But Apple shareholders deserve engaged board members singularly focused on the company’s business at hand. Schmidt himself now admits he recuses himself from iPhone discussions. Soon, he’ll have to do the same with Mac discussions when Android gets loaded into netbooks. The same might happen with Levinson. Brilliant guys both, but Apple investors deserve — and should expect — board members to serve their board full time, not part time.

None of Apple’s board members, other than Steve Jobs, work full-time for Apple. Goldman knows that. Board members don’t work on products or even product ideas. Goldman knows that, too.

So I just don’t get it. Seems to me that this board has represented shareholder interests well, and that Apple’s alliances with Google are in its interest.

The DOJ Looks Into Whether Google Is a Monopoly  

CNN Money:

As James Stewart wrote in The Wall Street Journal this week: “Google’s continued gains in market share bear out my contention that Google is that rare breed: the natural monopoly. By natural, I also mean lawful, since the monopoly derives from Google’s skill and qualities inherent in the business, not from anticompetitive behavior.”

Adds Stewart: “I sometimes get the sense that antitrust regulators, in their single-minded zeal to promote competition, ignore the fact that monopolies, in and of themselves, aren’t illegal, or even necessarily bad.”

I don’t think there’s any question that Google has a monopoly on search. But I don’t see how they’ve abused their success in anti-competitive ways. And they certainly don’t have a monopoly on advertising, which is what they’re actually selling.

Ted Dziuba on Sphinx 

The high-performance open source full-text search system used by Craigslist and The Pirate Bay.

‘How I Sued a Craigslist Sex Troll’ 

Lou Cabron at 10 Zen Monkeys:

It been nearly three years, but one victim has finally successfully sued an infamous Craigslist prankster who published the private emails received in response to a fake sex ad.

Murdoch: News Corp Web Sites to Charge for Content 


Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch expects News Corporation-owned newspaper Web sites to start charging users for access within a year in a move which analysts say could radically shake-up the culture of freely available content.

Good luck with that.

Age-Based App Store Restrictions in iPhone OS 3.0 

No word yet on who will assign the ratings.

BBEdit 9.2 

Tons of new stuff, all copiously documented in the release notes, as usual. My favorite new feature is the Sleep command, which lets you quit the app while saving state. When next you launch BBEdit after sleeping, all open windows and documents are restored, including untitled documents.

I wish every app had this feature.

Update: Michael Tsai calls out a few other new features.

Duke Nukem Developer 3D Realms Goes Bust 

This will only add to Duke Nukem Forever’s vaporware legend.

Correlation Between Web Browsers and Political Leanings? 

Remember Sean Tevis, the information architect who decided to run for the state legislature in Kansas with an xkcd-style web comic promoting his campaign? He lost, but it was close, and he’s raising money in a similar fashion again. He is not accepting any money from industry or corporate lobbyists, only direct contributions from voters.

Also interesting: a poll commissioned by his campaign just before the election last year showed an incredibly strong correlation based on browser usage. IE 6, AOL, and non-Internet users were more likely to prefer Tevis’s opponent, Republican Arlen Siegfreid. Firefox, Safari, and Chrome users were more likely to prefer Tevis.

MPAA Shows How to Videorecord a TV Set 

Timothy Vollmer:

At the DMCA 1201 hearings at the Copyright Office at the Library of Congress, representatives from the MPAA showed a video demonstrating how users can videorecord a TV set. They argue this is an acceptable analog alternative to breaking copy protection on a DVD.

I.e. if you want to make fair use of a clip from a copy-protected DVD, the MPAA recommends that you point a camcorder at your TV set in a dark room. (Via John Siracusa.)

Some Intel Chips Don’t Support Windows 7 ‘XP Mode’ 

Shouldn’t be a big deal if XP Mode really is only of interest to the enterprise, but still sounds like a hassle to me.


David Pogue on the Novatel MiFi, an intriguing new product and service from Verizon:

But imagine if you could get online anywhere you liked — in a taxi, on the beach, in a hotel with disgustingly overpriced Wi-Fi — without messing around with cellular modems. What if you had a personal Wi-Fi bubble, a private hot spot, that followed you everywhere you go?

Konami Code Sites 

And, of course, you have to enter the code first.

The Kindle Lets Amazon Make a Lot From the Few 

Saul Hansell on the Kindle’s market penetration among frequent book buyers:

Look at this rather astounding statistic from Amazon’s news conference on Wednesday introducing a larger Kindle: On, 35 percent of sales of books that have a Kindle edition are sold in that format. That’s up, by the way, from 13 percent in February, according to a slide put up by’s chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos.

Think of what that means. Amazon has tens of millions of customers. It sold 500,000 Kindles last year, Mark Mahaney of Citigroup estimates. So even if it has twice that many in distribution, that is a lot of e-book buying by a small number of people.

Kindle DX 

9.7-inch screen (the original Kindle’s measures 6 inches) but the same Tic-Tac-button keyboard, available for pre-order for $489.

Update: The DX keyboard is actually smaller, and lacks dedicated number keys.

Stuart Jeffries on the Revival of the Exclamation Mark 

Count me in with Fitzgerald:

Novelists (at least male ones) are apt to be mean-spirited about dog’s cocks. “Cut out all those exclamation marks,” wrote F Scott Fitzgerald. “An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own jokes.”

(Via Kottke.)


John Siracusa on the role criticism plays in design.

Who Says Chrysler Hasn’t Shown Foresight? 


The Chrysler headquarters building is a spectacular sight from I-75 in Michigan. But the Auburn Hills edifice and its sprawling campus sit in the middle of one of the most economically depressed areas in the country. When the building was erected in the early 1990s, it was designed so it could be repurposed into a shopping mall without too much modification if the perennially troubled Chrysler should go out of business.

Apple Takeover Rumors Generally Not Worth the Paper They’re Not Printed On  

Harry McCracken recounts a slew of old “Apple is going to buy X” rumors and predictions.

Hulu, iTunes, and the Future of Internet TV  


BusinessWeek, among others, made a grand effort this week to present Hulu as a masterstroke that will hurt or kill iTunes rather than what it is — an expensive streaming service that doesn’t make money.

He speculates that Apple might go the HBO route, paying for exclusive rights to high-quality original programming.

Bento for iPhone 

$5 iPhone version of Filemaker’s new database app. Works by itself, but also syncs with the Mac version.

Kara Swisher on Rumor That Apple Is Buying Twitter 

Astute analysis. Of course Apple is interested in Twitter. Everyone is. That doesn’t mean a deal is at hand.

FTC Looks Into Ties Between Apple and Google Boards 

Obama administration looking into whether Apple and Google’s shared board members (especially Eric Schmidt) are hindering competition between the two companies.

John Nack on the PSD Format 

Adobe’s John Nack:

Here’s what I think people want to know: Is Photoshop’s PSD format a goofy, antiquated piece of crap, and by extension is Photoshop slow, clumsy, and/or outdated?


Windows Drops in Web Share 

Windows is down; Mac OS X and Linux are up. And IE continues to slide.

Kindle Deal Helps Sprint Nextel 

They’re still losing customers, but the loss rate is slowing and the Pre isn’t out yet.

Clipstart 1.0 

New $29 video file management app by Manton Reece, with built-in support for uploading to Flickr and Vimeo. The basic premise is that it’s sort of like iPhoto or iTunes for movie files — Clipstart makes it easy to import new movies from an attached USB camera or SD card, and once imported, Clipstart is optimized for tagging and flagging clips using the keyboard.

I’ve been beta testing Clipstart for months, and have my entire library of Flip (and Kodak Zi6) footage stored in it. Back before iPhoto existed, I used to store all my digital photos in folders by hand, using the Finder as the management tool. That’s what I was doing for Flip clips before Clipstart, and at this point, I can’t imagine going back. Clipstart makes it easy to triage new footage (tag the keepers, trash the junk) and to find existing clips in your library. Check out the screencast demo to see how simple and convenient it is.

Philip Bloom’s First Impressions Shooting Video With the Panasonic Lumix GH1 

Might be the best SLR-style video camera yet — the ones from Canon and Nikon don’t offer manual controls while in video mode, but the GH1 does. (Via Stu Maschwitz.)

Strategery, Risk-Like Game for iPhone 

Strategery is a beautiful $2 Risk-like strategy game for the iPhone. Lots of fun and the gameplay has a great feel. (Via Lex Friedman’s review for Macworld.)

Who Watches the Watchman? 

Christopher Fahey on the Detex Newman watchclock, a clever hundred-year old mechanical system that solves the following problem:

Let’s say you own a big building full of valuable stuff. How do you make sure that the night watchman patrolling your factory floor or museum galleries after closing time actually makes his rounds? How do you know he’s inspecting every hallway, floor, and stairwell in the facility? How do you know he (or she) is not just spending every night sleeping at his desk?

NYT Reports That Larger Kindle Will Appear This Week 

Brad Stone reporting for The New York Times:

As early as this week, according to people briefed on the online retailer’s plans, Amazon will introduce a larger version of its Kindle wireless device tailored for displaying newspapers, magazines and perhaps textbooks.

Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha 

Theodore Gray of Wolfram Research says Wolfram Alpha is more than just a fact engine, it’s a computation engine:

It’s not so much that it would have been impossible to do without Mathematica, but that it would have been impractically difficult. In fact, the easiest way to create Wolfram Alpha without Mathematica would have been to write Mathematica first, then use it. Which is precisely what we have spent the past 23 years doing.

Danny Sullivan on the Wolfram Alpha ‘Fact Engine’ 

Danny Sullivan has an intriguing preview of Wolfram Alpha, which he describes as a “fact engine”.

Om Malik: ‘Twitter Is Giving Facebook an Inferiority Complex’ 

What Twitter has over Facebook right now is the ineffable: mojo.

An Aspirational Twitter 

Rands on Birdhouse and Tweetie.

‘Unlikely to Become Dominant’ 

Richard Wray and Bobbie Johnson on the iPhone’s future prospects in The Observer:

With so much now at stake, some experts suggest the iPhone will soon become the most important technology Apple’s empire has produced, even, potentially, eclipsing the computer business that revolutionised our lives in the 1980s. There are an estimated 1bn personal computers in use worldwide, but that many mobile phones are sold every year and for many people their first experience of computing will be through a mobile phone.

What they do not see is that the iPhone is not something different than Apple’s computer business; it is the next step in Apple’s computer business.

Church-Goers More Likely to Support Torture 


The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey.

Evangelical Christians lead the way.

Tweetie for Mac 

My thanks to Atebits for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Tweetie for Mac, an excellent new Twitter client. Their ad in the RSS feed was tweet-sized (exactly 140 characters), and consisted mainly of this haiku by Tweetie developer Loren Brichter:

Gruber loves Tweetie
So do all of the cool kids
Give me your money

I’m not sure if there’s an award for best haiku in an advertisement, but if there is, this one gets my nomination. Tweetie for Mac really is a great Twitter client, and I encourage you to check it out. Use coupon code “DARINGFIREBALL” when purchasing a license and you’ll save 25 percent.

Rona Ad 

Clever ad in Quebec from hardware and home improvement retailer Rona: to promote their paint recycling programing, they recycled an ad from Apple. (Thanks to Michel Fortin.)

Blu-ray vs. FriendFeed vs. Kindle 

Walt Crawford on the difference between the popularity of Blu-ray, FriendFeed, and Kindle versus their perceived popularity. (Thanks to Joe Clark.)

Update: The site went down, but appears to be back.