There’s no doubt that Jef was the creator of the Macintosh project at Apple, and that his articulate vision of an exceptionally easy to use, low cost, high volume appliance computer got the ball rolling, and remained near the heart of the project long after Jef left the company. He also deserves ample credit for putting together the extraordinary initial team that created the computer, recruiting former student Bill Atkinson to Apple and then hiring amazing individuals like Burrell Smith, Bud Tribble, Joanna Hoffman and Brian Howard for the Macintosh team. But there is also no escaping the fact that the Macintosh that we know and love is very different than the computer that Jef wanted to build, so much so that he is much more like an eccentric great uncle than the Macintosh’s father.
Archive for February 2005
Artima has printed an unusually myopic article. Are they trying to drum up page views?
The “it just works” factor has been one of the hallmarks of the Mac user experience since day one; using an iPod Shuffle as a disk drive forces you to be aware of arcane and bizarre file naming restrictions, and thus is utterly un-Mac-like. I’m not pointing this out to claim it’s cause for alarm, that the sky is falling, or that the iPod Shuffle “sucks”. I’m just saying it’s a little sad when Apple Computer, of all companies, tells us that punctuation such as ‘=’ and ‘;’ are “special characters”.
Peter Lindberg again:
What software development needs is to stop imitating the illusion of what brick-and-mortar architecture is. According to Brand, brick-and-mortar architecture itself is in a state of illusion, having lost the knowledge of how to successfully build functioning, adaptable houses.
I’m honored that John Gruber’s list of Apps of the Year, 2004 includes SpamSieve. Gruber does a good job of explaining the utility of SpamSieve’s scores feature, which makes it easier and quicker for you to scan your spam for false positives by telling you how spammy it thinks each message is. Most people, I suspect, don’t use scores because they don’t get that much mail, but if you do get a lot, they’re quite helpful.
SpamSieve’s scores have a different meaning than scores from other anti-spam software. In the traditional approach, each message is assigned a score (say, from 0 to 100). The user can then set a threshold saying, for instance, that messages with scores 90 or higher are spam; those with scores less than 90 are good. Adjusting the threshold lets you adjust the aggressiveness of the filter, and by looking for messages with scores near the threshold, you can tell which ones the filter was uncertain about.
For a variety of practical and philosophical reasons, SpamSieve works differently. If it thinks that a message is good, it assigns it a score from 0 to 49; if it thinks it’s spam, it assigns it a score from 50 to 100. Thus, looking at a score, you can tell (a) whether the message was classified as spam, and (b) how sure SpamSieve was, without needing to know the current threshold. It’s always 50. You have two controls:
- If you want to vet a lot of spam messages, you can look at those with scores less than, say, 92. If you want to vet only the really borderline ones, just look at the ones with scores 75 or below.
- If you want to make SpamSieve more or less aggressive—thus affecting the scores that are assigned to your messages—you can adjust its bias.
E-mail clients show scores in different ways. Eudora and PowerMail show the score in its own column in the message list. In Mailsmith, you can use a script to label messages according to their scores; you can set the uncertain threshold in the script. In Apple Mail, SpamSieve uses colors to show the score. In Entourage, very spammy messages are assigned the “Junk” category, and less spammy messages are assigned the “Uncertain Junk” category; you can set the threshold in the Notification tab of the preferences.
Personally, I use Mailsmith. I could use the above-mentioned script to label spam messages by their scores, but I prefer another approach: I have SpamSieve notify me with Growl when a borderline message arrives. Every suspected spam message goes into my (spam) mailbox. If a message with a score less than 75 arrives, Growl shows a notification window that tells me the message’s subject, its score, its sender, and the first few lines of its body. This way, I get instant notification that a possibly good message has arrived (just as I get a notification in the Dock when genuine good mail arrives). If, as is usually the case, SpamSieve was right and the message is spam, I can dismiss the notification with a single click. This way, I only have to bring Mailsmith to the front if there’s real mail to read.
An obscure component manufacturer somewhere in the Pacific Rim announces a major order for some bleeding-edge piece of technology that could conceivably become part of an expensive, digital-lifestyle-enhancing nerd toy.
That’s how the cycle starts.
Macworld UK reports on a Fortune article that interviewed Steve Jobs. Apparently, three PC companies wanted to license Mac OS X, and Apple only created iMovie after Adobe told them that it wouldn’t make a consumer video-editing program for the Mac. But parts of the article are sketchy. It’s misleading to say that iTunes was written “from scratch” in four months, and I don’t believe that Apple has 1,000 engineers working on applications. Did that many come over from Emagic?
Lemme see…to spend as much on Napster To Go as it would take to full up an iPod, you’d have to subscribe for, oh, about 55 years. So let’s just say subscribing to Napster To Go for life is about equal in cost to filling up an iPod. But if you fill up an iPod, you only have those 10,000 songs. With Napster To Go you’ve got every song in the world that has been deemed significant enough to add to the database. Virtually song you want to hear at any time, you’ll be able to hear.
DrunkenBlog has some comparisons of current Mac apps to their older NeXT incarnations. You probably noticed some similarities if you watched the video of Steve Jobs demoing NextSTEP 3.0. But more interesting is what commentor Rory Prior has to say about Interface Builder:
<rant>What’s annoying from a developers perspective is that Interface Builder is getting so long in the tooth. It lacks some really necessary basic features and still requires that you manually inform it of any changes to your classes made in Xcode or vice versa. It doesn’t provide any features to deal with maintaining localised nib files, it has spotty support for contextual menus, and generally makes editing complex component layouts (especially nested layouts) a complete nightmare. A lot of work which should be doable in a few clicks ends up having to be done programatically, which is time consuming to say the least and adds the potential for more bugs.</rant>
Interface Builder was ahead of its time. And, yes, the ability to set outlets and actions is still cool. But aside from adding support for layout guides and bindings, it doesn’t seem to have changed much. It could even learn a few things from PowerPlant Constructor, circa 1996. The last time I complained about Apple’s developer tools, it wasn’t long before they announced Xcode. So hopefully there’s already a project underway.
Also, I’d love for someone to really make localization easy—as it, in theory, should be. I’ve tried (I think) all the third-party tools that help in localizing nibs and strings files. Maybe I’m just weird, but all of them seem cumbersome to me, and some of them don’t even work reliably. Perhaps the design and documentation of nib files are partially to blame. Anyway, at present, I’m using a collection of scripts and Makefiles to help with localization. I wonder how many other developers have rolled their own.
Today, I set up a Subversion server. I’ve set up several over the last year or so and have gotten pretty handy at putting all of the moving parts together from source code bundles. I’ve even got a set of handy little scripts that make it painless. This time, however, I decided to give it a try using DarwinPorts to see how easy it was.
I’ve been a consultant of one form or another since 1985 when I started my old company, V-Systems, with a friend from college, and actually did bits and pieces of consulting as early as 1982. I have been asked often about the business, and I decided to write this up.
The February issue of ATPM is out:
- The Candy Apple: Healthy Skepticism Has Its Place
- Bloggable: A Life In Miniature
- The Desktop Muse: Convergence
- Pod People
- About This Particular Outliner: Task Management and Outlining, Part 2
- Customizing The Mac OS X User Interface: Part I: Icons
- How To: What to Do With Older Macs, Part 2
- Cartoon: Cortland
- Cartoon: iTrolls
- Desktop Pictures: Nature
- Frisky Freeware
- Review: Desktop Poet 1.0
- Review: FriendlyNET FR1104-G Wireless Firewall Router
- Review: radioSHARK
- FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions