Archive for March 13, 2017

Monday, March 13, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Sketch’s Open File Format

Jasim A Basheer (via Andy Matuschak):

“enables more powerful integrations for third-party developers” is stating it lightly. This is what the fine folks at Bohemian Coding has done — they opened up Sketch’s file format into a neat JSON making it possible for anyone to create and modify Sketch compatible files.


Can you imagine what kind of new things will now be possible? One word: design automation (okay, two words!).You want Artboards that showcase a font and its variations, like a Google Fonts page? There’s probably going to be a script to generate that file. There will be websites from which you can download freshly brewed Sketch files based on what you ask — say an image gallery, or a landing page, or a signup form. You’ll be able to pick your brand colors, choose a theme, randomize it, and voila! you have a Sketch design to start playing with. Someone could even build a Sketch equivalent that runs on the browser. The possibilities are many!


And Sketch itself comes with an in-built REPL where anyone can whip up a plugin in no time, and just hit Save to package it into a distributable plugin. There is nothing extra to do — it is all in the app. This makes it very easy for users of Sketch to get started with plugin development, and they happily take the bait!


But I wanted to make a point with all this: even though plugin development is undocumented and painful, developers still build crazy useful things on top of it.

What Twitter Means to Me

Ricky Mondello:

When I was in high school in a small town in upstate New York, I didn’t really have anyone around to help develop or even share my interest in technology with. Twitter was my connection to the world I wanted to live in. Although I’d been a member of several forums in the past, I liked Twitter more than any forum because there was no pretense of being limited to any particular topic. In 2008, Twitter was accessible on my iPod touch in a way that other communities weren’t. From that iPod, I followed people who talked about Mac software, making web pages, podcasting, and politics, and that stream of information helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my future.


What started as a way for me to fill a void in the types of people I knew in “real life” changed as I left that small town. Today, Twitter is how I get my news.

Previously: Anil Dash’s Advice for Twitter.

Update (2017-03-20): See also: Stephen Hackett.

Sierra Logging Spew

Lloyd Chambers:

Opening Console, you’ll see the ceaseless spew from a cornucopia of processes, including many I never want, and will never use. It might be ‘quiet’ at times, but what I’ve found is that a number of Apple services get triggered from time to time to go into a state of endless bitching and moaning, often with messages that equate to “fix this bug someday”.

For example, here is this lovely new Apple bug involving touchui. On a Mac Pro no touch user interface exists, but the engineers at Apple don’t bother to test much any more, so the apparently is just going to fail forever.

The spew has been getting worse the last few versions of macOS, and it’s also more of a problem with 10.12 and its new logging subsystem. I’m running into more cases of runaway logging where the same message is repeated multiple times per second. Not only does this hog the CPU, but Console falls behind so that (even with a filter to hide the spew) it can take minutes for actual, relevant log entries to show up. The only remedy seems to be to restart the Mac.

A Look Inside Backblaze

Backblaze (via Hacker News):

Files can be written to the Vault even if a Storage Pod is down with two parity shards to protect the data. Even in the extreme — and unlikely — case where three Storage Pods in a Vault are offline, the files in the vault are still available because they can be reconstructed from the 17 available pieces.


We use Reed-Solomon erasure encoding. It’s a proven technique used in Linux RAID systems, by Microsoft in its Azure cloud storage, and by Facebook too. The Backblaze Vault Architecture is capable of delivering 99.99999% annual durability thanks in part to our Reed-Solomon erasure coding implementation.


We developed our Reed-Solomon implementation as a Java library. Why? When we first started this project, we assumed that we would need to write it in C to make it run as fast as we needed. It turns out that modern Java virtual machines working on our servers are great, and just-in-time compilers produces code that runs pretty quick.


Yes we do plan on expanding to more datacenters, and we do have emergency plans in place, though we do choose our datacenters carefully to make sure that we avoid any natural-disaster prone areas. As for backing up our own data - we certainly do make backups of our core info/necessary data. As for the user data that we store, that’s backed up across the storage pods in a vault as discussed in that post. We do not replicate customer data across multiple datacenters. At our price-point, that’s just not feasible.

Encrypted Media Extensions (EME)

Glyn Moody (Reddit):

For the last four years, the Web has had to live with a festering wound: the threat of DRM being added to the HTML 5 standard in the form of Encrypted Media Extensions (EME). Here on Techdirt, we’ve written numerous posts explaining why this is a really stupid idea, as have many, many other people. Despite the clear evidence that EME will be harmful to just about everyone -- except the copyright companies, of course -- the inventor of the Web, and director of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has just given his blessing to the idea[…]

Tim Berners-Lee:

The question which has been debated around the net is whether W3C should endorse the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) standard which allows a web page to include encrypted content, by connecting an existing underlying Digital Rights Management (DRM) system in the underlying platform. Some people have protested “no”, but in fact I decided the actual logical answer is “yes”.


The reason for recommending EME is that by doing so, we lead the industry who developed it in the first place to form a simple, easy to use way of putting encrypted content online, so that there will be interoperability between browsers.


If W3C did not recommend EME then the browser vendors would just make it outside W3C. If EME did not exist, vendors could just create new Javascript based versions. And without using the web at all, it is so easy to invite ones viewers to switching to view the content on a proprietary app. […] If the Director Of The Consortium made a Decree that there would be No More DRM in fact nothing would change. Because W3C does not have any power to forbid anything.

Anne van Kesteren:

The fact that the CDM (DRM code in the article) is not part of the standard means the promise of interoperability is false.

And the fact that CDM sandboxing is not defined means you allow for a race to the bottom in terms of end-user security.

Peter Bright:

EME does not specify any DRM scheme per se. Rather, it defines a set of APIs that allow JavaScript and HTML to interact with decryption/protection modules. These modules will tend to be platform-specific in one way or another and will contain the core DRM technology.


The EFF, along with the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and various other groups, has campaigned against the development of the EME specification. They signed an open letter voicing their opposition and encouraged others to sign a petition against the spec.


However, it’s not clear that EME does anything to exacerbate that situation. The users of EME—companies like Netflix—are today, right now, already streaming DRM-protected media. It’s difficult to imagine that any content distributors that are currently distributing unprotected media are going to start using DRM merely because there’s a W3C-approved framework for doing so.

Facebook Bots Relearn Early PC Lessons

Sarah Perez (via Farshad Nayeri):

Facebook’s Messenger bots may not be having the impact the social network desired. Just yesterday, online retailer Everlane, one of the launch partners for the bot platform, announced it was ditching Messenger for customer notifications and returning to email. Following this, Facebook today announced an upgraded Messenger Platform, which introduces a new way for users to interact with bots: via simple persistent menus, including those without the option to chat with the bot at all.

One of the problems with Facebook’s bots is that it’s often unclear how to get started. The directory of bots in Messenger wasn’t initially available and now only reveals itself when you start a search in the app. And it hasn’t always been obvious how to get a bot talking, once added, or how to navigate back and forth through a bot’s many sections.

Previously: Bots Won’t Replace Apps.