Archive for February 2003

Friday, February 28, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Mr. Rogers Saved the VCR

Boing Boing:

Aside from being a decent and compassionate human being, Fred Rogers was also a champion of fair use.

Finder File/Folder Overwrite Bug

I agree with Bill Bumgarner that this is not a bug in the OS X Finder. The old behavior always annoyed me. However, I think the warning message should be more specific and say that you are replacing a folder. As to case-insensitive, case-preserving file systems…I like them.


A commentor on Erik Barzeski’s blog says of Bochs:

It’s amazing slow, much slower than Virtual PC but it works.

Newton Rendezvous

Newton users never cease to amaze. Maybe their favorite product is only mostly dead. HyperCard? That’s all dead.

NEWMAC Basketball

(This has nothing to do with Macintoshes.)

This evening, my sister will play in the Engineers’ first NEWMAC semifinals. Apparently there will even be a webcast.

Ericsson Clicker

Sony Ericsson Clicker is a revolutionary application, allowing you to remotely control a wide range of applications with your Sony Ericsson phone.

(via Daniel Chvatik)


Mike Zornek has posted some thoughts on drawers in I don’t like them because they mess up keyboard navigation.


Fuzzy Blog:

What Allchin seems to be saying is that for every single file on your computer, it will get stored in a fashion where meta data about the content is extracted AUTOMATICALLY and then stored for queries.  And this extraction will be extensive down to the level of object recognition within images.  If this is true then it is indeed interesting and perhaps Allchin was justified in his comment.  But can Microsoft really do this?

A New Kind of Science?

Classy links to a review of A New Kind of Science, which says:

Serious science should be predictive, not just descriptive. To qualify as science that applies to the real world, I would have expected to see some kind of claim in the book which could be verified against the behavior of the real world. Note that I’m not expecting him to have actually performed the verification yet (the book has only just come out, after all), but that there should be some indication of a path that would lead to verifiable, falsifiable predictions.

I’m withholding judgement until I read more of the book, but I definitely agree with the complaint about using Mathematica notation instead of math.

Quote of the Day

This will not stand, ya know, this will not stand, man. —The Dude, The Big Lebowski

Thursday, February 27, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Stitching Together PDFs

BusyBee OS X:

The command above will basically create one outputfile called outputpdf.pdf that consists of pdf1.pdf and pdf2.pdf. You can replace pdf1.pdf with *.pdf and it will grab all the pdf files and output one pdf.


James Houston shows how to make the keyboard shortcuts in Cocoa applications more consistent.

BBEdit Elements

I like TextWrangler. It’s much more capable than BBEdit Lite, so it’s plenty of text editor for a lot of people. BBEdit Lite was too good to give away. $50 for TextWrangler seems fair all around, although I think Bare Bones should have included AppleScript support instead of C programming features. My guess is that programmers will want the extra features that are available in BBEdit, anyway.

There’s been some grousing on the message boards to the effect that free tools duplicate many of TextWrangler’s features. These people might also enjoy the free tool that duplicates many of Photoshop’s features.

Quote of the Day

Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all. —Douglas Adams

Monday, February 24, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Google Does Reverse Phone Numbers

Ned Batchelder just discovered this, and it was news to me, too. It’s even faster than using Watson.

Install Like It’s 1991

John Gruber:

I thought this was pretty cool, too. The first time I saw it, over 10 years ago.

Not only that, but the old way (using creator codes) could take advantage of the file system’s catalog to do the search really fast.

Metal Tab Browsing

Erik Barzeski:

If this is true then I think I’m going to puke. Not only does this indicate even more custom controls (see all the recent coverage of inconsistent UI), but… Ugh. I’d rather not have tabbed browsing at all than have even more bad UI shoved on us.

I had hoped that the Safari team would come up with something better than tabs. As much as they fill a need for some people, I think there’s got to be a better way to provide the functionality. And a new custom control for metal tabs? Hideous.

Sunday, February 23, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Script Menu

Erik Barzeski shows how to make a script menu that includes the scripts for the frontmost application inline instead of just having them in a submenu. It’s not OSA Menu, but it’s getting there. (How about holding down Option to edit the script or assigning keyboard shortcuts to scripts?)

Unfortunately, Script Menu uses the annoying “disabled menu item as a label” trick that’s also seen in the Apple menu, iTunes, Mail, and Safari.

Friday, February 21, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Introduction to Typography

Daniel Sandler links to a typography site at Rutgers.

Is Shareware Dead?

At present, I call my software shareware. By that I mean that it’s free to try and isn’t crippled, although it will nag you. Users get support directly from me, and I’m responsive to their suggestions. I encourage people to share the software (but not their serial numbers) with their friends, and it’s available on various compilation CDs and at Info-Mac. But I guess I agree that the term “shareware” has become meaningless because everyone has a different idea of what it means. We stopped saying in ATPM reviews whether a piece of software claimed to be shareware. It wasn’t a distinction worth making. After all, BBEdit now has a shareware-style trial, and it’s backed by a responsive company, but it isn’t shareware, is it? Instead, we list the price and briefly state whether you can try before buying and how the trial is limited (if at all). I should probably start doing this for my software. The question that remains is what to select in VersionTracker’s License popup.

Thursday, February 20, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]


I’ve created Spring objects for DropDMG and SpamSieve:

DropDMG Spring Object DropDMG Spring Object

Just open Spring and drag them into one of its windows. Thanks to Robb Beal for compositing the Spring badge onto the icons.

S. Williams for Blount?

Boston Globe:

That said, there has been trade talk surrounding a deal for Denver (and former Boston) center Mark Blount. League sources said yesterday that the Celtics have talked with the Nuggets about a deal that would send Shammond Williams and a second-round pick to Denver in exchange for Blount.

No. Please. We don’t need the “Shaq of the Shaw’s” back in green. Even if he can put up better numbers than Baker.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]


Dave Winer has posted links and thoughts on Google.

Licensing Fun

Dave Hyatt:

I find it really strange that Mozilla’s tri-license has created this situation. On the one hand, it encourages people to build applications using Mozilla code under the GPL, LGPL, or MPL, but at the same time it makes it impossible for anyone to really give the code back to Mozilla itself if that code doesn’t use the MPL.

iChat iRritations

Matt Gemmell dissects iChat. Wow, I don’t know how he finds the time to write all this stuff down. My main iChat irritation is that it saves transcripts in a proprietary format so they can’t be searched.

PDF Workflow

Bill Bumgarner shows a simple use of 10.2.4’s new PDF Workflow feature: making it easy to save PDF files to specific locations.

Microsoft to Buy Connectix

Yikes, is this for real?

Update: Apparently so, because now MacMinute has picked up the story. As Chris says, this will probably end up much worse than Microsoft is spinning it. What they’ve said so far is less encouraging than the initial word about the Bungie acquisition, and we know how that turned out.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Apple Events

Nat Irons:

Developer usability aside, Apple Events and AppleScript are two of the more profoundly useful technologies Apple’s ever disgorged, and it drives me nuts to see Mac apps that neglect them. With a taste of what they went through, I have a deeper appreciation of developers who do the work to get it right.

Perversion Tracker

James McNally pointed me to Perversion Tracker, whose latest review is as hilarious as it is accurate.

BBEdit 7.0.2

Leave it to Bare Bones Software to put a tiny little feature like, oh, support for zillions of text encodings, in a 0.0.1 update. “Open from FTP Server” also falls into this category.

There Was a Fire

Rainer Brockerhoff:

Anyway, I also remembered a humor piece I wrote 5 years ago for MacKiDo. There are some dated references, so I think it’s time to update it.

Sunday, February 16, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Inconsistencies and iApps

John Gruber synthesizes the recent discussion on Apple’s (lack of) interface consistency. I can now scratch that off my to-blog list, since he’s said most of what I was going to say, better than I would have said it. I like Apple’s new rounded text field because, when used consistently, it hints that it’s for live filtering. (I first saw this use of a text field in Emailer, though iTunes gets the credit for popularizing it.) Apple has already recognized that it’s generally useful and included it in Jaguar. Unfortunately, the white-on-gray X that takes you out of search mode is not part of the standard control, so each program has to roll its own.

Gruber doesn’t quite come out and say it, but consistency and innovation are not at odds. If you need a new control, you should innovate and make one, and it should not be consistent with the standard controls. Controls with different behaviors should look different. But most of the time you don’t need a new control, and you shouldn’t make something that’s superficially different and try to tell me it’s an innovation.

Erik Barzeski’s Ken Burns post is also on target. I was going to wait and link to it when I discussed iMovie 3 and iPhoto 2, but that might not be for a while. In the meantime, here are some of the links I was going to discuss:

NetNewsWire Again

Rands explains why blogs and NetNewsWire have changed the way I find information. Yes, my vision was limited.

NetNewsWire has painlessly scaled to handle hundreds of weblogs for me. This means I’m scanning the fact/fiction/opinion of hundreds of people every minute of every day. I challenged anyone who is currently bookmarked or tabbed based to efficiently read hundreds of weblogs in the time it takes to drink your coffee. If your answer is, “I don’t care about hundreds of weblogs”, I would suggest you are a state of technical denial where your tool (i.e.: a browser) has limited your vision.

Saturday, February 15, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

AirPort Status Not Available

Like Lee says, John Gruber’s AirPort story probably shouldn’t have been funny, but it was. He also includes a link to Screenplays for You.

But then suddenly, for no good reason, the iMac could no longer connect to the base station via AirPort. This is not a range problem, or at least it shouldn’t be: the base station is only eight fucking inches from the iMac. And then it would get a signal, an incredibly strong AirPort signal — but without a connection to the Internet. The Status, it claimed, was Not Available.

I’ve had a similar problem with regular AirPort, only it never fixed itself completely. I have to keep resetting the Base Station now and then.

MxJ Issue Status

GCSF now has a page that shows when the latest issues of MWJ and MDJ were distributed, as well as the front pages of those issues. Subscribers can see what the issue plans are, and non-subscribers can see what they’re missing from the best source of Macintosh news and analysis.

Friday, February 14, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Google’s Privacy Problems

Aaron Swartz:

Google needs to stop sending the cookie and promise to only store aggregate data, with no connection between users and search terms. This issue was publically raised almost a year ago; that Google still hasn't dealt with it is inexcusable.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]


Matt Gemmell:

I went into frenzied command-shift-4 mode (that’s screenshot-taking mode, by the way), and recorded for posterity some examples of Apple’s utterly schizophrenic UI design.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

NetNewsWire 1.0

The “pro” version of NetNewsWire is out. Although I was initially skeptical, NetNewsWire Lite really grew on me. Now it’s probably my favorite new program since Watson.

SpamSieve 1.3

SpamSieve 1.3 is out. The new version is better at identifying spam messages, and it integrates with the system Address Book to help prevent false positives. The statistics code is completely rewritten to use a database rather than lots of Cocoa objects, and as a result memory use and launch and quit times are down. The corpus window also received a lot of engineering time to get good editing performance with tens to hundreds of thousands of rows in the table.

Thanks to the creators of PCRE and SQLite, the beta testers, and everyone who’s registered SpamSieve!

Monday, February 10, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]


David Pogue has some competition from Alexei Kosut.

The Future of Animation

Jeff Carlson:

The New York Times has an interesting story about the state of feature animation, notably the “old style” Disney version (hand-drawn) versus the “new style” Pixar version (computer-generated). It’s a tough field right now, with lots of talented artists getting laid off because people are more eager to see shiny new CG films like Shrek, Toy Story, or Monsters, Inc. I’ve seen a few articles that shallowly pit the old versus the new, instead of revealing the true cause of why traditional-animation flicks haven’t done as well: they’ve been crap.

Exactly. Toy Story would still have been great with traditional animation.

Sunday, February 9, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Amazon Recommendations

IEEE has posted an article about recommendation systems such as Amazon’s.


Artima has posted an interview with Guido van Rossum who, not surprisingly, likes Python’s type system. Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen there’s little agreement about what “strong” and “weak” typing actually mean. There are several dimensions along which a type system can vary, including:

Java and C++ both require type declarations. Both do a lot of type checking at compile-time, but Java does a lot of runtime type checking that C++ does not. A bad cast in Java will give you a ClassCastException, instead of a crash or an incorrect result. One might say that Java and C++ are both strongly typed, but that Java is safe whereas C++ is unsafe. Objective-C has the id type, which mostly makes types not matter at compile time. At runtime, it gives you exceptions for certain kinds of errors (e.g. “selector not recognized”) but not others. Python is kind of like Java without type declarations or compile-time checking—although it can do some compile-time checking via PyChecker.

You’ll never get all the bugs out. Making the code easier to read and write, and more transparent to the team of human readers who will review the source code, may be much more valuable than the narrow-focused type checking that some other compiler offers.

This is true, but types can also be a useful form of documentation for yourself, or whoever looks at the code next. It’s about balance, I think. One of my favorite approaches is the one Dylan uses: safety with optional type declarations that can be added as you refine the code to make it faster and more robust. I’m kind of surprised that Guido didn’t mention type inference, as in many ways it lets you have your cake and eat it too.

Saturday, February 8, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Optimizing PNG Files

Mark Pilgrim posted a LazyWeb request and got back some good responses.

Being Better

John Gruber:

The only way to see the Mac as unsuccessful is to compare it to Windows on Microsoft’s terms—market share and raw profit. And that’s exactly how analysts and the PC press cover the Mac.
There is a difference between when Apple steps on the toes of cross-platform developers like Opera and Netscape, and when they do it to Mac-only developers like Karelia. Watson is exactly the sort of third-party software Apple needs for the Mac: original, useful, fun, and only for the Mac. Opera is exactly what Apple doesn’t need: exactly like the Windows version, but six months behind.

That and Microsoft was right: the operating system should include a browser. WebKit will be huge for Mac developers.


Morbus Iff:

But I do want my hierarchy. I love my hierarchy. I like the way my brain thinks, and I like mapping it onto my filesystem. I think I’ve used Sherlock/built-in Find once or twice the whole time I’ve been using OS X—I know where my files are, and if you take that away from me, I’ll be a poorer user.

Tuesday, February 4, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Mac OS X and Unix

Paul Fatula pointed me to a series of great posts in the MacFixIt forums by “thalo.” I don’t agree with everything this guy (or gal) says, but there is a lot of sense there.

That’s the problem with this whole “bleeding edge” in the OpenSource world. We get these bits and pieces, these glimpses and tours-de-force that amount to a grand total of squat for you and me. I applaud the minds that make this crap, but software development, to me, is about conceiving and realizing great ideas and sharing them in such a way that creative people can tap into things computers do well and actually create. Finding a way to bring YOU AND ME to the top of Everest along with those guys who were the geek pioneers. Building the ladder or staircase that gets us there. Not rubbing our faces in merely the fact that god gave these guys juicy chess club brains.


I guess what I’m saying, is that when Apple talks about “putting the power of unix at our command,” I want that to mean something. I want Unix to really BE powerful. I want to unlock its mysteries and find that they are worth unlocking. I don’t want to FINALLY gain access to something like gimp, only to find that Photoshop makes it look like a flint knife. If it turns out that Mac software has ALWAYS been better than Unix software in say, the graphics industry, then why bother making or porting Unix graphics software? If Unix games are primitive compared to Windows games, then why bother making Unix games? We need to find where and how Unix’s power is best deployed in our lives, what it does right, where it is in fact powerful, and then demystify it for every tom dick and thalo out there.

Salon’s New Deal


OK, here’s the deal: Starting today, you can gain access to Salon in either of two ways: You can pay our low subscription price (as little as 5 cents a day) or you can click through a multiple-screen advertisement.

Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas is co-author of The Pragmatic Programmer and Programming Ruby. Both books are good. The Pragmatic Programmer is older and very highly regarded. It doesn’t contain any particularly amazing insights, but it’s one-stop shopping (in only 320 pages) for the basics of software development. This is stuff that you must know if you take your craft seriously.

Anyway, the point of this entry is that Thomas now has a blog. In one entry, he relates an amusing example of how hideous DocBook can be:

It seems to me that DocBook is falling in to the same trap as the rest of the XML world, confusing tedious verbosity for semantic information.

In another, he discusses Keynote and how he’s now hooked on the Mac.

And yet despite all this, I’m sticking with it. There’s something about the Mac and its software. Even when it isn’t quite right, there’s some indefinable quality that makes you want to keep using it.


Steven Frank has released the source code to Emila, his pre-release e-mail searching application. I don’t know how Emila will evolve, but there is a definite need for better tools for indexing and searching e-mail.

Saturday, February 1, 2003 [Tweets] [Favorites]

ATPM 9.02

The February issue of ATPM is out.

Worse Is Not That Much Better


I think it is safe to say that Perl is experiencing a disruption. And even worse, the Perl community is reacting exactly like an incumbent champion of industry would, adding features—and cost—and spending endless amounts of time on sophistication and ‘getting it right’ to tweak the mileage the language offers.

Introduction to PyObjC

Bill Bumgarner has written an article about the PyObjC bridge. It looks really neat, and I’ll probably start using it in place of FScript.

For the Objective-C developer, access to Python provides a rapid application-development solution that’s far more efficient than one requiring a compiler. For the Python developer, transparent access to Objective-C would allow the developer’s scripts to leverage the full power and elegance of the Mac OS X environment.


Eric Albert has written a moving piece about the Columbia STS-107 tragedy. I, too, remember the Challenger explosion, which we watched in a school-wide assembly because a New Hampshire school teacher was among its crew.

I remember the Challenger explosion, and the meaning it had to a boy enthralled by the idea of exploring the universe. Strangely enough, the disaster only increased my interest in space, as I and many others paid more attention to subsequent Shuttle missions than we had to Challenger. I hope that the same outpouring of interest will occur here—that a new generation of children will cheer on our space program with more energy than they did yesterday. If so, that’s one positive that might come from today’s events.

Lee Bennett and Chris Turner have posted their thoughts, and Dave Winer has posted lots of links.

I was very impressed by Ron Dittemore.

UI Browser

PreFab Software, makers of the excellent Player, has released UI Browser, an application that provides a graphical browser for Mac OS X’s GUI Scripting. Think Script Debugger’s dictionary explorer for GUI scripting.