Archive for October 2005

Monday, October 31, 2005


Garrett is using VoodooPad like Mathematica notebooks or BBEdit shell worksheets.

The Ninety-Nine-Per-Cent Solution

Dave Nanian talks about his design philosophy for SuperDuper!:

The advantages to this kind of approach are many, not the least of which is that a non-technical user can easily understand what’s going on. It’s incredible how many people are confused by conventional backup terminology—“incremental”, “differential”, backups “sets” and the like. And, complicated storage mechanisms require a significant amount of expertise to perform a full recovery in the event of that all-too-common disaster: the total drive failure. (Look, for example, at what you have to do with Retrospect or Backup 3 should you lose your boot drive (very common)—where the vast majority of people also store their “Backup Catalog”. Yes, it can be done. Even if the program works properly, it can take days to recover.)

In most cases, it’s probably not desirable (or necessarily possible) to build a 100% solution. There are always trade-offs. The best you can do is build a coherent product that solves a subset of the problem really well. Make some customers very happy, and be up-front with others that you’re not addressing their needs. Products are defined by what they do as well as what they don’t do. Maybe it’s not an effective marketing strategy, but as a customer I find that knowing the latter often makes it easier to understand a product and decide whether it’s right for me.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Backup 3.0: Avoid

Jonathan Rentzsch (based on reports from Erik Barzeski and Michael McCracken) on the sorry state of Apple’s Backup, and Mac backup software in general:

This is why Backup 3 is so damaging: its target demographic is exactly the type of people who don’t know—or lack the hardware resources—to test restorations. Backup 3’s high production values can lull even those who should know better into a false sense of security.

I’d be interested to know to know whether the recent Backup 3.0.1 update fixes the problems, but who’d want to risk their data with it now? Also, the Mac-savvy rsync in Tiger should be great for certain kinds of backups, but it’s still unreliable and slow.

The new Retrospect 6.1 doesn’t seem to be much of an improvement, and SuperDuper seems to be a quality product, but it’s currently too basic. So I use Synchronize! Pro X for hard-disk backups with crude versioning (Unfortunately, contrary to my previous report, the alias logging problem is not fixed in 4.1.1.) and DropDMG for archiving to CD/DVD. I’d like a comprehensive backup program, but how likely is that with Dantz’s patent and Apple’s “free” software:

Unfortunately, the harm doesn’t end just in the black eye for Apple’s software quality-control, the valuation of .Mac, or the users who will lose data. Backup 3 also hurts the market for backup software that actually works.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

DropDMG 2.7.3

DropDMG Icon DropDMG 2.7.3 lets you change the configuration from the Dock menu, expand disk images using Automator, and includes a bunch of other improvements and bug fixes.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Dave Nanian says he’s found a PaperPort replacement for Mac OS X:

Fujitsu (Fujitsu?!?) has released a Mac-compatible version of their ScanSnap scanner, the memorably named Fujitsu ScanSnap fi-5110EOXM (affiliate link). This scanner does duplexed, color scans at 15ppm, has an excellent paper feed mechanism that doesn’t seem to jam, has a decent driver that doesn’t crash, comes with Acrobat 7, and generates excellent quality, well-compressed scans. And a higher resolution, multi-page, color PDF from it is smaller than the one-bit, black-and-white compressed scans, in a proprietary format, that I was getting from the HP/Working Papers combination.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Parrot Post-Mortem

Dan Sugalski:

Parrot’s not dead or anything, so far as I know. There’s too much riding on it for too many people, and last I checked (which, granted, was months ago) it was still going, so this isn’t really a post-mortem on the project, but rather on my tenure with it. (Which is dead) This, I’m sure, isn’t all of it, but I’ve been jotting things down as the time’s passed and filled in the explanations for the bits and pieces. Hopefully it’ll help other suckers volunteers who might run projects in the future.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Gmap Pedometer

The pedometer uses Google Maps to calculate how far you've jogged or biked (via David Pogue). First, find your location on the map, and then double-click to set waypoints.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Shark and AppleScript

Daniel Jalkut on how to use Shark and chudRemoteCtrl to speed up AppleScripts.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Markdown Preview in BBEdit

Jan-Erik Moström shows how to get a live Markdown preview window in BBEdit.

The Life

John Gruber:

And so the thinking of those who were surprised by this deal goes something like, I thought Brent was doing great on his own, why would he sell the app to a larger company and take a job working for them, when he was already living The Life, working only for himself?

The thing is, Ranchero was doing great, sales-wise. The problem is that they were doing so great that Simmons wasn’t living The Life.

Syntax Across Languages

A comparison of syntax and identifiers in various programming languages (via Jerry Kindall). The terse, example-driven presentation is great for quick skimming, but it also makes the languages look more similar than they actually are.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Pierre Igot rebuts Jakob Nielson.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005


Congratulations to Brent and Sheila Simmons. This sounds to me like a good deal for NetNewWire users (though perhaps not for MarsEdit fans).

Tuesday, October 4, 2005


TurboGears is a Python Web framework by Kevin Dangoor:

TurboGears takes the best components available and combines them into one easy-to-install, documented whole. TurboGears includes parts that join the pieces together and make them work together seamlessly, but doesn’t obscure each included project. This allows you to take advantage of all existing documentation, articles, mailing lists and other resources that have built up in the communities for each project.

From what I know of them so far, I like this better than Django.

Monday, October 3, 2005

FastScripts 2.2.6

I was just trying out the new version of Daniel Jalkut’s FastScripts. It’s a great utility, and I’d buy it right away if my main applications didn’t already have their own script menus with customizable keyboard shortcuts. In fact, it might prove useful in spite of that.

But the reason for this post is to issue kudos where due. There’s a menu item in FastScripts for opening the scripts folder of the current application. Normally, this kind of command will open the folder in the Finder. FastScripts, however, opened the folder in my frontmost Path Finder window. It’s not often that software surprises me in a positive way. It would have taken a single Cocoa call for FastScripts to reveal the folder in the Finder. Instead, it checks if Path Finder is running and, if it is, sends it an Apple event to reveal the file. I like this idea so much that I’ll be implementing it in my own framework.

Aliases, Paths, and FSRefs

DrunkenBatman reports on an Apple engineer who, sadly, isn’t familiar with aliases. Preview tracks bookmarks using paths.

Meanwhile, Wil Shipley rightly doesn’t like the -applicationSupportFolder method in the CoreData stationery. But I guess someone should point out that FSRefMakePath is actually rather new, and that you can avoid fixed-sized buffers using CFURLCreateFromFSRef. Also, I do think his code should make sure the Application Support folder exists, and that it should also resolve any aliases in the resulting path.

My version of this method uses FSFindFolder (since NSApplicationSupportDirectory is only available in Tiger), and it will fall back on using a hard-coded path if FSFindFolder fails, which I’ve seen happen in the wild. It also fixes the permissions of the folder, if necessary, to make sure that I’ll be able to create files in it. Alas, it’s not one line of code.

ATPM 11.10

The October issue of ATPM is out:

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Reusable Cocoa Script Menu

James Tuley’s CocoaScriptMenu.Framework (MPL/LGPL/GPL) includes most of the standard script menu features (via Brent Simmons).