Archive for November 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Programming With Natural Language

Stephen Wolfram:

One issue that we have faced is a lack of linguistic corpora in the area. We’ve scoured a couple of decades of our own tech support logs, as well as many programming forums, to try to find natural language descriptions matched with precise programs.


By the way, in Mathematica 8 we’re beginning to have code generation capabilities for low-level languages like C. So it’s going to be technically possible to go all the way from natural language input down to something like C.

I suppose it depends on what you mean by “programming,” but this is impressive nonetheless.

Life After X [Window System]

Jonathan Corbet (via Reddit):

But things have changed in the 25 years or so since work began on X. Back in 1985, Unix systems did not support shared libraries; if the user ran two applications linked to the same library, there would be two copies of that library in memory, which was a scarce resource in those days. So it made a lot of sense to put graphics code into a central server (X), where it could be shared among applications. We no longer need to do things that way; our systems have gotten much better at sharing code which appears in different address spaces.

Instant Previews: Under the Hood


To show previews, we need the image, and the relevant content of the page for the particular query, with bounding boxes that we draw on top of the image to show where that content appears on the page. If we used static images, we’d need to make one request for the content and one request for the image; using JSONP with data URIs, we make just one request. Data URIs are limited to 32K on IE8, so we send “slices” that are all under that limit, and then use Javascript to generate the necessary image tags to display them. And even though base64 encoding adds about 33% to the size of the image, our tests showed that gzip-compressed data URIs are comparable in size to the original JPEGs.

Google Voice App

Glenn Fleishman:

The 15-month-plus period in which Apple maintained that the app was in a Schrödinger cat box—neither accepted nor rejected—has finally resulted in the free app becoming available. Apple and AT&T both changed policies about calling apps, whether they use voice-over-IP or rely on built-in cell calling systems.…Google Voice, however, doesn’t use VoIP at all.

I presume that the “joke” is simply that Google didn’t take fresh screenshots.


Jonathan Rentzsch:

It’s a comforting thought to some of us in the industry to discredit the general population as ignorant and/or confused instead of confronting the more-likely fact that we’ve devoted too much of our scarce attention to what Apple marketing wants us to think.

I meant to link to this back in July.

Tabbing Shortcuts

Michael Sheets shows which keyboard shortcuts work in which editors and Web browsers. It looks like this is slowly becoming standardized on Command-{ and Command-}.

Update: Rui Carmo:

There is an entire world out there that doesn’t use US keyboards and where both Apple and third-party developers have royally screwed up hotkey assignments…



The iPad may not need a visible, all-dictating file system as we know it, but it damn well needs a filing system. This “post-PC device” depends on a PC, or on nasty workarounds like emailing or cloud services, to do what it’s supposedly replacing. (Unless literally all you do is read mail and browse. I’m pretty sure most of those people would like to write a document and file it away every once in a while too.)

This is what I was getting at when the iPad was announced. There are certain things that people want and need to do. It’s interesting to watch Apple try to see what it can get away with omitting.

Instapaper’s Backup Method

Marco Arment:

And the binlogs can be decoded, edited, or replayed against the database however you like. This is incredibly powerful: given a snapshot and every binlog file since it was taken, you can recreate the database as it was at any point in time, or after any query, between the time it was taken and the time your binlogs end.

Star Wars Weather

Cristian Paul created Dashboard-style weather forecasts for Tatooine, Hoth, Cloud City, Alderaan, and Dagobah (via Khoi Vinh).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Abusing NSPredicate

Dave DeLong:

One of the best things about NSPredicate is its parsing engine. Given a well-formatted NSString, NSPredicate will turn it into a tree of NSCompoundPredicate and NSComparisonPredicate objects. This can be used to our advantage. If we have a string that represent some boolean expression, we can tap NSPredicate to parse it for us and give us back an organized syntax tree.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Raising the Level of Discourse

Pierre Lebeaupin:

Even if Apple feels it is wrongly criticized for, say, doing X, if only they would answer “Of course we do X, it seems obvious to us why, but here are three good reasons for us to do so”, then it would silence the press that made the dumb criticism, while allowing more serious outlets to follow up with “Yes, but then why do you do X even when Y?”

The iPhone 4 antenna and the App Store make good examples. Apple certainly could raise the communication to a higher level, but there seems to be little immediate incentive for them to.

The Unarchiver 2.6

The best Mac archive expander, The Unarchiver, now supports Now Compress and has better DiskDoubler support.

Instapaper 2.3

Instapaper 2.3 has a bunch of nice improvements. I use it and GoodReader more than any other iPad apps. See also developer Macro Arment’s Default.png dilemma.

CD Baby and the iTunes Music Store

Derek Sivers on working with Apple, Steve Jobs changing his tune, and making promises about things beyond your full control (via Jason Snell).

[Jobs:] This number could have easily been much higher, if we wanted to let in every song. But we realize record companies do a great service. They edit! Did you know that if you and I record a song, for $40 we can pay a few of the services to get it on their site, through some intermediaries? We can be on Rhapsody and all these other guys for $40? Well we don’t want to let that stuff on our site! So we’ve had to edit it. And these are 400,000 quality songs.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Going Flash-Free

John Gruber:

But that doesn’t mean I never run into Flash content I wish to view but for which there is no HTML5 alternative. Google Chrome offers a workaround — Chrome includes its own self-contained Flash Player plugin. Removing Flash Player from /Library/Internet Plug-Ins/ prevents Safari and Firefox (and almost all other Mac web browsers) from loading Flash content, but not Chrome.

He also has a good tip for how to quickly open the current Safari page in Chrome.

Linus Torvalds’ Greatest Invention

Mark Dominus describes some of Git’s design cleverness.

Microsoft Office 2011 Icons

Armin Vit:

The previous icons, designed by Landor, have always seemed like water park tube slides to me, but I always found them strangely enjoyable in a futuristic kind of way. The new ones dial down that UFO aesthetic and introduce a softer, more relatable feel with the rubbery finish of the icons. Removing the drastic perspective also makes the new ones feel less cartoonish and more, well, normal.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

ATPM 16.11

The November issue of ATPM is out:

Monday, November 1, 2010


fileXray is a new $79 HFS+ utility from Amit Singh, developer of hfsdebug.