Archive for November 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

“Spamming” the Mac App Store

Tim DeBenedictis (via MacNotables):

You see, we have a basic version, a Plus version and a Pro version. And all three have been selling at this point for a year on the iOS App Store. The same three versions. So Apple writes back to us and says, “You’re spamming the Mac App Store with too many versions.” We didn’t even think that this would be a problem. I mean, this is our whole business model. We have an entry level version, a mid level version and a high end version. This is a problem? Software companies have been doing this for years. So after lots of communication with Apple, they never relented, and we ended up withdrawing our high end Mac version. We re-wrote it to use eSellerate’s commerce engine — and distributing only two versions on the MAS.


And I want to add that the worst point in this adventure was when Apple pulled our iOS apps from the App Store for no apparent reason. So we started thinking, oh my goodness, we can’t do the three versions on the iOS App Store either. And it took a personal phone call to correct that situation. It shouldn’t work that way, but it does. Those are some of the vagaries of dealing with Apple.

Monday, November 28, 2011

You Guys Are Millionaires Right?


Let’s not even get into the long debates you get into with people about whether they should buy your $1.99 app. People will spend hours researching a $2 purchase, browsing reviews, emailing the developer, checking online forums. Then they will go to a coffee shop they’ve never been before and buy a $4 coffee.

For me, it’s not that I’m unwilling to spend $2 on an app, but that I have a kind of psychological block against paying for an app that, statistically speaking, I will probably never use. My guess is that 50% of the apps I purchase only get launched once; I immediately saw that they didn’t meet my needs in some way. Probably only 10% make it past the first month. And this is after I’ve spent some time trying to make semi-informed purchases. It would probably be a more efficient use of my time to research less and buy-and-throw-away an even higher percentage of apps.

I don’t buy coffee, but I imagine the thought process there is that you’re guaranteed a warm, caffeinated beverage. It may not be great, but it will be serviceable. With an app, it’s likely that you’ll have no use for what you just purchased.

On the Mac side, most apps have trials, and I’m quick to spend $20–50 because I can see right away that the app does what I want.

Deleting Dave Winer’s FaceBook Account

Dave Winer deleted his FaceBook account, and it seems to be gone, but now there’s a page with his name and information from his Wikipedia page. It seems that you have to maintain your own profile just to prevent fake spammy ones from cropping up.

The Sketchbook of Susan Kare

Steve Silberman:

Inspired by the collaborative intelligence of her fellow software designers, Kare stayed on at Apple to craft the navigational elements for Mac’s GUI. Because an application for designing icons on screen hadn’t been coded yet, she went to the University Art supply store in Palo Alto and picked up a $2.50 sketchbook so she could begin playing around with forms and ideas. In the pages of this sketchbook, which hardly anyone but Kare has seen before now, she created the casual prototypes of a new, radically user-friendly face of computing — each square of graph paper representing a pixel on the screen.

Signed copies of a book called Susan Kare ICONS are available.

Steve Jobs NeXT Videos

Matthew Panzarino collected some links to videos of Steve Jobs from the NeXT era. (My favorite is probably still the one from WWDC 1997.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Manual Entry in the iPhone Reminders App

Aaron Pressman:

But there’s a big glitch by Apple with this system and that’s when Siri is offline as “she” frequently is. Then you are left to set the reminder by hand. And the problem is that the new Reminders app absolutely stinks.

Siri has been down the last five days I tried to use it to enter reminders while driving. I that situation, I wish it would just store the audio and automatically try again when the server is working. Or convert it to a voice memo. In any case, trying to use the Reminders app without Siri is frustrating. OmniFocus works so much more smoothly.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kindle Annotations Lost in Book Update

I’ve been reading the Steve Jobs biography on my Kindle and highlighting the interesting passages. On November 19, I received this e-mail from Amazon:

We are happy to announce that an updated version of your past Kindle purchase of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is now available. The version you received had image and caption layout issues that have been corrected.

You can receive the new version by replying to this email with the word "Yes" in the first line of your response. Within 2 hours, any device with an active wireless connection that is registered to your account and that has the eBook currently downloaded will be updated automatically.

In order to ensure that your notes, highlights, bookmarks and furthest reading location are retained in the new version, please check to see that all of your devices that you have used to read this book are connected to a network and that their Annotations Backup settings are turned on. For help with modifying settings, go to and check the help pages for the devices or applications you are using.

My Kindle has always had annotation backups on, and it’s always on Wi-Fi. I checked with the Web site to make sure that my annotations were backed up and replied with “Yes”. Stupidly, I did not save a Web archive of the page first.

This morning, two days later, the book updated on my Kindle. I immediately saw that the reading location had reset to the beginning, and then I saw that all the highlights and notes were gone.

After chatting with Amazon this morning, the first support person said that, yes, the update did not go out until today. The support specialist researched for a long time and eventually said:

I do see in the email that you were sent where it says the highlights and such can be saved. Typically when we update content like this that information is not saved. […] Everything I have found states that when we update the content of a book the highlights, notes and saved page information are lost, and I am very, very sorry this email had the incorrect information in it. I am going to follow up with this to make sure that does not happen again.

The data is surely in Amazon’s backups somewhere, but it’s “not an option” to recover it. He offered a $10 account credit for the inconvenience. This is, I think, the only time Amazon has failed me in the last 15 or so years. I’m stunned that they would send out such an incorrect e-mail. The book is currently the #8 Kindle book (#1 on paper) so presumably this will affect many, many people. Again, the lesson is: don’t trust the cloud. Make your own backups. And don’t believe every e-mail you read.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Siri and OmniFocus

OmniFocus for iPhone 1.13 can now pick up reminders that you’ve entered via Siri. You have to give OmniFocus your Apple ID and password. Then it checks the iCloud calendar server for new reminders, creates new tasks for them in the OmniFocus inbox, and deletes from from iCloud (so that you don’t get duplicates in Reminders or iCal). It seems to work well. Of course, it would be better if Siri could integrate with apps directly.

Nearly Hygienic C Macros via __COUNTER__

Jonathan Rentzsch shows how to use __COUNTER__ to generate “unique” identifiers for use in macros.

Death and Resurrection of an SSD

Jonathan Rentzsch:

SSDs live fast, die young, and pretend to be OK even while they’re dying. Don’t use one without awesome backups.

Steve Jobs and iAds


His weirdly strong enthusiasm for iAds bothered me at the time and still does because he was more excited about people making ads than he’s ever been (publicly) about people making apps. For a guy that always professes to hold the interest of the customers to heart, that’s a strange position.

It’s questions like these that I would have hoped would be asked in the biography, but probably aren’t. However, I’m reserving further comments, and listening to others’, until I’ve finished reading it.

Secondly, I have no strong opinions about Coldplay, but I’ve not been pleased to read all the comments suggesting that it was somehow inappropriate or disappointing for Jobs to have enjoyed their music.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Apple’s Aesthetic Dichotomy

James Higgs:

When Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone—perhaps his greatest product presentation—he joked that the iPhone was an iPod with a rotary dialing system on the front. It was deliberately absurd, and the audience duely delivered the anticipated laugh. (I’m reliably informed that an early prototype of the phone actually did feature such an interface.)

But no one laughs when Apple delivers a calendar application for the iPad that tries its hardest to look like a real-word desktop calendar pad, complete with fake leather and “torn” pages.

Richard Gaywood:

My biggest problem with skeuomorphic design is that it creates false UI interaction clues. After reading a novel in iBooks, I once switched to Calendar, and instinctively started dragging the stack of pages on the edges of the screen to flip through the display. This doesn’t work, of course. Neither does dragging at those cutsey little torn edges in the Calendar, in a futile attempt to clean them up—which is precisely what I’d do to the real-world object.

Apple Removes “Texas Hold’em” From App Store

Eric Slivka reports that Apple has silently removed its own game from the App Store. It hadn’t been updated since 2008, but it still worked, and I know people who still play it. Rather than explaining what happened to the game, the Web page now simply redirects to the main App Store page.

This is troubling on two levels. First, there’s a reasonable expectation that a successful app, especially a first-party one, will be updated for new hardware. Texas Hold’em never got support for the Retina display, and it may stop working on future versions of iOS.

Second, if you had been relying on the cloud for backups of apps that you bought, you may have lost access to your purchase. Even though it could run on your current iPhone, you can’t re-download it. I recently deleted a large number of older apps from my Mac, to reduce clutter in iTunes and free up disk space. One of the new iCloud features in the App Store is a list of everything you’ve previously purchased, so you don’t have to worry about keeping backups on your Mac. Not surprisingly, you can’t re-download an app that Apple has pulled.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Arithmetic Expressions in Shell Scripts

Mark Dominus:

I had assumed that bc was a later development than expr, but it appeared in Unix version 6, while expr did not appear until version 7. So then I thought perhaps expr had been thrown in as a demonstration of yacc, but no, yacc was already present in version 5, and anyway, bc was written with yacc. So I no longer have any workable theory about who perpetrated expr, or why.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Real Cost of Patent Trolls

Adam C. Engst on a paper from Boston University:

[T]he cost has averaged $80 billion per year. Moreover, very little of this money ever makes it to the actual inventors, meaning that the money lost by defendants doesn’t incentivize other inventors. In short, software patents (for most of this behavior surrounds them) are simply a drag on innovation and real progress.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Luma Loop Discontinued Due to Bad Patents

James Duncan Davidson and Greg Koenig:

In short, the idea of a sliding camera sling isn’t an amazing new invention. It’s just a really good idea that’s been around for a while and has been iteratively developed. Neither we nor our lawyers believed that the USPTO would grant a patent for the claims related to this concept. It was a surprise, then, when our competitor was granted a patent covering the concept on November 1st, 2011. To say that we’re disappointed that the USPTO couldn’t find the prior art around the idea is an understatement.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Flash Is Dead

Jeff LaMarche:

I assumed the performance issues they were having back then were simply technical hurdles that would be overcome by Adobe's engineers before long. In the end, the lack of a monoculture was certainly a significant factor in the demise of mobile Flash, but the real nail in the coffin was that Adobe never even got mobile Flash working demonstrably well on a single model on a single platform, let alone working well on the "billions of mobile phones" they were shooting for with the Flash Consortium. I completely overestimated Adobe's ability to deliver, technically.

It would be interesting to know why they weren’t able to deliver.

Update (2011-11-10): Dr. Drang:

Think about that: a video I’d watched comfortably in 2005 was stuttery and unwatchable in 2008 on the same hardware.

This, to me, is the mystery. I remember when Flash performance seemed OK on Mac hardware that is probably slower than current iOS hardware. Presumably the current Flash code is bloated, but if it was possible before it seems like it should be possible now. Unless our memories are failing us.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Mike Zornek:

For example, with the release of iCloud I received emails from some ProfitTrain users who were getting warnings that the link between clients and the AddressBook cards were breaking. Turns out when enabling iCloud your AddressBook records get all new uniqueId values. This isn’t even limited to the initial setup. Turn iCloud contact syncing off and on and it’ll do it again.

Even though the documentation says it’s “guaranteed never to change.”

Apple Edicts

Pierre Lebeaupin:

In the future, Apple may claim that they warned developers of such things in advance but the truth is most of the stuff they warned about did not come to pass in the way they warned it would, so why should developers heed these “warnings”?

Creating iCal Events

Kirk McElhearn:

If you double-click to create an event in Month view, and then type a time along with the name of the event (Read Walden 8pm), iCal will create a one-hour event at the time you specify.

Otherwise, iCal in Lion will create an all-day event, which is rarely what I want. The Snow Leopard behavior made more sense, I think.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sichel on Sandboxing

Peter Sichel:

Forcing an application like Phone Amego to be sandboxed puts the developer in the awkward position of choosing between dumbing down the application by removing features, or abandoning the Mac App Store version including the thousands of customers who have already paid for the application and expect future updates and support.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Macworld on Sandboxing

Lex Friedman:

The Many Tricks team—Peter Maurer and former Macworld senior editor Rob Griffiths—is also concerned. “As of now, entitlements for the core features of many of our apps don’t even exist, which means we cannot make them compliant at all,” the developers said in an email interview. “In fact, these entitlements may never exist, as Apple appears to be in the process of redefining the fundamental concept of what third-party software is supposed to be capable of doing on the Mac.” Many Tricks says that several of its apps—Moom, Witch, and Time Sink—“rely on the Accessibility API and inter-application communication to do what they do, and these features will not be available to us” unless Apple modifies its restrictions. Right now, the developers expect they’ll need to pull all three apps from the store and rely on selling from their website instead.

It’s strange is how rushed this all is. The sandbox was announced at WWDC in June when Lion was already essentially done. So there wasn’t really time to make any fixes based on developer feedback before it shipped. It wasn’t until now that the sandbox requirement even appeared in writing on Apple’s developer Web site. Now the deadline has changed to March, which means that either Apple plans to introduce major changes in a 0.0.1 update or that they don’t plan to make many improvements before then. It’s the opposite of other major transitions: Carbon, Intel, 64-bit, etc. where the plan was announced well ahead of time and Apple was clearly eating its own dog food for a cycle or two in advance.

Alfred Powerpack and the Mac App Store

Andrew Pepperrell:

Having the Powerpack in the Mac App Store would not only bring me more revenue, but it’s also a trusted discovery channel for new users – I *know* Alfred would have significantly more Powerpack users by selling through this channel.

Alfred has always used safe, public APIs and been extremely well behaved. Nevertheless, sandboxing means that many of the “OS X allowed” Powerpack features mentioned above would need to be limited or removed if I wanted to continue selling through the Mac App Store from and after March 2012.

Real Security in Mac OS X Requires Apple-Signed Certificates

Wil Shipley has an excellent post about the bigger picture:

The problem Mac developers are facing is that the two that Apple is enforcing on the Mac App Store (Sandboxing and Code Auditing) are implemented currently to be actively bad for developers and not particularly good for users. And the method that would provide the most benefit for developers and users (Certification) isn’t enforced broadly enough to be useful.

There are so many good paragraphs I was tempted to quote, but you should just read the whole thing.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

ArsTechnica on Sandboxing

Chris Foresman:

Sandboxing is designed to prevent apps from doing things that users do not intend—e.g., an exploited app taking over the network and being used for a denial-of-service attack. “Where this runs into trouble, though, is the case of ‘implicit user intent,’ in which there are things that the user does want to do, but they didn’t directly request action,” Siegel explained. Bare Bones’ BBEdit editor, if sandboxed, would not be able to do a multifile search and replace, show live folder views of complete programming projects, or integrate with version control systems.


The problem, as many see it, is that developers will either be forced to remove functionality that users have come to rely on or simply not sell their software via the Mac App Store. “The choice that you’re given, as a developer, is a Hobson’s choice,” Siegel said. “The answer seems to be not selling through the Mac App Store, which really isn’t an answer at all, because not being in the Mac App Store is not an option unless you’re willing to walk away from a majority of your audience. And no sane businessperson would do such a thing.”

Here’s a simple way to look at it: if BBEdit and Transmit, two of the most popular and respected Mac apps, can’t work with the sandbox, the problem doesn’t lie with the apps.

I disagree, however, with Jonathan Zdziarski’s points at the end of the article. I think the sandbox is basically a good idea, but with an incomplete design/implementation and very poor policy and communication. Apple’s Ivan Krstić seems to be listening, but I’m sure he already heard plenty at WWDC, no changes are in evidence, and he’s unable to talk specifics.

Why the Mac App Sandbox Makes Me Sad

Pauli Olavi Ojala (via Peter Maurer):

It’s important to note that these entitlements are granted by Apple, not by the user herself. App developers must provide justification for their entitlement requests when submitting an app to the App Store. If the Apple curator thinks that your app is not deserving of accessing the Pictures folder or interacting with USB devices, she has every right to turn down your request without additional justifications. (We’ve seen many Beckettian variations of this scenario played out on the iOS App Store over the past years.)


One side-effect of the sandbox model which makes me particularly sad and nostalgic is that it kills the notion of plugins. This will also affect many of Apple’s own pro apps on the App Store.

Again, I must emphasize that many apps that are already in the store cannot be sandboxed at all, even with entitlements, without severely reducing their functionality. Many more would need to rely on temporary entitlements, which Apple emphasizes are “granted on a short-term basis and will be phased out over time.” And, secondly, there is the fear that Apple will withhold iCloud and other future APIs from apps that are not in the store, effectively making sandboxing mandatory.

Apple waited until the night of November 2 to state that the November deadline had been changed to March, and nothing of substance has changed. The policies still haven’t been clarified. The bugs and limitations still haven’t been fixed. There has been no indication of when or if they will be. At this point, the best-case scenario is that Mac OS X 10.7.3 is seeded to developers soon, ships sometime between now and March, and fixes the problems. Then developers could potentially build apps that work on Snow Leopard and 10.7.3+, but they wouldn’t work (or would crash or misbehave) on 10.7 through 10.7.2. There’s not a lot of time between now and then, especially considering the upcoming holiday season.

The Long-Term Failure of Web APIs

Nick Bradbury:

I wrote the first version of HomeSite back in 1994, and seventeen years later I can still run it on the latest version of Windows.

I created FeedDemon 1.0 in 2003, and it was the first app I wrote that relied on web APIs. Now those APIs no longer exist, and almost every version of FeedDemon since then has required massive changes due to the shifting sands of the web APIs I’ve relied on.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Google Kills Its Other Plus

Andy Baio (via John Gruber):

On Wednesday, Google retired a longer-standing “plus”: the + operator, a standard bit of syntax used to force words and phrases to appear in search results. The operator was part of Google since its launch in 1997 and built into every search engine since.

The replacement is to put the individual terms in double quotes.

Apple’s Planned Obsolescence Schedule

Adam C. Engst:

It’s not so much that iCloud is itself uninterested in the past, since Lion works on all Macs sold in the last 4 years or so. The problem is iOS, and the way Apple is keeping obsolete products for sale at lower price points. The iPhone 3G can’t run iOS 5 and thus can’t participate in iCloud, but you could have bought an iPhone 3G as recently as 15 months ago. Thus, you may be able to connect a 4-year-old Mac to iCloud, but not an iPhone that’s less than 2 years old. Since the entire point of iCloud is to route data among your many devices, this discrepancy is troubling lots of people.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

AnandTech’s iPhone 4S Review

Brian Klug and Anand Lal Shimpi:

To re-state the evolution that Apple has taken with this design, the GSM/UMTS 4 had one transmit and receive chain, the CDMA 4 added a second receive chain for diversity, and the 4S now has two receive chains and the ability to switch between two transmit chains. The result is that the phone no longer is prone to fading on either the forward or reverse link due to being held near the feed points for one chain.

The iPhone 4S antenna works much better for me than the iPhone 4 one did, and it’s even an improvement over the 3GS. In particular, it almost never has trouble acquiring my 3G MicroCell, whereas the 3GS often needed to be rebooted.

ATPM 17.11

The November issue of ATPM is out: