Archive for February 15, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Walter Isaacson’s ‘Steve Jobs’

John Gruber:

There is much that is wrong with Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, but its treatment of software is the most profound of the book’s flaws. Isaacson doesn’t merely neglect or underemphasize Jobs’s passion for software and design, but he flat-out paints the opposite picture.

One of the most memorable parts of the book is Jobs at Jonathan Ive’s studio:

When Steve comes in, he will sit at one of these tables. If we’re working on a new iPhone, for example, he might grab a stool and start playing with different models and feeling them in his hands, remarking on which ones he likes best. Then he will graze by the other tables, just him and me, to see where all the other products are heading. He can get a sense of the sweep of the whole company, the iPhone and iPad, the iMac and laptop and everything we’re considering. That helps him see where the company is spending its energy and how things connect.

There is no corresponding description of Jobs meeting with a top software guy. It’s unclear whether this is because Jobs focused on the hardware (and was especially close to Ive), or because Isaacson chose not to write about it.

Gruber also mentions one of the book’s most egregious lines, a quote from Bill Gates:

Amelio paid a lot for NeXT, and let’s be frank, the NeXT OS was never really used.

Isaacson treats this as fact, yet it’s so wrong that it calls into question all of Isaacson’s judgements. How can he be trusted to tell us the story when he doesn’t understand where Mac OS X came from and thinks that the Intel transition was “akin to writing a new operating system”? I do, however, agree with Gruber’s overall assessment:

Steve Jobs is not literature, but it is a good book, but alas with several holes and egregious errors.

Git Tower, at One Year

Julian Rothkamp:

Within the next couple of weeks more than 40.000 users downloaded and tested our app. Besides the tons of valuable feedback, bug reports and feature requests we received (thank you!), it was also a confirmation for us that we were heading in the right direction.

Tower started off well, and they’ve done a great job of improving it. It’s one of my primary development tools, alongside Xcode and BBEdit. I do use SourceTree for certain kinds of searches, though.

RSA Key Generation Flaw

John Markoff:

For the system to provide security, however, it is essential that the secret prime numbers be generated randomly. The researchers discovered that in a small but significant number of cases, the random number generation system failed to work correctly.

Lenstra et al.:

Of 6.6 million distinct X.509 certificates and PGP keys (cf. [1]) containing RSA moduli, 0.27 million (4%) share their RSA modulus, often involving unrelated parties. Of 6.4 million distinct RSA moduli, 71052 (1.1%) occur more than once, some of them thousands of times.

Update (2012-02-20): Glenn Fleishman:

It’s not impossible that the RSA key generation software would have ”collisions,” in which the same primes were generated on multiple occasions by different systems. But it should be far more unlikely. Thus, there is some flaw that prevents the degree of randomness necessary to ensure the least possible repetition. In private use, this wouldn’t matter. But because public-key cryptography relies on publishing keys, such overlap may be found easily.

Growl on The Verge

Thomas Houston interviews Christopher Forsythe:

We didn’t make any real tradeoffs with regards to functionality, there’s actually more functionality in the 1.3 line of releases than there is in the 1.2 line of releases. We did need to change from a free to a paid model in order for development to continue. There were a few big issues that caused us to need to switch to a paid model overall.

We had a few big soul crushing issues prior to Growl entering the app store, and the majority of those simply went away when Growl hit the app store.

Growl 1.3 is an improvement in many ways, but there’s a lingering bug that causes it to max out my CPU until I try to quit it, at which point it crashes.

Tablets Will Take Over

Tim Cook:

It quickly became 80% to 90% of my work was done on the iPad. Many of us thought at Apple that the tablet market would become larger than the PC market, and it was just a matter of time before that occurred.

I think he’s right, and yet as a developer the only work tasks that are more pleasant for me on an iPad are reading PDFs and technical books.