Archive for November 6, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Amazon Source

Jason Kottke:

Amazon introduced their Amazon Source program today, which enables indie booksellers to sell Kindles and receive a cut of future Kindle book sales made on those devices.


I love frequenting indie bookshops -- the browsing experience of a good bookstore is still far superior to that on Amazon or a Kindle -- but I don't buy paper books anymore. So I usually leave bookstores with a list of 2-3 books I later buy on would be nice if the bookstore gets a cut of that action. If it worked well enough, the physical books in the store would be more like advertisements for the digital copies than salable items and you could change how you stock the store...less overall inventory or a more varied inventory with far less overhead.

Plausible Labs Acquires VoodooPad

Gus Mueller:

I'm sad to let VoodooPad go, but at the same time I'm excited about being able to focus 100% of my energy on Acorn.

Mike Ash:

My name is Mike Ash, and I’d like to talk to you about our acquisition of VoodooPad and the way I’ve put it to use for many different things over the years. I’m a software engineer here at Plausible Labs. I wear a lot of other hats as well. Plausible Labs is a cooperative, which means that all of us here at Plausible share in the ownership and decision-making of the company. I helped get the ball rolling on VoodooPad, although the decision was made collectively as befits our corporate structure. I’m also going to be the principal engineer working on VoodooPad for the moment, and I’m happy to get my hands dirty.

VoodooPad is a really cool app that I’ve never quite found a use for, but I’m convinced that someday I’ll have a problem for which it’s the perfect toolbox for building the solution.

Personal Contacts and Calendar Syncing

Christopher Breen:

Given the ever-greater concerns over privacy it does seem short-sighted to allow only contact and calendar syncing via an online service such as iCloud.


My $20 suggestion is that you set up local CardDAV and CalDAV servers for syncing contacts and events respectively. With such servers you can easily sync your contacts and calendar events between your Mac and iOS devices over your wireless network without a lot of bother. In fact, the bother is all in configuring Mac OS X Mavericks Server, which you can purchase from the Mac App Store. Here’s how to perform each configuration.

How Minecraft Was Born

Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson excerpt their new book, Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus “Notch” Persson and the Game that Changed Everything:

Even before Minecraft was shown to the public, Markus had made a couple of important decisions that would have a huge influence on the game’s continued development. First, he wanted to document the development openly and in continuous dialogue with players, both his semiprofessional colleagues at TIGSource and any others who might be interested. Markus updated his blog often with information about changes in Minecraft and his thoughts about the game’s future. He invited everyone who played the game to give him comments and suggestions for improvements. In addition to that, he released updates often, in accordance with the Swedish saying “hellre än bra” (meaning someone who prefers spontaneity over perfection). As soon as a new function or bug-fix was in place, he made it available via his site, asking players for help in testing and improving it.

History of the Browser User-Agent String

Aaron Andersen (via Ole Begemann):

And Gecko was good, and IE was not, and sniffing was reborn, and Gecko was given good web code, and other browsers were not. And the followers of Linux were much sorrowed, because they had built Konqueror, whose engine was KHTML, which they thought was as good as Gecko, but it was not Gecko, and so was not given the good pages, and so Konquerer began to pretend to be “like Gecko” to get the good pages, and called itself Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Konqueror/3.2; FreeBSD) (KHTML, like Gecko) and there was much confusion.

No 16-bit Code Can Run

Raymond Chen:

When you try to run a 16-bit program, the application compatibility layer looks at the program and says, “Gosh, I wonder if I recognize this program.” And maybe the answer is, “Yes, it is InstallShield version 5.0, and I have been taught very specific information about the data files that are used by that version of InstallSheield to the point that I know how to install them without actually invoking InstallShield itself.” In that case, instead of playing a sad sound, the kernel hands the request to the application compatibility engine with the instructions, “You take care of this.”

Build and Reverse MD5 Hashes Programatically

Charles Edge:

If you then pop this unreversible hash into some tables of hashes or even sites that just do such things for you these days, you can basically reverse them pretty easily now:

curl | grep "The MD5 hash"

Do Subqueries Add Expressive Power to SQL Queries?

Patrick87 (via @CompSciFact):

Are there any known forms to which all SQL queries can be reduced? Do any of these eliminate subqueries? Or are there some instances where no equivalent, subquery-free query exists?

The answer is yes for SQL, but for NSPredicate subqueries do add expressiveness because the base queries are more limited.

Microsoft, Apple-owned “Rockstar” Sues Google

Joe Mullin has an update on last year’s Rockstar story:

This afternoon, that stockpile was finally used for what pretty much everyone suspected it would be used for—launching an all-out patent attack on Google and Android. The smartphone patent wars have been underway for a few years now, and the eight lawsuits filed in federal court today by Rockstar Consortium mean that the conflict just hit DEFCON 1.

Matt Drance:

I’ve said this multiple times in the past, and I’ll say it again: I don’t like this game. Rockstar looks, smells, and now acts like countless NPE’s that have done more harm than good — namely Lodsys, which has been aggressively harassing Apple’s own ecosystem. It’s extremely disappointing to see Apple facilitate this kind of behavior. At the same time, the missed Nortel auction and dubious Motorola purchase look as awful a strategic blunder as ever for Google. They kept their head in the sand for too long.

John Gruber:

This latest lawsuit filed by Rockstar is an escalation of a patent war against Google and Android, not the start of it. Nobody looks good here — not Apple, not Microsoft, but certainly not Google either.

Everpix Shutting Down

The Everpix Team:

It’s frustrating (to say the least) that we cannot continue to work on Everpix. We were unable to secure sufficient funding in order to properly scale the business, and our endeavors to find a new home for Everpix did not come to pass. At this point, we have no other options but to discontinue the service.

Casey Newton:

Everpix began as the brainchild of Latour, a 34-year-old French entrepreneur who sold his first company to Apple in 2003. That company, PixelShox Studio, made motion-graphics software that was later renamed Quartz Composer. It became a key part of OS X, powering the operating system’s screen savers and iTunes visualizations, among other applications.


Everpix had acquisition discussions after Disrupt with Facebook and Dropbox, among others, but waved them all away: the founders wanted to create this service on their own terms. They spent the next six months building their product in a public beta before releasing what they considered to be the true Everpix 1.0 this March. A free option let you see all your photos from the past year, or longer if you connected your desktop computer to the Everpix iOS app. For $4.99 a month or $49 a year, the service would let you store an infinite amount of photos.

Update (2014-01-22): Everpix-Intelligence on GitHub:

With the Everpix shutdown behind us, we had the chance to put together a significant dataset of hundreds of files covering all aspects of our business. We hope this rare and uncensored inside look at the internals of a startup will benefit the startup community.

MacAddict Cover Discs Archive

The Internet Archive:

MacAddict was the first North American magazine focused on the Macintosh to include a CD-ROM with every issue. MacAddict’s discs included shareware and demo programs, but also came with other added features, such as staff videos and previews of content inside the magazine’s hard copy.

Amazon Supports Static JavaScript Apps

Dave Winer:

If an app running in the browser, written in JavaScript, needs to talk to a web service like Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, etc -- you have to write a server app to act as a proxy, because it’s not possible for the JS code to directly call the service. This makes building an app more costly because it’s more complex, but even more important, it makes it necessary to scale the app. Every user costs more money, thus forcing you to either raise money from investors or sell access to the users to advertisers. This is the way the browser-based software world works today, mostly.


I’ve been trying to talk with whoever I can at these companies to urge them to do the same as Dropbox did. If a few of them do, I reasoned, we’d get to critical mass sooner, and then some really interesting stuff would happen. All kinds of apps would be possible. Alas, none had done it -- until yesterday, when Amazon announced their AWS SDK for JavaScript in the Browser. Theoretically, it does for their web services, what Dropbox did for theirs. The claim is that you can call directly to their servers to do the kinds of things you used to need a proxy for.

The Problem with iBooks

Clark Goble:

Now you might think this wouldn’t be a huge issue. You’d think you could do what you do in iTunes and just select “Reveal in Finder” for the book you are looking at. You’d be wrong. iBooks follows more of the type of storage that iOS uses. i.e. completely unintended to be visual. It doesn’t keep the original files stored in a suitable location with a database storing links and metadata the way iTunes does. Rather there is a folder deep in ~/Library with a hash code name for each book.

The other metadata problem with iBooks is that, unlike Kindle, there is no easy way to export the highlights and notes that you’ve added. The situation is slightly improved now that there’s a Mac version, though, since you can get at the SQLite file in:


Update (2013-11-07): Aaron D’Amico told me that his forthcoming Compendiums app will address the problem of exporting iBooks metadata.

Lucida Grande “Retina-optimized” in OS X Mavericks

Tim Ahrens (via John Gruber):

The more interesting question is, of course, what is the difference between the old and new design, which I will simply refer to as “2012” and “2013” here. After opening both versions of the Regular style, my FMX Compare Fonts macro spits out that outlines were changed in 115 glyphs, components were modified in 43 glyphs, metrics were adjusted in 64 glyphs and kerning pairs were added.

Both the spacing and kerning have changed, so if you’re designing a user interface you need to test on a non-Retina display, where text will be wider.

KitKat Storage Access Framework

Google (via Ole Begemann):

A new storage access framework makes it simple for users to browse and open documents, images, and other files across all of their their preferred document storage providers. A standard, easy-to-use UI lets users browse files and access recents in a consistent way across apps and providers.

Cloud or local storage services can participate in this ecosystem by implementing a new document provider class that encapsulates their services. The provider class includes all of the APIs needed to register the provider with the system and manage browsing, reading, and writing documents in the provider. The document provider can give users access to any remote or local data that can be represented as files — from text, photos, and wallpapers to video, audio, and more.

Seems like a great idea but one that we’ll probably never see built into iOS.