Archive for July 5, 2017

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

O’Reilly Closes Its Online Store

John Fomook (Hacker News):

This week, O’Reilly Media stopped retailing books directly on our ecommerce store.


It’s clear that we’re in the midst of a fundamental shift in how people get and use their content. Subscription services like Spotify and Netflix are the new norm, as people opt for paying for digital access rather than purchasing physical units one by one. We’ve already seen this in our own business—the growth of membership on Safari far exceeds the individual units previously purchased on That’s one reason for the change.

Scott Meyers (via Hacker News):

To me, the most interesting implication of this announcement is that O’Reilly’s no-DRM policy apparently resonated little with the market. Other technical publishers I’m familiar with (e.g., Addison-Wesley, the Pragmatic Programmer, Artima) attempt to discourage illegal dissemination of copyrighted material (e.g., books in digital form) by at least stamping the buyer’s name on each page. O’Reilly went the other way, trusting people who bought its goods not to give them to their friends or colleagues or to make them available on the Internet.

Laura Baldwin:

We heard from some of you that you’re unhappy about that decision, especially because no other sellers offer DRM-free ebooks in multiple digital formats. You’re right about that, but there’s more to the story.


After our announcement, the bulk of your requests have been for PDFs versus kindle or ePub format. We’re already working on offering PDF downloads as part of the Safari subscription, as well as other new features to support offline reading. And we are looking into ways for our resellers to support unit sales of PDFs.


Many of you have also commented that the books moved from lay-flat to regular bindings. That decision came when we became acutely aware of excess inventory sitting in warehouses as print declined. So we became one of the first book publishers to publish print-on-demand (POD) books, where lay-flat is not possible. The reality of POD is actually higher unit costs (think economies of scale…printing one versus printing thousands at once) but far less waste. The benefit of course is fewer dead trees, as well as lower costs overall.

Mike Slade on Apple, NeXT, Microsoft, and Starwave History

Brian McCullough (via Ole Begemann):

Mike Slade is back to tell stories from the period 1998 through 2004, when he was Special Assistant to Steve Jobs. Background details on the iMac, the iPod and the iPhone and more!

This is a great interview that covers lots of ground from Steve Jobs’s return to Apple through bringing the iPod to Windows. There’s also another interview from last year that covers earlier stories from Slade:

I originally wanted to talk to Mike Slade about Starwave, the innovative company that launched some major names onto the web, including,,, and after an eventual sale to Disney, put together the pieces that eventually became the portal play. But Mike is one of those guys who has had such a varied and interesting career, I couldn’t help but go into other eras of his career. The dude worked at Microsoft in the early 1980s. He worked at NeXT in the early 90s. And from 1998 through 2004 he was Special Assistant to Steve Jobs as he saved Apple as a company, launched the iPod and kicked into motion the modern gadget era.

Previously: the recent interviews with Scott Forstall and Tony Fadell about the iPhone’s creation.

Compositor: WYSIWYG LaTeX for Mac

Karl Traunmüller (tweet) introduces Compositor:

In a traditional LaTeX workflow, you would edit the LaTeX source in a text editor, compile the document every now and then, and check the effects of your changes in the DVI viewer.

In Compositor, the DVI viewer is the document editor — you type directly in the rendered document, and every keystroke is immediately reflected. The source editing and compilation steps are completely eliminated from the workflow.


Pressing Ctrl+S will open an inline source editor showing the LaTeX source behind the document region you’re currently working on (often this will be the current paragraph).

The video demo is very impressive.

Update (2017-07-10): Howard Oakley:

One major milestone accomplished on ‘classic’ Macs was Barry Smith and Gordon Lee’s unique real-time rendering in Textures. Tragically, the arrival of Mac OS X and the deaths of both developers left their work orphaned. Since then, TeX systems have generally adopted a two-window model, in which text content is marked up in one, and rendered very briskly in the other. But the dream of actually being able to work directly in the rendered version has never quite been realised.

See also: my old review of Textures.

Update (2018-02-13): See also: Compositor 1.0.

Google Tries Swiftify Converter

Ibrahim Ulukaya (via Peter Steinberger):

Recently @ToddKerpelman and I converted a reference iOS Google Cast app to Swift. […] Blame me being lazy. I didn’t want to do to mundane work of declaring each variable and function in Swift. I decided to take a leap in faith and try a converter tool as a starter.


What I received looked like a Swift code. There were double definitions of the variables as they got imported from both .h and .m. Some of the definitions that should’ve been on the top of the file were on the bottom. But in general it looked like I saved tons of hours of mundane work to fix dots and parentheses. Because of the original code, I even saw definitions like private(set) public var.


Swiftify saved us valuable time instead of converting the project line by line. (As long as you [know] it’s not going to do the all work for you. It’ll be a guesstimate.)

Previously: J2ObjC.

Steve Jobs and the Missing “Intel Inside” Sticker

Ken Segall:

The Intel Inside marketing strategy will be studied in business schools around the world for decades. It represented bold thinking and bold spending.


Apple’s internal testing showed that the newest PowerPC processor was faster than Intel’s fastest chip. With a real competitive advantage to work with, we did what any feisty agency would do: we declared war on Intel.

Suddenly, it was to our advantage that Intel had become the unifying, driving force in PCs. We didn’t have to attack any PC maker by name—we could take on the entire PC industry simply by attacking Intel.

Apple did a lot of Photoshop demos. My recollection is that aside of graphics tasks that emphasized floating point, PowerPC-based Macs were mostly slower than Intel-based PCs. This was especially noticeable with compilation. The stated reason for the Intel transition was performance per watt, but by that time the high-powered PowerPCs were behind schedule, too. When I got the original Core Duo iMac in 2006, its performance blew away the dual-G5 tower that I had been using, even though the Core Duo was derived from the mobile Pentium architecture. So of course it was great in notebooks, which were still stuck using G4s.