Archive for December 31, 2018

Monday, December 31, 2018

The Old Guard of Mac Indy Apps

Glenn Fleishman:

The longevity of indie apps is more extraordinary when you consider the changes Apple put the Mac through from the early 1990s to 2018. Apple switched from Motorola 680x0 processors to PowerPC to Intel chips, from 32-bit to 64-bit code, and among supported coding languages. It revved System 7 to 8 to 9, then to Unix across now 15 major releases (from 10.0 to 10.14). That’s a lot for any individual programmer or small company to cope with.


But Siegel said what he would never have imagined adding is a “lorem ipsum” generator, which appeared in the recent 12.5 release. This generates placeholder text, and the option dates back decades in page-layout software. “There’s been a remarkable level of interest in that feature,” he said.


With core functionality relatively fixed—math doesn’t change over time, fortunately—Thomson has devoted efforts to make PCalc more customizable and more fun across multiple platforms. The About screen of macOS and iOS includes a banana physics simulator and a racing game. And those aren’t even Easter eggs. He’s also developed iMessage stickers using a panda motif that he adopted for PCalc along the way.


“To my surprise, Fetch flipped from being a tool that was mostly used for retrieving information to one that was mostly used for publishing information,” Matthews said.


[Lemke] said that while he developed most of the app himself, he’s relied on contract developers to handle transitions. Like most of the other long-running apps, that’s meant several, including shifting the underlying coding language from Pascal to C to the current combination of Objective-C and Apple’s newer Swift.

Previously: Congratulations.

Low Navigation Volume in Google Maps

Melvin Leng, in 2016:

I noticed that the “Guidance volume” icon under my Google Maps (iPhone App) Navigation settings is a “crossed-out” icon (with a slash across). Not sure if this is normal. I also noticed that whichever setting I choose (Soft, Normal, Louder) has no effect on the actual volume played out. It plays at the same volume regardless of setting.

The issue is that when my phone is connected to my car’s multimedia system via Bluetooth (e.g. to play music or make/receive phone calls), but I don’t want Google Maps to play the navigation instructions over my car speakers, so I set “Play voice over Bluetooth” to Off, the guidance volume from the phone speakers is very very low until it is almost inaudible. My phone speaker volume has already been set to the max, and Google Maps Guidance volume setting set to “Louder”.

I’m seeing this as well. It works OK if I have “Play voice over Bluetooth” checked. But if the iPhone is connected via Bluetooth and I want to hear Google Maps over the phone’s own speaker, it’s so quiet that I can barely tell it’s saying anything, and can’t understand it.

Dirty Dealing in the $175 Billion Amazon Marketplace

Josh Dzieza (Hacker News):

As a precaution, he reported the reviews to Amazon. Most of them vanished days later — problem solved — and Plansky reimmersed himself in the work of running a six-employee, multimillion-dollar weapons accessory business on Amazon. Then, two weeks later, the trap sprang. “You have manipulated product reviews on our site,” an email from Amazon read. “This is against our policies. As a result, you may no longer sell on, and your listings have been removed from our site.”

A rival had framed Plansky for buying five-star reviews, a high crime in the world of Amazon. The funds in his account were immediately frozen, and his listings were shut down.


For sellers, Amazon is a quasi-state. They rely on its infrastructure — its warehouses, shipping network, financial systems, and portal to millions of customers — and pay taxes in the form of fees. They also live in terror of its rules, which often change and are harshly enforced. A cryptic email like the one Plansky received can send a seller’s business into bankruptcy, with few avenues for appeal.

Previously: How Much of the Internet Is Fake?.

Update (2019-01-01): Rosyna Keller:

I remember an article from a leather accessories maker finding counterfeits on Amazon by stopping all shipments to Amazon for a length of time, then ordering their own “in stock” product from Amazon.

Damien Petrilli:

It’s interesting how all those big corps hates state control and taxes but enforce them on their users all the time and consider it alright.

It’s even worst as there is no appeal, no justice, no nothing.

We need new laws to take care of those state-like corporations.

Rust 2019 and Beyond: Limits to (Some) Growth

Graydon Hoare (via Alexis Gallagher):

Going back to the two areas of concern, then: I want to bring attention to these two areas where the project does not currently have adequate mechanisms or policies in place to control growth, that carry risks of eventual dysfunction or even crisis. In both, it is not clear to me how far from such crisis the project currently is; but either way I think it is worth acting sooner rather than later.

1. The language itself. Its definition. This is (unlike many parts of the project) a necessarily shared technical artifact. Everyone has a stake in it, and every change potentially effects everyone. Moreover, everyone needs to learn and understand a substantial part of it: people do not have the option to ignore parts they are not interested in. Even parts one wants to ignore will occur in shared contexts: documentation and teaching material, testsuites and validation material, compiler internals, formal models, other people’s codebases, overall maintenance burden, etc. etc.


2. The strains on the people working on the language. Some parts of the project can be delegated, de-synchronized, proceed in parallel with as many hands are available to work on them. Not so the shared technical artifacts. To some extent, many people (and an increasingly-many people) need to be involved in nearly all changes, and that means that there’s a lot of pressure both for everyone in that group-of-many to “keep up” with all the discourse occurring, and for the standard of what it means to “keep up” to gradually creep upwards as both more changes are proposed, and more voices contribute to each discussion.