Archive for February 18, 2019

Monday, February 18, 2019

Explaining Code Using ASCII Art

John Regehr:

People tend to be visual: we use pictures to understand problems. Mainstream programming languages, on the other hand, operate in an almost completely different kind of abstract space, leaving a big gap between programs and pictures. This piece is about pictures drawn using a text character set and then embedded in source code. I love these! The other day I asked around on Twitter for more examples and the responses far exceeded expectations (thanks everyone!). There are a ton of great examples in the thread; here I’ve categorized a few of them.


Inline Types and Functions in Swift

John Sundell:

Inlining can be a great tool for situations when we need an additional type or function, but we don’t want to expose it outside of the scope that it’s being used in. By placing that kind of simpler, more narrowly scoped, types and functions right next to the code that uses them — we can also make our code a bit easier to navigate and work with, by reducing context switching.

The fact that we can choose to define types and functions not only at the top level of a program, but also inline within other types or functions, is another example of just how flexible Swift is in terms of structure and syntax. However, just like with other features of the same nature, it’s important not to take things too far.

I really like using nested declarations and access control modifiers to make code more readable. A downside is that this can make stack traces less readable because the mangled names end up longer than if you had picked a globally unique name yourself.

Ten Years Ago, Apple Said Goodbye to Macworld

Stephen Hackett:

After giving the cursory update on Apple retail and the business on a whole, the news of the keynote started with updates to both the iLife and iWork suites, which at the time were still sold on DVD for $79 each.


Schiller moved onto hardware, showing off the unibody 17-inch MacBook Pro. These big notebooks were in Apple’s lineup for some time, and this marked the last major revision to the family.


Macworld ended with “one last thing,” which was a set of updates to iTunes.

First, Schiller announced an update to song pricing. Songs would now be available at $0.69, the classic $0.99 and a new $1.29. He assured the audience that more songs would be moving down in price than increasing.

It seems like everything is $1.29 now.

Daring Fireball 2018 Apple Report Card

John Gruber (Hacker News):

The MacBook keyboards, lack of iMac updates, and still-missing Mac Pro would’ve led me to give Apple a “C” for the Mac. I took off a whole grade for how embarrassingly bad the “Marzipan” apps are.


iOS 12 is one of my favorite iOS updates for iPhone in years. Apple promised back at WWDC that they were focusing on performance and they delivered.


iCloud Photos is now one of the best sync services I’ve ever used. It’s fast and reliable, and it handles data that I consider invaluable — my family’s photos and videos. iCloud overall has gotten very good.

I continue to have problems with iCloud Photo Library (new photos not showing up, slow syncing, mysterious failures downloading/exporting) and iMessage (messages arriving minutes late or not at all, spontaneous signouts, huge numbers of messages temporarily disappearing). iCloud calendar e-mail notifications still don’t work. It seems like iCloud Drive has been improving, though.

But for me, personally, I don’t care about huge new flagship stores in Dubai or Paris, and I don’t partake in the “Today at Apple” classes. I care about two things: buying stuff and getting service at my local Apple Store here in Philadelphia.


I just want to get in line, wait my turn, pay, and leave. Instead, the way to check out at an Apple Store is to wander around until you get the attention of an employee who has one of the handheld checkout iPod Touches.


But inevitable or not, the result is that getting support at an Apple Store now stinks. And frankly, the technical acumen of the Genius Bar staffers is now hit-or-miss.

I think Apple needs a lot more stores just to maintain the quality of experience that they used to have. Given that they’re currently stretched so thin, I wish they would focus on service and sales.


Update (2019-02-20): Josh Centers:

We decided to ask for your thoughts on what the Apple Stores have been like under Ahrendts, and we were surprised to see that your opinions were split fairly evenly between improvement, no change, and decline.