Archive for February 15, 2024

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Slack at 10

Elizabeth Lopatto:

That’s one reason why Slack, the workplace chat app that formally launched 10 years ago today, is so unusual. Slack was the rare piece of enterprise software that spread through word of mouth, because it was actually, you know, good.


Slack was not the only text-based communications software. Besides Skype chat and Gchat, there were also other startups: HipChat, Yammer, and Campfire. Slack tested out these products to see what didn’t work with them and discovered two things they could improve on: notifications and keeping a person’s place when they switched between mobile and desktop. That meant that even though Slack wasn’t doing head-to-head marketing — or indeed, any marketing at all — customers kept leaving other platforms and coming to Slack because it worked better.


Because so many people were using Slack in their work lives, some of its features started leaking out. For instance, Slack introduced emoji reactions — to reduce noise, people could just respond with a checkmark to show they’d read something. This spread from Slack back into consumer software. Tapbacks on iMessage feel like a response to Slack. Even Facebook, which had a like button, didn’t add other options until later. “I think we were the first to do it on a broad basis within the workplace,” Rodgers says. “We saw reactions show up everywhere within a couple years. I can remember one day opening GitHub of all things, and they had a reaction bar.”

Personally, I find Slack to be worse than forums and mailing lists.


Mac App Launches Slowed by Malware Scan

Jeff Johnson:

macOS is periodically scanning FileMerge for malware on launch, which causes very slow app launches. I don’t know what the exact period is between scans, but rebooting the Mac seems to reset the cache[…]. I’ve noticed the same syspolicyd malware scanning and consequent slow launches with some other apps such as Xcode itself, Google Chrome, and Wireshark. You can even see syspolicyd spinning up % CPU in Activity Monitor when the malware scan happens.


I also saw somewhat slow launching from another app bundled with Xcode, Accessibility Inspector. This app is larger than FileMerge, yet it launches much more quickly. I suspect the reason is that it links to fewer Xcode frameworks[…]


You may remember our friend syspolicyd as the process that phones home to Apple when running unsigned executables. It was also the culprit in making Xcode tools slow after reboot.


I’ve now confirmed that disabling SIP does indeed eliminate the syspolicyd malware scan. Xcode launches so fast, it’s beautiful.


Activation Behavior of a Global Command Palette

Art Lasovsky:

To improve this, we can add NSApplicationDelegate to our app and set the activation policy to .prohibited in the applicationWillFinishLaunching(_:) method. Then, in the applicationDidFinishLaunching(_:) method, we can set the activation policy to .accessory(or .regular if we want the dock icon to be visible).

This way, the app will launch without stealing focus.


We override the close() method and add NSApp.hide() to deactivate the app after closing the window.

By overriding the cancelOperation(_:) and resignKey() methods, we ensure that our launcher will be closed when the user presses the Esc key or selects another window.



Wade Tregaskis:

As you can see, Sonoma brought with it a penchant for tinting things a gross light pink colour, including the rectangular extents of images that are otherwise invisible because they’re transparent.


In theory you can also disable this from the Quartz Debug app itself, it’s just hidden – in the Tools menu, not the actual settings window, is an item labelled “Color 1x Artwork”. Note how the setting applies even when Quartz Debugging is disabled.


I know it’s not just me that’s been afflicted by this to date, as I found a sporadic few reports of this going back years, e.g. Highly abnormal graphic glitch on yosemite / retina: all white backgrounds appear pink. It pisses me off immensely that this page has exactly the keywords I was searching for right from the start – right in its title! – yet neither Bing nor Google can find it.

He also mentions the “encrypted external drives no longer mounted automatically” bug, but I don’t think it’s new in Sonoma. I’ve been seeing it since Big Sur or so.

Apple News You Can’t Use

Joe Rosensteel (Mastodon):

Apple News+’s problems start with Apple News as an app. The page layout is both cramped, and light on all the relevant details. Headlines get awkwardly cropped, and the first impression of the app is always the front page of a newspaper where an editorial team has selected relevant stories for a mass market from a range of national publications. Severing the pieces from any wider context from those publications, but placing them next to each other to show Apple News is impartial.


The LA Times in the LA Times app is better than the LA Times in Apple News, and anyone who thinks they’re getting the fullness of a publication from their single Apple News+ subscription is absolutely not. That includes things like layouts, special reporting, recipes, etc.

Additionally, ads are also part of the Apple News app layout, and the quality of the advertising is lowest common denominator bullshit that might as well be Taboola ads.


Assuming I survive running the gauntlet that is the Apple News app and I want to share an article quickly, and easily with other people, I can’t even do that. Apple wants to hijack that relationship and would prefer I send News/News+ links. For Apple, the important thing is to grow the number of people in the News app, and grow News+ subscribers, but for me the important thing is that someone can read what I sent them to read.

The bottom line for me is that it seems to offer less control over what I see than Safari RSS did, and the reading experience is far worse than in a Web browser.

Eric Schwarz:

Every time that I give the service a try, I always quickly lose interest and then let the trial lapse. […] I found it frustrating that blocked sources and topics would still surface: even though “Sports” is a prominent section, it will show you all popular sports, no matter how many times you tell it you’re not interested in a particular one. The general tone can be best described as “cheap”—it’s not a place I enjoyed browsing.


Update (2024-03-21): Joe Rosensteel:

I would like to detail some things that I think would help to make the News app and News+ service more appealing.


The editors can weight stories that are of interest to surface in that region, but those weights should be overridden by any blocking, or content filtration, that a user wants to employ.


Instead of voting on individual stories with thumbs that don’t seem to mean a goddamn thing, or blocking an entire news outlet, what if we could filter by words, or phrases. You know, like in ye olden days? I can filter email, surely I can filter news, which we’ve already established is an inbox.


I already use iCloud Hide My Email addresses to subscribe to newsletters for some layer of privacy, how nice would it be to have an iCloud email address that ingested newsletters into Apple News?


Flat out we need to get rid of the round rectangles that are too small to show an entire headline. That can’t be a thing.

Update (2024-04-24): John Gruber:

While I’m singing the praises of Electron apps, I should also praise the memory efficiency of Catalyst apps, especially Apple’s own. 1.5 GB for a single-window app.