March 16, 2013

Why the End of Google Reader Is Good News

A vast majority of fellow geeks is up in arms about the announcement of the end of Google Reader, but I cheered. It’s awesome news. Let me explain:

Google Reader kinda sucked1 in many ways. It didn’t support authenticated feeds. If you had personal feeds for which you were the only subscriber, like issues assigned to you in your bug tracker or a Pinboard tag, it would only be updated once every 24 hours. And if you didn’t use the system for a week or so (ever heard of holidays?), those personal feeds would stop being updated altogether. That’s the kind of situation where the term UX actually makes sense, in that it’s a shitty experience for the user.

Now you might be inclined to to tell me that if I don’t like it, I should just not use it. I’ll love to, but currently, some 95% of feed readers rely on Google Reader for syncing, and the remaining 5% all suck. What’s ironic is that I don’t even need syncing: I exclusively read feeds in Reeder for iPad. I couldn’t care less (notice the proper use of this difficult expression) if my feed reader couldn’t sync. But those applications don’t just rely on Google Reader for syncing, they require it, plain and simple. So no matter how well done they otherwise are, you remain stuck by Reader’s limitations.

Now that Google Reader is dead, we can hope that existing feed readers won’t be abandoned and will either rely on other services (we’ll probably see a Fever-enabled Reeder for iPad before July 1st) or, more smartly, on no service at all, except if you need syncing. That a lot more than what we could hope for last week.

1. yes, I’m already using the past tense; that’s because I’m so impatient to see it go. 

August 19, 2012

Time Machine Waiting for Index to Be Ready

My Time Machine backup (on OS X 10.7) was stuck on Waiting for index to be ready (100) for a long time (it kept logging this once every minute for 20 minutes).

I ended up killing the mds process. I was treated with an Indexer unavailable (200), then another Waiting for index to be ready, then the backup completed successfully:

19.08.2012 14:25:34.270 Waiting for index to be ready (100)
19.08.2012 14:26:34.352 Waiting for index to be ready (100)
19.08.2012 14:27:34.429 Waiting for index to be ready (100)
19.08.2012 14:28:13.502 Indexer unavailable (200)
19.08.2012 14:28:35.520 Waiting for index to be ready (100)
19.08.2012 14:30:14.957 Copied 2944 files (5.2 MB) from volume filemate.
19.08.2012 14:30:15.574 Copied 2955 files (5.2 MB) from volume 500GB.
19.08.2012 14:30:32.853 Backup completed successfully.

August 30, 2009

De-evilising Adium windows

Some developers seem to think that people can’t use a mouse, probably because of their own inability to use one. Therefore they develop features to help us poor crippled users deal with our handicap. That’s very nice of them, except it’s annoying as Hell and insulting.

In particular, I’m talking about the ‘feature’ where, when you move a window close to a screen edge, it sticks to it like a steel stretcher to an MRI. It’s all very nice when that’s what you want to do but first, that’s almost never my case, second when it is, I’m able to do it without help, thank you very much, and third, it makes it almost impossible to position a window a few pixels away from the edge of the screen, which I like to do because it leaves me an access to the desktop.

So we are dealing with a feature designed to help you with something that is not very difficult in the first place, while rendering another, usually simple task very hard to achieve. It’s like replacing the staircase in a building with an elevator that only goes to the third floor. You can still reach the first floor but you have to take the elevator to the third, make a rope out of your neighbour’s bedsheets and climb down the window. And it’s not like the third floor was hard to reach before.

A good rant is no fun without pointing fingers. Here I’m especially talking about Twitterrific and Adium. I don’t use the former anymore (partly for this reason but mostly because of its utter uselessness when it comes to following discussions) and have switched to Tweetie, but I still use Adium regularly. I tried reporting the issue, years ago, suggesting to make it optional, but the developers looked down on me, saying they didn’t want to bloat the preferences with such details. Right, from the makers of an application that has preferences to turn off window shadows or to choose whether tooltips are displayed when in the background.

Granted, you can disable screen edge sticking by holding I don’t know which modifier while you drag the window, but since the feature is useless and annoying, why not make it kick in only when you jump through enough hoops to deserve it, instead of when you’re quietly minding your own business, repositioning your windows like you’ve always done for the past twenty-five years?

Last week I finally got around to patching Adium to get rid of this nonsense. The regular windows are made evil by making them of class AIDockingWindow, which is defined in the AIUtilities framework. AIBorderlessWindow, in the same framework, takes care of evilising the contact list when it’s made border-less. I could have changed the class in Interface Builder, but still would have needed to patch the code for the border-less window, and patching a nib is less robust than patching a source file.

To fix Adium for your own use, please:

  • Download the patch. It was made for Adium 1.3.8 but it will likely work for a few future releases;
  • Download and unpack the Adium sources (Yes, the current release must be downloaded from the Previous Releases page. Just remember we’re dealing with open source people);
  • Apply the patch with patch -p1 < adium-NoDockingWindow-1.3.8.patch from within the adium-1.3.x folder;
  • Build Adium:

    cd Release

(Near the end there is some GUI scripting going on to tweak the disk image, better stop working at that moment.)

  • Adium can be found in the Adium_1.3.x-NDW.dmg disk image in Release/build/.
  • Optional: if you use foamee, get me a coffee:

    @ioucoffee @oscherler for de-evilising Adium windows.


Hope this helps.

Update (5.11.2009): Patching the Makefile too now, updating the instructions.

August 27, 2009

Safari bug report

How to get past Apple’s profanity filters (just in case they have any) in Safari bug reports:

[Edited version in case you have filters. I trust you’ll get the gist of the original.]

When I copy code from a <pre> tag, Safari inserts artificial (they’re not in the page source) non breaking spaces where lines are indented.

[all capitals]This is the most [mean word for “not very wise”] thing to do [lots of exclamation marks][/all capitals] because usually, you have code inside <pre> tags. And compilers and interpreters don’t like it when spaces are replaced by non-breaking spaces, and it gives rise to errors you can’t easily see the origin of, and it’s incredibly [expression that pictures private properties reduced in powder].

I should write a filter that does this automatically.

July 9, 2009

A note to Mac software developers

  1. A compressed DMG does not need to be zipped, gzipped, binned, sitted or hqxed.

  2. Zipping a DMG is no proper way of dealing with a web server misconfiguration (yes, Wikipedia is wrong, sometimes). Configuring the MIME type to application/x-apple-diskimage or application/octet-stream is.

  3. An uncompressed DMG does not need to be zipped, gzipped, binned, sitted or hqxed. An uncompressed DMG does not need to exist. An uncompressed DMG needs to be converted into a compressed DMG.

  4. A DMG is suposed to be downloaded from a modern computer, not from a VAX. Therefore the file name does not need to be 8.3 fashion or stripped from spaces, capitals or ‘special characters’. If it makes your life easier, replacing spaces with dashes (not underscores) is OK.

  5. It is nice to include the version number in the download file name (separated from the rest by a space or a dash).

If you are a Mac developer and have been directed to this page, it’s probably an invitation to improve the user-experience in the very first phase of your customer’s dealings with your software.

October 15, 2008

Fluorescent light bulb — First Look: MacBook and MacBook Pro:

The Energy Saver icon used to be an incandescent light bulb; Apple has replaced it with a compact fluorescent as a part of its quest to reduce the energy consumption of its icons.


October 2, 2008

John C. Welch on the Adobe installer

John C. Welch on the Adobe installer (up to CS4):

There’s no reason to overcomplicate it to where your uninstall scripts have to include Python 2.5 IN ITS ENTIRETY so you can uninstall on fucking Mac OS X 10.4. Again, think about this…you have to include a major language framework so that you can UNINSTALL PROGRAMS. The fact this passed the laugh test shows how far up your asses your heads are.

September 17, 2008


I plan to write a small (web)app to mark all items in my NewsGator account as read so I can use Cyndicate on my Macs and NetNewsWire on my iPhone. Let’s see how it turns out.

November 20, 2007

Short of monkeys

The Macalope:

The writings of Robert Scoble are like a thousand monkeys typing, short about 999 monkeys.

November 5, 2007

Two great Time Machine articles

Two great articles by Jeff Harrell where he explains in great details yet very simply how Time Machine works:

  • Time Machine and full backups

    Instead of actually making copies of the already-backed-up files, it looks at them for a second, then goes, “Let’s not and say we did.”

  • Pretty darned close to perfection

    But here’s the thing: If you’re not plugged in at 8:37 — say you’re sitting on your porch enjoying your morning coffee — Time Machine doesn’t mind. It doesn’t throw any big, annoying error message at you. It just says — silently, in the background, recorded only in a log file you really have to look for to find — “Okay, we can’t back up now; we’ll just back up again whenever this guy plugs in his external disk.”

    And then … it does.

His blog layout is gorgeous too.

November 2, 2007

Shuffle iPod music from iTunes

An AppleScript to play my iPod music in shuffle from iTunes:

tell application "iTunes"


    -- Get the first iPod, I don't usually have more than one connected at the same time
    set myiPod to first item of (every source whose kind is iPod)
    -- Get the 'Music' playlist
    set myiPodMusic to playlist "Music" of myiPod

    -- View the playlist, turn on shuffle, minimize the window
    set view of front window to myiPodMusic
    set shuffle of myiPodMusic to true
    set minimized of front window to true

    -- Play some tunes

end tell

I run it with FastScripts.

June 22, 2007


About the Mac OS X 10.4.10 Update (delta)

  • Improves responsiveness when using the Control-Eject key combination to display a shutdown dialog.

Again: Yes!

February 13, 2007

Bittersweet medicine

John Gruber:

For Apple to heed Thurrott’s suggestion that they license Windows Media DRM from Microsoft would require Apple to forget that if you depend on Microsoft for something, Microsoft won’t hesitate to abuse you with that dependency if it later suits them. Apple’s delayed support for iTunes on Windows Vista is giving Microsoft a sweet taste of their own medicine. (Sweet for the rest of us, at least.)

(Emphasis mine.)

January 24, 2007

Fractal Linking Cascade about Java

John Gruber linked [1, 2] to two articles by Paul Kim and Terrence Talbot about Java, following Steve Jobs’ remark about it not being worth building into the iPhone. I foolishly went to read them, not realising that I was being caught into a Fractal Linking Cascade, ending in my reading of five rather long articles on the subject. I don’t regret it, though, because they were really interesting.

Here they are in reverse chronological order:

  1. John Gruber [1, 2] (linking to Paul Kim and Terrence Talbot)

  2. Terrence Talbot (linking to Paul Kim):

    Imagine this: IFC looked a helluvalot like AppKit, in Java. No AWT. And it came with a friggin’ Interface Builder!

  3. Paul Kim (linking to James Duncan Davidson and Jens Alfke):

    In the spirit of these articles, I’d like to tell a story, one that many have not heard and that, after all these years, should be told. It’s a story not only about what was, but about what might have been.

  4. Jens Alfke:

    Me, I defected long ago. I’m another of those Apple Java engineers who dropped out. I spent five years as a raving Java fanboy, but I gave up after optimizing AWT, implementing drag and drop, and trying to make 1,200 pages of crappy APIs do the right thing on the Mac. Then I took a one-week Cocoa training course, and wrote the first prototype of iChat.

  5. James Duncan Davidson (linking to Daniel H. Steinberg):

    Damn, that stings a bit, doesn’t it? If I were an executive at Apple and over the last 10 years I haven’t really seen a compelling end product come out of all that work on Java, not to mention haggling with Sun over licensing terms the whole time, I’d be casting a skeptical eye as well.

  6. Daniel H. Steinberg:

    Over the years Sun has played hardball with Apple over Java. While Sun has built the runtime for Solaris, Windows, and Linux, Apple has had to build and tune the Java runtime for the Mac while paying a heavy licensing fee for the privilege of doing Sun’s work for them.

And here in my order of interest. I recommend you at least read Jens Alfke’s post.

  1. Jens Alfke
  2. James Duncan Davidson
  3. Paul Kim
  4. Daniel H. Steinberg
  5. Terrence Talbot

January 18, 2007

iPod sales down? Nah.

The Macalope points out that iPod sales are up by 50% this quarter (21 million units), but that growth is down from 60% compared to the same quarter last year. Then he adds:

But when the last people on the planet who still don’t have an iPod are either Amish or Jim Alchin, it starts getting a little difficult.

There are gems in the comments too:

Splashman about the Zune:

A friend of mine claimed that his cousin’s sister’s brother-in-law’s nephew had one. Then again, my friend is a fisherman, so he’s prone to exaggeration. Perhaps the nephew had only seen one.

Huxley on the same subject:

Steve Balmer said that they’ve captured 20-25% of the high-end music player market.

That’s crappy spin, I’d focus on the fact that MS has a de facto monopoly on the brownish-green high-end music player segment of the market.

January 12, 2006


Bare Bones Software apparently has a new product in store:


According to IMDb, Yojimbo in a film from 1961 by Akira Kurosawa in which “A crafty ronin comes to a town divided by two criminal gangs and decides to play them against each other to free the town.”

What could this new application be? A file comparison tool? A benchmark tool? You guess.

January 11, 2006

iWeb without .Mac

For those who are worried that Apple’s new iWeb would only work with a .Mac account, one can read in a footnote on the iWeb web page that:

iWeb publishing requires Internet and webserver access (.Mac recommended).

I take that as an indication that iWeb can publish web sites to non-.Mac servers.

January 9, 2006

MacWorld Expo 2006 Keynote

My prediction for tomorrow’s MacWorld Expo Keynote: the new products will be huge! Read on for an exclusive sneak peek.

40-inch iMac

  • 40-inch display;
  • Built-in iSight;
  • Built-in iPod Dock;
  • Apple Extended Remote;
  • TV tuner;
  • Digital TV receiver;
  • Optional wireless satellite dish (802.11g);
  • Combo Blu-Ray BD-ROM/DVD-R drive;
  • 7.1 speakers;
  • Front Row ’06.

The Apple Extended Remote will have the same colour display as the iPod nano, 32 buttons, a click-wheel and, that’s quite a technological breakthrough, a white laser pointer. Front Row ’06 will have DVR capabilities (with Showview support) and will team up with iMovie to allow the editing of the recorded programs before burning them to DVD. All of these functions will be operable from the remote control.

This feature set clearly indicates that the new iMac is aimed at the living room, with the ambition to set the standard for the next generation of media centres.

Here are a couple of pictures of the 40-inch iMac:

40-inch iMac

The three iMacs

30-inch PowerBook

  • Two full-size keyboards (because we can!);
  • Retractable handle and wheels;
  • Built-in HD iSight with 32x optical zoom;
  • Three 250 GB hard disks with hardware RAID 5;
  • A trackpad larger than the 15-inch model.

With its built-in iSight and its huge storage capacity allowing for almost 40 hours of DV video, the 30-inch PowerBook will make a freakin’ awesome HD camcorder. It will be very easy to carry too, thanks to its handle and wheels that let you pull it like a suitcase. Moreover, two people will be able to use it at the same time, using the clever combination of twin keyboards, a new kind of trackpad and Faster User Switching, which is able to display up to four sessions at once, each in a quarter of the impressive WMHBOSNGA1 screen.

And there are some pictures of the 30-inch PowerBook:

30-inch PowerBook

15" and 30" PowerBook compared

Didn’t I say that the trackpad will be larger than the 15-inch PowerBook?

1. Widescreen Maddeningly Huge But Outrageously Stupidly Named Graphics Array 

November 1, 2005

Mac OS X 10.4.3

My top five anticipated features in Mac OS X 10.4.3:

  • iChat preferences now allow you to display emoticons (such as a smiley face) as text (such as “:-)”) instead of as a graphic. Great for cross-coding monkeys communication.

  • .Mac members can enable encrypted chat sessions after installing this update. Might come in handy.

  • Disk Utility can verify the Mac OS X 10.4 startup volume with this update. Might come in handy.

  • Keychain Access searching is no longer case-sensitive after installing this update. Useful if you stored SanDeE*’s phone number in your Keychain.

  • Items copied into a Drop Box have permissions set correctly.

October 12, 2005

Apple USB Modem

Apparently, Apple is stopping building modems in every Mac. The new iMac G5 has no built-in modem but you can buy the new Apple USB Modem if you need one.

Apple USB Modem

Remember, you saw it on Ölbaum’s Delirium first.

September 25, 2005

Sabre-toothed record execs

Some record exec:

We are selling our songs through iPod, but we don’t have a share of iPod’s revenue,” he said. “We want to share in those revenue streams. We have to get out of the mindset that our content has promotional value only.

If we listened to that kind of people, we’d all be wearing a watch that would record ambient sound and automatically charge a dollar on your credit card every time you hear a song, regardless of whether it’s on a CD you bought, a radio that already pays to broadcast songs or yourself practising on the guitar.

Via NSLog();

August 30, 2005

GNU Hello

Technical Note TN2137: Building Universal Binaries from "configure"-based Open Source Projects

An interesting read. My favourite part:

While the GNU Hello program is one of the most complicated "Hello, World" programs ever written, it is still a relatively simple program…

August 27, 2005

Time travel

Something funny happened when decompressing the Myst V: End of Ages demo:


August 18, 2005

Updating Adobe Reader

  1. Launch Adobe Reader;

    Adobe Reader displays a dialogue where four updates are available: versions 7.0.1, 7.0.2, 7.0.3 and some useless additional languages.

  2. Select the three useful updates;

  3. Click "Update;"

    The Adobe Updater downloads all three updates and requires you to quit Adobe Reader and Safari.

  4. Quit Adobe Reader and Safari;

    The Adobe Updater installs version 7.0.1, tries to install a second update (probably 7.0.3 given the following error message) but fails because "The application version is not in the range the selected updater can update."

  5. Tell the updater to cancel this update but process the remaining one;

    The updater indeed cancels the update but doesn't process any remainder.

  6. Re-launch Adobe Reader;

  7. Check for updates;

  8. Notice that version 7.0.1 is still in the list of available updates. Notice that clicking on it reveals that it has been installed. Wonder what the Shell it's doing in the list of available updates then;

  9. Select the 7.0.2 update;

  10. Click "Update;"

    The Adobe Updater re-downloads the 7.0.2 updater and re-requires you to quit Adobe Reader.

  11. Re-quit Adobe Reader;

    The Adobe Updater installs version 7.0.2.

  12. Re-re-launch Adobe Reader;

  13. Re-check for updates;

  14. Notice that versions 7.0.1 and 7.0.2 are still in the list of available updates, both marked as installed when clicked. Re-wonder what the Shell they're doing in the list of available updates then;

  15. Select the 7.0.3 update;

  16. Click "Update;"

    The Adobe Updater re-downloads the 7.0.3 updater and re-re-requires you to quit Adobe Reader.

  17. Re-re-quit Adobe Reader;

    The Adobe Updater installs version 7.0.3.

  18. There is no step 18… yet.

    Looks like there is after all: Trash the pathetically slow Adobe PDF Viewer Internet plug-in.

August 4, 2005

Mac news

Question to my reader(s): what Mac news site do you read?

I'm looking for a good news sites about the Mac but I have difficulty finding one. I ditched MacNN because they constantly mix up the words announce and release and don't give much information in their articles. I ditched MacWorld because of the high volume but low SNR; most news are Zzzzz-class. Finally, the people at MacBidouille are starting to get on my nerves with their constant whining that paused only for a few weeks after the Intel switch announcement.

I'm not looking for a rumours site, I need an RSS or Atom feed with at least a summary of the articles (full text even better) and English would be better than French (German is out of the picture1).

Any pointers are very welcome.

1. What picture? / I don't know, but I don't like what I'm hearing! (S5, E20) 

August 2, 2005

Patting oneself on the back


As first predicted by AppleInsider in March, Apple today introduced Mighty Mouse, its next generation mouse with multiple buttons and a scroll ball.

What did they predict in March, exactly?

According to sources who have so far filed accurate reports on Apple's future hardware plans, the company is feverishly working on a two-button wireless optical mouse that it intends to release.

Well, at least they got the optical part right.

What I predicted in January, on the other hand, is a lot more accurate:

In August, Apple will introduce a programmable optical mouse with multiple touch-sensitive buttons and multi-directional scrolling. It will be named after a cartoon character.

Don't search the archives, though. I didn't want to get into trouble by posting rumours about Apple so I removed the post before I wrote it.

I would have liked to see a mouse with an iPod-like scroll-wheel, as hinted by a patent a while ago, though. The idea of scrolling long documents with a continuous movement of the finger was quite seductive.

May 31, 2005

Security Awareness

A bunch of links from a blog I discovered recently.

Security Awareness for Ma, Pa and the Corporate Clueless

May 27, 2005

Deconstructing a video iPod

Bernard Rappaz has a fake image of a video iPod in one of his recent posts. I don’t know where he got it from but he is shrewd enough to throttle the rumour before anyone can think he’s trying to make them believe it.

Ipod Slider 1

I find this image interesting, though, because it’s so easy and fun to deconstruct it. Let’s have a go at it, step by step:

  • Storage – Considering that video takes a tad more storage space than audio, it would be foolish to pretend that a portable video would use a micro hard disk drive similar to the one found in the iPod mini, that peaks at 6 GB. Even 10 GB would be ridiculously small. One can therefore assume that such a device would use a 1.8-inch drive like the regular iPods.

  • Size – A 1.8-inch hard drive is 1.8-inch wide. The full dimensions, in units meaningful to the readers of this blog, are 5 × 54 × 78.5 mm3. The device shown on the picture unfolds to reveal the display. Folded, it has a square footprint. An iPod with the same hard drive is 10 cm high by 6 cm wide and seeing one open makes it clear that it couldn’t be much shorter.

    There are therefore exactly two ways our video device could contain a 1.8-inch drive. Either it’s 10 cm wide by 10 cm tall or it’s 6 cm tall by 6 cm wide and 10 cm thick. Now take out your iPod and imagine it either as wide as it’s tall or as thick as it’s wide. Would you carry that in your pocket?

  • Display – Unfolded, the device on the picture is shaped vertically, but the display is horizontal, with a 16:9 aspect ratio. Make it 8.5 by 4.8 cm2. This leaves just enough room on the 10 by 10 cm2 square to put the iPod’s 4 cm click wheel. There’s no point to the folded design then. Moreover, how silly does a vertical device with a horizontal display look?

If I were to make a fake video iPod, I would make it the size of a regular iPod, with a 4.4 by 8 cm2 display and the click wheel that unfolds on one side. Folded, it would look just like the iPod and be used as such, with the display rotated so you can hold the device vertically. Unfolded, it would be held horizontally, with a large display and a properly sized click wheel on either side.

May 13, 2005

Friends don't send friends worms

Giles Turnbull in Introducing Mac Worm X:

Imagine a mail message arrives from a friend, with an attached file. "I found this great Dashboard widget!" it says, "Try it out!"

User double-clicks. A widget is installed.

He goes on about how the widget could be evil and harm your system and files.

First of all, double-clicking a widget doesn't install it anywhere, it just runs it. Closing the widget makes it disappear from Dashboard entirely. But that's not the point.

Let's alter the situation a bit:

Imagine a mail message arrives from a friend, with an attached file. "I found this great application!" it says, "Try it out!"

I don't double click it because my friends send me URLs, not applications. The same is true for widgets. Moreover, an application has the same, if not more, devastating potential as a Dashboard widget, and it's been possible to e-mail applications since the Internet was invented.

So why all the fuss?

April 23, 2005

Safari 1.3, forms and tabs

I'm pretty sure this is new in Safari 1.3: if you hold the Command key while clicking a form submit button, or type Command-Return in a form field, the form is submitted in a new tab. It's a great feature I've missed for a long time.

March 16, 2005

Obey Moore's law

Stanley Myers, relayed by MacCentral:

Semiconductor makers will soon need to find a new substrate to replace the pure silicon wafers used to make chips if they are to keep pace with expected advances in chip-making technology, according to the head of a prominent industry group.

It looks like someone misunderstood the meaning of law in Moore's law, interpreting it as:

a rule, usually made by a government, that is used to order the way in which a society behaves, or the whole system of such rules,

instead of:

a general rule which states what always happens when the same conditions exist.

I don't reckon there's a law, even in California, that forces semiconductor manufacturers to double the number of transistors on their chips every 18 months.

(Definitions from Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary.)

Somewhat related link

January 20, 2005

Letter Pages

There have been various reports (MacCentral, Backup Brain) about Pages, Keynote's significant other in the new iWork suite, being more of a simple page layout program than a true word processor. Somehow, people seem disappointed with this, apparently because they had hoped it would replace AppleWorks (which is getting old) or Word (which is getting on everybody's nerves), but, after seeing the (other) Keynote and playing with Pages on the show floor, they think it's not target at replacing these dinosaurs.

Now call me thick but I don't see how it can be bad news. AppleWorks and Word are a pain to use, not because they don't work well but because of the big problem with the philosophy behind word processors, in the sense that there isn't any.

Indeed, what kind of documents are we supposed to write with a word processor? Mail? I think one would know by now if word processors were made to write mail. For example, let's examine the process of laying out a letter.

A letter usually has a sender address, a recipient address, sometimes things like a subject line or a reference, and a body. In Europe, the sender address appears on the top left of the page and the recipient address a bit lower and to the right hand side of the page so it shows through the envelope window. How are we supposed to place these elements in a word processor?

There are two techniques. The old one, in fact the only one that existed before text blocks made their appearance, is to put them below one another in the main (or only) text area, separated by carriage returns and using a wide left margin for the recipient address. But here's a scoop: while all addresses are equal, some are more equal than others. Let's take a couple of examples:

Mr H. Potter
The Cupboard under the Stairs
4 Privet Drive
Little Whinging


Mr R. Weasley
The Burrow

While these are obviously fake (sorry kids, I was just joking, of course they are real), let's see what happens in our example if the length of the addresses change as much as this. If they are both long, the recipient address is likely to be shifted enough to push its bottom line out of the envelope window. On the other hand, two short addresses could pull the subject line up inside the window, possibly revealing sensitive information. Here starts a game with carriage returns (and tabs, in the worst case scenario where addresses overlap vertically) that nobody likes to play.

The "modern" technique, that consists in using text blocks for addresses, is only little better. You still have to use carriage returns to prevent the body text to be overlapped by the addresses and word processors are not really built for text blocks anyway and their handling is tedious at best.

With a page layout application on the other hand, you can define a front page template, featuring three adequately text zones for the addresses and body, and a template for the following pages, with just one zone for the remaining of the letter body. Then you write all your mail using this template, only changing the content without touching the page layout — why would you? In a word processor on the other hand, you must concentrate hard to avoid doing something that would screw up the layout of your letter.

Before we end, let's look at other documents for which I think a word processor should not be used and what should be used instead:

  • Invoice: Page layout application, for the same reasons as a for a letter;
  • CV: Page layout application – it has to look good and this cannot be trusted to Word;
  • Newsletter, brochure: Page layout application – you need flexibility and style;
  • Scientific paper: LaTeX or FrameMaker – you need control over the text and the separation of content and style;
  • Novel: Plain text editor – the only text attribute you use is italic and the typesetter will probably replace it by another font anyway;
  • Documentation: LaTeX, FrameMaker or a page layout application, depending on the subject;
  • Newspaper article: Plain text editor – it's not your job to layout the text and you wouldn't do it properly anyway;
  • Web site content: Plain text editor, for the same reasons as a for the newpaper article.

The bottom line is that I will be disappointed if Pages turns out to be a word processor after all. Word processors are so 20th century.

January 11, 2005

Post MacWorld San Francisco silly questions and answers

Q: How do you think people will record 8 tracks simultaneously in GarageBand?

A: Using expensive hardware that’s already bundled with professional software.

Q: Really?

A: No, rather with the unannounced yet well rumoured FireWire audio thingie.

Q: Do you think Pages will be useable in real world situations?

A: Probably, if you consider TextEdit almost replaces Word already.

Q: Will you buy iLife ’05?

A: Not until I’m sure iPhoto prints correctly centred albums on A4 paper.

Q: Do you think sabotaging your boss’ PowerPoint so he gets mad at it is a good plan to get your hands on a copy of iWork?

A: Surely, PowerPoint will take care of that all by itself, real soon.

Thanks to jr for the inspiration.

December 3, 2004

I sympathise… not

Here I am, indexing a couple of hundreds of PDF files in Acrobat Pro, while still being able to use my 3+-year-old (low end model) Power Mac as if it was doing nothing in the background.

And of course, it feels totally normal to me. Until I think about the people having to use Windows, that is. Then it feels normal and so damn good.

December 2, 2004

Support cheer up

Found on an Apple support web page:

iMac (Summer 2000): Wavy or Flickering Picture on the Screen

Products affected

  • iMac (Summer 2000)

Note: The parenthetical product description (Summer 2000) refers to the summer of the Northern Hemisphere.

November 8, 2004

iPod Photo disappointment

I have been quite disappointed when I read the excellent review of the iPod Photo on Playlist. When Apple released the iPod Photo, capable of displaying full screen pictures and thumbnails as well as playing slide shows on a TV screen, I thought that it would be the ideal companion for my digital camera. Paired with the Belkin Media Reader, it would allow me to unload my Compact Flash cards on the iPod, check that they have been transferred correctly (which is important because the purpose of unloading the card is to erase it to take more pictures) and when I get home, dock the iPod and play them in a slide show on the television.

Unfortunately, this is not how the iPod Photo works. When iTunes is used to transfer pictures to the iPod, it converts them to a format compatible with the iPod, with a lower resolution, and these are the only pictures the iPod can display.

Update: The iPod Photo (now iPod tout court) can display pictures imported from a camera on it's own screen but not on the television.

Therefore, when I see all the fuss that has been made of the lack of support for video in the newspapers and on some big news web sites, I can't refrain from thinking that all those journalists took the easy path, as usual, meaning they compared the iPod Photo announcement with the latest rumours and complained about the first missing feature they found. Had they made a tiny bit of an analysis instead, they could still have made some criticisms but they would have actually given some useful information about the limits of the product. Then again, maybe I am an idealist for expecting analysis and information from a journalist.

A nice alternative to the iPod Photo (as a digital camera companion, there is no alternative to the iPod for music) would be the Nikon CoolWalker. It features a 30 GB hard disk, a 2.5" colour display, a Compact Flash reader (optional adapters for SmartMedia, SD Card, MultiMediaCard and Memory Stick), USB 2.0, PictBridge support (to output directly to a compatible printer) a video output for viewing photos on a television and a remote control. It looks like a nifty little device.

September 3, 2004

SnuffIt, Expander

Ground control to Mac OS X developers from around the World, we have an important message for you: please stop using StuffIt to compress the disk images on which you distribute your software, it’s a very silly thing to do, really1.

Mac OS X disk images (.dmg) have no resource fork and thus don’t need to be encoded in BinHex (.hqx, baaad) or MacBinary (.bin, mostly harmless) for Internet transfers. Moreover, they can be compressed in Disk Utility when they’re created (or converted to the compressed format). Just choose Image Format > compressed instead of read-only in the save dialogue. These compressed disk images mount about as quickly as the uncompressed ones and are usually a little bit smaller than a stuffed read-only image.

On the other hand, StuffIt archives take ages to stuff and unstuff. And I mean ages as in an order of magnitude longer that it takes to mount a compressed disk image. The worst is when an image contains an installer or a Mac OS X package. These files are already compressed so the only benefit of compressing the disk image is to reclaim the small amount of free space that it may have. This is best done by Disk Utility.

As an example, think about a 208 MB installer on a disk image with 17 MB free space, totalling 225 MB2. Stuffing the image will probably not shrink it to less than 208 MB but StuffIt Expander will take several minutes to decompress it, whereas the same image zipped using Panther’s archive feature will extract in ten seconds and a compressed disk image will mount in three seconds, if you skip the checksum. The icing on the cake is that the zipped and the compressed image both make slightly smaller downloads than the StuffIt archive.

The only sort-of valid reason for compressing a disk image using a third party format is when the web server cannot be configured to associate the .dmg extension with the application/octet-stream MIME type, resulting in the web browser trying to display the image as text. In this case, MacBinary is better suited as it’s very quick to decode since it does not try to compress the image, but dumping (or threatening to do so) the hosting provider who’s too lazy to add an entry to the mime.types file is also perfectly reasonable.

1. Using zip, gzip or bzip2 instead of StuffIt is not as harmful but just about as useless. Among these three, prefer zip (or better, none) as it’s natively handled by Mac OS X 10.3. 

2. No, I have no particular Worms 3D Demo by Feral Interactive in mind. 

September 1, 2004

iMac G5

The new iMac G5 looks great. And it must be, considering that the only excuse for whining at the latest announcement from Apple so far has been that AirPort and Bluetooth are optional. Not missing, mind you, just optional.

Chuck Toporek:

But one thing that seems like a glaring miscue is that AirPort cards and Bluetooth continue to be options. Why?

I understand how tedious it must be for Mr. Toporek to select these options on the Apple Store every time he’s ordering a new Mac. But then, so it is having to choose between desktop and portable, iBook and PowerBook, iMac and PowerMac, low end, middle end and high end, iPod or no iPod. Maybe Apple should sell only one product, the ToporekMac.

Whine dismissed, let’s move on.

August 10, 2004


Finally a product with a funny iName.

August 5, 2004

Geeky enough?

Jason Snell about AirPort Express:

Now some more general advice. First, even if you think you’re a really, really geeky Mac user, don’t start with the AirPort Admin Utility. Apple has really done a remarkable job with the AirPort Express Assistant, and you should give it a try. Yes, it’s a wizard-style interface — what’s the challenge in that? — but when you’re in a situation where you’re configuring two wireless devices at once (for example, setting up a wireless relay from one AirPort Extreme or Express to another one), using the AirPort Admin Utility can get really hairy. In contrast, the Assistant is a breeze.

OK, I think I’m a really, really geeky Mac user. Send me an AirPort Express and I’ll show you how I configure it and my AirPort Extreme Base Station for bridging, both at once, using the AirPort Admin Utility. If I succeed in less than three hours, I’ll keep the AirPort Express. :D

Update (April 20, 2005): By the way, after recently buying an AirPort Express, I did just that, and in much less than three hours.

August 1, 2004

Word 2004 scrolling

I installed Office 2004 today (we have a campus license at work, I’m not giving any money to Microsoft) and mouse wheel scrolling in Word is so broken that it’s unusable. Scrolling up works as it should but scrolling down does nothing while you scroll the wheel, waits half a second after you stopped and then scrolls the document in one big chunk. Even scrolling by one wheel step is suffers from the half second delay.

A Google search on the subject led to the following page at Microsoft: Scroll at your own speed where one can read:

Without the correct mouse driver, Office uses your Mac OS X system settings to determine the number of lines to scroll when you use your scroll wheel. Because Mac OS X doesn’t include settings for a scroll wheel, Office programs scroll in one-line increments.

Helloooo1, what about System Preferences > Keyboard & Mouse > Mouse > Scrolling Speed? Well, what about fixing the problem instead of telling me what drivers I must install too.

Another source of unimpressiveness is the lack of support for ligatures like fi and fl. Not only do they not automatically replace fi and fl but they make the spelling checker choke too. And seeing that Entourage 2004 replaces ligatures in e-mails, where it’s the most stupid place to do so, is even more puzzling.

1. Google validation reveals that four o’s is the correct spelling for this word:

  • Helloo: 15’600 results
  • Hellooo: 29’000 results
  • Helloooo: 35’000 results
  • Hellooooo: 16’200 results
  • Helloooooo: 8’940 results 

June 11, 2004

Newest Power Mac G5

Good article on MacCentral:

Analysts weigh in on Apple’s newest Power Mac G5

May 17, 2004

Addictive software

Am I hooked to PulpFiction if I’m reading MacAddict and want to hit Command-Shift-L to flag an article for later reading?

May 13, 2004

Cross-platform, permanent security hole

codepoet identified a new kind of computer security hole. It affects Macs, Windows, Linux, PDAs, phones and even paper agendas and is really easy to exploit. So easy that I wrote my first trojan horse today:

  • Pick up the phone;
  • Call @stake, Intego or Techworld;
  • Tell your correspondant that you discovered a new trojan horse that affects Macs. You should have him hooked by now;
  • Ask him whether he uses any of the following: Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, a PDA, a paper agenda;
  • For each device that he uses, indicate the proper action to be taken in order to be protected:
    • Mac OS X: shut down the Mac, put it back into its box and donate it to the nearest primary school, where it will become immune to the trojan;
    • Linux: log-in as root and erase the kernel, which contains most of the code used by the trojan to damage the computer;
    • PDA: make sure the trojan doesn’t get the power required to complete its task by short circuiting the battery;
    • Paper agenda: prevent unwanted access to your data by burning it;
    • Windows: just leave the PC as is, making sure it’s connected to the Internet and that Outlook is checking your e-mail regularly. The new trojan won’t stand a chance to do evil before the multitude of viruses out there;

  • Explain that the final step in order to stop further spreading of the trojan is to flush his phone down the toilet.

May 12, 2004



Apple, despite the trenchant support of its users, has now been accused by three highly respected security companies of knowingly downplaying critical security holes in its software […]

Among these three companies are Intego and @stake (they don’t tell the name of the third one). These might well be highly respected security companies, I agree, but only because they sell highly respected security products, not because they give accurate and disinterested information on security issues.

Do you trust an umbrella merchant that tells you, under a bright sun, that it’s going to rain in the afternoon?

April 14, 2004

Disk Doctor needs an undertaker

Funny, it used to be the other way around.

Symantec halts development of Norton Utilities and SystemWorks for Macintosh.

That is sad news indeed… for Alsoft and Micromat, makers of DiskWarrior and TechTool Pro, respectively, as fixing the mess caused by Disk UndertakerDoctor probably represented half of their market.

March 31, 2004

Oh Yes, Please, Mug Me

The Times, March 30, 2004:

Muggers have an eye for the earpiece of choice

The distinctive “earbud” white headphones are a giveaway to criminals that a highly desirable iPod, costing up to £400, is concealed about the street-walking music lover.

Ölbaum, March 31, 2004:

Well, I think I’d notice if someone stole my iPod while I’m listening to it. And me noticing when someone is stealing my iPod is not very good for their health.

Or, if you’re concerned about the muggers’ health, there’s always the iCamouflage.

March 24, 2004

British geek humour …

… a deadly combination.

I just recalled about this excellent feature highlight on Apple UK’s Panther announcement page:

Panther will include a final X11 window server for Unix-based apps, improved NFS/UFS, FreeBSD 5 innovations as well as support for popular Linux APIs, IPv6 and other important acronyms.

Thanks to all in the <head> for keeping a trace of it.

March 23, 2004

Morning Coffee

On the Apple Knowledge Base:

Sometimes your iDisk may seem like it hasn’t had its morning coffee. There are a lot of things happening behind the scenes. Read on to learn about some of the things you can do to help your iDisk perk up.


I’m sure the wireless coffee machine that integrates with iLife will help too.

March 16, 2004

Access keys

While looking at our (jr and I) in-progress CSS Zen Garden design, I noticed that Safari 1.2.1 now supports access keys using the control key. I’m pretty sure the first versions didn’t.

Try it here: Control-t goes to the top of the article and Control-g to the bottom. Neat.

Continue reading “Access keys” »

February 11, 2004

Better never than this late

Along with other performance enhancements, QuarkXPress 6.1 includes support for Mac OS® X v10.3 Panther.

Have they ever heard of the Mac OS seeding program? It allows developers to receive pre-release versions of Mac OS X in order to have a compatible version of their software ready when the OS ships not four months later.

February 4, 2004


MacMinute points out that Macworld UK reports that Forrester Research predicts that the iTunes Music Store will do well in Europe.

How lucky we are to have analysts and news web sites.

January 9, 2004

BBEdit to Movable Type

I wrote this entry using my new BBEdit to Movable Type script, a combination of AppleScript and Perl. I am using AppleScript to get the weblog information from the keychain and the text from BBEdit. Then the Perl script uses Net::MovableType to post a new entry.

I cannot seem to be able to get Unicode text from BBEdit, though. I also need to improve the user interface. A barber pole window would be nice, as well as a fallback in case the information is missing from the keychain (I see an AppleScript Studio application coming). I don’t know if I’m going to allow to change settings and categories from the script as well or just make it open the entry editing page in Safari.

January 8, 2004

Je vais à Rio

I must admit the Rio Nitrus has one clear advantage over the iPod mini: you needn’t be as careful with a Nitrus as with an iPod because you definitely wouldn’t mind scratching, bumping or even drowning it.

January 7, 2004


I pity Microsoft employees. I really do. Seeing this guy demonstrate the new Page Layout View in Excel 2004 during Steve Jobs’ Macworld Expo 2004 Keynote and actually looking excited about it worried me deeply.

I hate to be a killjoy but ClarisWorks 1.0 had the same feature; it was called Page View (and still is in AppleWorks), as Bob Hearn, co-writer of ClarisWork, kindly confirmed:

Yes, Page View was there from day 1. We wanted to avoid the need for a “print preview” by having a fully-usable page view from each document type.

Having to present this as a top five feature in Office 2004 during Steve’s Keynote would have made me very uncomfortable. I wonder what this man did to his boss to deserve such a treatment.

November 20, 2003

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

MacWorld reviews Mailsmith 2.0 in the November 2003 issue:

Mailsmith 2.0
Confusing Interface Is a Flaw in an Improved E-mail Manager
By Andy Ihnatko

Should Anyone Take Advice About User Interface Design From a Magazine That Spreads a 2.5 Column Review over 7 Pages?

You have to see it to believe it.

June 27, 2003


I didn’t react immediately when Steve Jobs showed the new Finder in Panther, with brushed metal windows. Then it struck me. Oh no, not again! We will once more have to endure the whining of all those news editors and software reviewers who (a) hate metal windows, (b) can’t refrain from telling every one and (c) are too lazy to apply one of the eight different aquafier patches that will undoubtedly come out two days after the release of Panther, if not sooner. I counted at least five1 utilities that do the same thing for Safari, but it didn’t stop the whining.

Do not meddle in the affairs of Coding Ninjas, for they are subtle and quick to anger.