Apple + Adobe

Boy, that Cringely fellow’s pretty out there. I’ve only just started reading him, and I didn’t realise until he started talking more about Apple how unmerited some of his ideas are. Consider his piece this week. Apple to buy Adobe? I’ll believe it when I see it.

Just quickly: What are the advantages and disadvantages of a hypothetical buy of Adobe by Apple? What issues would Apple face? What would it do with all that interesting software?

  • Lightroom would be gone. Instantly. Without pause for thought. The team working on it would have some damn handy tips for Raw support, though.
  • Apple would have an expert OpenType layout engine for Mac OS X, rather than having to roll their own. Plus a whole lot of excellent font tech, especially relating to multilingual support. Plus a whole lot of beautiful fonts to sell and (partially) distribute freely with Mac OS X.
  • Flash would be rolled into Quicktime. That’s a much more natural fit than into PDF. (Even if it is 3D PDF.) If everyone on earth didn’t have Quicktime installed already due to iTunes, it’d be a certainty now. Take that, Real. (Windows Media has given up on the Mac, an issue which I’m a little concerned but wholly uninformed about.)
  • PDF would continue as if nothing ever happened. The stagnation would be good for it. Seriously. No-one wants an evolving document standard. People are upset enough as it is that old PDF renders can’t handle new documents, despite initial promises this would be so. Well, that’s probably only a negligible problem.
  • Here’s the big dilemma: what happens to the Creative Suite? In the past, Apple has discontinued Windows versions of the software its subsumed (e.g., see Shake). But if it did this for the Creative Suite, there’d be riots in the streets. On the other hand, there’s no reasonable competition for it. Almost whatsoever. Which is kind of scary when you think about it.
  • The same problem presents itself with Premier and its relations. Apple just can’t kill of the software for Windows and force everyone to buy a Mac. On the flip side of the coin, it doesn’t want to actively develop separate apps for Windows. That’d just be silly. But porting Final Cut Studio to Windows would be an enormous effort, and slow down innovation incredibly on the Mac side of the fence.

These last two are pretty intractable problems, in my eyes. It would be impossible for Apple to buy Adobe and kill Windows support. It’d probably be prosecutable, even. And I just can’t see Apple entering the Windows software market in such a major way. I’d much more likely put my money on a bit of flirting between the companies with money going from Apple and expertise coming from Adobe to ensure a happy relationship for the coming years. It’s not like Apple hasn’t done something like this before with its $150m deal with Microsoft.

Aperture development

So apparently the development of Aperture was considered to be a colossal failure.

I didn’t believe the Think Secret rumour, simply because the rumours sites are great but their technical competence leaves something to be desired. Their track record is poor enough that everything I read from them I consider to be heavily filtered through a “Chinese whispers” chain of information. Mostly I just refrain from reading them.

But then, Gruber sort of agreed with what they said. Which piqued my interest. But I think there’s a little more going on here than simply a case of poor management leading to a delayed app. Quoth John:

The user interface and interaction model of Aperture aren’t just good — they’re innovative. I think Aperture is at the leading edge of UI design … Word within Apple is that Steve Jobs himself is enormously enamored of Aperture.

This is the meat of matter. From all accounts (I haven’t used the thing) Aperture is a great success of user interface innovation. When was the god damn last time you heard that? Apple’s HI labs have been closed for years, and the last time people were excited about some increase in interface efficiency was when NetNewsWire removed the 20 pixel border around its main window.

How hard is it to design an interface that is new? Hard enough that Microsoft has never really got the hang of it? If I were magically in charge of the Aperture team, I wouldn’t care if that app never got out of the lab if it managed to produce workable results for an improved GUI related to the way people manage large sets of information linked with various sorts of metadata. (That might be an exaggeration.)

As it happened, apparently people believed that the whole thing was a disaster, coming in nine months overdue. This makes total sense, though, when put in a certain way. The Aperture team are at the peak of interface design. What’s that thing that top-notch programmers are terrible at (classically)? Design. Conversely, are great designers likely to produce tight, clean, and bug-free code? It's doubtful.

If Aperture had shipped on time, it’d just be another run of the mill app with nothing to be learned from it. Perhaps not unlike its main competition, Lightroom, which is interestingly a product of Macromedia rather than the company which consumed it, despite its close association with Photoshop.

As it happened, Aperture did not ship on time, but its release showed people that there is still scope for change in the way we interact with computers. And frankly, that couldn’t have come soon enough.

Remember the storm Motion caused when it was introduced for its astounding performance with what later were revealed to be CoreImage and CoreVideo-like technologies? I have a tiny hope that Aperture is showing us now one of the things Leopard might have in store with regards to improvements to the way we deal with metadata and our files. But that would require a new Finder, wouldn’t it? And we know there’s not much hope there. Oh well; time will tell.


Vista interface "borrowing"

Say haven’t I seen reflections in black somewhere else before? (Windows Media Centre vs. Apple’s Front Row)

But I suppose it’s a bit of a stretch to compare transparent black to things like this.

I’ve got to admit, though, some of those gaussian blurred transparent windows looks pretty nice. But does it get a bit much?

Vista disappointments

Long ago on MacMischief, I wrote about some details of the upcoming Windows Vista that were revealed in some keynote. On the whole, a thoroughly geeky thing to do. But see, I like information, and Vista (then called by its codename “Longhorn”) was shaping up to have incredible metadata browsing support in Explorer. This would have truly made me jealous if Mac OS X hadn’t caught up by then. I wrote:

Files in Longhorn may be displayed grouped by metadata. Let’s use the example of keywords. When looking at a bunch of files, if chosen to split up by keyword then the folder view is split into groups, with each group only containing files that contain a specific keyword. If a file has more than one keyword, it exists in multiple groups. And the kicker? Files may be drag’n’dropped between groups in order to supplement their metadata. Very very impressive.

This is similar to the metadata support in Yojimbo and BibDesk, but the pervasive filesystem support would have made it incredible.

But it looks like my expectations (and Bill Gates, apparently) were raised a little high by what I saw. Paul Thurrot’s been reviewing Vista builds as they are released (note the difference with people reporting beta Mac OS X versions — a lot less is allowed from Apple!), and he’s got some unfortunate news:

Good luck finding [virtual folders] in the current builds. They’re in there, but like the Task Panes in XP, no normal user will ever discover them, let alone use them [Build 5308 review, Mar 3]

And more recently,

With the de-emphasis of virtual folders, you won’t be surprised to discover that Microsoft is also walking away from the underlying features that would have made virtual folders truly useful. This build’s casualty is keywords. [Build 5365 review, Apr 26]

This is truly tragic. For an OS to have so much potential and fall so hard (seemingly, I’ll not cast my judgements until I’ve used it) reeks of something not quite right. How could this possibly happen?

Luckily for me, I use Mac OS X and I’m happy here, so every excuse not to switch to Windows is something to be a little thankful for. But as said here (via the Daring Fireball Linked List), competition is really where you see innovation, so hopefully this won’t cause Apple to rest on its laurels.

Assorted Apple comments

Before any major release of Mac OS X, a whole bunch of other applications and frameworks tend to be updated so they don’t have to be worried about when the OS itself is trying to be finished up. (I presume.)

And here we’ve begun. Just previously, it was Remote Desktop. Now, it’s Java 1.5 — long awaited, if I recall correctly. Hopefully it fixes my internet banking in Safari again, once and for all.

Don’t forget to mention the phrase “potential negative ramifications of the transition of all Macs to Intel microprocessors by the end of calendar 2006” in Apple’s second quarter financial results. (Boy, that paragraph’s a bundle of laughs.) I don’t recall anyone saying anything about the fact that all Macs would run on Intel chips by years end; perhaps that’s what the qualifier “or the announcement of such planned transition” means, although I interpreted it differently.

You know, I was/am secretly hoping that Apple will keep Mac OS X dual-platform forever, releasing computers with Intel or Power chips as appropriate. Wasn’t that quad core G5 PowerMac supposed to be pretty damn impressive? Well, in any case, they know better than me, so…

Oh, something else. From the otherwise pretty silly Forbes editorial (for one thing, of course sales are down 2nd compared to 1st quarter — 1st quarter has holidays and Christmas!):

With more than one billion songs served, Apple’s iTunes store now has nearly 90% of the paid-download music market, according to Nielsen NetRatings.

I really wonder what the subscription model of Napster is like. Obviously, they’re getting by, but the question is “how well”? Anyway, 90% is quite something, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Gruber's grab

[delayed due to MarsEdit problems, I’m afraid]

And here is something genuinely to look forward to. John Gruber has decided to work full time on his site Daring Fireball. This might sound a little strange, out of context. To anyone reading (hello, anyone?) that is unaware, Gruber is a writer with a distinct quality to his work; he writes mostly about Apple and its products.

This is exciting both for him (“Daring Fireball is what I love to do”) and for us, his readers. With full time devotion, Daring Fireball will be able to expand in many ways, I’m sure, and I’ve no doubt that it can succeed through damn good content alone. To put it plainly, Gruber writes the best analysis I’ve come across. A recent standout was his article The iPod Juggernaut, and there’s a great quote in there:

In short, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, Apple’s iPod competitors are totally fucked.

It’s great because not only is his commentary well written, it’s done with such a personal style; no faux objectiveness or formalism often found elsewhere (included in my own writing, no doubt), just things as he sees them with good arguments to back up his views.

There’s not much else to say besides wishing John the best of luck, and to express my anticipation for consuming his work in the future.

P.S. John, if you’re listening; I’ll buy a DF-grey shirt with the star character on it — if you’ll leave off the words. I get enough questions about my tshirts as it is…


Email clients

There have been a lot of complaints about email clients on Mac OS X. Apple’s Mail is fine for low volume stuff, and it doesn’t scale so badly, but it’s no “killer app”. (For example, the web client to gmail is a significant rival, which is just embarrassing, really.) Given the lack of widespread enthusiasm about other mail clients, however, I haven’t spent too much time investigating the options.

Consider a sentence discussing such things that I came across:

It’s actually hard for me to believe that a company capable of producing as great an app as Yojimbo could think that releasing a mail application without IMAP support is acceptable on any level.

I’d have to agree. Hopefully Bare Bones are interested in extensively updating Mailsmith one day. One the other hand, Rentzsch has different ideas:

I’m still hashing [my own email client] out, but I can state even at this early stage, chances are this client is not for you. No built-in HTML email viewing. MIME attachments are not automatically decoded and written into the file system (only the raw SMTP message is stored). No IMAP. No spam filtering (!). No folders (!!).

And speaking of up-and-coming email client projects, I’ve recently discovered Matt Ronge’s Kiwi project. Judging by the screenshots, when this is released (open source, no less) he will be a very popular man. I look forward to it; Mail has some incredibly irritating idiosyncrasies and organising volumes of email with it are rather tedious.

Good luck, Ronge!


Spelling reform

I’m pretty interested in spelling reform, at least theoretically. I’m fairly intolerant of inelegant solutions, and English spelling certainly is. However, I’m also pretty attached to actually, you know, being able to spell, so I acknowledge that it would be pretty annoying to implement reform in reality.

On the upside, it is not unreasonable to imagine various text transformation filters that could easily be written to allow round-trip translation between old spelling and new spelling.

The first place I read recently about spelling reform, by Justin B. Rye, is a wonderfully informal essay containing a point-by-point refutation of the possible arguments against the whole thing. He even refutes arguments not previously presented. Anyway, it’s a great introduction, and well recommended. His anti-Esperanto page is great as well.

A possible spelling reformation

The simplest, most coherent system I’ve seen presented (admittedly, I haven’t seen many, nor looked into any in detail :) ) is described somewhere inside spellingsociety.org, linked from Wikipedia. The solutions there cover eliminating spelling inconsistencies as much as possible while still acknowledging the fact that a possibly “ideal” solution would be way too different to be adopted by the public. It’s also very clear in keeping phonetics out of the whole issue, which can be an easy target for any spelling reform argument.

A summary, adapted from the above, is shown below. Granted, it’s weird at first sight, but once you know the rules the system is clear like English currently is not. The advantages, theoretically, are persuasive: less brain power used overcoming English’s idiosyncrasies. Which means quicker learning for kids. Which means they can learn more important things at an earlier age, solidifying their education at an early age. Which increases the chance of mankind deflecting unexpected asteroids on a collision course with earth.


fat, father
fit, piti
by, byt
lot hoe,
but, muther, flud
good, moon
lau, taut
out, hou
oil, boy
merjer, tern, (inkur)

replaced by k, kat, or s, faes
fat, foto
job, aej, brij
kat, kik
singer, finger
shiver, naeshun, preshus
thin, then
wil, kwaent
wich or which
fiks, ekspekt, eksampl
yung, yoo
zip, vizit


Polyphasic sleep: 50-odd hours

While overall everything is going well, there’s still been some bumps in the road for our polyphasic sleep experiment. I’ve got to say that in general, it’s been fairly easy up to this point, but we haven’t yet managed to reduce our sleep deprivation enough to not have some extra nap time in the early morning.

The first time we slept out of schedule was 7am Saturday morning (after beginning on Friday morning, 1am). This unplanned sleep lasted 2.5 hours. The second occurrence was 9am Sunday morning, which lasted only 1.5 hours. This is a positive trend, and we hope to remain completely awake for what’s in store for us tonight. Unfortunately, I also overslept my 1pm nap today by another hour, so by the end of today I shall have had 5 hours sleep each for the past two days.

Note that we are not considering such short oversleeps to be a problem. The simple matter is that we have drastically reduced our total sleep time per day, and the deprivation arising from that has to be alleviated somehow. If we had crashed and not awoken for four or six hours, that could have been a bigger problem, but for the meantime our small digressions seem to be the body’s natural was of dealing with the transition period. Perhaps with a more strict diet and exercise regime it would be less of a problem (not to mention alcohol and cigarettes).

Finally, it’s been decided that the deadline for our decision to continue with polyphasic sleeping will be Monday morning. This allows for a day of recovery in case we think it’s just too hard to fit into a real life schedule. I’m quite optimistic, however, about continuing.


Ultrashort polyphasic sleep: 36 hours

Well, it’s been an interesting 36 hours. A little while ago I become enamoured with the idea of polyphasic sleep. It had been my intention to give it a try over the Easter (four day!) long weekend in order minimise too many side-effects in normal life.

Despite the long-term intention, Easter snuck up on me and we began entirely unprepared. With two companions, we initiated our attempt to remodel our sleeping patterns from 2am-ish Thursday. (It’s now 12:45pm Saturday. Nap time in 15.) So how did it go? Well, good and bad so far.

The first 24 hours were fine for all of us, give or take. I’d been “practising” napping on and off for the last little while, and my early attempts Friday morning to nap were fairly successful. Not so my friends. Strictly monophasic sleepers, they didn’t manage to fall asleep once during the whole 24 hours. There were some reports of mind-wanderings, however, and I suspect there was indeed some rest achieved.

To clarify, we are following the ~30 min,/4 hours nap cycle, at times 1, 5 and 9 a.m. & p.m. My hardest time in the first day was around 8:30am, where I was nodding on the couch. 9am nap fixed me right up, however. Relatively speaking.

After the first day, we all felt fairly good. Once you get over the morning hump of a night spent without rest, it’s easy to get to the end of the day. I felt better than I would have with no sleep, but the difference there wasn’t great. The next 12 hours were more of a problem.

My companions, sleep denying them continually, eventually began crashing at nap times, requiring great amounts of effort to rouse them. Progress was being made, though, as my naps at least were fairly easy to rise from, and while not being greatly restorative they did help. After the 5am nap, however, we were all totally sapped of energy and I required someone else to bootstrap me along as I had helped my friends so far. Unfortunately, no-one was there and we crashed at around 7am. A friendly housemate woke me at 9:30am, for which I was very greatful. I felt pretty damn good, actually, all things considered.

And now the process continues. I feel that the imposed core sleep was a bit of a necessity for all of us to catch up on some missed sleep until our ultrashort sleeps adapt to provide us with the full spectrum of sleep phases. It’s a pity that my friends oversleep more, but with luck we’re over the worst of the deprived states with not enough company to keep us distracted from sleep.


Pavlina's return to monophasic sleep

How interesting. Just as the weekend approaches when I am to attempt polyphasic sleep, Steve Pavlina, I guess the world’s most well-known polyphasic sleeper, has decided to give up.

Like all others, his reasons aren’t due to disliking polyphasic sleep. He just finds certain aspects of it inconvenient. Significantly for me, he eventually tired (no pun intended) of all his extra time during which the rest of the world was asleep. And 20 hours works days weren’t fun, so he had a lot of time to kill.

So this is an interesting trend. It seems that everyone I’ve read about being a successful ultrashort sleeper end up giving up after around six months, all citing purely social issues. The question is: what changed? Is it possibly some sub-conscious reaction against long term polyphasic sleep? Perhaps the brain does need the extended rest to be able to sustain the creativity required to fill in so much time.

Updates soon to Omniweb

There’s a new OmniWeb soon! Based on new WebKit makes it really a very significant update.

I gave up using OmniWeb a little while ago, and coincidentally started using it again this week. After removing the bulk of my music to a crappy Windows box (don’t get me started), I actually have disk space now and my PowerBook can swap its little heart away without beginning to corrupt my data (uh, I read that once; I assume it’s true that one of the flaws of HFS+ is this).

Remembering tabs again is a god-send (I never got into Safari plug-ins); the reduced horizontal space is not quite so good. Between NetNewsWire (yes, I bought it; sorry NewsMac Pro — I’ll revisit you in the future) and OmniWeb, I feel rather cramped. Honesty though, if NNW improved its browser just a little bit (don’t ask me how), I’m not even sure I’d need OmniWeb.

That might be a lie. I’m not really sure any more.


Time magazine

Just a quick note to say that I’ve recently subscribed to a bunch of Time magazine feeds, in my never-ending search to find good news on broad topics that’s well-written, in depth, but not overly abundant, and wow. There’s some good stuff coming out of there.

When whichever generation I am can only express utter derision at the whole political process (depending on your cynicism, I suppose), this article on the fall of politics due to the media is a breath of fresh air.

Pity there’s not more like it.

Life pushing me along

Well, here I am. The last few weeks have been a bit crazy. Not so much that what’s going on has been overwhelming. Just that I feel like its been a bit of a singularity of sorts.

Toni had been looking for places for us to live in time for moving out by July at the latest. Nowhere we applied for was interested in us, presumably due to the fact that we were only applying to nice places with lots of competition.

But then on a whim we decide to check out a place outside of the CBD, an extra 10–15 minutes walk, and we’re accepted straight away. One of those occasions that you could link to fate if you believed in it. So moving’s not fun, right? Well, the week we had to was incredibly busy for us both with big things requiring submission (grant proposal and conference paper, respectively) by that Friday.

The universe had transpired to place us right in the middle of a convolution of events that were all directly related to us but that we had no influence over. Just had to do it. When you think about it, most of life is like that, too — just not as obvious while its happening.

While all this has been happening, I’ve been looking fairly deeply into polyphasic sleep. The last few weeks have been a time of great change for me and, for whatever reason, I’ve suddenly discovered the knack of waking up in the morning. It’s been seven working days in a row now that I’ve woken at 7am punctually. Last week saw my transition period into a more organised waking life, although my efficiency wasn’t too great.

And with the feeling that I can actually effect changes to my sleeping schedule, I’m confident about trying to achieve a polyphasic schedule starting from this long easter weekend. I just hope I’m not rushing things too much, especially given Toni’s disapproval of the whole thing. We can but wait and see.


MarsEdit script: Markdown quote

I’ve put together a quick script to quote in Markdown through MarsEdit. Simply select the text you want to quote and this script’ll add “> ” in front of every line. Adapt trivially for verbatim (change “> ” to a tab character instead). This is a shining example of how great Applescript is (as opposed to a number of very good reasons why Applescript is a monster to work with). With thanks to Brent Simmons:

tell application "MarsEdit"
        set currentWindow to post window 1
    on error errorMessage
        displayErrorMessage("Can’t quote current selection because no post windows are open. This script works on selected text in the frontmost post window.") of me
    end try
    set |new text| to ""
    set |text to quote| to the selected text of the front post window
    set |text lines| to the count of the paragraphs in the |text to quote|
    repeat with ii from 1 to |text lines| - 1
        set |new text| to |new text| & "    " & paragraph ii of |text to quote| & return
    end repeat
    if paragraph |text lines| of |text to quote| is not "" then
        set |new text| to |new text| & "    " & paragraph |text lines| of |text to quote| & return
    end if
    set the selected text of the front post window to |new text|
end tell

More as they come.

MarsEdit applescript: the way it should be

Having temporary luck with MarsEdit is prompting a couple of quick posts detailing some Applescripts I wrote to improve my workflow in the app. I like to write in Markdown, but Blogger requires HTML (as far as I know; haven’t spent much time on the whole thing).

So, easy to fix with Applescript. Just write something that’ll “Markdown” the text in my MarsEdit window (including SmartyPants) and then send the post through. Here we go:

tell application "MarsEdit"
    set plaintext to the body of the front post window
end tell

tell application "Finder"
    set homepath to POSIX path of (home as alias)
end tell

set markdown to "/usr/bin/perl " & homepath & "bin/Markdown "
set smartypants to "/usr/bin/perl " & homepath & "bin/SmartyPants -2 "
set webtext to do shell script "echo " & quoted form of plaintext & " | " & markdown & " | " & smartypants

tell application "MarsEdit"
    set the current text of the front post window to webtext
    tell the front post window to send post to weblog
end tell

I know it’s not the best Applescript ever, but it makes life for me much easier.

A brief foray into consistent sleeping

This is a short note, since I shouldn’t be spending extra time, to discuss my temporarily new sleeping arrangements.

It was always my plan before trying out polyphasic sleep to practise some self-discipline and learn how to get up at the same time every day. Well, three days in and it’s still working :). I’ve been getting up at 7am each day, which is pretty substantial for me, and while I feel that my days have been less productive, for now I’m taking that as another hurdle to get over.

So how have I managed to stay away while rising so early? Lots of naps. It’s my precursor to polyphasic sleep. I’m feeling especially now I’ve been napping occasionally for over a week now that they improve my wakefulness substantially in only 10 to 25 minutes. Sometimes I don’t even go to sleep, but for whatever reason the relaxing and closing of eyes and letting thoughts wander is recuperative by itself.

Anyway, you’re not exactly interested in hearing this. Suffice it to say that I’m taking the first steps to stabilise and organise my waking life.