229 Articles


12 years Ago

Apple does listen

Published by marco on

Ever since Apple starting shipping software on the Windows platform—before iTunes, Apple’s presence was considerably smaller—users have complained of its rather aggresive installation policy. If you wanted Quicktime, the Apple site offered Quicktime+iTunes; when you installed iTunes, you were asked whether you wanted Safari. Though extra software could all be avoided by reading before installing, the fact is that most users simply accept the defaults. In Apple’s defense, their checkboxes... [More]

On Developer Control

Published by marco on

The iPad debuted, as expected, without support for Adobe Flash. Many industry observers spend very little time thinking about possible reasons for Apple’s continued resistance to Flash and instead very quickly come to the conclusion that Apple either “has it in for Adobe” or “likes to screw with its users”.

Since Adobe has been, is and will be one of the prime developers of content on OS X, it is highly unlikely that Apple “has it in for Adobe”. They might be getting a bit frustrated with... [More]

Big Brother is (Efficiently) Watching You

Published by marco on

When it was revealed that the Bush administration was wire-tapping whomever the hell it pleased without a warrant, the country was up-in-arms for a minute or two. Once that barely risen dust had settled—with the Bush administration having changed its policy in no significant way—the American public consoled itself that at least the gross inefficiencies of government would prevent too many of them from being wiretapped.[1] Luckily, tons of tax dollars and the willing cooperation of large... [More]

10/GUI Multitouch Interactive Device (Proposal)

Published by marco on

10/GUI by R. Clayton Miller documents a design proposal for a way to better incorporate multi-touch technology into everyday computing.

10/GUi by R. Clayton Miller

Executive summary:

  • Your arms are too heavy to be able to multi-touch on-screen.
  • Your arms and hands are not transparent.
  • The mouse has only a single point of contact (not counting mouse-gesturing, which offers more degrees of freedom).
  • What about putting the multi-touch surface on the table instead of on the screen?
  • Manipulating classically clipped and overlapped windows is... [More]

Cocoa Finder, Please

Published by marco on

For we Mac-users still stuck in a pre-”Snow Leopard” world, the occasional glitches in the Finder still rear their ugly heads from time to time. Sometime over the summer, my system got its panties into a bunch to such a degree that, though the system was not technically crashed or unusable (or potentially rescue-able), it was just easier to kill it and reboot. Upon reboot, I was greeted with a “something awful seems to have happened; could you tell us what you were doing when it all went wrong?”... [More]

13 years Ago

Wolfram Alpha

Published by marco on

 Wolfram Alpha aims to save you a bunch of clicks when searching information online. You should probably check out the screencast by Stephen Wolfram (13½ minutes) in order to get really charged up. The reality is that it kind of works like it does in the screencast. I started off by requesting some information about the town in which I grew up, namely its population. That worked just fine, but it couldn’t find historical information, so no fancy graphs for me. So, I chose a larger nearby city and it did just... [More]

Wireless networking in modern operating systems

Published by marco on

Once you’ve worked with computers for a while, you end up with a lot of them around. They don’t seem to outgrow their usefulness as quickly as they used to and they manage to limp onward more reliably as well. That doesn’t, however, mean that all is rainbows and ponies when using them with newer technologies.

Exhibit A: wireless networking.

As it stands, I’m in charge of IT support for four wireless devices: a 6½-year–old iMac (scoop-of-white-rice edition) with OS X Tiger (Idun), a... [More]

Non-essential Drive Failure in the OS X Finder

Published by marco on

The Finder in OS X is a notoriously old, cantankerous piece of software. With every major operating system release from Apple, we wait with bated breath for the announcement of a long-awaited replacement. There are two primary reasons for this: support for external drives, like CD- or DVD-players and support for networked volumes. In both cases, OS X, ostensibly a multi-tasking powerhouse, capitulates completely to the whim of the external resource, slowing to a crawl that is often nearly... [More]

Things That Should Not Be (Songsmith Edition)

Published by marco on

As the saying goes, everything can be made better with a liberal application of technology. With Guitar Hero and Rock Band making millions of people feel that they, too, could play music, even though they are, at best, doing an instrumental version of lip-syncing along with a recording, Microsoft Research throws Songsmith on the table in what they clearly feel is the answer to many people’s dreams—the dream of having a keyboard from the 80's back up your atrocious singing.

 A visit to the... [More]

Texting is Cheap

Published by marco on

The article, What Carriers Aren’t Eager to Tell You About Texting by Randall Stross (NY Times) digs into the pricing and cost structures for text messages (SMS’s[1]) sent via cell phone. It cites astounding numbers of messages sent per year and talks about 10-fold growth in messaging across the spectrum and around the world, but the upshot is: transmitting text messages costs next to nothing so long as an infrastructure for transmitting telephone calls is already in place. That is, the graph of cost to number of messages... [More]

Gadgets with a Mind of their Own

Published by marco on

Say you’re hiking. In the cold, in the snow, but moving right along, moving quickly enough to partially fog your sunglasses. Yet still, despite your ferocious pace and partially obscured view, you spot a lovely photo opportunity. Decelerating, you unhook the loop of a hiking pole from your left hand, then clamp said pole under your right arm while you dig around in your left pocket for your cell phone camera. By now, you’re stopped and trying desperately not to drag anything else out of your... [More]

Adobe Illustrator CS4

Published by marco on

I’ve dabbled with graphics tools for a long time, starting with Super Paint on Apple’s System 6 & 7 way back in the day, moving through a succession of icon and bitmap editors and settling for several years on Macromedia Fireworks. It was one of the first applications with a focus on producing web output and one of the first that was capable of saving compressed PNG files with alpha transparency. It also marked a transition to vectorized graphics from the more traditional rasterized graphics.... [More]

The G1 Phone: Do Not Want

Published by marco on

Google has entered the mobile market with the G1, a phone—as described in The G1: Almost perfect (CrunchGear)—for “the programmer and the geek and, in a way, the average consumer”. In a very, very small way. First of all, look at it:

 G1 Phone

It’s a smart-phone and aimed squarely at the smart-phone market, but don’t even try to mention that the “average consumer” is even conceivably a target market for this monstrosity. It looks huge[1], way bigger than a BlackBerry or an iPhone. With it’s slide-out keyboard and... [More]

14 years Ago

A Brief History of the Book Library

Published by marco on

This article is written in response to a couple of incredulous emails I received about my recent publication of a handbook for the Book Library, which seemed like a lot of work documenting an application in use by two people, with no hopes of ever being used by more.

The Book Library as it is today is a Windows-only application built with Atlas, a Borland Delphi-based framework available from Opus Software AG.

I used to work at Opus, and the Book Library is the application I wrote to get a... [More]

Pie-in-the-Sky Ideas

Published by marco on

The world is full of ideas, some of them good. There are some ideas that sound so damned good that they keep coming back, no matter how many times they’ve been stabbed through the heart with a wooden stake. They are ideas about products not enough people want (pet supplies online), products offered under impractical conditions (DRM music) or products that would never work (hovercars). And then there are the all-encompassing theories-of-everything (TOEs) of the IT world that haunt the R&D... [More]

Vista, the Final Days

Published by marco on

This article was originally published on the Encodo Blogs. Browse on over to see more!

Vista under the Christmas tree

If you’re planning to buy a computer this holiday season—and you don’t opt for the shiny goodness of an iMac or iBook—then you’ll probably be getting Windows Vista. Windows Vista is very shiny and pretty and probably sounds like a great alternative to its predecessor, Windows XP. However, the minor improvements to the file explorer and organization (and major ones to... [More]

CSS Animations & Transforms in Safari 3.1

Published by marco on

Webkit, the rendering engine on which the Safari browser is based has been quite aggresive in its support for advanced CSS3 features. Since the engine is used in many Apple applications and on all of their platforms (e.g. the iPhone and iTouch), the need for slickness there drives innovation everywhere.


The trend lately has been to move to flashy effects done with JavaScript libraries that can manipulate the DOM and address elements using CSS selectors. There are many top... [More]

Using Miro

Published by marco on

So you’d like to watch TV shows whenever you like, but you’re too lazy to Tivo them yourself? Or maybe you live in a foreign country and would like to stay up-to-date on American culture? Let the magic of newsfeeds maintained by Tivo-using obsessives and the Miro Player do your work for you. It works like this:

Get Miro
Download and install the Miro Player. This player can check video newsfeeds, showing what’s available and letting you download a show from one or more sources. Once you’ve... [More]

Undersea Cables

Published by marco on

 Here’s a great diagram of the Fibre-optic Submarine Cable Systems (The Guardian) encircling the globe. In addition to an map of the cable systems throughout the world, it provides some statistics about the recent shipping accident that severed four of those cable lines, killing the internet and business traffic for almost 80 million users. The government of Egypt was exhorting its citizens to lay off downloading movies and songs for a day or two so that “more important” business could use the bandwidth. If... [More]

MacBook Air

Published by marco on

 Apple recently announced a new laptop that weighs only 3 pounds and is less than an inch thick at its thickest and only a quarter of an inch thick at its slender foward edge.[1] It’s a nice step forward, combining a large, excellent screen with a full-size, back-lit keyboard to provide a very comfortable mobile experience. It’s got an iSight camera, plenty of RAM and all the wireless goodies you’d expect. The drive is a bit small (only 80GB) and might also be a bit slow, there aren’t many ports... [More]

Linux Audio (in 39 Easy Steps)

Published by marco on

Audio in Linux is awesome (darkness) document’s one man’s journey to being able to edit an MP3 file under Linux. Included are the following gems:

  • Look at the Ardour interface. Decide that (1) it’s not what I want, and (2) dear god that is ugly. Is that Tk? Motif? Holy hell. Run away.
  • Read “The simplest, and least-secure way to provide real-time privileges is running jackd as root. This has the disadvantage of also requiring all of JACK clients to run as root.” Yeah, no.

One... [More]

15 years Ago

Trillian vs. Pidgin

Published by marco on

This article was originally published on the Encodo Blogs. Browse on over to see more!

Trillian is a multi-protocol chat client that’s been around for a quite a while, with both a free version and a professional version, which includes extra features and support. Their version has stagnated quite significantly, offering a grand total of one update over the last three years or so. The feature set is robust and it does pretty much everything you need from a chat client, but its look and feel... [More]

OS X Quartz vs. Windows ClearType

Published by marco on

The release of Safari for Windows seems to be the only issue worth discussing for most of the technology world. Whether it’s the horrific zero-day exploits (already patched, but still a rocky start), the crashing bookmarks for non-US English-speaking users or the ridiculous amount of effort put into making Safari exactly the same on Windows as it is on OS X—including all controls (scrollbars, buttons, etc.), behavior (can only resize from the bottom-left) and, last but not least, the... [More]

CableCom Now Requires Authentication for SMTP Relay

Published by marco on

This article addresses a very specific problem involving people matching the following criteria:

  1. You live in Switzerland.
  2. You are a Cablecom customer.
  3. You send mail using their SMTP relay.

If any of the conditions above fails to apply to you, there is really very little need for you to read further, unless you wish to be bedazzled by scintillating prose unlike any you have likely ever seen. If so, by all means, read on.


If you do match all of the conditions above, you have... [More]

Sony Ericsson K750i

Published by marco on

This marvel of technology is only about a year and half old, so it had at least a decade of cell phone software to build on when it came out. Still there are enough usability problems in the software—which, honestly, doesn’t have to do very much other than send bits of text to peopel—to frustrate even the calmest person. Some say that the iPhone has nothing to offer a market already saturated with hundreds of models; that the big touch screen and other hardware doodads aren’t enough to... [More]

Safe Sleep Mode and Dead Batteries

Published by marco on

According to MacBook Battery Is Toast After Being Fully Drained by Dan Benjamin (HiveLogic), Apple brings a whole new meaning to the term “dead battery”. According to the article, OS X can sometimes drain a battery so irrevocably that it can never be charged again. It’s a hardware problem that affects a small percentage of users. What’s interesting is the reaction to the problem by Benjamin, one of the Apple faithful. Instead of tearing Apple a new one for not addressing this clear software/BIOS/whatever issue, he lamely... [More]

Free Software/Open Source

Published by marco on

The problem with the free software/open source (hereafter referred to as FS/OS) is, as with most other movements, its fanatics. And, as with other movements, it’s not the belligerent—who are relatively easy to disregard—but the self-righteous—who constantly demand attention with arguments that are almost convincing—that really put you off. Case in point: the recent announcement that Apple will be carrying EMI’s entire music catalog with digital rights management (DRM) at double the... [More]

You’re Free to Go

Published by marco on

So that’s that; the big brouhaha over Steve Jobs’s stock options has finally, officially blown over. It seems the 6th generation iPod and 1st generation iPhone are both safe for now. Disney Board Clears Current Pixar Execs (Yahoo News) has more information, but it basically boils down to:

“Although the manipulation itself isn’t necessarily illegal, securities laws require that companies properly disclose the practice in their accounting and settle any resulting charges.”

That’s it? Just a little... [More]

First Days with Microsoft Vista, Part II

Published by marco on

This article was originally published on the Encodo Blogs. Browse on over to see more!

In part one of this article, we discussed improvements to the user interface and basic applications like Windows Explorer. In this second part, we take a quick look at some usability issues associated with installation, networking and security.

Accessing known networks is snappy and pretty easy, taking advantage of an explorer that actually seems to use threads (shocking!) One down side is... [More]

First Days with Microsoft Vista, Part I

Published by marco on

This article was originally published on the Encodo Blogs. Browse on over to see more!

Past experience has shown that, while the initial reaction to the initial release of a Microsoft product can be very good, that curve degrades with time. With early versions, replace the verb “degrades” with “plummets”. Early on, the superficial glitz has the most power to distract from the deficiencies. Vista is far from an early version, coming as it does at the end of a long line of predecessors of... [More]