Stagger onward rejoicing

Tag: Apple (page 1 of 1)

crushed again

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Two of the best things I’ve read in response to the horrific “Crush” commercial Apple recently put out and half-heartedly apologized for: Mark Hurst and (especially) Mike Sacasas. I have to say that I’m finding it difficult to get over this: the ad has, I feel, given me a peek into the company’s soul, and what I see is a company that despises and mocks many of the things I most love. It’s scarcely more subtle than Mark Zuckerberg shouting “DOMINATION” to conclude Facebook meetings

Honestly, I just want to stop using Apple products altogether. But if I did, (a) that would complicate the lives of family and friends who rely on Apple; (b) since I never have managed to get on the Linux train, my practical alternatives would involve relying on companies (Google, Microsoft) that are ethically no better than Apple; and (c) I would be unable to support the work of independent Apple developers (Bare Bones, Panic, Omni, Rogue Amoeba, etc.) whose software has been enormously beneficial to me over the years. 

As I’ve thought about it, I’ve realized that that third consideration is a big one for me. David Smith (known to many as Underscore) is a longtime iOS developer who wrote recently about traveling to Cupertino for the upcoming WWDC — something he’s been doing for sixteen years. When he started attending the conference, he was excited about Apple, but now … not so much: 

It isn’t necessarily that Apple itself is the root of this community, but moreover (especially in those early days) they provided a focal point for like-minded developers and designers to coalesce around, which became this community. Apple aspires toward many of this community’s values, but as they have expanded their reach and scope, they feel more like the multi-trillion dollar company they in fact are. There are still countless folks within Apple who are absolutely my people, but over time, I’ve noticed that there is a growing separation between the corporation and the community.

I’ve heard a version of this sentiment from a number of Apple developers, bloggers, and power users: They used to love the things Apple made, they used to love what they could see of the company culture, but now they just enjoy the community of people who work on the same things they do. Apple has become almost incidental to that community — and indeed, it often seems that one of the strongest forces holding that community is a shared frustration with Apple’s indifference or even hostility to its developers, its increasingly problematic software, its bizarre neglect of some of its central products. For instance, no one has been a bigger booster, or more creative user, of the iPad than Federico Viticci, but just look at how frustrated he has become with iPadOS

Does Apple really want to create a community of developers and users bound to one another largely by anger at them? Probably not. But do they care to address anyone’s concerns? Certainly not. They think they’re invulnerable. Time will tell whether they’re right about that. But for the time being I will continue to use my Apple devices, in large part because I so admire the ongoing work of those developers whom Apple seems determined to discourage. 

DHH is exactly right: Apple has become too powerful, and with that power has come a sense of entitlement, and with that sense of entitlement has come a shortsighted pettiness and vindictiveness. I don’t want to support such a company, in part because I don’t have the bandwidth to go full Linux at the moment, but in. Larger part because, while I don’t want to support Apple, I do want to support the amazing developers who have created the software that makes my Mac a joy to use: people like Bare Bones, Panic, and Rogue Amoeba

It’s noteworthy, I think, that all three of those developers are either exclusively or primarily focused on the Mac as opposed to iOS, and it’s with regard to iOS that Apple has behaved most despicably. So maybe the best approach for me is to try to go all-in on the Mac and avoid iOS — a move I’ve long been tempted to make anyway. 

Also: I just realized that I first wrote about using Linux twenty-two years ago. If breaking from the Mac was hard then, it’s nearly impossible for me to contemplate now. 

speaking truth to power

Daring Fireball:

From a usability perspective, every single thing about Safari 15’s tabs is a regression. Everything. It’s a tab design that can only please users who do not use tabs heavily; whereas the old tab design scaled gracefully from “I only open a few tabs at a time” all the way to “I have hundreds of tabs open across multiple windows”. That’s a disgrace. The Safari team literally invented the standard for how tabs work on MacOS. The tabs that are now available in the Finder, Terminal, and optionally in all document-based Mac apps are derived from the design and implementation of Safari’s tabs. Now, Apple has thrown away Safari’s tab design — a tab design that was not just best-of-platform, but arguably best-in-the-whole-damn-world — and replaced it with a design that is both inferior in the abstract, and utterly inconsistent with the standard tabs across the rest of MacOS.

The skin-deep “looks cool, ship it” nature of Safari 15’s tab design is like a fictional UI from a movie or TV show, like Westworld’s foldable tablets or Tony Stark’s systems from Iron Man, where looking cool is the entirety of the design spec. Something designed not by UI designers but by graphic designers, with no thought whatsoever to the affordances, consistencies, and visual hierarchies essential to actual usability. Just what looks cool. This new tab design shows a complete disregard for the familiarity users have with Safari’s existing tab design. Apple never has been and should not be a company that avoids change at all cost. But proper change — change that breaks users’ habits and expectations — is only justifiable when it’s an improvement. Change for change’s sake alone is masturbatory. That with Safari 15 it actually makes usability worse, solely for flamboyant cosmetic reasons, is downright perverse. 

Gruber is absolutely right about this, and right to be angry about it. It’s a frustrating time to be an Apple user, because while the company’s hardware is getting better and better its software is getting worse and worse. Indeed, the whole software side needs a fundamental reorganization and an even more fundamental rebooting of priorities. 

Apple’s operating systems get more and more bells & whistles but have elementary functionality issues — for instance, Bluetooth has never worked reliably on MacOS; window management on iPadOS is an incoherent mess, though even so, it handles split-screening apps better than MacOS does. (I could extend that list for quite some time.) And Apple makes it very hard to sort out your sound inputs and outputs — which makes room for wonderful Mac apps like SoundSource, but come on: an easily-discoverable way of interacting with the computer’s sound should be built in to the system. (Because of the way that iOS and iPadOS are locked down, you can’t even have an app like SoundSource there. Your only option is to play search-and-guess in the Preferences app until, on a lucky day, you discover what you need.) 

Moreover, with just a few exceptions aside — Keynote for instance — Apple’s preinstalled apps are consistently bad. 

  • Mail is feature-deficient and has been unstable and crash-prone for years. (I generally have a strong aversion to Microsoft software, but Outlook, though poorly integrated into MacOS, has the features I need and is rock-solid. So that’s what I use.)
  • Calendar is likewise feature-limited, painfully tedious to enter data into, totally un-integrated with Reminders. (I use Fantastical instead.)
  • Pages and Numbers are good apps, but the people who make them have never figured out how they are supposed to deal with the dominance of Word and Outlook (and their file types).
  • Preview on the Mac is fine for what it does, but again it’s feature-limited; though not as limited as the barely-functional built-in PDF viewer on iOS and iPadOS. (I use PDF Expert instead, on all platforms.) 
  • And then there are the places where Apple clearly is not even trying. I mean, TextEdit — are you kidding me?  

And so on. What makes this situation more alarming is the dysfunctional and sometimes abusive relationship Apple has with its best developers. Hey Apple: Those are the people who make your computers worth using.  

UPDATE: You know what doesn’t work on my Mac? Dark mode. I click to enable it — nothing happens. Hasn’t worked for months. You know what else doesn’t work? Using AirPlay to play music on HomePods. A song plays for five seconds and then falls silent for the remainder of the song. When a new song begins, it also plays for five seconds before falling silent. People have been reporting this problem on various support sites for two years, but no fixes yet. Here’s another thing: One more: clicking on an app in the Dock doesn’t open the app but rather opens a Finder window. It seems to me that with every release the OS gets buggier. 

iPad update

Herewith an update to this post. 

Since I still don’t have a Mac I can easily use without broiling my fingers, I have continued to work on being a better user of the iPad. I’m running the iPad OS 14 beta, and am find it very useful to create Shortcuts for common actions and put them among the other widgets and also directly on the Home screen. For instance, here are my widgets:

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For those top two I created emails addressed to myself with the students in those classes BCC’d. So when I need to email my classes, as often I do, I just tap the relevant widget and an already-addressed compose window appears. Then I type the email, hit send, and I’m back where I was. Very neat.

The Daily widget opens a spreadsheet in Numbers where I keep track of various daily activities (exercise, food, and the like). I don’t need an additional app for that kind of thing because the one-tap access to a particular file fulfills that function.

Yeah, it’s hot in Texas.

The Drafts widget allows instant access to an app that I have come to love and rely on heavily. The library of add-ons for Drafts makes the app almost infinitely customizable and automatable. Most of what I write starts in Drafts, and many things finish there as well, because I can send text messages directly from Drafts and likewise post directly to my micro.blog page. (Posting directly to this blog from Drafts doesn’t seem possible right now but I am working on it.)

Here are some Shortcuts I’ve added to my Home Screen:

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The “Reading Mode” shortcut is one from Apple that I have edited to meet my needs. When I tap it, it (a) puts my iPad in Do Not Disturb mode for a pre-set number of minutes, (b) starts up my preferred background sound in Portal, and (c) opens my Kindle app. The “St. Alban’s” shortcut also puts the iPad in Do Not Disturb mode and opens my parish’s YouTube page. I do this each weekday morning at 7:30 — well, okay, most weekday mornings at 7:30, which is the time when one of our priests, either our rector Aaron Zimmerman or our associate rector Neal McGowan, says Morning Prayer for his socially-distanced flock. Note that Apple allows me to choose an appropriate glyph for my “church app.”

There are still some things I need to do that I can’t do from the iPad, or can do only with great difficulty, but those are growing fewer in number. Certainly I’ve never had a Mac that was as precisely calibrated to my needs as this iPad is, though I suppose I could have had one if I had devoted enough attention to apps like Keyboard Maestro, or to the power of AppleScript. But Drafts and Shortcuts make automation very, very simple. It wouldn’t be easy for me to abandon the system I have developed over the past few months.

betwixt and between

My employer, Baylor University, graciously provides me with a computer, a MacBook Pro; but it also loads that computer with a whole bunch of enterprise software apps that from the perspective of an IT manager are useful but from the perspective of a user are sheer malware. The chief problem: these apps eat CPU cycles at a terrifying rate — consistently over 100%, sometimes spiking to 300% or more, which I didn’t even know was possible — which means that the computer’s fan runs full-speed all the time and the computer is still too hot to touch. As a result, I’ve had to turn the laptop into a desktop by hooking it up to an external monitor and keyboard, which works just fine … but I really need a machine I can carry around. So I started shopping for one.

If this had happened a year ago, I would have bought another MacBook straightaway; but the release of the new iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard complicated the choice for me. Not to prolong the suspense: I bought the iPad, and have been using it for a couple of months now; recently I’ve been using it full-time, because the MacBook Pro is in the shop to have its battery replaced.

How do I feel about my choice? It’s complicated.

On the plus side:

  1. Everything about the iPad is faster: It starts up, wakes from sleep, connects to Bluetooth devices faster, and connects to WiFi networks far more quickly than the Mac does.
  2. Its battery life is roughly three times that of my Mac. (No matter what Apple promises, my portable Macs always get 4–5 hours of battery life at most. If I get on a Zoom call that goes down to two hours.)
  3. The Magic Keyboard is fabulous to type on, better than any other keyboard I own (and I have several).
  4. Annotating PDFs with an Apple Pencil is an elegant experience (and using the Pencil is only going to get better with iPad OS 14). This matters because I read a lot of PDFs.
  5. Generally, the modularity of the iPad, its usability in a variety of configurations, is delightful.

On the minus side:

  1. The best software for the iPad is elegant, but rarely is it as powerful as its Mac equivalents. For instance, no text editor on the iPad has even a quarter of the functionality of BBEdit. There’s no blogging app remotely like MarsEdit.
  2. Because the iPad is so thoroughly sandboxed, it is impossible to create the kind of system-wide utilities that accelerate and simplify work on the Mac, especially repeated tasks. There are a number of individual apps on the iPad that support TextExpander, but on the Mac TextExpander works everywhere. You can’t have a Keyboard Maestro or a Hazel for the iPad. You can, of course, create Shortcuts that perform some of the tasks those utilities perform, but you have to run those shortcuts. Nothing happens automatically.
  3. For similar reasons, you can’t control the sound inputs and outputs on an iPad the way you can on the Mac: the magnificent audio software from Rogue Amoeba simply can’t be made for the iPad. (By the way, Apple’s App Store polices make it difficult for Rogue Amoeba even to make Mac apps, as they explain here.)
  4. While the Magic Keyboard’s trackpad works quite well most of the time, some apps don’t support it well, and it still behaves inconsistently at times. That should get better over time, though.
  5. The iPad has no Terminal.

What’s my overall verdict? Honestly, I just don’t know. I wrote this post for myself, as a way of trying to figure out whether I should have bought the iPad, but also as a way of figuring out what I should to in the future. Right now I don’t have much of a choice: I have to make the iPad work for me. But I have a feeling that as time goes by I’m going to be increasingly frustrated with its limitations. 

Dear Apple

Dear Apple,

I bought my first Apple products — the original (512k!) Macintosh and an ImageWriter printer — in the spring of 1985, and in the decades since have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on things made by you. Do you know why I have been so loyal all these years? Two reasons. One, the quality of your hardware. Two, the quality of the software made by independent developers who create for your platform.

Your own software — operating system and apps alike — has been woefully inconsistent. Every OS release, on all your platforms, brings new features but also new bugs. Especially on the Mac I have perpetual problems with wi-fi, Bluetooth, window management, and support for external monitors. iOS is comparatively more stable but after ten years it’s still impossible even to select text reliably. Your apps are mediocre to poor, with only a few exceptions: GarageBand is a great app, as is Keynote; Preview for the Mac is excellent, and Pages and Numbers have gotten better and better. But again, those are exceptions. Mail is an unmitigated disaster. Safari is adequate but feature-poor and only to a limited degree extensible (though at least it doesn’t eat memory the way Chrome does). Messages is barely adequate on iOS, seriously underpowered on the Mac. Even your Settings and System Preferences apps are poorly designed, in the case of iOS shockingly so.

But you have some amazing developers writing apps for your platforms. Some of the best apps, in my experience:

I could go on. But what I want to say in this post is simply this: Apple, you need to realize that these developers, whose work is better than that of almost any of your own software designers, drive the success of your platform. And yet, as recent events have reminded us, your treatment of them is shabby at best and in some cases indefensible. You charge them extortionate rates for appearing in your App Stores — some are not well-known enough to survive outside an App Store and yet your 30% cut eats so heavily into their profits that it’s barely worth their time to make software — and you apply your rules for appearing in those store inconsistently, even capriciously.

Your behavior has been so frustrating to the people at Rogue Amoeba that they have gotten out of the Mac App Store almost wholly — as Bare Bones, the makers of BBEdit, also did for a few years — but not every developer has the kind of widespread and loyal user base that Rogue Amoeba and Bare Bones do. And of course the iOS App Store is the only source for iOS apps, which may explain why Rogue Amoeba doesn’t make any iOS apps.

Apple, your arrogant and dictatorial behavior makes no sense. It’s not in your interest to frustrate your best independent developers. It’s in your interest to get smart, talented people excited about developing for your platforms. Heck, maybe you should be paying them. But short of that, there are three things you need to do:

  1. Apply your existing rules consistently.
  2. Alter those rules to promote maximum creativity and ambition in Mac/iOS software development.
  3. Take a smaller cut so more developers can stay in the game.

it’s official …

… MacOS is now more stable than iOS/iPadOS. Which I wouldn’t have believed even a couple of months ago. Marco Arment has gone on an appropriate rant about this, concluding, “Your software quality is broken, Apple. Deeply, systemically broken. Get your shit together.” 

I’ve had plenty of problems since iOS 13 arrived, but here’s my most recent story: I was using Instapaper and Fantastical in split screen view on my iPad, and then one of them (I think it was Instapaper) crashed, which brought down the other. Tapped on one, both showed up for an instant, then both crashed. Tapped on the other, same result. Used swipe-up-to-quit both apps, tried again, same result. Re-booted the iPad, same result — the two apps are apparently joined in a suicide pact. So if I want to use my iPad I have to do so without using either of those two apps, both of which are longtime daily fixtures to me. I guess I have to wait for an update to one of the apps or for the next point release of iPadOS. 

So I’m on my MacBook, whose keyboard I’m not crazy about — though at least it actually registers the keys I type, and does so only once per keystroke, which sets it apart from the Macs of many users. 

These persistent Apple problems have been enough to drive longtime Mac user and developer David Heinemeier Hansson to Windows. But that didn’t go so well


iPadOS has rendered my iPad unusable, with a very strange combination of errors. For instance:

  • The screen freezes in many different apps, usually requiring the app to be quit and restarted, sometimes requiring the iPad to be rebooted
  • The Smart Keyboard Folio occasionally fails to connect to the iPad
  • When the Smart Keyboard Folio connects, sometimes it types in ALL CAPS and cannot be made to stop doing so without a reboot
  • All Bluetooth connections are inconsistent and unreliable
  • Some iCloud folders will not sync from other devices, even after days

I’ve used the iPad a lot over the past couple of years, despite the fact that it is a far less powerful and capable machine than a Mac. I have done so because it has been rock-sold stable and everything about it has Just Worked. Now it’s going in a drawer for a few months.

(Strangely enough, while everyone else has been having miseries with Catalina it has worked great for me: in particular, it seems to have fixed the Wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity issues that have plagued my Macs for the past several OS X releases. Go figure.)

ethical evaluation

I’ve been trying to think about Apple’s deep embedding in a corrupt and tyrannical Chinese regime, and what that means for me, for my long-term commitment to Apple’s products. My first approach to the problem was a rough sketch of the issues involved in the use of any technology: 


But as soon as I did this I realized that I was conflating certain categories that might better be kept distinct. For instance, “usefulness”: What makes something useful? A leafblower is useful in the sense that it moves a great many leaves around quickly; but a rake, while it moves those leaves much more slowly, gives its user more exercise without endangering his or her hearing, and those are valuable features. The ideal balance of the different kinds of usefulness will vary from person to person. It drives me nuts when I’m sitting outside and a lawn service shows up at a nearby house: here comes the deafening racket of the leafblowers, which will drive me inside for the next half-hour at least. But those guys are trying to make a living, which the use of rakes would make it considerably harder for them to do. I get that. I hate it, but I get it. 

Or: Linux is useful in the sense that I can do almost any computer-related task on it, but such a task will often be, for me anyway, dramatically more difficult than on more polished systems. So I rank Linux as not especially useful to me

The other axis, that of ethics, is even more difficult. Apple’s Chinese entanglements massive compromise the ethical status of the company, and in more than one way. (Which is worse, obedience to the demands of the Chinese government or the exploitation of Chinese labor?) But Apple also deserves some praise for its commitment to privacy and its truly wonderful work in making its computers accessible to a wide range of users. I don’t know how to make an ethics spreadsheet, as it were, that assembles all the relevant factors — including comparisons to the available alternatives — and gives them proper weighting.

In the end, I think most of us make this kind of decision by some kind of sixth sense, an un-unpackable feel for what’s the best, or the least bad, option in the given circumstances. I wonder if that sense is wholly irrational or whether, on some deep and inaccessible level, it’s actually finding a means to weigh what we don’t consciously know how to weigh. 

Apple News vs. RSS

What Michael Tsai says about Apple News is correct:

I continue to find Apple News to be disappointing. It’s like Apple reinvented the RSS reader with less privacy (everything goes through an Apple tracking URL) and a worse user experience (less control over fonts, text that isn’t selectable, no searching within or across stories). So the idea of content that must be accessed from the app — and likely can’t even be opened in Safari — is not attractive to me.

Those are among the reasons I deleted Apple News from my iOS devices — Apple won’t let you delete it from the Mac — some time ago. But I downloaded it again yesterday and signed up for the trial subscription to News+ just to check out developments. I found that the problems Tsai mentions are still there, along with what is for me the single greatest deterrent to using Apple News: Apple’s insistence on feeding you clickbaity stories, especially about celebrities, no matter how many times and in how many ways you try to indicate that you don’t want to see them.

When you sign up for News+, you get a list of suggested magazine content in a sidebar, and can click/tap a Like button to get stuff from that magazine or a not-Like button to … well, to do what? Because when I tapped the not-Like button next to Vanity Fair I still got stories from Vanity Fair in my feed. And I found this to be true of several other magazines as well.

Apple is taking a Facebook-like approach to News: “No, you don’t tell us what you want, we tell you what you want.” So I canceled my subscription after about an hour.

Here’s a cool fact for you all to keep in mind: Guess what you see when you look at your RSS reader? Exactly what you chose to subscribe to. Neither less nor more.

cost-benefit ratios

Now that Apple has announced its next-generation AirPods, I see that I can get a charging pad that will charge the charging case that will charge the earbuds that allow me to play audio on my phone.

It seems to me that we’ve reached a point in consumer electronics at which the cost/benefit ratios are all out of whack. Indeed it is convenient to have wireless earbuds — or it would be if the number of devices that need charging weren’t proliferating. Moreover, the battery life of the AirPods is continually declining, something that can be “fixed” only by buying another set of AirPods. I don’t like the tradeoffs here. When I use my wired earbuds, it’s true that I have to deal with the wire, but it’s also true that they always work. They work on a wide range of devices, and they don’t decline in usability over time. (Though by eliminating the headphone jack from their phones Apple has made it more difficult for people to have one set of [wired] headphones to use in every situation. Which I think is an asshole move.)

Or consider wireless charging of phones: It sounds cool, but because the charging is so slow experts recommend that you keep a wired charger around for when you’re in a hurry. Or, alternatively, you could just not buy a wireless charger and accept the additional eight-tenths of a second it takes to plug your phone into a cord.

A similar logic applies to the “smart home”: when I finally thought about the amount of time that I have spent trying to get smart lightbulbs to work, and then trying to get them up and running again after a power outage, I realized that the infinitesimal savings of time and energy they provided made them a net drain on my life. Get up and flip a switch on the wall! It’s not hard!

And now I’m reading about people who are struggling with the inability to reboot their shoes. It’s not that these products don’t offer benefits, but that the benefits are tiny in comparison to the investment of time/energy/money that you have to make in order to get them and keep them working. I think I’l continue to opt out of most of them.

back to the Mac

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past year trying to leave the Mac behind and move full-time to iOS. I’ve done this in large part because the many and various problems I’ve had with the last several versions of Mac OS have convinced me that it’s not getting Apple’s best attention, that iOS is likely to be the more reliable platform in the future, and that I’d do well to start adapting my patterns and habits accordingly.

Of course, iOS isn’t the only option, and in fact, a couple of years ago I tried to move to Linux. But not only am I pretty heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, my family members are also, and on Linux I really missed the convenience of sharing apps, answering phone calls on my computer, Messages, FaceTime, etc. So I was gradually sucked back into Cupertino’s orbit.

So, I tried Linux, and then I tried iOS. Now I’m back to the Mac. Why? There are many reasons, but here are the biggies:

  • As many, many people have pointed out, text selection has never worked consistently in iOS and has not improved even a little bit over the past few years. And text selection is something I do a lot of.
  • I have often sung the praises of pandoc — it is essential to my work — and there is simply no equivalent of pandoc on iOS. You can do most of the things pandoc does there, but with more steps, more effort, and less consistent results.
  • Mojave has fixed all the problems I had with the previous two or three versions (I’m especially pleased that wifi and Bluetooth both work flawlessly now).
  • On iOS, TextExpander works in some apps; on the Mac, it works everywhere. This is huge for me. I have developed a very large library of TextExpander snippets over the years, and when I’m writing in an app and they don’t work I get weird glitches in my neural software.

And I don’t enjoy getting weird glitches in my neural software. So I’m back on a Mac.

“What are they going to break this time?”

Riccardo Mori:

The WWDC will start in less than a day at this point, and I have no wishlist to share. I used to get excited before this kind of Apple event; now I’m just trepidatious. Once I used to look forward to the next thing Apple would introduce, I used to wonder What are they going to show us? Now I anxiously wonder, What are they going to break this time? The list of things I wish Apple would fix is getting longer and I won’t bore you once again with my complaints, so I’ll condense everything into a single wish — I would like for Apple to reassure me as a long-time user and customer. Reassure me that they have a plan, that they have the most important things under control, that they’re not like one of those motorised toy cars that keep crashing against obstacles at maximum speed, then change direction randomly until they hit the next obstacle, and so forth.

revolutionary products

When Jobs announced the device, he called it “a revolutionary product”, one of those that comes along and “changes everything”. In many ways he was right. Merchant describes it as an agent of “civilisation-scale transformation”, the first universally desired, portable technology since clothes. But by the end of the book he backs away from this a bit. A welcome note of humility comes from an engineer who helped build the software: he points out that devices tend only to dazzle in their moment: “My wife is a painter. She does oil painting. When she does something, it’s there forever. Technology – in 20 years, who’s going to care about an iPhone?”

Jacob Mikanoswki. I suppose that depends on what you mean by “care about an iPhone”: in 20 years iPhones as such may not exist, but I suspect that most people will care very much about the always-connected way of life that the iPhone first made feasible and attractive. In the same way, if in the future every word of text is produced and distributed digitally, no one will care about the printing press; they may not even know what a printing press is; but they will care very much about the world the printing press first made possible. (I’m not saying that the iPhone as an invention is as important as the printing press. I’m also not saying that it won’t be.)

I don’t trust this stuff anymore. It was the very reliability of it — in user-friendly design, as well as stability of functionality — that was the basis of my choice in the first place, and continued choices for decades since. I don’t care about the brand itself, and I have no intellectual investment in the platforms as a developer anymore. I just need things that work, and that I can rely on working. I say this with the utmost regret, sadness, and no small sense of betrayal: Apple doesn’t seem to make those things anymore.

Good News for Mac Users

Cabel Sasser, writing about how 2014 went at Panic Software, breaks down November sales by unit sold:


And then by revenue:


Cabel isn’t totally sure what to make of these numbers, but he says that Panic is “less likely to tackle any huge new iOS projects until we get this figured out.”

For me, a Mac user who merely dabbles (almost always grumpily) in iOS, this is great news. For the past few years my fear has been that Mac developers would be seduced by the hope of getting the iOS App Store to promote their app, leading to a Flappy Bird-like killing, and in that hope would neglect to make cool and/or useful Mac apps. But it seems that, for the really classy developers anyway, the Mac is likely to remain the better option for a steady revenue stream.

On the iOS App Store quite dramatically, and to a lesser but still significant extent on the Mac App Store, Apple has a tendency to feature some pretty crappy apps: flashy, ugly, likely to have a short shelf life. See Marco Arment’s second point here:

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 8.39.42 PM

Moreover, the Mac App Store has been a source of great frustration to some of Apple’s most creative and loyal developers. In the same post I’ve been quoting from, Cabel writes about the decision to pull Panic’s web-development multitool Coda from the App Store:

To be honest, I was pretty nervous to be pulling Coda from the Mac App Store. But when we finally did it, I felt an incredible, almost indescribable sense of relief — mostly because as we began to wrap up bug fix releases, we were able to immediately post them to our customers within minutes of qualifying them. My god. That’s how it should be. There’s just no other way to put it — that’s how you treat your customers well, by reacting quickly and having total control over your destiny. To not be beholden to someone else to do our job feels just fantastic. (Also to not pay someone 30% in exchange for frequent stress is a fine deal.)

One of the very oldest Mac apps, and my favorite app in the whole world, BBEdit, will also be yanked from the App Store, for very similar reasons.

So it seems that we have a strange situation here: brilliant developers, makers of extraordinarily useful and innovative software, remain deeply devoted to the Mac as a platform, but feel forced to distance themselves from Apple as a company — because that company seems determined to make it harder for them to sell their best products and serve their customers properly. What a crazy world.

to know as I am known (by Apple)

IMG 0190

Take a good look at the iOS screenshot above and you’ll see something interesting. Look just above the keyboard, at the row of suggested words — a new feature in iOS 8, though one that has been around a while in Android.
Apple doesn’t just get its suggestions from a universal dictionary. Its description of this “predictive typing” says,
As you type, you’ll see choices of words or phrases you’d probably type next, based on your past conversations and writing style. iOS 8 takes into account the casual style you might use in Messages and the more formal language you probably use in Mail. It also adjusts based on the person you’re communicating with, because your choice of words is likely more laid back with your spouse than with your boss. Your conversation data is kept only on your device, so it’s always private.
The key phrase here is “based on your past conversations” — but it’s not only conversations that Apple is drawing on.
See the word “DeepArcher”? Not a dictionary word. In fact, it’s a recent coinage, from Thomas Pynchon’s 2013 novel Bleeding Edge, where it’s the name of an MMORPG. How did it make its way into a list of “predictions” for my typing?
This is how: I wrote a review of Bleeding Edge. Apple didn’t scan the internet for it, though; rather, a few months ago, I decided to test the “Open in” feature on my iPad, and opened the MS Word version of my review — I always send stuff to editors as .doc files, even though I never actually write anything in Word, and in fact don’t own it — in Pages, Apple’s own word processing application. By opening it in Pages, I saved it to iCloud, and Apple evidently uses all my documents in their cloud, as well as my “conversations” in Messages or in my .me mail (which I don’t use), to create a corpus from which its predictions may be drawn.
Either innocent or creepy, depending on how you think about it. But considering Pynchon’s status as the unquestioned poet laureate of paranoia, there’s something perversely appropriate about that word showing up on my keyboard — and about my surprise when it did.