Now my bugs can get ignored for months and then hastily and unhelpfully closed in a much nicer-looking interface.
Now my bugs can get ignored for months and then hastily and unhelpfully closed in a much nicer-looking interface.
Just found this while organizing old files: the resume/CV from early 2006 that got me the job at Davidville (which became Tumblr).
I’m amused by how much it foreshadowed the next parts of my career. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know to use en dashes for the year ranges. And I’m a bit scared how little I’ve actually diverged since then.
Alex Payne addresses many of the problems and myths of “startups” and their culture.
Added next to this in my mental file of favorite things written about startups. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of great startups so far, but I’ve seen friends go through a lot of bullshit at not-so-great ones.
Jonny Evans, via Daring Fireball:
The BBC Trust today responded to a complaint the broadcaster favored iOS devices when it comes to adding features to its catch-up on demand iPlayer service for Android phones. This complaint was rejected because the Trust found “no evidence” to suggest iOS had been “unfairly favored.”
Instead of pro-Apple favouritism, the Trust found a series of quite logical reasons why Android lagged iOS when new features were added to iPlayer, mostly surrounding the “complexity and expense” of developing for Android.
Most Android users chose the platform for reasons other than a large selection of great apps, so they behave as you’d expect: they neither demand nor respect app quality, and that’s generally reflected in the apps. Everyone gets what they want… mostly.
An extremely vocal minority of Android users think they represent the whole, and they express intense, childish entitlement and resentment against developers who choose either not to develop an Android app or to give advantages to their iOS app. This minority demands equality for their platform with the intensity, victimhood, and entitlement you’d expect as if it was a civil rights issue.
Fortunately, it’s not.
I’m building a new app this summer, and no matter how much people badger me, I won’t go near Android this time. Their promised support and demand never panned out. I’ve learned my lesson: no matter what the vocal minority says, the rest of the market won’t back them up. It’s simply not worth it for this iOS developer to waste any time on an Android port. Your mileage may vary.
Competing with this model has, and will continue to, fail. … In fact, the only way things will change is through true disruption.
Read all three parts.
A desktop Tumblr client, Milk provides a window into a world and a quiet place to compose your thoughts. Like a cubby hole, but with an excellent view.
Try Milk for free now, or get it on the Mac App Store.
Thanks to Milk for sponsoring Marco.org this week.
Drew Baird, via Mac Rumors:
For what it’s worth - a couple of months ago I received a call from Douglas Brooks, Apples project manager for the new Mac Pro to address my concerns about the new machine. Obviously he didn’t tell me anything about the new MP, but asked me what I wanted to see. I told him expandability for extra graphics cards support, and memory expansion were at the top of my list amongst other things. His reply was simple:
“You are going to be really glad that you waited [to buy a new tower]. We are doing something really different here and I think you’re going to be very excited when you see what we’ve been up to. I can’t wait to show this off”.
First, some reasonable doubt here is warranted: it’s somebody on a forum recalling a phone conversation, months after it happened, in which an Apple employee allegedly gave vague hints about a future product. Even if Baird is credible, it’s probably safe to say that we can’t rely on these specific words. But the gist matches a common rumor that whatever replaces the current Mac Pro will be significantly different.
Lots of rumors have suggested significantly reduced internal storage and slots, relying on Thunderbolt for expansion, but the message from Apple has also been pretty clear that current Mac Pro fans won’t be disappointed by the update. I believe these are mutually exclusive.
Scaling down the Mac Pro without ruining the biggest reasons to buy it is no easy feat, and people who buy it aren’t really asking for it to be scaled down. We already have two Mac desktops that rely heavily on Thunderbolt for expansion, and most Mac Pro buyers don’t want them. Even Thunderbolt 2.0 still won’t be fast enough for extra RAM or high-performance GPUs, and the mass availability of Thunderbolt media peripherals still hasn’t happened — partly because Mac Pro owners still can’t use them. And while we can lose the optical bays without angering many people, it’s going to be tough convincing Mac Pro fans to give up internal hard-drive bays.
If the Mac Pro’s replacement doesn’t have at least 4 internal RAM slots, 2 PCI-Express slots, and 2–4 drive bays, Apple’s going to get a lot of angry professionals, and a lot of them are going to rush to buy refurbished 2010 Mac Pros.
One big question is whether they’ll still offer dual-socket configurations — their omission would anger many buyers, but not as many as those other changes, and the benefits could be substantial: they could stop relying on Intel’s less-frequently-updated 2P Xeons and make a much smaller, cheaper, cooler, more frequently updated lineup using the Xeon E3 series. But the E3, being only slightly different from Intel’s desktop chips, is limited to 32 GB of RAM, which wouldn’t be well-received in a system that has supported 128 GB since 2009.
Then there’s the Retina question. It feels like desktop Retina displays are still very far off, but by my calculations, Asus just announced a 31.5” one, as long as you usually sit at least 25 inches from it. (I sit almost exactly 25 inches from my 30” monitor, so this works.) The big limitation is GPU power, but…
Intel’s new Haswell processors promise to rectify this ailment, having made 4K support a headline feature of their integrated GPU…
Fortunately, Apple’s probably about to update their laptops to Haswell.
The other limiting factor for an external monitor is transmitting all of that video data over a cable: it would require Thunderbolt 2.0, which is coming this fall, at about the same time as the rumored Mac Pro replacement. Retina/4K-display capability in the Mac Pro’s GPU and interconnect, and a new display released with it, is a feature that many pros will pay quite a bit for.
The Mac Pro is usually only updated about every 18 months (cough), so if it can’t go Retina this fall, it might be a while. The technical needs and timing are tight for desktop Retina displays to make it in time for the Mac Pro replacement, but it does look possible, and that would indeed impress people and make us happy to have waited.
It would be unfortunate if the Haswell-generation laptops lack Thunderbolt 2.0 and can’t support an external Retina display, but the monitor is likely to cost over $2,000 at first, limiting its market to mostly Mac Pro buyers anyway. By the time the monitor is more affordable to the mass market, the laptops will be able to drive it.
Of course, it’s also possible, and probably more likely, that Apple will simply wait until the entire lineup has fast enough interconnects and GPUs to drive external $999 Retina displays before releasing them at all, but that’s probably at least 2 years away.
If Retina displays aren’t a feature of this year’s Mac Pro replacement, what will we get so excited about? What was worth skipping a major CPU generation and going 3 years without an update? And if we’re actually going to have less expansion than before in a system bought primarily for its expansion, what’s worth that?
Three friends of mine — John Gruber, Dave Wiskus, and Brent Simmons — secretly got together to build an app, and today they released the first version to the public.
You’ve probably heard about Vesper by now. I’ve been testing it for a while, and I think of it as a note shoebox with optional tagging. Many other apps, most of them for less money, allow you to write and store notes and photos, so it’s perfectly reasonable to ask why you should use Vesper over your existing text-notes app of choice.
Even for a 1.0, it’s pretty light on marketable features by 2013’s standards. It’ll lose a feature checklist comparison to almost every other popular text-notes app. Notably, Vesper can attach a photo to each note, or have photos that are notes without additional effort, which most Dropbox-syncing text-note apps can’t do. But Vesper can’t even sync to Dropbox.
From the outside, then, it’s easy to be dismissive or even resentful: How can these guys launch a relatively expensive text-note app that’s missing so many features of competing text-note apps?
It takes balls to release an iOS app in 2013 for $4.99.
It takes balls to enter this extremely crowded category.
It takes balls to release a note-shoebox app in 2013 that has no sync, import, or export.
It takes balls to name your note-shoebox app after a cocktail nobody has heard of, then to age-rate the app “12+ for mild alcohol references” just so the cocktail’s recipe can be included in the Credits screen.
It takes balls to give your note-shoebox app a nondescript, abstract icon to match its cocktail name so nobody who sees just the name and icon will have any idea what it does or likely be enticed to find out.
And it takes balls for these three high-profile people, whose collaboration naturally earns extremely high expectations and polarizing reactions, to build and release anything together.
The best thing I can tell you about Vesper is that the app reflects its creators. I imagine they’ll add sync in time because it’s critical and very useful — otherwise, I don’t expect Vesper to get many more features.
But every feature in the app is extremely deliberate and thought-out: every mechanic, every restriction, every interaction, every animation. Every detail.
It’s a nuanced, polished app that’s pleasant to use and exudes craftsmanship. Simple flavors, executed extremely well. A vesper.
Appalling, yet not surprising (which, itself, is appalling).
Spokespeople from some of the tech companies are denying involvement, but I don’t trust those denials at all: not only have they left a lot of potential loopholes in the wording, but the post-9/11 U.S. federal government, especially via the executive branch under Presidents Bush and Obama, has instituted conditions under which they can order online businesses to disclose user information and prevent them from ever disclosing the order’s existence or the actions taken.
PRISM claims to only be intended for monitoring “foreign” communications, but that’s just lip service: they have access to everything, they try to establish that a target may be foreign, and then they collect two degrees of Kevin Bacon out from them even if it includes Americans.
Let’s see if Obama has anything to say about this. And, more importantly, let’s see if he takes any action to restore reasonable rights to our citizens and businesses. My guess: he might say something promising, but probably not; either way, he won’t actually do anything about it. (Not that any other viable candidates would have.)
Times like this show the great value, to society as a whole, of widely available cryptography and open-source software. Even people with nothing to hide shouldn’t tolerate or permit overreaching government spying.
This week’s extra-long episode, in case you’re traveling for WWDC: Modernizing AppKit, wrapping old C APIs, type inference, Haswell and 15” Retina GPUs, Mac Pro speculation, WWDC predictions, and iOS 7 wishes.
Sponsored by Tonx and Squarespace.
New black-and-white photo app from my favorite iOS design firm, Pacific Helm.
I don’t have a lot to say about the app itself. Like Vesper, it’s nicely made and will please many buyers with its craftsmanship and design. But also like Vesper, it’s not the only app of its kind, it doesn’t have the most features, and it’s not the cheapest, so it’s probably not going to set the world on fire.
It does one thing well, and if you like that one thing and how they do it, it’ll be worth it to you. I like the photo effect, but I’m not really a photo-filters person, so I’ll neither use it much nor be qualified to speak much about how it compares to other filter apps.
But check out the website they made for it. Holy shit. (Watch the top for a bit.)
The Guardian reveals their source, at his request:
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”
Edward Snowden is a true American hero and patriot. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Special WWDC episode this week: Reactions to the keynote, the new Mac Pro, and iOS 7.
Sponsored by Backblaze and Windows Azure Mobile Services.
Squarespace is a beautiful and intuitive website publishing platform that allows anyone to easily create professional web pages, blogs, and galleries all in one place.
Simply start with one of Squarespace’s award-winning designs, add images and content, connect your social accounts, and you’ll have a website that looks great on every device.
All Squarespace accounts come with award-winning 24/7 support, as well as cloud hosting, real-time analytics, and a free domain.
Whether you’re a creative professional, business owner, or blogger, Squarespace makes it easy to bring your ideas to life.
Start your website for free today at Squarespace.com.
Thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring Marco.org this week.
One of my favorite patterns in our industry is when the old and established are wiped out by disruption, irrelevance, or changing fashions. Like a forest fire, clearing out the old is very destructive and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But what’s left behind is a clean slate and immense opportunity.
I don’t think we’ve ever had such an opportunity en masse on iOS. After what we saw of iOS 7 yesterday, I believe this fall, we’ll get our chance.
The App Store is crowded: almost every common app type is well-served by at least one or two dominant players. They’ve been able to keep their leads by evolving alongside iOS: when the OS would add a new API or icon size, developers could just add them incrementally and be done with it. Established players only became more established.
iOS 7 is different. It isn’t just a new skin: it introduces entirely new navigational and structural standards far beyond the extent of any previous UI changes. Existing apps can support iOS 7 fairly easily without looking broken, but they’ll look and feel ancient. Their developers are in a tough position:
I don’t think most developers of mature, non-trivial apps are going to have an easy time migrating them well to iOS 7. Even if they overcome the technical barriers, the resulting apps just won’t look and feel right. They won’t fool anyone.
This is great news.
Apple has set fire to iOS. Everything’s in flux. Those with the least to lose have the most to gain, because this fall, hundreds of millions of people will start demanding apps for a platform with thousands of old, stale players and not many new, nimble alternatives. If you want to enter a category that’s crowded on iOS 6, and you’re one of the few that exclusively targets iOS 7, your app can look better, work better, and be faster and cheaper to develop than most competing apps.
This big of an opportunity doesn’t come often — we’re lucky to see one every 3–5 years. Anyone can march right into an established category with a huge advantage if they have the audacity to be exclusively modern.
I’ll be invading one as soon as I can. Here’s hoping I’m right.
On this criteria, it’s clear that Cook is the right man for the job. I would contend that anyone that says otherwise doesn’t understand revolutions, doesn’t understand culture, and doesn’t understand Apple.
Ben Thompson’s on a hell of a roll.
At the bottom of my recent post on App Store pricing, I ended a three-paragraph footnote1 with this:
Abolishing the “top” lists from all App Store interfaces and exclusively showing editorially selected apps in browsing screens would do a hell of a lot more than trials to promote healthy app economics and the creation of high-quality software.
It was really a mental note to expand on that in a full article sometime, which I promptly forgot about. Fortunately, John August didn’t:
The App Store’s best-sellers lists hurt shoppers, developers and Apple. The charts create a vicious circle that encourages shitty business models and system-gaming. They’re a relic of a time when data was scarce. They should go away.
And Nick Dalton presented more alternatives.
The “top” list is a cop-out by Apple: it’s easy to implement and cheap to operate, and its results appear impartial and incontestible. I’m sure Apple thought this was a sweet solution.
But it has three major problems:
Since the “top” lists are featured so heavily in the App Store interfaces, many buyers appear to be buying from them as their primary store-browsing channel.3 These lists, and their mechanics, therefore deeply affect the entire app market in unsurprising ways.
The race to the bottom. Deceptive low-now, high-later pricing. Scam and clone apps. Shallow apps with little craftsmanship that succeed, but many high-quality apps unable to command a sustainable price. The “top” list encourages all of these — we’d still have them without the list, but to a substantially lesser degree.
Developers will optimize for whatever factor is being rewarded. The “top” list simply rewards developers for getting as many people as possible to buy or download the app once. There’s no reason to optimize for longer-term satisfaction or higher engagement after purchase.
It’s a lot like the Android market. Nobody — not Google, not the manufacturers, and certainly not the carriers — gives a shit if you hate your Android phone or put that cheap tablet in a drawer after a month. They’re optimizing for “top” lists, so they compete on price, flashiness, and huge retail incentives, usually at the expense of quality and long-term satisfaction.
Apple refuses to play that game in hardware. Why are they content to let it dominate their software ecosystem?
You can do better than “top” lists, Apple. Get rid of them and start rewarding great software.
Because that’s how I roll. ↩
Apple’s sub-par App Store iOS apps exacerbate this by often making it clunky or buggy to browse very deeply into the ranks. ↩
This is all just speculation based on fuzzy data, since developers still don’t have another important metric: where buyers came from. It would be extremely helpful to even have a simple breakdown between three huge channels: browsing the App Store, searching the App Store, or following a direct link. (Of course, more specific data from each of those would be even better. But I’d happily take this elementary breakdown in the meantime.)
Without this information, we have very little insight into why people buy our apps, which makes it harder to know where to invest our marketing efforts, how to price our app, or how to improve it. ↩
80 years after Ub’s invention, the multiplane is alive in iOS 7. Previous versions of iOS were built on a single plane with raised and textured areas on that surface, like a topographical map except with buttons instead of mountains. iOS 7 is instead designed with multiple flat layers. Each level is strikingly flat, but by layering two or three, spaced apart, Apple has achieved an overall sense of depth.
See also: Walt Disney explaning and demonstrating the multiplane camera.
Igloo is now free with up to ten people, helping you work better with your team and your clients. Get your (responsive!) Igloo, and start sharing blogs, calendars, files, forums, microblogs and wikis today. And as your Igloo grows, it’s only $12/person each month.
Build your own Igloo here. Or check out our hilarious Sandwich Videos.
Thanks to Igloo Software for sponsoring Marco.org this week.
I recorded this podcast with Myke like ten minutes ago and it’s already up. Gotta give 5by5 credit: they’re a machine.
It’s been a busy podcast week: I was also this week’s guest on The East Wing.
I tried to minimize overlapping content between shows, so if for some reason you can’t get enough of me, you can hear me on everyone’s podcast this week. (Recording ours tonight.)
I knew Marc Edwards would figure this out quickly. (What’s a superellipse?)
James Hague on algorithmic challenges and brain teasers in programming-job interviews:
…the vast majority of programming doesn’t involve this kind of algorithmic wizardry.
When it comes to writing code, the number one most important skill is how to keep a tangle of features from collapsing under the weight of its own complexity.
On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.
Randall Munroe (of xkcd) answering a question about theoretically boating on a lake of various liquid elements:
Liquid tungsten is really hard to work with.
Tungsten has the highest melting point of any element. This means there’s a lot we don’t know about its properties. The reason for this—and this may sound a little stupid—is that it’s hard to study, because we can’t find a container to hold it in. For almost any container, the material in the container will melt before the tungsten does.
The reason you’d quickly die if you rowed a boat through liquid nitrogen is also surprisingly interesting.
Randall’s “What If?” blog has become a must-read for me. Highly recommended if you’re the kind of geek to find stuff like this fascinating.
While I don’t employ the grid they created (and while I instead use the colors I chose), these feel interesting and balanced. Vibrant and bold, but not overbearing.
iOS 7 is a dramatic break from the previous colors and styles — but a bit too far in many ways. Louie shows how iOS 7’s design principles can be interpreted with just a bit of the “old” wisdom and best practices to create much better colors and icons.
Ben Brooks on PRISM:
As much as I’d like to place the blame squarely at the feet of the Government, I see little logic in that argument. Let’s step back and look at the U.S. at a macro level: The country we see does not seem concerned about privacy in the least.
A good perspective.
Mac Rumors dug this up last night. For reference:
Pre-production Macs routinely show up in Geekbench. This looks legitimate1 and reveals a number of new details: we already knew that this fall’s Xeon E5 update would include up to 12 cores per socket, but this appears to specifically confirm an “E5-2697 v2” model with 12 cores at 2.7 GHz. (The current best comparable model is the Xeon E5-2690 with 8 cores at 2.9 GHz.) An uncredited Wikipedia source confirms this as the highest-clocked 12-core chip in the lineup.
As far as I can tell, this is also the first benchmark we’ve seen of any Xeon E5 v2. It compares well: it’s pulling a score of about 24,000 out of a single socket, compared to about 16,000 from the previous Xeon generation — exactly in proportion to the core increase, even at a base clock of 200 MHz less.
The Ivy Bridge-based Xeon E5 v2 appears to perform slightly better than the Sandy Bridge-based E5 series (which never came to the Mac Pro), much like the Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge desktop transition, and the v2 can have up to 12 cores instead of 8. No huge surprises.
John Poole, founder of Geekbench’s parent company, isn’t blown away. This is going to be a common response: the new Mac Pro can’t blow us away in Geekbench relative to the old ones because there aren’t any dual-socket models. It’s one of the biggest compromises in the new design: easily-parallelized tasks won’t be much better, and may be worse, than on the old $5,000+ dual-socket Mac Pros.
But we don’t know if many Mac Pro buyers were getting the dual-socket models.
Many pro apps, notably including Photoshop, don’t effectively use tons of cores, so the fastest Mac Pro for many people in practice has been the single-socket, 6-core, 3.33 GHz model. (This is why my photographer wife and I chose this model for ourselves.) It scores “only” about 13,500 on Geekbench, but in single-threaded tests, it appears to only be about 10–20% slower than this new E5-2697 v2.
If there’s any disappointment to be had, it’s that Intel has made so little progress in single-threaded CPU performance since 2010.
If the new Mac Pro is offered with fewer cores but a higher clock, that might be notably faster in most workloads. That Wikipedia table claims that there will also be CPUs with 6 cores at 3.5 GHz, 8 cores at 3.4 GHz, or 10 cores at 3.0 GHz. I hope Apple offers the 8-core 3.4 GHz model, because that’s probably a better choice for most buyers than this 12-core chip.2
The new Mac Pro is also extremely power-lopsided: it will initially max out at 12 cores (almost certainly this exact CPU), which is upper-midrange by Xeon standards, but it comes with a ridiculous amount of GPU power. This is overkill to just be about future desktop Retina Displays — clearly, Apple’s pushing for pro and scientific apps to shift more of the heavy lifting to OpenCL.
If they succeed, the new Mac Pro will probably crush everything else in its price range (and the rest of the Mac lineup). In the meantime, or for people who won’t use OpenCL-accelerated apps, it will probably be an incremental Mac Pro update: similar CPU increases as every other Mac Pro update, minus most of the internal expansion. So if you have a 2010 Mac Pro, there may not be much reason to upgrade.
How compelling this will be depends on two big, unanswered questions:
We’ll find out soon enough.
Except for one tiny detail: the CPU is reporting itself as “Intel Xeon E5-2697 v2”, with a lowercase “v”.
If the 8-core, 3.4 GHz E5-2687W v2 is too hot to be included (it has a 150W TDP while the others top out at 130W), I’d also be happy with the 6-core, 3.5 GHz E5-2643 v2. It’d probably score “only” in the 16,000 Geekbench range but be much faster than this big 12-core chip at most tasks. ↩
Notably, we didn’t hear about Haswell updates to the Retina MacBook Pro yet. I’m hoping that they’re holding them back until the new Mac Pro launch, they’ll also include Thunderbolt 2, and they’ll join the new Mac Pro as the only Macs that can drive a new external 4K Retina Display.
I haven’t been following the consumer desktop chips, but it’s also possible that the iMac will receive a similar update for the same reason. It would also shake things up considerably if a Retina iMac comes out this fall, which would lure many potential Mac Pro buyers.
But this is all wishful thinking, relying on the assumption that desktop Retina Displays in some form will be out soon, which isn’t supported by much. ↩
This week: Casey’s fans at WWDC, Mac Pro followup, Xbox 180, revisiting larger-screen iPhones, predicting iOS 7 adoption, and pushing the boundaries of graphic design.
Sponsored by Squarespace and An Event Apart.
Last month, inspired by Marco and bolstered by the drop-dead-simple Teespring web site, I put the first Hypercritical t-shirt up for sale. The response from fans was amazing, vastly exceeding my expectations. Unfortunately, that sale was aborted due to my unauthorized use of copyrighted artwork. All orders were refunded and no t-shirts were printed.
John’s being too self-critical here: there’s a bit more to the story.
The previous shirt design included an icon derived from one in the original 1984 Macintosh.1 (Update: John corrected me with the variant used, which is slightly different from the 1984 original.)
On the final day of his previous T-shirt sale, after more than 900 shirts had been ordered, the original icon’s artist emailed John and me — I was copied because the artist mistakenly thought I had something to do with the shirt — with a passive-aggressive, thinly veiled copyright threat.
The artist had no right to make such a threat. Only Apple could, and if their legal department saw the shirt and objected, they could have filed a simple DMCA claim with Teespring. But they didn’t, because who cares if a guy with a podcast makes a one-off run of a thousand T-shirts for a bunch of geeks like us with a decades-old monochrome icon?
Nobody. I believe it’s even fair use.2 But John voluntarily asked Teespring to cancel the sale and forfeit a sizable chunk of money because he’s a nice guy and didn’t want any trouble.
Now, it would be a shame if the new T-shirt sale sold any fewer shirts than the canceled one. How often does John Siracusa ask his audience to buy anything?
Let’s blow away the old one to make all of this worth it. Go buy a Hypercritical shirt!
I previously used an icon from the same artist, with permission, as the favicon for this site in exchange for a promotional footer link. I no longer want to support this artist, so I’ve removed the icon and temporarily have no favicon. I’ll get a new one soon. ↩
But, like most fair use, nobody can afford to prove it. ↩
There are indeed many search results on Daring Fireball for “jackass”, but I regret almost none of them. I’ve used the word very deliberately, and I hope consistently, to describe people who are, in fact, jackasses. To call a jackass a jackass may be impolite, but it is not inaccurate or unfair.
The whole piece is great, but I had to quote this part.
I once got in trouble in high school for calling a teacher a jackass in class. My mother had to come in early the next morning for us to have a “conference” with him. After meeting him, she said that I shouldn’t have said it in class, but she agreed with me. I received no further punishment for that one.
Yes, I was on another podcast published this week, but this one’s different.
Daniel Jalkut’s Bitsplitting podcast goes into developers’ early lives: parents, growing up, getting started with computers, and so on. I’ve listened to every previous episode, and I always learn a lot more than I previously knew about each interviewee.
I haven’t shared most of what I told him anywhere else before, mostly because it just hasn’t really come up. If you’re into this sort of thing, give it a shot. (Even if you don’t like me enough to sit through it, I bet you’ve heard of some of the previous guests and can appreciate some insight into how they got where they are.)
It fascinates me because it’s fundamentally new. There’s only one CPU socket and it bets heavily on the bus and GPU performance. While this looks to software to be just another Mac, it isn’t. It’s capabilities aren’t traditional.
Exactly. The new Mac Pro’s success will depend on how well software is able to take advantage of its GPU-heavy architecture.
My wife’s craftiness for our son’s birthday this spring was featured on a prominent baby blog:
Tiffany Arment of Tiffany Arment Photography created this fun, festive party for her son Adam with a cute spring picnic theme. Oodles of gingham, bunting, and pinwheels brought the theme to life in all of the handcrafted details.
You would not believe the amount of work she put into this. Making all of those checkered triangles took a month. But the result was awesome: it was like the fantasy world that magazines attempt to show, in real life.
It’s funny how opposites attract: repetitive hand-crafting tasks are my idea of hell, and she’d be bored senseless with programming, but we both recognize and appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into our respective passions.
Congratulations for the feature, Tiff!
Crashlytics for Android is now available — for free! Our goal is to provide enterprise-grade performance monitoring to everyone. Enjoy it on us. :)
Crashlytics addresses a huge hole in mobile app development: deep insights into an app’s performance to pinpoint and fix issues quickly and easily. Built by a hardcore team, Crashlytics is the most powerful, yet lightest weight crash reporting solution. We find the needle in the haystack, even the exact line of code that your app crashed on, so you can quickly scan and trace an issue. Crashlytics has been deployed in hundreds of millions of devices and powers thousands of today’s top applications, including Twitter, Square, Yammer, Yelp, Kayak, Nickelodeon and GroupMe.
Want to experience the magic? Sign up today.
Thanks to Crashlytics for sponsoring Marco.org this week.
I finally got around to reading this lengthy interview (thanks), and it’s full of great commentary. From what it’s like being John Siracusa:
When you spend all day writing for a compiler, it’s sometimes frustrating to have to switch over to writing for humans, which have far more inscrutable rules and terrible error messages.
…to strong insights into technology and design:
Simplicity is great, as iOS has shown. But there’s a difference between conceptual simplicity and visual simplicity. Just hiding controls does make things appear simpler, but it doesn’t actually make them any simpler. The complexity is now just hidden. Similarly, removing features that few people use is a good idea, but like any good idea, it can be taken too far. At a certain point, you’re just making your application worse for everyone, even new users.
Worth the read.
Most of iOS 7’s redesign was probably decided on “valid” factors: the iOS UI was looking pretty dated and had accumulated a lot of cruft, and Apple clearly loves and believes in the polarizing new design. But it also comes with a number of convenient defensive advantages.
Since iOS’ launch in 2007, people have devoted a lot of time and money to copying the UI. Samsung, of course, is the biggest offender, but the copying has gone far beyond them: almost all modern smartphones and tablets have parts that resemble the old iOS UI. (Some have more parts than others.) iOS mimicry has even widely infected web design, especially those horrible “mobile” blog themes that try to look like an iOS app.
The entire tech industry has been homogenizing and commoditizing iOS’ appearance so much that after six years, iOS no longer felt exclusive, unique, or premium to most people: it felt like the norm. Apple needed to shake things up to keep their premium edge, and they went all-out.
Since WWDC, every iOS-imitating UI looks ancient. Soon, they’ll start to feel obsolete. Most imitating efforts will need to be redone or abandoned to look current. And what will happen if people try to imitate iOS 7?
Presumably, Apple has a few new patents for iOS 7’s interface and behavior. As we’ve seen, this won’t prevent copying, but it can at least increase the cost. Any efforts to copy the new UI are going to have a dark cloud of potential litigation hanging over them.
Copying iOS 7 is going to be a big problem for cheap hardware. iOS 7’s appearance and dynamics require a powerful GPU and advanced, finely tuned, fully hardware-accelerated graphics and animation APIs. This will hurt web imitators most, but it’s also going to be problematic for Android: while high-end Android phones have mostly caught up in GPU performance, and recent Android versions have improved UI acceleration, most Android devices sold are neither high-end nor up-to-date. The gap is much wider in tablets, and even “high-end” tablets usually have insufficient GPU power to drive their high-DPI screens.
Apple’s even attacking Android’s screen technologies by making heavy use of 1-pixel-wide lines on Retina screens. Most Android phones have high-DPI screens, too, but their feature-checklist battles have actually driven many of them to have too-dense resolutions for 1-pixel lines to be useful. And many Android phones, notably including almost all Samsung Galaxy models, cheat on resolution by using PenTile screens, which poorly render text and thin lines.
The theme is clear: iOS 7’s UI requires some of Apple’s biggest strengths, and efforts to copy it will be hindered by some of Android’s biggest weaknesses.
iOS 7 is also going to be a problem for cross-platform frameworks. Fewer assumptions can be made about the UI widgets and behaviors common to all major platforms. And any UI targeting the least common denominator will now look even more cheap and dated on iOS 7, since the new standard on the OS is so far from the old one.
But there’s also a huge win in developer attention.
In early January 2010, Google’s developer relations group sent me a Nexus One to experiment with, unprompted and with no strings attached. (This was very nice and generous of them.) Seeing a future where Android mattered, I started experimenting with different text settings for Instapaper’s web reading view to look good on its PenTile screen. On January 25, I published some of my progress.
Two days later, the iPad was announced. I never had time to think about Android development again.
Apple’s competitive message to developers during the keynote was clear: iOS is doing great, it’s the best platform to build apps for, and you don’t need to think about other platforms. iOS 7 reinforces this even further: whatever app developers were planning to do this fall is probably on hold now, because everyone’s going to be extremely busy updating and redesigning their apps for iOS 7. Anyone thinking about expanding into another platform now has a more pressing need to maintain marketshare on iOS.1
It’s a power move — one that I think Apple still has the power to pull, but just barely. We’ll see how it works out in practice.
Very little of this article applies to games. Games usually build entirely custom UIs shared between platforms, they’re more financially viable than non-game apps on Android, and cross-platform game frameworks are so good that it’s relatively easy to maintain iOS and Android versions simultaneously.
It’s obviously short-sighted to ignore games completely, because they’re very important to any platform’s app ecosystem. For a phone or tablet these days, lacking good games would be as fatal as lacking music or movie playback. But since games go cross-platform so much more easily than other apps and usually don’t take advantage of each platform’s unique strengths, they’re more of a universal tide that lifts all boats in practice.
But games can’t carry a modern computing platform alone, just as music or movies can’t, so non-game app environments will always be important differentiators. ↩
This week: The WWDC intro video, Apple’s California pride, whether developers should require iOS 7, the new Calendar UI, and cool vs. usable designs.
Sponsored by Audible and Transporter.
I’m mostly with Dr. Drang on the current feed-sync shakeup. I’ve been happy with Underscore David Smith’s Feed Wrangler as a back-end and iPhone app, but I don’t use its web interface — I prefer native Mac clients, so my setup is still in flux.
For about a month, I’ve been using NetNewsWire 3 for Mac in parallel with Feed Wrangler for iPhone (and just not reading feeds on iPad), which has given me a fresh taste of what it’s like not having sync between platforms. While it’s not as awful as I expected, there’s no good reason to keep doing it.
ReadKit for Mac just added Feed Wrangler support, so I’m trying that out now. Reeder for iPhone will get it shortly, and Mr. Reader for iPad already supports it.
A number of readers have asked me to clarify my tweet yesterday about NetNewsWire being “dead” to me, despite the recent 4.0 Mac beta. I have some complaints about the app itself, but they’re mostly irrelevant personal preferences. My statement was based on two other major concerns.
First, it’s simply too late. In three days, Google Reader will shut down and there will be no NetNewsWire client that syncs. The new Mac app is in an early beta, the new sync service is still in progress, and Black Pixel says they’re “revisiting the designs” for the iPhone and iPad clients, so we’re probably in for a pretty long wait for all three apps. This is a massive undertaking that appears to still be in its early stages. In the meantime, many NetNewsWire users — myself included — will switch to other apps, change our habits, and start building an affinity for something else.
That’s why I said it was “dead” to me: it will stop working for my purposes on Monday, it will be a long time before I can use it again, and when (if) that time comes, it may not be what I want to use.
My second concern is strategic, and it applies beyond just NetNewsWire.
In the wake of Google Reader’s demise, we now have many feed-sync services with public APIs, all of which are accumulating users and customers, including Feedly, Feedbin, FeedHQ, Feed Wrangler, Fever, NewsBlur, The Old Reader, BazQux, and probably one or two more that launched while I was writing this sentence and somehow already got added to Mr. Reader.
If your primary focus is traditional feed-reading (i.e. excluding browsing-centric, social-hybrid apps such as Flipboard), I believe launching a proprietary feed-sync solution in today’s environment is a huge strategic error.
A major strength of this multi-sync-service environment, as long as at least a couple of the services have widespread client support (which has already happened), is that users can pick and choose their favorite apps on different platforms. Google Reader gave us the same benefit: I was happily using NetNewsWire on Mac and Reeder on iOS for years, because I preferred NetNewsWire over Reeder on Mac and vice versa on iOS.
With multiple clients supporting the new sync services, we’ll retain most of the same luxury.
But if your app only syncs to your own service and nobody else’s, you’ve put up a massive barrier: for someone who likes feed-reading on multiple platforms, to switch to you, they’ll need to like your respective clients better than their existing choices on every platform they use.
It’s all or nothing. And the chance that someone will decide that you’re worth the “all” is far lower than the chance that they’d switch to just one of your apps that they like.
From Black Pixel’s vague public statements on sync, it appears likely that NetNewsWire will only sync with its own service.1 If so, they’re setting extremely high barriers: not only will customers face the all-or-nothing decision, but Black Pixel will need to ship three complete apps before any of them are very useful to people with all three devices. It’s extremely ambitious — probably too ambitious. If that’s their plan, I hope they’ll reconsider.
They’re not the only ones at risk of an overly ambitious strategy: many new services trying to replace Google Reader are taking the same gamble.
In the absence of major exclusive features or strong social lock-in, if you make a feed reader today, it better support multiple sync services. Conversely, if you’re making a service, it better have an API for third-party clients.
These strategies don’t apply in every market, of course. But the feed-reader market, with so many geeks and power users, is much more likely to own multiple devices, want native clients on each of them, and require syncing. Feed readers all do pretty much the same things and differentiate primarily on interface choices, so potential lock-in effects are minimal and the market appreciates client choice.
The post-Google-Reader market is already established as a multi-service environment, so the chances of any one company locking in another majority are (thankfully) low. If you try, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.
Black Pixel declined to comment on their sync plans for this post. ↩