215 Articles


8 years Ago

On the topic of sites which barely appeal to me

Published by marco on

There exist a few gargantuan time-wasting and mind-numbing web sites that scoop up hours of attention like a whale does krill. Facebook, with its coterie of applications (like Farmville and Mafia Wars, though I fear my lack of experience here is showing), is the undisputed king, but Twitter also looms large. The carcasses of others, like MySpace or Friendster, twist far off in their wake, drifting slowly down on gentle currents that carry them deeper into obscurity. Others, like LinkedIn and... [More]

MPAA Shoots Self in Foot

Published by marco on

Even the official Academy Awards web site isn’t allowed to show trailers and clips from the official nominees. Score one for the studios?

Unlikely Heroes

Published by marco on

 Swiss Bundesrat 2011

To the joy of the technically literate everywhere—and those interested in the rights of citizens to some form of cultural commons—the Swiss Bundesrat (pictured above) have emerged as unlikely heroes for their recent confirmation that file-sharing no big deal, some downloading still OK by Timothy B. Lee (Ars Technica).

“A new report by the Swiss government argues that unauthorized file sharing is not a significant problem, and that existing Swiss law—which allows for downloading copyrighted content for personal use—is... [More]”

9 years Ago

Saving & Loading Performance in Quino

Published by marco on

This article was originally published on the Encodo blogs and cross-published here.

The GenericObject in Quino had recently undergone a performance overhaul, as documented in the article, Improving performance in GenericObject…but we weren’t finished yet.

I’m going to assume that you read the overview on “How Data Objects are Implemented” and understand what the GenericObject actually is. In the other article, we optimized performance when creating objects in-memory and when loading and... [More]

Improving performance in GenericObject

Published by marco on

This article was originally published on the Encodo blogs and cross-published here.

Quino is Encodo’s metadata framework, written in C#/.NET 4.0. Since its inception four years ago, we’ve used it in several products and the code base has been updated continuously.

However, it was only in a recent product that one of the central features of the framework came under scrutiny for performance issues. It turned out that reading and writing to Quino data objects was a bit slower than we needed it... [More]

OS X Lion Installation Tips

Published by marco on

  1. You should check that you’re not relying on any applications that will no longer run on Lion. See the article How to Check if Applications are Incompatible with Mac OS X Lion (OS X Daily). Basically, the Rosetta Stone application is not compatible with Lion, so PowerPC-only applications no longer run. If you can’t find an update (or there is none announced) for an essential application, then you may have to stick with Snow Leopard for now. If you open the System Profiler and look at Applications, you can... [More]

Apple Terms and Conditions and Apple Privacy Policy

Published by marco on

When you buy something from the iTunes Store, you will often be asked to confirm new terms and conditions. In Switzerland, there are four official languages—French, German, Italian and Romansh—and English is used quite often as well (though it’s not yet an official language). Apple, seemingly unable to decide which language to use, simply chose almost all of them at once.

No that’s some well-executed localization!

Works Best in “__________”

Published by marco on

More than a decade ago, the available web browsers—Internet Explorer, Netscape and Opera—differed widely in capability. Cutting-edge pages that worked in one browser either didn’t work at all in the others, or ceased to be cutting-edge. In those days, it was both common and appropriate to include a browser recommendation. “Best viewed in Internet Explorer” or “Best viewed in Netscape” flourished.

Today, however, the various browsers have standardized to a great degree. There is no longer a... [More]

On The Year of the Linux Desktop

Published by marco on

It is, apparently, indefinitely delayed due to the advent of a completely new class of devices that no longer need desktops. Pity. In a recent discussion on Hates Software, one commenter noted:

“Those of us with jobs and credit cards won’t put up with that nonsense and will pay for the problem to go away.”

“That nonsense” to which he refers is any of the typical just-download-the-sources-and-compile-it-yourself claptrap peddles by those who don’t understand a good-goddamned-thing about usability.... [More]

Java Memory Usage on the Mac

Published by marco on

I’d heard that Java was a memory hog, but this is ridiculous:

 Java uses 16 million terabytes of virtual memory

It’s impressive that the machine was responding at all, actually. :-)

10 years Ago

Sneak Peek at OS X Lion

Published by marco on

If you browse through the new iLife videos, you’ll notice that the person doing the iPhoto demonstration is clearly using an OS X with a new UI style. The styling of the controls has changed subtly, with a stronger and darker blue highlighting line around the focused text-box and a much smoother look for the dropdown list:

 Text fields & Popup menu

When the dropdown list is opened, the popup menu is much different than that in Snow Leopard, in that it’s now black and sports a softer shadow:

 Popup-menu Open

Well, exciting stuff... [More]

Opera Alphas

Published by marco on

Opera software is ordinarily quite stable. Released versions are rock-solid, running for weeks—even months—at a time. Betas are also usually very good and even Alphas (for those of us in the testing program) are quite stable. Sometimes, however, we testers get saddled with a very bad version. A recent build has the tendency to crash completely on its own: Look away for a few minutes and, instead of your browser window with many tabs, the crash dialog is on-screen, waiting for a report.
... [More]

Cross MonoTouch off the list

Published by marco on

Apple presented the iPhone OS 4.0 late last week. The new version includes hundreds of new API calls for third-party developers, including long-sought-after support for multi-tasking. The changes extended to the licensing agreement for iPhone developers, with section 3.3.1 getting considerable modification, as documented in the article, Adobe man to Apple: ‘Go screw yourself’ by Cade Metz (The Register). That section now reads:

“Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by... [More]”

Mercurial: Why So Unhelpful?

Published by marco on

I’ve been using Mercurial for a little over a year now, but I’m still kind of a newbie because:

  1. I don’t use it every day
  2. I use it only for private projects, so there aren’t many merge issues

For development, I have two repositories: One for the web site content itself and another for the earthli WebCore, the backend for the web site. For each of these projects, I have the following repositories:

  • Local repository
  • Server repository (development)
  • Server repository (production)

... [More]

Stephen Fry’s review of the iPad, in a nutshell

Published by marco on

“It is possible that the public will not fall on the iPad, as I did, like lions on an antelope. Perhaps they will find the apps and the iBooks too expensive. Maybe they will wait for more fully featured later models. But for me, my iPad is like a gun lobbyist’s rifle: the only way you will take it from me is to prise it from my cold, dead hands. One melancholy thought occurs as my fingers glide and flow over the surface of this astonishing object: Douglas Adams is not alive to see the closest... [More]”

iPad as Appliance

Published by marco on

Who would have thought twenty years ago that Steve Jobs would be the guy taking his company to ever-more-dizzying heights of nigh-monopolistic rapacity and peddling locked-in consumerism and that Bill Gates would be in Africa curing malaria and trying solve climate change. It’s a funny old world.

Apple announced its iPad to mixed reviews a little over a month ago. They plan to start shipping the device on April 3rd and are taking pre-orders now. A plethora of detail as well as succulent photos... [More]

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]

11 years Ago

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]

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]

12 years Ago

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]

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]