Friday, November 24, 2006

Fourth MacGourmet 2 Public Beta Now Available

The fourth MacGourmet 2 public beta is now available.

Sometimes when you are looking for a particularly hard to track down bug, some code gets accidently tromped on in the process. This is just a small update to fix a couple of those things before a larger update is ready.

Just head on over to to get all the info...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Third MacGourmet 2 Public Beta Now Available

The third MacGourmet 2 public beta is now available. Just head on over to to get all the info...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Second MacGourmet 2 Public Beta Now Available

The second MacGourmet 2 public beta is now available. Just head on over to to get all the info...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Endgadget Pans Zune Software Install

The software integration is a big part of the success of a product like the iPod. If the Zune can ever hope to make any inroads, they have to nail this, and apparently (*SHOCK*), according to Engadget they didn't:
When it comes to the hardware, we're pretty much set; we all now know the Zune inside and out. But how it interacts with the software, the marketplace, etc. -- that's where the magic happens. Or doesn't. We really wanted to give the Zune the benefit of the doubt. We hoped installing the Zune software and getting our player running would be as seamless and painless as getting iTunes and an iPod running on your machine, since that is, after all, what it's up against. (Granted, not even iTunes is bereft of major problems on major releases.) Unfortunately, the reality of our experience with the first version of the Zune software this afternoon is much like that of many version 1 software experiences. It sucks. Read on to see what happened.

But hey, at least $1 of your payment goes to support a record company whose CEO thinks we're all criminals. Why would anyone want to buy this product? Just because it's NOT an iPod? I can't think of a more stupid reason, in light of everything. Support the Zune and you're supporting major record labels who think you are a criminal.

Boycott Universal

It will be a cold day in Hell before I buy another Universal product. According to their CEO, speaking about portable mp3 players in Billboard:
These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it," UMG chairman/CEO Doug Morris says. "So it's time to get paid for it.

F$%K you Doug. I have a 15GB iPod filled with music that is 100% legal. You suck, and you represent everything that is wrong with the record industry. You'll never get another freaking dime from me.

Major Labels Suck. Don't buy anything from Universal, they think you are a criminal. This includes: Barclay, Interscope Geffen A&M, Geffen Records, Island Def Jam Music Group, Machete Music, Mercury Records, Polydor Records, Universal Motown Records Group, Universal Music Classics Group (which includes Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Philips and ECM), Universal Music Latino, Universal Music Group Nashville (which includes Lost Highway, MCA Nashville and Mercury Nashville), and Verve Music Group.

Sun Makes Java Code Open Source

As someone who has worked twice for companies that made "clean-room" Java VM implementations, including the first one for the Mac, Roaster, I can tell you this is pretty significant.
The move represents one of the largest additions of computer code to the open-source community -- and it marks a major shift for a company that had once fiercely protected the source code used in 3.8 billion cell phones, supercomputers, medical devices, and other gadgets.

The amount of work to make your own compatible VM and emulate Sun's VM is large, to the point where you are even emulating their bugs (to be 100% compatible). Now, the Sun Java source code is free to look at, whereas before, to be clean-room you had to have been able to say you've NEVER looked at any of it. I'm sure this means that embedded device makers will no longer have to license the VM from Sun unless they want their support. Before, you had to go the 3rd party clean-room route to avoid paying what could turn out to be exorbitant royalty fees to Sun. This is a HUGE change.

Friday, November 10, 2006

First MacGourmet 2 Public Beta Now Available

After a bunch of closed beta rounds, MacGourmet 2 is now available for testing in a public beta. Just head on over to to get all the info...

This update is certainly more evolutionary than revolutionary. The user interface was updated to the more "modern" look of recent Apple apps. The previous interface was created "all the way back" in 2004, so it was overdue for a change. The major work however, was "under the hood." The core of the application was redone to make it more easily support a bunch of future additions, and the database got an overhaul (which is why there is a new database file created for version 1 users). In the process, a lot of new things were added to store and view more information, and things like a new blog poster were added. The .Mac support was also completely redone and lots of new templates were added.

Speaking of templates, that's how a LOT of the things are done in MacGourmet, the recipe box display, the .Mac publishing, printing. I'm planning an "SDK" that details how all of this can be created so that others can create their own templates or themes if they want.

There will be a version 2 post mortem later that will shed some light on some of the plans and some of the future features I've already been working on, so stay tuned.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Zune: Close but No Cigar

With the eminent release of Microsoft's Zune, a lot of the reviews are coming in, and like the early reactions, all of them are a big "enh."

First up is David Pogue of the New York Times. He starts out by saying, after many details about how Microsoft is abandoning their first attempt and former partners by ditching "PlaysForSure" (which of course, didn't):
As it turns out, the player is excellent. It can’t touch the iPod’s looks or coolness, but it’s certainly more practical. It’s coated in slightly rubberized plastic, available in white, black or brown — yes, brown. It won’t turn heads, but it won’t get fingerprinty and scratched, either. It sounds just as good as the iPod."

Things kind of go downhill from there however. The "dranconian" copy protection of the wirelessly shared files, the lack of features which he says "could stretch to Steve Ballmer’s house and back 10 times" and the "dog-slow" store which among other things lists things that aren't even sold, like albums from the Beatles. Finally he sums it all up:
Competition is good and all. But what, exactly, is the point of the Zune? It seems like an awful lot of duplication — in a bigger, heavier form with fewer features — just to indulge Microsoft’s “we want some o’ that” envy. Wireless sharing is the one big new idea — and if the public seems to respond, Apple could always add that to the iPod.

Then again, this is all standard Microsoft procedure. Version 1.0 of Microsoft Anything is stripped-down and derivative, but it’s followed by several years of slow but relentless refinement and marketing. Already, Microsoft says that new Zune features, models and accessories are in the pipeline.

For now, though, this game is for watching, not playing. It may be quite a while before brown is the new white.

Read more: Trying Out the Zune: iPod It’s Not

Next is Walt Mossberg writing for the Wall Street Journal. While he does have some nice things to say about Zune at first, "a larger screen, the ability to exchange songs with other Zunes wirelessly and a built-in FM radio" and "the Zune player and software have a very good user interface, different from, but in some cases easier to use than, the iPod's," it's not pretty after that.
But, this first Zune has too many compromises and missing features to be as good a choice as the iPod for most users. The hardware feels rushed and incomplete. It is 60% larger and 17% heavier than the comparable iPod. It has much worse battery life for music than the iPod or than Microsoft claims -- at least two hours less than the iPod's, in my tests. Despite the larger screen, many album covers look worse than they do on the iPod. And you can't share music libraries between computers like you can with iTunes.

He also mentions Microsoft's "points" system for buying things: buy even a single 99-cent song from the Zune store, you have to purchase blocks of "points" from Microsoft, in increments of at least $5. You can't just click and have the 99 cents deducted from a credit card, as you can with iTunes. You must first add points to your account, then buy songs with these points. So, even if you are buying only one song, you have to allow Microsoft, one of the world's richest companies, to hold on to at least $4.01 of your money until you buy another. And the point system is deceptive. Songs are priced at 79 points, which some people might think means 79 cents. But 79 points actually cost 99 cents.

I don't know about you, but this is ridiculous, especially in comparison to Apple's method, which is, um 99 cents a track, no trickery or gimmicks. Please. Finally he mentions the battery life, which is a good deal less than the iPod's, under what he deems normal usage: "12 hours and 18 minutes of music playback, versus 14 hours and 44 minutes from an iPod under the same usage pattern."

Read more: Microsoft's Zune Challenges iPod

Finally USA Today's Edward Baige has the following to say about it:
Zune shows promise. But I'd like to see more offerings in the store, and less stringent wireless restrictions. And Microsoft should rethink the silly points system. For now, I'm sticking with iPod.

Read more: Microsoft hoped to whistle a happy Zune, but it's no iPod

But, really, my favorite review is from David M. Ewalt at Forbes:
There's plenty more to complain about. Microsoft's copy protection schemes are too restrictive. The Zune is about 60% bigger and 17% heavier than a iPod. It comes in brown. All considered, we could be looking at the biggest consumer electronics flop in recent history here. This is like 'Microsoft Bob,' only more embarrassing

Read more: Zune Stinks


So Microsoft needed to hit the ball out of the park to really challenge Apple, and what do they do? Single to left. Oh well, at least they can still use their monopoly money to "compete." As mentioned by Stephan, Microsoft has decided to, at the very least, make things more difficult for Apple by potentially making things more expensive for them in the future.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

New Mac OS X Job Board

Steven Frank of Panic has added a jobs board for Mac OS X developers to CocoaDev which, along with is actually becoming quite the resource to the Mac Developer community. He's also running some specials for listings until the end of the year.
Over the last few months, there has been increased interest in posting job listings on CocoaDev, and the wiki format hasn't been working well for that -- out of date (or filled) listings tend to stick around, making it hard for candidates to sift through, and recruiters had a difficult time understanding the wiki concept in general, resulting in a number of emails to me.

So, the new board is a triple-win!

If this isn't a sign of a healthy and robust Mac community, I don't know what is. If you're looking for a company looking for a developer, or a developer looking for Mac jobs, check it out: CocoaDev Jobs

Wow, Speaking of "Old School..."

Low End Mac has posted an interview with the creator of VisiCalc, Dan Bricklin. For those not up on their software industry history, he was the guy who:
...codeveloped VisiCalc with Bob Frankston in the late 1970s while he was a student at the Harvard Business School. VisiCalc is widely credited for fueling the rapid growth of business computing.
Bricklin could be considered "old school" now but he was once considered "new school." According to Wikipedia:
VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet program available for personal computers. It is generally considered to be the application that turned the microcomputer from a hobby for computer enthusiasts into a serious business tool
Think about that change for a second. This was the first app to start the business software industry really. Now THAT'S "new school."

Read the full interview: Interview with Dan Bricklin, Inventor of the Electronic Spreadsheet
Dan Brickin's own VisiCalc site: VisiCalc: Information from its creators, Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston

Monday, November 06, 2006

Rogue Amoeba on: The Delicious Generation

Paul over at Rogue Amoeba has a great write up on something that I'm sure has been on a lot of people's minds lately, the battle between flash and substance in Mac apps, something we've been seeing a lot of, even coining the phrase "The Delicious Generation" to describe it:
...after developing on Mac OS X for just a few years, we felt like not just part of the old school of Mac developers, but the crotchety old men of the Mac software industry. In the past year or so, Mac development had shifted from applications providing new functionality that appeared at the dawn of OS X to applications (and ideas) built around flash and sizzle, with plenty of marketing hype to fuel the fire. This had created something of a toxic atmosphere in the Mac development world. A rift between the old school, with its plain but functional apps, and the new school of flashy but frivolous apps, has developed.
I have to disagree with one of his small points though when he says:
Given the choice between two identical applications, one that's beautiful and one that's plain, the beautiful one doesn't just look better, it's more usable. Adding some flash to a solid application is certain to be a good thing.
I think it should say that the extra flash COULD make the application more usable, not that it will. My problem has been with flash that not only doesn't add anything, but might even get in the way of usability.

One other point of note is his comment on negativity that seems to be starting to creep into the Mac community:
I had a little theme going here, so I'll take the opportunity to point out one ugly bit. There's been at least some public negativity used in promoting these applications. Potshots at market leaders might be seen as scrappy by some, but ultimately, it comes across as callow.
It has to be remembered that ultimately we're peers in the Mac community. We see each other at Macworld and at WWDC. We're individuals or small companies here, for the most part. Negativity used to promote your product over someone else's just isn't ultimately a good way to do business.

Oh and just for the record, I don't think those of us in the "old school" should be considered "crotchety old men" just because we like clean, simple, usable design. Sure, that supped up "Fast and the Furious" Honda Civic may be cool, but honestly wouldn't you ultimately want to drive a Porsche 911 instead at some point?

At any rate, it's a great read on the "state of Mac" right now. And worth checking out: The Delicious Generation

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Death of the HIG: The Backlash

On Software DesignThe death of any real adherence to Apple's Human Interfaces Guidelines, even by Apple themselves, is something I've written about here before. Depending on which side of the fence you're on, since my past writings, things may have only gotten worse on this front, still, no thanks to Apple.

We've been undergoing what I call the "Flashification" of what was once the clean, simple and usable Mac OS X user interface. More and more UIs seem to be moving to paradigms that are hard to use, have useless eye-candy and that change things just to change them, with no good design reason behind the changes, other than "it looks cool." Things that "look cool" but add nothing to usability or function are entertaining for all of about 30 seconds. How many times have you been to a web site that was written largely using Flash, only to find that a) you couldn't figure out how to do the simplest of things, and b) you couldn't even grab a link to send to someone... and that's one of the primary uses of a web page. Well this is kind of what applications on the Mac are becoming.

Dashboard is partly responsible for this, with its "widgets" and their non-standard, almost web page-like behaviors: lots of fixed window sizes, non-standard controls, controls that appear and disappear while giving you no indication that they are there at all until you mouse over them (these "User interface designers" clearly have no idea what affordances are). And we're starting to see this creep into the application design space as well.

We're also starting to see backlash in the Mac community. Rory Prior over at ThinkMac writes about this in On the death of the HIG and the triumph of eye candy over usability. His critique of iTunes 7 is also spot on I think.

One of the problems we're seeing is what has been seen on the web. Graphic design != user interface design. They are two totally different things, two totally different schools, yet more and more we're seeing them treated as the same thing, hence the number of impossible to use Flash web apps that look pretty. Pretty does not make something necessarily more usable. What's funny is that with Web 2.0, developers are moving back towards desktop metaphors. Also, look at the new .Mac mail, GMail, etc. AJAX really is allowing for a more desktop app experience in the browser, after years of Flash based UIs.

Transparency creeping into the main windows of apps is another thing that has me shaking my head and asking "why?" Transparency is good for one thing really: allowing secondary tasks that don't completely obscure the primary task. This is why a HUD display can be good, why in iPhoto it's limited to the floating windows that are applying changes to the primary task. Transparency in main windows is just a distraction. It detracts from the primary task, so why is it helpful? I'd much rather minimize an application and get notified that it's finished from a Growl notification, then leave it up and in the way and try to do things behind that semi-transparent window anyway.

There is definitely a battle brewing: between flash and substance, between style and simplicity. Apple isn't helping by constantly throwing more and more into the mix and putting forth an "anything goes" mentality. Can the two sides be combined? Definitely, look at Apple hardware. It combines simplicity with understated and clean style. That's what we need to strive for in the application space too.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Flex Your HIG (Jalkut on UI design)

I'm a big fan of UI "Evolution" write ups, and do my own once in a while (maybe I'll do a post-mortum on MG 2). Daniel Jalkut posted a good one over at Red Sweater today. The "Lose the margins" thing is something I actually changed from MG 1 to MG to, and I even wrote about margins myself in the past.
Then I was sitting in Chicago at C4, listening to John Gruber talk about the “death of the HIG.” He brought up Brent Simmons, using his NetNewsWire as an example of somebody who had made a big impact by stepping outside the HIG guidelines. What Brent had done was an app that had broken with traditional HIG guidelines by eliminating the margins around the main views in his window.
I pretty much wound up following the Mail model, as you can see from the following screenshot.

And funny, I just had to deal with redoing all of the doc and website graphics myself, though I learned the layers lesson he mentions a long time ago, still what a pain:
The only downer to doing a GUI redesign is that all of your pictorial documentation becomes instantly obsolete. After the relatively fun work of designing the graphics and tweaking the layout, I realized I’d have to redo all of my Help Book graphics, and the screenshots for download sites and my web page.

Anyway, it's a good design read: Flex Your HIG

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Something Really Needs to be Done About Spam

As if spam wasn't already bad enough, ISPs are reporting that it's up significantly in the last couple of months. I can vouch for that. The amount of spam sent to my 3 email accounts is up by at least 50%, to around 500-600 messages a day. Email is quickly becoming unusable, I mean completely unusable. I check my spam filters, but with so much spam, and the number increasing dramatically every month it seems, it's hard not to miss something once in a while. This is why, if you send in a support request and don't get a reply, it's possible that it got lost in the flood. Please try sending it again, making sure that the subject is as meaningful as possible, and includes the application name.

Losing my DJ "Chops"

I've been doing some screencasting, in preparation for the MacGourmet 2 release, and doing the voiceover has really made me realize one thing: I've lost my "DJ voice." I was a college radio DJ for around 3 years, and when you do that, you get really good at developing a smooth "rap." You get really good at processing what you are going to say, before you say it, so that when it comes out, it's smooth and you sound, well, good. You also develop a way to make your voice sound better. The voiceover for the screencasts isn't bad, but it's nowhere near as good as what I would have been able to produce back then. Oh, I could practice and practice to get the ability back I'm sure, but that would take a while and isn't feasible. Still, while I know that some people can just do this naturally, for others, it really takes practice, and like any skill you have, but don't use for a while, you can lose it.