marc's non-blog...
20 most recent posts

iTunes: Link to iTunes App info from Application section
Tuesday 3rd February 2009 01:27  :  Public

I've noticed some talk of 'App Store addiction' when it comes to the iPhone, and unsurprisingly I seem to be a full-blown sufferer!

With so many free apps, and temporary sales, I've parted with a a scurrilous amount of cash in the pursuit of 'cool' iPhone apps, whatever that means.

I now have over 700 apps downloaded, and of course I really should delete some of the, um, poorer examples, a while this may seem a little on the maniacal side, to put it mildly, it's also a result interesting dynamics of the App Store, of the lack of demos on the App Store, and also the potential of future updates, which I think is a significant, under-acknowledged benefit of the App Store over decentralised distribution.

Having so many apps it's basically impossible remember the details of all downloaded apps; the solution? Similar to the iTunes links for music tracks I should be able to link to the App's info page on iTunes.

This would be a convenient way for users to check on App details, see recent additions outlined in the description, add their Review or read others, and of course link to the support and developer's web sites.

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Idealism lost, judgement AWOL?
Thursday 10th January 2008 12:50  :  Public

There's a controversy brewing over David Watanabe's Inquisitor Safari search plug-in manipulating search results to insert income generating affiliate links.

I've purchased a couple of David's apps and I tend to enjoy the experience; it's a fair deal, he produces nice software, and if I value it sufficiently, for whatever reason, I'll pay the price.

In a blog post, titled "idealism lost", David complains that he's been unfairly vilified, which is simply not OK, and then offers a pretty reasonable-sounding explanation:

 I’ve always been very proud of Inquisitor. It’s small, lightweight, and entirely unique at what it does. Best of all, the revenue model means that Inquisitor 3 is totally free for users. I think it’s quite clever in how it presents ads. Ads are treated like any search result, meaning that if a user clicks on a different choice, the ad will sink below the chosen result. So, if an ad isn’t what you wanted, it will drop in the rankings, ultimately sinking to the bottom. This design is deliberate. It gives the user an element of control, and is a nice compromise between the necessity of ads and the need for users to control their experience. That said, Inquisitor’s ads are hardly pervasive. They appear only for a small handful of keywords, so sparsely chosen that the average user will never see one. Revenue-wise they are marginal, but every little bit helps. 

Jon Gruber follows up by saying that:

 Watanabe has responded on his weblog, and I largely agree with him. It’d be better if Inquisitor’s affiliate link results were visually tagged as such in the result list, but I don’t think there’s anything scandalous about it. 

I don't want to attack David, but simply observe that there's a dissonance here; the problem is that this search behaviour was not public knowledge, as he contends, and that advertisements are not clearly indicated. Affiliate links are masked, and income-generating links are inserted above legitimate search results, without the user's knowledge.

Unfortunately these comments seem somewhat disingenuous; while the Inquisitor site now includes the statement that:

 "Search results may be supplemented by and Apple Store links." 

This note seems to have been recently added, and a quick perusal of the WayBack Machine shows that it wasn't there throughout '07 when v3.0 was available, nor for any of the previous indexed copies, back to Oct 29, 2005.

I'm not out to get him in the least, but the veracity of his statements appears to be in question. Again, quickly checking back over his blog I have not seen any references to this behaviour, but have found plenty about Inquisitor being free, about it retaining your privacy with local search history, and the statement that your search history will influence the results, all positive things, but nothing about income generation for the author, however marginal, incremental or seemingly harmless in the author's eyes.

Finally, since offering Inquisitor 3 David has requested donations. It could be argued that without publicly mentioning affiliate income via result manipulation, and by requesting donations, David did not clearly indicate how he was deriving income from this 'free' application, and users could be forgiven for their surprise that donations where on the sole income stream.

The issue simply comes down to disclosure, and in this regard David has erred in the eyes of the community, however unfortunately rabid some of it's members can be. Ultimately Mac developers are running a business, and in that context disclosure and perception, or public opinion, are legitimate concerns.

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DrawIt picking up the pace
Monday 10th December 2007 15:24  :  Public

I've casually followed the progress of Pieter Omvlee's Mac OS X illustration app DrawIt, for some now, and continue to be impressed.

While I own licenses for Lineform and Intaglio, I've found the pace of improvement, and creative ideas to be very impressive; Pieter has some really nice ideas in aiding drawing visualisation, like a layer break-apart view that I've long pondered as a means of better understanding z-index, and assisting with difficult selections.

DrawIt really does seem to be moving rapidly, and I may have to give it very serious consideration, especially as it appears there are more significant changes coming, as the currently in-development version 3.1 is certainly looking interesting.

3 comments | post a comment

Google demands non-fragmentation pledge for Android
Wednesday 7th November 2007 20:24  :  Public

Rich Miner, a key member of Android’s technical staff and a co-founder of the namesake company Google acquired in 2005, confirms that Android's ballyhooed browser is based on WebKit.

3 comments | post a comment

I think you're s'posed to pay...
Monday 25th June 2007 21:22  :  Public

We all work under deadlines, though maybe not quite as hectic as daily news, but um, the New York Times didn't just use an unlicensed iStockphoto preview image did they?

Hollywood Seeks Ways to Fit Its Content Into the Realm of the iPhone:

iStockphoto #3140472 - Closed Queue:

Buying the image would only take a little longer than stamping out the watermark (if you have an account)... in their defence, it could be a mock-up that slipped through to production, but it's sloppy for such an esteemed publication.

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NTLM coming to Safari 3
Saturday 23rd June 2007 16:35  :  Public

From Macworld: Safari 3.0.2 beta improves Mail, iChat support

Apple notes a variety of improvements planned soon for incorporation into Safari 3, including support for international users, international text input methods, advanced text, localized menus and help, NTLM support and more.

Excellent, maybe Safari will be able to make it through 'corporate' (read 'Microsoft') firewalls, and maybe even work with some parts of the intranet..?

Mozilla's addition of NTLM last year (...or more!) at lest made Camino/Firefox pretty usable in a corporate setting, but only for the basics.

Hopefully increased usage of Gecko and WebKit (iPhone!) will reduce the viability of IE-only intranet development, but I'm not holding my breath!

9 comments | post a comment

Small thought on WiMax for regional Australia...
Wednesday 20th June 2007 00:48  :  Public

One aspect of the Australian Government's broadband programme that hasn't been discussed much is that WiMax could be a very useful infrastructure in regional areas where transport is a highly important part of rural-regional-metro trade.

Increased competition in back-haul is an important component, estimated (optimistically?) at 30%... and in terms of metro-regional equity, the Victoria-Tasmania optic fibre link will be supplemented, so that's good, but not even the capital qualifies for the later metro FTTN network -- not so good (to put it mildly.)

Some are rightly pointing out that the international submarine cable situation needs some attention in this whole debate, but there is some activity in the area; general capacity in being increased, and a competitive cable may be built, so it's not all doom-and-gloom.

...and I'm obviously being far too optimistic. Oh well, it's... nice, sometimes. ; )

DCITA - OPEL fact sheet (PDF)

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QuickTime + Quartz Composer = alternative iPhone development?
Monday 18th June 2007 01:26  :  Public

The iPhone obviously appears to include QuickTime support, and you'd have to assume this includes Safari playback — obviously MP4/AVC files will be supported by the iPod functions, but will a QuickTime Plug-in, or equivalent, allow Safari to handle common QuickTime formats, and higher-level QuickTime functionality?

...and given the fact that QuickTime can offer interactivity via Sprites, HREF Tracks, and SMIL, and of course the ability to play Quartz Compositions, it seems that there may be another path to interactive development for the iPhone.

Oh, and of course there's WebKit's growing support for AJAX/XHR, JavaScript performance and SVG that could come into play (eventually), esp. in light of the 160dpi display...

Of course there are a lot of loose ends in all of this, and a lot of questions remain unanswered, but these are at least some interesting facts for interactive developers to consider.

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Did I pick the wrong horse(es!)?
Wednesday 2nd May 2007 20:23  :  Public

Well, as interesting/intriguing as Lineform has been, development seems to have slowed to a crawl, and the reality starts to set in that the app is still very new. OTOH Intaglio is mature, but it too seems to develop slowly, and frankly I've never been particularly fond of it's interface.

...oh, and don't even get me started in the vapourous Mac version of Xara Xtreme, following the break down of the open-source version, which was to form the basis of the Mac port (ugh!) Apparently Xara are still interested in pursuing a commercial Mac version, but time will tell.

All of these facts keep pointing to the 'dark horse' in Mac OS X graphics apps, DrawIt, and frankly it's surprising that this app isn't talked about more... I predict it will be! :)

3 comments | post a comment

Subversion on the Mac just got a lot easier
Monday 2nd April 2007 14:26  :  Public

MAS LogoMAS is a drop-installable Subversion server to let you set up a version control system easily and with a GUI on a Macintosh.

This is great news -- previously setting up a local Subversion server has generally been too hard for 'most' web developers to bother with, but it's a great way to manage your source code changes, whether you're a a one-man-band -- in which case you probably don't have as many backups as you should! -- or if you're just editing code away from the company repository.

Good editors support SCM via Subversion (BBEdit, skEdit, Dreamweaver etc.), and the intriguing SCPlugin Finder Subversion plugin is seeing active development again.

All in all, that's good news for web devleopers, but there are other interesting possibilities from running a local Subversion repository for file back up and versioning, even in light of Leopard's coming Time Machine feature.

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Is it really that great an 'attack'?
Monday 2nd April 2007 12:46  :  Public

In response to The Great Apple Video Encoder Attack of 2007 wherein Cringley claims there's something clandestine, and mysterious about supporting hardware accellerated H.264/AVC:

Video cards have long offered HW decoding for video codecs (like MPEG, the successor to AVC), but I'm not sure this is such a 'special case' as it's being made out to be; both ATI and Nvidia have AVC encode/decode support in shipping cards.

IMHO this rumour sounds like a much simpler issue; Apple may upgrade to one of these video cards -- hardly surprising, given they're both existing suppliers -- and may naturally build upon those new capabilities.

Given that Apple has previously indicated support for Blu-Ray, and with AVC one of the supported codecs, it makes complete sense for them to support encoding, in just the same way that CoreAudio/Video/Animation (et al) were initially developed for their 'Pro apps', and then migrated to the OS for more general purpose use.

Such a move would have great implications for their 'i'/'Pro' video apps and of course the iTunes Store, but in general is also just another step (back) in the 'ASIC' trend to offload discrete functions to dedicated hardware.

OS X video playback does lag behind the best that Windows can offer (with third-party cards, codecs and drivers) -- it takes a G5 or better to handle HD -- so there's also the aspect of simply keeping up with expectations.

6 comments | post a comment

SVG support via QuickTime/Core Image
Saturday 24th February 2007 21:24  :  Public

The use of QuickTime/Core Image as a file translation 'gateway' is a fantastic feature; it's very valuable to have existing apps pickup file format support without any effort, offering consistent, predictable support.

As the SVG file format grows in popularity (and relevance) it would be extremely useful to see support migrate simply from WebKit/Safari as a viewer, to QuickTime/Core Image to provide read/write capabilities across a broad spectrum of apps.

At the most basic level it would be very useful indeed, to have Preview open SVG files and allow easy export to bitmap formats, just as it does now for PDF and EPS files.

SVG files are spreading online and currently Mac users have limited ability to deal with the files at present. While a number of graphics apps support for the format, day-to-day users have little opportunity to use the files beyond the browser.

3 comments | post a comment

Google Maps + iPod car integration...
Friday 15th December 2006 20:54  :  Public

Just a little reckless speculation -- in a similar vein to the Nike+ extension of a previously know market characteristic (i.e. runners using their iPod) the wide adoption of iPod car integration might offer an opportunity for Google to extend their mapping application.

...I’d be surprised if this doesn’t happen via Microsoft’s Zune + Virtual Earth tag team.

If the oft-rumoured iPhone really is coming soon, then the presumed WWAN coverage could make this an even better fit than synchronising known travel routes. OTOH the former option may be more feasible, and accessible to users.

Of course the key problem with anything like this is an appropriate ‘interface’ in the vehicle, but a wireless iPod with GPS could present a customised iPod/GoogleMaps interface via the screen along with audio directions, it’s really not that much of a conceptual stretch from the Nike+ activities.

Google’s Video efforts, including YouTube, and their mobile interests, are another convenient element with relevance to Apple’s video-playing iPod.

3 comments | post a comment

Photoshop CS3 Beta Preview Learning Centre
Friday 15th December 2006 20:42  :  Public

The NAPP’s Photoshop CS3 Beta Preview Learning Centre has quite a lot of info, including video tutorials and interviews, for the ever-so-close beta.

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Where are all the Spotlight Comments?
Friday 15th December 2006 17:52  :  Public

From the unpublished archives... :)

We’ve had file comments for eons, and now they’ve graduated to become Spotlight Comments, yet this valuable user information, that adds context to documents, is basically ignored throughout the interface.

In a classic catch-22 this potentially useful feature goes almost unnoticed by everyday users, and the fault lies with the ‘interface’ -- neither the OS nor third-party applications make anywhere near enough use of this ubiquitous field.

 Of course there is at least one justifiable reason; this meta-data does not survive cross-platform, and of course that also means emailing un-encoded files. 

I’ve made the simple request, to numerous developers, to expose the Spotlight Comments field within their application where there has been the need to add context to a file. Doing so would enable those comments to be immediately available to every other application on the System.

It takes little thought to see there are so many areas in which these comments should be available, with some of the most obvious being in Spotlight search results, and in tool-tips for the Spotlight menu. Others include Finder Column View -- if you can show me a rendered thumbnail of the document, show me some text of the document, along with the Spotlight Comments. These comments could (optionally) be shown when hovering over a file in the Finder, in effect by pausing over a particular file the user is gesturing deeper interest in this file.

Open dialogues are another simple, yet potentially empowering use for this data.

As for third-party developers, many types of application could make use of this most basic pieces of data; the Document Manager in NisusWriter Express is really just a basic front-end to the ‘Documents’ sub-folder they use to auto-save your files, and it would be both simple and useful to expose the Spotlight Comments in this window.

Other than managing their own files, applications that interaction with many file-based assets could also clearly make use of this data, Curio being a prime candidate.

While there is an argument for Curio’s own custom notes within the application, at the very least the Spotlight Comments should be visible in the Asset Library. Better yet, Spotlight Comments should be just as available as ‘Curio notes’, renamed as ‘Project Notes’ to better reflect their actual usage. This would allow the user to see and use system-wide Spotlight Comments at the file level, and maintain a higher level context within Curio itself.

There’s long been talk of meta-data improving on Mac OS X (and a lot of arguing that it desperately needs to improve!) Perhaps Leopard will better expose Spotlight Comments, and make their use both more reliable and desirable, to both developers and users alike.

Of course I've banged on about this a few times before.

...of course the ever prolific Daniel Wilson had covered Spotlight in his detailed notes on Tiger.

4 comments | post a comment

Photoshop CS3 beta for Mac coming... soon
Wednesday 6th December 2006 15:24  :  Public

A link to a Photoshop CS3 beta for Mac just appeared on the Adobe site, for a minute or two...

This new version is sounding pretty interesting, quite apart from finally supporting ICBMs. ;)

The link disappeared pretty quickly, and the Adobe Labs page it linked to is not up yet... so a publishing slip tells us that it's even closer than expected, and to be honest, I'm a little surprised they'll be offering a public beta, even in the face of their moves with Lightroom, Flex and the Linux Flash Player.

2 comments | post a comment

Side-scrolling via mouse scroll wheels
Sunday 5th February 2006 22:33  :  Public

Now that the wheel mouse has become an established input device (coupled with track-pad scrolling) and has been sanctioned by Apple, it makes sense to start making further use of that input method.

In the context of iPhoto. it would be extremely useful to be able to scroll the side-scrolling film/album strip that appears when double-clicking an image, or when viewing in full-screen mode.

This would allow me to focus the cursor over that region (the album strip) and quickly scrub along the list with the default scroll wheel (or the scroll nipple on the Mighty Mouse, or other alternative scrolling devices, like the PowerMate, ShuttlePro etc.)

NB: There is a precedent for this behaviour, QuickTime supports side-scrolling via the scroll wheel, when focussed over the time line.

This functionality could also be applied to sliders throughout the interface, esp. the Adjustments palette, to allow more precise movement, while reducing the requirement for fine motor movement.

Scroll wheels are generally notched, such that each increment of the scroll action can be mapped to an incremental adjustment, allowing very fine control, while also offering the possibility to accelerate the input (scale the increments), when the wheel is spun faster.

All pretty basic stuff, but subtly powerful.

4 comments | post a comment

Keynote as simple authoring environment
Monday 23rd January 2006 22:08  :  Public

I really must expand upon this, but for now…

I would really like to have an integrated means of recording the audio of a Keynote presentation that could then be exported along with the slides for sharing the lecture/presentation, not just the supporting information (i.e. the slides.)

While the overall effect can already be achieved manually, the ability to record within Keynote would enable the audio track to be synchronised with slide transitions, would make the process of sharing much simpler, and the end results more useful to the audience.

Since the transition points in a presentation would be tracked during the recording, this would allow the insertion of chapter marks in appropriate export formats (e.g. QuickTime video, Flash, MB4 audio podcasts with images, and SMIL?) which would also be very useful additions to the utility of the resulting file.

This addition would make Keynote an very useful application in general, but also particularly for distance education, corporate training, and proofing/storyboarding for the creative industries etc.

Of course one obvious inter-application link would be with Garageband for more complex audio/scording needs, and then exporting to QuickTime/MB4, or to iDVD, for a very simple authoring workflow.

5 comments | post a comment

Bring Services back to the Help Viewer
Saturday 21st January 2006 16:53  :  Public

System Services, a feature brought over from the NeXT days, are one of those lesser know qualities of Mac OS X that can really add a lot to the system, and your work flow. Unfortunately Services support can sometimes be a little spotty, with the main issue being that many Carbon apps do not offer, or support other System Services.

Worse, though, is when Apple doesn’t not properly support their own OS features in their applications, or even the system itself, like say the Help Viewer -- to blunder forth with the obvious pun, this rather unhelpful application does not show the Services menu item in its Application Menu.

There are times when it would be useful to be able to use the System Services on text contained within the Help system. e.g.

  • to grab a selection to save as a reminder;
  • to email to someone;
  • to add an address to your Address Book;
  • to add text to a document you’re creating;
  • to run AppleScript examples;
  • to search on a word/phrase etc.
The only way that I’ve been able to run System Services has been via the ICeCoffEE Application Enhancer which allows you to add the Services menu to the Contextual Menu.

4 comments | post a comment

Ignorant interfaces
Monday 9th January 2006 01:26  :  Public

Rich Ziade has a good post over at BASEMENT.ORG on just how little our software really does for us, something I constantly rant about, as my most patient cublicle-mate could attest.  : )

When we use a piece of technology - whether a web browser, a portable music player, or a cable box - really anything that deals with content delivery and manipulation - we provide an invaluable amount of raw data about our behaviours, interests and habits. Almost all these devices today simply operate as workers - never doing more than what’s asked of them: play that song, display that article, record that movie. Once the task is completed, these devices (for the most part) completely forget what was asked of them and simply wait for the next task request.
Rich, I couldn’t agree with you more. Rich goes on to although as you note with MS Office, it’s vital that this interaction morphing be careful not to undermine other important aspects of the UI, and it’s conventions -- for me, chasing Office menus was always a constant annoyance, and undermined the experience.

Of course there have been basic examples of this sort of ‘software memory’ for a long time, e.g. graphics tools that remember recent object styles, but for a more user evident expression of ‘interaction morphing’, email and web browsers, and news readers in particular, are well positioned to benefit handsomely.

Both the OmniWeb and Camino browsers on Mac OS X track your most visited sites, in addition to your conventional history, and of course email apps generally track previous recipients for address completion (at least Apple Mail.)

A good news reader should be able to actively help me manage not only the mountain of articles, but based on user observation it should be able to help me manage the incoming feed subscriptions, as I discover new people or projects to track, and help me cull out the ones that I’ve stopped actively following.

Daniel Wilson over at Membranophonist’s Ramblings also blogs on these sorts of intelligent interface design enhancements, and is well worth a look, and he’s much more prolific than I!

3 comments | post a comment

good stuff
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my non-blog...

A light-weight blog, Blurty is fine, and iJournal for Mac OS X, is a nice simple way to post, especially with it’s system service, it's a cinch to select some text and use the service via the Quicksilver key-combo.

Fast, and simple, but I can't integrate my links, as I'd like to, so maybe there's still reason for a 'full-blown' blogging setup...

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