Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for May, 2012

Roulette Racing

The grid features six world champions. Only three of them have won a race this season, and of those, Britain’s Lewis Hamilton seems better placed to win than Kimi Raikkonen and the struggling Michael Schumacher.

“It is an unusual season with winners you would have never guessed,” said Hamilton, referring to two weeks ago when 300-to-1 outsider Pastor Maldonado won in Barcelona. “It is great for the fans as every race translates into a thriller.”

It’s been a very strange, but extremely exciting season so far. The always excellent, always glamorous Monaco Grand Prix is this weekend. Can’t wait.

Pulp 2.5 for Mac and iOS

I’m quite bad at RSS. I used to use NetNewsWire, but the unread count would frequently hit several thousand before I remembered to clear it. Pulp is my favourite RSS application because it makes me better at reading. It has a newspaper-esque layout, which isn’t everyone’s brand of vodka, but it beats the Mail-esque layouts of most RSS readers if you subscribe to less than forty feeds or so. It also has a great “Magic Reader” feature, which grabs the content of the page and strips out the crap. Think Instapaper, but for RSS.

The only downside is that Pulp is developed by two guys, which means that updates take a while. The new iPad was announced on March 7, but it took until yesterday for a retina-ready version of Pulp for iOS to be shipped. Happily, however, it includes extra stuff which made it worth the wait.

There’s a great new “smart” home page, which finds and collates articles based on what you read most. Pulp 2.5 is iCloud-enabled, which replaces the old custom syncing option. Finally, there’s a browser extension for Safari and Google Chrome, which allows you to save the current webpage to your Pulp shelf.

This isn’t a sponsored post—I don’t get the kind of traffic to get sponsors—I just really like the app. Both versions are on sale right now on their respective app stores.

Calculated Risks

As of yesterday, all anyone knew was that Airfoil Speakers Touch was removed from the App Store. The developer, Rogue Amoeba, appeared not to know why, and they probably didn’t.

Today, Apple confirmed to The Verge that it was pulled for using non-public APIs. This was in response to its ability to receive audio via Apple’s AirPlay protocol. David Smith (unaffiliated with either Apple or Rogue Amoeba) explains:

As best I understand the technical details of this, in order for any of these apps to operate they must then make use of this private key to impersonate an Airport Express. It seems entirely reasonable that Apple would not condone the use of their hacked private key in this manner, least of all in an App Store app.

In a sense then, it wasn’t using a non-public API, but a reverse-engineered feature. A pedantic, negligible difference, but a difference all the same, leading John Gruber to comment:

It’s not enough to comply with the letter of the rules; developers must comply with the spirit of them as well. Finding a loophole in the letter of the rules doesn’t grant you a Get Out of Jail Free card in the App Store. It will (hopefully) just lead to Apple adding a new rule to close the loophole.

Rogue Amoeba complied fully with the letter of the regulations. They used only public APIs, and essentially built their own AirPlay one. But because it didn’t comply with the spirit of the rules, it was booted.

I’m not sure Rogue Amoeba was in the right here. I think they knew they were treading a fine line (something which Smith points out), but went ahead with it anyway in the hope that it would be allowed. Apple certainly could have handled this better by informing the developers why the app was being pulled, instead of waiting until after they had done so.

BMW Unveils Handbuilt Zagato Coupé

Keeping a longstanding tradition of unveiling stunning, hand-built one-off cars, the 2012 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este was the showcase for BMW and coachbuider Zagato to show off the new BMW Zagato Coupé.

Sometimes, I am under the impression I’m a rational individual. On occasion, however, I get the urge to start a murder-for-hire scheme to pay for things like this.

Coming Attractions: Windows 8

John Moltz, in a piece for Macworld:

Metro is an extremely appealing interface. The tile animation is slick and refined, and I like how tiles update to show current information. What I’m less sold on is slapping it over the Windows desktop and forcing this unholy union. I like where Microsoft seems to be going with this franchise in the long run, I just wonder how painful this year’s release is going to be.

The confusing combination of Metro and traditional Windows interfaces is something of a running theme amongst Windows 8 (p)reviews.

The New Codas

Shawn Blanc has written an extensive, yet great review of both new Coda applications. He correctly notes one of my few quibbles with Coda 2:

Coda 2 does not support Lion’s auto-saving and versioning for local files.

I love auto-saving, and I can’t see a reason this was omitted. Overall, though, Coda 2 is an application you will want to open on a regular basis. It does the impossible: it makes writing code fun.

The 7-inch iPad

Jim Dalrymple:

Analysts and media types insist that Apple needs to bring a smaller tablet to market to ward off the threat from Amazon.

There are a couple of things to consider with this argument. First, people that use that as the basis for the release of a 7-inch iPad are full of shit. Second, using that argument shows they don’t understand Apple and how the company works.

Despite the rumours that insist Apple is getting ready to release a 7-inch iPad, this counterargument is still strong enough to doubt that one is on the way.

Why Facebook Needs Two Photo Apps

Dan Frommer:

To us geeks who follow everything that’s going on in the tech industry, it might initially seem a little odd that Facebook would have, want, or need two camera apps. (Although, technically, Facebook doesn’t own Instagram yet. That deal isn’t closed, and might not be for a while.)

But it actually makes sense.

There are some smart ideas in this post. It makes sense when you frame it as Frommer has.

Responsive Typography

Information Architects have designed a custom, responsive typeface. Oliver Reichenstein explains:

So far, we only had a choice of a couple of system fonts, and there was not much to choose from. For serifed typefaces there was mainly one (Georgia) and for san serifed typefaces there were two or three (mainly Arial and Verdana). These typefaces were designed in the early nineties for what we now consider low resolution screens. They have worked beautifully until recently. Unfortunately, they don’t work on high density screens.

InstaCRT

I don’t usually link to app launches (mostly because I’m quite content with what I have), but this is as nutty as anything I’ve seen. According to their FAQ:

Hipstamatic and Instagram and other apps are applying filters to your photos in the software in your camera. InstaCRT is sending your photo to our office in Stockholm where the photo is displayed on a actual physical 1” CRT monitor which is photographed with a digital SLR from which the new photo is sent back to your phone over the internet.

Don’t believe me? Watch their demo video. There must be something in the water in Sweden.

Coda 2 and Diet Coda are Now Available

Of course I bought both. If you’re interested, I bought the non-Mac App Store version of Coda 2. The only advantage that the MAS version has is iCloud syncing, and even that is restricted (as of now) to Mac-to-Mac Coda syncing.

The Panic version, on the other hand, doesn’t have to fulfill sandboxing requirements, and can be built as Panic wishes in the future. It isn’t susceptible to Apple’s whims.

The Outsiders

Speaking of Tim Cook, a chart was posted to the online edition of The Economist today, which shows that:

outsiders are almost twice as likely as insiders to be given the boot, and have a much poorer record of making money for their shareholders than insiders.

This I got from a comments thread on Hacker News in which Joseph Flaherty notes three instances of great performance by successors to defining CEOs.

Photoshop Disaster

I wasn’t aware that Tim Cook was a giraffe. After comparing the way the hair is stacked, his Apple bio seems to be the source for the head image. Some poor intern probably had to pose for the arm.

How Tim Cook is Changing Apple

Interesting profile by Adam Lashinski, for Fortune. There are some intriguing differences between the Cook era and the Jobs era at Apple. This paragraph, in particular, seems worrisome at face value:

Elsewhere there are signs of Apple becoming a more normal company. When Adrian Perica, a former Goldman Sachs banker, joined Apple several years ago, he was the only executive whose sole remit was dealmaking. Steve Jobs basically ran M&A for Apple. Today Perica heads a department with three corporate-development professionals under him and a staff supporting them, so that Apple can work on three deals simultaneously. Indeed, the vibe, in the words of a former employee, is of an Apple that is becoming “far more traditional,” meaning more MBAs, more process, and more structure. (In point of fact, 2,153 Apple employees reference the term “MBA” in their LinkedIn profiles out of a nonretail workforce of nearly 28,000. More than half the employees who reference “MBA” have been at Apple less than two years.)

That there has been a dramatic uptick in the number of business students at Apple in the past two years seems antithetical to the way Apple views themselves, and to the organizational structure that began when Jobs returned in the mid-nineties. But another idea earlier in the Fortune story suggests that these fears are unfounded:

Cook consistently pays homage to the legacy of Jobs, but he doesn’t apologize for charting a new course. He seems, at the end of the day, to be honoring one of Jobs’ dying requests: that Apple’s management not ask “What would Steve do?” and instead do what’s best for Apple.

The company is a shifting beast, and it’s Cook’s job to ensure that it stays true to the qualities of Apple, but not necessarily in the way Jobs would do it. That’s all.

Facebook Camera

Via Mike Matas, who notes that he’s been using it for “months”. Why would you pay a billion dollars for a service you’re duplicating in-house, with a majority of users that are already signed up with Facebook?

Update: It appears that Mr. Matas removed that particular tweet. However, it was still in my Twitterrific timeline, so I grabbed a screenshot.