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Year: 2007

There he goes, folks…

Rick Downes, writing at Rixstep, has gone off the deep end (and not for the first time, either).

If I understand this post correctly, he believes that Apple’s engineers are spending so much time reading his misanthropic ravings that they’re neglecting their more important work, namely fixing all the bugs in Leopard. To this end, he’s actually blocked access to his website from Apple (the entire 17/8 network — yes, Apple has a Class A network block).

Well, that will certainly help. Now they can spend their time instead reviewing all the bug reports that Rick has faithfully filed… oh, wait, Rick gave up filing bug reports because Apple’s engineers ignore them.

But Rick, if they can’t read your site, how will they find out what the bugs are?

Oh, well, no matter — it wouldn’t do any good anyway; clearly none of the engineers at Apple are anywhere near as smart as Rick (as a quick perusal of Rick’s site will make clear). Might as well give up and switch to Linux or Windows, eh, Rick? No? They’re worse? Really? Hard to believe, the way you talk. (By the way, you kiss your mother with that mouth?)

Well, I suppose I’ve wasted enough time reading Rick’s site, too. Time to block it myself so I don’t accidentally learn how to be a better programmer, or something.

(What a Rick.)

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Dancing with the elephant (revised)

While gathering information about application compatibility with Leopard, I notice one developer, Snerdware, is struggling to keep up with the situation. They report two major problems that affect their current applications, and, with some evident frustration, blame both of them on Apple. [Note: I’ve substantially rewritten my commentary on the first issue, since I’ve learned additional information and since my main point applies to the second issue.]

The first issue affects both their products; the report here is for AddressX:

AddressX won’t startup on 10.5.0/Leopard running on an Intel-powered Mac (a log indicates “… Reason: no suitable image found. Did find: /usr/lib/libcrypto.0.9.dylib: mach-o, but wrong architecture. …”).

When we looked at the 10.5 pre-release, we encountered an OS X library issue — it installs a non-universal/PPC-only version of a library that’s critical to our applications (and, of course, all our developer systems are Intel-powered). ‘Though we filed a bug report early in October (original Problem ID: 5520955 and have now re-filed it), believe it or not, it’s still a problem with the released/commercial version of 10.5.0 (even without the bug report, you’d think that a check to ensure all binaries are universal would actually be a basic QA step — it’s one that’s easily automated!).

After corresponding with someone named Bryan D. at Snerdware and doing a little more research, I’ve learned the following things which make me more sympathetic to their problem than I originally was:

  • Apple includes two versions of libcrypto: one called libcrypto.0.9.dylib, and one called libcrypto.0.9.7.dylib, and a symbolic link libcrypto.dylib that points to the newer library.
  • In Leopard, the newer library is indeed a four-way universal binary, but the older library is PowerPC only. I originally assumed this was because only pre-Intel applications would require it, since libcrypto.0.9.7.dylib has been available in Mac OS X at least as far back as 10.3.9; and so Snerdware was making a mistake by linking to the older library and then complaining that it wasn’t universal.
  • But it turns out that Snerdware relies on features that are present in the older library (which corresponds to libcrypto version 0.9.6l), but have been removed for some reason from the newer library.
  • More strangely, Apple did include a universal binary of libcrypto.0.9.dylib in the Intel versions of Tiger, but strangely left it PowerPC-only in Leopard. Huh?
  • Snerdware originally considered compiling the older library into their program, but since it’s crypto there are all kind of export regulations that come into play (and believe me, I know about this; I had to research exactly this topic at a previous job).

Hopefully this was indeed an oversight that can be fixed in a future update; otherwise, Snerdware has a problem with no easy solution, and some portion of the blame lies with Apple.

The second issue is a more fundamental problem, and one that affects nearly all Mac developers — Apple has a history of making significant changes to core system services between OS versions. I presume that Apple doesn’t do this maliciously, but there are plenty of developers who will tell you they’ve been burned by Apple changing or dropping technologies. Apparently Snerdware is once burned and twice shy:

Since we’ve previously been seriously “bitten” by Apple’s last-minute major changes to developer pre-releases, we can’t afford to take pre-releases seriously until they are near release. […]

With the imminent release of 10.5.0, we […] discovered that, even ‘though OS X’s Sync Services has the same interfaces and we’ve seen no documentation/release notes that document subtle but significant changes in behavior, we see that the behavior has changed in a way that will cause us to make very major changes to Groupcal … Given that Groupcal was working very well with 10.4, this is more than annoying for us, as well. Be angry with Apple, not with us.

[…] It’s things like this that make it much more difficult for an OS X product to be a viable business proposition.

Here I have a harder time finding sympathy. By their own admission they waited until the last minute to check whether the behavior of Sync Services had changed, and now they report to their users that their flagship product won’t be compatible until the first quarter of 2008, and point the finger at Apple?

(Luckily their target market appears to be corporate workgroups running Exchange servers, and those folks are less likely to be rushing out and upgrading to Leopard, so Snerdware may have some time there.)

If my livelihood depended on my product operating correctly with Sync Services, I wouldn’t rely on Apple keeping its behavior unchanged from release to release; I’d be booting up each Leopard seed on a non-critical system and checking things out. Perhaps I’d muster up the resources to send a developer to WWDC, where Apple encourages you to bring your code, try it out on the current seed, and discuss problems with the Apple engineers who have come up from Cupertino for the week for just this reason.

(To be fair, I don’t know that Snerdware didn’t do this; but with the “can’t afford to take pre-releases seriously” comment above, I somehow doubt it.)

And then — well, maybe Sync Services does change in the September seed and I still have a lot of work to do — but wouldn’t I’d be five weeks further along?

If you choose to dance with an elephant, you can approach it one of two ways — you can wait for the dust to settle, and then see what the lay of the land is; or you can try to be more nimble and maneuver around the elephant. We independent developers are supposed to be more nimble… aren’t we?

[But sometimes, even if you’re nimble, you can get still stepped on…]

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Fake Steve Jobs: Still Got It

Can I just say how much I (still) love Fake Steve Jobs?

Greenpeace, as I live and breathe, by Grabthar’s hammer, by the sons of Warvan, I shall see your offices and ships destroyed. I shall see you crushed and driven before me. I shall hear the cries and lamentations of your women.

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Voĉo el pasinteco

While researching the previous post, I was surprised to find that the most recent reference to me in USENET is in soc.culture.esperanto from 2004:

[Ĉu] estas pluraj “Esperantistoj en MIT kaj Harvard”? En mia tempo
(malfruaj sepdekaj jaroj) estis nur po unu – respektive iu Russell Finn,
studento pri komputiko, kaj mi.

— Angelos TSIRIMOKOS, Bruselo

Are there multiple “Esperantists at MIT and Harvard”? In my day (the late seventies) there were only one at each – respectively, a computer science student named Russell Finn, and I.

— Angelos Tsirimokos, Brussels

I’m amazed that Angelos remembers me after all those years. I had learned Esperanto in my teens, and had made an abortive attempt to form an Esperanto club at MIT, but as I recall I knew Angelos only through meetings of the Boston Esperanto Club. I remember him, of course, but I haven’t thought of him in years. It’s been years since I was active in Esperanto, too.

Saluton, Angelos. Mi devas baldaŭ retpoŝti al vi… kaj jes, nun ekzistas MIT Societo por Esperanto!

To learn more about the international language Esperanto, visit the World Esperanto Assocation or Esperanto-USA (formerly the Esperanto League of North America).

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USENET archeology

Via Chuq von Rospach: What is your earliest USENET post on Google Groups?

Mine dates to October 17, 1983 and was posted to [sic].

Boy, am I old or what.

Unrelated note: I’ve never met Chuq, but based on the odd photo of him I’ve seen from time to time, I look somewhat like him. I’m a little taller, I believe, and not quite as heavy — although if I don’t get off my butt soon, he’s going to pass me coming down. Also, compared to his current weblog page, I have less forehead and much less gray in my beard. 😉 That’s OK, because I believe he’s got a couple of years on me too.

No significance to any of that, except it’s fun to have some connection to a bone fide net.god. 🙂

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A Brief Summary of the Macalope's Fisking of David Berlind's Comments on the Next iPhone

David Berlind: Based on an off-hand comment Steve Jobs made at the iPhone U.K. intro, I predict the next iPhone — you know, the phone designed to be different from all the other crappy phones out there — will add all that stuff that the other phones have.

The Macalope: Dude. Are you even paying a little attention?

(Oh, and as far as I can tell the site Berlind quoted got the quote wrong. They have Jobs saying “You can expect a 3G iPhone later next year”, but the quote I saw elsewhere — sorry, can’t find it right now — was more like “You should not expect a 3G iPhone before late next year”, which makes more sense.)

(Oh, and of course Apple’s going to have a 3G iPhone out sometime next year. Duh. Wake me up when the 3G EDGE network comes to town, and then we’ll talk.)

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Arrr! Hoist the mizzen!

Once again it be [Talk Like a ]([Pirate Day!]( Do yer duty!

(What’s that? Only nine posts since last year? Ne’er you mind that, ye landlubber! Get back to work — them decks don’t swab themsel’s, ye know!)

— Mad Russ Greybeard

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Yankee fan of the week: John Gruber

[I’d have said “Jackass of the Week”, but that would be redundant. Ba-da-bing.]

By responding to John Gruber’s comment on the Shelly Duncan autograph incident, I know I’m opening myself up to the same criticism of humorlessness; but it ticks me off every time I read it.

For the record, I’m an Orioles fan — there, I said it — but I have ties to the Boston area through both ancestry and schooling, and so whatever bias I may have in the situation is toward the Red Sox. (As would anyone else not a Yankees fan, I dare say.)

I think most people would agree that there’s a point at which writing “Red Sox suck!” on an autograph for a Red Sox fan is clearly intended as a good-natured jibe, and a point at which it is clearly inappropriate. For a 37-year-old beer-bellied bleacher dweller, for instance, it’s clearly a joke. For a four-year-old little girl with a red balloon, it’s clearly inappropriate. Agreed?

Now the question becomes where you draw the line. I think a 10-year-old boy pretty clearly falls on the “inappropriate” side of the line. Gruber apparently disagrees. I think if the boy had been a teenager — 14, at least — I would be more inclined to see it as a joke, however lame and unsubtle.

Of course, Duncan offers no apology, as quoted in the followup story:

> “I thought I was back in middle school or high school, where you try to make a joke or say something funny, and you end up saying something that gets you in trouble,” Duncan said … “I try to rile ’em up and be fun. I don’t expect anybody to make a big deal about it. Nobody ever has before.”

“It was just a joke! Can’t you take a joke?” *I* caused offense, but it’s *your* fault.

As for Gruber’s comments: well, they’re exactly what I’d expect to hear from a Yankees fan.

> When I was 10 I would have laughed my ass off if some player from the Red Sox had given me a “Yankees suck!” autograph.

Yeah, sure, because when you were 10, you were a punk-assed kid whose favorite team had won 26 World Series in the last sixty years. That’s pretty big of you. Suppose you’d been a Red Sox fan — but no, that would be impossible for you to imagine, rooting for one of the little teams that’s supposed to just roll over and play dead before the mighty pinstripes.

I speak from painful observation — although I am a part-season ticket owner, I haven’t attended a Yankees/Orioles game in years, because I don’t care to see ten thousand arrogant, foul-mouthed, drunken Yankees fans invade my home ballpark and ruin my afternoon. I certainly wouldn’t take my children there.

(I’ve stopped going to Orioles/Red Sox games, too, because the Red Sox Nation has become nearly as insufferable, and there’s even more of them, if that’s possible. Camden Street looks like Kenmore Square. And yes, I’m all too aware that the Orioles have brought this on themselves, for the twin crimes of organizational incompetence and being in the AL East.)

I don’t even really hate the Yankees. (Well, maybe Rodriguez. And Jeter.) I just want the Yankees to lose — in as humiliating a manner as possible — to piss off the Yankee fans. Ah, 2004. Sweet, sweet 2004… but of course that only put the tiniest dent in their insufferable arrogance. I’ve seen the T-shirts: “Still 26 to 1.” Hmmph.

That’s OK. I know of plenty other ways a baseball team can be humiliated. (Did I mention I was an Orioles fan?)

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Well, maybe not… but then again…

I was seriously considering an iPod touch to replace both my current iPod and my Palm TX, until Apple somewhat arbitrarily decided not to permit editing calendar events on the iPod (although you can add and edit contacts … huh?). So now I’m not so sure.

Would it be completely absurd to purchase a refurbished iPhone for only $50 more than the “equivalent” 8GB iPod touch, and thereby get all the extra applications? Not just full-featured calendar, but weather, stock quotes, Google maps, etc. (Plus emergency 911!)

Is that worth $50? Maybe… I’d have to activate it and then cancel the AT&T service, but that seems pretty well documented. Many commenters mocked people who wanted to do this with their $600 iPhone, but for $349 it seems more reasonable. (Plus I’d have something to develop applications for… yeah, right. That’s what I said about the last three Palms I bought, too.)

Bonus notes from perusing the online features guide:

  • “[To] quickly type a period and space: Double-tap the space bar.” Cool! Does the iPhone do this too?

  • “[To] enter a pause in a [phone] number: Tap [some symbol], then tap Pause.

    Pauses are sometimes required by phone systems—before an extension or password, for example. Each pause lasts 2 seconds. You may need to enter more than one.”

    They took editable contacts out of the iPod touch, and left this in? Hello, McFly?

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