Flash’s inaccessible installer

June 18th, 2010  |  Tags: , , , , ,  |  Leave a comment

Daring Fireball links to a report that the installer for the latest version of Adobe Flash is incompatible with OS-level assistive technologies on both the Mac and Windows. So if you need, for example, a screen reader to interact with a computer, the standard Flash installer will just look like an empty window to you. On the plus side, you won’t even have to pretend to read the EULA.

I rarely miss an opportunity to enjoy Flash-related schadenfreude, and am completely in favor of any criticisms of Adobe installers, which generally resemble the sort of software provisioning technology that might have been designed by mid-level bureaucrats in Soviet satellite states. But I’m also reminded of the accessibility concerns surrounding cash machines in the mid-1990s. Isn’t it a little silly to complain that visually-impaired users won’t be able to use the inaccessible installer for the latest version of a browser plugin that exists exclusively to render inaccessible web content?

Is this how you want to sell software?

May 6th, 2010  |  Tags: , , ,  |  Leave a comment

Most of the software I write is released under permissive open-source licenses, but I’m sympathetic to people who want to make a living selling licenses for proprietary application software. I can’t understand the “bundle sales” phenomenon that has been widely-touted in the Mac world for the last few years. A lot of people have already written about how these bundles are a bad deal for developers and users, and, indeed, that they only work out well for the bundle promoters.

Furthermore, a lot of bundles seemingly rely on aggregating a huge number of low-quality programs into one inexpensive package. If I had a decent program that I was hoping to license to end-users, I don’t know why I’d want to put it in a flea market of hyperspecialized, half-baked programs of dubious utility. (This tactic is also antithetical to the sensibilities of the stereotypical Mac user. Indeed, if I had wanted a lot of shovelware that I’d likely never use, I’d just have bought a Vista-ready notebook from Best Buy, since these typically include shovelware preinstalled gratis.)

The truly remarkable thing, though, is that the bundle promoters seem to be embracing this flea market mentality. Take a look at the following image, which I cropped from a bundle-sale web page that someone mentioned on Twitter this morning:


This image of n application icons crammed into a cardboard box doesn’t say “these are quality tools that you will find useful and valuable.” Instead, it says “this box of junk didn’t sell at the yard sale and the weekend is almost over. Don’t look too closely, but you can have it for $20.”

First impressions of the Core Animation book

October 29th, 2008  |  Tags: , , ,  |  Leave a comment

I got my copy of Bill Dudney’s Core Animation for Mac OS X and the iPhone yesterday.

I pre-ordered this book in March, but the Pragmatic gang decided to include coverage of iPhone topics at the 11th hour and ran into a snag with Apple’s now-lifted iPhone NDA, which delayed the book’s release from midsummer until now. (I note that the iPhone chapter, which was directly responsible for the delay, is 14 pages long.)

I really don’t have any time for recreational programming right now, but I read the first few chapters last night. It reads well, has an approachable tutorial style, and makes me wistfully look forward to some point in the future when I have more free time.

On scrolling

August 11th, 2008  |  Tags: ,  |  Leave a comment

Adam Engst points out that “you pull down on a Mac scroll wheel to scroll down, but push up on an iPhone/touch to scroll down.” This confused me for my first couple of days of iPhone use, but it makes a little more sense when you consider the underlying metaphor: on the iPhone, the idea seems to be that you are “grabbing” the paper and moving it under the window. Therefore, on the iPhone, your scrolling mimics moving the paper with your fingers under the viewport; on the Mac, you mimic moving the window through the document. (The latter behavior makes much less when I think about it, but I suspect it is an artifact of the first scroll wheel applications.)

(I remember being similarly confused when I first used the Sibelius music notation software on my Mac, which also uses a “grab the page and move it under the window” idea. It probably didn’t help that I was having to unlearn many years of Finale ninjahood….)

Pragmatic [REDACTED]

July 23rd, 2008  |  Tags: , , , , ,  |  Leave a comment

I suppose this is why the Core Animation book I pre-ordered from Amazon in March remains unshipped a week after its expected release date and why Amazon sent me a panicked “we have no idea when this will ship — do you still want it?” message.

In cheerier Pragmatic Programmers news, I watched some of their Erlang screencasts on a recent plane trip and am glad to endorse them. They’re certainly not a substitute for Armstrong’s excellent Erlang book, but they’re a nice taste of some very cool features of the language. I learned of these via DF, whose one-sentence summary of Pragmatic’s products hits everything I love and loathe about them. (Seriously, Bookman makes my skin crawl, and it’s only the beginning.)

(Confidential to readers who appreciate the idea of evaluating technical books on both content and typography: have I got a treat for you, and soon!)

On ecto

May 28th, 2008  |  Tags: , ,  |  Leave a comment

Erik Barzeski and John Gruber posted about the ecto-illumineX deal earlier today. Since a lot of people are now arriving here via searches for “ecto illumineX,” I’d like to draw attention to this comment from illumineX CEO Gary Longsine, who claims that active development will continue and we have nothing to fear. I also am encouraged that it appears (based on Ado’s reply to my initial query on the ecto forum) that he will continue developing ecto in some capacity.

My take is this: I haven’t bought a MarsEdit license yet. ecto 3 is turning into a great tool, and I’m inclined to give Gary the benefit of the doubt — especially since he indicates that he has big (and specific) plans for ecto.

Uh oh

May 26th, 2008  |  Tags: , ,  |  6 Comments

Uh oh.

Why am I concerned? Try following this similar situation to its unfortunate conclusion. I use and love ecto, and I’ve recommended it to a lot of people, most of whom use it. Here’s hoping illumineX will be better for ecto than they were for the FSS stuff, and best wishes to Ado. (I am thankful that the current version of ecto 3 is functional and works with contemporary Macs and Leopard.)

UPDATE: thanks to Gary Longsine for some more information. UPDATE 2: Erik Barzeski also weighs in, as does someone whose time might be better spent contacting Barzeski directly.

Keynote for Print

May 6th, 2008  |  Tags: ,  |  Leave a comment

This is pretty cool: Khoi Vinh used slideware to make a paper report:

Here’s how much I like Apple’s Keynote presentation software. I just used it the way I might have used QuarkXPress or Adobe InDesign: to create a document intended not for the screen or projection, but for printing, and being held in one’s hand.

The results look great.

Cool new Safari feature

June 11th, 2007  |  Tags: , ,  |  5 Comments

If you’re using the Safari 3 beta, there’s a cool feature that I don’t believe was available in previous versions: you can examine the properties and styling of DOM elements in a floating inspector panel:

inspect element context menu option   element inspector panel

I’m not trashing my copy of CSSEdit, but this is an extremely nice feature!

UPDATE: Here’s some more on this feature.

OS X 10.4.9 seems to demolish Kerberos over ssh

March 29th, 2007  |  Tags: , , , , ,  |  1 Comment

I just installed the OS X 10.4.9 update yesterday. Since then, ssh has failed to forward my Kerberos and AFS tickets to the office. Saying this is a big pain is perhaps the understatement of the decade. (It’s thrilling to log in to my office computer and not have access rights to any of my files — it makes me feel like a secret ninja hacker, just like Matthew Broderick in Wargames!) As far as I can tell, this is the default behavior in the version of ssh included with 10.4.9 (bad idea, Apple). Fortunately, this simple solution worked for me:

  1. Open Terminal.
  2. Using your favorite editor, open the file /etc/ssh_config
  3. Uncomment (i.e. remove the “#”) from the following lines:
    • Host *
    • GSSAPIAuthentication
    • GSSAPIDelegateCredentials
    • GSSAPIKeyExchange
  4. If a no appears in the … part of any line you uncommented, change it to a yes.
  5. Save the file. You’ll need an administrator password.
  6. (Hopefully) enjoy functional ticket forwarding again, like before you upgraded.
  7. Grimace, since you haven’t tested any of your Audio Units under 10.4.9 yet. Be glad you made a backup.

This seems to make ssh slower, but it also seems to work.

Actiontastic goes free and (soon) open source

March 15th, 2007  |  Tags: , , , ,  |  Leave a comment

I’ve been following Actiontastic for a while, installing time-limited betas and hoping that the final version would be released soon so that I could buy it and stop worrying about having a decent GTD system on my computer. Well, I can stop waiting, I guess:

Actiontastic will be free and open source. The free (as in “free beer”) part starts tonight. The code (as in “freely available source code”) will follow when the overhead of a new team won’t crush the project under its own weight. Those with experience getting to 1.0 will understand what I mean.

Crosby is also going to release the source code to actionatr, his upcoming productivity tool web service that syncs with Actiontastic. Nice.