June 2, 2008

This may be the last week I have to use this clunky 1st generation iPhone. I’ve been anticipating the 2nd gen model since June 30, and the original doesn’t hold a candle to my expectations for iPhone 2.

March 1, 2008

Lets talk about a variety of Mac OS X software called Input Managers.

In brief, an Input Manager is software that can affect other running applications. The original intent of Input Managers was to provide a means for customizing the operation of the keyboard and/or mouse to support things like locale-specific input behavior (treating keyboard input differently for different languages or regions) and software that aids handicapped individuals. The name “Input Manager” is thus appropriate for these intended uses. (Read more about Text Input Management.)

However, it wasn’t long before Mac developers found this to be a useful way to graft additional functionality into other applications. There are several OS X software products out there that are input managers which have little to do with input management (Inquisitor, 1Password, Chax are three that I use today). These products are typically unstable in nature, since they often times rely on undocumented aspects of the “host” application. But when they work, they can add real useful functionality to other programs.

The downside to Input Managers is that it is a tempting means for rogue software to exploit. One such example is the “Oompa-Loompa” trojan which surfaced about two years ago. This was a download that supposedly contained pre-release screen shots of OS X 10.5. It masqueraded the installation program as an image file, and when the unsuspecting user tries to view the file, it installs itself into the user’s “Input Managers” folder. It then can access any application that is run and affects iChat in particular, so that it tries to spread to others in your iChat contact list.

One of the changes in Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) was in how OS X dealt with Input Managers. The early rumors were that Leopard wouldn’t permit them to run at all. But after release, Leopard did run Input Managers, but only those that are installed in the system-wide “/Library/InputManagers” folder.

The distinction is this: before Leopard, if a user runs software that tries to install an Input Manager, there is nothing to stop it from installing one that is local to that user’s account (installing it to the “/Users/username/Library/InputManagers” folder). With Leopard, installation of an Input Manager requires system-administration rights (so the user is prompted to authenticate to permit the installation), and the Input Manager is installed to the “/Library/InputManagers” folder.

The authentication requirement is the key and is a welcome change. There should be some kind of barrier to install software of this nature. BUT, it is wrong for Input Managers to only be installable in a system-wide fashion.

Before Leopard, I always— always— installed Input Managers for my own account only. By doing so, I could always login as another user to disable them. Remember— by their nature, they are less stable, and can cause applications to crash. A common request of developers when reporting bugs in their programs is to disable any third-party Input Manager software to see if it resolves the problem at hand. I could do that by logging in under a different account before Leopard, but now I cannot.

Personally, I would have preferred that user-specific Input Managers were still supported, but also require an administrator’s password to install. So, you would have a path, perhaps like “/Library/InputManagers/Users/username”, which may even be symlinked to “/Users/username/Library/InputManagers”. I think this is a better option, than requiring Input Managers to be activated for all users of that machine.

Hopefully a later update or release of OS X will address this and restore the option of user-level Input Managers.

November 10, 2007

Netflix.com has this option to watch a selection of their movies through your browser. Assuming your browser is running on Windows, as they require Windows Media DRM to play it.

But their promotional graphic (pictured here) shows it running on a black MacBook (Update: apparently, I’m jumping to conclusions — see comments below).

Watch movies instantly on your MacBook

They doctored the thing of course, placing a still frame over the display, covering the portion that has the built-in camera and all evidence of the ‘MacBook’ imprinted at the bottom of the display. But you can make out the key layout, the size of the trackpad, and even the infrared receiver on the front-right side. It’s definitely a MacBook.

Now, it’s not impossible to get those videos on a MacBook. You can do it if you’re running Windows under Parallels or VM Fusion. Performance is fine, even at full resolution. But I seriously doubt they expect their average customer to do that!

November 5, 2007

The new empty trash confirmation dialog in Leopard.

But… I’m using Time Machine. There is an undo! This seems contradictory.

Also, the window grab action includes the huge drop shadow Leopard puts on focused windows. Is that necessary?

October 26, 2007

Just wondering how long it will take for someone to restore the rounded edges that have always been on the Mac menu bar.

From Tiger:

From Leopard:

Update: Not long.

October 19, 2007

I suspect Vonage doesn’t want Mint.com to recommend existing customers to switch to a cheaper plan, but hey, you save $117 a year if you do!

October 10, 2007

I guess if you’re a domain name registrar, you use entire domains for even trivial things like, say, your e-mail help manual. ‘emailuserguide.com’ is a domain for hosting the Network Solutions email user guide. Apparently, the whole thing is meant to be in a pop-up help window.

But wait, it gets better. The bulk of the guide is actually in a PDF file. So the domain, as best I can tell, hosts about 19 pages altogether (mostly FAQ material), with links to other places or files that have actual useful information.

Oh, and if you’re managing your account, you’ll want to use accountmanageruserguide.com.

October 4, 2007

The Exposé preferences dialog has some odd choices for key assignments.

Exposé Key Preferences


  • Why are ‘fn’, ‘Right/Left Shift/Control/Option/Command’ choices for these commands? Seriously, who maps these to a shift key?
  • Why are they not choices for the Dashboard command?
  • Why can’t I assign ‘fn+F3’? When I hold other modifier keys, the function keys become prefixed with that modifier, but not for the ‘fn’ modifier.

I just bought an Aluminum wireless keyboard and it’s great, but where it natively supports ‘fn+F3’ for “Show All Windows”, I have no way to do that for my MacBook keyboard (where fn+F3 mutes the speaker— that command is mapped to fn+F10 on the Aluminum keyboard).

And while I’m discussing the new wireless keyboard, I should also mention that it really strikes me as odd that they don’t have a Num-lock built into it as it exists on the MacBook keyboard. And my ultimate wireless keyboard would have a built-in trackpad or other kind of pointing device (“Mouse keys” doesn’t really cut it).

September 8, 2007

As wonderful as Apple’s iPhone is, it has a lot of room for improvement. I’m hopeful that many of the wishes listed below will some day be realized— either by Apple or by the tireless and industrious iPhone hackers out there. What follows is my brain dump of the dreams I have had for iPhone. As they are realized, I’ll be updating this list.

And much of these would also apply to the newly announced iPod touch.

Continue reading "100+ iPhone Features I Want" »

August 24, 2007

Today I’ve been participating in the Movable Type hack-a-thon hosted by our Six Apart office in Japan. And I’ve been updating some of my older Movable Type plugins for 4.0 compatibility. Hey— did you know we released MT 4.0? They even made a cool t-shirt for the event— one that won’t make sense to a lot of folk, but I certainly appreciate it (and the irony is that my work today eliminates the ‘extlib/bradchoate’ installation path for these plugins).

T-Shirt for SixApart Japan hack-a-thon attendees Anyway, I made a list of some of the plugins that are obsoleted by MT 4 or previous versions since joining Six Apart. Each of the following plugins have most if not all of their functionality built into Movable Type itself:

  • MT-Authors (exceptions: AuthorBlogCount, AuthorEntryCount, AuthorPublicKey)
  • Supplemental Category Tags
  • IfEmpty (use the new ‘if’/’unless’ tags instead)
  • Regex (exceptions: many arcane uses; the important stuff is supported)
  • Textile (bundled)
  • EmbedImage (replaced by asset framework and assetthumbnail tag)

And some other plugins I have written are now re-released for MT 4:

The SQL and PerlScript plugins were also improved upon. The SQL plugin now allows you to connect to additional databases (even running on different servers) for issuing queries against them. Pretty nice if you need to pull content into your blog from other sources.

PerlScript now uses the Perl ‘Safe’ module to run in a protected compartment. This can be customized (and even disabled), but it is a good default to use for such a plugin.



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