Maybe 'Dashboard' isn't a rip-off after all

Dave Hyatt (the guy behind Apple’s Safari browser) just posted a few more details on Apple’s new ’Dashboard’ feature that they’re pushing as a part of Tiger:

I wanted to blog briefly to clear up what the widgets actually are written in. They are Web pages, plain and simple (with extra features thrown in for added measure). Apple’s own web site says “build your own widgets using the JavaScript language”, but that’s sort of misleading. The widgets are HTML+CSS+JS. They are not some JS-only thing.

That actually makes me feel a lot better–Apple has been widely accused of pilfering the design from Konfabulator, even though Apple had similar features in the old Mac OS from the very beginning.

If you look at Dashboard as a way to turn quick-and-dirty web apps into real desktop applications, it suddenly looks very different from a straight Konfabulator rip-off. In fact, it really looks more like an interesting attack on XAML and Avalon, two of Microsoft’s additions to Longhorn. The underlying technology is different, but the fundamental goals are almost the same–allow people to develop both web and desktop applications using the same tools. The implementation differences reflect the basic difference between Apple and Microsoft’s approaches–XAML/Avalon is a ground-up replacement for HTML and the traditional Windows programming model, while Dashboard is really just a small tweak to something that already exists.

Update: As usual, John Gruber says it better then I can.

Posted by Scott Laird Wed, 30 Jun 2004 18:47:05 GMT

Wait a minute--Tiger's iChat can do Jabber

I didn’t see this in any of today’s discussions on Apple’s new ’Tiger’ OS X announcements, but it’s turned up in the Tiger Server documentation: Tiger’s iChat can talk to Jabber servers. So, apparently it’s not AIM-only anymore.

I’m still waiting for iChat’s audio and video conferencing to support random SIP servers. Please, Apple?

Posted by Scott Laird Tue, 29 Jun 2004 04:39:44 GMT

Tiger stuff

A few notes on Tiger:

  • Ooooh. Search. Search has been one of my big things lately, and I like what I’ve seen of Tiger so far, but it’s too early to tell how well it’ll work. Fundamentally, searching seems to scale better then strict hierarchical organization. For instance, with a good search tool, it’s faster to search through the 100,000 or so old email message that I have laying around then it’d be to change folders and skim through a couple dozen messages by hand. The big problem is that search tends to be resource-intensive–I’ve been playing with Zoe, QuckSilver, and HistoryHound, and they each end up wanting over 100 MB of RAM. Fundamentally, there’s no real need for this, and we’ll see how Apple does with Tiger. I’m hopeful, but I’m used to disappointment. Specifically, I want to see what lets me do with smart folders; Can I tag messages with tags like ‘Important’ or ‘To-Do List’ and get smart folders that show me all of the ‘To-Do List’ items? There’s no real indication that Apple is going to let us add generic metadata, and that’s a pity; it’ll have to wait for ‘Lion’ or ‘Tabby’, or whatever comes after Tiger.

  • 64-bit application support. This isn’t a huge thing for most people today, but for some types of applications, it’s utterly critical. Anything that wants to use more then 4 GB of RAM needs it, and it starts getting useful around 1 GB, generally. It’s the way of the future, and it’s nice to see that it’s showing up now; in another two years, it’s going to be important to all of us.

  • cp understands Mac OS resource forks. Finally. Files are files; the fact that copying Mac-specific files with Unix tools tended to destroy bits of them was kind of irritating.

  • Safari has an RSS reader. After watching Apple’s RSS movie, I’m not really sure about this one–it’s a neat feature, but it pales in comparison to NewNewsWire. Frankly, RSS belongs in Mail, not Safari.

  • Real-time video effects using the GPU. Cool, but not terrifically useful to me, particularly with my underpowered PowerBook 550.

  • iSync SDK. ABOUT FSCKING TIME. The Zaurus people have been trying to write an iSync plugin for years, but haven’t had any documentation. Personally, I’d love to see what happens one you graft bits of MultiSync into iSync–you should end up with free calendar and address book synchronization between Macs, Linux systems, PocketPCs, and whatever else MultiSync supports now.

  • iChat supports conferencing. Yeah, but does it support non-AIM SIP servers? It’s totally unusable for me right now, between generic NAT problems and Asterisk wanting port 5060 on my firewall. It’d be really nice if I could use iChat as a softphone with Asterisk.

Apparently, it’s all shipping in 1H2005, or up to a year away. It’ll probably end up being February-ish, if they follow their Jaguar/Panther shipping trend. That’s a long time to wait for the handful of features that I’d really like to see (mostly the Spotlight search tools), and as always, there’s the $129 question–is the upgrade really worth it?

Posted by Scott Laird Mon, 28 Jun 2004 20:48:15 GMT

Quicksilver (the program, not the book)

Since everyone was raving about Quicksilver this week, I broke down and gave it a spin. Quicksilver is similar to Launchbar; they’re both keyboard-driven shortcut tools for OS X. You just hit their activation key and start typing, and they’ll search for an app or a bit of data or whatever, and try to show it to you.

I’m kind of liking Quicksilver, which is odd, because Launchbar never did it for me. I’m probably the only OS X person around who has tried it and given up on it. Anyway, the thing about Quicksilver is that it does a nice job searching everything–it knows about Address Book entries, web bookmarks, web history, developer tools and documentation, applications, email addresses from old email, and a pile of other things, and it’ll search through it all instantly.

Its one big downside for me right now is its memory use. On my Powerbook, it’s using around 50 MB of RAM right now, which is more then a little excessive. Admittedly, I have almost all of its options turned on, but that’s still way more then I’m willing to lose for a program that I’m not going to use much. So, the big question is am I going to use it enough to make it worth it?

If anything, this may turn out to be one of those programs that I never knew I needed, but after using it for a few days my needs have grown past what it can provide. I can see a ton of things that I’d love in a Quicksilver-like interface that I doubt it’s going to provide. I’d really like a fast full-text email search, for instance, and a fast document search. More then anything, though, I’d really like to be able to use Quicksilver as a quick way to enter Google queries. Instead of tracking down Safari and clicking on the Google box, I’d love to be able to hit Command-Space and type my query. It probably wouldn’t be that hard for Quicksilver to use Google as the Search of Last Resort, but it’s not exactly what they’re aiming for right now.

Of course, the holy grail would be Quicksilver’s incremental search combined with Google–just start typing, and it’ll start flipping through web pages that match. I’d kill for that. Of course, it’d make Quicksilver’s 50 MB footprint look like chump change.

For now, I’m still testing Quicksilver. It has its good points and its bad points. After a couple days of use, I’m still not very attached to it. Most of my favorite tools, like NewNewsWire and iView Media Pro were habit-forming almost immediately. I’ll probably stick with Quicksilver for now, and see what new betas turn up.

Posted by Scott Laird Sat, 03 Apr 2004 03:18:24 GMT

iTunes now listing tracks for more then $1?

Maybe I missed it, but it looks like Apple is listing some tracks now for over $1. Specifically, the page for this Russian National Orchestra recording shows up at two tracks, one for $7.49, and the other for $4.97. Each “track” has 3 additional tracks collapsed underneath it, outline-style. The outline thingy is new to me, too.

Admittedly, the $7.49 track is over 40 minutes long, so that’s not a bad price, but it’s surprising to see Apple going this way. They certainly don’t lower prices for short tracks. See the recording of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, for example–it’s full of short tracks (as short as 13 seconds) for $1 each. In fact, if you were to buy the whole album one track at a time, you’d pay over $46.

Posted by Scott Laird Fri, 13 Feb 2004 00:35:45 GMT

Linus has a G5?

It looks like support for Apple’s PowerMac G5 was added to Linux today. That’s nice, but I’m not really sure why you’d spend the extra money for a G5 over an Opteron if you’re planning on running Linux. The interesting bit was Linus’s reply; apparently there were a couple small bugs that he had to fix after merging, but then he said:

Anyway, with that fixed, it will compile and appears to work on the G5. Thanks. Although I did see it hang when I inserted a USB keyboard (in addition to the X problem). Hmm.

So Linus has a G5 handy. His or OSDL’s?

Posted by Scott Laird Thu, 12 Feb 2004 23:47:35 GMT

Thanks tons, PalmSource

Okay, so I posted yesterday that I’ve decided that a PDA without top-notch desktop sync support is worthless, and that Palms are the only PDAs that sync right with OS X. Great timing–according to Brighthand, PalmSource isn’t going to produce an OS X sync program for “Cobalt,” their new name for PalmOS 6.

It’s not really the end of the world–it’s unclear if the basic sync protocol has changed, although the formats used by the native PIM applications is different. So, there’s a chance that Palm Desktop 4 will work along with a small update to iSync (which replaces the native PIM conduits in Palm Desktop). Failing that, Mark/Space has committed to producing an OS X sync solution, and they’ve been pretty good in the past.


Posted by Scott Laird Wed, 11 Feb 2004 08:54:57 GMT