Tumult Whisk’s integrated live preview breaks the tedious cycle of writing HTML, saving the file, then reloading and viewing the page in the browser. Combining the writing phase with the viewing phase clarifies the effects of your changes and speeds up the overall process of making a web page. W3C-based validation will red-underline any mistakes. It uses the same rendering engine found in Safari, so it is not only standards compliant, but also very fast.
If you remember HyperEdit from the early days of Mac OS X, then Whisk should feel very familiar. Its preview pane and page validation tools are welcome additions to my workflow, and the app footprint is about 20% that of my current code editor.
Stephen Hackett provides Ann incredible stroll down memory lane. I especially appreciate the screenshots from the Mac OS X Public Beta. I went full in on Mac OS X on my PowerBook G3 during the beta period, and I’ve never looked back.
Office Depot “tech experts” told customers that PC Health Check would “optimize” their computers, but in reality the software “did not run complete diagnostics on consumers’ computers,” the FTC said. Some later versions of the software did some “limited optimizations… such as removing junk files and reconfiguring certain settings.”
After displaying fake scan results to consumers who had checked any of the four boxes, PC Health Check “also displayed a ‘view recommendation’ button with a detailed description of the tech services consumers were encouraged to purchase—services that could cost hundreds of dollars—to fix the problems.”
In some cases, store employees checked the boxes themselves, guaranteeing that the software would produce a warning, the FTC complaint said. “Defendants trained Office Depot and OfficeMax store employees on how to utilize the PC Health Check Program and instructed store employees to check any of the Initial Checkbox Statements that applied based on the consumer’s responses,” the complaint said. “Consistent with their training, Office Depot and OfficeMax store employees read each of the Initial Checkbox Statements once the program began and selected the corresponding box based on the consumer’s response.”
This is an old story now, but running back across it makes me think about how hard it is to get people who struggle with technology to trust tech companies at all when supposedly trusted resources do things like this.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in the late 90s, he found a product line that was too confusing for most consumers, so he simplified things. At the 1998 MacWorld Expo, he shared a simplified product grid that would serve as the foundation for Apple’s product lineup for several years. It looked something like this:
The intended audiences were clear, and everything from the components to the industrial design reflected this approach. Of course, there were multiple choices in each category, but it was clear to potential customers which machine was for whom.
Over the years, Apple’s customer base has grown considerably, and their business model has evolved. The four-quadrant grid was never going to last forever, especially with the growing prosumer market and Apple choosing to move beyond computers as their primary hardware products. If you were to try to grid out their products in 2004, it might look similar to this:
The laptop line was already beginning to grow a little confusing, with the smaller PowerBook targeting a humbler audience than those who would buy the larger models. This approach remained fairly consistent over the next few year and saw Apple through the Intel transition, with the Mac mini replacing the eMac in the consumer category. Then came the MacBook Air.
The MacBook Air and a New Product Category
It was one of the most memorable product reveals in recent history, even compared to the much-anticipated iPhone announcement from the year before. Steve Jobs held up a manilla envelope, the type you might see for old interdepartmental messages, and pulled a computer out of it. No one had seen a computer so thin or light before. It made compromises; it had almost no traditional ports; but it was cool.
Over the years, the MacBook Air had different places in Apple’s product lineup. For a time, it existed in its own category for early adopters. Then, it evolved into a replacement for the white plastic MacBook, serving as the only alternative to the MacBook Pro. Then Apple brought back the MacBook in a thinner, lighter form-factor, and the Air became its heavier, slower budget sibling. Now, the MacBook serves as the thin and light machine with compromises, the Air is the mainstream consumer/prosumer machine, and the MacBook Pro straddles prosumer and professional customers.
The Air and the iPad Lineup
The word Air has had a similar journey in the iPad lineup. The iPad Air came our in November 2013 and completely replaced the iPad line. There was no iPad Pro yet, but there was an iPad mini. The iPad Air was thinner and lighter than previous iPads, and that’s where things maintained for a couple of generations.
In 2016, the iPad Pro came out; the very next year, Apple dropped the Air branding from any iPads, so now their lineup was iPad mini, iPad, and iPad Pro. The updated iPad had some concessions compared to the iPad Air, but it was still a good update and smoothed out a rather odd naming convention.
But now the iPad Air is back, basically reviving the 10.5″ screen of the 2017 iPad Pro, while that line has moved to 11″ and 13″ screens. The no-modifier iPad is still around with its 9″ screen and slower processor, and the iPad mini lives on with the faster iPad Air architecture and a 7″ screen. When Apple announced the new iPad Air and iPad mini, I felt they needlessly complicated the product line, but a pattern may be emerging.
Currently, Apple seems to be filling out a MacBook product line that moves from entry-level to mainstream to premium. Forget any notion of consumer, prosumer, or professional usage and think in terms of desirability instead. Yes, premium machines have better capabilities than the lower tiers, but they also come with desirable features — things like Touch ID and the Touch Bar. The iPad line seems to be taking a similar approach.
iPad Air iPad mini
iMac Pro Future Mac Pro
And now things start to make sense*. All of the entry level machines are for consumers who may not know what they want and will gravitate toward the most affordable option. (I expect the MacBook to see a price reduction in the near future to clarify its place in the lineup.) The mainstream machines are for most of us. They are good enough for most needs and don’t carry the sticker shock of the premium models, and those premium models are for those of us who want the latest and greatest innovations Apple provides.
When I started writing this piece, I began writing about an Apple that had lost its product strategy; now I see an Apple that may actually be in the final stages of solidifying of a new strategy, and I don’t dare guess what the last pieces of that puzzle will be. Whatever it is, Apple is always evolving, and they’re always thinking several steps ahead.
*The exception to things making sense, of course, is the Apple Pencil. That Apple sells two different devices with the same name that have different capabilities and compatibility is confounding.
Berners-Lee, who never directly profited off his invention, has also spent most of his life trying to guard it. While Silicon Valley started ride-share apps and social-media networks without profoundly considering the consequences, Berners-Lee has spent the past three decades thinking about little else. From the beginning, in fact, Berners-Lee understood how the epic power of the Web would radically transform governments, businesses, societies. He also envisioned that his invention could, in the wrong hands, become a destroyer of worlds, as Robert Oppenheimer once infamously observed of his own creation. His prophecy came to life, most recently, when revelations emerged that Russian hackers interfered with the 2016 presidential election, or when Facebook admitted it exposed data on more than 80 million users to a political research firm, Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Donald Trump’s campaign. This episode was the latest in an increasingly chilling narrative. In 2012, Facebook conducted secret psychological experiments on nearly 700,000 users. Both Google and Amazon have filed patent applications for devices designed to listen for mood shifts and emotions in the human voice.
For the man who set all this in motion, the mushroom cloud was unfolding before his very eyes. “I was devastated,” Berners-Lee told me that morning in Washington, blocks from the White House. For a brief moment, as he recalled his reaction to the Web’s recent abuses, Berners-Lee quieted; he was virtually sorrowful. “Actually, physically—my mind and body were in a different state.” Then he went on to recount, at a staccato pace, and in elliptical passages, the pain in watching his creation so distorted.
This agony, however, has had a profound effect on Berners-Lee. He is now embarking on a third act—determined to fight back through both his celebrity status and, notably, his skill as a coder. In particular, Berners-Lee has, for some time, been working on a new platform, Solid, to reclaim the Web from corporations and return it to its democratic roots…
Katrina Brooker for Vanity Fair
This is a great read. I can’t imagine having invested so much into a world-changing project only to see it derailed to such an extent by corporate greed and political hubris. It’s trite to say it this way, but the story of the Internet is a classic example of why we can’t have nice things.
Motherboard’s investigation shows just how exposed mobile networks and the data they generate are, leaving them open to surveillance by ordinary citizens, stalkers, and criminals, and comes as media and policy makers are paying more attention than ever to how location and other sensitive data is collected and sold. The investigation also shows that a wide variety of companies can access cell phone location data, and that the information trickles down from cell phone providers to a wide array of smaller players, who don’t necessarily have the correct safeguards in place to protect that data.
“People are reselling to the wrong people,” the bail industry source who flagged the company to Motherboard said. Motherboard granted the source and others in this story anonymity to talk more candidly about a controversial surveillance capability.
Your mobile phone is constantly communicating with nearby cell phone towers, so your telecom provider knows where to route calls and texts. From this, telecom companies also work out the phone’s approximate location based on its proximity to those towers.
Put another way, privacy continues to be a myth in our new connected world. Location data should be sacred, but the complete lack of meaningful oversight with our carriers means they can capitalize on any and all data they can.
I haven’t used Windows for ten years, since I was contractually obliged to at work. Perhaps all these features are there too. But they were not discoverable by Fabio, an intelligent person who uses a computer to do a job which is not a fancier version of “using a computer”.
I’ve been a Mac user since the IIsi. I know those features above inside-out, know which have been there since Classic days, which have just arrived, and yes, which can be flaky on occasion. But to see it through a new Mac user’s eyes is to see a vast enormity of mistakes not made. It is to perceive a clarity of intention through design, maintained over decades of updates.
I’m not an Apple pundit. I should probably listen to and read far fewer opinions from those who are. I will say, though, that no misstep today’s behemoth Apple has made, no product delay, no underperforming market, no dodgy spacebars – nothing leads me to believe that the company has lost focus on its principles of design.
I love my Mac, of course. But seeing someone else fall in love too, again, today? Pretty sweet.
As a longtime Mac user, it’s easy to point to numerous problems and flaws in the system; it’s easy to point at certain features and bemoan how I liked something from the past better. However, I also have regular and deep experience with Windows and Ubuntu, and coming back to my Mac always feels like a breath of fresh air after extended time in either environment.
There are so many basic things macOS just gets right. I take it for granted and even lose sight of it in the midst of being critical of modern Apple. But the simple truth is if you give me a choice between a modest Mac and a souped up Windows PC or Ubuntu workstation, I’ll pick the Mac every time.
The whole story is only seven paragraphs long, and one of them is devoted to explaining how to invoke Undo and Redo. This is — inadvertently on the part of the App Store editorial team — a scathing indictment of the state of iOS’s user interface standards.
Before reading a word of it, how much would you wager that Apple’s story on Pixelmator Pro for Mac does not mention how to invoke Undo and Redo? I would’ve bet my house — because even if you’ve never even heard of Pixelmator, you of course know how to invoke Undo and Redo in any Mac app: Edit → Undo and Edit → Redo, with the shortcuts ⌘Z and ⇧⌘Z. In fact, even their placement in the Edit menu is always the same, in every Mac app: the first two items in the menu.
Undo has been in the same position in the same menu with the same keyboard shortcut since 1984. Undo and Redo are powerful, essential commands, and the ways to invoke them on the Mac have been universal conventions for almost 35 years. (Redo came a few years later, if I recall correctly.)
iOS does in fact have a standard convention for Undo, but it’s both awful and indiscoverable: Shake to Undo, which I wrote about a few months ago. As I mentioned in that piece, iOS does have support for the ⌘Z and ⇧⌘Z shortcuts when a hardware keyboard is connected, and the iPad’s on-screen keyboard has an Undo/Redo button. So for text editing, on the iPad, Undo/Redo is available through good system-wide conventions.
But on the Mac, Undo and Redo are invoked the same way for any action in any app — everything from editing text, making illustrations, to trashing or moving files or mail messages.
Undo on iOS seemed delightful when it was first revealed, but I’ve found it a hassle at best in real-world practice. Undo and redo are foundational pieces of functionality. That iOS still struggles with these makes it a shaky computing platform. There are several ways iOS holds back the hardware it runs on, and Undo is one of the most glaring.
It’s weird to remember, but the App Store did not launch with the iPhone. It came a year later — a year of nothing but default apps and the occasional web app; a year where you couldn’t even change the iPhone’s background image. When the App Store launched, it would have been hard to predict the challenges it would face, the impact it would have on software development in general, and the positive and negative effects it would have on developers.
When Apple introduced the App Store on July 10, 2008 with 500 apps, it ignited a cultural, social and economic phenomenon that changed how people work, play, meet, travel and so much more. Over the past decade, the App Store has created a safe place for users of all ages to get the very best apps and a vibrant app economy for developers of all sizes, from all over the world, to thrive. Today, customers in 155 countries are visiting the App Store more often, staying longer and downloading and using more apps than ever before.
While there have been many notable moments since apps first came to iPhone and later iPad, the milestones and testimonials below reflect some of the most significant over the past 10 years — defining how the App Store democratized software distribution and transformed how we live every day.
Apple’s own retrospective is predictably upbeat, but it hits every major milestone and positive impact the App Store has had. The App Store still has a long way to go in some regards, but it’s also amazing just how far it has come.
One of the most significant design opportunities in recent history was announced with a simple blog post on Apple’s website. “Let me just say it: We want native third-party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February,” Steve Jobs wrote. On a quiet Thursday morning less than a year later, the App Store opened to iPhone users with a selection of just over 500 apps.
Few contemporary innovations have changed how we live our lives and interact with the world around us more than iPhone apps. The creators of the first 500 available at launch had the unique opportunity of shaping the design direction and interaction methods of the millions of apps created since.
To celebrate the App Store’s 10th anniversary, let’s study the visual evolution of 10 original App Store apps.
I loved browsing though the iterations and redesigns of the apps and icons they featured. A couple of these apps — like Twitterrific and Evernote — I’ve used for years and have been able to watch the apps as they evolved. Others are new to me. The only downside with the flatter aesthetic in later designs is that some of the apps lose a bit of personality. Case in point: the current version of OmniFocus looks so much like Fantastical, I had to look twice.
Not everything has been smooth sailing for the App Store and developers, however. Even well-respected Apple-centric developers ran into App Store headaches from time to time, and some of those issues have never been fully resolved. Some of those frustrated developers left the App Store and have never returned.
Apple’s vision for the App Store has always been driven by privacy and security. Rather than sending users out to a host of unvetted websites to find software that may or may not be what it claims, the App Store was a single unified market for approved, malware-free software to live. As a user, you could download any app in the confidence that it wouldn’t be able to bring harm to your device – and you could do so without providing your credit card details to anyone but Apple.
Apple created and has maintained the safety of its closed platform thanks to its thorough review procedures and guidelines. Every app on the App Store must follow Apple’s rules, which for the most part is widely accepted as a good thing. If an app’s aims are nefarious, it should be rejected by Apple and, hence, not allowed in public view. However, throughout the App Store’s life, there have regularly been controversial app rejections that stirred up the Apple community. Here are a few of those controversies.
Apple has been steadily improving their guidelines and expectations, but the truth is that developers could still be served better. Though software demos are coming to a future App Store update, it could be better communicated in the store interface that a user is getting a demo instead of a free app. Also, upgrade pricing and more lenient content purchasing guidelines would go a long way.