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30 Years of Frontier

25 April, by John Gruber[ —]

Dave Winer:

Little-known fact: I designed and developed a programming language.

My goal was to create an environment I would work in for the rest of my career. I just realized it’s exactly 30 years later, and I’m still using it.

30 fucking years. I think I earned the right to say it that way.

Now that I also work in JavaScript, it amazes me how easy the simple things are in Frontier, compared to JS, esp when you have to tack on a database. You really have to work at seeing what’s going on. In Frontier, you just click around expanding things. You can even look at the runtime stack that way.

If you never used Frontier, it’s hard to explain what made it so special. My very favorite thing about Frontier is the “object database”. It wasn’t like using a database in the SQL sense. It was just persistent storage. You didn’t have to deal with the file system at all. You just wrote to, say, scratchpad.foo or examples.bar or any other unique identifier and whatever you wrote would be there when you went to read it. And, even better, there was a visual interface for exploring everything in the object database. You could see it and explore it, because in addition to being a language, Frontier was also a real Mac app. You could even customize the app’s menu items just by editing the system.misc.menubar table in the object database. It’s a wonderfully self-contained design. Re-reading the documentation makes me wonder why there’s nothing like Frontier’s object database in other scripting languages.


Tim Cook and Lisa Jackson Attend President Trump’s First State Dinner

25 April, by John Gruber[ —]

Cook met with Trump in the White House this afternoon, ostensibly to talk about trade policy.


Casey Johnston Gives Up on the Current MacBook Pro Keyboard

25 April, by John Gruber[ —]

Casey Johnston, writing for The Outline:

A few months ago, I wrote about how my one-year-old MacBook Pro’s keyboard keys stopped working if a single piece of dust slipped under there, and more importantly, that neither Apple nor its Geniuses would acknowledge that this was actually a problem. Today, Best Buy announced it is having a significant sale on these computers, marking them hundreds of dollars off. Interesting. Still, I’d suggest you do not buy them.

Since I wrote about my experience, many have asked me what happened with the new top half of the computer that the Apple Geniuses installed, with its pristine keyboard and maybe-different key switches. The answer is that after a couple of months, I started to get temporarily dead keys for seemingly no reason. Again.

This keyboard has to be one of the biggest design screwups in Apple history. Everyone who buys a MacBook depends upon the keyboard and this keyboard is undependable.

Jason Snell:

I know that we Apple-watchers sit around wondering if Apple will release new laptops with new keyboards that don’t have these issues, but Apple’s relative silence on this issue for existing customers is deafening. If these problems are remotely as common as they seem to be, this is an altogether defective product that should be recalled.


Nvidia Tegra Flaw Allows Nintendo Switch to Be Jailbroken

25 April, by John Gruber[ —]

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge:

Nintendo’s Switch was hacked to run Linux in February, and now it’s clear that hackers could go further and run homebrew apps and games on the device. Eurogamer reports that two exploits have been detailed this week that allow hackers to exploit a hardware flaw in Nvidia’s Tegra X1 (that powers the Switch) and gain access to the Switch’s operating system. Nintendo cannot patch the hardware flaw without releasing a new version of the Switch, which means that at least 14 million devices are vulnerable.

It’s a jailbreak that’s similar to a “tethered” iPhone jailbreak, meaning it needs to be performed on every boot via USB. The hack doesn’t require a modchip, although it’s likely that third parties will now create Switch hardware mods to assist with the jailbreak.

It’s not what you want, but I’m going to say this is not a “nightmare scenario” for Nintendo. A nightmare scenario would be something that exposes people to a remote exploit, and this isn’t that. Nintendo must be pissed at Nvidia though.


How Merchants Use Facebook to Flood Amazon With Fake Reviews

25 April, by John Gruber[ —]

Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg, reporting for The Washington Post:

On Amazon, customer comments can help a product surge in popularity. The online retail giant says that more than 99 percent of its reviews are legitimate because they are written by real shoppers who aren’t paid for them.

But a Washington Post examination found that for some popular product categories, such as Bluetooth headphones and speakers, the vast majority of reviews appear to violate Amazon’s prohibition on paid reviews. Such reviews have certain characteristics, such as repetitive wording that people probably cut and paste in.

What a shitshow. I don’t understand why Amazon doesn’t clean this mess up — it does them no good whatsoever to have all these fraudulent reviews. Same thing with counterfeit products, but they’ve let that fester too. (Via Dave Mark.)


The iPad’s Focus Problem

24 April, by John Gruber[ —]

Luke Kanies:

Unlike touch, keyboards are inherently targeted. While touch is powerful specifically because of your ability to directly manipulate the software you’re using, keyboards must first be pointed at a place that needs text. They need focus. And here’s where the iPad falls down.

It has no concept of focus. Or rather, it obviously does, but its designers are in denial about it. Keyboard focus is littered throughout the platform, from the presence of a cursor when inputting text, to the software keyboard auto-hiding when no text field is in use. When you’re producing text, this generally works pretty well.

But the keyboard is used for far more than typing. Whether it’s command-tabbing between applications or using shortcuts within them, the keyboard is a critical control device. And it just does not work right on the iPad.

I tweeted about this same thing over the weekend, while testing out a new keyboard that Jason Snell convinced me to buy. It seems crazy to me the iPad lets you command-tab between full-screen apps, but when you’re in split screen mode there’s (a) no way to switch between the apps on screen using the keyboard, and (b) no indication of which app has keyboard focus.

Off the top of my head, I think command-tab switching should include the individual apps in split screen mode.


John Paczkowski on Facebook and Google

24 April, by John Gruber[ —]

John Paczkowski, writing for BuzzFeed:

A few weeks from now, Facebook and Google will hold their yearly developer conferences, massive events meant to celebrate their platforms and visions for the future. They’re typically packed full of grand pronouncements, flashy demos, and Google Glass-wearing skydivers or CEO-impersonating celebrities. Bands play. Drinks flow. They are spectacles, intended to ignite enthusiasm and burnish the Facebook and Google brands. But after a year in which Facebook and Google played pivotal roles in spreading misinformation and were exposed as data-greedy growth goblins, there should be little cause for celebration.

If the platforms are serious about healing themselves, you should be able to see it in a show that’s more about fixing what’s broken rather than building something new. And if they aren’t serious? Expect the same shiny, happy-fun wow-fests.

I would bet big money on “the same shiny, happy-fun wow-fests”.


[Sponsor] Turn Touch Wooden Smart Home Remote

22 April, by Daring Fireball Department of Commerce[ —]

Ever wanted to control Spotify on your phone without looking at your phone? Do you have smart lights like Philips Hue and want a phone-free way to change scenes and colors? Turn Touch is your answer.

Turn Touch is a wooden smart home remote. Forget plastic, this is a remote as stylish as your home. It controls every smart home device that speaks Wi-Fi. Also use it to control your Mac and iOS devices over Bluetooth. This includes Keynote, iTunes, Quicktime, Spotify, Sonos, and lots more.

Buy a remote for your home or office for only $59 (with free shipping). A great gift for friends or yourself.


Google Gives Up on Allo, Backs Unencrypted Successor to SMS

21 April, by John Gruber[ —]

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:

Instead of bringing a better app to the table, it’s trying to change the rules of the texting game, on a global scale. Google has been quietly corralling every major cellphone carrier on the planet into adopting technology to replace SMS. It’s going to be called “Chat,” and it’s based on a standard called the “Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services.” SMS is the default that everybody has to fall back to, and so Google’s goal is to make that default texting experience on an Android phone as good as other modern messaging apps.

As part of that effort, Google says it’s “pausing” work on its most recent entry into the messaging space, Allo. It’s the sort of “pause” that involves transferring almost the entire team off the project and putting all its resources into another app, Android Messages. […]

But remember, Chat is a carrier-based service, not a Google service. It’s just “Chat,” not “Google Chat.” In a sign of its strategic importance to Google, the company has spearheaded development on the new standard, so that every carrier’s Chat services will be interoperable. But, like SMS, Chat won’t be end-to-end encrypted, and it will follow the same legal intercept standards. In other words: it won’t be as secure as iMessage or Signal.

It is unconscionable for Google to back a new protocol that isn’t end-to-end encrypted. End-to-end encryption is table stakes for any new communication platform today. Apple should ignore this — if it’s not secure it should be a non-starter.

Walt Mossberg:

Bottom line: Google builds an insecure messaging system controlled by carriers who are in bed with governments everywhere at exactly the time when world publics are more worried about data collection and theft than ever.


iPhone X Customer Satisfaction: Impressively High Across All Features, With One Predictable Exception

21 April, by John Gruber[ —]

Ben Bajarin, on the result of a survey of iPhone X owners conducted last month:

When it came to overall customer satisfaction, iPhone X owners in our study gave the product an overall 97% customer satisfaction. While that number is impressive, what really stands out when you do customer satisfaction studies is the percentage who say they are very satisfied with the product. Considering you add up the total number of very satisfied, and satisfied, to get your total customer satisfaction number a product can have a high number of satisfied responses and lower number of very satisfied responses and still achieve a high number. The higher the very satisfied responses, the better a product truly is. In our study, 85% of iPhone X owners said they were very satisfied with the product.

That number is amongst the highest I’ve seen in all the customer satisfaction studied we have conducted across a range of technology products. Just to contrast that with the original Apple Watch research with Wristly I was involved in, 66% of Apple Watch owners indicated they were very satisfied with Apple Watch, a product which also ranked a 97% customer satisfaction number in the first Apple Watch study we did.

Wait until you see the feature-by-feature results.


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