The Bad Old Days

Internet Explorer 4.0 and Netscape Communicator 4.08 displaying a simple Web page completely differently.
Internet Explorer 4.0 and Netscape Communicator 4.08 displaying a simple Web page completely differently.

It’s a good thing standards won out on the Web, huh? The difference between these pages is that IE 4 can interpret the <marquee> tag while Netscape 4 never understood it. Those late ’90s browser wars were not for the faint at heart.

It wasn’t all bad, though: The Windows NT virtual machine I ran this comparison on only was running 22 concurrent processes for the entire system, and was barely touching my MacBook Pro’s battery. Why can’t we get back there?

Real-world iOS 10 and watchOS 3

Apple’s big 2016 software releases start today with the introduction of iOS 10, watchOS 3, and tvOS 10 (the latter of which I’ve not had a chance to try).

Spoiler alert: They’re good upgrades (and in the case of watchOS, potentially a really great one). Continue reading Real-world iOS 10 and watchOS 3

WebKit Rules the World

I’m writing this in Safari, the genesis of the WebKit project, while listening to music on Spotify, a WebKit-based music player. On my other monitor is GitHub’s Atom, a really damned fine programmers’ editor that has its roots in WebKit (to the point where you can inspect it and change the UI with stylesheets).

Just imagine if Microsoft had continued to actively develop, and perhaps even open-source, Trident (the IE rendering engine) in the early 2000s. (On second thought…best to just leave that alone.)

Improve Yosemite’s text display on non-Retina displays

The other day, I upgraded my wife’s MacBook Air to OS X Yosemite. Immediately, her first concern was that the UI text was harder to read. This is, in part, due to Helvetica Neue replacing Lucida Grande, but also because Yosemite’s LCD font smoothing seems rather harsh on non-Retina. Fortunately, a Terminal command makes for a crisper and easier-to-read display:

defaults -currentHost write -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 2

Log out and back in and you should see some improvement in text rendering in the Yosemite UI.

Two good reads on Twitter’s new blocking scheme

Update: Twitter is reverting to the old block functionality.

I’m not a huge fan of Twitter’s new blocking scheme. These two posts do a great job of explaining why:

hypatia dot ca:

Blocking, even on a public account, is surprisingly effective at dealing with low-grade harassment. Most harassers just aren’t that invested in the person they are bothering, and putting up the tiniest roadblock will make them move on to their next target. I had this conversation with a Googler shortly after G+ shipped, as its blocking behavior was at the time the same as the new Twitter behavior. I have no idea what it is now because I hate G+ and don’t use it, and I realized that this may be unintuitive to someone who hasn’t experienced harassment before – but trust me, as someone who has, it works a lot of the time. Which is great!

The Daily Dot:

Unfortunately, by enacting this policy change, more people will simply lock their accounts to bring back the capabilities of the “old” block. Not exactly the transparency Twitter is hoping for.

A week or so with Mavericks

A few observations from a little over a week on the final release of OS X Mavericks (which is worth $20 and I still cannot believe Apple released for free):

  • Safari 7 might be good enough to switch to permanently. It just absolutely flies and its ability to pick out links from my Twitter timeline and present them as a continuous reading list is really nice (unless a friend gets hacked and sends spam, anyway).
  • I just replaced the battery in my MacBook Pro on Wednesday, and I am getting better life out of it with Mavericks than any prior operating system version. Over the last few years, Apple has been steady at work bringing features back to OS X from iOS. Seeing what they’ve learned from engineering for mobile power consumption come back to the Mac just enhances the value of the hardware that much more. I particularly like the ability to see which programs have the most “energy impact” (their terms, not mine) on the machine in Activity Monitor — a great nod to power users from a company that is increasingly struggling with power users, IMO.
  • The UI feels much more responsive. It really is impressive how my aging MacBook Pro still feels fresh and plenty fast even on the newest OS X upgrade — I’ve gotten over four great years out of it and it looks like that will continue for at least one more year. I am more than a little surprised to hear that people are having issues with performance of all things — by all measures, performance is up across the system.
  • I never knew just how many sites disabled form autofill until the advent of iCloud Keychain. I wonder if sites will rethink their policy on form autofill for login pages now that Safari can generate strong passwords on autofill-enabled forms. I also wish iCloud Keychain would have gone as far as its MobileMe predecessor; it gets awfully inconvenient to retype some exceedingly complex passwords in locations other than Safari.
  • Multi-monitor support in Mavericks is such an improvement over the Lions it isn’t even funny, but it still has some room to improve. My typical workstation setup puts my MBP directly underneath my external monitor; the screens are positioned to stack one on top of the other. It works well with one huge caveat: the Dock (which I align on the bottom of the screen) doesn’t follow me from screen to screen. It is undoubtedly difficult to get the Dock to take a vertical stack into account, I can imagine, but I can’t be alone in this configuration.
  • I’ve signed up for push notifications from the New York Times; one has not yet come through, though. I’ll be interested to see what their editorial standards for triggering a push to Mavericks machines will be. (For those who might be wondering: Yes, I’m looking into how I can implement this on
  • Mavericks bundles PHP 5.4; this is working fine for WordPress development with my existing MySQL 5.5 install and the built-in Apache, though I think I’m going to switch to Homebrew versions of the aforementioned at some point in the near future (and trade Apache for nginx). I’ve decided to replace the built-in Vim 7.3 with a Homebrew-built version 7.4. The only major catch right now is getting the PHP xdebug module up and running, though I chalk that up to not putting too much time into trying to get it fixed (this machine won’t be my primary work machine shortly). I’m not seeing too many performance differences or other issues otherwise.

Mavericks for Free

Fast Company: All Of The Ways Apple’s New Free Mac OS Hurts Microsoft Windows

Apple’s quest to bring iOS “back to the Mac” has now gone beyond the contents of the software in two key ways:

  • Free upgrades.
  • A steady, proven release cadence of one operating system per year, which increases the value proposition of a Mac purchase and helps get years out of one machine in an age where people will just toss PCs after a couple years.

In four years, my mid-2009 MacBook Pro — which shipped with Leopard — has gotten Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, and now Mavericks. Contrast that with the computer I built in 2003 with Windows XP Professional: It was rendered mostly obsolete by Windows Vista (which arrived three years later), so I stuck with XP (with a Linux dual-boot as well).