I have joined micro.blog, to which I will hopefully federate micro posts from this blog.

Let the writing commence.

Web applications cannot replace native ones

Increasing amount of tools are written for web, many presenting themselves as replacement for standard desktop applications.

For simple stuff this is fine, few people would like to install an application for every shop or transport provider.

Complex programs running in tabs hit an insurmountable hurdle: “they cannot implement correct keyboard shortcuts”. And it is a problem that nobody has figured out yet, it is a fundamental issue that will never be fixed.

Some examples that come to mind:

  • How would you open a tab in your web app? ⌘T opens a new browser tab. What about a new window⌘N?
  • How do you undo? In Safari ⌘Z undoes closing of a tab.
  • If your application provides a save option, what would you use? ⌘S will try to save a useless HTML document.

Another problem is selection. ⌘A selects everything, this is never what you want to do in an application, but it can be something you want to do on a webpage. This means you need to break one behavior or the other.

Improving iPhone and Pixel Photos

MKBHD’s video about blind camera comparison concluded with a baffling result. The most interesting thing is not the winner, but the phones that got to share the last place: iPhone XS, iPhone X and Pixel 3.

Although their cameras are superior on technical level1, people prefer pictures from other cameras because of increased brightness and saturation.

Of course there is nothing that stops iPhone and Pixel to do the same thing at the cost of losing information rendering further post-processing inflexible. That being said, I can imagine that being beaten by a Blackberry in a photography test must hurt.

Solution

The solution is simple. I am sure that if pictures after auto-enhance have been thrown in the competition, the results would be different. The winner might stay the same, but I doubt that iPhones and Pixels would remain dead last.

What Apple and Google should do is to add an option to turn on auto-enhance by default. This way no information would be lost and people who prefer pictures without it could disable it. It would make the pictures coming straight off-camera punchier.

But first Apple would need to fix their auto-enhance algorithm which makes everything orange.


  1. Noise, dynamic range and colour reproduction are comical on some of the tested phones. [return]

Let's Play Alcatraz

As a side project I am launching my YouTube channel Binary Campfire. I haven’t decided its ultimate purpose; but as others before me, I will start posting some videos about video games. Old ones, as that is what I play these days.

The first video will take us back to 1992, with a side scroller/shooter game Alcatraz.

What is Holding the ARM Mac Release?

The event held on the 30th of October solidified the idea roaming the Internet since a few years: ARM Macs are coming, and they are coming soon. A-series chips have caught up to all but the best Intel mobile chips1, so why is there an Intel processor inside the new MacBook Air?

I have a theory: A-series chips are not powerful enough–but in an unapparent way.

In my previous article I have predicted that Apple would:

  1. Rename the current MacBook to MacBook Air.
  2. Discontinue the 13″ MacBook Pro without TouchBar.
  3. Introduce a new, cheaper, 13″ computer called MacBook.

This did not happen as predicted. What was announced is a new MacBook Air, which is a 13” version of the current MacBook. Other laptops in the MacBook line were untouched.

What I think will happen next year is:

  1. Apple will introduce a new 12” MacBook Air and “discontinue”2 the MacBook line.
  2. Apple will introduce a new 13” MacBook with Apple ARM chip3.

But herein lies the problem. Which chip would go in? If Apple took the A12X processor from the current iPad Pro and added a bit of RAM, this setup would breathe at the neck of the current 15” MacBook Pro with Touchbar4. This would have serious implications for the Pro line as the only differentiator would be the software they can use.

In order to offer compelling Pro hardware, Apple needs to make a beefier A-series chip. One that would give even the Intel desktop chips a run for their money.


  1. An A12X chip is neck-to-neck with a 6-core Intel Core i7-8850H; it only falls behind an i9 [return]
  2. In today’s Apple’s philosophy this means that it will continue to be sold, maybe with lower price. [return]
  3. I expect this name to be something unexpected, what about an “Apple Mac”? [return]
  4. If they added active cooling, I would bet that it could run circles around a 45watt 4-core Intel processor. [return]

Dos Game Club Podcast Episode 22: The Secret of Monkey Island

A new episode of Dos Game Club podcast was released today. This 22nd installment is about a legendary game: The Secret of Monkey Island.

I have been fortunate to be able to join Martijn, Florian, Mike, Philipp and Esko to discuss this great game during an epic 3 hour session. If you enjoy retro gaming and especially DOS games, give this podcast a try!

Every month we select a different game to play and discuss on the forums and IRC. Martijn and Florian then invite a few guests do discuss the episode and record a podcast session.

Apple September 2018 Keynote Predictions

As a fun exercise I would like to make some predictions for the 2018 September Apple keynote. There are two rumored machines that should come out.

The new Mac Mini

According to rumors, this machine will be geared towards pro users. As usual, the statement is vague. What pro users? Developers, animators, writers?

Current Mac Minis mainly serve three purposes:

  • home media server
  • “rich man’s raspberry pi”
  • server in a colo

Professionals do not need home media servers, and since Apple does not make a standalone screen it means that the machine will have to be usable headless.

As such it will require Ethernet and power, which makes it possible to do away with all other ports. I expect Apple to offer a low-grade Xeon CPU option in order to allow for ECC ram and at least an option with 32G ram.

Why would Apple do this?

  1. Nobody uses underpowered desktops today.
  2. Apple needs and probably has a similar machine for internal usage.
  3. The work on Xcode automation is useless if one cannot have an affordable Mac server.

The new MacBook Air

I expect Apple to sanitize their offering. Nobody except Apple pundits knows how are the machines named before they enter the Apple store.

I believe that Apple will:

  1. Rename the current MacBook to MacBook Air.
  2. Discontinue the 13″ MacBook Pro without TouchBar.
  3. Introduce a new cheaper 13″ computer called MacBook.

This will make the lightest Mac have the Air moniker. The current MacBook is underpowered for the generic user and the current MacBook Pro without TouchBar is a compromised machine with no market.

CPU and Graphics

For CPU it will have the cheapest Intel 15W CPU Apple can get, with expensive upgrades to CPUs with the same TDP. It will not have a discrete GPU and no TouchBar.

Ports

People buying the Pro computer should be savvy enough to know which dongles to buy and people buying an ultra-light computer do not need peripherals.

However, Apple needs the Average Joe’s MacBook to work for most users today, not in an imaginary future. This means it needs at least one USB port. It does not need thunderbolt. It would be better with an HDMI port and an SD card slot but these are unlikely to be included.

I predict that it will have 2 USB-C ports for power and 1 or 2 USB-A ports (for symmetry).

Keyboard

If Apple wants to make this work they would need to backpedal to the old system. Even the new updated 2018 butterfly keyboard keeps failing. If they make a new body for this machine, it is possible that they would introduce a v4 of the butterfly switch mechanism.

My take on 3D Touch

As the release of new iPhones is approaching, it is time to speculate on new features, or the removal of the old ones. There are rumors that one of the new iPhones will lack 3D Touch capability. To me, this is disturbing as I think that the biggest hindrance in 3D Touch adoption is that it is not omnipresent. Contrary to the opinion that it is broken, I believe that discoverability is a minor issue.

On a desktop interface there are no indicators to show that a particular element can be right-clicked. This is so because:

  1. There are few actions that are only doable by right clicking, mainly thanks to of toolbars and menu bars.
  2. Users intuitively know which elements can be right-clicked.

First point can be resolved by software: I leave it to designers to design a replacement for menus or toolbars that enable advanced functionality which can be then used with 3D Touch. The second point can be solved with users being exposed to 3D Touch all the time. With the current lineup this is a non-starter as it is available on high end phones only—not on the SE, and not on the iPad.

Now is the time for Apple to show if they are invested in 3D Touch or whether it is just a nice-to-have feature.

What happens when you delete ~/.Trash folder on macOS

I have done some stupid stuff and managed to delete the ~/.Trash folder on my Mac. The result was surprising:

To fix this you can type this in the shell:

mkdir ~/.Trash

This is clearly bad user experience. Somebody not knowing how to fix this will just assume that the trash stopped working. Even worse, they might miss the message and just click on Delete.

What should macOS do in this case, is to silently restore the trash folder and keep on humming.

The new RCS standard is just better SMS, and that is a bad thing

Google has managed to herd device manufacturers and telcos to support a new standard for messaging: Rich Communication Services (RCS). In short it is “SMS, but good”, with support for images and other rich media. After gChat, Hangouts, Google+, Meet, Allo or Duo, we can be skeptical on whether it will be adopted.

But I think it will. In order to understand why, let’s look at iMessage. When iMessage launched people already had means to communicate with their families, colleagues and friends: WhatsApp, Skype, Hangouts, Facebook WeChat… SMS usage varied country by country, depending on whether the service was paid per message. RCS will be integrated just like iMessage: when you send a message to a phone which supports RCS, it will be used instead of SMS.

When iMessage was introduced I had sporadic use of SMS and I knew few people with iPhones. But as that number grew, so did the amount of blue bubbles. Feature-wise iMessage was comparable to other platforms. What makes the Messages1 app stand out is that it is present by default and cannot be deleted.

In a similar fashion, the Android Chat will replace SMS. RCS is not a new silo; it is the long needed update to an outdated system.

RCS–the messaging app killer

So many single purpose apps!

Each social network starts with an original idea but in the end the users will stay if it has a compelling messaging component. To build such a service, it is necessary to know your connections. Initially it was possible to borrow the social graph from Twitter and Facebook, but they have closed the pipes. New players piggy-back on the phone’s contact list to create a rudimentary graph of connections that is tied to telephone numbers. This is a great advantage for RCS it already has access to your contact list as it is your new default messaging service.

As people upgrade to RCS, they will discover that they do not need to have Messaging App X for “that one person”. As nobody wants to have a folder full of instant messaging apps, many will be replaced by RCS by erosion. When you replace the application you use for one person by RCS, they have one fewer reasons to use it. As times goes on, only the very large networks will survive.

What is the bad news?

When people left SMS for other services they have got encryption for free. Some services provided end-to-end encryption2, some only at the transport level. With the exception of Signal, few people choose messaging services based on privacy — many do not even know what it means for them.

With RCS, this feature will disappear and many will lose the protection provided by encryption without knowing it. When SMS was created, security was not a thing in personal communication. Anybody who got hold of your phone could suck all of its information.

But our phones did not know everything about us back then. Today, there are lot of actors that would like to get their hands on them sweet messages: criminals, governments and criminal governments.

What can be done?

Nothing. We will see how this will play out but I fear that after RCS is entrenched, many messages will be floating around in plain text. I hope that the current secure services will solve problems that RCS can not, providing a compelling reason to stay off it.


  1. The app used for iMessage and SMS, the equivalent of the future Android Chat. [return]
  2. End to end encrypted messages (Signal, WhatsApp, iMessage), guarantee that nobody, including the platform provider, can read your messages. [return]