jb… a weblog by Jonathan Buys

Performance comparison - counting words in Python, Go, C++, C, AWK, Forth, and Rust

July 25, 2022

A basic solution reads the file line-by-line, converts to lowercase, splits each line into words, and counts the frequencies in a hash table. When that’s done, it converts the hash table to a list of word-count pairs, sorts by count (largest first), and prints them out.

A fascinating read, and the results are surprising. For example, I honestly would have thought the pure Unix implementation would be faster than tested. It also surprises me that Swift is so slow. I wonder if someone who knows the language well could produce an optimized version for this sorting problem.


GPG Signing Git Commits

June 9, 2022

On my way towards completing another project I needed to setup gpg public key infrastructure. There are many tutorials and explanations about gpg on the web, so I won’t try to explain what it is here. My goal is to simply record how I went about setting it up for myself to securely sign my Git commits.

Most everything here I gathered from this tutorial on dev.to, but since I’m sure I’ll never be able to find it again after today, I’m going to document it here.

First, install gpg with Homebrew:

brew install gpg

Next, generate a new Ed25519 key:

gpg --full-generate-key --expert

We pick option (9) for the first prompt, Elliptic Curve Cryptography, and option (1) for the second, Curve 25519. Pick the defaults for the rest of the prompts, giving the key a descriptive name.

Once finished you should be able to see your key by running:

gpg --list-keys --keyid-format short

The tutorial recommends using a second subkey generated from the first key to actually do the signing. So, we edit the master key by running:

gpg --expert --edit-key XXXXXXX

Replacing XXXXX with the ID of your newly generated key. Once in the gpg command line, enter addkey, and again select ECC and Curve 25519 for the options. Finally, enter save to save the key and exit the command line.

Now when we run gpg --list-keys --keyid-format short we should be able to see a second key listed with the designation [S] after it. The ID will look similar to this:

sub   ed25519/599D272D 2021-01-02 [S]

We will need the part after ed25519/, in this case 599D272D. Add that to your global Git configuration file by running:

git config --global user.signingkey 599D272D

If you’d like git to sign every commit, you can add this to your config file:

git config --global commit.gpgsign true

Otherwise, pass the -S flag to your git command to sign individual commits. I’d never remember to do that, so I just sign all of them.

Make sure that gpg is unlocked and ready to use by running:

echo "test"  | gpg --clearsign

If that fails, run export GPG_TTY=$(tty) and try again. You should be prompted to unlock GPG with the passphrase set during creation of the key. Enter the export command in your ~/.zshrc to fix this issue.

Finally, Github has a simple way to add gpg keys, but first we’ll need to export the public key:

gpg --armor --export 599D272D

Copy the entire output of that command and enter it into the Github console under Settings, “SSH and GPG keys”, and click on “New GPG key”. Once that’s finished, you should start seeing nice green “Verified” icons next to your commits.

Why BBEdit?

April 27, 2022

I’m not a “developer” per se, but in my role as a devops engineer I frequently need to write code. That code can either be configuration code like .yaml or .json files, or shell scripts, or occasionally an entire application in Python. I spend a lot of time in the terminal, but I spend an equal amount of time in my text editor. My main requirements for a text editor is that it be equally fast and powerful, but not try to do much more than just be a text editor. I have my terminal a quick command-tab away, so its very easy to jump back and forth, I don’t need a terminal built into my text editor. I also need my text editor to be completely accurate. What I see has to be what is written to the file, no “hidden syntax”. That’s why I prefer BBEdit. BBEdit has powerful text editing features, but it’s not overwhelming. It’s not trying to be your entire operating system.

In fact, BBEdit fits perfectly in the macOS environment. I used to be a dedicated vim user, but over time the context switching between the different macOS applications and vim became distracting. One of the great things about macOS is that once you learn the basic keyboard combos they apply almost everywhere, unless the application you are using is not a good Mac citizen. Vim has it’s own set of keyboard combos, endlessly configurable and expandable. I started forgetting my own shortcuts. BBEdit uses the macOS standard keyboard combos, many inherited from emacs, so if you learn how to navigate text in TextEdit you can apply those same shortcuts to BBEdit.

But, BBEdit is also powerful. You can include custom text snippets for autocompletion, run scripts to manipulate text, and use regular expressions for detailed search and replace operations. With the latest release you can also setup a language server for more powerful syntax checking and completion. BBEdit has been in active development for 30 years, and in that time the developer, Rich Siegel has continuously improved it and kept it up to date with the ever-changing architectures of macOS. BBEdit feels just as much at home on my M1 MacBook Pro as it did on the Macintosh of the 90’s.

BBEdit hits the right balance of power and simplicity for my workflow. It’s fast, reliable, and fits perfectly in the Mac environment. For as long as Rich is developing it, BBEdit will be in my Dock. I don’t know what will happen when he decides to retire, but I’m hoping that decision is many, many years away.

The Bug

January 10, 2022

Right now, in my garage, is a 1969 Volkswagen Beetle sedan. It’s a deep maroon in color (for now), has several spots of troublesome rust, a few holes in the floorboards or body, and, is absolutely beautiful. For now, I’m calling it Jerry Carcia.

When I was in high school in the early nineties I drove several cars, but none were as close to my heart as the Bug I drove back then. It was black, early sixties. I’d camp out in it, occasionally push start it, and once when I was driving on the highway the hood flew open and blocked my view. I had to roll down the window and stick my head out to pull over safely. But I loved it. When I joined the Navy, I left the Bug with my parents and they sold it for me. For over twenty years I’ve regretted getting rid of that Bug.

Over time I’d occasionally go to look at one. I’ve got a collection of advertisements for different Bugs that I’ve saved. At a dinner with friends a few months ago I mentioned that I wish I had kept my old Bug, and that I’d like to get another one eventually. A few days later my friend forwarded me a link to a Facebook Marketplace ad for the ‘69 in my garage now. It wasn’t far away, and the price wasn’t exorbitant, but in my mind I suspected I would pass this one over and continue my decades-long practice of wishing from the sidelines. But… since my friend sent it, and since it looked like it was in good condition, I talked it over with my wife. She looked at me and said: “You’ve been taking about doing this for as long as we’ve known each other, if you want to get it, I’m completely ok with that.”

I suspect that she also thinks I need something that’s going to occupy my time other than sitting in front of a computer. I further suspect that she’s right.

So, as soon as I could I arranged to go look at the Bug. I pulled a bunch of cash out of the ATM (always a hassle), and drove out to take a look. In person, the Bug looked like it was in even better condition than I thought. New carpeting inside, everything looked clean, the engine started, the tires and wheels were in great shape, no obvious rust issues on the body that I could see. I couldn’t drive it because the tires were flat, but I wasn’t expecting to drive this car, it’s a fixer-upper. I paid the man, got the title, and arranged with a friend to bring a trailer out to haul the Bug home.

After some finagling, we were able to drive the Bug onto the trailer, haul it home, drive it off the trailer, and into the garage.

I’ve had the Bug for a few months now. I’ve never been much of a mechanic, I’m learning a lot going through the different systems. My plan is to get the Bug to a drivable state, then clear out the third bay of my garage by building a shed in the back yard and moving all my equipment out there. Once that’s done, I’ll move the Bug over to the third bay and start on a full body-off restoration.

To get the Bug to drivable, my initial plan is to address these issues:

  1. Brakes. When I drove the Bug into the garage, only one wheel was braking, I’m going to need all four thanks.
  2. Electrical. One headlight doesn’t work, and there are wires all over the place that either don’t connect or I have no idea what they are doing. There’s an aftermarket stereo that’s going to go away, and the horn doesn’t work.
  3. Transmission. The Bug is an autostick, which I wasn’t even aware was a thing. It’s also not working at the moment, and I need to be able to disengage the clutch. More on this at a later date.
  4. Engine. The engine needs a tune up. It starts, but it takes a while, and there’s not a lot of power. Ok, well, there’s not a lot of power in a VW Bug to begin with, but… anyway, a tune up.

I figured once I’ve addressed each of these issues than I can at least drive it around town here for a bit. Run to the store for milk or what not. As of now I’ve addressed the brakes. All four wheels stop now. I’ll need to re-run the brake line going back to the rear wheels to get it run in the body right, then bleed the brakes again, after that they should be good till the full restoration. More on the brakes later.

It’s good to be a VW owner again. I’m looking forward to restoring the Bug. It’ll also give me something to write about and share here. The Bug has a long way to go before I’ll consider it “finished”. My intention is to restore as much as possible to factory original, with occasional upgrades for safety or modern convenience. When I sit in the bug, I’d like to feel like I’ve been transported back in time, back to the 90’s when I was first driving a VW through the woods of Montana.

My 2022 Mac Setup

January 5, 2022

Starting its fifth year on my desk, my 2017 iMac 5k is still going strong, but starting to show it’s age. There’s still nothing that I can’t do with it, but after looking at my wife’s M1 MacBook Air I can’t help but be just a little jealous of how fast that little machine is. I’ve yet to come across any computer that offers the same value as the iMac, especially when you factor in how good this 27” retina screen is. I’m tempted by both the current 24” M1 iMac, and the new 16” M1 Max MacBook Pro, but the rumor mill is talking about bigger, master iMacs and colorful M2 MacBook Airs, either of which might actually make the most sense for my desk. I want to see the entire lineup before committing. The good thing is that no matter which machine I choose, it’s going to be a major speed improvement from where I am now.

On the software side I’m in a bit of a state of flux. Old standards are now no longer given, but because I’ve been using them for so long I’m reluctant to step away. Apple’s Reminders has gotten good enough for most things, but after a brief experiment over the holidays I found that I was letting things slip through the cracks, and headed back to OmniFocus. OmniFocus, for all its complexity, feels like home.

1Password’s upcoming switch to Electron has me concerned, but after some consideration I wonder how much of my concern is practical and how much of it is philosophical. Ideally, I would have preferred if 1P 8 was an evolution of 1P 7, instead of an entirely different application, but at the end of the day I’m still going to use it for work, and I still have a family subscription that I get through my Eero subscription, so I’ll keep it around. And if I’m going to have it anyway… why not keep using it? The flip side of that coin is that when using Safari the built-in password manager is seamless, far simpler than 1Password, even for one-time codes. But, do I really want all my passwords only available in Safari? Sometimes I might want to use Firefox. This is all still up in the air.

For file management, I’ve still got DEVONthink, but it’s another one where I’m not sure I’ll keep it. Again, ideally, iCloud Drive would be encrypted end-to-end so I could safely trust that I could put sensitive work data on it and not be putting my career at risk, but that’s not the world we live in. Without DEVONthink I need to keep all my files on my local machine, which is normally fine, but every now and then I want to get to something while I’m out running around, and DEVONthink to Go is the only secure solution. I’ve heard rumors that encryption might be coming, but until it’s here I think I’m going to stick with DT.

Keyboard Maestro and Hazel are both on the chopping block. I still have both installed, but neither are running. For Keyboard Maestro, I honestly can’t keep extra keyboard shortcuts in my head, and I’ve never found that many uses for the application. For a long time the only thing I’d use it for is text expansion, and even then only for the date stamp, i.e. 2022-01-05_. If there comes a time when iCloud Drive is encrypted, I’ll probably turn Hazel back on for automatic file management. But given that everything now gets dumped into DEVONthink, all my files are organized by the apps AI and I have less to set up and maintain. And if I’m honest, I’ve always had problems with Hazel’s pattern matching, sometimes it would inexplicably not match a pattern in a file I could easily find while searching with Spotlight. Most of Keyboard Maestro’s automation features that I did use I’ve moved into Shortcuts. I’m looking forward to Hazel-like functionality being built into macOS.

Other than that, I’m happy with Day One, I’ve increased my use of the Apple Notes app quite a bit, I love NetNewsWire (although I’ve decreased the number of sites I’m subscribed to for less, but better, content), MindNode is a fantastic mind-mapping app, and I keep all my mail in Mail. The biggest new addition to my setup is Parallels for running Windows 10. I’ve found I need this for teaching the Microsoft Office course at the local community college. Of course, this is another area where I’m unsure what I’ll do when I finally do update to an M-series Mac, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

What Would Happen If We Slowed Down?

January 3, 2022

If you worked deeply and regularly on a reasonable portfolio of initiatives that move the needle, and were sufficiently organized to keep administrative necessities from dropping through the cracks, your business probably wouldn’t implode, and your job roles would likely still be fulfilled. This shift from a state of slightly too much work to not quite enough, in other words, might be less consequential than we fear.

This reminds me of initiatives to cut down to a 4-day work week. If I remember correctly, tests have shown that productivity does not go down, and workers have a better quality of life.


The Reminders Experiment

January 3, 2022

Over the past month I’ve been experimenting with cutting down on the number of applications I use on my Mac. One in particular I though was going to stick was moving my task management system over from OmniFocus to Reminders. I enjoyed the everywhere integration of Reminders, like how Siri would include any tasks I had scheduled for the day when I asked my HomePod “What’s my update?”. Unfortunately, when I sat down at the end of the holiday break to think about the projects I had going at work, and how to schedule them out for the upcoming week, I realized I needed to open OmniFocus, and once it was open, I knew the experiment was over.

I’ve been using the GTD system for so long now it’s a part of how I think. OmniFocus was built around that system. It’s the only to-do app that I’m aware of that does things like defer dates and built-in weekly reviews. It might be a deep and complex app, but I’ve got it customized to my liking. I know which parts of it I use (perspectives) and which parts I never touch (flagged tasks).

The long and the short of it is that I’ve got a complicated job as a senior devops engineer, I teach two courses at the local community college at night, I’ve got a family, and I’ve got a home and vehicles to take care of. To be able to focus, to be there for my family, for my work, I need a system that I can trust. For me, OmniFocus is the foundation of that system. I’m not excited about the new direction of their mobile app, but I can live with it. I imagine that OmniFocus and I are going to be together for a long time.

The Subtle Art of Snowblowing

January 1, 2022

If you are fortunate enough to live in a home with a driveway, and fortunate enough to live in a region that gets a lot of snow, you are already familiar with the seasonal chore of snowblowing1. It is currently seven degrees Fahrenheit outside, and the weather forecast calls for five to six inches in snow today, which means that soon enough I’ll bundle up and head out to take part.

Snowblowing gives me a lot of time to think, and over the years I’ve developed a system for keeping the driveway in tip-top condition. There are a few rules, or, more likely “best practices”, to keep in mind when considering next steps while looking at a fresh blanket of snow. You must keep in mind the current and forecasted weather, your schedule and the schedule of anyone who lives with you, the state of your machinery and current preparation level, and finally the pattern you’ll walk when clearing the driveway and sidewalk. Importantly, grab your hot beverage of choice and enjoy the magical beauty of snowfall.

You’ll want to wait for the current storm to be over, don’t start snowblowing when it’s snowing unless you have no choice. Ideally there will be a nice break after the storm. The sky clears and the sun comes out. This is when the city will send out their plows to clear the roads, and it’s best if you can wait till after the plows go by to start your driveway. It’s maddening when the plow goes by your home and shoves a giant pile of slushy mess at the bottom of your freshly snowblown driveway. If you can wait till they are done, you can get it all done at once.

However, don’t wait long! Snow is normally easiest to blow when it is fresh powder. Depending on how much snow fell, and the arrangement of your driveway, you are in danger of the snow melting enough to turn to slush, which is much harder to move.

The number one most important thing to keep in mind is to clear the driveway before anyone drives on it. This is why you need to consider household scheduling. If anyone needs to leave or arrive before you get a chance to snowblow, the weight of the vehicle driving will pack the snow down tight. Once packed down like this, the snowblower will ride right over the tracks, barely scraping the top instead of pushing the snow out. Then, even if you’ve done a good job with the rest of the driveway, you’ll have two hard-packed treads of snow going across it that will (1) look bad, and (2) turn into a slipping hazard. When the sun comes out, and if your driveway gets a full day’s worth of direct sunlight, even if it’s below freezing, the sun will melt the snow just enough for it to re-freeze and turn to ice. Once this happens it is difficult to get off the driveway, and it’s likely those treads will be there for the remainder of the season.

When the time is right to head outside, you’ll learn quickly if you are properly prepared. Snowblowing is cold work, start with the right clothes. I’ve found that wearing a base layer of cold-weather gear helps tremendously, as does choosing the right pants. I try to avoid jeans unless they are flannel-lined, and normally go with a pair of hiking pants from Eddie Bower. These pants provide a layer of protection from the snow melting in, dry quickly, and when paired with the base-layer gear are warm enough. I wear a base layer shirt, a t-shirt, and a flannel, and then an Eddie Bower puffy jacket. I top it off with a North Face winter hat, and a pair of insulated leather work gloves. Of all my cold weather gear, I’m currently most unhappy with the gloves, my fingers tend to start freezing after a half-hour or so outside, so I’ll need to replace them with something better soon. Finally, wear thick wool socks if you have them, and good boots. Sneakers will work in a pinch, but I’d double-up on the socks, otherwise your toes will get very cold very quickly.

Next, hopefully you’ve read the weather and have started up your snowblower once this season, checked the oil, and made sure you’ve got a full tank along with a spare gallon of gas or two. If you start to snowblow the driveway and run out of gas, or, worse, if you have a bad snowblower that won’t start, all the other preparation and scheduling you’ve done won’t matter. Like a Scout, be prepared.

Speaking of snowblowers, my advice for equipment is the same as my advice for computers. Buy the best you can afford. This is not an area to skimp. True, it might be hard to look at it during the other ten months out of the year when it’s sitting in your shed or garage taking up space, but you’ll be thankful you have it those few times per year you need it. When looking at purchasing equipment, remember the old adage, “Buy nice, or buy twice.” You really want that snowblower to start up the first time you pull the cord.

In the same vein, purchase the best snow shovel you can afford. Even though you’ve got a nice snowblower, you’ll need a shovel for detail work, porches, and light snowfalls that don’t warrant getting out the powered equipment. Avoid the cheap plastic shovels, and avoid shovels with a weird bend in the handle. What you want is a wide metal shovel with a good blade on the edge and a sturdy, straight handle. That will give you the most control over the shovel and let you get the most work done with it. I’ve always found the bent handle shovels to be awkward to use.

Once you’ve found the right weather at the right time, you are properly dressed, and your equipment is prepared and ready, it’s time to start blowing snow. The way you go about this is part science and part art. You have to read the wind, the weight of the snow, and the power of your snowblower. You need to keep in mind how you want the driveway to look afterwards. Ideally, you move enough snow off the driveway that it’s bare concrete underneath, or close enough to bare that the sun will melt what’s left off and leave it clean. You want clean straight lines delineating the edges of your driveway where your lawn starts. If you can’t get to clear concrete, you’ll want your driveway to have just the barest layer of snow left on it, and have that snow reflect the plow tracks of your snowblower. Again, long straight lines are best. Avoid mixing vertical and horizontal patterns, you’ll want the entire driveway to look like it was all done at once.

The pattern you use to clear the driveway will be somewhat dependent on the weather, but I’ve found that normally starting in the center of the driveway and blowing snow to the left and right of it and working out towards the edges works best.

You could start at one edge and work your way all the way over to the other edge. If the wind is strong in one direction crossways this is probably the best bet.

You’ll need room to turn around, so I’ve found that one or two paths right at the top of the driveway parallel to the road gives me plenty of room. However, avoid trying to snowblow the entire driveway this way, you’ll wind up with a face full of snow, blowing snow all over your freshly blown driveway, and worse, blowing snow into the road. Don’t blow snow into the road, that’s poor form.

Finally, once the driveway is cleared you may be tempted to put salt on it to prevent icing. Don’t. Salt will damage your concrete, and stops working after it gets below ten degrees anyway. If icing is a safety issue, it’s better to put down a chemical deicing agent. I’ve seen sand recommended, but I’ve never seen anyone using it. Overall, it’s best to put the work in with the snowblower and shovel to clear all the snow off the driveway before it turns to ice, and let the sun take care of the rest of it. That way you don’t have to worry about slipping.

Some see snowblowing as a chore, I see it as a rare opportunity to continue perfecting the craft. In a world where most work happens in front of a screen, it’s good to be able to physically accomplish something you can be proud of. And a well cared for driveway, clean and cleared of snow and ice after a storm, is definitely something to be proud of.

  1. Apparently “snowblowing” is not a proper English word. I don’t care. It should be. It’s what I do when I clear my driveway of snow using the snowblower. 

More on 1Password

December 21, 2021

1Password 7 was an incremental improvement on 6, and 6 was an incremental improvement on 5, and so on all the way back to the original 1Passwd. But 1Password 8, which is now in Beta is a horse of a different color.

I’ve been trying to understand the reasoning behind the change. In a nutshell, AgileBits decided that the Mac wasn’t worth having a dedicated codebase, so they’ve thrown everything out and started over from scratch with Rust and Electron.

Over the past several months I’ve been thinking about how much I care about this, and decided that, for me, there’s a fairly short list of things I care a lot about, and the software I use every day on my Mac is one of them.

Part of what makes a Mac great is the predictability of application behavior. Once a user gains an understanding of the Mac environment, they can reasonably expect to be able to quickly pick up any other application. Things like menu items, keyboard shortcuts, help docs, and how the UI of the application are presented are standardized across the system.

Cross-platform shovelware often doesn’t care about any of that. Instead, they focus on their own UI paradigms, and often miss out on the built-in benefits of native app integration. The 1Password developers Mitchell Cohen and Andrew Beyer said as much in a recent interview on the Changelog Podcast, episode #468, (emphasis mine):

You go to a Starbucks, a college campus, you just look at your friends, family and co-workers, and they love their Macs. But you look at the software they’re using, and it’s normal software. It’s cross-platform software, web-based, a lot of times just inside of a web browser… And they don’t really think about it that way. They don’t ask for apps that look like Apple made them in the ‘90s the way that I think a lot of people kind of want us to go back and do that. And regardless of what technology we use, we’re not gonna do that. We’re going to make an app that looks and feels like the experience that we want, just like every other developer effectively is doing in 2021.

I actually think that for the average college student, for instance, who uses a Mac, they’ll think of something like Discord or Slack or Notion and say “That’s what a Mac app looks like. That’s how it works.” They’re not going to point to these apps that came out decades ago, that sort of are the standard bearers for what a native Mac app is supposed to be.

Sad, but I don’t think I can argue against their point. The concept of a Mac app is fading, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it, or even agree that it’s right.

Electron tries to mimic the native AppKit environment, and in some apps it gets pretty close. But Electron is a resource hog, that’s the other downside. Slack takes up way more RAM than it should, and Microsoft’s Teams makes my MacBook Air’s fans kick in every time I use it.

Electron is what you use when your company goals are more important than building the best application for your users. Honestly, how many Mac users really care about Linux? Well, at least one of the 1Password devs does.

But one of the really important goals was we wanted a browser extension that could work without a natively-installed application on the machine. And there’s a lot of reasons for that. One, at the time we had no Linux app, so that was a part of the market where – like, I’ve been using Linux since YellowDog on my original iMac… Whether I’m using Linux now or not, I always wanted 1Password on Linux; and this was a really easy way to make something that would run on Linux immediately.

The other thing is you have this thing called ChromeOS, which is this system – it runs Android apps sometimes, but it’s another place where a lot of things are done on the web, they’re done within Chrome… It’s a great place where you want a web extension or a browser extension that doesn’t need a Mac app running, or something like that.

I would argue that even on Linux not having a native experience for Gnome or KDE or whatever they use now is worse than having a cross-platform Electron app that doesn’t respect the local desktop environment. But, on Linux, I suppose having anything at all is a glass of ice water in hell.

Inside 1Password even the concept of what constitutes a native Mac app has already become diluted to unrecognizable.

So I wanna push back on this idea of native app, because it comes up in every conversation these days… We’ve done a ton of research, a ton of interviews, and to the normal who doesn’t watch this show and isn’t part of our Twitter tech community, a native app is an app that has an icon on your dock, that has keyboard shortcuts, that you can download and install on your computer…

I’d say that’s a very low bar. Surprisingly, the conversation goes back to the Linux desktop experience.

We’re doing things on Linux that no one’s ever done before, for instance having biometrics and browser extension integration, and integration with the system keychain… The Linux community has been really grateful and appreciative of that, and me too, because I love Linux.

It goes on and on, and we’re always going to do that, because the app isn’t very useful if it doesn’t integrate well with your computer.

But the buttons are not NSbutton And that’s where I’m just – I don’t really care anymore. I wanna build a great product, with great features, and I think that’s true for all of us.

The developers go into detail about the amount of work they’ve had to do to make the next version of 1Password feel at least somewhat at home on the Mac, as far as their definition of that goes. What they don’t go into detail on is how 1Password will keep up to date on the Mac as those custom details change and start to look and behave not just out of place, but out of date. When the Mac UI changes, Mac apps that have integrated with the native AppKit framework inherit the new look and functionality mostly “for free”. The work that AgileBits is putting into reimplementing AppKit functionality is going to have to be maintained and updated constantly.

Seems to me that they could have saved themselves the work and updated their existing 1Password 7 codebase, but only AgileBits knows for sure.

To be fair, Apple isn’t helping themselves much here. Pushing out their own apps that don’t adhere to their own HIG only encourages third-party developers to continue to use UI paradigms and design languages created for themselves, not the user.

I think 1Password 8’s release will mark the start of a sad chapter in the state of the Mac. Paradoxically, it comes at a time when the Mac has never been stronger, when the hardware has never been better, and when Apple is at the top of their game. Even with all that being true, the actual user experience of using a Mac with popular third-party software is going to be worse in 2022 than it was in 2006.

Other Notable Quotes


But even on the desktop apps and mobile apps, we had web views, we had web-based integrations. And in fact, the most important part of our desktop app, which people interact with every day, has always been web-based and very heavily so. And that of course is the browser extension.

[16:16] So it’s interesting to see people think of what we’re doing as sort of like a move, or a shift, when really it’s just taking something we’ve always cared about deeply and continuing to use it in our product for the things that appeal to us about it.


So one thing we’re very excited about with 8 is actually making it so that you do interact with all of our service and our apps, not just the command backslash as useful as it is. So that’s really on our minds.


We wanted to make sure that we were building a product that was modern and discoverable in this day and age. And we had a lot of problems there, whether you were on a Mac and switched to Windows; at the time we didn’t even have a Linux client… There were parts of 1Password that felt, looked and acted differently. And a lot of that is because of our origin story. We had two founders that started this company over 15 years ago, they built the first Mac app, and essentially built the company from the ground up that way… And when the time came to add Windows, they just hired someone to write a Windows app. They joined the company, started building up a small team; same for Android, started with one person…


We’re actually very interested in driving this approach of like write a cross-platform app using web technologies, because it’s awesome. You get to dictate your own design language.


I’m not 100% – I’m still waiting to see, is there another Electron app that does unlocking with Apple Watch? We might be the only one; I haven’t found another one. But we spent a heck of a lot of effort into the actually making our Mac app as good in 1Password 8 as 1Password 7.

One of the things you brought up was the permissions dialogue not being in a separate window; we actually at one point had the app do that. That is something you can absolutely do; that’s not an Electron feature, or a problem with Electron that prevents you from having multiple windows. We made a conscious design choice to bring the 1Password design language into these new apps.

For the Future

August 12, 2021

It’s been a busy couple weeks in the Mac community. From horrendously serious topics like Apple taking on child sexual abuse material (CSAM) by scanning photos uploaded to iCloud to drastically less serious topics like an upcoming OmniFocus redesign and 1Password switching to Electron. But first, a follow up to Switcher Season 2021.

After seriously considering my motivations I’ve come to the decision to stick with the Mac and my Apple gear for the foreseeable future. It would be a massive and expensive effort to replace everything, even piecemealing it one bit at a time, and it would disrupt my life and my families lives. Like I said before, when Apple’s devices work as advertised it’s like pulling a bit of the future down into the present. And that’s what I want, I want to live in that optimistic, solarpunk future. Apple has, so far, done well with their green initiatives, like building Macs out of recycled iPhones, and running all their data centers off of renewable energy. Apple is massive now, but at their core I think they still want to do the right thing. Not that they always get it right, or that they always wind up on the right side of a debate, but over all I think I can still support the company because they are still, in general, working towards being a force for good in the world. We need more of that.

Of course, being one of the biggest companies in the world comes with additional scrutiny and responsibility. One of those is doing their part to stop the spread of CSAM, while at the same time protecting the privacy of their customers. I won’t get into it too much here, other than to say I think they could do more and it’d be fine. Otherwise I’ll just point you to John Gruber’s excellent take on the matter. Also, if this is a necessary step to end-to-end encryption for iCloud Documents, I’m all for it.

On a much, much lighter note, I’ve been using the new OmniFocus for iOS beta, and while it’s not nearly as bad as what’s going on with 1Password I’m not sure I’ll be upgrading. After using the beta for a while now, I can’t imagine I’ll stick with OmniFocus if they don’t make some significant changes to the UI before they ship. Which is sad, because I’ve been an OmniFocus user for a long time. I suppose I could see how long I can stick with v3, but it probably won’t be long.

I really miss the main dashboard screen, and how large the touch targets are in v3. In v4 I find the outline to be a big step back in usability and just how pleasant the application is to use. The checkboxes are too small, they are on the wrong side, the Forecast view doesn’t have the week calendar at the top, and I can’t swipe to go back to the dashboard. Instead I’ve got to find that little outline button on the bottom left, or just know that you can tap on the name of the perspective.

Some folks might really love how this works, but it’s not for me. The Omni group is using SwiftUI to build a single cross-platform application, and I suppose we should just be grateful they aren’t switching to Electron.

Because that’s exactly what 1Password is doing. I registered for 1Password Early Access and downloaded the new version and it’s like it was built by an entirely different company. ⌘ \ is no longer the default keyboard shortcut, which is crazy because they had t-shirts made for it.

I’ve been a supporter and advocate for 1Password for years. I led my team to use it at work in 2016 because I’d been using it and loving it since it was 1Passwd. It’s a web app in a frame. v7 was a best in class, completely solid Mac experience. v8 I wouldn’t give a second thought to if I wasn’t already so invested in the app. I know the AgileBits team gave this a lot of thought, but my opinion is that this is a mistake.

Man, AgileBits used to be such a great little indie Mac company, till they tasted that sweet, sweet enterprise money, then they took millions in investment funding.

One of the founders made a good argument for why they eventually decided to go this route:

@shepstl There is a bit of a truth here. I think the business/enterprise side is important for us.

You can see over that over the past few years every major vendor — Google, Apple, Microsoft have built their own password manager. Once something becomes essential, there will be a free option. Remember when Netscape used to sell the web browser and now it is something that we all expect to be free?

If we want to survive, we have to provide something more. Support for businesses (and families!) is a big part of it.

Now, both Dave and I are still using 1Password everyday. We are Mac users and we want to have the best experience for ourselves.

We agonized over the Electron choice and how it will be received by the community. Yesterday wasn’t easy and some of the feedback did hit our team pretty hard. I still think/hope we could pull it off and people will come around 🤞 I know I did — while there is still work that needs to be done, I can’t imagine using the old app today.

I understand. I don’t agree, but I understand. I think they could have continued to ship a first-class native citizen on each platform without resorting to Electron, but that’s the choice they made.

So where does this leave me? The thing is, all of these changes are happening at a time when Apple is also making pointed improvements to their native apps. Reminders is getting pretty good in the next version, it’ll support tags and smart lists that I could configure to be similar to Perspectives in OmniFocus. There’s also enhancements to the built-in password manager in Safari, most notably support for MFA, that make it an attractive native option. It won’t be nearly as full-featured as 1Password, just like Reminders will never be OmniFocus, but for my personal use case, maybe 80% is good enough. That, and Reminders deep integration into the Apple ecosystem will probably be what it takes for me to move.

I’m always looking for ways to simplify, reduce. To use less and do more. OmniFocus and 1Password are just reminding me to take a close look and see if I really need them in my life or not. I’m suspecting in the next couple of months I’ll wind up with not.