jb… a weblog by Jonathan Buys

Be Excellent To Each Other

The recent row over iA Writer’s developers and their patent application reminded me what a small community the Mac developers are. The real problem was never about iA attempting to patent their work, the issue was that they forgot their place in the ecosystem. There are a few in the community that give freely and abundantly, like Brett Terpstra, and when iA threatened to use their patents offensively against Terpstra’s Marked, the community rightfully condemned them.

December 27, 2013 - 2 minute read - culture tech online indie

iCloud and Core Data

I inadvertently started a bit of a conversation today when I complained about the state of NetNewsWire on Twitter. I’ve been a NetNewsWire user for years, and I was very surprised when it was sold to Black Pixel. My surprise turned to disappointment when the application was not updated, and now NetNewsWire has stopped working for me completely.

January 17, 2013 - 2 minute read - culture online mac

Mountain Lion Reviews

July 25, 2012 - 1 minute read - mac online

Supersite

Daring Fireball linked to Paul Thurrott today, citing Paul’s comment that Lion is simply an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary update. John says:

June 14, 2011 - 3 minute read - online culture mac

Two Views Of The Cloud

A few years ago, there was a distinction between the “world wide web” and the Internet. The distinction has decreased, but in the wake of Apple’s landmark WWDC keynote, I think the technical distinction between the terms is an important point to make. The difference between the Internet and the web that rides on top of the Internet forms the basis for two very different points of view for the future of personal computing.

June 14, 2011 - 3 minute read - online cloud google apple

Fragility of Free - The Brooks Review

When you pay for software/services upfront you know how much it is going to cost right away.

March 15, 2011 - 1 minute read - online culture software

Apotheker Seeks to Save HPs Lost Soul With Software Growth - Businessweek

Starting next year, every one of the PCs shipped by HP will include the ability to run WebOS in addition to Microsoft Corp.’s Windows, Apotheker said.

March 9, 2011 - 2 minute read - online culture apple

Anatomy of a Crushing

We charged money for a good or service

I know this one is controversial, but there are enormous benefits and you can immediately reinvest a whole bunch of it in your project sips daiquiri. Your customers will appreciate that you have a long-term plan that doesn’t involve repackaging them as a product.

March 8, 2011 - 2 minute read - linux online culture indie

Our Lean Startup

There is no profit margin on mediocre. While every company including ours has its hiccups as it grows we set the bar on day one to offer a premium service and priced it as such. We are unapologetic about it.

March 7, 2011 - 1 minute read - online culture

Reading and Readability

Readability is a subscription based service that allows you to read the text off of websites in a beautiful, clean, consistent interface. Since I started reading the web through Readability a while ago, I’ve appreciated it’s consistency, meaning that one site looks the same as the next, as the next, and the next. Reading articles on the web becomes more about the writing, and less about design. Jumping from site to site can be jarring, distracting, but when using Readability, the entire web can feel like a single book, one with many chapters.

February 3, 2011 - 4 minute read - online productivity

Friendly Conversation for the Drive

It’s snowing again, which means my normal 40-minute commute will now be closer to an hour. I’m actually a bit excited by the prospect of a long drive; it will give me some time to catch up on my favorite podcasts, most of which come from Dan Benjamin at 5by5.

January 21, 2011 - 3 minute read - online culture

Delicious Bookmarks

Word leaked out yesterday that Yahoo has it’s popular Delicious bookmarking service on the chopping block. I don’t personally have an account, not anymore, so the closing won’t affect me. Twitter tells a different story, my stream lit up with people upset about the decision. Yahoo’s leak, coupled with their announcement that the company is laying off 4% of it’s workforce right before Christmas, caused a fairly good sized migration from Delicious to Pinboard. I do have a Pinboard account, and I think I even have a few bookmarks saved, but its been weeks since the last time I visited the site.

December 17, 2010 - 3 minute read - online mac productivity culture

The Proper Place of Technology In Our Lives

It’s now the middle of December, which signals the end of my first semester of grad school. I took two classes, both focused on HCI: cognitive psychology and social implications. The paper I just finished writing for the social implications course was about answering the question of whether all software should be free, and required a lot of research into open source, the Free Software Foundation, and a lot of deep thinking about what I felt was right.

December 15, 2010 - 7 minute read - online culture essay

Emotions and Machines

I’ve been using different forms of computer “chat” for over ten years now, starting with operator-to-operator communications over a 9600baud satcom circuit in the Navy. Over time, I’ve become used to using certain forms of “emoticons” to convey subtle nuances in the conversation that are unnecessary in face to face communications. I even have friends with whom I communicate with entirely over chat.

November 6, 2010 - 2 minute read - online culture hci

osvids

I’ve been writing online since around 2000, starting with a geocities site. After that, I had a 50megs.com site that offered gasp 50 Megabytes of online storage! (Just noticed, they still do!) After a couple of years, I noticed a company named 1and1 that was offering three years of free hosting and the domain of your choice. That was a deal I couldn’t pass up, and I grabbed the domain name sourceport.org. I used the domain, but didn’t get a whole lot accomplished with it. I used it for a while to sell PCs as firewalls with OpenBSD, but that didn’t end well, so then I started a Wordpress blog with that domain name. Unfortunately, the person who owns the sourceport dot com address had a beef with me, so I moved the blog over to a new domain: jonstechblog.com. While I was using this blog, I moved away from wordpress and started using a Mac application named RapidWeaver. I switched to RapidWeaver because it made the task of posting videos of Linux distros that I was testing out easy. I was testing the distros anyway, so I figured, why not share it with the world.

One day, I got an email from the guys at OSDir, asking about a “link exchange”. It turns out he thought I was on to something, and that he was toying with the same idea. He donated all of his videos to me, we exchanged links, and osvids.com was born. OSVids was a big hit, and got very popular very fast, starting with an interview I did with Tina Gasperson from NewsForge.

It turns out that the site grew too popular too fast. When I first started uploading the videos, I was encoding them with quicktime, which turned out to be a very bad idea from a usability standpoint for my target audience. The Linux crowd demanded an open format, so I offered downloads in Ogg-Vorbis format in addition to switching to the more widely deployed flash. Starting out with Quicktime had another very bad side effect: bandwidth. The quicktime files were huge, and I went from a negligible bandwidth use to 1.5 Terabytes in one month. This took a toll on my wallet in a big way. I noticed an advertisement for a hosting company that claimed “Unlimited Bandwidth!”, so I signed up and moved OSVids over to their servers. Another bad idea. I learned quickly that there is no such thing as “unlimited bandwidth”, as OSVids quickly brought there servers to a screeching halt. I complained, they tried to respond, and eventually I moved the site back over to 1and1. Even on shared hosting, 1and1’s servers never skipped a beat, and I never had any downtime with them. But, like I said, I paid for it.

I kept up the site for a few months steadily adding videos of new distros as they were released. Then, several things happened in my personal and professional life that caused OSVids to begin a slow but steady decline. The most major item was the loss of hardware. Through some unfortunate events, I lost the nice IBM laptop that I was using to create the videos. I tried using my Mac, but the resolution was too low on the iBook, and even after upgrading to a MacBook, the resolution was far too low. In addition, we sold our house, moved to a new state, I had to find a new job, and we had some semi-serious in-law issues. The biggest news was finding out that we were expecting. So, I tried several different approaches to make OSVids work, but in the end I had to shut the site down. Not because it didn’t get any traffic, it did, but… it was an open loop that needed to be closed, and I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to take the time to do all the video encoding and manual coding of the web site that made OSVids run. I lost most of the data from the site, but what I found I uploaded to YouTube.

I started this blog a few months after loosing OSVids. I needed to completely reboot my online presence. I found that what I really needed was more time offline, to really think about why I wanted to write, and what I wanted to write about. After some thought, I’ve decided on a simple blog hosted here on github.

I’ve been inspired by Daring Fireball, and Dive into Mark, and a host of other great sites. I hope that over the years as my writing voice develops I’ll be able to look back on what I’ve written here and see my work progress. I do not write this blog for it to be popular, I write it because I love to write.

The loss of OSVids was unfortunate, but really inevitable. Even without my life going nuts at the time, the rise of YouTube, Google Video, and all the other video sharing sites quickly made my hand-coding and inability to accept submissions from fans obsolete. Perhaps there is still room for OSVids. I still own the osvids.net domain, and I’ve been contemplating bringing it back. For now, I’ve really come full circle, but as a much more experienced writer. In the end, its just me and my blog, but if you’d care to join me, I’d love to have you.

May 27, 2010 - 4 minute read - online indie osvids

Opinionated

As a carpenter has his tools, so do I, as a “knowledge worker” have my computer. I spend many hours a day with my Mac. I have my workflow honed and finely tuned, and I know when something is wrong with my computer, when there is more friction than there needs to be. I am a Systems Administrator, so my knowledge work is to ensure that other people can get their work done. My job is to keep the servers, services, and systems I support up and running 24x7. The tools I use to get this job done mean a lot to me, and over the years I’ve tried many of them with varying levels of success. I know exactly what my ideal setup is, and I’m working towards filling out my toolbox with the very best as I strive to bring my craft to the next level of mastery.

At home, my computer is college, entertainment, finance, photos, blogging, and fun. Mostly fun. There have been times when I’ve walked away from even owning a computer at home, seeing it as a distraction more than anything, but I always come back to wanting one around, if for nothing else than as an outlet for creativity.

In the years that I’ve been using computers, I’ve found that I desire simplicity more than configurability. Favoring fewer options over more. The machine I use needs to be beautiful to look at, because I spend a lot of time looking at it. It needs to be simple to use, because I have work to do, photos to edit, words to write, and I don’t want to have to mess with anti-virus updates or X windows crashing because of some beta driver bug that made its way into the mainstream release. I just want my computer to let me do what needs to be done.

Beautifully designed and crafted, simple to use, powerful… my computer needs to be a Mac. No one else on the market can release a computer that matches a Mac. I’m not sure why, it’s like they don’t know how. They try, but they fail.

Open source operating systems like Ubuntu are not as good because there are far too many cooks in the kitchen. Ubuntu is not an operating system like OS X is an operating system. It’s the Linux kernel, the ext4 filesystem, the Xwindow system, the Gnome desktop, the Firefox browser, and thousands of other open source packages and applications that work loosely together, and are developed by different teams. OS X is developed by Apple.

Windows XP is a suitable operating system to work with at the office, but I am far more productive on a Mac. With tools like Yojimbo, Spotlight, and Quicklook, Macs are far better suited for information management. I hear Windows 7 is nice. My wife has it on her PC, and so far, it is still just a PC.

As much as I love Macs for their design and ease of use, I also see the faults of some business decisions Apple has made in the past few years. The App Store is either a resounding success or a horrible failure, depending on who you talk to. In sheer volume, 200,000 apps is a lot of applications, but like Windows was last decade, most of them are crap. Apple’s decision to approve each app in the store is admirable to a degree, but they are not executing well at all. Some people are philosophically opposed to the app store, saying that the iPod/IPad/iPhone ecosystems should be open for any application to run on them, as is the case on the Mac. I do not care about this aspect, but I do wish that Apple would fix their approval process to make the system much more transparent. There should be clear cut guidelines on what is acceptable and what is not, and those guidelines should be applied across the board. Random app store rejections are the running gag of the current implementation. Its wrong, and it needs to be fixed.

Is the Apple today the same as the Apple so many fell in love with in the ’80s and ’90s? The scrappy underdog that just won’t die? No, and I couldn’t care less. I find it interesting that the era that some romanticize is actually one of the worst in the history of the company. Back when Apple was allowing clones and releasing crap with the Apple logo on it. Good riddance to bad rubbish. OS 9 was not interesting to me. OS X is.

I was using Linux and OpenBSD when I first heard of OS X, my first iBook was a revelation. Finally, someone had put a decent GUI on a Unix box. Apple has only gotten better from there.

I know there are a lot of very smart people who disagree with me. Lets let the next twenty years decide who is right.

Along with the app store debacle, there is Apple’s stance on Flash. My personal feeling is that if Flash were a true open standard, if anyone could create Flash applications without relying on Adobe, it’d be a whole different ball game. As it is, Flash is controlled by Adobe in its entirety, and that seems wrong for the Internet. The Web is the great leveling field, a mechanic in Kansas has the same chance of creating an awesome web site as a multi-billion dollar corporation. All the tools to create amazing web sites are free, and the specs for building the sties are readily available. All you need is a computer, Internet access, and a text editor. With Flash, you need some pretty expensive software. Also, having run a video serving site in the past, I can tell you that HTML 5 would have been a Godsend back then. It would have been so much simpler to just drop a .mov or .ogg file enclosed in video tags than the junk code I had to put in.

I’d like to watch Hulu on my iPad. Netflix already rocks on it. Flash is not a necessity.

Finally, there’s Google. I used to love Google, back when it was a search engine. They could have been happy with just being the best search engine in the world, and making billions, hand over fist, but no… they had to go and get greedy. Eric Schmidt sat on the Apple board of directors and saw what Apple was doing, and thought to himself… Google could do that. So, they “stabbed Apple in the back”, and released Android, and then the Nexus One, a direct competitor to Apple’s iPhone. Bad form, old boy, bad form indeed.

Also, I don’t like Google’s business model any more. I used to be fine with it, when they would show ads on the search results. Now though, Google wants to watch everything you do online, and figure out a way to monazite your activity. Your email, calendar, RSS feeds, photographs, friends, chats, videos, music, there’s even Google Health where you can put your medical record in Google. It all goes into the big black box that is Google, to be analyzed for who knows how long. Me, I like to be a little more honesty with my transactions. That’s why I pay for my email service. I give Apple money, they give me an email address, and a few other perks. It’s as simple as it gets.

I think that about does it for the major topics of the day. Of course, in all these things, I might be wrong. However, if I am wrong, and you want to call me out on it, I suggest you do your homework first. I’ve done mine. I have several years of experience, and a finely honed sense of craftsmanship.

I am, after all, strongly opinionated.

May 24, 2010 - 6 minute read - online mac setup personal

MobileMe Mail Revisited

May 16, 2010 - 3 minute read - mac apple online productivity

Writing about Jekyll

I’m writing an article for TAB about my new blogging engine, Jekyll. I’ve taken most of the reliance on the command line out of dealing with Jekyll on a day to day basis, and instead have a few Automator workflows in the scripts menu in the Mac menubar. It’s a great setup, I’m really enjoying it. I’m sure there will be quite a bit of enhancement yet to come, but my initial workflow looks like this:

  1. Click “New Blog Post”
  2. Write the article
  3. Click “Run Jekyll”
  4. Make sure everything worked using the local webrick web server.
  5. Click “Kill Jekyll”
  6. Click “Sync Site”

Here’s what I’ve got so far in the automator workflows:

New Blog Post

First, I run the “Ask for Text” action to get the name of the post. Then, I run this script:

NAME=`echo $1 | sed s/\ /-/g`
USERNAME=`whoami`
POSTNAME=`date "+%Y-%m-%d"-$NAME`
POST_FQN=/Users/$USERNAME/Sites/_posts/$POSTNAME.markdown
touch $POST_FQN
echo "---" >> $POST_FQN
echo "layout: post" >> $POST_FQN
echo "title: $1" >> $POST_FQN
echo "---" >> $POST_FQN
/usr/bin/mate $POST_FQN

Run Jekyll

First, I run this script:

USERNAME=`whoami`
cd /Users/$USERNAME/Sites
/usr/bin/jekyll > /dev/null
/usr/bin/jekyll --server  > /dev/null 2>&1 &
/usr/local/bin/growlnotify --appIcon Automator Jekyll is Done -m 'And there was much rejoicing.'
echo "http://localhost:4000"

Followed by the “New Safari Document” Automator action. This runs Jekyll which converts the blog post I just wrote in markdown syntax to html, updates the site navigation, starts the local web server and opens the site in Safari to preview.

Kill Jekyll

Since I start the local server in the last step, I need to kill it in this step. This action does just that.

PID=`ps -eaf | grep "jekyll --server" | grep -v grep | awk '{ print $2 }'`
kill $PID
/usr/local/bin/growlnotify --appIcon Automator Jekyll is Dead -m 'Long Live Jekyll.'

This is entered in as a shell script action, and is the only action in this workflow.

Sync Site

Once I’m certain everything looks good, I run the final Automator action to upload the site:

cd /Users/USERNAME/Sites/_site/
rsync -avz -e ssh . USERNAME@jonathanbuys.com:/home/USERNAME/jonathanbuys.com/ > /dev/null
/usr/local/bin/growlnotify --appIcon Automator Site Sync Complete -m 'Check it out.'

This is also a single Automator action workflow. You’ll notice that I use Growl to notify me that the script is finished. This is also not really necessary, but it’s fun anyway.

Like I said, there’s a lot of improvement yet to go, but I think it’s a solid start. I’m at a point now where I’m tempted to start writing a Wordpress import feature, which seems to be the only major piece missing from the Jekyll puzzle. I’m not sure what this would take just yet, but I’ve got a few ideas. I haven’t tried uploading any images or media yet, but since everything is static, I assume it would just be a matter of placing the image in a /images folder and embedding it in html. So far, I’m having a lot of fun, and that’s what blogging is really all about.

August 25, 2009 - 3 minute read - blogging online

DiggBar This

I’ve put a lot of work into this site. I’ve put thought into how I want the URLs to look, how the layout should feel, and since the site has my name on it, I wanted it to be good. I created a custom theme for the site which will purposefully only work here, and I’ve even done a bit of personal “branding” I suppose with the jb{ logo.

So, when I saw that Digg had decided to take a page out of 1999’s web play book and start framing sites inside of their DiggBar, I was more than a little annoyed. There may be only six people who read this site on a regular basis (Thanks guys!), but this site is entirely mine. The DiggBar removes the URL from the site you are reading and adds it’s own custom shortened URL, making it hard to bookmark, or really even remember where you are.

April 10, 2009 - 2 minute read - online programming php

Adamo - Apple Pushes the Industry Forward

I almost feel sorry for the other hardware manufacturers. No matter what they do, no matter what they come out with, they seem to be forever following in Apple’s footsteps. Such is the case with Adamo from Dell, a clear shot at the MacBook Air.

March 18, 2009 - 2 minute read - apple online

MobileMe is not a Blogging Platform

I thought I’d try OSZen on MobileMe yesterday, to see if I could consolidate even more of my online accounts. Unfortunately, the limitations of both iWeb and RapidWeaver became quickly apparent. I pointed 1and1’s DNS servers at MobileMe, and uploaded an iWeb site. I liked the theme, but the first thing that struck me as odd was the URL. In iWeb I configured the site’s name to be OSZen, and to use the Blog page as the home page, but the URL turned out to be http://oszen.net/OSZen/blog/blog.html which for the home page was just ridiculous.

December 24, 2008 - 2 minute read - apple online blogging

Account Pruning

I’m a geek. Understanding that little fact puts me a little closer to being in touch with myself, and understanding that I’ve got a habit of trying out every new service or technology that comes along. That’s fun, but in the case of online services, I wind up with accounts all over the place. So, the past few days I’ve been pruning my online accounts down to what I really need.

December 19, 2008 - 4 minute read - online life

Poor Web Apps

I just spent the past 10 minutes trying to get this article I wrote for BrightHub posted using their online writers application. I’m not sure what language they are using, or what platform the site is running on, but I tried Chrome, Firefox, and finally, out of desperation, Internet Explorer 7, all with the same results. Almost every time I would try to preview the article before submitting it, the application would wipe out everything I just typed. Everything.

October 16, 2008 - 1 minute read - blogging online

Writing and Word Processing

A friend of mine is having a heck of a time with his new MacBook. He’s a recent convert to Macs, and as a philosophy student he spends a lot of time in Word. When he first bought his shiny new MacBook, he was surprised to find out there was no word processor in it. I pointed out TextEdit, which he quickly dismissed as not nearly powerful enough for what he needed to do. So, back to the store he went to pick up a copy of iWork ‘08, and started working with Pages.

April 7, 2008 - 2 minute read - life online productivity opensource