Category Archives: Apple

Your Workflow is the Battlefield

There’s been quite the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Apple iPad not supporting Flash. Personally, I welcome this new landscape of the web, where a future without Flash seems not only bright but possible indeed.

That said, what is unfolding here is of considerable gravity, and will likely determine the future of the web. Most web professionals use Adobe tools in some capacity to do their job, whether Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver (gasp), Flash, Flex, Flash Cataylst, or even Fireworks (which is, according to many, the best wireframing tool on the market, despite its quirks and crash-prone behaviors).

Now, I am not privy to inside information, but based on what I’ve been able to glean, Adobe’s strategy is something like this. There is a deliberate reason that your workflow as a standards-based web professional sucks; that Photoshop doesn’t behave the way you want it to, that exporting web images is still a pain in the ass, and that you actually need to fight the software to get it to do what you want.

Adobe knows how you use its software. Adobe knows how you want to use its software. Adobe understands your existing workflow.

And it doesn’t fucking care.

You see, Adobe doesn’t view you, as a web professional, as someone engaged in building websites. It doesn’t view itself as one who builds the tools to support you in your job. Adobe does not view you as the author of images and CSS and HTML and Javascript that all magically comes together to create a website, but rather as the author of what could potentially be Adobe Web Properties™.

They are not interested in supporting your workflow to create standards-based websites, because that is not in their strategic interest. They would much rather you consented to the cognitive model of Adobe Software™ to create proprietary Adobe Web Properties™ that render using Adobe Web Technologies™.

In essence, Adobe wants to be the gatekeeper for the production, as well as the consumption, of the web.

Apple knows this, and knows that the future of the web is mobile. Their actions are no less strategic than that of Adobe, and Apple has chosen a route that deliberately undermines Adobe’s strategy; Adobe’s strategy for controlling not just the consumption of rich interactive experiences on the web, but their production as well.

From the production side, as far as Adobe is concerned, if you’re not building your websites in Flash Catalyst and exporting them as Flash files, you’re doing it wrong.

Your frustrations with Photoshop and Fireworks in not supporting the “real way” web professionals build standards-based websites are not by accident, but by design. Adobe views each website as a potential property over which they can exert control over the look, feel and experience. As these “experiences” become more sophisticated, so do the tools necessary to create them. Adobe wants to be in the business of selling the only tools that do the job, controlling your production from end-to-end, and then even controlling the publication of and access to your creation.

Apple’s own domination plans for the mobile web undermines all this.

And Adobe is pissed.

I suck at this whole self-promotion thing.



The iPhone app is now available in the App Store, and has been for a few weeks.

Not only is it awesome, it is also free. Thanks to the iPhone app, I’m finally learning all those stupid tiny states on the Eastern seaboard. Because I wouldn’t want to try to learn something more ambitious, now, would I?

Super-mega-huge props go to the kick-ass team at Cerego and the experience ninjas at Adaptive Path. They made this whole thing happen.

Me? I drew pretty pictures:


Which I guess is pretty kick-ass in its own right.

Proof that the new iPhone has a secret front-facing camera!

Proof that the new iPhone has a secret front-facing camera!

That Apple can activate remotely!

…why else would they tell you to wave your phone around like an idiot?

OCD Backups for the ADHD

The other day my friend Jake inquired as to what my backup configuration looks like, as he wants to do a better job protecting his data. After replying I realized that other people might benefit from the same knowledge, and so I whipped something together for ya’ll.

By no means do I claim to be a data-retention expert, as this is simply the setup I’ve cobbled together over the years. For an individual I believe it works quite well, and while there is certainly room for improvement, this should be enough to get you pointed in the right direction. If you currently have no backup system in place, and if you value your data at all, please, for the love of god, do something.

Introducing the Grizzled Participants

I currently have a Dual 2.3 GHz PowerPC G5 Tower with a 250GB hard drive, and a 1.4 GHz PowerBook G4 with an 80GB hard drive. The PowerPC is named BitterRoot, the PowerBook is named NeverSummer, and they’ve both been running Leopard since November. Indeed, these computers are starting to get a bit long in the tooth, NeverSummer especially, but these are the tools I have at my disposal. In the next few months I will roll them both into a new laptop, but I won’t be doing that until Apple launches the MacBook Pro in its new “Air-esque” form factor. It’s only a matter of time.


Between these two computers, I use Chronosync to synchronize much of the data in my User folder, including my Yojimbo database, Things database, Address Book, and personal files and documents. I actually keep my documents outside of the Documents folder, which is largely (and ironically) unusable for managing one’s own documents, as third-party software companies have developed a penchant for shitting it full of their own worthless files. Fortunately this antagonistic behavior is only expressed by the smallest of Mac software companies, like HP, Microsoft and Adobe.

To summarize one of the takeaways from the 90-minute “Best of Both Worlds” introduction to Cocoa development: “Don’t shit in the Documents folder.” Unless you, like, actually want to suck.

Anyway, details of my synchronization setup are wont to bore even the most devoted reader, and I simply want to let you aware that, for the most part, both of my computers are backups of one another. Which is reassuring.

But not reassuring enough.

It’s all gotta go somewhere. Somehow.


I have two external USB 2.0 drives, which spin a Seagate 7200RPM 500GB SATA drive, and a Western Digital 7200RPM 640GB SATA drive. The 500GB drive is broken into three partitions, one for the Time Machine backup of my PowerMac, another for the Time Machine backup of my PowerBook, and the last partition for other miscellaneous backups.  I know you can use a single partition to hold Time Machine backups for more than one computer, but I didn’t know that at the time I setup the drive. Plus, I didn’t want the two backups to need to fuss around each other with regards to free space.


The 640GB drive has three partitions as well, the first two of which are complete, bootable backups of both my computers. I manage the creation of these images through SuperDuper, which works like awesome. I have no hesitation in maintaining backups through both Time Machine and SuperDuper. Time Machine offers a versioned history of my computer for quickly recovering lost files or folders, and SuperDuper creates an external bootable backup that I can use for recovering from a catastrophic failure.

To the Remainders go the Odd Names

The remaining partitions on each drive, which I haven’t yet discussed in detail, are named CheeseMan and WhiteClay. These partitions hold miscellaneous files that fall into one of two categories: files that are backed up elsewhere, and files that are not backed up elsewhere. The first category includes things like my Aperture vaults, a copy of my client projects directory, and tarballs of all my websites (which also live in Subversion repositories at Beanstalk). These files all exist on another computer in some way, shape or form, and some of them (like my Aperture projects and my iTunes library) are already backed up in both Time Machine and SuperDuper. However, disk space is hella cheap, and with nearly 1.5 terabytes of it at my immediate disposal, I can afford to be excessive.

The second category of files, however, demands a bit more attention. These are files, such as raw video footage or print-quality scans, that take up so much disk space but are so rarely used, that it doesn’t make sense to have them squatting on any particular computer’s hard drive. Space can be tight on a single internal boot drive, especially on that 80GB PowerBook, and I prefer to keep things as reasonably lean as possible. Nothing sucks more than trying to download 12GB of HD video from a camera, only to watch it crap out at 80% because you only had 10GB free. It especially sucks when it happens in the field and you are without recourse. Thus, I am happiest when my boot drive has at least 40% of its space remaining.

Since these files don’t exist anywhere else I could potentially lose them all should one of these external hard drives fail. I mitigate this risk by regularly synchronizing these files between both CheeseMan and WhiteClay, so I am protected should one of those drives suddenly bite it. It was similar reasoning that led me to store my Time Machine backups on one drive, and my SuperDuper backups on the other. That way, should one drive fail I have only lost one “kind” of backup for both machines, rather than all the backups for a particular machine.

Piecing Together your own Redundant Kingdom

When it comes to an external hard drive, my experience has been that it’s not worth skimping on quality. Especially if you’re used to those high-caliber Apple products, it’s worth spending the extra dime and getting a really good external drive (or external enclosure, if you choose to build your own). Years back I went cheap on my external SATA enclosures, and I am stuck with these chintzy aluminum things that don’t have FireWire, and only support USB 2.0 and eSATA.  Indeed, should a hard drive fail in one of my PowerPC computers I won’t be able to boot off these external drives, and will need to physically install the backup drive in the system, or initially boot off the OS X CD.  That said, Intel-based Macs support booting from USB, so if you’re better off than I, you do have the option to go cheap.

You may be thinking, as I did, how a manufacturer could possibly go wrong when building an external enclosure. After all, it’s nothing but a plug and a case, right? If you go cheap, brace yourself for design flaws that you would not have considered, like a sheet metal case so thin and flexible that you can barely get it screwed back together again, or loose power connectors on the back of the enclosure. I have experience working with power cables so heavy, their girth alone is enough to pull themselves out of the back of an external drive. File this one under first-world problems for sure, but seriously, how do you fuck up a power cord?


What I recommend to you, and what I would get myself if I could do it all over again, would be the OWC Mercury Elite-AL Pro. While I don’t have the OWC enclosures myself, I do covet the ones we use at work, and they come highly recommended from our Mac consultant. You can get them either as a complete drive or as an enclosure where you can throw in your own hard drive.

You don’t save a whole lot of money if you just buy the enclosure, but ever since my PC days I’ve always enjoyed piecing together my own stuff, and the ability to simply toss in a larger drive as they become more affordable is definitely a plus. If you choose to build your own, I recommend you use either Seagate or Western Digital hard drives. Perhaps it’s superstition, but I’ve been building computers since 1996 and these guys have always worked well for me, so I largely ignore the competition. I have a similar attitude towards RAM from Crucial and Micron. Any other manufacturer is dead to me.

Knowing is Half the Battle

So that there’s my backups. To recap, I keep two external drives, one with Time Machine backups for lightweight file recovery, and another with bootable SuperDuper backups for heavy-duty system restores. In addition, one of the drives holds redundant backups of miscellaneous files (my iTunes library, Aperture vaults, etc.), and both drives maintain mirrored storage of files that are large and valuable, but rarely needed.  Maybe it’s overkill, but with 500GB drives under $80 and shoddy-but-sufficient enclosures under $30, there’s really no excuse.

Looking to the future, the biggest chink in my armor right now is my lack of offsite backups. There are a number of ways to address this, one of which includes using SoftRAID to setup a RAID-1 mirror between three drives. The primary drive in the RAID should be your main external backup drive, containing all your bootable backups, which in turn would be plugged into two secondary drives, one of which would be cycled offsite at all times.

This approach is awesome, but it’s pretty industrial-strength. What I will probably do pretty soon here is get a third backup drive, whose configuration would resemble my SuperDuper drive and its supplementary files, run backups to it every couple weeks, and store it offsite in a secure, undisclosed location.

Hopefully I’ll have my new MacBook Pro Air Tablet Nano Phone Extreme by then.

Flippin’ Phones

Flipped iPhoneHave you ever flipped your iPhone upside down and tried to tap the buttons on the interface? You’ll undoubtedly miss most of the time. I’ve been experimenting with this, and it seems there’s a slight vertical offset between where an interface object is rendered visually, and where the screen correspondingly responds to touching that object.

Psychologically, you no doubt perceive that you’re tapping the buttons smack on the nose. In reality, however, it seems we’re prone to aiming a little bit below the object, perhaps because we’re subconsciously uncomfortable with obscuring the button with our meaty input devices.

Apple seems to have taken this psychological offset into account, and has positioned the touch boundaries for an object slightly below where it actually appears on the screen. You don’t notice it through normal use, but when you flip your phone upside down the difference is immediately perceptible.

It’s their meticulous focus on interface details like this that sets Apple apart from all other mobile manufacturers. If competitors do not quickly realize that it is the full user experience, and not just the touch screen, that makes the iPhone such an excellent device, their products will soon be as irrelevant as the Creative Zen. The LG Voyager is proof that a sack of crap, even dressed up with a touch screen, is still a sack of crap.