I hate .DS_Store

Does anybody now how to prevent Mac OS X of creating .DS_Store files (at least for selected directories)? It’s so annoying as it comes in my so many times – especially when working with command line based version control systems like CVS or SVN.

I don’t understand why Mac OS X 10.4 still retains this “feature” as the new meta-data storage methods should provide an alternative. *Sigh*.

Mac OS X 10.4 Preview UI hell

Oh Mr. Helliferocious is so right on the button thing but it gets even worse. Have a look what the Preview.app application in Mac OS X 10.4 has in store for us:

One word: dis-gus-ting.

Background: on the Mac, the default button is on the right. The cancel button has to go to the left of it. This is probably the first Apple branded program doing this kind of thing since the invention of Macintosh. And now, the “greatest” release of Mac OS X brings us this silly Windows-convention that never made sense (and as you can see even the GNOME people convverted to this model while KDE made it at least configurable).

Maybe Apple is hiring its programmers from Microsoft right now. Or the QA department. I don’t know. However, this has to go away.

Hackers and the Mac

I just bumped into this text by Paul Graham written in March: Return of the Mac. He describes the current impact the Mac platform has on the technological elite which he describes as “hackers”:

So what, the business world may say. Who cares if hackers like Apple again? How big is the hacker market, after all?

Quite small, but important out of proportion to its size. When it comes to computers, what hackers are doing now, everyone will be doing in ten years. Almost all technology, from Unix to bitmapped displays to the Web, became popular first within CS departments and research labs, and gradually spread to the rest of the world.

He’s so totally right. And he gets “hackers”. Later, he states that hackers “follow the most powerful OS wherever it leads”. He’s so right on this one as well.

So the war is on and Apple’s got to show they can keep up the pace. If they continue as they have been doing for the last four years, I am confident we’ll see significant change in the coming years leading to a situation which is by far more valuable than the current lame “Only Windows” world.

Which is good.

Adium with Off-The-Record encryption

Adium is a hell of an instant messaging application. Version 0.8 adds Off-The-Record encryption and has a heavily revamped user interface. If you don’t need audio nor video just looking for a power user savvy communication tool, Adium is the way to go.

FOSDEM III: Mozilla

One of the developer teams at FOSDEM was the Mozilla project. I stayed with them for a while and listened to what they have to say and to announce. First of all, it was apparent that the crowd was really proud of what has been achieved so far. This is no surprise: Firefox is taking the market by storm and is about to make life for Microsoft significantly harder. Thunderbird is about to do the same for the e-mail market but here is an even longer path ahead before we will see results.

The deal with Google (putting the default start page of Firefox on their servers) is a win-win situation. Google gets the hits, Mozilla gets the money. The Mozilla project significantly earns from this relationship and has engaged a long list of new employees recently because of this new income. Click a link, sponsor a programmer. Supporting open source was never easier. Apparently, around 80% of the users stay with the preconfigured start page. So this might work out fine in the end.

On the technical side, more consolidation seems to lay ahead. The “Mozilla 2.0” effort is about to change the foundation of most Mozilla apps to provide an even more solid and flexible “kernel” for the applications. This might translate in more consistent behavior, smaller apps and more OS integration but I am not holding my breath for the Mac. Mozilla’s Macintosh support has been a nightmare from day one and while Firefox has improved on this, it’s still far away from where it could be. This is a result of focus (Linux, BSD and of course Windows are primary targets) and man-power (not enough Mac hackers available) which seems obvious. So there is nothing to complain about in general. It’s getting better all the time…

Talking about the Mac: the presentation of the Camino team was quite interesting and I decided to go for a current nightly build to check out the new features. I have been using the tool two years ago but quit due to technical problems and the emergence of Safari. So what shall I say? I was blown away! Not in terms of features – Firefox, Safari and OmniWeb all have much more to offer – but in terms of speed! The perceived velocity is around 200% to 300% compared to the other options. No delays, straight and compliant rendering and very good Mac OS X integration. Stunning. I have switched to Camino as my default browser for a week to see how this works out under heavy usage. But this small app is a beauty and it’s by far the best integration of Gecko on the Mac.

FOSDEM II: Jabber

The FOSDEM‘s concept of providing a single room to a single developer group that plans its own talks and presentations has an advantage which is focus: you get a series of talks hovering around a certain topic usually brought to you by various members of a certain “scene”. This also creates a very personal atmosphere, which is good. On the downside, some talks are sometimes targeted too much to the own crowd and could have been prepared much better. However, this problem is not specific to FOSDEM, so I better not follow that path here.

I spent some time with the Jabber community and followed two talks of Ralph Meijer who proved to be well aware of the technology and it’s implications and had a very thorough and friendly presentation style which I liked. He outlined the details of how the Jabber protocol works and gave insights into the new publish and subscribe framework of the XMPP protocol.

In short, this framework allows push-content without overhead via Instant Messaging. This might be text, but it is even more suited for application-designed XML formats. This could be anything. The basic model is: a content provider creates a named “node” on a Jabber server. One or more clients subscribe to this node and get notifications whenever new content arrives for this node. This shifts complexity from the client to the server and allows for sophisticated optimization to improve scalability.

For instance, you can think of a RSS reader like NetNewsWire to implement the Jabber protocol including the publish/subscribe model to subscribe to a blog addressing a certain Jabber “subscription node”. Each update to the blog would result in instant delivery of the new RSS item (and only the new item) description to the node and from there to all subscribed clients (whenever they are available for transmission). Result: no more heavy polling of the site of the feed, no more duplicate transmission of entries with each change to the feed and instant delivery of the update in real-time are the promise of this technology. I could image that aggregators like Bloglines might be interested in that approach as it would reduce their load.

A good example of how this could work is Ralph Meijer’s Mimir project that does just that. Have a look at the architecture diagram that explains the structure quite well. Unfortunately, support for pubsub is not yet prevalent – but this might change.

I have been raising my ears the first moment I heard about the publish and subscribe idea as it is not totally new to me. Apple had that feature in Mac OS since version 7 and it worked like a charm although the API was not well-documented and therefore developer support was poor. The Mac OS publish and subscribe worked on the file system level: whenever a file changed (on a server), notification was passed to a subscribed application. This worked fine e.g. for Quark XPress automatically reacting to changed text or graphics files that have been placed within another document. I doubt the XMPP publish and subscribe method will be used in that area, but it’s a close relative anyway.

OTR starts getting useful

Aldert reports on his experiences with Off-The-Record IM encryption using a proxy on OS X. This means: ad-hoc encryption for all instant messaging protocols with explicit client support. Good thing. Adium is going to have native OTR support in the next release.