USB-ifying an Apple Keyboard II

Thank you, internet, for almost always having an answer to a question. In this case, I had come across an old Apple Keyboard II while rummaging for something else. The AK2 is an ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) device, and so no longer compatible with contemporary Mac hardware. However, according to Scott the Robot, a $16 microcontroller, properly flashed and soldered, corrects that one inadequacy. Next step, [USB-ifying an Apple Keyboard II](http://www.scotttherobot.com/?p=755).

Steve Jobs Interview from 1995

Someone has posted an interview done, by PC World in cooperation with the Smithsonian, with Steve Jobs. It is from 1995, two years before Jobs would return to Apple, and it appears to be taking place in NeXT Computer’s headquarters — which is interesting, since at that time, I think of NeXT’s moment as having come and gone but Pixar’s as only beginning. What an interesting man he was, and remains.

Here’s the [Youtube link](http://youtu.be/121ofj_l6vM) — I don’t really understand how `http://youtu.be/121ofj_l6vM` is an improvement over `http://youtube.com/121ofj_l6vM`, but that must be why I don’t make the big bucks.

There’s an App for That (That You Made)

When I am doing just about any kind of reading or film watching, I find that having my iPhone or iPad handy is really about having Wikipedia handy.

(If you haven’t donated yet, you should. Do it now. Give them $5. $10. It’s easy. I’ll wait. Really. No, really, I’ll wait. Go donate something.)

Occasionally I have my MacBook with me, and I actually find myself looking for the Wikipedia app that’s on my phone and tablet. Crazy, yes, but when you want to look something up quickly, it really is nice to go straight to where you want to go.

With that in mind, I would like to thank Andy Ihnatko for point out how easy it is to create desktop web apps in the latest iteration of the Mac OS, Lion. How easy?

This easy:

1. Launch Automator.

2. Click on create a new App.

3. Find and drag the “Get Specified URLs” action into your workflow. (Just type the name into the search box until Automator finds it for you.)

4., Paste in the URL of the site you want to view.

5. Find and drag the “Website Popup” action into the workflow. Choose a size for the window.

6. Save. Done.

Here is what you get:

Wikipedia app in the dock

And it pops up this:

Wikipedia on the Desktop

Moving Billings to DropBox

I don’t know why application developers continue to make it hard for their users to put their data where they, the user, want to put it and not some semi-arbitrary place of the developer’s choosing. In the Mac world, it’s particularly annoying when developers do not allow you to make that decision and place the data in their application’s directory within the Application Support directory.

Why is this important or urgent? I use DropBox and I have recently decided to start doing a better job of tracking my time and both the front contenders for the job, Igg Software’s iBiz and MarketCircle’s Billings, assume that they know better than I do where my data goes. Bad app, bad!

There is a workaround, however, and it involves, sigh, symbolic links. This is one standard move in unix that I have just never gotten comfortable with. Some part of me thinks that something should be where it says it is. (This is weird, no?)

  1. Make sure the app isn’t running and that you have a backup of your data! I usually duplicate the folder in Application Support and call it “Billings Copy” just to be extra safe.
  2. Move your Billings folder from /Application Support/ into your Dropbox folder.
  3. Open Terminal.app and type: cd ~/Library/Application\ Support/ (If you aren’t familiar with Terminal commands, this will navigate you to the Application Support folder.)
  4. At the next Terminal prompt, type: ln -s ~/Dropbox/Billings/ ./Billings

What Is Up with Apple’s Pages File Sizes

I am about halfway through typing up my notes from the NEH Institute, and I am getting a little frustrated with my viewing options in my beloved OmniOutliner. And so I think to myself, “Self, you’ve just finished writing a decent-sized document in Pages. It now has an outline view. Why not try it out?”

And so I export an RTF from OmniOutliner — because Pages does not recognize OPML documents (and Word won’t either) — and open the RTF document in Pages. Okay, it kept the formatting but it doesn’t know what lines are headings, subheadings, etc. I can live with that.

What I can’t quite get my head around, however, is the sudden change in file size:

OPML, RTF, and Pages

  • OmniOutliner document: 12KB
  • Exported RTF document: 25KB
  • Resulting Pages document: 197KB

That’s an 800% increase over the RTF document and a whopping 1640% increase over the original file.

And for the sake of reference, the same file as a Word DOCX is 96KB.

Great googly moogly. I have to assume that both Word and Pages are inserting a whole bunch of infrastructure “just in case” it’s needed later. What all that is is not yet clear to me, but I hope to do some exploration in the next few days and I’ll get back to you on what I find.

Console Message of the Day

Apparently sometimes the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, or at least what it is deprecating:

6/25/10 12:26   
AppleScript Editor[3795]    
*** WARNING: Method selectedRowEnumerator in class NSOutlineView is deprecated. 
It will be removed in a future release and should no longer be used.

I came across this while trying to debug my Meandre installation. (More on that later.)

A Darkside to the iPad

There is an unfortunate trend emerging in the digital age that I have not seen anyone really address: the traditional role of the retailer as a middle agent with some sway over pricing of products appears to be eroding when it comes to digital media. In both the case of MP3s with Apple and ebooks with Amazon, the early successful entrants were able to dictate terms to the content industry. In both cases, 99-cent downloads and 9.99 ebooks allowed the two retailers to build a market. Of course, they also took advantage of the fact that in selling media content at such prices they were also able to sell hardware which increased their ability to capture consumers to their platform. (Sigh. Everybody wants to be a platform these days. Ten years ago, it was portals. Now it’s platforms.)

The content industries largely went along because no one else was really focusing on the big picture of building an economically-viable market and the much larger threat was that with no viable marketplace, everything would go through the black market.

An interesting part of the history here is that Apple was historically a hardware company that had taken on retail as a way to sell hardware. What began as a simple MP3 store has now expanded into a business that has only one peer: Amazon.com. Amazon started as a retail company that, despairing of anyone offering decent hardware for the ebook revolution that was inevitable (everyone had been talking about it for a decade), found itself needing to build hardware. I don’t think Amazon really cares that much about the hardware in terms of its overall revenues or profit but what it does care about is the lock-in the hardware achieves, enabling Amazon to offer DRMed EPUB files.

This play, of course, came right out of Apple’s playbook.

As the game, as it were, unfolded, Apple and Amazon thwarted each other. Amazon’s entry into the music download business gave the entertainment industry the chance it wanted to re-negotiate terms with Apple and the same events ensued, albeit with the tables turned, in the weeks leading up to and following the introduction of the iPad.

In both cases, what happened was not a return to the long established vendor-retailer convention whereby a vendor sells a product for a given price to the retailer and the retailer is free to set their own price, determining their own profits based on how much they markup an item and how many units they hope to sell. E.g., a book publisher determines that the price of a given book to any and all book stores will be $6 and then Bookstore A is free to sell the book at $8 in hopes of selling a lot and Bookstore B can choose to sell the book for $12 in hopes of attracting a smaller, but more discerning and committed clientele. Margin and volume.

The new era seems to be all about the so-called **agency model** wherein retailers are simply agents for content producers who determine the ultimate price of the product to the consumer. All the retailer does is negotiate the percentage of that price they get to put into their pocket.

This is an absurd position to put yourself in if your are a retailer, and I can only imagine that if you are Apple, you don’t care because you are mostly focused on selling hardware. If you’re Amazon, you care, but you are forced into this new situation because of Apple. If you are Amazon, and if you are a consumer, then you can only hope that things will eventually return to normal. (If you are Amazon, then you have to realize that you are being served a dish of crow for being such a jerk in the first place.)

If authors, and other content producers, think this new model is going to guarantee them a larger share of the profits, because there is going to be more profit, then I can only say that we can hope but history reveals that this is rarely the case.

Mostly I worry that this will lead to a stagnation in the market place at precisely the moment that we could use more experimentation. The idea that content producers engage the marketplace directly is a folly that they contrive out of greed but publishers and film and music producers have revealed that they really aren’t the place where innovation happens. If this new infrastructure put artists directly in contact with audiences, I might find it more interesting, but middle men remain, and there is no other set of middle men now to keep them in check.

What an Apple Job Offer Looks Like

Glyph, founder of Twisted — the Darwin calendar system, has recently been offered a job at Apple, which he is taking. He shared with the world the unboxing story to end all unboxing stories: the offer itself. I offer a sample of what he shares below, but it really is worth [checking out for yourself](http://glyph.twistedmatrix.com/2009/10/unboxing-you-won-see-on-gizmodo-or.html). What you see is a company for whom design — design with a clear goal and aesthetic — has impregnated every aspect of its culture, even making paperwork look good.

Glyph’s Offer 2
Glyph’s Offer