Pre-“Hello Again” Mac Event Thoughts

Having been a long time Mac user and developer it’s been very disappointing to see Apple ignore the hardware release cycle of the Mac platform over the last few years. I’m really anxious to see what’s going to come of the “Hello Again” event this week and I might even buy a new Mac depending.

Current Mac-state of Mind

So my main personal machine is a 2011 maxed-out iMac. I bought it after waiting and waiting for a proper Mac Pro update in 2011 that was never to come. Overall I’ve been pretty happy with the iMac. I have had to do a USB storage dance with some backups and media drives but overall it’s been a workhorse, with tons of days of Xcode and Warcraft under its belt.

Other Macs in my arsenal include:

  • A 2011 Mac mini which at times has served as a CI box but as of now is dormant (might be resurrected depending how CI plans turn out for my side project).
  • A 2012 Macbook Air which I use situationally. Recently for beta testing 10.12 over the summer and the occasional Philly CocoaHeads video capture.
  • My work provides me a high end Mid 2014 15-inch Macbook Pro. I’m trying to do a better job of keeping that machine in kind of a white room state just for work stuff with mixed success.

I also have a 27-inch Thunderbolt display and a 27-inch Dell display which I use to extend my Macs in various ways at different times.

To Upgrade or Not?

Technically speaking my 2011 iMac is working fine. It does have some issues: occasionally the wifi likes to disconnect, there are some color issues spreading out from the lower left corner of the display, the DVD drive broke (I bought an external one to supplement the occasional need) and the 256 GB SSD is not large enough to hold all my stuff anymore so I have an awkward HD layout with USB storage. The iMac also runs very hot. I suspect part of this is dust build up but have not investigated too much. While annoying, none of these issues are blockers.

The first big upgrade question is laptop or desktop? I’ve always leaned on the desktop experience for pure power but there are many things that push me towards a laptop as my main personal machine right now:

  • I could setup a very “swap” friendly environment that would allow me to have a home work station letting me plug in my personal or work laptop as needed.
  • Since I have a Gaming PC now I don’t need the graphic power of the Mac as much making laptop more feasible.
  • I am traveling more — more conferences, more work trips, single days at IndyHall (instead of a full time desk and me leaving the iMac there). A personal laptop for these days would help me with that home/work separation on the company laptop.

Other welcome improvements:

  • Retina Display. My iMac does not have a retina display and my hope would be that a new laptop from Apple would support this natively as well as support a future retina external monitor connection.
  • More SSD storage. Would be nice to consolidate my external drives into one big SSD.
  • If I go laptop, no need to upgrade two machines every year with a new OS, keeps all the software/licenses in sync.
  • Complier speed improvements. From a numbers perspective my iMac has a good CPU but I would hope improvements to the bus speeds and other architecture improvements would see some improved Xcode complier times.

I feel like in the process of writing this I’ve talked myself into a upgrade but we’ll see what comes out of Apple on Thursday. Enjoy the show.

Dropbox Shuts Down Mailbox

From the Mailbox homepage:

It’s with heavy hearts that we let you know we’ll be shutting down Mailbox on February 26, 2016.

… as we deepened our focus on collaboration, we realized there’s only so much an email app can do to fundamentally fix email. We’ve come to believe that the best way for us to improve people’s productivity going forward is to streamline the workflows that generate so much email in the first place.

I wasn’t a Mailbox user myself but do feel sad for the people who bought into it and are now left on their own.

There is nothing wrong with apps being shutdown. Some companies do it to regain focus, others because the app itself didn’t find its market. However in this case you get the feeling Mailbox itself isn’t being shutdown because the app is a failure on its own, but because it’s not meeting the growth curve required to legitimize a foolish $10 billion evaluation of its owner Dropbox.

That’s what hurts the most I think, and it’s not the first time we’ve seen this. Large VC-funded company X buying up an upcoming app Y or studio Z just to fuel the unrealistic growth forecast of their VC owners. It’s not good for the user and it’s not good for long term innovation/competition.

Quick CocoaLove Recap

CocoaLove was a huge success. All of the talks were well received and the attendee side conversations vibrant and interesting. I think I saw 2 laptops open all weekend which to me is a huge sign people were engaged with our content. If you missed out, check out the CocoaLove site for some highlights of our tweet/photo live stream.

While they’ll never capture the event in its full glory, we did record the presentations and will be editing them over the next few weeks to make the available on the web. To find out when the videos are up I’d signup to the mailing list or follow the @CocoaLoveConf twitter account.

I want to thank my fellow organizers, the speakers and the attendees for helping provide a weekend I’ll remember forever.

In particular I’ll give special props to Curtis whom sacrificed countless hours attending to hundreds of details that resulting in a level conference quality that is hard to achieve. Great job!

CocoaLove Tickets

It’s September, which means next month is October, which means CocoaLove is coming up fast!

We’ve got a great weekend planned and if you haven’t already secured your ticket I’d do so now since we are starting our last marketing push to sell out.

Additionally, if you or a company you know are interested in sponsoring to help show your support for CocoaLove let me know. CocoaLove is passion project from some great folks out of our local CocoaHeads chapter who have donated countless hours in helping to organize this incredible non-profit event. Sponsor support will help us reach our stretch goals and make an already great experience that much better.

See you all soon!

Week in Review: WWDC, E3 and CocoaHeads

It’s been a crazy week. Some random notes and observations…

WWDC

Apple did a tremendous job streaming the Keynote. I watched it live on my Apple TV in the living room while chatting with friends on IRC and Twitter. It was awesome. As for the content, let’s review:

Mac OS X 10.9, Mavericks — Not a huge fan of the name. I liked Sea Lion! As for the user facing features, most are pretty meh for me, I will enjoy better dual monitor support. I also like the idea they are pushing iCloud Keychain and that it will suggest higher quality passwords for people. I myself will stick with 1Password but this is a great feature for users at large. The advanced tech of 10.9 looks great. Love the focus on battery life.

iOS 7 — I have very mixed feelings for the new UI. Some of it I like, some of it I don’t. Between the historic adoption rate of new versions of iOS and the complexity of delivering a consistent experience across iOS 6 and iOS 7, I can see many apps moving to iOS 7 only in the coming months, particularly ones that aren’t released yet.

While not reviewed in detail during the keynote, the real gems for me are in the developer tools and APIs released this week. Xcode 5 looks awesome. The new continuos integration services of OS X Server looks great (though time will tell if it can be a full on replacement for current solutions). Tons of brand new tech including: Text Kit, Sprite Kit, Game Controllers, UIKit Dynamics and better multitasking have been introduced along with some great improvements to current APIs. It’s going to be months until I have time to play with everything.

New Mac Pro — I’ve been a long time customer of the Mac Pro and was in the market for one in 2011 when I sadly, after continued uninspiring updates to the product line, had to settle for a loaded (max RAM / max Graphics Card / 256 SSD) iMac instead. Not to sound like a total dick, the iMac has been great and really fast but I still longed for the multi-drive, graphics card replaceable, mega ram slot tower that I was accustom to. So this new Mac Pro is actually in my eyes more of a loaded Mac mini style device. There is little chance you’ll be replacing these graphic cards (yes cards, it has two of them; probably to support the unannounced retina display this Mac Pro will probably ship along side with) and there doesn’t seem to be much room for extra internal hard disk space. That said, this machine’s stats looks awesome and I have been antsy for a retina display on the desktop. I’ll have to see a price tag before I commit myself but am happy I have options when it comes time to upgrade my current iMac.

There were also new Macbook Airs released at the show. I have and really enjoy my 13-inch Air and while the new extra battery life of these new models are probably very important for some people I am lucky enough to be able to plug-in when needed so will probably skip this generation. If it was a retina screen, maybe I’d change my tune.

Sessions — After the keynote, Apple, like they had promised, started publishing the session videos, usually less than 24 hours after they had been presented. By the end of the week we also had choices for HD or SD variants as well as the PDF slides. This helps take the sting out of not being able to acquire a ticket a lot and I thank Apple for putting forth the extra effort to do so.

E3

I haven’t been keeping up with E3 nearly as much as I have been Apple news, but seems like everyone had a great time out in LA. Playstation 4 announced it will not be following Microsoft’s lead and is promising very little DRM on the PS4 that will inhibit things like game sharing and used game sales. This, plus a cheaper price tag and arguably better under-the-hood tech has pushed itself to the top the console food chain. Time and games will tell how things end. For me, I’m not planning on a day one purchase. I’d like to see how things pan out and find a must have game to push me over the edge.

As for my Nintendo, for which I always have a love/hate relationship with, we saw a new Smash Bros, a new Super Mario 3D World, as well as lots of new info on the new 3DS Pokemon and Zelda titles.

Moving from back to front, I’m getting pretty jazzed for the new Pokemon. Even outside my previous fandom for the series, this new release has a lot of new elements to check out. Being a huge Link to the Past fan has me interested in this new sequel game though I’m still mixed on feelings of curiosity mixed with disappointment that they aren’t doing something more unique. I own Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS and it was not something I really enjoyed. The gameplay was very slow and continued use of the same old Mario platforming was exhausting. Considering the lack of interest New Super Mario Bros got as a Wii U title, you’d think they’d start to catch on that we need real NEW things but alas this seems lost on Nintendo. Finally, Smash Bros fans will inevitably enjoy a new release of Smash Bros. Even I get a little giddy seeing MegaMan added as playable character. Unfortunately I’m not a fighter fan. I no longer share a house with people to regularly play with and even when I do play these games at a party it becomes a button mash as no one knows all the moves. I think I’ve grown out of it. :(

CocoaHeads and our iOS 7 Hackday

On Thursday we had our usual monthly meeting for CocoaHeads. With the Apple event still in-progress there was lots of chatter about all the new stuff. When the meeting finally started we actually ended up with so many talks and demos we went over time. Reactive Cocoa in particular kept many a CocoaHead asking questions and thinking out of the box.

Saturday we held a hackday, our first CocoaHead event in some time. The hackday was focused on iOS 7 and had people work solo or team up to experiment with the latest API toys. Throughout the day we provided breakfast, snacks and a home made lunch from IndyHall’s own Kara LaFleur (@KaraLaFleur). At the end of the day we presented our results to the group and awarded book prizes from the Pragmatic Programmers and Big Nerd Ranch. All in all things went great and it was good to see some people attend who normally can’t make our nightly meetings.

Sunday Rest

It’s now Sunday and after an extremely busy week I’m relaxing. I do have plans to head out for some dinner later to wish my Mom to wish her a happy Father’s Day but otherwise am enjoying a lazy day around the apartment.

For all my Apple and gaming friends, I hope you enjoyed this week as well and enjoy the upcoming releases. Have fun!

More Google Reader Thoughts

What was Google Reader?

To be clear, Google Reader was two things.

First, it was a web-based RSS reading app. You’d visit the site, add subscriptions, browse subscriptions and read the articles that were aggregated. You’d mark things as read and star articles you enjoyed. Google would show ads, just like GMail, and thus make some money.

Second, Google Reader was an API, an unofficial API at that. Many apps that live off of content and RSS were created over the last few years. To help people easily jump in they supported the Google Reader API. This allowed users to authenticate with Google and all their feeds would instantly appear in the new app and management of the feeds would then be mirrored on Google Reader. It was an extremely useful setup for users and for app makers, but not very lucrative for Google which was banking on showing ads on the web.

Instead of becoming the app everyone loved, Google Reader instead became a behind the scenes utility company with no monetization.

Based on my Twitter steam, it’s the API that is the real community lose here — at least for the nerds.

The Impact of Google Reader’s Demise

So what will the impact be? This will vary app to app, and to continue to stretch my utility metaphor, if RSS is the wiring, the more your app shows the wires the more trouble it will in be for the short term.

To explain, there are many apps and services such as Flipboard, Zite, Prismatic and others that are already curating content collections for their users. When a user comes in they chooses the topics and publishers that interests them and the services picks content for display. There is no need to load an OPML list of URLs to XML files. Their users have no idea what RSS is. Even if RSS is the wiring under the hood, none of it is shown to the user unless they actively look for it.

Other apps like Reeder for iPad or NetNewsWire for Mac live with the hood open and the wires very visible. For these apps, there will be a scramble to find a new “sync home” as the apps loose a ton of value without it or become downright broken.

I’ve seen recommendations for NewsBlur or Feedly but I don’t see them as a good fit for this “sync home” need. These web apps are themselves clients, built to engage readers with a unique UI and improve the browsing experience. They are not the stable, faceless API utility companies that are needed here. I’m a bit worried their owners will unknowingly jump in onto this exodus of Google Reader users not fully understanding how it will truly impact their products in the long term.

More specifically I think it will be the dedicated, focused systems that win out. Services that are built for this “sync home” need and just for this need. While I welcome paid-for options I also hope we’ll see some open source variants as well. I expect those services which mirror the Google API closely (like this move) will be easy swap-in options for app developers and thus gain quicker adoption, though maybe we’ll all be surprised and another monster will come out and dominate the space.

A Pipe Dream

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just provide a URL endpoint, username and password to my various iOS/Mac/Web readers and the subscription sync would just work (no matter what app/service I was using). An open source, standard API for RSS subscription management. Oh it would be nice.

What I don’t want to see is app developers having to support a dozen or so “sync home” options and maybe even not the one I wanted to use. If they stood together now I bet they could get some traction to make this work and simplify their own lives. They have a lot of power right now in choosing who or what will win out. I wonder if they’ll use it?

What does this mean for CB Reader?

Not a ton. CB Reader is a client app, in the respect that it focuses on article management and the reading experience. While I could see having a public API to manage subscriptions I don’t intend for CB Reader to be a faceless “sync home” that powers other apps.

The End of Google Reader

Alas, as the prophecies foretold, Google Reader will be shutting down July 1st and with it hundreds if not thousands of apps that used Google Reader as their centralized RSS hub will be in trouble.

Many of us saw this coming. I know personally, the previous lack of commitment from Google to improving Reader was one of many things that pushed me to start working on my own CB Reader system.

While in the short term this will be frustrating for many, the long term benefits will outweigh. This is good news.