PCalc

I have to agree with Daring Fireball, PCalc is the best calculator for the Mac, the iPhone and the iPad.

Snooping Contacts

There have been a few articles in the press recently about mobile apps snooping people’s contacts (see this one in AppleInsider, this reference on Daring Fireball). I wonder if it is time for mobile OSs to warn users that an app is attempting to access contact information and whether it should be allowed to do that or not (much like the iOS does with location).

I have to admit that this potential to snoop is going to make me think twice about downloading free apps to my iPhone.

GCC Optimizations

Fun little quiz on GCC optimizations:

See how well you know (or can anticipate) gcc’s optimizer. For each question, the left box contains some code, while the right box contains code that purports to do the same thing, but that illustrates a particular optimization. Will gcc apply that optimization? Put another way, will the code on the left be as fast as the code on the right, when compiled with an optimizing gcc?

Disk Defragmentation

From time to time I come across disk defragmentation applications, an update to one called iDefrag just came across on MacUpdate this morning.

My understanding of these is that they were pretty much useless anymore, and have been for a long time (10+ years) as block and file allocation algorithms have gotten better and better at managing disk space. Add to that the fact that disk sizes have gotten very large, much larger than the needs of most users (two users I know barely use 10% of the space they have), so fragmentation (which usually occurs when free space is tight) is simply not an issue. On top of which modern operating systems try to optimize the location of frequently used files.

All of which suggests that disk defragmentation is pretty much a waste.

AppleInsider | Blu-ray chairman disagrees with Apple chief’s assessment of format

I am with Steve on this one, I don’t think that Blu-ray is going to have the same impact as DVD. Looking at my own buying patterns, I have over 100 DVDs but have only bought 2 Blu-ray Discs (and I rarely play them because of the 6 minutes of obligatory previews).

 

AppleInsider | Blu-ray chairman disagrees with Apple chief’s assessment of format:

“The Blu-ray Disc Association chairman said this week that adoption of the high-definition disc format is on par with that of DVD, countering an argument from Apple chief executive Steve Jobs that the format is a fad whose days are numbered.”

AppleTV updates

According to ArsTechnica, Apple is working hard on an update to the AppleTV. There are two interesting things in this report.  The first is that the new software will be based on iOS. The second is that they are working on a device which will plug into the TV and stream content only (but will still have a small amount of local storage for caching.)

Frankly I think the software is fine when compared to other options that are out there. I recently bought a new BluRay DVD player which can hook into my Netflix and Amazon accounts to stream movies from them. I can safely say that the implementation is a POS. I spent more than an hour getting the Netflix connection to work, and for some reason it tells me that there is a billing issue when I try to access Amazon. Oh and the whole UI/UX on the DVD player is also a POS. Needless to say I won’t be buying another BluRay DVD player from this company again. Actually I may not be buying another BluRay DVD player all, simply because I don’t want to buy any more BluRay disc. Having to waste 5-10 minutes sitting through previews which cannot be skipped after I have spent $20+ on the  BluRay disc is simply intolerable. At this point I cringe every time I turn on my BluRay DVD player. (For the record I did call customer support about the previews and they simply don’t care, the call was dropped while I was on hold.)

On the other hand I think a little streaming device would be great. It simply makes no sense to store the content on both my desktop machine under iTunes and on the AppleTV. Added to which I can’t fit all my media on the AppleTV which means I have to manage what media is there.

 

Reading Articles in a Web Browser

I am a big fan of the new “Reader” feature in Apple’s Safari browser, it makes it much easier to read an article without all the side-content taking your attention away. The really nice thing about “Reader” is that it will fetch all the pages that make up the article so you don’t have to page forward as you are reading unlike “Readability” (which I also really like). “Reader” also keeps the images in place, as well as any objects that may be embedded in the article (Flash for example, cough!! cough!!)

As a side project I have been implementing a similar thing in Java to extract indexable text from web pages. I started off looking at the “Readability” source code (the fact that I understood what was going on while have never touched JavaScript is a credit to the developer), and then took off in my own direction inspired by “Reader”. The project took longer than I was expecting but it is almost code-complete. I used the excellent Jericho HTML Parser for this, the trick is to achieve a balance between coding for specific sites and keeping it generic so that it can deal with as many sites as possible.

In the event the code is able to handle multi-page articles, handles more sites than “Reader” can, and is able to output text for indexing, simplified HTML for reading, and handles images quite nicely.