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Update from the Pukkaverse

I said in my last post that I was behind and it shows in the number of things that I have to talk about regarding Pukka!

First up, my patch to the open source Vienna newsreader has made it into the stable version, which you can read about here. This helps with getting highlighted text out of Vienna and easily into your Pukka post.

Next, Seth Dillingham has reported on this blog that he has exceeded his fundraising goal for the Pan-Mass Challenge. I was able to donate some copies of Pukka to his effort and I'm glad to see that he reached (and exceeded) his goal!

Third, a few notes about social bookmarking in general and in particular. I have been testing out the preview of the next version of and will be keeping up on any changes that come about as a result of that. I also noticed a great video, which then ended up on the blog, about how to explain social bookmarking to people who are unfamiliar with it -- so check it out if you just don't get why you'd use Pukka.

Next, thanks to a post by Workshop friend Red Sweater Software, I was alerted to an app that recently added integration with Pukka. As of version 1.2.1, EagleFiler can capture post information from Pukka for better archival if you so choose. Neat!

I've also been keeping tabs on Apple's Leopard OS and to my knowledge, Pukka is doing fine on the latest build -- but please report if you find differently! I'm very excited for the Big Cat to arrive and very much looking forward to using some of its features full time next month!

And lastly, on a general business note, I wanted to report that I've been investigating how to better make Code Sorcery Workshop more green and sustainable and a better environmental citizen. I ran across a post by friend-of-the-Workshop Daniel Morrison about his efforts. Like his business, I too have minimal office needs. I also am able to take advantage of working remotely as well as DC's excellent public transportation in order to round out nearly a year now of essentially no driving for work. However, I do fly to conferences (though not many!), so that can always be reduced. I was also happy to learn last month that my webhost of eight years, pair Networks, has gone carbon neutral and is making other efforts to remain sustainable. This is a good trend! You can read more about pair's efforts here.

Whew! I think that's all for now. As I said, vacation is over and I'm back to working hard after playing hard. On a personal note, if you'd like to check out pictures from my 3,500 mile trip across the American Southwest, you can find them here. Enjoy!

Vienna improves Pukka support

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Vienna icon

Last week, the Vienna development team accepted my patch to improve Vienna's support for Pukka. Now, when you pass an RSS item from Pukka to Vienna, any highlighted text in the body of the item is passed as the description for Pukka.

I believe that this is still a prerelease version of Vienna, as the main website still has an older version, but updates have appeared on the MacUpdate profile page. You can grab the latest Vienna there and give it a spin!

YouTube series: Ask EWG

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While I'm on the topic of shout outs, I wanted to mention a cool thing that one of my clients is doing right now. The Environmental Working Group here in DC routinely answers environmentally-related concerns and questions posed by the public and has recently begun doing select answers in video form on YouTube. You can submit your questions here and subscribe to the video series here.

Check it out!

Pan-Mass Challenge update

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Just a note that Seth Dillingham (whom I blogged about before) has begun his actual software auctions on eBay. These are bundles of quality Mac software (including Pukka) valued at over $1,000 each but currently bidding at under $200. All proceeds benefit the Pan-Mass Challenge and the auctions end in the next few days, so check them out!

C4's well that ends well

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I just last night got back from Jonathan "Wolf" Rentzsch's now-annual C4 Mac indie developer conference in Chicago and once again, it was time and money well spent. The conference has been hugely motivating to me as a concentration of extremely bright people in close proximity, feeding off of each others' ideas and energy. In fact, last year's first iteration of the conference was the motivating factor in me finally striking out on my own, which I did within the next couple weeks.

Though less so than last year, C4 was again all hallway. I only say 'less so' because we had the convenience of everything being in proximity rather than last year's Plan 'L'. Regardless, as Wolf said last year, "I often get more out of connecting with individuals than listening to a session." The same is true for me, and this year I had the pleasure of meeting up with old friends and meeting new ones. One of the bits of advice, which I'm going to try to apply to future conferences, was to sit with someone new every time you had the chance. I tended to do this by finding a table all my myself at meals and letting the people come to me, rather than seeking out people I knew and sitting with them. It worked out and I met or got to know better several people, including Philippe Casgrain, Manton Reece, Jeff Czerniak, Jonathan Wight, Christopher Bowns, Marko Karppinen, Alex Payne, our illustrious A/V guy Pat Hughes, and many other bright people.

I'm sure there will be many summaries of this year's event, but one thing that I wanted to document is, I think, rather symbolic of the spirit of the event. During Sunday's Iron Coder Live hacking contest, Craig Hockenberry of the Iconfactory demonstrated his cool hack to do 2D and 3D plots on the iPhone. He also explained an error message that he received in JavaScript containing hexadecimal gibberish. Of course, being Craig (who else would notice this?), he recognized the beginning of the text as a PNG image header, so he copied it out, pasted it into a file, and opened it as a PNG. The result was this:

A hidden, cryptic image on the iPhone
Craig's image (click to enlarge)

Closing out his hack presentation, he made the URL for the image available and invited the attendees to race to decode it, if they could.

This particularly appealed to me, as I recognized instantly that the coded language was the Futurama TV cartoon's alien alphabet. I found a decoder and got to work.

Several of us arrived at the translation pretty quickly, though I have to admit that I think I may have been first, at least in posting it to the C4 Twitter backchannel. The others were Philippe Casgrain of Corel and (I think) Paul Kafasis of Rogue Amoeba. I hastily decoded and mistook "power" for "poker" and Philippe missed the number "50" (maybe Paul got it completely right?), but the resulting message turned out to be:

Enough RDF power
to influence geeks
up to 50 meters.
Leaking of information
punishable by death.

Steve Jobs'
personal aura
harnessed for

Now that's just pretty awesome. This whole hack was representative of the weekend: Code, Culture, Community, Conspiracy -- C4's expanded title -- and represents why I'll be back again and again to the best of my ability.

Thanks again to all of the attendees and I look forward to reading your summaries (I'll leave the panel reviews to the real bloggers) as well as to seeing you all again next year!

Update: I should also link to Mike Zornek's C4 retrospective, which really nails it on the head, particularly on most of the session summaries and Saturday night's, uh, interesting panel.

Pukka and the Pan-Mass Challenge

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Code Sorcery Workshop is proud to help support Seth Dillingham of Mystic, CT, in his participation in the Pan-Mass Challenge. Seth will be cycling 192 miles across Massachusetts (not to mention an extra 100 miles the day before to get to the starting line, just for fun) to raise money for cancer research and treatment for the Jimmy Fund. The ride will take place August 3-5 and Seth will be holding software auctions of popular, donated Mac titles in order to meet his goal of raising $6,600. We're donating five licenses for Pukka to help out.

You can read more about the auctions, which are scheduled to start today, on Seth's blog. You can check out the full list of donated software as well.

Good luck Seth!

Congratulations to the MacTech 25!

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Congratulations to the MacTech 25, which honors the most influential people in the Macintosh community! This list was announced last week and I just wanted to take a moment to congratulate the recipients.

One of the best things about the Mac community is the fact that as a relative newcomer (I've been on the Mac for five years and developing for about half of that time), I was able to meet some of these folks and at least rub elbows, if not get to know them, last year at C4. Whether it was saying hi to Aaron Hillegass and catching him with his hat off, meeting Brent Simmons and Gus Mueller briefly and thanking them, respectively, for giving Pukka an early prop and setting a model for going indie, ingesting deliciously questionable late night Greek food with Chris Forsythe, getting to know Daniel Jalkut on the long L rides, or being able to thank Wolf in person for accommodating my attempt to secure my C4 spot from my honeymoon in Istanbul, I'm always impressed by how approachable these folks have been. I think this speaks to both why they are in the MacTech 25 as well as how great an opportunity C4 is.


Happy Birthday, Apple II

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Today, as the tax deadline looms, my thoughts have turned nostalgic with flashbacks of my first programming experiences. For as Scott Stevenson points out, today is the thirtieth anniversary of the Apple II.

As several folks have been pointing out lately, Apple has really defied the odds with not one (Apple II), not two (the Mac), but three (Mac OS X) amazing, revolutionary products in their lifetime. But the Apple II started it all -- for Apple and for me.

My first exposure to an Apple came in probably about 1982 or so, playing a game called Snooper Troops in my neighbor's basement. Several years later, I was introduced to the Logo language at school, where I got to control lines and drawings on the screen in much the same way that I direct my LEGO Mindstorms NXT today.

A few more years after that, the big one came along. While we all played Oregon Trail, I found in the back of the classroom a book on programming text adventure games in BASIC. While I had had some exposure to BASIC with an old TI-99/4A at home (how's that for a consumer product name), I never got beyond simple line drawing and single-purpose programs. But finding BASIC Fun With Adventure Games in 1988, combined with an understanding teacher who essentially let me turn in homework early and spend time typing in the 65K program by hand instead of being in class, is what gave me my first taste of text command parsing, control structures, databases of information, and the importance of saving my work frequently onto a 360K floppy.

I spent a lot of time on that Apple IIe, typing, proofreading, and saving. The program couldn't be run until fully complete, which took days -- maybe even weeks -- but I'll never forgot the thrill of creating, then using, my own application -- even if I did already know every possible outcome of being a CIA agent, breaking into Russian Ambassador Griminski's house, and trying to find enough evidence to incriminate him. Computers and spy role playing -- could it get any better?

For all of this I have Steve and Woz -- and my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Wright -- to thank. Here's to you.

To WWDC or not to WWDC?

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There is an interesting discussion going on right now on the macsb (Macintosh Software Business) discussion list about whether Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is worth it or not. I should say, not whether it's worth it in general, but whether it's worth it for the small, indie developer. When you factor in a $1300-1600 ticket, hotel in and flight to and from San Francisco, and all of the inevitable peripheral expenses, it can really add up for an independent developer. I know it does for me.

Like Mike Zornek, I too have recently gone indie with a combination of consulting and shareware development. And I also went to Wolf's fantastic C4 conference last October in Chicago. As my first Mac conference, I had an amazing time and came home with so much energy -- in fact, that week I made the decision to go indie. Combine that with a great time in January at the Leopard Tech Talk. It wasn't just the tech, but also the general level of enthusiasm and getting to meet lots of other developers as well. I was sure I'd be at WWDC.

On the other hand, though, saving my pennies and waiting until such time as it's easier to go -- less of a stretch -- is probably a good idea. As much as I'd like to be in the audience when The Steve takes the stage and wows us all with the next insanely great developer thing, perhaps it's not in the cards. On top of an ADC Select Membership, it's just difficult for an independent starting out.

It's times like these that I'm really grateful for more affordable conferences like South By Southwest and C4. Also, I'll reiterate my ever-present offer: if you're a Mac developer in the Washington, DC area, feel free to drop me a line and we can put our brains together over a drink sometime. It's the next best thing to the big conferences in my book.

SXSWi leaves its mark

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Well, my time in Austin is done (though I'm now in Houston, so Texas ain't through with me yet) and South By Southwest Interactive has definitely been a memorable experience. At some point, the amount of information learned, amazing people met, and great experiences had kind of hit a level where it was just kind of overwhelming and my ability to speak about it shut down. However, perhaps the lack of sleep, fast pace, free beer, and plentiful Tex-Mex played a part. I'll try to highlight and summarize based on my notes. I can't wait to get copies of a lot of the slides that were used.


  • Consistency in User Interface Design: Think about goals, not feature lists. When you imitate or are inspired by an existing interface, don't emulate it too closely because people will complain about the slight differences. Think about types of users -- legal secretary vs. a fourth grader using WordPerfect, icon editor vs. a photographer using Photoshop.
  • Tag. You're It: Kind of a "state of the folksonomy" to me and an update on where we've come in the last year and the challenges remaining. I really enjoy hearing Thomas Vander Wal speak about tags. I caught his panel last year as well and managed to find him at 8-Bit on Saturday night and chat for a while about tags,, and social bookmarking. Learned about new uses for tags: libraries, museums, wine and music collections, travel website archived content.
  • Stop Designing Products: Find an "experience strategy". The experience is the product. Remember George Eastman and the one-button camera experience. People interact with products like they do with people. Think about how much iTunes does to make the iPod experience simpler and easier -- offload the functionality.
  • Why We Should Ignore Users: Of course, this is not meant literally. The gist was how to balance user request in design. A lot of times, what users want is emotional or inexplicable. Consider activity-centered design, not user-centric. Think about environment: checking email, on a Blackberry, on the subway -- how does that impact the design?
  • Scaling Your Community: Matt Mullenweg from WordPress. Very entertaining and genuine, kind speaker -- love him. Be as useful to the last 100K users as to the first 100K. Start simple, bootstrap, let go, personalize. Email is the best scaling software ever. Speed is a feature. Be transparent. Don't believe your own press. Have fun! Happiness is a continuum -- lovers on one end, haters on the other, mediocrity in the middle. Learn from the haters. Also, best reference to a Venn diagram -- "times I've had the most fun intersecting with times I was wearing pants".
  • Will Wright Keynote Speech: Will created SimCity, The Sims, and is working on SPORE. Mind-blowing. "We need to re-calibrate our intuitions." Mile a minute. Can't wait to see the slides, because I don't think a video camera, let alone a photographic one, could have kept up. Very inspiring.
  • Design Aesthetic of the Indie Developer: John Gruber, Shaun Inman, and Nick Bradbury. Indies sell to users, not businesses. Great design speaks to you. Design is a pile of interrelated decisions. Design for yourself to scratch an itch. Build things twice -- once to learn, again to do it right. Buzz is great, but sometimes silence is golden -- nothing's broke. Again, get lovers and haters, but get in front of real people.


I enjoyed meeting some Yahoo! peeps, though representation was pretty slim -- met Jonathan on the PC side. Caught up with Blake of CocoaRadio. Met Ma.gnolia founder Larry and user Chris. Met and hung out with Manton of Wii Transfer and Buzz of Cocoalicious. Alex from Twitter was in our posse from DC (including EchoDitto folks -- check out their take their blog about it -- and new friends John, Jason, and Ben) and turns out he was at C4. Met Pukka users Paul, George, Kathryn, and re-met Brad. Also, today here in Houston, I had lunch with Chris from Saltatory, Growl, and Adium. Whew! I'm still hoarse from many, many parties, late nights, and shouting over bar music about topics such as the thread safety of various Cocoa classes.

So, enough for now. SXSW remains on my must-do list and I'm hoping to make it to WWDC this year, as well as C4[1], so I hope to see the developers among you there!

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