A dozen shades of Macintosh and iOS rants (Part 2)

So many leftover rants in the world of Apple's computing platforms and so little time. This year, a down-sized "fifty" themed list will have to suffice. And there are some tips and news in the mix. (Part 2 of 2)
Written by David Morgenstern, Contributor

My desktop and inbox are littered with bytes and pieces from across 2012. Here is a 3-dot list, my Dozen Shades of Mac and iOS rants that I hope you may find interesting here at year's end. (Part 2)

Check Out Part One of A dozen shades of Macintosh and iOS rants


Where did the jailbreakers go?

I remember seeing a rant about jailbreaking every day or so. However, as the worries of security have increased and the number of applications in the App Store keep gaining in capabilities, iOS customers are sticking with the closed system. The wins by the Electronic Freedom Foundation are good news to some but increasingly irrelevant to iOS owners.


Another reason why jailbreaking your iPad may not be such a great idea

So many things sound like a great idea on your iPad: that tattoo, eggnog-flavored coffee and desktop-style, user-controlled, multi-layered window management. In a terrific post from the spring, titled Familiar is not a design, programmer Matt Gemmell runs down a jailbreak hack called Quasar, which brings a computer-style windowing environment to the iPad. In the article he also talks about some concerns with the Microsoft Snap interface found in the Surface platform.

Gemmell says that interfaces should be designed, not just implemented like Quasar.

Unconsidered design (or lack of design) tends to simply gravitate towards the familiar, which is a natural instinct when we’re lost in some way. The desktop windowing metaphor is familiar from older computing devices… and that’s all. Its suitability to the iPad’s form factor, usage scenarios, and current app interaction models was not considered. It introduces additional frames of interaction and cognitive load, and disregards the interaction heritage and environment of the platform.

Quasar was not designed, but rather only implemented. It’s the classic outcome of closed, engineer-based thinking.

Who needs this?


Where’s the paid upgrade mechanism in the Mac App Store?

Developers are still mostly accepting Apple’s Mac App Store and releasing new titles to the program. However, many keep complaining about the lack of an way to offer existing customers a discounted price for major upgrades. There was plenty of discussion about this issue in the spring but it’s cropping up again.

At his Call Me Fishmeal blog in March, Wil Shipley offered an excellent analysis of the good and not-so-good for developers and customers with the Mac App Store. It’s still great reading.

For customers, the Mac App Store application would notice when a product they’ve bought has an upgrade path to another application, and show this in the App Store application’s existing “Updates” tab. This alone would be a huge boon to developers, because users would have a single, wonderful place to find out about new paid upgrades, which we can’t have right now because we don’t have a list of our customers! (And, again, we’re not Apple: when we release a new version of Delicious Library it doesn’t make international headlines. Yet.)

As a nice side-effect, this solution would also allow the Mac App Store application to notice when a customer has both an old and a new version of an app installed, and provide an easy way (again, from the existing “Updates” tab) for the customer to delete the old version (and its old data if it’s a “shoebox” app) when she’s gotten confident that the new version is meeting her needs. This solves an issue every customer and developer wrangles with: how to gently keep customers from running outdated versions of their apps (and how to free up the customer’s disk space from the old version) after they’ve upgraded.


Don’t confuse a Retina Display “point” with the classic print industry “point”

Long ago, in the world of hardcopy, a printer’s point was an absolute measure: 1/12 pica and .013875 inch (.351mm). However, with the arrival of desktop publishing, the point became a function of the WYSIWYG Mac screen: 72 points per inch — the pixel resolution of the 128K Macintosh. So each pixel became a point.

Nowadays, because of the high resolution screens running OS X, points “in user space” are unrelated to physical measurements. It’s explained in the Apple Developer Library High Resolution Guidelines for OS X.

OS X refers to screen size in points, not pixels. A point is one unit in user space, prior to any transformations on the space. Because, on a high-resolution display, there are four onscreen pixels for each point, points can be expressed as floating-point values. Values that are integers in standard resolution, such as mouse coordinates, are floating-point values on a high-resolution display, allowing for greater precision for such things as graphics alignment.

Your app draws to a view using points in user space. The window server composites drawing operations to an offscreen buffer called the backing store. When it comes time to display the contents of the backing store onscreen, the window server scales the content appropriately, mapping points to onscreen pixels. The result is that if you draw the same content on two similar devices, and only one of them has a high-resolution screen, the content appears to be about the same size on both devices. Size invariance is a key feature of high resolution.


Who doesn’t want a calibrated, color emulation of tablets, phones and other devices?

How will your content really look on another device? Most content is created and developed on a desktop or laptop computer and then moved to other platforms. But is there a way of really knowing how it will look on the smaller screens without viewing it on them? Monitor company Eizo offers an answer: ColorNavigator, a part of its color-calibrated monitor package.

Eizo’s ColorNavigator offers a number of interesting features, including Media Emulation, where the color characteristics of other content platforms can be emulated.

ColorNavigator emulates the color characteristics of other media devices such as tablets, smart phones, notebook PCs, other LCD/CRT monitors and even portable gaming devices. With a spectrophotometer, ColorNavigator reads the emulated device's color patches as they appear in a web browser and creates an ICC profile. By using this profile with a ColorEdge monitor, content creators see how their customers view color on their respective media devices.

Opening ancient Word documents

This tip from Macworld tells how Microsoft Word 2011 can open very old Mac Word documents and keep the formatting intact. Good to know for us longtime Mac users.

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