Yearly Archives: 2007

MacSanta 2007 in time for Christmas

Wii Transfer’s featured day for “MacSanta”:http://www.macsantadeals.com/ starts at midnight tonight, but I’ve already rolled out the coupon code. Because I’m still using simple PayPal “Buy Now” buttons, I hacked together a little custom coupon field just for MacSanta (based on a simple JavaScript trick posted to the MacSB list). I tried to come up with a clear interface even though there isn’t a traditional online store, because it just doesn’t make sense to spend time on a full store for only one product. (Plus, look at that cute MacSanta logo! Aww.)

Here’s a screenshot “from the web site”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/ after you’ve redeemed a code:

MacSanta coupon

On Friday the discount drops to a respectable 10% off for the rest of the month. Happy holidays!

Wrapping up the Wii Giveaway

Sending away second Wii After sitting on a shelf in my office for 2 months, unopened and unloved, I finally shipped off the Nintendo Wii today to the lucky winner. I was initially worried because he didn’t respond until well into the second day after I notified him, but he was pretty excited (“You’ve made my holiday”) and I’m glad it could ship out before Christmas. The picture here is in the car before I went into the UPS store to fill the box with peanuts.

The promotion took a surprising amount of effort, but it was fun and definitely worthwhile. There were a total of 2447 unique submissions (1925 for the email form, and 522 from Twitter). Of those, over 1/3 agreed to sign up for my annual Riverfold Software newsletter. I consider that alone a success, although until I look at the stats more closely it’s not clear what percentage of potential-customers are actually using Macs. My “Wii Twitter account”:http://twitter.com/wii also doubled to about 300 followers.

Although sales were initially flat, both “TUAW”:http://www.tuaw.com/2007/12/05/wii-transfer-maker-giving-away-a-wii/ and “Ars Technica”:http://arstechnica.com/journals/apple.ars/2007/12/06/win-a-wii-to-go-with-your-wii-transfer-for-mac ran nice stories on the promotion. I also “wrote a press release”:http://riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/press/giveaway.html, with the idea of hitting some of the bigger gaming sites for the second week of the contest. In the end I decided not to, because I wanted to focus on Mac users, and because frankly there were plenty of submissions and I was burned out on the process.

The contest easily paid for itself, but the extra sales really weren’t that significant. I have a database that tracks referrers through to the actual purchase, so I noticed an increase of only about 10-20 copies out of the 100 sales for the month so far. Part of that is no doubt the catch-22 of giving away hardware that is required for your software product, but I know that long-term there will be a benefit to the wider exposure.

Mistakes? I should have made the whole promotion last just a day or two, and hyped it before launching instead. I also should have required that Twitter users follow Wii before entering, which would have boosted those followers and also greatly simplified tracking submissions (replies were spread over 3 RSS feeds and 33 iChat log transcripts). Relatively minor complaints, though, overall.

To everyone who provided feedback on the idea, thanks. Maybe next year I’ll implement some of the more interesting promotion ideas I heard.

Holiday Wii Giveaway and Twitter

A few months ago I was in Target and they had some Wiis in stock, so on an impulse I bought one. I’ve owned a Wii since launch day, but I had this idea to give one away for Christmas as an experiment to help promote Wii Transfer. I sat on the idea for a while, listened to feedback from others, and finally “rolled it out this morning”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/giveaway/ with two methods to enter: web form (with field to notify a friend about the giveaway) and via Twitter (by sending a reply to @wii).

Unfortunately there was a major snag with the Twitter idea. It turns out that @wii replies won’t show up in my Replies tab (or RSS feed) in Twitter unless the user posting the tweet is already following “twitter.com/wii”:http://twitter.com/wii. I now regret not making that a requirement, but I also know that it would have hurt the simplicity of entering via Twitter.

So what’s the solution? For now, a combination of things. I am now tracking every tweet that contains “wii” (try it, there are some fun ones), which I will aggregate with the standard replies as well as results from a search on “Terraminds”:http://terraminds.com/twitter/ to fill in any of the tweets I missed. It’s all a bit cumbersome because the tracking results come through IM (luckily iChat transcripts are XML now).

It feels very fragile, but hopefully I won’t miss any entries. There’s no cost to submitting multiple times, so consider sending another @wii tweet next week or entering with the web form to guarantee you’re in the drawing. If in doubt, re-read the “last line on the fine print”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/giveaway/.

Kindle

All we do at “VitalSource”:http://www.vitalsource.com/ is e-books, from working with publishers on converting their content to our format, to managing the delivery of digital files and building the web-based infrastructure to support it, and finally to designing and coding the Mac and Windows applications for reading and annotating books. My “Kindle”:http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Amazons-Wireless-Reading-Device/dp/B000FI73MA arrived on Tuesday, the day after it was released, and here are my initial thoughts after using it over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Out-of-box experience. Amazon really nailed the first-use experience. The Kindle came in a nice box and was pre-configured with my Amazon account. No syncing or setup necessary; you can start reading books immediately.

Screen. If you haven’t seen an e-ink device — actually held one in your hands, like the Sony Reader — don’t bother “reviewing” it. The iPhone screen is beautiful and I would love to have a small Mac tablet, something even a little bigger than the Kindle, but for reading books, nothing beats e-ink. It’s in a whole different class, and this is one of the areas where the Kindle shines. (It says a lot that the first FAQ item in the Kindle manual is about how the screen “flicker” when flipping pages is normal, though. It’s a little distracting but not a show-stopper.)

Connectivity. Amazon has been innovating with free shipping for years, so in a way it’s perfectly consistent to also offer free wireless connectivity. As a long-time Apple fan, I’m a little disappointed that Amazon is the one innovating with service plans, while Apple is stuck in the past with service contracts and high monthly fees with silly text message caps. I pay about $80/month for the privilege of using my iPhone; with the Kindle, I pay only for purchased content.

Purchasing. You can buy books from Amazon on your computer or from the Kindle itself, and I’ve tried both. My first purchase was using Safari on my Mac, and less than a minute later the book “magically” appeared on my Kindle. Again, no cables or sync necessary; the Kindle notices a book purchase and downloads it wirelessly.

Hardware. It couldn’t all be good news, could it? The button design is where the Kindle just falls on its face, and it’s bad news for both major areas of the device: the keyboard and the page navigation buttons. I just don’t see how they justified taking up so much room for the keyboard, because in truth you almost never need to use it. For the page buttons, try handing someone a Kindle for the first time and the first thing they do is accidentally hit next or previous page. It takes a while to train yourself on the best way to hold the Kindle.

There are other things I could say — about DRM (unavoidable) or emailing documents to the device (clever) or the book cover (clunky) — but I want to keep this short. Despite it’s flaws, the Kindle is a good device, and it goes beyond being the first usable e-book reader to offer seamless purchasing and book delivery from Amazon’s large selection. It’s not as polished a 1.0 as the iPhone release was, but it’s a solid offering and more innovative in some ways. I’m looking forward to both reading books on it as a user and experimenting with ways to get other content on the device as a developer.

Android and getting real

“Steven Frank”:http://stevenf.com/2007/11/try_again.php on Google’s phone announcement:

“Find someone, ONE person, with a unique vision. Lock them in a room with some programmers and a graphic designer. Twenty people, tops. Change the world. Quit re-hashing the same old bullshit and telling me it’s new, exciting, or in any way innovative. Be ready to fail, many times, but for love of all that is holy take a stand on something.”

I heard about the Google phone consortium pretty much exclusively through Twitter, and the reaction seems about universal from the folks I follow (admittedly, half of them are total Mac geeks). I’m honestly not sure how the Google phone is relevant to me, but then again, I don’t like Gmail.

Although this week’s “37signals post on personas”:http://www.37signals.com/svn/posts/690-ask-37signals-personas isn’t about Android, some of the points are relevant to committee-led design:

“I don’t think you can build a great product for a person that doesn’t exist. And I definitely don’t think you can build a great product based on a composite sketch of 10 different people all rolled into one (or two or three).” […] “Every product we build is a product we build for ourselves to solve our own problems.”

Not using your own product can turn into a real problem, and I realized after I bought an Apple TV that “Wii Transfer”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/ suffered from it. So I forced myself to use my own product instead, and that made all the difference. Plus, it was easy to unplug the Apple TV because the thing got so hot I was worried it would burn the house down while I slept.

Ironcoder (now with prizes!)

A new “Ironcoder launches today”:http://ironcoder.org/blog/2007/11/02/ironcoder-7-bigger-better-and-uncut/ with a longer hacking period and a nice iPod touch as the prize. I’ve come close to participating in the past and just haven’t had time. Although I don’t expect that to change this week, I’ll be keeping an eye on this one to see what the theme is. It could be a great opportunity to get more hands-on with some of the new Leopard APIs.

Five days, one paragraph

So I am 5 days or 700 characters in to my Story 140 experiment. Even though separation between each tweet is only implied, this is the end of the first paragraph, and on the web site I will be formatting it that way.

If you were to put the ideas you have in life into two buckets — and I don’t meant the little one-off ideas, I mean the big ones you care about and could passionately defend — you might divide them into ideas which are truly great, and ideas which sound great. The key here is to avoid the ideas which are neither great nor which sound particularly good at all. It’s too early to know which one of these idea types Story 140 is, but at this point I’m leaning toward the “sounds great” side.

Put simply, writing something 140 characters at a time is exactly opposite to the way I normally write. It is much more challenging than I thought, and after 2 days I immediately wanted to start cheating and writing a bunch ahead, so that the story flowed properly.

I’ll keep at it, but I did realize that I have to at least partially plan what the story is about. I have only a vague idea in my head, but as I give it some more thought I will probably jot down notes so that when it comes time to write the tweet each day I know a little bit about where it is going. Even so, please don’t expect greatness from this work of fiction. You will be disappointed.

On the plus side, I have received feedback (see “Ryan Irelan’s post”:http://www.ryanirelan.com/past/2007/11/03/story-140/) that it would be great for multiple people to contribute. As I said about NaNoWriMo, what makes some of these projects work is the community. I’d love to open up this concept, and I can turn the web site into more of an aggregator of sorts. If anyone has suggestions, please email me.

MarsEdit guilt trip

In which I am the last person to point to the “MarsEdit 2.0 release”:http://www.red-sweater.com/marsedit/. I figure if James Duncan Davidson is “just now purchasing MarsEdit”:http://duncandavidson.com/archives/643, I don’t feel bad waiting so long to say good things about 2.0. (Rumor has it Duncan used to post to his blog with a set of Ant XML build files that he would run with custom Lua scripts as part of his Lightroom workflow.)

Seriously, though, it’s easy to believe that Daniel is right when he “talks about the potential for Mac desktop clients”:http://www.austinheller.com/2007/11/interview-daniel-jalkut.html. MarsEdit had a great start back in the early NetNewsWire days, and 2.0 shows that it has a strong future as well.

At lunch with “Brent Simmons”:http://inessential.com/ and the “Rogue Sheep”:http://www.roguesheep.com/ guys after C4, just before I left Chicago, we joked that what MarsEdit really needs is a Dock badge with the number of days since you’ve last posted to your blog. A big red guilt trip icon staring you in the face: “25 days since you last blogged, slacker!”

Story 140

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), but I’m way too busy to participate this year. (See “my wrap-up post from 2005”:http://www.manton.org/2005/12/50136_words.html for the last time I did it.) I would love to write something, though. Maybe I should consider “Ficlets”:http://ficlets.com/ or a similar site, but I’ve had Twitter on the brain lately. Why not take the embracing constraints approach and write a story through Twitter?

Introducing “Story 140”:http://www.story140.com/, a new web site and “Twitter account”:http://twitter.com/story140 where I will be writing a short story in 140 characters a day for 140 days. To make things interesting I set a few rules for myself (listed on the site), including that every tweet must be written the day it is posted and be reasonably grammatically correct while still exactly 140 characters. (I say “reasonably” because there will be the occasional use of incomplete sentences, and some people may question my spelling of dialog without the ending “ue”. That must be influenced by years of programming the old Mac toolbox.)

Even though it is extremely serialized, my hope is that the resulting story will actually be readable. We’ll have to see how successful I end up being at that goal. It’s already more challenging than I expected; the first tweet took me about 10 minutes to write, and the second one even longer.

How I use Twitter

“Twiterrific 3.0”:http://iconfactory.com/home/permalink/1887 is out, with a new price of $15 or free to use with ads. The ads are very effective and difficult to ignore, but really they don’t take anything away from the Twitter experience. The new version is great, though, and I’ll be sending my $15 to Icon Factory sometime in the next few days. “As Fraser Speirs said”:http://speirs.org/2007/11/02/twitterrific-3/, it’s a small price to pay to be connected to friends and colleagues.

I post to Twitter much more often than I blog now, and I think I owe some of my followers an explanation. I made a rule for myself early on to only follow people who I have met in real life. I’ve only made a couple exceptions to this, and none recently. It keeps the flow of tweets easier to manage and relevant.

So if you follow me on Twitter and wonder why I don’t return the favor, that is why. You probably have interesting things to say, so say hi to me at some future conference so I can add you to my list. I’ve actually been thinking about taking it one step further and protecting updates, because I tend to post about what (to this blog) have been traditionally private matters. Jury is still out on that decision.

The following numbers are interesting, though. I only do very basic Mint stats for this blog (I just care about referrers, not number of readers), but it does make me wonder how many people read this blog. If you’re reading this, add a comment to this post. (Haha, gotcha! I don’t have comments.)

Bush veto

Yes, it’s a politically-themed post. Probably the only one before 2008, so don’t run away just yet.

The Bush veto of the bipartisan children’s health care plan a few weeks ago really made me angry, but it wasn’t until “Justin Miller responded”:http://twitter.com/incanus77/statuses/310113392 to “my tweet”:http://twitter.com/manton/statuses/310110182 that I started to think about why. Here’s the reason.

When Bush was elected in 2000, I expected this kind of stuff from him. Vetoing stem cell research? Killing children’s health care funding? Sure, par for the course for this Republican. But then 9-11 happened and everything changed. The war. Our president’s priorities changed.

Bush got a free ride from the media during the 2000 election, and again after 9-11. He would make the most incompetent and clumsy mistakes and yet be cut slack because, frankly, expectations are just so much lower for him than any other president in recent history.

At some point in 2004, opinion started to shift, led by folks like Howard Dean (who I’ve “written about before”:http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Amanton.org+howard+dean). Eventually, after Bush won re-election, there would be enough anti-war momentum to matter. And that brings us up to now and this veto.

Everyone is focused on the war. Everyone understands the significance, the mistakes. Most of the country wants it over but we know that it’s complex, and the consequences for any given action will be felt for a decade. Compared to the lives lost in Iraq and the harm done to the stability of the Middle East, the rise of a new generation of terrorists — what does a health care bill matter? Is it worth fighting for?

Democrats in power by a slim majority probably think they have to choose their battles, have to give in on some issues so they can hold on to the important ones, like the war. But I say no. The only thing that works against this stubborn ass in the White House is to take the fight to him. Cut him off at every turn. Don’t give him a freakin’ inch. Call for an override vote again and again.

Every. Single. Day.

That’s how you win. You put people on the ground in every state — organizing, protesting, getting out the vote. You put letters in the hands of our representatives — email, blogs, editorial, flyers. You put a loud voice to what you feel and never, ever back down.

Wii Transfer 2.5.2 and Leopard

Happy Halloween! “Wii Transfer 2.5.2”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/ is now available. This is probably one of the most difficult bug fix releases I’ve done. Full changes are in “the release notes”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/releasenotes/, but the biggest stuff includes fixed Leopard UI glitches and a new 2-pass encoding that should result in much more consistent movie streaming quality. Along the way I touched most of the corners of the product, including many hours of trial-and-error debugging the Flash FLV player component.

While testing Wii Transfer on my TV the other day I had a moment to reflect on how this product has evolved. What started as a one-weekend hack has grown into something quite a bit more complex. It has a few rough edges, sure, but I’m proud of this little app and how I’ve been able to put a simple UI on all these different technologies (embedded web server, HTML/JavaScript/Flash UI, MP3 and FLV conversion, iLife integration, etc). I have a few new features planned and in various stages of development, but I think the just-released 2.5.2 is going to start a trend of refinement; there’s a lot I could do to improve the movie conversion and streaming experience before introducing anything radically new.

So, Leopard. I had originally planned to just wipe my old Leopard seed partition on the MacBook and test the GM, but at the last minute I dove full in and did an upgrade install on my primary machine, the Mac Pro. I have nightly SuperDuper clones just in case, but the upgrade was completely smooth. It’s a great OS foundation and I can’t wait to see what other developers have been working on.

Wii Transfer on macZOT

After I shipped Wii Transfer 2.5 I decided to start spending a little time promoting the product. Every month or so I’ll do some small thing to improve sales. Last month that was a “press release”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/press/2.5.html, followed by the “ad on The Talk Show”:http://www.manton.org/2007/10/the_talk_show.html, and next month I’ll be giving away a brand new Nintendo Wii as a holiday promotion.

Today Wii Transfer is on sale at “macZOT”:http://www.maczot.com/ for the incredibly low price of just $9 (half off!). To be honest I have mixed feelings about these kind of promotions, and the first time macZOT approached me about it I declined. I worry that it can reinforce a message that all software should be cheap — that even $19 is too expensive — but on the other hand it’s great exposure to an audience that might not otherwise hear about Wii Transfer.

Lisa at macZOT has been great to work with, letting me set the price (even though I get a small fraction of what a normal sale would be, I felt it was important to do the promotion to its fullest and go below $10), and making sure macZOT pings my backend script so that serial numbers go out to customers right away. I know people can be frustrated if they have to wait to receive the product, and I also have a new serial number lookup form on the site that ties into all of this quite nicely.

It’s a fun experiment. If you’ve been thinking about purchasing Wii Transfer but thought it was too expensive, head over to macZOT to pick up your copy. The “discussion page”:http://maczot.com/discuss/?p=563 will probably have some comments too.

Lowbrow Monster Mash

Late notice, but I’ll have a watercolor piece in tonight’s Monster Mash art show at the Lowbrow Emporium on South Lamar. If you’re in Austin, drop by between 7 and 11pm and say hi. (Address and other details on “the poster by Jason Chalker”:http://austinsketchsquad.blogspot.com/2007/09/they-did-mashit-was-monster-mash.html.) The art is from participants and friends of the Austin Sketch Squad, some of whom will be doing live art at the show. There will also be free beer and candy!

I snapped a “photo of my desk with art stuff”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/manton/1558857105/ while I was preparing for the show. I forgot to scan the final art, which sadly didn’t come out nearly as nice as my first sketch, but I’ll get a picture of that tonight. It was fun to work on and a nice break from late-night programming this week.

Welch on iPhone ringtones

Ambrosia Software’s “Andrew Welch in a TUAW interview”:http://www.tuaw.com/2007/10/03/tuaw-interview-ambrosias-andrew-welch-on-the-iphone-update-and/:

“The tack they are taking with the ringtones, though, is not ‘We’ll provide such great ringtones that you’ll want to buy from us’ but rather ‘This is all you’re ever going to be able to use, too bad if you want to use something else.’ I think they took a winning formula, and got it entirely backwards.”

This is the most disappointing part of what Apple is doing. Even with the iTunes Store, when they had to lock down the songs to appease the music industry, they still thought about the user: songs on 5 machines, unlimited iPods, multiple iTunes accounts on the same machine, great selection, and effortless buying experience. I can wait for a real iPhone SDK (WWDC 2008 please Apple kthxbye), but Apple of all companies should not let corporate deals needlessly cripple the ringtone user experience.

The Talk Show ad and porting to Windows

Episode 11 of “The Talk Show”:http://www.thetalkshow.net/ is up, and I’m happy to say that “Wii Transfer”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/ is this week’s sponsor. Even if you’ve been subscribed since the first show, click over to see the new site design by “Airbag Industries”:http://airbagindustries.com/. It’s beautifully done and I tried to create an ad graphic that feels at home there.

For the Wii Transfer ad text I included “Only for Mac”, partly to discourage any Windows listeners from clicking and to set expectations that Wii Transfer is not a web site, but also because after a decade of being ignored I think Mac users like to be reminded that there is a bunch of great software just for them.

Earlier this month “Daniel Jalkut wrote about the unlikelihood of MarsEdit for Windows”:http://www.red-sweater.com/blog/394/blogging-from-windows:

“I love writing software for the Mac. If I had to write software for another platform, I probably wouldn’t be nearly as interested in doing it. Heck, I might work more on becoming a musician, or a designer, or one of the other many trades that I have an interest in. For that reason, the chances of MarsEdit for Windows are almost nil.”

I love that Mac indies are receiving so many “what about a Windows version?” requests. I get similar emails every couple weeks about Wii Transfer for Windows, and luckily there are a couple Windows or open source alternatives that I can point people to. (Some of them are even cross-platform and available for Mac, but they are of the “double click this Java .jar file” variety, so I don’t generally consider them direct competition.)

It used to feel strange getting these requests. I would respond with “maybe” and “unlikely”, suggesting that it’s probably not going to happen but leaving open the possibility, as Daniel did when he said “almost nil”. Then I realized — who am I kidding? — I’m never going to port this to Windows regardless of demand. Never. “With the right team”:http://www.vitalsource.com/ I enjoy working on cross-platform apps, just as I appreciate meetings, planning, and the other formalities (in moderation) that come with a more corporate environment. But Wii Transfer isn’t about any of that; it’s my vacation from the real world, and on my time I use and build for Macs.

Also read the Airfoil for Windows section of “Ars Technica’s interview with Paul Kafasis”:http://arstechnica.com/journals/apple.ars/2007/2/2/6863 from February.

Using Acorn

I have a copy of CS3. Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash are all permanently in my Dock. If you do any graphics or animation work, you pretty much need these tools, in the same way that anyone who does any kind of corporate writing needs Word.

But truthfully, I haven’t had Microsoft Office installed for about a year (I use Pages or Leopard’s QuickLook to read other people’s Word documents), and I see a similar fate for some of the big Adobe apps. Despite “what some people have said”:http://theocacao.com/document.page/271 over the years, there will never be a permanent replacement for Photoshop — it is too powerful, does too much — but there could be a healthy market of smaller, focused tools that tackle one piece of the Photoshop puzzle.

“Flying Meat’s Acorn”:http://www.flyingmeat.com/acorn/ is the first of those tools that actually delivers. For the most part I can use Acorn as if I was using Photoshop. Keyboard shortcuts for switching tools, selection, basic layer manipulation — it all works.

I’ve been testing Acorn by working on some new UI mockups, a task it seems particularly well-suited for. One of the most refreshing things has been using a text tool that renders text just as it would look in a normal NSTextField control. Photoshop has a few anti-aliasing settings, but nothing that exactly matches the normal Mac OS X rendering, which makes mockups that mix and match screenshots from Interface Builder and new text look out of place.

As a 1.0, this is a very solid app, and most importantly it gets all that non-delicious stuff right. It would be easy when writing a Photoshop competitor to focus on the fun stuff — Core Image filters or whatnot — so it’s nice to see Gus didn’t gloss over the basics.

So what’s missing? After using it for a couple weeks for real work, the only things I am particularly missing are layer groups (totally understand why he left those out for now), Save for Web (which I hear is coming shortly), and Copy Merged (did I miss it?). And the big one: Open/Save for Photoshop files. It doesn’t need anything fancy in the .psd files, just the same features of a .acorn file to allow a designer to move between the apps if necessary.

Right as I’m about to post this, “Pixelmator finally ships”:http://www.tuaw.com/2007/09/25/pixelmator-hits-1-0/. I’ve only spent a few minutes with it, but it also looks pretty competent. Time will tell whether it holds up for real work as well as Acorn has for me.

Wii Transfer 2.5

This morning I finally rolled out “version 2.5 of Wii Transfer”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/, the most significant release of the product yet. It probably deserved a 3.0 label slapped on it, but I like how all the 2.x releases revolve around the sharing features (sending movies, music, and pictures to the Wii via the Opera browser). Besides, I have a special set of entirely new stuff planned for 3.0.

So what’s new? Movie streaming is the big one. You can now drag and drop movie files to convert to Flash Video format, which Wii Transfer’s web server will happily stream up to your Wii. It works surprisingly well considering the Wii has such limited memory and no hard drive. Last night I even tested with feature-length movies.

Other new features include background music for picture slideshows (both MP3 and AAC) and bookmark sharing, so that you can browse your Safari or Firefox bookmarks on your Wii to easily visit those sites. The “release notes”:http://www.riverfold.com/software/wiitransfer/releasenotes/ page has more of the details.

I’ve also bumped the price up to $19, where I expect it to stay for some time. One way I like to think about the price of Wii Transfer is in relation to another common purchase from Wii owners: games. It’s still less than half the price of a new Wii game.

Special thanks to the beta testers who provided feedback. There are still a number of things about movie sharing that I’d like to polish up, so additional minor updates are likely. I often use the “Wii account on Twitter”:http://twitter.com/wii to post these and other announcements.

Rails and Mac dev communities

“Damon Clinkscales has a write-up”:http://damonclinkscales.com/past/lone-star-charity-workshop-wrap-up/ of the Charity Workshop that took place before the Lone Star Ruby Conference in Austin a couple weekends ago. I skipped the conference and attended these tutorials instead, enjoying some great talks by Marcel Molina, Bruce Williams, and 6 other speakers all packed into 4 hours. I definitely picked up a few good tips on Ruby blocks and ActiveRecord, but I was not-so-secretly relieved that I didn’t attend the full conference.

“Since brunch on Sunday”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalnomad/1352583178/ after the conference, where I got to hear another wrap-up from co-workers, I’ve been thinking about why. Why did I sell my RailsConf ticket and book a flight to Chicago for C4 instead? Why skip a cheap Ruby conference practically in my own backyard? Why have I whittled my Ruby-themed blog subscriptions down to just a few from dozens?

Now I know: it’s about the difference in the communities. The Mac developer community is all about building unique apps, crafting an excellent user experience, and the “indie culture”:http://www.al3x.net/2007/08/c41-friday.html of building something small and useful. The Rails community by contrast seems focused on how few lines of code a controller method is. I’m lucky to work with people who care about that stuff, because it often does yield better applications, but I just don’t wake up in the morning excited about rewriting code, so why would I leave my family for a few days to hear someone talk about it?

There are many kinds of programmers. People who have hacked their whole life, dropping out of school to sell software; traditional developers with a CS degree and big company background; and even fine arts majors who fell into programming by accident as a way to build web sites. Based on that background, or what direction their passion takes them, I believe there is a balance between joy for the act of writing code vs. the pride in seeing the final product, and each programmer leans to one way or the other.

For Rails developers, at least many of the leaders in the industry who came from or were inspired by the extreme programming methodology and test-driven development, it’s the former: the art is found in the lines of code — how efficient can the logic be, how DRY, how RESTful.

For Mac developers, not just the “Delicious Generation”:http://www.rogueamoeba.com/utm/posts/Article/DeliciousGeneration-2006-11-06-10-00 but old school Mac developers as well, it’s the latter: the art is how the final product looks and behaves — being inspired to build something simply because you used another application that was great.

Cutting it this way allows me to see two things very clearly that were confusing before. It puts specifics to why I’ve drifted further away from the Rails cutting edge, and it explains why I get so annoyed with some of the newer crop of Mac developers who proclaim “bindings”:http://cocoadevcentral.com/articles/000080.php and garbage collection as beautiful gifts for programmer productivity even though they have no added value for the user experience.

Rails is a great framework, and I will continue to enjoy switching gears to write web apps in between my Mac projects. But I’m not going to tune back into that community until there is an equal focus on the bigger picture as it impacts the user (more scaling, more UI best practices), or whatever the next big thing to hit web apps ends up being.