inessential by Brent Simmons

March 2004


Oh, no, please, not Gallagher. It’s tough enough being a developer without also being covered with exploded watermelon guts.

Birthday gifts

On birthdays I like to give a gift. If I had a new beta of NetNewsWire to post, I would, but it’s not quite there yet. Instead I’ll just tell you a little about it.

After doing an upgrade just about every month last year, we needed to take a little longer to do a bigger upgrade, to add a bunch of new features.

I’m not going to tell you about all the new features today, but I will talk about two of them. (There are many more... this just scratches the surface.)

Browsing in place

This is perhaps the most-requested feature, the ability to view pages directly in NetNewsWire.

Some notes about this feature...

1. NetNewsWire already uses Web Kit (the Safari HTML renderer) to render item descriptions—in the current version, there is extra code to prevent browsing-in-place from working. So the first step in making this work was to remove code, which is not what you’d normally expect when adding a new feature.

2. NetNewsWire, like many newsreaders, is a hybrid of email/Usenet apps and browsers. This feature is at the very intersection of these two types of applications, which makes it quite a user interface challenge.

3. Even though this feature is requested so often, and even though it’s demonstrably useful, a number of NetNewsWire testers were against having it appear at all. They’re in the camp that says, “Each app should do just one thing and do it well.” I’m in the same camp, by the way—the disagreement comes in when you try to define what “just one thing” is. In the case of newsreaders, it’s increasingly obvious that browsing is part of that “one thing” that a newsreader does. But, just so you know, this feature is an option.

Weblog editor overhaul

The new weblog editor is a 99% re-do. The user interface has been completely redesigned, and most of the under-the-hood code has been rewritten.

There are several goals:

1. Make the weblog editor easier to use and, at the same time, more powerful, with a more intuitive and more aesthetic interface.

2. Fix bugs (things like categories not always showing up).

3. Support more of the special features of various weblog systems (things like image uploading, support for Movable Type and TypePad keywords, etc.).

4. Make the text editor itself more powerful.

5. Add some other new features which I’m going to leave as a surprise for now.


screen shotThere are lots of other new features to talk about...

But for now I’m just going to get back to work.


Happy Birthday to me! Happy Birthday to Josh Lucas! Happy Birthday to Nicholas Riley!

RSS Meetup

So—I had signed up for RSS Meetups, and then I got an email asking me to vote on a venue.

Then I checked, and found that I was the only Seattle-ite who had signed up, so I made my decision. The meetup will be held wherever I happen to be at the scheduled time, and everybody (me) will be in attendance, and we don’t have to talk about RSS if we don’t feel like it.

In fact, if we just want to watch TV, or play with the cat, or do some coding—that’s all fine.

“Lone coders” and outsourcing

Om Malik asks, can lone coders reverse the outsourcing trend?

Art, literature, culture, politics

The Reading Experience: “There are lots—lots—of purportedly ‘cultural’ blogs that also offer up plenty of political rhetoric, but few, at least in my reading, that simply examine art, literature, and culture as if they were pursuits with value separate from ongoing political discourse.”

This is a subject near to my heart. It’s sad how people so often write about literature through political-ideology-colored glasses.

(In an alternate universe, is a weblog about books. In fact, the name “inessential” refers to literature.)

Video interview

There’s a video interview with me in the latest Mac Developer Journal. Jason Snell interviewed me via iSight.

(I haven’t watched it yet, because I’m not used to looking at myself on video. I figure it’s a lot like when you hear your voice on tape—only ten times worse.)

This is a use of iSight I hadn’t thought of when the iSight first came out. I wonder if it will catch on—will journalists interview more developers this way? I have to say that I enjoyed it, and I’d do it again.

By the way, this wasn’t the first time I was interviewed via iSight, but it’s the first time it was recorded so people could watch it later.

macsb wiki

The Mac Software Business mailing list now has a companion wiki, thanks to the projectforum folks.

OS 9.1 installation update

Thanks for all the help the other day with my question about upgrading to OS 9.1 on a machine with a broken CD drive.

As a couple people mentioned, it turned out I just could just download the update and install it without having to boot from a CD or other external drive. It worked! Problem solved. Thanks!

cocoa.mamasam donation

The best Cocoa programming resource that I know of—I use it pretty much every single day—is the searchable mailing list archives at

I hadn’t noticed until today that they take donations, so I donated $30. It’s easily worth it—this site has saved me many hours of head-scratching. It’s a very nearly indispensable part of my programmer’s toolkit.