inessential by Brent Simmons

I’m so looking forward to LIVE near WWDC — not just because it’s fun, but because the App Camp for Girls folks deserve a huge round of applause and a big party!

And, of course, we want to support their ongoing mission, even if doesn’t include summer camps.

Is it true that UISplitViewController doesn’t support three panes?

If so, then what I want from WWDC is three-pane support. Bigger iPads these days need it.

Fiery Feeds is looking pretty damn good!

Slack has a new thing — I think it’s new, anyway — where you can have a page where people can sign up to get an invitation. No longer a need to run your own thing.

Here’s a link for signing up for the NetNewsWire Slack group.

ScriptWeb for iOS found: it’s Automation Orchard. :)

Here’s what’s cool for me: normally I’d be stressing right now about a talk to give during WWDC — at AltConf or SwiftBy or somewhere — but I’ve retired from doing talks. It’s so nice not to be stressing!

ScriptWeb for iOS Should Be a Thing

Back in the ’90s and early 2000s — before we forgot how easy and fun it is to code up a little site and put it up on the web — people used to make sites for the communities they were in.

It was like: “I know! Let’s put up a page! It will link to all the cool resources somebody interested in __ would learn from. We’ll update it now and again when there’s new stuff.”

Key point: it’s not a blog. It’s a directory, and often a single-page site. (There might be a few bullet points under a “What’s New” section, though.)

The best example that I know of was ScriptWeb — which still exists, though it’s no longer updated. It was all about Mac scripting, back in the early days of AppleScript, in the days of UserLand Frontier and MacPerl and HyperCard.

ScriptWeb was great. I started off my career as a scripter, and I went to ScriptWeb all the damn time.

So… where’s the ScriptWeb for iOS automation? I’m not going to do it, but somebody should!

* * *

If I were doing one of these sites these days, I’d store the source on GitHub, so that people could see revisions, and, most importantly, be able to make pull requests and file bugs for things they think should be added.

In other words: let the community help with the site. It shouldn’t be a big time commitment.

NewsWave developer writes about his new app, including the principles behind the app and how he decided on the business model.

I finally converted this site to SSL. It’s not the first site I’ve converted, but it’s the last.

It wasn’t hard. I’m using Let’s Encrypt, and my hosting provider handles all the details, including renewing and updating.

The one thing I had to do manually was edit the .htaccess file so that http requests get redirected to https.

I’m still dubious on the use of https for sites like this one — but mainly I worry about sites that are hard to convert or where there’s nobody to do the work. What happens to what remains of the web’s history if, at some point, browsers won’t let us visit those sites anymore?

I’m thinking specifically of alexking.org, penmachine.com, and aaronsw.com. There are plenty of others.

* * *

The change from http to https means all the permalink and guids changed in my feed — so you may get reruns in your RSS reader. Sorry about that!

I discovered just today that there’s an independent forum for outliner software users: outlinersoftware.com. (I’ve been using outliners for decades. Couldn’t live without one.)

Becky Hansmeyer writes, wisely, of App Store pricing, that “you’re not going to make it up in volume.”

Dave Mark wonders if Marzipan apps will be available only through the App Store.

I wonder this too. This one of the biggest questions for this year’s WWDC. The answer matters to me personally: if Marzipan apps are App-Store-only, then I can’t use it for my apps.

More to read: Martin Pilkington on Appreciating AppKit, Part 1.

Hopefully we’ll find that UIKit is awesome for writing Mac apps. But it’s worth knowing what AppKit provides, because it’s part of understanding Mac apps.

Craig Hockenberry’s What to Expect From Marzipan should be required reading for iOS developers considering doing Mac versions.

I want to amplify a couple things.

If you’re writing a Mac app using Marzipan, you’re still writing a Mac app. You’re a Mac developer now! For real.

As a Mac developer, you should do what other Mac developers do: understand and respect the platform and get help from Mac users, power users, and fellow Mac developers.

I’ve always found that Mac users are rooting for our success. They want us to make great apps — and they reward us for it. It’s a smaller, more intimate community, and warmer than iOS world. But you can also blow it by not trying, by not respecting the Mac and Mac users.

And that’s the biggest investment here. It’s not the coding. It’s your own intellectual and emotional investment in the Mac itself.

If you decide you’re up for it, then great! And: thank you.

The Feature I Most Want in Web Browsers

Websites these days use crazy amounts of resources — and a lot of it goes to surveillance and tracking.

What I want is two related and similar things:

  • The ability to turn off JavaScript by default, and turn it on only for selected sites. (For me that would be sites like GitHub.)
  • The ability to turn off cookies by default, and, again, turn them on only for selected sites.

If it‘s the opposite — if I have to blacklist instead of whitelist — then I’d be constantly blacklisting. And, the first time I go to a site, it gets to run code before I decide to allow it.

I realize this will horrify many web developers: they’re accustomed to assuming that JavaScript is always available.

But we’re long past the time when we have to recognize that the extreme abuse of JavaScript and cookies is the norm. It’s the rare site that uses these for good.

I can’t believe we’ve tolerated this situation for so long.

* * *

PS You can still show ads without JavaScript. You just have to be able to render it server-side. I realize that’s harder.

NetNewsWire/Rainier Status

The big thing remaining for NetNewsWire 5.0 alpha is syncing with Feedbin. My head is just not into syncing right now — I’ve done it too many times — but, luckily, Maurice Parker is into it, and he’s working on it right now, and making great progress.

NetNewsWire for Mac

There are some bugs to fix for 5.0 alpha — most of them small, but on that list is, of course, a new app icon. (Since an evergreen tree no longer fits the app.) There are some other cosmetic changes and very small features to consider too. But syncing is the big thing.

Once we get to alpha, then it’s all about testing, fixing any bugs that come up, writing the Help book, documenting the code, and getting the website closer to its shipping state (adding things like screenshots). A whole lot of writing, mainly — which I hope to get help with. Once that’s all done, then we’ll call it beta. (Beta is all about final testing and finishing the website.)

If things go well, we’ll hit 5.0a1 by WWDC. Fingers crossed!

NetNewsWire for iOS

The app is surprisingly far along (again, thanks to Maurice). It too is mainly waiting on syncing — but it also needs polish and UI review before it gets to alpha. My plan is to get there some time in the summer.

I expect to finish it after finishing the Mac version. I’m not trying for a simultaneous release. (Why bother? It’s harder to do a simultaneous release. It’s better to ship what’s ready to ship the moment it’s ready.)

Rainier

While Maurice is working on syncing, I’m taking a NetNewsWire break and working on Ballard, the language built-in to Rainier. Currently working on the parser and evaluator (the thing that runs scripts).

I’ve never written a language before, and I’ve always wanted to. It’s fun! And brain-bending. (I’m writing all of it by hand. In Swift, of course.)

One of the goals with the language is to create something simple but easy-to-learn and useful. How-it-works should be understandable to anyone who wants to peek under the hood. (Since it’s open source, you can learn the entire thing.)

The language, and much of Rainier, will also be embedded into NetNewsWire — because that will allow me to use it to write new features for the app and it will allow people to automate NetNewsWire using an easy scripting language with a built-in storage system. (Other apps could embed it too. Even yours.)

My two apps are not just related — I think of them as two parts of the same project. Something about the open web and the freedom and power to make things.

Rainier for iOS

There could be a Rainier for iPad some day. I’m not sure it would make sense as an iPhone app — but as an iPad app, definitely. (Though I’m not sure Apple would approve it. If not, you could build it on your own.)

It’s even possible — depending on what we see at WWDC — that I could write the UI using UIKit and Marzipan. I totally will, if that still means I can make a great Mac app and deliver it outside of the App Store and not have to sandbox it.

We’ll know soon enough!

But, for now, I’m still working on the lower levels of Rainier, which would be shared code regardless (the language, standard library, storage system, etc.).

Anyway. That’s where I’m at. :)

PS There’s a single Slack group for both NetNewsWire and Rainier. Email me at brent@ranchero.com if you’d like an invitation.

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