A Macworld article yesterday pointed out how Tapbots pulled their alpha of Tweetbot for Mac, because of worries about Twitter’s new user caps. Twitter is now limiting the number of users a third-party app can have. As Lex Friedman said in the Macworld article:
For existing apps, the limit is either 100,000 users or double their user counts as of August 16, whichever is greater; for new apps, the limit is 100,000 users.
There is a serious problem here, not only for the future of third-party apps, but also for users who purchase these apps. First, the fact that these “tokens” – when you allow an app to access your Twitter account, it uses a token – are limited means that users may come up against these limits in unexpected ways.
For example, imagine that I’ve bought a Twitter client – I have bought several, in fact, both for OS X and iOS. Today, I have one Twitter account, but I want to set up another. I may be able to do so on Twitter’s web site, but if my client no longer has any available tokens, then I won’t be able to add the account to that client.
Or imagine that a client is approaching the limit. I may be able to buy a copy of the client, but if I don’t set up my account with it quickly, there’s a chance that I won’t be able to use it. This leads to problems of refunds, and we know that refunds via the iTunes Store and Mac App Store are problematic.
Here’s another scenario. I’ve allowed several apps to access my Twitter account. Let’s assume that Twitter decides to revoke these accesses after a certain amount of time if they are not used. This could be a way to free up tokens for third-party apps. However, if my token is revoked, I may find that I can no longer use a specific app that I stopped using, if, after an update to the app, I decide to start using it again. (This assumes that the app in question has hit its limit.)
There actually is some logic to Twitter revoking access. Let’s say that you downloaded a demo of an app, granted it access, then decided you didn’t like it. If you didn’t revoke that access, then that’s a token that can’t be reclaimed. (By the way, it’s a good idea to revoke access to any apps that you don’t use; not just so the tokens are freed up, but for security reasons. Go to your Twitter Apps settings to do this.)
The reason for these caps is simply that Twitter wants to phase out third-party clients, yet it is likely that if they did so abruptly they would face legal action. This is a shame – and stupid – as third-party clients are part of what made Twitter as successful as it is. Creating these caps not only limits what developers can do, but also will limit what users can do with apps that they have paid for.
One final point. If I were a developer, I don’t think I would want to be working with a business plan that says, “If my app is really successful, I can no longer sell it.” In fact, this may be Twitter’s goal. By dissuading developers from creating third-party apps, they hope that these apps will simply disappear.
Posted: 8/28/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPad, iPhone, Tools & Techniques Tags: apps, Twitter | No Comments »
I’m the kind of Mac user who wants to know what his computer is doing. I want to know if my downloads are coming at the right speed, if my memory is being maxed out, and if my processors are working hard or not. For this reason, I use bjango’s $16 iStat Menus to present all this information and more in my menu bar. Here’s what my setup looks like:
At the left is a fan icon, which shows temperature sensors and fans. This icon doesn’t do anything dynamically, but when you click on it you get a menu with lots of info about the various sensors and fans in your Mac. Next comes network throughput; green is outgoing data and red is incoming, and you can choose the update frequency for these, which show real-time data. Next comes RAM, then finally processors (my Mac mini has four cores). Skip to the right a bit and you can see the Date & Time info: the calendar icon showing the date, then the day and time. This is a bit better than the built-in display, because of the date icon.
There are plenty of other settings and display options as you can see below. For example, on my laptop, I use the Battery settings to provide more information than what Apple offers. You may want to use Disk Usage to see how much free space is on your hard disks, or disk activity to see if they’re working hard or not.
This app appeals to the part of me that wants to check certain things from time to time without opening an application. A glance at my menu bar tells me how fast a download is coming into my Mac, or whether my processors are maxing out. If you like to know these things, iStat Menus is a great tool to keep an eye on what your Mac is doing.
Posted: 7/31/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: apps, Mac OS X | No Comments »
The “security” program marketed by Zeobit called MacKeeper is a controversial program, especially because of Zeobit’s aggressive marketing tactics. The company advertises everywhere, and uses pop-ups and pop-unders, as well as ads mentioning other programs. You may see ads that suggest that you’ll click through and find information about a different security program only to find that you end up on a MacKeeper page. You’ll find lots of affiliate websites vaunting the merits of MacKeeper. The company has people who post bogus forum comments and reviews about the program. And they even have fake websites set up using the keywords “MacKeeper scam,” that tell you all the great things about the program.
I recently starting using Google AdSense ads on this site, and one of the first things I did was to block MacKeeper so their ads don’t appear here. I was surprised to receive an e-mail the other day from someone representing MacKeeper who offered to let me download the program and try it out. This person, writing from a Gmail address, said the following:
The reason for the email is to request you to do a review of the product on your site. You could download and test the product for free at [URL redacted]. If you like the product, you could feature it on your site. We are willing to discuss whether the review should be free or paid in light of your personal thoughts on the product.
The key phrase there is “whether the review should be free or paid.” The company is therefore seeking bogus reviews on legitimate sites and willing to pay for them. Today, I got the e-mail addressed to another site I manage, a site with a much larger audience. The company is not hesitating to contact Mac-related web sites of all sizes offering to pay for reviews.
If you’ve even considered buying MacKeeper, you should think twice. The program itself doesn’t seem to do what it promises, but above all, the aggressive marketing tactics of the company are such that I would stay away from them.
Posted: 7/23/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: apps, Mac OS X, security | 3 Comments »
With OS X Mountain Lion coming out very soon, Apple’s Notes app has the kind of annoyingly skeuomorphic interface that drives me batty, just like the iOS version of Notes.
(Image from this Macworld article.)
I’m looking for a simple notes app that has the following:
- Both OS X and iOS versions
- That sync via iCloud (Dropbox is fine; see my update below)
The first point is less important, as long as I can find good apps on both platforms. Notational Velocity would be perfect on the OS X side, but it doesn’t sync to iCloud. And I don’t need Evernote or Simplenote, as I only need this for a handful of notes, and I don’t want to see ads in my notes, and don’t need to pay for “premium” service to get rid of ads. (After all, I have iCloud already. SimpleNote is pretty good, actually, but I don’t need notes enough to pay even $20 a year.)
So, any recommendations?
Update: I found this blog post which explains how to use Notational Velocity with Hog Bay Software’s Plain Text iOS text editor, which I already have, syncing the two via Dropbox. I’m going to try this out; after setting it up, it seems to be an excellent solution.
Update 2: It started out well. But then I found that Notational Velocity on my Mac mini wasn’t updating for notes I created with my MaCBook Pro. I’m not sure why, as the files are in the folder. So it looks like this solution isn’t ideal.
Posted: 7/15/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: apps, Mac OS X | 12 Comments »
Some time ago – never mind how long precisely – most indie or shareware Mac applications cost at least $20 or $30. It wasn’t uncommon to pay, say, $50 for a useful utility, or $100 or more for a word processor or text editor. Now, browsing the Mac App Store, you can see that most apps sell for $10 or less, and those that cost more are the exception.
While these decreased prices are good for users in the short term, I think they represent a dangerous long-term trend, and that, over time, this will result in less good software available for the Mac.
I recently wrote about a utility I use to control iTunes, called CoverSutra. At the end of my article, I said, “It’s worth far more than the $5 it costs,” and, in fact, the first time I bought CoverSutra, several years ago, it did cost more: it was $20. (I know this isn’t the best example, as there was quite a kerfuffle when the developer released version 3, after having promised free upgrades to users of version 2, but I don’t want to go there…)
It was a fair price to pay for a utility that I use constantly – there, I just used it again to adjust iTunes’ volume. There are other utilities that I use daily, whose price of $30 or $40 is fair. (For example: LaunchBar, €24; Scrivener, a steal at $45; BusyCal, perhaps a bit expensive at $50, but much better than iCal…) But these days, as prices drop, users are no longer willing to pay more than $5 or $10; yet they’ll happily dump more than that on a movie, or even a cup of coffee.
Users seem to have lost sight of the value of software. And in some ways, Apple is to blame for this. When Apple opened up iOS to third-party applications, the rush to the bottom in pricing was nearly instantaneous. Developers could benefit from high sales to sell apps for a buck or two and still make money. These were often very simple apps that didn’t require a lot of development or support. When Apple launched the Mac App Store, it even started selling its own software at bargain basement prices. Pages, Numbers and Keynote are $20 each, rather than the higher price previously applied to the entire iWork suite. Heck, even Mac OS X is only $30 (and Mountain Lion, due out in a couple of weeks, only $20.) With full-featured applications selling at those prices, how can an independent developer justify selling a utility for the same price? How can a utility be worth more than an operating system?
Another problem is that software sold through the Mac App Store doesn’t offer demo versions (unless the developer offers a demo on their website; many don’t, because they’re happy letting Apple handle everything). If you can’t try out a $40 program, and you find it’s not right for you, then you’re out a lot of money. At $5, you might be tempted to take a chance, and just delete the software if you don’t like it.
By not offering demo versions of software, the Mac App Store is certainly losing sales. For example, my eyesight is not great, and I have found an annoying trend in software where developers don’t want users to be able to change fonts or font size. If I buy a specific program where I need to read text and discover I can’t change its size, then I simply can’t use the software. So, if I can’t download a demo version to find out, I’ll just look somewhere else. There are plenty of ways that a specific program just won’t “work” for specific users, and not offering demos prevents users from buying programs they may find useful.
Beyond that, I simply won’t buy an application that’s, say, $40, if I can’t try a demo. It’s too much to pay for a crap-shoot, and it’s the fault of the developers if they don’t offer demos. While I understand why some don’t want to bother with this, they’re harming themselves and other developers. Because most users think like me; they won’t cough up more than a few bucks on an unknown app unless they’re confident that the app will be useful.
On the other hand, I know a number of independent developers who are selling apps for $5 or $10, and who find that the cost of support far outweighs what they can make from these apps. Some developers are increasing their prices to compensate for this. Yet the Mac App Store still features plenty of apps in the less than $5 range.1
Over time, as users frown against spending more than a couple of dollars for software, we’ll start discovering that there isn’t that much great software. Sure, a young developer can make an app in his spare time, start selling it for $2, and find some success. But when he tries to make this his day job, and realizes how much work it is, even if he sells a lot (a lot is several thousand copies), he won’t be able to make a living from this. So he’ll sell the app or kill it off, and move on to another job.
This deflation in software pricing isn’t inevitable. It simply needs two things. First, developers need to price their software realistically. Sure, they can run promotions from time to time, dropping their prices to $2 or so to get their apps noticed, but they need to maintain realistic prices that reflect the value of their work. Second, developers who sell Mac software at more than $5 or so simply must offer demo versions on their web sites. This is not just a courtesy, but should be an obligation. Expecting someone to drop $50 on an app they haven’t tried is simply foolish. Finally, Apple should offer a way for developers to provide demo versions of software from the Mac App Store. This shouldn’t be hard to do, since all software downloaded from the Mac App Store is tied to an Apple ID.
1. There are certainly many exceptions to this: to name just a few, Coda, OmniOutliner and 1Password are all priced more realistically. But the overall trend is toward low prices.
Posted: 7/13/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: Apple, apps | 27 Comments »
As you all probably know, music is a big part of my life, and iTunes is the tool I use to organize and play my music. But iTunes itself isn’t enough. When I’m working and listening to music, it can be a hassle to switch to iTunes to pause what I’m listening to when the phone rings, to start playing music again, or to change the volume.
Enter CoverSutra. This $5 app from Sophiestication lets me control iTunes from the keyboard. Now there are lots of apps that can do this, but CoverSutra has enough extras to make it my tool of choice.
To start with, there’s a nifty bezel that you can display with a keyboard shortcut.
As you can see, there are controls on the bezel, so you can play and pause, skip tracks, change the volume and more (if you don’t want to use keyboard shortcuts). You can set a rating (which you can also do from the keyboard), and there are a couple of other options, such as turning on shuffle and repeat.
CoverSutra also displays a brief pop-up from the menu bar showing a track’s name and album art when it starts playing, so you can see what’s next in your playlist, and skip it if you want (using keyboard shortcuts).
The app also has a search box that you can display by clicking on its menu bar icon or by pressing a keyboard shortcut. (The app itself is hidden, with the exception of that icon in the menu bar.) Using this box, you can search for a song, artist, album or playlist. I use this mostly to launch playlists without having to switch to iTunes. But sometimes if I know which album I want to listen to, I use it for that as well.
While I spend a lot of time in my iTunes library, CoverSutra saves me plenty of time by giving me quick access to basic controls and simple searches. It’s worth far more than the $5 it costs, and if you listen to a lot of music, you’ll find that it makes controlling iTunes much easier.
Posted: 7/12/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X, iPod & iTunes Tags: apps, iTunes | 1 Comment »
I write for a living, and I write a lot. I do most of my writing in Bare Bones’ Software’s BBEdit, the best text editor for Mac, but I also do a lot of writing on web pages. When I write for my blog, I compose articles in BBEdit, but when I want to make changes to articles I’ve already posted, I get stuck in WordPress’s limited editing pane. I could copy text into BBEdit, correct it, then paste it back, but it’s a hassle, and I’ve never bothered.
Hog Bay Software’s $5 QuickCursor steps in to simplify that task. I select all the text, then press a keyboard shortcut. BBEdit opens a new document with the selected text. When I’m finished, I press Command-S to save my changes, then Command-W to close the window. At this point, QuickCursor pastes the text back into the WordPress editing pane, and I’m ready to go. I use this with BBEdit, but also with iA Writer, a simple text editor that I like especially for its iCloud syncing between my Mac and iOS devices. QuickCursor supports other text editors as well, notably the company’s own WriteRoom, another nice, simple text editor. You can see the QuickCursor menu to the left; I have several supported text editors installed, and have set keyboard shortcuts for BBEdit and iA Writer.
It’s true that I could do the same thing with a handful of keystrokes, but having a single keyboard shortcut to perform this operation has led me to use this regularly and not write texts in web forms. Not only for my blog, but also for forums when I write comments, or other web forms where I write more than a couple of lines of text.
You can also use this with e-mail, but there are some issues with quotes, and I find that Mail is good enough for composing the type of texts I write to send by e-mail.
If you write a lot, and especially write a lot in web forms or blog interfaces, QuickCursor is a great tool that can make your work easier.
Posted: 7/5/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: apps, Mac OS X | 4 Comments »
A neat new app for playing music on an iPhone and iPod touch came across my radar today. The 99¢ Glissando brings a new take to playing music from your library. Launch the app, and you’ll see album art filling must of your screen. The first thing you notice is that there are no buttons – to play or pause your music, just tap the screen. To move ahead or back to another song, just swipe to the right or left on the album art. To view your entire library, swipe down, and you’ll see playlists, artists, albums and podcasts.
The display is big and clear, and it’s perfect for listening to music when walking, running, exercising or anything else when you don’t want to have to zero in on the small buttons in Apple’s Music or iPod app.
There are other ways to access music. When you’re shuffling, if you come across a song by an artist you like, you can choose to play the album it’s from, or play other songs or albums by the artist. There’s even a Shuffle unplayed podcasts feature. And, since it interfaces fully with your library, it even updates the play counts and last played dates of tracks you listen to.
There are a couple of weaknesses, though. It can’t play Audible audiobooks, and doesn’t provide lists of composers or genres. Hopefully the developer will add these in the future. I’d also like to be able to scrub through certain tracks, especially podcasts, with a timeline. And it’d be nice if it could display lyrics. It’s only iPhone-sized, and I’d like to see a version for iPad with more features, to take advantage of the larger screen.
In the meantime, I’m glad I grabbed this for a buck. Check it out at www.glissandoapp.com.
Posted: 7/22/2011 by kirk | Filed under: iPod & iTunes, music Tags: apps, digital music, iOS | No Comments »