The Shape of Everything
A website mostly about Mac stuff, written by Gus Mueller
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The Pursuit of Tone: Buddy Guy

An Ernie Ball documentary on one of my favorite guitarists, Buddy Guy.

Buddy on Muddy Waters: "The rumor was he was sick, let's call him and go out there. And he answered. 'I ain't sick motherfucker, just keep the blues alive.'"

November 23, 2020

I'm hearing from a number of people that some old versions of Acorn aren't working correctly on Big Sur. This isn't unexpected, as apps that haven't had updates in 5-10 years probably aren't going to work on the latest and greatest versions of MacOS. Every year Apple changes fundamental things in the OS, and it's a ton of work for developers to keep an app looking correct and running with the latest MacOS versions.

At the same time, I've been amazed that people have been using Acorn 3.x for over 8 years. That's … kind of amazing? Acorn has gone through all kinds of changes since then and I think it's in a much better spot these days. But I can't help but be wowed that it was still working great for people for so long. They probably know that version of the app better than I do at this point.

I look back at Acorn 3's single palette and I get a little nostalgic. It seemed such a simpler time (it probably wasn't, but everything is rosy when you look back).

If you have an older OS and want to grab and older version of Acorn, we keep all the previous copies available for download on our legacy page. If you bought it from us, you'll always be able to get it from us.

As of now, the only officially supported version of Acorn for Big Sur is version 6.6.3. But if you're on a previous version of Acorn and it runs great on your OS and you love it, you do you and keep on keeping on.

How to Create a Bootable Installer for MacOS

In short, to make a boot disk for MacOS:

sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Catalina.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/MyVolume

I had no idea Apple was including a shell tool as part of the OS distribution, specifically for making bootable disks. And apparently it's been around for quite some time. I always squirrel away all the OS releases for testing, so this is super helpful for me.

Capo 4

Capo is an app that helps you learn songs by ear, available on both the Mac and iOS. It's one of my favorite apps and I use it on both iOS and the Mac to help figure out tricky guitar solos (Hendrix, SRV, etc.).

The new version has a really neat ML power chord detection algorithm. Chris Liscio, the creator of Capo, has a written a number of interesting articles about how exactly that happens. I've used it a bit, and it's great, but my favorite feature is still the spectrogram combined with the tabbing features. It's pretty amazing.

If you haven't checked out Capo already, you really should. And if you play guitar, you kind of need this app- there's nothing else nearly as good as Capo out there.

Accelerating TensorFlow Performance on Mac

In short, Apple has created a fork of TensorFlow (a machine learning package) which is accelerated on Macs (including the new M1 Macs).

One of the problems I've encountered when trying out machine learning ideas is that a lot of sample code and tutorials out there are written with TensorFlow in mind, but CoreML is the standard library on MacOS. And the TensorFlow to CoreML model converters seemed a bit finicky. I'm hoping this new Apple improved branch of TensorFlow will be a lot nicer.

Apple App Store Small Business Program

Starting January 1, 2021, App Store developers can apply to have their commission rates dropped from 30% to 15% if they made less than $1 million in proceeds the previous year.

This is very good news and I'm happy to see a reduction in fees finally happen.

Can we get upgrade pricing next?

Intel’s Disruption is Now Complete

James Allworth:

Indeed, that deal between Apple and Intel was more important for Intel than it could have ever possibly realized. But it wasn’t because Intel had sewn up the last of the desktop computer processor market. Instead, it was because Intel had just developed a relationship with a company that was thinking about what was coming next. And when Apple were figuring out how to power it — and by it, I’m talking about the iPhone — they came to their new partner, Intel, for first right of refusal to design the chips to do.

How did Intel respond?

November 13, 2020

First up, I released Retrobatch 1.4.3 this morning as a Universal Binary, meaning it will run natively on the new Apple Silicon Macs. There are also a couple of bug fixes, features, and compatiblity fixes for MacOS 11 Big Sur. It's just like the version of Retrobatch on Intel Macs… just… you know, for Apple Silicon now.

I recently posted an article on Flying Meat's website about Acorn and Big Sur and Apple Silicon. In short, Acorn 6.6.3 (which is now out), is fully compatible with Big Sur on Intel. Acorn 6 on Apple Silicon runs pretty well, but the the seed fill based tools are a little pokey (magic wand selection, flood fill). But otherwise it runs just fine. It's currently running in Rosetta however.

I do have a version of Acorn which is a Universal Binary where everything works great, but there are big changes in it and I'm going to have a public beta for it first. I'm not quite there yet, but hopefully soon, and I'll be posting about it here as soon as it's ready.

So how about those new Apple Silicon Macs?

They look pretty sweet to me. The thing I'm probably looking forward to most is the unified memory architecture (aka UMA) between the CPU and GPU the new M1 processors provide. UMA speeds up so many things in Acorn by virtue of not having to copy pixels around as much. Brushing is faster, rendering is faster, and things just feel smoother. It's nice.

So how about MacOS 11 Big Sur?

In general, I think it's a good upgrade. The new sounds are great, the overall feel of it is decent. However, I can't get past the super plain toolbar icons that are showing up in Safari, Mail, and Xcode's preferences windows. Ditto for the iOS style icons in the Dock. I think it's a great idea to take cues from iOS, but I don't think this should extend to everything. Mac icons have always been rich in color and detail, and have always had a certain style to them. These iOS icons just don't fit.

But overall, I don't find myself missing Catalina. The collection of little good things in Big Sur make me happy with it.

November 7, 2020

There's lots of celebrating, not just in the US but around the world, that Joe Biden has won the US presidency. We heard fireworks this morning when all the networks called it.

The impromptu celebrations in the streets right now are pretty amazing. I've seen lots of great clips, but this one of everyone singing "Sweet Caroline" in Black Lives Matter Plaza is my favorite. It's a silly song that everyone knows the words to, and the energy from the crowd is amazing. You can see multiple bottles of champagne opened in celebration. People are overjoyed right now, for good reason.

October 17, 2020
Ballot drop-off is super easy in Washington.

I received my US election ballot yesterday, filled it out today and dropped it off at the nearest drop box. Voting up here in Washington State has been mail in (or drop off) for a long while now, and it's pretty awesome. No lines and I can sit down and take my time to fill it out.

There were a number of things to vote on, but I waited until last to fill in my choice for president, expecting to feel a rush of satisfaction. And there was a bit of that, but there was also a whole range of emotions I wasn't expecting including sadness and anger and frustration; a whole spectrum of other feelings. But the biggest emotion I felt was fear that this train-wreck of an administration would continue for another four years.

I know it's not as easy for everyone to vote as it is for us in Washington. But regardless, please vote if you are of age. And if you're still undecided, vote for someone who cares for all of America, vote for Biden.

Idle Words on Protest and Power

Maciej Cegłowsk has some good advice:

When the George Floyd protests began to spread nationally in the summer of 2020, I noticed many people on social media asking Hong Kongers for advice on protest tactics–which apps to use, what equipment to wear, the best way to extinguish tear gas. Americans were preparing for a summer of protest the way they would for any new activity—by making sure they had the best gear.

As a witness to the Hong Kong protests, I shared this admiration for the protesters and their sense of flair. But the lessons I wished my fellow Americans would absorb from the protests were more strategic. In paticular, I wanted them to focus on what hadn’t happened in the territory during a long season of protest.

September 23, 2020

This past September 18th was the 50th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's death. He would have been 77 years old.

Hendrix was amazing. Beyond amazing. Something on a whole other level. It's hard to explain.

It seems that the longer I play guitar (going on 27 years now) the more I appreciate just what a master he was. Hendrix's playing went far beyond where anyone else had gone with a guitar. And it struck me while reading a passage about his age when starting (15 years old with a five-dollar used acoustic guitar), that Hendrix only played for 12 years of his life.

Twelve years! Just thinking about that breaks my mind. Any other person would need multiple decades to reach the level of agility to mimic what he did, let alone invent the techniques and music.

It makes me sad to wonder what music Hendrix would have made if he hadn't died.

And when he passed away, Hendrix was just getting into my favorite musical phase with the Band of Gypsys (if you haven't listened to it, the box set "Songs For Groovy Children: The Fillmore East Concerts" is amazing collection (Music link)). This live version of Power of Soul might as well be my anthem.

I'll leave you with this blurb from the Guardian:

The story goes that one night, shortly after Hendrix had arrived in London, Eric Clapton, then with Cream, and feted as “God” for his virtuosity, invited him to jam on stage. Hendrix showed God how to play. A furious Clapton confronted Hendrix’s manager, Chas Chandler, after the gig: “You never told me he was that fucking good.”

Jimi's Woodstock GuitarThe guitar Hendrix played at Woodstock, which I got to see at [Seattle's MoPOP](https://www.mopop.org//exhibitions-plus-events/exhibitions/hendrix-wild-blue-angel/).
September 3, 2020

School started yesterday for my daughter Madeline. She's entering grade 3, but classes are all virtual because of the ongoing covid crisis. This generally sucks, but like the majority of parents in our area, we weren't going to have Madeline attending in person classes because the risk of catching covid (or passing it along) are just too great.

The upside to this is that since school is all via computer, we can throw everyone in a car with a laptop, have it connect to the internet via my iPhone, and Madeline can do her assignments while we're driving to a local climbing crag.

And that's how Madeline's first day of school also happened to be the day she lead her first rock climb.

Madeline's first lead climb

She's been wanting to do this for a while, but we needed to find a simple enough climb that we knew she could cruise up and have the confidence to pull off without a hitch. She was a little frightened, but seemed to enjoy it and wanted to lead another climb- which she did!

And then after a bit of climbing we visited a rope swing we passed on the way to the climb, and she took a couple of plunges in the Snoqualmie river.

Not a bad way to start the school year.

Our favorite local climbing gym, Vertical World North, has also recently opened up with reservations. They have also finished up the upstairs bouldering area and Madeline and myself made sure to be some of the first folks in.

I was pretty skeptical at first (because how can any place open safely with covid?) and our initial intentions for visiting the gym were to restart our membership so they could start making money again, check out the new routes, and then leave. But as I was walking in, I ran into the the president of the company in the parking lot, chatted a bit and expressed my concerns, and he told me about all the precautions they were taking. I won't mention everything they are doing and have done, but I can say I was impressed at the work they went into to make sure everyone stays safe.

The ventilation is impressive- they installed an additional Big Ass Fan (yes, that's the real name) bringing the total to 3, reversed the direciton of the airflow so they pull air up to the ceiling where the existing venting fans blow the air outside. In addition, the bouldering area has a number of fans (including at least one oscillating that I saw) to direct air in from an open door and generally making sure there's lots of fresh air for everyone. They have limited the capacity for both the bouldering area as well as the roped areas, masks are required for everyone, and generally it felt pretty safe.

We ended up bouldering for a little over an hour (all the routes were rad) and even got on a rope for a few mintues. We've been back a couple of times, and it hasn't been crowded at all.

Upstairs bouldering at Vertical World NorthUpstairs bouldering at Vertical World North.

Another section of bouldering at Vertical World NorthAnother section of bouldering at Vertical World North.

More bouldering More bouldering.

Some of the existing rope climbing Some of the existing rope climbing.

We're happy that Vertical World is up and running again, and will be visiting a bunch more in the future.

Bjango: Using SVGs in asset catalogs

Marc Edwards:

SVGs can now be used as assets for iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and watchOS apps. The most exciting part of this new feature is that there’s not much to say — it’s full SVG support, and it just works.

Germany’s Corona-Warn-App uses FMDB

The Corona-Warn-App is an app that helps trace infection chains of SARS-CoV-2 (which can cause COVID-19) in Germany. The app is based on technologies with a decentralized approach and notifies users if they have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2. Transparency is key to both protect the app's end-users and to encourage adoption.

I found out a couple of days ago that the iOS version of the Corona-Warn-App is using FMDB, which I find delightful. FMDB has been around a long time and it's still an Objective-C project, but it keeps on kicking and showing up in places I'd never imagined.

June 24, 2020

I'm really enjoying the format of the WWDC videos that are coming out. The talks I've been interested in are short and focused, so I don't have to fast forward through sections I'm not interested in.

The code sections in the Developer app are almost pretty awesome too. It's a shame the Developer app is a buggy port from iOS- anytime I click on a code section to copy it, the scrollview either pages to the top or goes to some other random location. It's super frustrating. Hopefully Catalyst changes in MacOS 11 will make it better.

I've got Acorn compiling as a universal binary now, so in theory it'll run on the new ARM processor Macs. Retrobatch is mostly there as well, but I'm feeling lazy about it at the moment and will finish it up when I have actual hardware to test on. I can't imagine it'll take more than a couple of hours at this point. Maybe even less- I've got a 3rd little app I've been fiddling with and all it took to compile was updating Sparkle. We'll see what happens when it actually runs though.

Speaking of, I'm seeing folks get approved for the new developer transition kits who don't even have Mac apps! Ship dates and everything. I'm still over here crossing my fingers, wondering why this guy who's been developing Mac apps for over 20 years hasn't gotten one yet. Yeesh.

Update: I'm good on the dev kit!

Anyway, the more I think about the ARM transition, the more I get excited about it. Between Rosetta 2, running iOS apps on the Mac, virtualization of other ARM based OSs, and of course AppKit- Macs are going to be an amazing development environment. And with Apple's commitment to keeping existing tech around (like OpenGL, OpenCL, etc.), something I'm still shocked by, bringing existing apps forward to the new architecture is going to be a breeze.

While some of the changes in MacOS Big Sur aren't to my liking (what the hell happened to the Messages icon? The shadows are horrible!), I'm pretty happy with it overall and I can't wait to ship my updates for it.

June 22, 2020

I feel like I have whiplash.

I'm super happy that the Mac is finally moving to  processors and I've already applied for the dev kit. Hopefully I'll be getting it soon. Can we call it the Chip, instead of "Apple Silicon"? Maybe the name of the new processors just hasn't been announced yet?

The new MacOS UI is going to take a bit getting used to, but I'm OK with it. In fact, it's moved in a direction I was expecting so it lines up nicely with some things I've already started working on for Acorn. Retrobatch will also fit nicely in it.

Rosetta 2 - I did not see that happening, which is kind of amazing and to be honest I'm slightly disappointed about! There's too much backwards compatibility in my opinion. Apparently OpenGL is still present as well.

iPad and iPhone apps running on ARM Macs- that's crazy and not something I thought I'd see happening either. And that's the part that is giving me whiplash. What's going to happen when the Mac is flooded with iOS apps? Are prices for apps on the Mac going to plummet like they did on iOS? Will I still be able to make it as an indie in five years?

I hope so, and I'll continue to make the best apps I can, but I can't say I'm not worried.

Overall, I'm excited. And I can't wait to start working with those new processors.

Wil Shipley on the State of the App Store

Wil Shipley on the App Store:

We have all been asking for years now for these changes. I've filled out three or four of these surveys before. I know Phil specifically says he doesn't want to hear about upgrade pricing anymore, but Phil also is working for the world's richest company, which sells hardware and gives software away.

I also recently filled out this survey and I wish I had been as thoughtful in my responses as Wil is in his. It probably won't surprise you to know that I agree with everything he mentions.

June 10, 2020

With all the recent rumors flying around about the Mac transitioning to ARM processors, I've seen some assertions about what this means for software going forward. I thought I could chime in on this as someone who's been developing software for the Mac for a long time, including the last architecture transition from PowerPC to Intel.

Let it be stated that I have no knowledge of what Apple's internal plans are. These are educated guesses based on my years of experience of working with Apple and Apple's frameworks. And maybe this is all for nothing, since this transition might not even happen!

Assertion: The Cocoa frameworks are going away with this transition.

I find it very unlikely that Cocoa is going away anytime soon. Cocoa is largely written in Objective-C, and since Apple has been heavily investing in Swift the idea is that Cocoa must be going away.

Cocoa is the framework that drives pretty much every app on MacOS. Without NSWindow, without NSView, you've got no apps on the Mac. Apple could completely rewrite Cocoa in Swift, but that would be a monumental waste of resources and would take many years to accomplish. Apple famously keeps its teams small, so I don't see them spending the time to do this, only to say 5 years from now "Hey- it's all in Swift now! Isn't that great? Sorry we didn't get anything done in the meantime and here's a whole new set of bugs you'll be discovering as well".

"But wait! What about SwiftUI?" you might say. SwiftUI is barely one year old. Look at how long it's taken Swift to get to a point where it's not incredibly painfully to use. SwiftUI is most likely on a similar track, and regardless, many parts of SwiftUI also sit atop Cocoa.

Assertion: Objective-C is going away with the ARM transition, and it'll be Swift only from here on out.

Objective-C isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Too much of MacOS and too many important applications rely on it. Heck- the Cocoa frameworks are written in Objective-C! Objective-C is still incredibly important to Apple, even if the marketing department doesn't like to mention it.

And again, Swift code on MacOS completely relies on Objective-C.

Assertion: ARM Macs will exclusively run Catalyst apps.

The thinking goes, since major apps like Microsoft Word and Photoshop already have versions on the iPad, it would be a piece of cake for them to recompile and run on MacOS as Catalyst apps.

This would be a serious downgrade for users of these apps on MacOS, and would be a major departure from the way the apps currently behave on MacOS. And even with Catalyst, it's still a lot of work for an iPad app to look and feel like a Mac app. You're still going to need a team to make sure everything ports correctly, in addition to adding all the missing functionality that your users would expect to be there. I just don't see this happening either.

Assertion: ARM Macs will only allow sandboxed app.

This could happen. I give it a 50/50 shot at happening. Personally, I hope it doesn't happen as there are still many problems with the sandbox on MacOS that have yet to be resolved, even though developers have been complaining about it for years.

Assertion: OpenGL is going away on ARM for MacOS.

Yea, this is totally happening. OpenGL and OpenCL have been deprecated for a while now in favor of Metal. Apple will use this opportunity to drop them.

Will Apple release ARM based Macs this year? I hope so, I think the upside is huge. We'll lose things like VMware and other x86 based applications which will be sad, but if it brings better performance and longer battery life, I'm all for it.

June 3, 2020

Shortly after the 2016 elections I found myself, my wife and daughter (almost 5yo), and a couple of thousand other people down in Seattle for an event around Green Lake. It was a moment of everyone joining together, a show of solidarity. Or something. I live in a very liberal area so you can imagine people were feeling pretty down and not sure what to do after the election.

There was a playground within walking distance from where we stood, so afterwards our daughter was swinging from bars and running around with other little kids, as they do. I remember seeing one child with curly dark hair wearing a shirt that said Black Lives Matter on it. I looked to see if their parents were wearing similar clothing.

Of course they weren't. Why weren't they? Why weren't any adults wearing this message? Why wasn't I? I agreed that Black Lives Matter. We were all outraged by what we were seeing happening to black people in America. But why did I never see expressions of this outrage in the physical world? And when I do, why are the adults having the children wear the clothes?

It was embarrassment or a fear of being judged, I surmised. Was that the reason I had seen no adults, in real life, sharing this message? Was this why I wasn't proclaiming this for everyone to see?

It gnawed at me. The memory of this little kid wearing a BLM shirt and the shame I felt for not doing the same never left my mind.

So I made some bumper stickers. 3 inches by 10 with black text on a white background. Black Lives Matter. Easy to read and hard to miss. It's the only bumper sticker on my car, and for years I've been driving with it, on the lookout for reactions. I kept the extras in my glove compartment, hoping someone would say something as I parked. Maybe exchanging some sort of positive dialog and I'd be able to hand out the extras and they would show up on other cars.

Every little reminder to my white neighbors would help, I thought. Hello random white person behind me in an SUV- have you thought about your privilege today? It's a bumper sticker. It's not much, but it's something.

Over three years now, and I still have all of the unused bumper stickers in my car. Nobody has said a thing. I was being foolishly optimistic hoping I could convince or talk to someone about it.

...

But this is supposed to be a post about what's happening in these socially distant days.

Life continues, for most of us.

We apparently have a small family of rabbits living off our grass and clover and vegetable garden. Three small ones and at least one adult. Kirstin has tried to block them from entering under our fence, but she has found out it doesn't work very well from the videos I show her of bunnies squeezing on through.

She's torn, as am I. She's worried about the strawberries we grow every year and I'm slightly pissed about the decapitated pepper plants. But the bunnies are so damn cute! Our dog is super curious about them as well, and wants to be their giant friend. There may or may not be a bunny relocation effort in the near future, depending on Kirstin's tolerance. I'm fine with them, enough peppers will survive.

I haven't had a pizza takeout for a number of weeks because I started a new project to turn our little tool shed into a bouldering cave. It feels good to be pulling on climbing holds again, and to hang from a 50° wall, even if it is only 3 or 4 feet off the ground. This combined with traversing on our retaining wall is keeping me in climbing shape. I'm still hopeful that the climbing gym will open up again at some point this summer, but I have no doubt that it'll be closed again in the fall when the second wave hits.

And so life goes on. Waiting for what feels like forever and at the same time, no time at all. Hoping a vaccine will come sooner rather than later.

...

I guess I lied earlier about how many BLM bumper stickers I have left. This past week 6 of them went to new homes, via Kirstin, who let people know they were available on a local moms mailing list.

I hope to see them on cars around town. I hope to see more reminders for everyone, everywhere, that Black Lives Matter. I'm hopeful for change, but if things continue as they are it'll only happen one inch at a time, one beating after another. Another murder. And then things will quiet down again.

A bumper sticker feels pointless and more than a little silly. I know I can do more than this piddly little thing and who am I, hiding up North away from all the violence saying "Hey look at me I'm doing my part!". I'm not doing all I can. Barely any of us are, and some of use are actively pushing against change.

But I hope that even if it makes only one person stop and think for a few seconds, or to feel some shame, it's done something positive. It's too easy to move on and forget about injustice for a while once the flames burn out. I hope that after the current protests die down and the outrage is put away for a while, I hope to see more reminders for everyone. Let's not forget and let's be mindful of our prejudices and make changes every day, and let us keep on reminding our white neighbors and friends that America is still awash in racism. And let's vote for people who will make change in the right direction, and let's push back and call out racist behavior when we see it