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Brent Simmons’s weblog.


One Stage

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 13:29:45 -08002016-12-02T13:29:45-08:00

It’s been said that there are several stages of grief, starting with disbelief, hitting depression somewhere in the middle, and ending with acceptance.

And many people have assumed that our reaction to the latest Presidential election would, or should, follow that model.

I don’t think that’s right. At least not for me. My stages-of-grief model looks like this:

  1. Rage.

That’s the complete list. I don’t claim that it’s productive or moral or that I’m a good person — just that it’s true.

Here’s the thing: this isn’t really grief. You probably know all too well what it’s like to lose a loved one. A very sad thing happens, and you recover slowly, and not in a straight line. That’s grief.

But the Presidential election isn’t one sad thing that we’ll recover from. It’s a promise that terrible things will happen later.

This is not grief.

To everyone who continues to call for unity, who says that we should get over it and come together as a country, I’d ask why should I.

CocoaConf Yosemite: 20% off sale

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 13:18:26 -08002016-12-01T13:18:26-08:00

This March will be my third trip in three years to Yosemite — I can’t miss it. I’m hopelessly addicted to one of the most beautiful places in the world.

You can go too! It’s 20% off if you register this week.

It’s not a code conference — it’s about people and art and love. Sessions are in the morning and evening, so you can go on hikes during the day.

It’s so much more beautiful and awe-inspiring in real life than on your desktop.

The Reverse of the Halo Effect

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 10:40:12 -08002016-11-21T10:40:12-08:00

With Apple no longer making displays and wireless routers, we have to look elsewhere for these things. And when we start looking elsewhere, we customers who have been in the habit of just buying the Apple thing get in the habit of looking outside Apple for things.

I can’t help but think that it’s a kind of an anti-halo effect. I can’t help but think that once we start looking elsewhere, we’ll look elsewhere more and more. We’ll get used to it. We’ll find out that other companies make things that work and are, in some cases, delightful.

Here’s a case: my wife bought a Fitbit when I bought my Apple watch. I envy her iPhone app which is so much cooler than Apple’s fitness software; I envy her not having to charge her device every night; I envy her not having to wear a heavy thing on her wrist.

And her Fitbit does sleep tracking, which I’d like to do — but my Apple watch is charging while I sleep, and there’s no way I’d be comfortable sleeping with that bulky thing on my wrist anyway.

Another case: one of my side projects is a Mac app, and clearly that means I’m going to be running a Mac. But I have another project that’s a web thing (Ruby/Sinatra). What if all I did was web apps, and I wanted a powerful desktop development machine? If I’m already in the habit of looking outside Apple for my stuff, I might very well consider a Linux machine.

The decision to pull out of displays and routers — and Applescript and automation? — may make sense from a point of view that can be expressed in a spreadsheet, but it may not make sense from a psychological point of view.

Maybe — I say “maybe” because I don’t know — maybe shopping elsewhere leads to more shopping elsewhere.

This Fascist Shambles and the End of Medicare

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 13:01:55 -08002016-11-17T13:01:55-08:00

If you’ve seen reports about how the Trump transition is incompetent, vindictive, and corrupt you may have been tempted to take heart that a Trump administration would be bad at actually getting things done.

I was tempted too. But remember — these people got Trump elected. They are effective.

You might think Trump’s too lazy to do the reading and pay attention during briefings. He’s bad at those things. But he’s not lazy — he works harder than you or I do.

I wouldn’t place even the smallest shred of hope in their not getting things done. They will get things done. And you will not like those things.

* * *

Bankers are celebrating Trump’s victory. Of course they are. This administration is not for the white working class — it’s for the top of the 1%.

Trump goes out to an expensive steak restaurant and tells everyone there how he’s going to lower their taxes.

* * *

You might think that at least he’s got an infrastructure plan, so there’s that. Maybe it takes a Republican President and Congress to get infrastructure spending passed.

But hold on: it’s not what you think. It’s the privatization of infrastructure. It’s tax breaks in the hopes that it would make our roads and bridges and airports better.

If it were anything else — if it included actual, needed infrastructure spending — the Republican Congress would kill it, and they’d be able to point to that and claim that they’re independent, that they’re not just blind Trump supporters.

The one good thing you think is on the table is not actually on the table. Don’t be fooled.

* * *

You might be tempted to think there are two Republican parties: the party for the bankers and the party for the white working class. There are not two parties: there is just one, and it is not the party for any working class.

* * *

You remember laughing when Tea Party protestors would hold up signs like “Government Hands Off Medicare!”

Of course it’s silly, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt since you can’t fit that many words on a sign. The sentiment is clear: the government should not fuck up Medicare.

But it’s going to. Paul Ryan and friends are going to privatize it, which is another way of saying that it is essentially going away.

So: not only will millions lose their health insurance when ObamaCare is repealed, but future senior citizens will not have the guarantees of health care that current and previous generations received.

Which includes me, and probably you, and a whole bunch of people in that white working class.

This is going to happen. Not down the road some time — next year. 2017.

* * *

Stop thinking that there’s anything that can’t possibly happen.

You might think that there’d be too high a political price to pay for ending Medicare — but then you thought that a guy who brags about sexual assault couldn’t be elected President.

There is no regression to normality. Cooler heads won’t prevail.


Wed, 16 Nov 2016 14:22:44 -08002016-11-16T14:22:44-08:00

Sal Soghoian writes:

I joined Apple in January of 1997, almost twenty years ago, because of my profound belief that “the power of the computer should reside in the hands of the one using it.” That credo remains my truth to this day. Recently, I was informed that my position as Product Manager of Automation Technologies was eliminated for business reasons. Consequently, I am no longer employed by Apple Inc. But, I still believe my credo to be as true today as ever.

Sal has been so awesome for so long, and he deserves a giant round of applause.

And Apple deserves us asking “What the hell, dude?”

As a Mac user and developer, this worries me. If this is part of an effort to so lock up the Mac that scripting and automation of apps is no longer practical, then I would disagree strongly with that effort. But I don’t know that that’s true.

Sal also writes:

Ask Apple. Seriously, if you have any questions or concerns about the future of user automation, ask Apple. If user automation technologies are important to you, then now is the time for all good men and women to reach out, speak up and ask questions.

OmniOutliner 5 Pro Public Test

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:58:56 -08002016-11-16T13:58:56-08:00

Get it while it’s hot!

I’ve been part of the OmniOutliner team for quite a while — and I love working on what I believe is the greatest outliner in the history of the category. And it’s getting even better.

Some of the new features include filtering, distraction-free writing, and customizable keyboard shortcuts. Encrypted documents — super important these days — is coming very soon.

(Note about encryption: OmniFocus already supports end-to-end encryption.)


Wed, 16 Nov 2016 12:55:03 -08002016-11-16T12:55:03-08:00

When you see an (R) next to a politician’s name — Donald Trump (R), Mike Pence (R), Paul Ryan (R), Mitch McConnell (R) — remember that the R stands for Russia.

Empathy and Anger

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 12:54:39 -08002016-11-16T12:54:39-08:00

In the past year I’ve read a bunch of articles telling the stories of the people we’d now call Trump voters.

I have plenty of empathy for them. Always have. Some of these folks are in my family.

But now there are all these calls for us to have empathy for them. Look: we already did. And: they won. They won, and we lost, and we’re supposed to develop empathy for them?

Were I anything but the straight white middle-aged man that I am, I’d say, using my snarkiest voice, Yeah, sure, I’ll get right on that.

I’d much rather they develop empathy for all the people who didn’t vote for Trump. Not for me — not for doing-just-fine white men in Seattle — but for everybody else.

That’s not going to happen. Why would it.

* * *

I want to say that I hate all these people. I don’t hate them, though, and it wouldn’t be true to say it. My anger makes me want to lash out, but even anger has to give way to truth.

Truth matters even when you’re mad. (Trump voters apparently don’t agree.)

* * *

Well, surely, there are some individuals worth hating. I never learned the lessons of Christianity and Star Wars about loving your enemies, so I’m fine with that.

I’m not supposed to be fine with that. I’m supposed to be a good person. But I’m not a good person. Maybe I will be, some day.

But probably not. There’s not enough time left for me to become a good person.

I hope you’re a good person.

* * *

The terrible things are still to come. The anger I feel now doesn’t compare to the anger I’m going to feel.

Let the Healing Not Begin

Tue, 15 Nov 2016 15:11:04 -08002016-11-15T15:11:04-08:00

I was struck by a quote in a Seattle Times article yesterday about an impending walk-out by high school students protesting Trump.

Highline school Superintendent Susan Enfield, who is probably a very good person, wrote, in a letter to families:

Although the election itself is behind us, we are now at the beginning of a long journey toward healing and uniting as a people. That healing process must start in each one of us.


Look — the bad things have barely begun to happen. As bad as the election was, it’s not the bad thing. The bad things are still to come. Healing will be needed, yes, but the bad things are going to happen first.

Another quote, from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:

We’re all rooting for the President-elect’s success in uniting and leading the country.

The President-elect ran on a platform of us against them. So fuck that.

The Year the Holiday Plans Were Upset

Mon, 14 Nov 2016 10:11:19 -08002016-11-14T10:11:19-08:00

Some of my friends are talking about how they’re not going home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, because, at least for this one year, they can’t be with their family members who voted for Trump.

I don’t have this particular problem — my plans are to see family here in Seattle.

But here’s what I want to say: your family loves you, and not that many people in the world do, and you love them.

And I’ve had last Thanksgivings and last Christmases with several family members, and I never knew at the time it was the last one. You just can’t know.

I’m so glad I don’t have to make this decision myself. I understand both sides, and I wouldn’t criticize anybody for choosing either way.

It just sucks that anybody has to think about this. But they do.


Fri, 11 Nov 2016 13:46:56 -08002016-11-11T13:46:56-08:00

I think the goal has to be to make sure Trump doesn’t finish his first term. Ideally he is revealed as who he is — a cruel and deeply corrupt man, unfit to be called an American, much less President — and finds that even Republicans in Congress won’t support him anymore, and he resigns in disgrace.

There are theories that Republicans would impeach him — we take that there would be a reason as a given, given his personal corruption — since that would give them President Pence, who’s an electrocuting sicko but is, in their eyes, a normal Republican likely to go along with their policy.

I don’t know. And I know I wouldn’t like President Pence. But still, it would be a defeat for Trump and for Trumpism, and that’s important.

* * *

It’s apparent that protests get under Trump’s skin. That’s a good thing to know.

Getting under his skin is a way to goad him into revealing himself. I assume that there will be large protests in many American cities on Inauguration Day.

* * *

You should read Autocracy: Rules for Survival.

* * *

As we’re making our to-do lists and figuring out what to focus on, let’s remember that freedom of speech and of the press is the core freedom of our democracy.

These freedoms can be degraded without any new laws being made — but Trump has already said he’d like to “open up” libel laws. His hatred of the press isn’t rhetoric for his base: it’s real.

Preserving free speech and a free press has to be at the top of our list.

* * *

This is not normal. This is not just another Republican.

I was born in 1968, which means I’ve lived through Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II. Trump doesn’t belong on that list — he’s a would-be dictator who will, with the support of an amoral and cowardly Congress, have the chance to act like one.

The Commandment

Thu, 10 Nov 2016 13:19:26 -08002016-11-10T13:19:26-08:00

People who don’t look like you have the exact same experience of consciousness you have. They have the same capacity for intelligence and grace that you have. They feel pain and injustice — and joy and love — in the same way you do.

David Owens reminds us of Jesus’s words:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

I thought all my life that that was Christianity distilled. I still think it is.

But there’s a difference between the power of Christianity — to redeem, to give hope, to open hearts — and the Christianity of power. The Christianity of power isn’t Christianity at all.

The Calls for Unity

Thu, 10 Nov 2016 11:16:20 -08002016-11-10T11:16:20-08:00

I don’t have a Facebook account, because Facebook is bad for humanity — but I’ve heard from people who do have an account that there are people, regular people, who supported Trump and who are now asking for unity, who ask that we come together as a country.

Which cracks me up, because they just voted for disunity. It was on the ballot, and they said yes, give me that. Maybe they voted against free trade or whatever, but the package included disunity, quite clearly and boldly.

Just so there’s no mistaking: fuck those people. They wanted disunity, and they got it.

Responsibility and Hope

Wed, 09 Nov 2016 12:24:18 -08002016-11-09T12:24:18-08:00

There’s no pretending that this is okay. More and bigger shocks are coming.

Our electorate just repudiated the American dream — the real dream, the idea that we can build a nation dedicated to liberty where all people are created equal.

Instead we decided that we’re a nation like any other. A nation with a ruling ethnic tribe. Nothing special anymore.

It feels like finally, in the end, we lost World War II.

And certainly the post-war order is over: the world shouldn’t trust a country that’s never more than four years away from electing a know-nothing sociopath. Even if Trump has only one term, that we could elect him at all won’t be forgotten.

The free world is unraveling.

* * *

I wanted to write about how I’m done: I’m going to do my best to take care of my family, and that’s it.

I’m 48 years old, and the last couple years have been difficult: we’ve lost family members we were extremely close to, both to slow and difficult illnesses.

I was already exhausted, before this.

But I can’t check out, and neither can you, because we have a responsibility to help other people, however we can. Now more than ever.

We’re going to have to figure out how to blunt the worst of this, and then rebuild the American dream afterward.

But right now it starts with kindness toward other people.

On Leaving Twitter

Wed, 09 Nov 2016 11:19:23 -08002016-11-09T11:19:23-08:00

I can’t really leave Twitter, because I don’t want someone else to take my username. But I did make my account private and I unfollowed everybody. If you @-mention me, I’ll never know.

Twitter was always a 51-49 thing for me — barely worth it. The company has not dealt with harassment. It has treated its third-party developers shabbily. And, at best, it was just quips and outrages — a diet of candy.

And then it was part of the system that helped elect a fascist President. This tipped it over for me: it’s no longer worth my participation. The shitheads can have it.

Update 2:30 pm: If you want to reach me, you can. My email address is my Twitter username plus the domain for Apple’s email service.

The Man Party and the Woman Party

Mon, 31 Oct 2016 10:04:27 -07002016-10-31T10:04:27-07:00

This weekend I voted — proudly, enthusiastically, and happily — for Hillary Clinton. It’s my third vote for Hillary this year, because Washington state is weird and has both a caucus and a primary.

I was struck this election by just how many women I voted for — more women than men. In many races, the choice was between a Republican man and a Democratic woman. It looked almost as if our parties are actually the Man party and the Woman party. (Even in the non-partisan races you could tell the party affiliation of most candidates.)

I voted for Pramila Jayapal to represent Washington’s 7th Congressional District. She’ll replace the retiring Jim McDermott. I voted for Patty Murray, Gael Tarleton, Noel Frame, Tina Podlodowski, Pat McCarthy, Hilary Franz, Mary Yu, and Barbara Madsen. (I’m forgetting some of the races, surely — the actual list is longer.)

It feels, surprisingly, like a big relief. I’m a 48-year-old straight white male who’s done pretty well in life — which makes me part of the traditional ruling class, I suppose. It felt amazingly good to help make it so that people like me don’t have to be in charge of every damn thing. Why should we be? Why would we even want to?

PS How awesome is Mary Yu. She’s a judge with a name that sounds like “marry you” — and she opened her court at midnight to perform the first same-sex marriages in Washington State.

Surface Studio Notes

Wed, 26 Oct 2016 13:21:49 -07002016-10-26T13:21:49-07:00

I’ve long thought that a desktop OS can’t be unified with a touchscreen OS. A desktop OS needs all kinds of things that touchscreen OSes don’t tend to provide.

In the Mac world that’s menus, AppleScript, multiple windows, drag and drop, and so on — all these things you need to be able to comfortably work eight hours and get a bunch of things actually done. Boring stuff, maybe, compared to the fun of iOS, but important stuff.

And especially you don’t need to be holding your arms up all day long to touch a screen.

Then Microsoft shows this video of the Surface Studio, and now I’m wondering.

* * *

What if — and it’s a big if — Microsoft made Swift a peer with C# and provided some good app frameworks?

Two things come to mind:

iOS developers are loosely tied to Apple. (I’m speaking generally, of course.) They love iPhones, but many of them came here from some other platform. They’ll go to whatever platform looks like fun and has some business opportunities. These developers tend to love Swift, and would be delighted to be able to preserve that investment in the language.

Mac developers, on the other hand, tend to be more closely tied to Apple. They’ve been doing development on Apple platforms since long before iOS. They’re more likely to stay put.

Except — and this part shouldn’t be underestimated — many of these Mac developers are here because Macs are the computer for creative professionals and artists. That’s what attracted us to Macs in the first place.

It’s more than a niche. It’s our identity as Mac developers: we write apps for people who make things. But what if the Surface Studio takes over as the computer for people who make things? And what if we could bring over some of our investment (such as learning Swift) with us?

I never thought to even consider that as a possible future.

* * *

Tomorrow’s going to be a weird day, as new Macs will inevitably be compared to the Surface Studio, on the Surface Studio’s terms.

Dogs and cats. The apocalypse. Zombie date night. It‘s all happening.

Dash and Apple’s Statement

Mon, 10 Oct 2016 15:01:43 -07002016-10-10T15:01:43-07:00

Apple states that nearly 1,000 fraudulent reviews were detected — and that they’d given the developer notice and had tried to resolve the issue with him.

If this is true, then it would be hard to say that Apple has done anything wrong. In fact, we want Apple to notice fraudulent reviews (since they harm consumers and other developers), get them removed, and work things out with the developer.

I don’t know what’s true here. It wouldn’t be right for Apple to make all the evidence public, and it wouldn’t be right for Apple to publish their correspondence with him. So it’s likely we won’t ever know more than we do right now.

Apple’s statement is consistent with Apple’s doing the right thing, though. There’s a very good chance that they are.

While Apple’s culture of opacity continues to bother me — enough so that I won’t put any of my own apps on an app store — I can’t say for sure that this is a case where they’ve mistreated a developer.

Apple’s Judicial System

Thu, 06 Oct 2016 12:09:44 -07002016-10-06T12:09:44-07:00

(Update Oct. 10: see Dash and Apple’s statement.)

Apple has a judicial system — that is, they have a system where they make judgments and enforce penalties. It’s not a criminal judicial system, and so the state and federal laws that govern that system don’t apply.

Apple is allowed to run this system however they want to. And we can’t see in, so we don’t know how it runs.

But we have learned — in the case of Dash — that one of the features of the system is that Apple may accuse a developer of fraud, not provide any evidence to the developer, and then remove that developer’s apps, with no appeal allowed.

While this is legal, and within Apple’s rights, it’s not what we’ve come to expect from a moral judicial system. No matter what the context, we expect that the accused see the evidence against them, we expect avenues for appeal to be made available, and we expect proportional penalties.

Otherwise, here’s what happens: if you’re well-known enough and have a good app, other people will raise a fuss on Twitter and on blogs and possibly in the press, and maybe something will happen. Maybe.

That sucks. That’s a middle-ages way of handling things.

Apple is allowed to run it that way, if they want to. Of course. They own it.

But any adult would expect the same basic morality that people accused of crimes get: that is, again, the right to see the evidence against them, an avenue of appeal, and proportional penalties.

In the meantime, it’s our job to presume innocence in the absence of evidence. This is also a moral issue, and it’s true even if you’ve never heard of the developer.

Open Floor Plans

Thu, 06 Oct 2016 10:09:01 -07002016-10-06T10:09:01-07:00

I don’t know if it’s true that Apple’s new campus will be mostly open floors with few offices. But it is true that I could never work without my own office.

Like almost everybody at Omni, I have my own office. We also have lounges with chairs and sofas, and some people work in the lounges some or all of the time. Everyone’s different.

Here’s why I work in an office: when I’m around other people — it doesn’t matter who they are — I feel a constant low-simmering level of anxiety. And I find it extremely difficult to be productive when I feel any level of anxiety at all.

I’m a nerd, and this is something a good number of nerds put up with. It doesn’t go away over time.

When people who decide on workspaces for programmers don’t understand this, I wonder if they understand programmers.