August 5, 2018

Winter is ComingWinter is Coming

Apple Axes App Store Affiliate Program

Affiliate Program App Store Updates

Thank you for participating in the affiliate program for apps. With the launch of the new App Store on both iOS and macOS and their increased methods of app discovery, we will be removing apps from the affiliate program. Starting on October 1st, 2018, commissions for iOS and Mac apps and in-app content will be removed from the program. All other content types (music, movies, books, and TV) remain in the affiliate program.

The affiliate program is not a revenue stream for me. That was the main reason for instituting the Patreon link. I am shy about asking for support and find that the Patreon effort is not going well either. I figure that if the content is compelling and useful enough, people will support it. If it is not? My writing needs to improve.

I don't know the economic realities behind the decision by Apple. Those are irrelevant to me. I understand that this decision is going to make it difficult for some sites which are dependent on the affiliate program income to continue and that is not a desirable outcome.

What is the process?

Apple provides the store. Developers of all sizes provide the software. Apple features some of the products. Third party sites feature reviews and write-ups on the products along with an affiliate link. Customers get their information from a mix of Apple features, site write-ups and word of mouth to buy the software. Apple makes money of each sale. The developers get a cut. The sites with affiliate links that customers use to buy the product get a share.

No one but Apple controls what they feature. As a developer you can't manage that. If Apple features you, you have a good week. If they don't you can't do anything about it. The only thing you can do as a developer is buy advertising for your product, sponsor sites, and get the web sites to cover your product. Buying advertising is available to only a small segment of developers: the large ones. Small developers are always struggling to get their products noticed.

Consequence of This Decision

When you take away the affiliate income for sites, what happens?

  1. The sites which depended on this income stream either fold or find a different income stream.
  2. The availability of information on software carried by the App Stores decreases. Or in other words, it becomes more and more difficult for consumers to hear about new products. And for the developer, there are now smaller number of outlets which cover their products.

Apple believes that with their improved App Stores, app discoverability is going to negate the effects of this decision.

I think that is horse manure.

They have made the process difficult as it is. Getting rid of the App Store from the iTunes app on macOS has already made it difficult for me to find new apps on the iOS App Store. I hate going to the App Store on my iOS devices. But hey, this is a single data point and I might be a weirdo. I know the macOS App Store intimately and discoverability is a joke there.

The problem is that there are various kinds of software products:

  1. Mass market software. Word Processors, Spreadsheets, Markdown based text editors, window managers are all good examples of mass market software. Apple does an adequate job of highlighting these. They have features on them and they group them together and they get some exposure. Not all of them. Only some of them. I will explain this in a later section.
  2. Niche market software. There are products which get developed for small market niches. Statistics software like Wizard, code snippet collectors like SnippetsLab and presentation software like Slidium - Markdown Presentations, are all examples of software directed towards small market niches. They get little or no love from Apple.
  3. Games. I am not a gamer so I am going to not comment on that marketplace.

Apple, focused on revenue, is always going to highlight mass market software. That is what makes the most money or potentially has the ability to make the most money. They will highlight the market leaders in each category. So Ulysses will always get highlighted while an able competitor like MWeb will get no love. The products which challenge the market leaders are going to find the field stacked against them in the Apple eco-system, to add to the problems they already have.

This is an anti-consumer move as much as an anti-developer move. Of course it has the added feature of being an anti-third-party-sites move.

Winter is Coming

Decisions don't happen in a vacuum. They are not perceived in a vacuum either. They are all context based. Let's look at the context. Apple is now the first trillion dollar company. In that context, lets highlight a few data points:

  1. The Mac Pro is an unqualified disaster that hasn't been replaced.
  2. The TouchBar? Have you met anyone who is in love with that addition?
  3. The MacBook Pro keyboard which gets confused with a wee bit of dust?
  4. Mojave? Dark mode is the highlight of that innovation. Really?

What has the company been doing?

  1. Incremental updates of iPhone and iPad.
  2. New iMac Pros which are great but priced atrociously.
  3. HomePod and AirPods. I am in love with the HomePod. Don't have the AirPods.
  4. Beats headphones.
  5. Apple Watch.

In both hardware and software, Apple's performance is underwhelming. They are coasting in the macOS space. They are improving the iOS devices.

The signs are not good. The reason why Apple exists is because when they were underperforming against Microsoft and Intel, consumers of their Macintoshes rallied around the platform for no damn reason other than loyalty and kept the company afloat. That loyalty derived from being a small group and the Apple myths. The myths and the size of the group reinforced each other to allow for the rebirth of Apple. It is difficult to maintain that when you are the largest company in the world. To get that kind of loyalty at this stage you have to show me a vision. Some character which is not shared by the marketplace. Apple's success is due to the fact that they are executing better than the marketplace. That is not difficult to do when your competitor is Samsung with their copy machines.

The signs are not good. This is a company which lacks vision. It lacks character. It lacks focus.

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. Where is Apple taking the macOS devices? What is the next iteration? The iMac design is 6 years old. The Mac mini design is 8 years old. Mac Pro is 4 years old.
  2. Where is Apple taking the iPhone?
  3. Where is Apple taking the iPad?
  4. Why is Apple making television shows?

The company is making inroads into the services business. That is new. So iCloud is going to be usable? There will be reliable sync? Oh no, you mean that Apple is going to become a cable company. We all love those. I am going to turn off my sarcasm mode now.

Apple's track record is great for Wall Street and their shareholders but it is not that impressive for customers. In fact, the ethos of the company, which was superior products at a higher than usual price, is not a statement which holds true anymore. Look at the iMacs and you will realize that they are not executing well on that score.

What is the vision? On privacy, they are better than Google or Facebook. That is the only positive I can come up with.

Where is the character? It is difficult to have a well-defined character when you are the market leader (by revenue and size). Specially when your character over the years has been defined as the "other." You can't sell me the notion that I am special because I use your product. You have to be special. How are they doing on that score?

Focus? They are making TV shows.

This affiliate program decision hurts the community of Apple, its developers, the media outlets which support the community, and its customers.

As you can tell, I am depressed about Apple.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie


Other reactions to the Affiliate Program decision:

Apple’s Termination of App Store Affiliate Payments Is Unnecessary, Mean-Spirited, and Harmful - TidBITS

Apple Overestimates Its App Store Search

Apple changes iTunes affiliate program – chrisrosser.net

Apple Removing iOS and Mac Apps from Affiliate Program – 512 Pixels

Apple Announces Apps and In-App Purchases Will Be Removed from its Affiliate Program October 1st – MacStories

Apple removes apps from their Affiliate Program – ldstephens

Apple removes apps and in-app purchases from its iTunes affiliate program

Leverage
Joe's argument boils down to:

Maybe that’s cold, but business ain’t ever warm and fuzzy.

I guess it is high time that Apple customers realized that the days of the two guys in a garage making Macintoshes are long gone. Apple is just another business today. Like Walmart.

App Store Apple
July 30, 2018

Noto Is a Free, Quick and Efficient Text Editor

IconIcon

Product: Noto
Price: Free

EditEdit

Noto is a free text editor available on macOS. It is not as full-featured as some of the other alternatives like CotEditor or the free version of BBEdit. What it lacks in features, Noto makes up in speed.

If you are a person who lives in text files, you must have a dedicated text editor which you use. This product is not for you. You have time and energy invested in learning the inner workings of your text editor and there is no reason for you to use a simple solution like Noto. On the other hand, if you are not wedded to text files and are looking for a simple text editor which will let you deal with the occasional text file, Noto should fit your needs.

Noto Has Few Features

  1. Noto has extensive encoding support. That means Noto can support files containing text and characters from many different scripts and encodings. It is equally comfortable with Japanese characters and mathematical symbols, or Windows, macOS, and Unix text files.
  2. Noto does "smart multi-selection." Hold down the ⌘ key and highlight multiple selections of text. You can now indent or un-indent the selected text with spaces or tabs.
  3. Noto shows invisible characters. View>Show Invisible Characters, shows you the gremlins hidden in your text files. Useful if you are copying text from other programs into Noto.
  4. Noto supports Versioning. You can revert back to a previous version of your document through Noto's support for the macOS feature of Versions.
  5. Noto has themes. You can get some additional themes from here. You can also make your own with instructions from here.

Noto Is Minimal in Its Preferences

Editor PreferencesEditor Preferences

You get to choose your own font.
Noto lets you assign spaces instead of tabs. You get to specify number of spaces for each tab.

Sys PrefSys Pref

Noto supports the macOS features of turning two spaces into a period and it capitalizes the first letter of each new sentence if you have that selected in System Preferences>Keyboard>Text preference pane. In case you have internalized this "bad typing behavior" (I am guilty of this), this is a great feature.

ThemesThemes

Noto supports themes and the implementation though minimal is effective and user-customizable.

Conclusion

Noto is competent software. If you are looking for a simple text editor, it fits the bill. I love it. It is quick and easy and a pleasure to use.

Noto is recommended heartily.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

macOS Text Editor Noto
July 24, 2018

Softorino YouTube Converter 2 Converts Video From Popular Sources

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Product: YouTube Converter 2 | Softorino
Price: $19.99

I like single task utilities. These are the utilities which set out to perform a single task and do it well. YouTube Converter 2 from Softorino is one of those utilities.

Video SourcesVideo Sources

It is misnamed. The most popular task it performs is converting YouTube videos for your macOS and iOS devices, but it converts video from more than sixty other popular sources. It downloads videos, music and ringtones from these sources and makes them available to you on the computer or on your iOS devices.

Video Conversion

YouTube Converter 2 InterfaceYouTube Converter 2 Interface

YouTube Converter 2 converts the source video into a choice of different resolutions for you. 2160p to 360p is supported and you get to just click a few buttons and get the video you want on any device you want.

Conversion to Audio

AudioAudio

You can take any video and convert it into audio. A choice of formats is available to you on the conversion. MP3, AAC are useful formats for this.

Conversion to Ringtones

RingtonesRingtones

This is a much desired feature. You can convert a video into Ringtones for your iPhone, transfer it to the iPhone and use it for your incoming phone calls. All by clicking a few buttons. The length of the ringtone can be adjusted to be the usual 30 second ringtone.

Conclusion

YouTube Converter 2 is an utility which does what it is supposed to in an intuitive and efficient manner. If you need to download videos or download videos converted to audio or ringtones this is a product which performs those tasks efficiently.

I am happy with the product. It is recommended heartily.

A license was provided by the developer for review.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Other Reviews of the Product:

Softorino YouTube Converter 2 review: The most convenient way to download website videos and transfer them to iOS devices | Macworld

Softorino YouTube Converter 2 Makes Downloading Streaming Video Effortless – MacStories

YouTube Ringtones Video
July 19, 2018

iMaciMac

I am using pictures from Pexels. This one is from Dzenina Lukic. Thank you Dzenina.

Links of Note 2018-07-19

Omni Calculator
Bunches of useful calculators. This is a great resource.

Classic Mac OS Finder
Interesting exercise. Made me nostalgic, and then I remembered, extension conflicts. :)

Renner*
Futura redone.

Really Friendly Command Line Intro - Hello Web Books
Interesting book. Innovative approach to teaching tech stuff.

Let's be honest, America: Dogs are parasites, not man's best friend - The San Diego Union-Tribune
I found this funny and my cat Squirrelly agreed with me.

How to read | Robert Heaton
An interesting approach to reading to learn.

serhii-londar/open-source-mac-os-apps: 🚀 Awesome list of open source applications for macOS.
Great resource.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

Calculator Font Learning CommandLine
July 4, 2018

Keep It IconKeep It Icon

You Gotta Keep It, Keep It

Product: Keep It
Price: $49.99

Keep It belongs to the category of products I call a "Digital Dump". Like Evernote, this is the repository of files that you want to keep around and search periodically to reach the pebbles of wisdom that are contained in them. On macOS, the primary products in this space are:

  1. DEVONthink
  2. Yojimbo
  3. EagleFiler
  4. Keep It

I use DEVONthink Pro Office for my digital dump. I am going to write about it soon. In this article, I am going to talk about Keep It. Keep It launched version 1.4 with the ability to deal with Markdown and that is what I am going to focus on.

Digital Dump

Keep It is an efficient digital dump.

Let's break this up into the things you expect from a digital dump and see how well Keep It does them.

Collecting

In a digital dump, you collect notes, links and the wide category of everything else.

Default NoteDefault Note

Keep It takes notes in plain text, rich text and Markdown. You have the option of setting a default format for your notes. Notes have the ability to contain the usual elements: checklists, ordered and unordered lists, images, links and other attachments.

New NoteNew Note

Keep It has an interesting stationery feature which lets you choose the format of the note you are taking.

BookmarkletBookmarklet

You can save web links to Keep It. You can view them in the app, or open them in the web browser, save them to PDFs or web archives for offline reading. Keep It provides a JavaScript snippet to import a web link for the current page in the browser. If you select some text on the page and press the bookmarklet, Keep It creates a note with the selected text and URL.

You can add any file you want to Keep It or any of its folders. They can be opened in their original applications and through iCloud, changes will be available across all your Macs and iOS devices.

Organizing and Accessing Your Items

A digital dump has to be able to search quickly and efficiently through a plethora of files to locate the document/s you are interested in. Keep It does not disappoint. It provides you several ways of organizing your files and that makes the search function focused and efficient.

In Keep It, you can access thumbnails and summaries for most files, edit your own notes in rich text, plain text and Markdown files. You can add highlights and notes PDFs, show images, web pages and most other documents. Any item, in your Library, can be encrypted with a password.

Keep It can store everything in iCloud and that makes your library accessible across all your Macs and iOS devices (with Keep It for iPad and iPhone).

There are various ways you can decide to store your library in Keep It:

  1. You can choose to keep all your files in the Library while using tags to put them into categories. Tags are not nested. I prefer the implementation of tags by Bear - Notes. Nested tags would be an improvement over the current implementation in Keep It. Nested folders give you the same feature and thus Keep It forces you to use a mix of folders and tags to attain what in Bear is implemented through nested tags.
  2. You can choose to organize your items into folders and put the items into discrete folders. You can double click to focus the sidebar on the folder you are working in.
  3. You can create bundles of things. Items can belong to more than one bundle at a time. When you get rid of the bundles, it doesn’t get rid of the files in it. They remain where they are in your library. It is an interesting way of focusing on a subset of relevant documents and working through your project. Finishing it and getting rid of the organization.
  4. You can mix and match your organizational scheme with folders and tags and bundles. Keep It is flexible in how it lets you manage your organization of documents.
  5. You can decide to implement no organization and use the find function to get to files you need.

The reality is that the more documents your Keep It database collects, the more you need some organizational criteria that you are comfortable with to impose some order to it. What method you choose is up to you but you need some method to control the madness which is intrinsic to a digital dump. For me? I like tags. I keep everything tagged and have set up saved searches to provide the organization that I am comfortable in.

Saved SearchSaved Search

With the introduction of Markdown to Keep It, I decided to see whether I could use it to maintain my writing for Bicycle For Your Mind. I put all the text files into the Library and then tagged them:

  1. BlogToDo: Ideas for blog articles got this tag.
  2. BlogWIP: Ideas I am working on got this tag.
  3. BlogPosted: Articles which have been posted got this tag.
  4. Untagged: I have this saved search to remind me of articles that have not been tagged.

It is a simple system and it works. This is similar to the organization I had in Bear but the implementation is a little different here since I am not able to use nested tags. I have also not in any sense stretched the limits of what can be done in Keep It. I am not using it as the digital dump that it is meant to be. I am much more interested in using this as an organizer of my writing. With its adoption of Markdown, I can use the product to maintain order in my writing and also do the occasional edit of my files. Markdown implementation makes this a possibility.

Markdown Implementation

Keep It's support of Markdown is a hybrid of CommonMark plus strikethrough. In the editor you can type anything you want. The support of Markdown is designed to be basic and geared towards the preview of Markdown as being something more than plain text.

Markdown SettingsMarkdown Settings

You can set the preferences for the Markdown editor by going to Markdown>Settings.

Markdown Preview SettingsMarkdown Preview Settings

The preview pane of Markdown settings shows you what is supported in Keep It.

The good news is that a file in Keep It can be edited in any application you want. Right-click on the file in the Sidebar and you have the option to open the file in your default Markdown editor or any application which the system thinks can handle Markdown files. This feature makes Keep It a manager of files and you can use any editor you want to do the actual writing and editing of the files in Keep It.

Keep It provides you with the ability to write Markdown but it is not a core feature of the product. The core feature is the digital dump nature of the product. The Markdown support is almost an afterthought. If you care about your writing environment and are looking for a product to live and write in, Keep It falls a tad short. Keep It wants you to edit your files in your Markdown editor of choice and doesn't want to compete with products like Bear and Ulysses. Both of those products perform a subset of functions that Keep It provides with a focus on note-taking for the former and writing for the latter.

My problem with the approach that Keep It takes is that it is such a missed opportunity. If you are going to include Markdown support in a digital dump, let's take it a step further. Let's make it a creating environment as well as a collecting one. You are so close. These are some of the steps that would make the product complete:

  1. Ability to change line-spacing in the editor.
  2. Typewriter scrolling in full screen mode.

Keep It Files

Keep It FilesKeep It Files

Keep It, like EagleFiler, keeps its files outside a database. There is a database file but the files you add to Keep It are kept in their original format in the Library folder. That is different from Yojimbo or DEVONthink and its various editions. I like having the original files accessible. I can work on those original files in whatever application I choose and Keep It accesses the edited files without a complaint. Makes the process of working on my files easier and I am not stuck to always editing my files in the sub-optimal editing environment of Keep It. Having the original files accessible ensures that I am not stuck with Keep It or its database for continued access to my files. This absence of a lock-in makes the product versatile and useful.

Theming

Keep It uses the same themes as Mou, MacDown, and, LightPaper. It is based on PEG Markdown Highlight. The technical details are not that important. What it means in real terms is that you can adopt or use themes from other programs to come up with usable themes for Keep It.

I like writing in Solarized - Ethan Schoonover and have both a light and dark version to use in Keep It. That makes the Markdown editor usable and comfortable to me.

Usability

Keep It is a mature product with a well-developed system of preferences.

Preferences>GeneralPreferences>General

You can specify the behavior of Keep It when it opens a new document, or where to open items, where to allow tabs. The behavior of Compact Mode.

Preferences>ImportPreferences>Import

You can set the behavior of whether you want to copy or move files when you bring them into Keep It. The default destination of imports can be specified.

Preferences>FontsPreferences>Fonts

You can set the default font for Rich Text documents and Plain Text documents. The Preview fonts and text sizes can be set here.

Preferences>AdvancedPreferences>Advanced

Some advanced preferences including the nature of iCloud logging can be set in this pane.

One of the many things I like about Keep It is its support for extensive keyboard commands all across the program. Its support for keyboard commands for Markdown editing is exceptional. It is a pleasure to write in this program.

Conclusion

This is a mature product which has been well designed and is feature rich. If you are looking for a Digital Dump, Keep It will not disappoint. And like me, if you are looking for a home to manage your Markdown based writing, Keep It fulfills that function admirably well.

The only thing I would change about Keep It is the implementation of a few features which extend the product to become a better creation tool in addition to its present incarnation of well-designed collecting tool.

Keep It is recommended heartily.

The developer provided me with a license code to review the product.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

KeepIt Digital Dump macOS