The Internet Relies on People Working for Free – OneZero

hen you buy a product like Philips Hue’s smart lights or an iPhone, you probably assume the people who wrote their code are being paid. While that’s true for those who directly author a product’s software, virtually every tech company also relies on thousands of bits of free code, made available through “open-source” projects on sites like GitHub and GitLab.

Often these developers are happy to work for free. Writing open-source software allows them to sharpen their skills, gain perspectives from the community, or simply help the industry by making innovations available at no cost. According to Google, which maintains hundreds of open-source projects, open source “enables and encourages collaboration and the development of technology, solving real-world problems.”

But when software used by millions of people is maintained by a community of people, or a single person, all on a volunteer basis, sometimes things can go horribly wrong. The catastrophic Heartbleed bug of 2014, which compromised the security of hundreds of millions of sites, was caused by a problem in an open-source library called OpenSSL, which relied on a single full-time developer not making a mistake as they updated and changed that code, used by millions. Other times, developers grow bored and abandon their projects, which can be breached while they aren’t paying attention.

Most people don’t realize how much open-source software is used in commercial software. Apple’s operating systems are based on Unix, and use dozens of not hundreds of open-source tools, including cURL, the subject of this article.

Source: The Internet Relies on People Working for Free – OneZero

Learn How to Do Literally Everything with Apple’s Pages

Tc pagesI’ve known Michael Cohen for many years, and he has worked with me on several of my Take Control books as editor or tech editor. He’s just released an update to his Take Control of Pages book, and if you use Pages, you really need to get this book. Calling it exhaustive would not be an exaggeration. Michael covers Pages on the Mac, on iOS, and on, and he covers pretty much every feature in that app.

I’ll let you read the publisher’s description, but, seriously, if you use Pages, you should buy Take Control of Pages.

Apple’s Pages word processor is a big, rich app with hundreds of features tucked away in nooks and crannies, making Michael E. Cohen’s comprehensive book an essential resource for newbies and experts alike. Whether you prefer to dive into the details or get quick help with a particular feature, this book has got you covered.

For this second edition, Michael expands his already extensive guide, detailing all the changes Apple has made to Pages since the last version of the book was released. Learn about new support for bookmarks, Web links, and Rich Text Format. Find out how you can now globally replace fonts, enter equations, and style tables and objects in your documents. Best of all, discover the possibilities for collaboration in real-time in Pages for Mac and Pages for iOS with iCloud!

With Michael’s help, you can navigate Pages like a pro. Learn how to:

  • Find where the tools you need lie, whether on the Mac, in iOS, or in the Web app
  • Do everyday word processing, including working with fonts, tabs, indents, rulers, search and replace, spell checking, and more
  • Format longer, more complex documents, with customized headers, footers, page numbers, tables of content, footnotes, and section breaks
  • Manage styles, including paragraph styles, character styles, list styles, and object styles
  • Create your own templates, complete with master objects
  • Master the many multi-touch gestures on iOS that give you pinpoint control over page elements
  • Include complex tables and charts and make them look exactly the way you want
  • Customize layout and manipulate graphics like a pro
  • Collaborate with others in real time using iCloud
  • Share your documents across devices, using Mac, iOS, or almost any Web browser

Get Take Control of Pages.

When Should Software Be a Subscription Service?

The excellent Mac utility app TextExpander is moving to a subscription pricing model, and this is creating a dialogue about the justification for such a model. From a one-off purchase of $35 – plus upgrades every couple of years, usually at about half that price – Smile Software has moved to a monthly subscription service that would cost $47.52 per year. The company defends this pricing by explaining that they’ve moved the management of the software’s data to a web server, but for most individuals, this service is unnecessary. While there are interesting features for teams – shared text snippets, which can make it easier for employees in a company to stay on message – even this version of the software costs about $100 per year, per employee.

Is there anything in this upgrade to TextExpander that is compelling to individual users? My guess is that Smile has a lot of large business customers who will welcome the shared snippets and team management of their higher-priced offer, but how many individuals actually want to share snippets, or need their snippets to be stored on the web? Dropbox syncing is fine; it allows me to share the same snippets on my iMac and my MacBook.

This has raised the question of when software should be sold as a subscription. Developers may say that they don’t have to hold back features for a major upgrade, and can add new features at any time, since the subscription includes every upgrade to the apps. Consumers, however, see this recurring payment as often stifling innovation; once a company has guaranteed income, and users are locked into an app, they are unlikely to switch, and the developer has little incentive to improve their products.

I don’t contest the fact that developers need income. I have gladly upgraded TextExpander every time there was a new version, even if the changes weren’t important to me. It’s important to support independent developers, to ensure that the Mac and iOS ecosystems have excellent apps. In addition, the race-to-the-bottom pricing that we’re seeing with the App Store model is preventing developers from making enough profits.

The real issue here is not so much that of whether a subscription is good or bad, but of its cost, and its value to users. I have long used TextExpander, and would be willing to pay, say, $20 a year for the app. This is roughly how much I have spent on the app and upgrades, averaged over time. But $47 is just too much to pay for what this app does, especially when there are excellent alternatives, such as TypeIt4Me.

A number of apps and services are sold as subscriptions. Some examples of this are:

  • Microsoft Office, $100 per year for home users, for up to five computers, 5 tablets, and 5 smartphones.
  • Google Apps for Work, $50 a year for email, Google Drive, and a suite of productivity apps.
  • Adobe Creative Cloud, and, in particular, its photography package, which includes Photoshop and Lightroom, $120 per year.
  • Evernote, with clients for just about every platform, offering one free tier and two paid tiers, $25 and $50 per year.
  • Todoist, a task manager, with Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, and web clients, $29 per year.
  • Apple Music or Spotify, $120 per year.

When you look at what these apps offer, and then compare TextExpander’s pricing, you see the problem. TextExpander – which does an important but limited task, that of expanding snippets to longer bits of text – costs nearly as much as Google Apps, or Evernote, services with wide-ranging feature sets.

As I said in my article yesterday, “I really do feel bad to have to say this; I think the people at Smile are great, and they make excellent software. But I think they’ve made a big mistake, essentially increasing the price of this app by more than double.” The move to a subscription model just doesn’t make sense for this type of app, and the increased cost simply isn’t justified.

People Can Be Real Cheapskates…

“I’M NOT OUT TO GET YOU! Yes, I’m asking you to pay for software that saves you time and frustration on a daily basis. I’m not trying to sneak that by you. I’m not trying to dupe you. I’m not playing you for a fool. I’M RUNNING A BUSINESS. And yes, if you don’t think Default Folder X is worth as much as a meal at Denny’s, you certainly don’t have to buy the upgrade. It’s your choice — you can vote with your wallet.”

Jon Gotow of St. Clair Software has released a new version of Default Folder, and is charging $15 to people who haven’t bought the previous version after June 2015. If I’m not mistaken, this is an app that hasn’t had a paid upgrade in ages. If this is a utility that you use every day – as it is designed to be used – can people really be that cheap to complain about paying for the software, and keeping the guy’s company in business?

Source: St. Clair Software Blog » Blog Archive » Hey folks, I’m not out to get you!

Sponsor: Rogue Amoeba Software

I’d like to thank Rogue Amoeba Software for sponsoring Kirkville this month. Rogue Amoeba has just released a major update to is great audio recording software Audio Hijack.

Audio hijack

I’m a long-time user of Audio Hijack, and I use it to record podcasts, radio streams, music from DVDs and more. I’ve written an overview of the update here, and you can check the app out on the Rogue Amoeba website.

Learn about LaunchBar’s Six Superpowers in My Latest Book: Take Control of LaunchBar

Updated for the recently released LaunchBar 6.

I’ve been using LaunchBar for nearly as long as it has been around on the Mac. It’s the first utility that I install on every new Mac; with LaunchBar installed, I can get on with everything else I need to do.

LaunchBar has superpowers. It won’t give you the power to cloud men’s minds or climb the sides of buildings, but it will turn you into a Mac superhero. Anyone can master LaunchBar’s basic uses: launching applications, opening files, searching the Web, and more. But this book will teach you the six LaunchBar superpowers so you can work far more efficiently on your Mac. Yes, six; if you had the previous version of Take Control of LaunchBar, you recall there were five superpowers, but the wonderful developers at Objective Development added a sixth superpower to version 6 of the app.

And, LaunchBar 6 sports a great new interface:


Learn how to use LaunchBar to carry out nearly any Mac task more efficiently. To help you develop a mental map of all that LaunchBar can do, I explain LaunchBar in the context of its five superpowers — key LaunchBar techniques that no Mac user should be without.

  1. Abbreviation search. The primary way you select things in LaunchBar is by typing a few letters associated with the item you want to find. LaunchBar is smart (so the abbreviation doesn’t have to be obvious) and learns from what you type (in case it guessed wrong the first time).
  2. Browsing. Sometimes you don’t know exactly what you want to work with until you see it. Abbreviation search won’t help there, but you can browse folders, recent documents for an app, clipboard history, snippets, and more.
  3. Sub-search. Too many results in a list to browse? Try a sub-search, which is an abbreviation search limited to a list of search results.
  4. Send To. Want to open a PDF in PDFpen rather than Preview? Or attach a document to a new email message? You can send anything on LaunchBar’s bar to another application, folder, action, or service.
  5. Instant Send. For those who want to save the most time, Instant Send is the fastest way to put a selected file or bit of text on the bar, ready to open in another app, move to a folder, send to a Google search, look up in Dictionary, and more.
  6. Staging. This lets you select multiple items in LaunchBar–even if those items are in different locations–and then act on them all together.

LaunchBar 6 has loads of great new features: a new look; live feedback for searches, calendar events, reminders and more; calculator history; access to emoji characters; text transformations; and usage statistics to help you understand which superpowers you’ve mastered, and which you need to learn more about.

But LaunchBar does much more. You can do more than 1,000 things with this simple utility. Let LaunchBar’s superpowers save you from a lifetime of Mac drudgery: get Take Control of LaunchBar for just $10. Check out this comic for a concrete illustration of LaunchBar’s five superpowers.

Read how much publisher Adam Engst learned from editing my book.

Don’t have LaunchBar? Buy it from Objective Development.

Hear (and see) me discuss the book with Chuck Joiner on the MacVoices Podcast