20.40, Monday 28 Jun 2004

Whoa. Mac OS X Tiger, out early 2005, is going to ship with Safari RSS, an RSS (and Atom) aggregator on top of the built-in web browser. And: The Server version of the OS is going to ship with Weblog Server: A new Weblog server in Tiger Server makes it easy to publish, distribute and syndicate web-based content. The Weblog server provides users with calendar-based navigation and customizable themes, is fully compatible with Safari RSS and enables posting entries using built-in web-based functionality or with weblog clients that support XML-RPC or the Atom API. The Weblog Server, based on the popular open source project 'Blojsom,' works with Open Directory for user accounts and authentication. That's big news. I wonder whether there's going to be an Atom Enabled weblog authoring tool shipping with the client too?

Other intriguing features: Spotlight, system-wide search with metadata support in the filesystem. Really very cool, finally adding Smart Folders to the filesystem, after only a decade after Copland, where the feature was first proposed (and called 'Views') but never shipped. Alas it appears to steal LaunchBar's position in the top-right on the menu bar, and report its results in an extremely similar way. (And yes, I know the Spotlight search is much deeper and so on, but LaunchBar's spent a decade making an incredibly fluid UI, and Apple have ripped it off.)

Automater wins the prize for the best icon. Shiny robots can convince me of anything. Think of it like Unix pipes for high-level scripts: Rename images, pipe them to iPhoto, make a gallery, publish them online, for example. Or write a porn scraping script. I love that people are being introduced to programming like this. I feel bad that I'm able to get so much more out of my computer than other people, by being able to write such simple 10 line scripts for it in the shell. NetNewsWire 2.0 will have scripted feeds, which is awesome: stdout in RSS. If people can graduate from Automater to scripting NetNewsWire, that's great. Photoshop Actions for the rest of the Mac. It's still a piece of functionality that's 10 years late however, called the Assistance Manager when announced for Copland.

Oh yes, and Dashboard. Little gadgets that sit on the desktop and get shown by an Exposé mode, like calculators, address book views, and an iTunes controller. Oh, and a clock that you turn over in 3d to change the time zone. Stunningly manages to steal the name from Gnome's Dashboard, and the entire concept, the entire damn thing, from Konfabulator, right down to implementing the widgets (Konfabulator originally named them widgets too) in Javascript -- Konfabulator's big great idea. Come on Apple, that's terrible, buy the rights to the application.

(Two things about Dashboard. iTunes controllers currently have to poll the iTunes app every few seconds to see what tune is being played. Does this mean there's a more efficient event-based system to use? Oh yeah, and anybody remember Desk Accessories?)

What would I like to have seen? First, OS X needs a pubsubhub. AppleEvents only go one way, to control the application. But they need to be published too (a new person has come online, a new email, the music has changed). And we need to be able to write simple Applescripts - in Automater perhaps - that subscribe then sit and listen to events, and chain applications together. Event-based OSs are unfashionable at the moment, I know (although the whole www is event-based), but cmon. iChatStatus should be a three line script, easy to write yourself. It should be trivial to write a script to listen for when an iChat voice connection is accepted and turn the iTunes volume down. And when I say trivial, I mean everyone should be able to do it. Apple, we need a pubsubhub: Collect events, distribute them to interesting applications (and a mechanism to install subscribed apps, like services maybe). Second, XRA should be bought and built in: Everything I type should be published to plug-ins, including the Remembrance Agent: it watches over your shoulder and suggests information relevant to what you're reading or writing. While search engines help with direct recall, Remem is a tool for associative memory. Combine these wish-list features, and you've got Gnome's Dashboard again, which could be the biggest desktop UI leap forward for years and it's coming from the open source world. Publish structured data in an open format over the desktop, and let applications produce their own serendipity and pump it out. (See also: Microsoft Research at Etcon in 2002, talking about query vs hierarchy in the OS.)

(Ooh, couple more bits of coolness. Tiger Server includes a local iChat server that's Jabber based (iChat's Rendezvous service has had little bits of Jabber in it for a while. Looks like they've finished the job). And the Tiger Unix layer allows command-line access to file metadata (used by the Spotlight search system) which is a damn huge deal. How fast would it be to back my text-mode email client onto a metadata-based email store?)