Ric Bretschneider

My thoughts in your brain…

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How Screwed-Up is Apple Safari? I Think It Needs Therapy.

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Some people think that because I worked for Microsoft for so many years that I’m an Apple hater.  Well, that’s not actually true.  Fact is, I’ve had a Macintosh on my desks, at work and home, pretty much constantly since their release in 1984, two of my family members have iPhones, and we have iPads, iPods, and Apple TVs scattered throughout the house.  This is being written on a 27″ iMac, the one use for about 90% of my day.

OK, part of that 90% is in Parallels running various versions of Windows and Windows Office.

Unfortunately this post won’t help my argument that I’m an open supporter of both leading operating systems.  Partially because these days I’m finding Apple so caught up in their image, their products exclusively, that they’re impressing me as a bunch of pompous jerks. Doesn’t make me automatically hate the products, but I’m no cool-aid drinking fanboy.  Apple is doing plenty of crappy stuff to their customers, turning them more into consumers than unlocking their potential as creators is the big one.  However, I’m getting off the point.  Which is a case in point of how douchy and inept they can be.

Earlier this month I wanted to watch the Apple WWDC Opening that was streaming from Apple.Com.  However, if you weren’t using Safari as your browser, you were blocked. My default browser is Google Chrome. Yeah, if you weren’t going to wear their colors to the party, they shut you down at the door.

OK, I don’t like Safari myself. Apple claims it’s the #1 installed mobile browser, but they don’t tell you that you aren’t allowed to remove it from their mobile devices, and you can’t set a different browser as preferred on their mobile devices.  How’s that for anti-trust?  (Remember the US Justice Department vs Microsoft for “bundling” Internet Explorer with Windows?)   I think Safari is way behind Chrome in so many ways, and Chrome’s cross-platform support is superb.  So I don’t use Safari.  I keep it around when I have to access some non-standard Apple site, like the one in question.

So I manually fired up Safari and started watching.

I may find time soon to comment on how sad the state of design has gotten at Apple, this Ives guy really isn’t impressing me as anything more than someone trying to create a new fashion, not as a real product designer, but I’m getting off track again.

So I watched the list of features borrowed from other OS’s that Apple was rolling out as Innovations.  And at some point I decided to see if there was a way to pop-out the video window, so it would take less room on my screen and I could continue to work on things that actually mattered.  No button on the video, so I started hunting…

This is what I saw when I right-clicked the Safari-embedded video.



The disabled PowerPC version of Internet Explorer, that apparently still works it’s mojo.

Yeah, it was like some amazing wormhole to an alternate reality had opened up on my screen.  There was Safari suggesting that if I want to open this streaming QuickTime, I should use the Ten Year Old, PowerPC-only, Macintosh version of Internet Explorer.


Granted, the old app is still on my machine.  But even Finder recognizes it won’t run in the current OS.  If you double-click it, you get the message “You can’t open the application “Internet Explorer.app” because PowerPC applications are no longer supported.

I’ve kept the old app, and a couple of others, around because I’ve considered creating a virtual machine running the old PPC supporting OS X, just thinking I might write about some history there and it would be an easy way to pose the screen shots I’d need.

But this was strange, and kind of pathetic Safari.  I’d almost feel sorry for you.  If you weren’t such a douche.

Written by ricbret

June 23, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Rotten Bitter Apple

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Word from comiXology now after many hand-wringing updates overnight is that Apple didn’t prevent comiXology from pushing to iOS apps, but comiXology made the call.  In a letter on their blog page, comiXology CEO David Steinberger noted:

After hearing from Apple this morning, we can say that our interpretation of its policies was mistaken. You’ll be glad to know that Saga #12 will be available on our App Store app soon.

It would be very interesting to know which policies, their actual nomenclature, comiXology was concerned about violating. Expect they were spot-on in their interpretation.  This smells of Apple making an exception after the fact to avoid bad press, and a small company falling on its own sword to keep in the fruit monopoly’s good graces.
Apple is a blatant censor, they just don’t want to be known as one.  Their role as a publisher who censors other publishers is a net-negative, regardless of the details.

20130410:12:45PM PST

Ric’ Originally Wrote on April 9th:

Apple Computer’s been pretty absurd about trying to prevent mature individuals from enjoying mature content on their mobile devices.

What’s so special about mobile devices? Nothing, except that Apple has implemented a file system and application system that they can control, they can prevent the user from using for any content. There is only content Apple approves of, on apps Apple approves of. And they’ve been your nanny since day one.

But now they’ve gone a little nuts.

a1Tomorrow, one of the finest comics available, Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, will not be available in digital form on iOS devices. This is due to two “postage stamp sized gay sex scenes” that appear in the magazine. They’re kind of background images, literally like someone left a TV on in a scene, context is ambiguous and not flamboyant.

Still Apple takes umbrage, and is shutting down all iOS apps that might try to down the comic. No iPad, no iPhone, no. Because they’re trying to protect you from an image you can walk into any comic store tomorrow and buy without showing your driver’s license. And it’s not the first nudity or sexuality in the magazine. It’s undoubtedly because of the gay context that they get out their big censor stick.

This is a crime against art.

I’m not exaggerating, Saga is one of the best comic books available today. Smart, inventive, human, witty, lovely, and unique.

All things Apple used to be.

And now they’re just disappointing.

Written by ricbret

April 10, 2013 at 7:03 am

The Facebook Face Flip

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This is not a political post, although a quick reading without comprehension will surely give some that impression. Trust me, and read on.

I was reading this evening about how you can actually see people “unliking” Mitt Romney’s Facebook page in real time graphics on a web site called Disappearing Romney. It sounded pretty wild, and the graphics on the page were conceptually stunning, but the whole thing was kind of sophomoric.  It looked like it might have been a prank.  So I decided to check his Facebook page to see if their math checked out.

It did check out, was really easy to confirm with a couple of page refreshes. But that’s not what caught my eye.

You see, around 100 years ago I took both high school and college journalism. A lot of it stuck, writing of course, but also a lot in the area of page layout.  There’s one guideline that borders on being magic in making a page and subjects on the page look appealing and interesting.

If you have a photo, or graphic, where a subject is looking in a left or right direction, place that element such that it is looking into the page, away from the edge they’re nearest.  If you have to, you can consider “flipping” the element such that it can do this regardless of what side of the page it’s on.

(Pause here to note how well I’m avoiding unnecessary political metaphors. Thanks for noticing.)

Check out the original, and see what happens when you flip both the photos.  It really is like a magic trick!

Flipping the elements of Mitt Romney's Facebook page we come away with a completely different impression.

You always try to have faces looking into the page, it makes them look better, the page look better, and the reader feel better. In this case, we have original Mitt back-to-back, looking very disconnected, even defensive. Look at how flipping both photos around makes him look, well, happy to see himself.

Arguably the wider cover page might work in either direction, and if it were left right-facing the light sourcing for each of these photos would match up, but that’s not a big deal.  I personally liked them facing each other, but your mileage may vary.

And yes, this is eminently applicable to your presentations!  Ah! You knew I’d get there eventually!  It’s one of the simplest things you can do to make your slides look more intriguing, trustworthy, or even happy.

Anyway, it’s not like it cost him the election or anything, but I found it really amazing that nobody on his staff, or even Facebook friends suggested fixing this classic journalistic page layout gaff.

Yes, I am available for consultations.

Written by ricbret

November 13, 2012 at 7:12 am

PowerPoint History, 25 years ago…

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This has to be quick.  Sorry for any typos or errors, but I’m packing, medicating, and generally running about today and this could not wait.

I got a very nice letter from Bob Gaskins yesterday. If you don’t recognize the name, here’s a clue: He’s the guy who “invented PowerPoint”. Quotes are there because 1) there were a couple of other guys involved in the birthing process and 2) I think the product gets reinvented with every new release. However it was Bob who built the vision for the product and made it happen.

Bob’s written a new book, called Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint. He wrote it specifically to celebrate the 25th anniversary of PowerPoint. And I’m reading it right now (along with preparing for two separate conventions and five panels I’m on this weekend, I did mention running about crazily, right?).  So I’ll do more of a review later, but wanted to get this out to you, dear reader, because you’re special to me.

I’m really excited about this. Bob left just before I joined the team, and notes that fact on page 14, saying

Ric Bretschneider (Wizard #77) joined just after I left, stayed with the group for 17 
years (twice as long as I stayed)…

And of course there’s more, but you’ve got to read it for yourself or wait for my later review.  OK, one more thing, how’s this for a blast from the past…
It's kinda like looking at cave drawings....

It’s kinda like looking at cave drawings….

What else does it say?  What’s all that Wizard 77 stuff?  Well, you’ve got a chance to find out for yourself because it’s available on Amazon right now, right here:  Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint

I can’t wait to see how it ends…

The Ultimate PowerPoint Survivor…

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Here’s a trivia question for you.  PowerPoint has been around forever. Bob Gaskins, the father of PPT puts the start date for the team as 1984.  Lots of great folks have come and gone, and a few have even come back.  But who is the one person who has been on the team, without leaving and returning, the longest?

That would be Judea Eden.

Judea Eden Back Then - Photo by Bob Gaskins

Judea Eden was the 17th person to join the ranks of The Wizards of Menlo Park, the core group of folks from the earliest days of PowerPoint – those who pretty much set the pace for the application.

If you’re curious, I joined that team in 1993, and am 77th on the list.  To put a point on this, there are only two people still at Microsoft who predated me, and Judea was the winner for having been there the longest, still on the core PowerPoint team.

We think about the brains and wills behind the development of the PowerPoint application. But if you were looking for the heart of the team, I’d say Judea is a great candidate for that recognition.  You see, Judea kept the PowerPoint team flush in supplies, equipment, and more that a little late-night food during crunch time.  She organized all our off-site and team building activities, coordinated resources for moves between sites and buildings.

And she added more than a little humanity to the group.  She’s a sweetheart, through and through.  She cares about everyone on the team, even those who might not really deserve that care.  Because, dear reader, she’s just sweetly guileless and truly wants to make people happy.

Onward to a bright future...

When I joined the team, we worked in an office on Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto, CA.  I’d really resisted the idea of going to work for Microsoft, even on the PowerPoint product, an application I really liked.  But it was Microsoft, the company that had always beaten the companies I’d worked for before.  I really felt like I’d stepped into enemy territory, and I doubted that I’d make any friends or actually be there very long.

At noon on my first day this girl appeared in the doorway to my office, I’ll always recall she had a shiny black plastic lunchbox-styled purse, and said “Hi, I’m Judea, wannna go grab some lunch?”  Because that’s what Judea does, she makes you feel welcome.

My first friend at Microsoft, and we’ve been friends ever since.

Judea is an amazing amalgam of interests and talents.  A few years back she started a serious study of nutrition and health. In fact that’s part of the next phase of her life, working for a company in the health and wellness.

But there’s a crazy-fun side to Judea too.  She’s the lead singer for The Judea Eden Band, and if you’re lucky enough to be able to catch one of their shows in San Francisco or around the Bay Area, I highly encourage you to do so.  You can thank me later.

So, after a quarter century (and the years don’t show at all kiddo!) Judea is moving on and up to a position in another company, leaving Microsoft diminished for her leaving.  Her last day is Friday the 13th, 2012.  I hope that’s not a bad omen for those she leaves behind.

I can only say thanks for being my friend.  The PowerPoint world would have been a much lesser place but for you.

Written by ricbret

January 8, 2012 at 8:23 pm

How Facebook Will (May Have Already) F#@k You Up

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Really, I’m not doing much here.  Just trying to draw your attention to someone else’s work on how Facebook’s recent bout of ill-conceived changes continue to mess with your privacy, your communications, and your ability to actually use the system without getting screwed-up.

It’s essentially the same problem.  The code monkeys at Facebook have decided that they know better than you how you want to get your information, or more importantly, they’re deciding what information is important.  They’re trying to prove how smart they are by writing algorithms that watch what you do, analyze words in messages, and essentially hide a shit-ton of stuff you probably would prioritize higher than they do.  Any time you have someone who has doubtable social skills managing your social interaction, you are doomed.

From Slate Magazine - Used to promote their story And Facebook is no better at predicting what you want to see than any other company.  Do you recall that old chestnut “My Tivo Thinks I’m Gay“?  Well here we are a decade later and Facebook thinks you don’t want information from someone you just met, haven’t actually met but who really needs to get in touch with you, or haven’t spoken with for a while because they only recently decided to forgive you… the list goes on with the potential ways Facebook will or may have already f#@ked you up.

This time, it’s messages.  Did you know there’s a whole bunch that Facebook pushes off into a separate area without EVER giving you a surface level indication that they’ve arrived?  Yup, we can thank Slate Magazine’s  for sharing her experiences today in Furious at Facebook Again!

Seriously, when are these guys going to be sued for abusing their customer’s information?  This is an area where we set serious and definitive precedence.

Written by ricbret

December 11, 2011 at 11:26 pm


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Justin is in Boy Scouts, and is actually approaching the ultimate achievement in scouting; The Eagle.  Part of getting to Eagle is a public service project that the boy has to plan, find funding for, write a project proposal report, stand before an approving board to get permission, and then supervise the execution – he’s not supposed to do the project on his totally on his own, a large part of it is about leadership as he’s expected to supervise and direct other scouts.
Justin’s project is painting a US Map on the playground of a local school.  That’s where we spent most of Saturday.  Of course the hardest thing as parents is to let the kid do it, not to interfere or change their plans or execution.  Man is that hard. 
Anyway, here are some snaps.  The boys put down a template and spray in dots that delineate the states.  Yes folks, it’s all about the vertices. Then they chalk in the lines to make sure things look right, then paint the lines in.  This is just step one.  Step two is filling in the states with color, and then step three is tidying everything up.  And it has to be complete before school starts on the 28th!
Great support from the rest of the scouts, everyone had a good time.  

Written by ricbret

August 15, 2005 at 8:22 am

Posted in Organizations


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Took the scouts bowling last night.  Good times with a fair turn out given they’d just had a camp out this past weekend.  We did pretty awful but nobody really cared.  With two of our three lanes complete, I had the high score of 101, having just completed my last frame. Valerie had a 92 and was bowling after me.  I told Brad that she needed 9 to tie, 10 to take first place.  So what does she do?  STRIKE! The follow up balls were more to our average and she took first with a score of 109.

Kirks daughter told me that Justin looked like Jack Skellington the way he held his ball on the approach.  I told her "He looks like Jack Skellington doing a lot of things…"

Written by ricbret

June 21, 2005 at 7:13 am

Posted in Organizations