The Shape of Everything
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September 28, 2016

Matej ‘Retro’ Jan: Pixels and voxels, the long answer.

If you've ever wondered about voxels, this is a great read. Some of the voxel art in there makes me want to write another app catered specifically to that.

August 2, 2016

For simplicity, this overview assumes that you're using a recent iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2015) with the display's color profile set to "Display P3", or "iMac" (which is close enough). If you have a different wide gamut display I'm going to assume you have enough knowledge on this topic to know how the values below might be slightly different for your case.

Located in your Utilities folder is an application named Digital Color Meter, which will let you know the color of any pixel on your screen. If you do any web design, you're probably already familiar with it. If you're not- then I guess you're about to be. It's a great tool.

Below are two images, which at the bitmap level are identical. The only difference between them is the color profile they are tagged with. Because of this, when viewed in Safari or Google Chrome on a recent iMac, they will show slightly different colors.

sRGB
sRGB
sRGB
Display P3

If you open up Digital Color Meter, set the popup to "Display native values", and hover over the red column in the sRGB image, you'll see that the RGB values are set to 234,51,35. If you hover over the red column in the Display P3 image, you'll see 255,0,0.

Digital Color Meter
(100% red in the sRGB colorspace, as output to a P3 capable display.)

These differing values prove to us that Safari is doing the right thing with color management. Because sRGB fits inside Display P3, 100% sRGB red is going to be darker. If you're looking at these two images on a P3 iMac, you'll be able to see this not just with the red column, but also with the green and blue columns as well.

Now open up this same page in Firefox (I'm using version 48.0, which it tells me is up to date). If you move your pointer over the red columns, you'll see that Digital Color Meter is showing 255,0,0 for both the sRGB and Display P3 images. This shows that Firefox is doing the wrong thing with color management.

You can use this trick with any application you have. Try it with Preview and you'll see that does the right thing with profiles. Photos almost shows the right colors for P3 images (it seems to have some gamma issues when scaling images). Amusingly, QuickTime Player 7 does not show the right colors at all (it hasn't been updated in 6 years so I guess that's no surprise). My image editor, Acorn, correctly handles images with embedded profiles as well (because it's awesome).

Here's how to check if your image editor of choice does the right thing when making and saving images. Create a new document, set the color profile to sRGB, fill it with 100% red, and see what Digital Color Meter tells you. If it says the RGB values are 234,51,35 (or thereabouts) then you're in good shape. If it says 255,0,0 then you're going to eventually be in a world of hurt, because it's not correctly handling color profiles.

July 26, 2016

Nicholas Howard: OS X's Interface Decline.

"No one threatened to storm Cupertino with weapons if Apple failed to revamp the look of their operating system. Nor, even, did the average users of OS X cry out for the changes. The people who cried out for the changes were designers."

There's some points in here that I disagree with, but there are many more points that I feel are spot on.

July 25, 2016

I've been working on the next update to Acorn, version 5.5, and I've got a build ready for folks to try out. I'm calling it beta 2. Hello, it's nice to meat you.

Color improvements are the focus Acorn 5.5. The biggest change is a new color loupe tool for Acorn which will allow you to seamlessly select colors from the canvas as well as anywhere on your display (and correctly match your display's color to the selected color profile of your image).

This is super important as displays with a wider-than-sRGB-gammut (such as the recent iMacs) are starting to show up on our desktops. For instance, if you have an iMac with the Display P3 profile set and you're working on an sRGB image, selecting a color from anywhere on your display will correctly match it to your image. Colors are hard, but Acorn is making it so you don't even have to think about it.

You can bring up the color loupe tool by pressing the option key when using Acorn's various drawing tools, or by pressing Control-C when you have an image open.

And besides supporting wide color gamuts, Acorn 5 has always supported deep images (16 bits per component), which is going to be increasingly important this fall when Sierra ships with deep color support in AppKit, and if you're paying attention to the tea leaves for iOS…

New dither filters, shape processor improvements, and various Quality of Life things are in Acorn 5.5b2 as well.

The full (and constantly updating) beta release notes for Acorn are available as well. Grab Acorn 5.5b2 here.

July 20, 2016

Scott Berkun: Why Software Sucks (And What To Do About It).

There's too many great things to quote from this essay (from 2005!), so I won't pull any. Just read the whole thing.

July 12, 2016

I've got three slightly unrelated articles I wanted to share:

Friday illustrated: Evolving as an artist and overcoming art block, with Lois van Baarle (Loish).

NYT: Think Less, Think Better.

NYT: Closest Thing to a Wonder Drug? Try Exercise.

July 1, 2016

Dean Jackson on the WebKit blog:

"The past few years have seen a dramatic improvement in display technology. First it was the upgrade to higher-resolution screens, starting with mobile devices and then desktops and laptops. Web developers had to understand high-DPI and know how to implement page designs that used this extra resolution. The next revolutionary improvement in displays is happening now: better color reproduction. Here I’ll explain what that means, and how you, the Web developer, can detect such displays and provide a better experience for your users."

This writeup is an incredibly great explanation of wide gamut issues with a touch on deep color as well. If you are a developer who uses color in any way, you're going to want to read this. Wide gamut displays are already here.

And of course, Acorn has had support for displaying both wide gamut and deep color images since last fall with the release of OS X 10.11 (I'm pretty sure Acorn was the first 3rd party Mac app to do so).

Do you have a late 2014 iMac (Retina 5K)? Then you've got deep color support. And if you have a late 2015 iMac (Retina 5K) you've got both deep color and wide gamut (via Display P3) support.

June 11, 2016

Listening to ATP this morning got me thinking about the recent subscription announcements for the App Stores. During the discussion, John mentioned charging a fee once per year vs. once per month, which led my brain to play out the following things.

What if Acorn did charge $29.99 a year? Would that be awesome? It would certainly fix the problem where folks don't have to pay for the next major upgrade and it's also very similar to what Sketch 4.0 is planning on doing. It also fixes the problem where someone purchases Acorn 5 the day before Acorn 6 comes out, and misses out on a grace period that doesn't currently exist on the App Store (though direct purchases get this automatically because we can just send out an email with a new license).

Yes, this could be awesome. But wait. I also have customers that aren't able to upgrade to the next major version of the OS for any number of reasons, and what if Acorn 6 was 10.12+ only? Does that mean folks still on 10.10 or 10.11 are paying a yearly fee even though they will no longer get any feature upgrades?

This breaks my heart. At Flying Meat we've traditionally had the philosophy that we sell something, and if you like it you can give us some money for it and use it for as long as you'd like. Subscriptions will probably break that. So unless the App Store provides a way for apps with expired subscriptions to keep on working, I don't think it'd be a good fit for Acorn. Also that sounds like paid upgrades (I really miss paid upgrades).

Of course, I could always try the subscription route via the App Store, and then keep direct sales just the way they are today- i.e., you buy something and you get something to use for as long as you'd like. But then I worry that might lead to more customer confusion.

Maybe I'll let other folks try this stuff out first.

June 7, 2016

Buried in the Dictation section of the Accessibility System Pref pane, behind the "Dictation Commands…" button is a checkbox with the label "Enable advanced commands".

When turned on, it lets you add your own commands which can perform specific actions like opening a URL, a file from the Finder, pasting text, or even running an Automator workflow.

Accessibility Prefs

This is pretty neat, and enables me to run shell scripts or even make a new build of Acorn when I ask it. We're almost there.

June 7, 2016

What I'm guessing will happen

  • An Amazon Echo like product, but it'll be tied to Siri and it'll have a sweet SDK. Maybe we'll have one under our seats?
  • Mac OS X rebrand to macOS 12.
  • Siri availablitly on OS X. Finally. Maybe always on as well? I've got an Amazon Echo and absolutely love it, so having the ability to drive my Mac with voice commands would be super awesome.
  • Probably a new 5k display, since the current displays are crazy old.
  • New Mac Pros announced, which can drive the new 5k display. However I'm not terribly excited about this, as I wasn't happy with the 2013 Pros (I actually sold mine a little while back. I'm on an iMac 5k now).
  • Xcode 8.

What I want to happen, probably but won't

  • I really want the rebrand of Mac OS X to be "Mac OS". That capital letter and the space mean a lot to me. If I can't have that, MacOS will do.
  • A Mac OS upgrade which is about bug fixes and minor features. Maybe even moving to an 18 month upgrade cycle instead of a yearly one.
  • New Macs with ARM processors in them, with dev kits in a month or so. This WWDC can be all about the transition to ARM, so Mac OS won't get a ton of new features.
  • Some awesome new features for Swift that haven't been made public yet.
  • An upgrade to OpenCL. Unfortunately, It seems that Apple has moved on. If I can't have that, how about Metal on the CPU? (Why CPU? Well, some things like flood fill are faster in Acorn when the memory is local to it).

Other stuff I Predict

  • I'll see a lot of old friends, and hopefully make some new ones.
  • A lot of pizza will be eaten.
  • I'm going to be exhausted by the end of the week.