altBrowser for Mac

Richard Gaskin ambassador at
Thu Jul 1 11:03:06 CDT 2004

Sarah Reichelt wrote:

>> btw, funny thing. Richard Gaskin and I are here at WWDC representing 
>> RR. Richard saw the new dashboard presentation and decided that 
>> instead of waiting until 2005, he'd whip up a version inside RR here 
>> at the show. He just about completed it before time ran
> Wow - I can't wait to see that!

I should clarify:

The exercise was to see if I could emulate the salient aspects of the
Dashboard experience before the first half of the Dashboard session was
over (I had a dinner engagement to get to).

With RevNet already in public use for more than a year and a half, the
idea of net-delivered mini-apps is old hat to us Rev developers.  So the
only remaining element is eye-candy:  how to use special effects to show
and hide these mini-app windows.

Since Rev has a built-in "import snapshot" command to grab portions of
the screen, the goal would be to find a way to grab an image of the
region of the screen beneath the mini-app, bring it into a borderless
stack which also has a capture of the mini-app itself, then use QT
transition effects to dissolve/squash/zoom it away.

Since the "import snapshot" command grabs from the screen buffer, it
doesn't have the smarts to be able to grab a composite without the
topmost window layer.  One can get it by hiding the window for a brief
moment to grab it, but the flash is disturbing and doesn't satisfy the
goal of creating a seamlessly smooth transition effect.

In short, if someone cares to write an external that hooks into Quartz
to grab a composite of all but the topmost window layer the rest should
be a snap.  But I'm not sure of the compositing engines on other
platforms are sophisticated enough to write such a thing for other OSes,
so it would, like Dashboard itself, be limited to OS X only.

>> I really feel for Konfabulator-- Apple's done their best to screw 
>> them, and funny thing is how a lot of developers here think "Hey, it's 
>> good to have competition!"
> Check out this article for an interesting view point on all this:

I never understood the fascination with Konfab myself.  Like the author
of that article points out, the concept of single-window mini-apps dates
back to Desk Accessories.  And as we all know from using Rev, extending
that to net-deployed mini-apps is an old idea to the readers of this list.

The differentiator between Konfab "widgets" and any number of Rev-based
stacks seems limited to eye candy:  translucency and other novelties of
questionable utilitarian value (note that OS X itself has progressively
decreased tranluscency in each new release, largely for the readability
reasons Tog describes at his site).

Another differentiator is usefulness:  Konfab "widgets", if I understand
them correctly, don't allow the most basic of persistence mechanisms,
file I/O.  Without the ability to save data locally the range of useful
things that can be built with it is artificially limited.

This is done, of couse, for security reasons, and Rev's secureMode has
offered a similar level of security for years.  But unlike Konfab, with
Rev you have the choice of not using secureMode, so your mini-apps can
do anything any other downloadable executable can do.

But on balance, it is precisely because there are so many
implementations of the concept around that some folks find Apple's
strongly specific parallels to Konfab disturbing (personally I don't
think the author of the daringfireball article is entirely fair in that

The list of apps displaced by Apple is growing year after year: Adobe
Premier with Final Cut Pro, Watson with additions to Sherlock, IE with
Safari, and a half dozen others before Konfab.  Your app may be next.

Of course, that's one of the risks of being a developer, and it's no
different than if you're developing for Windows and living in fear of
Microsoft's next press release.

But there was a time when Mac developers didn't have as much to fear
from the mother ship as Win developers have come to tolerate.  After
all, Microsoft is well known as a software company but Apple makes its
money from hardware.  Or used to.

Somehow there seems to be the notion at Apple that if they want
exemplary OS X applications they must write them themselves.  Of course
they had the same problem with Mac OS 1.0, and solved it very
differently through a well-coordinated evangelism program (remember Guy
Kawasaki?).  It may not be accidental that during the years of
evangelism they had a 10% market share, and today's strategy finds them
with 2.4%.

We can poke fun at Balmer's monkey dance, but IMNSHO he summed up
priorities well with his famous four words:  "Developers, developers,
developers, developers."

Apple asked a lot of developers with the expensive shift to PowerPC, and
just a few years later an even more expensive shift to OS X.  Coupled
with the new concerns from Apple's aggressive expansion in consumer
apps, it's not getting any easier to choose to develop for Apple.  The
cost of developing for Apple systems keeps rising, the risks keep
growing, and the market share isn't growing to offset those factors.

If people are concerned by this moment with Konfab it seems
understandable to me.

Fortunately for us, by choosing to develop with Rev we're uniquely
immune to such things.  While OS X may arguably be the "best" Unix
platform, Linux is the fastest-growing desktop platform, with more than 
a few analysts predicting it will eclipse Mac market share by the end of
this year.  But no matter who rises and who falls, deploying to any
major platform is just a click of a checkbox for us. :)

  Richard Gaskin
  Fourth World Media Corporation
  Rev tools and more:

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