Thursday, August 25, 2016

Apple Doesn't Make a Mac I Would Eagerly Buy

I've been using Macs pretty much exclusively since I walked into the computer lab at International Falls Senior High and saw one in 1984. I've never not owned one since I bought a Mac Plus at the University of North Dakota bookstore in 1989.  I'm happy with the 2012 Mac Mini I'm writing this with.

And there is not a Mac that Apple sells that isn't so compromised that I would consider it worth its asking price.

The MacBook

Great looking computer, would buy them for my kids or to take on trips, but a single USB-C connector and a 1.2GHz Intel Core m5 do not make for a general purpose computer. At some point, somebody is going to have come with a single cable replacement to Thunderbolt that will drive a 5K monitor. Until then, I'd feel like I was buying a disposable machine. 

MacBook Pro 13-inch

Yes, Apple is still selling the same MacBook they sold me in 2011, more or less. It did manage to pick up USB 3.0 ports. Can put an extra hard drive in it. But 802.11n WiFi? 1280×800 screen? I already have this excellent but out of date machine. 

MacBook Pro Retina

I use one for work, and it is a great machine. Plenty of ports. Beautiful display. Great trackpad. Adequate keyboard. MagSafe connector.  Solid as a rock. I guess I could see getting the 13" model. But to be my main machine it would need a lot more that 1TB of storage and unlike my 2011 MacBook Pro, there's no place to put an extra drive in it. Plus, why is the 15" $700  more than the 13"?

MacBook Air

Who, at this point, is going to buy a MacBook Air, with its ridiculously out of date screen?


The 5K Retina iMac is actually quite a nice looking computer, but I just cannot get around the idea of permanently tying a desktop Mac to such an expensive monitor. Also, a desktop Mac with pretty much zero internal expandability. I used to own a PowerMac 7600, now that was an expandability monster. Maybe if it were cheaper. 

Mac Pro

I could buy one if I needed the performance level, but I'd feel foolish given how it hasn't been refreshed in 3 years and still has an entry level price of $3000.

Mac Mini

The current Mac Mini is a compromised product crippled—I would guess—to keep it from taking sales from higher margin machines. I feel bad for the engineers tasked with taking the epically nice 2012 design and removing all traces of internal expandability or quad-core processors. I feel bad for Phil Schiller for having to introduce it. I feel bad for anybody who paid full price for it. I feel bad.

The Buying Trigger

I'm happy with my Mac Mini. In order for me to get out my credit card, a Mac would have to do something my current one can't. So, if there was such a thing as an affordable quad core 13" Retina laptop, with 2TB of storage, and it had a single connector that would drive a 5K display, that would be something I would buy on the first day of availability. Until then, I'd only buy a new Mac if an old one broke. 

[Update: after 2 years, I bought that 2015 MacBook Pro with Retina 13", used with only 512GB of storage. Obviously not as a primary machine, but for coding on the go, it was cheap enough and good enough.]

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Awesome Responsiveness of

I encounter a bug in Swift 3

I had this cool idea to enhance CGPath, create an extension which would add a convenience init method that would take an SVG formatted path string. How neat would it be to be able to write
  let frogPath = CGPath(svgPath: "M 170 207C139 183 40 199 41 109A18 18 0 1 1 56 75Q67 53 91 45A18 18 0 1 1 127 40C170 29 193 62 212 173L225 110Q241 70 252 120L253 156 C253 180 265 223 235 214Q210 210 215 242 C222 265 161 249 125 248") 
and have a complicated curve available for display. (I should say this all relies on other code in my brand new, and very incomplete Scalar2D project)

So, I opened up a new source code file and tried:

public extension CGPath 
 public convenience init?(svgPath: String)
  guard let mutableSelf = CGPath.pathFromSVGPath(svgPath) else
   return nil
   return mutableSelf.copy()

Now the compiler didn't like this and told me I couldn't assign to self, and I couldn't figure out how to do what I wanted, so I turned to CGMutablePath, which I could mutate in the init method. I therefore tried

public extension CGMutablePath
 public convenience init?(svgPath: String)
   if !self.addSVGPath(svgPath)
   return nil
And the compiler promptly crashed. I had found a bug in the pre-release Swift 3 compiler.

I report the crash

In the olden days before Swift had been open sourced, if I could find the energy, I would find my way to the Apple Bug Reporter and enter my bug, never knowing if I was the first or the millionth person to encounter my problem. And it would sort of disappear, unless a request would come back sometime later for more information, or it was marked as a duplicate, or whatever vaguely unsatisfying outcomes would manifest.

For example, a bug I reported against Safari 8.0.6 in June of 2015, 21364634 Safari not Rendering SVG Gradients Properly, that has not been commented upon, nor fixed. But at least that is still open, most of my reported bugs have been archived, several with the rather insulting description of Insufficient Information, no they have plenty of information, with steps to reproduce and in one case even an Xcode project I took the trouble to generate. Others were tersely marked as duplicates, and one was operator error on my part when using MKPolygonRenderer.

But, this is the new era of open source Swift so, I made my way to  and discovered not some custom tool, but honest to goodness JIRA, the same tool I've used in many projects over the last several years. Wow, this was new. I could browse through the bugs and see if what I was seeing was already reported. Didn't seem to be. So, I opened up a new issue, simplified my steps to recreate to something you could type into the command line REPL and created my issue: SR-2338 Compiler Crash on Implementing Optional convenience init of CGMutablePath

The Awesomeness of Responsiveness

Within hours, someone with an Apple email address replicated the bug, and commented upon it in the JIRA issue for all to see. And a back and forth ensued amongst team members about what to do, where the bug came from, and possible solutions. My particular bug came from an initiative to give Core Graphics a more Swift-like object interface instead of the traditional C style interface. Nobody had considered the idea of testing if adding a convenience init method would work. Code and test cases were generated and a pull request was offered where anybody could comment on the pull request. When the resulting code wasn't right, an other approach was taken wherein the compiler just wouldn't allow you to extend Core Graphics objects this way, and a better fix would be delayed.

All of this was done in full view of the world, where anybody with an interest could contribute. And the final release of Swift 3, will be more reliable for it.