Vincent Gable’s Blog

July 16, 2010

“I Have No Apology”

Filed under: Quotes | , ,
― Vincent Gable on July 16, 2010

Q: Will you apologize for investors?
A: Steve: We are apologizing to our customers. We want investors for the long haul. To those investors who bought the stock and are down $5, I have no apology.

–Steve Jobs, taking questions at a press conference on antenna issues with the iPhone 4 design, July 16th, 2010.

That’s a CEO with his priorities straight.

June 7, 2010

Quality is Money

Filed under: iPhone,MacOSX,Programming,Quotes | , , , ,
― Vincent Gable on June 7, 2010

The truth is that an iPad app is neither easier nor harder to make than an iPhone app (or a Mac or Windows app), in any general, reasonable, defensible way. Software doesn’t work like that; we don’t have to work twice as hard to cover twice as many pixels on screen. It’s all about the elusive quality factor.

Matt Legend Gemmell, on iPad App Pricing


February 15, 2010

Usability Problems are Cultural

Filed under: Accessibility,Programming,Quotes,Usability | , , , ,
― Vincent Gable on February 15, 2010

Obstacles to getting real feedback are now mainly cultural, not technological; any business that isn’t learning from their users doesn’t want to learn from their users.

Clay Shirky, on Meetup’s Dead Simple User Testing

November 14, 2009

You Can’t Please Everyone

Filed under: Design,Programming,Quotes,Tips,Usability | , , ,
― Vincent Gable on November 14, 2009

I did a project years ago called the “Dollar Dudes”, where we got on the subway with a bucket of dollar bills and announced that we were in the lucky “Dollar Train” and that everyone gets a dollar. Most everyone was delighted (at both the dollar and the ridiculousness of it all) but one guy refused to take the money and snapped at me. I was bummed out to get that reaction, but at the end of the day I didn’t feel that one guy getting irritated made the whole project a failure. The other 40 people had fun. I imagine the type of person who gets mad when offered a dollar by a stranger probably gets mad quite a bit throughout his day. I’m not trying or pretending to please every single person we encounter.

Charlie Todd (of Improv Everywhere fame)

Yes, handing out a bucket of money really does upset someone. You have no chance of pleasing everyone. Make tradeoffs accordingly.

October 22, 2009

iPhone Shows the Irrelevance of the Programmer User

Filed under: iPhone,Usability | , , , ,
― Vincent Gable on October 22, 2009

There’s a lot of discord over Apple’s draconian “closed” handling of the iPhone and App store. And rightly so. But there are a few interesting lessons in the current situation. The one I want to discuss now is that,

Being able to program your own computer isn’t enough to make it open

As things stand today, Apple can’t stop you from installing any damn iPhone app if you build yourself.

To do that you have to join the iPhone developer program of course. And there’s a $99/year fee. That’s inconvenient, but it’s just using a subscription-based way of selling iPhone OS: Developer Edition.

That’s the kind of dirty money-grabbing scheme I’d expect from Microsoft. It’s a bit shady, because it’s not how most OSes are sold. But it’s not without precedent. And unless you are against ever charging money for software, I don’t think there’s an argument that it’s actually depriving people of freedom.

Yes, it’s an unaffordably high price for many. But the iPhone is a premium good that costs real money to build — it’s inherently beyond many people’s means, even when subsidized.

Observation: Only Binaries Matter

If you have a great iPhone app that Apple won’t allow into the store, you can still give it to me in source code form, and since I have iPhone OS: Developer Edition, I can run it on my iPhone.

But clearly that’s not good enough.

In fact, I’m not aware of any substantive iPhone App that’s distributed as source. By “substantive” I mean an app with a lot of users — say as many as the 100th most downloaded App Store app — or an app that does something that makes people jealous, like tethering (See update!), which we know is possible using the SDK. I realize this is a wishy-washy definition — what I’m trying to say is that distributed-as-source iPhone Apps seem to be totally irrelevant.

“It’s not open until I can put Linux on it”

I believe it’s technically possible to run Linux on an iPhone without jail-breaking it. (Although it’s not terribly practical.) Just build Linux (or an emulator that runs Linux) as an iPhone app, and leave it running all the time to get around the limitations on background processes.

Apple won’t allow such a thing into the App Store of course —but how does that stop you from distributing the source for it? As best I can tell, it doesn’t.

So as things stand today, yes you can distribute source code that lets any iPhone OS: Developer Edition user run Linux. It’s technically challenging, but it’s doable.


It’s possible to build open systems on top of closed systems. We’ve done it before when we built the internet on Ma Bell’s back.

But the iPhone remains a closed device. User-compiled applications have 0 momentum. And I think that clearly shows the irrelevance of the rare “programmer user”, who is comfortable dealing with the source code for the programs he uses.

UPDATE 2010-01-21: iProxy is an open-source project to enable tethering! Maybe the programmer-user will have their day after-all.

October 5, 2009

Disclosure Of Amazon Affiliate Linking

Filed under: Announcement | , , , ,
― Vincent Gable on October 5, 2009

Today the FTC ruled that bloggers must disclose “material connections” to products they review. More complex regulations are a pain, but I’m in favor of increased transparency.

So, in solidarity with the ruling, I’d like to disclose that I use AmazonAssociates program when I link to stuff on

Amazon Affiliate Linking

Here’s how the program works. I make my links to Amazon products, “affiliate links”. If you click one then buy the item, I get a kickback (usually 4% the purchase price). I do not get paid if you click the links, only if you click the links and buy the item. I do not get paid just for showing the links on my blog. I don’t get paid if you decide the buy the item a few days later, and navigate to it without clicking a link on my blog.

To date I’ve “made” $1.73 over about 3 years; but Amazon won’t disburse payments under $10, so I’ve yet to see a single cent.

Why I Bother

There are books and items that I think are worth linking to. Whoever I link to gets a (microscopic) boost from my blog. I like that Amazon gives me something in return — at least in theory. And that’s why I take the time to use affiliate links, even though I’ve gotten a $0 return for 3 years of work.

Yeah, I guess there’s some unbridled optimism in there too. If I could only be one of the top 100 technology blogs, I’d have enough readers to actually make money.

I also generally feel comfortable linking to Their prices aren’t always the best, but they’re competitive on the whole. Their service is the standard for online resellers. I figure readers have a very good idea of what they’re getting if they buy from them. And yes, sometimes I do direct people to buy somewhere else.

And to be absolutely clear, everything I’ve reviewed or recommended to date was purchased with my money. If I’m lucky enough to get gifts from some amazing company (hint!), I’ll disclose it in my review.


If any link on my blog points to (like this), I get a small (usually 4%) commission off the item iff you buy it immediately after clicking the link.

June 4, 2009


Filed under: Programming | , , , , , , ,
― Vincent Gable on June 4, 2009

The word microISV is all business, in all the wrong ways.

MicroISV stands for “Micro Independent Software Vendor”, which in plain english means a tiny software company, usually on the order of one or three people.

Probably the best reason to buy software from such a small shop is passion. People who build and sell their own software directly tend to care very deeply about it. Their program is their baby. Nobody in a microISV is just in it for the paycheck. No matter how cool a large corporation is, at the end of the day everyone has to compromise on their dream to work together on it. But a one man shop never has to compromise or design by committee.

“Micro Independent Software Vendor” doesn’t communicate this agile vision. It sounds like the same kind of turgid enterprise think that drove the world’s largest software company to rename Netbooks, “low-cost small notebook PCs”. (You just can’t make this stuff up!)

Three people are never going to out-Big-Business a Big Business. So it just doesn’t make sense to label what they do with a Big Business Word. (And by word, I mean several words, because that’s how Enterprise Speak works.)

The most popular synonym for microISV I see in the Mac software scene is indy developer. I think it’s a fine term — better than microISV by about a factor of IBM’s income. But there are many other excellent alternatives to “indie”, like boutique, nano, one-man, etc. The exact term isn’t important; and it need not be short. If someone wants to open their own “Hand Cyphered Soft-Wares Emporium“, then more power to them! What’s important is that their taxonomy reflect the culture of commitment that goes into their unique software.

EDITED TO ADD: Small Batch Business is another fantastic name.

March 7, 2009

Don’t Work Against Yourself

Filed under: Quotes | , , ,
― Vincent Gable on March 7, 2009

Reaganite conservatism axiomatically disdains government, and that creates a perverse incentive for conservative politicians to run government badly (or at least not to run it well), since the failure of government confirms conservative prejudices and (in theory) provides the movement with additional evidence in favor of its ideology. We just saw a particularly vivid example of this pathologically self-destructive dynamic at work in Bobby Jindal’s otherwise inexplicable attempt to turn the Bush administration’s utter ineptitude after Hurricane Katrina into a GOP talking point.

Damon Linker

I generally try to keep politics out of my blog, because political discussion on the internet isn’t productive. But I think there is a good lesson in this bit of history, and it’s very applicable to software development.

February 19, 2009

Sustainable Design

Filed under: Announcement,Design | , ,
― Vincent Gable on February 19, 2009

Good design is endearing. When people like something, they keep it, and don’t replace it. Well designed products tend to stick around — for generations.

In this way, good design encourages reuse; discourages disposability.

It may be much more costly, monetarily and environmentally, to build something outstanding. An exceptional design can mean exceptionally difficult manufacturing. But savings mount up over time, as the artifact endures, and eliminates many disposable products.

I still shave with straight razors that are 60-80 years old. Although manufacturing, say a new Thiers-Issard razor, is expensive, the legions of disposable shavers it nullifies will grow for decades, possibly centuries.

Good design really is good for the planet.

February 9, 2009

Google Monoculture

Filed under: Announcement | , , , , ,
― Vincent Gable on February 9, 2009

Jeff Atwood remarked,

Google delivers 350x the traffic to Stack Overflow that the next best so-called “search engine” does. Three hundred and fifty times!

All I can say is that’s a Belgium big number!

Here’s his data:

Search Engine Visits
Google 3,417,919
Yahoo 9,779
Live 5,638
Search 2,961
AOL 1,274
Ask 1,186
MSN 1,177
Altavista 202
Yandex 191
Seznam 103

The server logs for, for 2008, show google giving me a much more modest 3.6x of my traffic.

13 different refering search engines Pages Percent Hits Percent
Google 3039 72.8 % 3047 72.3 %
Windows Live 1055 25.3 % 1055 25 %
Google (Images) 40 0.9 % 41 0.9 %
Yahoo! 12 0.2 % 12 0.2 %
MSN Search 7 0.1 % 7 0.1 %
Unknown search engines 4 0 % 4 0 %
Google (cache) 3 0 % 35 0.8 %
Scroogle 3 0 % 3 0 % (Social Bookmark) 2 0 % 2 0 %
AOL 1 0 % 1 0 %
Clusty 1 0 % 1 0 %
Dogpile 1 0 % 1 0 %
AltaVista 1 0 % 1 0 %

Of course, having 3.6x as much market share as everyone else combined is still market domination.

I can’t speculate why the numbers for my niche website are different from Attwood’s niche website (especially w.r.t Live Search).

But Yahoo’s consistently irrelevant 0.3% and 0.2% of referrals looks especially bad for them. Google has too few competitors.

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