Crazy Apple News Site

All the News We Just Made Up.

Friday iFAQ: Cloak

Every Friday1 we publish a list of inFrequently Answered Questions and answers to help you, the Crazy Apple user, get more out of your Crazy Apple products.

This week we help you stay safe on the public byways of network traffic with Cloak, a VPN solution from Seattle, Washington2.

Q: Oh man, this is great!

A: Really? Usually it takes you a while longer to get on board with these things.

Q: No, seriously, what problem could I possibly have with a simple, all-in-one vpn solution?

A: You’re not freaked out about having passing through someone else’s vpn servers? Not going to get all bent out of shape about Seattle’s weather, or their abandonment of the coffeehouse?

Q: Look, I don’t know what your deal is. I like hanging out at said coffeehouses, and when I’m on their wi-fi it’s good to know that nobody else can read my packets.

A: Well, sure, I think it’s pretty great too, but usually I have to talk you into these things. Come on, we had a whole rhythm going.

Q: Look, I’m a sensible consonant. I like to make sure my data is going where I intend it to go and not wandering around the café without my permission. This company’s pricing scheme is super reasonable, their technology works on OSX and iOS, I just…don’t see the problem here.

A: Well there you are then. I guess my job is done.

Q: Yep, I’m totally happy with the Cloak and Dagger vpn service.

A: Um, there’s no dagger, actually.

Q: What’s that?

A: It’s not “Cloak and Dagger”. It’s just “Cloak”.

Q: Oh man, this changes everything!

A: There it is.

Q: I mean, how can you have a cloak without a dagger?

A: This is what I’m used to. Blind, unreasoning panic.

Q: I mean, I’ll keep using it, but, but…it’s just not cool any more. I wanna keep my activities secret, but what if I ALSO want to stab people?

A: You…should see a therapist, I guess?

Q: I’m leaving. That’s all there is to it! I’m out of here. You expect me to stay here and put up with this? [SLAMS DOOR].

A: Well, that was fun.

  1. Or so. As the situation warrants.

  2. We were going to say it was from a company whose name we couldn’t quite remember, but they seem to have changed it to just “Cloak”. We could have deleted everything from the word “from” onward, but that’s just not how we roll.

Next iPhone News Post

The Next iPhone: Our Definitive Report

We here at CANS headquarters have been waiting for the new iPhone just as hard as anyone. Harder, even, because we are just that dedicated to this whole waiting thing.1

But we’re not just sitting around, resting on our laurels, knowing that we are the wait-hardest quasi-news source out there. Oh no. We have scoured the blogs and the articles and the sites that claim to have images of the casing that was most likely a prototype of the new iPhone charger casing, and through all of our research we are able to bring you, the CANS reader, a definitive list of factoids about the nascent iPhone. Enjoy.

iPhone Facts:

  1. Release Date: every day April 15 to September 31 inclusive. “We’re doing it that way to keep the lines short” said an imaginary representative from Apple, Inc.
  2. Supported Networks: All of them. Ever. And we really mean “every single network ever”. If you’ve still got an old Token-Ring LAN that needs BNC connectors to join up and transmits data at 15K baud, the new iPhone will let you place phone calls on this network. 2
  3. Screen Size: 4.3721 inches diagonal. “Any other size will just look like crap,” says Sir Jony Ive, twitching slightly. “We’ve moved beyond insanely great to insanely perfect. And this is it. The best there is.” We thanked him for his time, but he interrupted with “what was that look? Don’t you believe me? Listen, when was the last time you were knighted solely on the strength of your industrial design skills?”
  4. Turn by Turn Navigation: Look, we’re not talking about roads here. Siri will now give you moment-by-moment, turn-by-turn navigation for the treacherous waters of interpersonal relationships. Just ask your phone for the best possible response to comments like “you love that phone more than you love me” 3, and the only appropriate thing to say when asked if your significant other’s pants make them look fat 4.
  5. Price Point: Instead of a price “point” the new iPhone will be available along a pricing “gradient”, that takes several factors into account, such as how much money is in your bank account and… well, that’s pretty much it, actually. Oh, wait. Which network you’re on matters too. T-Mobile customers will pay something approaching a fair price, while AT&T subscribers will continue to pay for their phone long after they actually paid it off.
  6. Colors: The new iPhone will be available in black and not-quite-black. However, brand new iPhone “iCovers” will be available in all the colors you knew and loved as iPod socks, because Apple still has a million of those things.
  7. iOS 7: Yeah, probably. They might even give it the “massive overhaul” that the tech press claims they “need” to “keep ahead of Android”5. But we’re not holding our breaths. The one feature we expect to see is a completely redesigned Calendar app that is entirely flat and has the words “screw you, Forstall” emblazoned across every page of your calendar.

So there you have it: CANS 100% definitive list of features you can expect from the new iPhone when it ships. You’re welcome.

  1. Also because this is the first time that we’ve had the budget to actually buy an iPhone.

  2. Of course, the lightning-BNC adapter will cost several thousand dollars.

  3. “Of course I don’t honey. I love my phone exactly as much as I love you!”

  4. Your phone will send you a text message informing you of the near death of a beloved relative.

  5. Have you used Android 4.2? It’s amazing!

Return of the Footnote

This is just a quick note to let you know that, whatever you’ve been doing, whatever you’ve been expecting, you can now expect this blog to have1.

We’ve been working on this since we switched blogging engines. You know, three or four days ago.

Now that we’re back in style expect some awesome posts about iPhone speculation and other such awesomeness. Feel free to suggest topics in the comments section as well.

  1. Footnotes.

Friday iFAQ: Ulysses

Every Friday we publish a list of inFrequently Answered Questions and answers to help you, the Crazy Apple user, get more out of your Crazy Apple products.

This week we’re getting our iFAQ muscles back in shape and talking about Ulysses III, the all-in-one authoring tool that–

Q: AAAAAAAUGH [Runs and tackles the narrator]

Narrator: Ouch! Dang it! Look, hey, get off! What’re you doing?

Q: Who are you and what have you done with the real author?

N: What are you talking about? It’s me! Remember? From before?

Q: Look, you’re not him I mean, you’re doing this article on Ulysses for Pete’s sake, and you’re, you know, actually writing posts. These don’t sound like the guy who once said that “Ulysses interface makes rats barf.”

N: Look, people change. Software changes. The world moves on, and the Soulmen actually did a pretty great job with Ulysses III.

Q: So that’s it? You wander off for a few years, leave me to languish, and all I get when you come back is “people change and Ulysses is pretty good now!”? Not okay, man, not okay.

N: But it’s gonna be okay. We’re on a new host now, with fewer bugs and problems and stuff, and we’re ready to crank this thing out old school style.

Q: Well… I don’t know if I can really trust you…

N: Give me a chance. Please? For old times?

Q: Okay. You’ve got one shot at this.

N: Thanks. Okay, I’m turning it over to A now.

Friday iFAQ: Ulysses. F’real this time.

Q: So, Ulysses? Really? I can’t believe we’re doing this. What’s so new and special that we’re changing our sitewide hatred for that program?

A: Well, in a word, everything. The company that makes Ulysses has rebuilt it from the ground up. All the old, weird features are gone and replaced with surprisingly solid new features.

Q: Like what?

A: The interface, for starters. The old interface was, well, it had Pre-OSX roots, and they were quite visible. The new app is sleek, clean, and polished.

Q: You used to say nice things like that about Scrivener.

A: Scrivener is still our main choice for long form writing. But It’s not a “this or that” situation. Both apps have their purposes. Ulysses is much better for just getting thoughts down quickly, without worrying too much about the formatting or the layout or having a title or what folder this new text should go into.

Q: So it’s nvALT, but for money?

A: There are similarities. But Ulysses has a lot of refinements that aren’t in nvALT. You’re not limited to a single directory, or even a single platform. You can sync via iCloud and/or Dropbox, or just keep the files on your local system.

Q: So that’s it? Just ditch Brett Terpstra altogether?

A: Definitely not. Look, Ulysses isn’t perfect. They’ve made some odd choices as regards the file storage mechanism; it doesn’t handle MultiMarkdown natively, previewing your text in Marked is strangely difficult… but it’s a lot of massive steps in the right direction.

Q: Well…does it still make rats barf?

A: Even Jony Ive would love the interface now. It looks a lot like iTunes 11.

Q: Alright then.

A: See? Just like old times!

Q: Your banter is a bit off.

CANS Reborn!

The Crazy Apple News Site is coming back! After many months of hybernation we are returning bigger, better, and stronger than ever. Depending on our mood we may even come back with a vengence, but we’re not married to that idea. We’ll just get back on our feet and then see where the mood takes us. There may be a small amount of vengence later on.

this is a brand new hosting methodology, a brand new blog, and a brand new lease on life. Some things have been lost, but as soon as we can we’ll have an archive copy of the old site up where you can check it out. Most of the old posts have made it to the new format, but on the whole the comments got it in the shorts.

But the new comments have much safer shorts, and will last much longer! Probably!

At any rate, our signuature blend of incisive commentary and Apple biases will be coming your way just as soon as we get all the hosting bugs worked out.

Channeling Douglas Adams

In Last Chance To See Douglas Adams talks about writing a program that is very sexy and has pull down menus and everything, and it’s entire purpose is to figure out the volume of the nests made by a certain kind of bird. In an article called “Frank The Vandal” he writes about a desire to be able to take just the parts of programs you want and paste them into a workflow so that you can do whatever it is you want to do without using six different programs. This is a mindset that resonates with me. If I can spend a few happy minutes1 writing pointless software to solve a problem now instead of seconds taking care of it manually once a week I will definitely go for the pointless software. It was in this vein that I tackled the following

Extremely Small Problem:

I do a lot of what Natalie Goldberg calls “practice writing”. which is where you just block out some time and keep writing for that entire time. This writing can be directed, or not, but the goal is to keep moving forward, to keep putting words on the page, or, in my case, into the text document. This isn’t “real” writing that you plan to put in front of other people some day, this is just exercise, to keep those writing muscles in shape.

When you exercise your muscles, you aren’t left with an artifact of your exercise. But when you do writing exercise, you have this document that you created, and have to do something with it. It’s possible that some part of it might be worth something to you in some context, so it seems wasteful to just delete it. Once again referring to Natalie Goldberg, these are like compost; they’re not really valuable by themselves, but if you keep piling them up there’s a chance that someday something good will grow out of them. Being the nerd that I am, I decided that I would keep all these useless little documents, and I would keep them all in one folder, so they would stay out the way.

So, on my home Mac I set up Hazel to just take those documents, rename them to today’s date (which gives me a good record of which days I did my writing practice and which days I didn’t) and shove them in a folder. All of this happens without me thinking about it, because Hazel is awesome. So, here comes the extremely small problem:

Sometimes I do my writing practice on my laptop, which is a PC.

Because I’m insane and picky and whatnot I use FocusWriter on the PC2 and FocusWriter, by default, produces Rich Text files (rtf files). BUT I have WriteRoom set to produce plain text files (txt files). It’s possible that I could just set FocusWriter to save things as txt files by default, but that’s crazy talk. Simple solutions need not apply, thank you very much. And I still have the problem of getting my little documents3 from my PC to my mac, and in the right folder.

Now, I grant you, I could move these files myself, but part of being who I am is having a rock-solid conviction that I shouldn’t be thinking about things if I can make a computer think about them for me. My ultimate goal is to be able to write something mindlessly and forget about it, secure in the knowledge that when I look for it4 it’ll be where I expect it to be.

After a little bit of thinking and a little more tinkering, I came up with the following

Gloriously Baroque Solution:

The moving parts involved here are (in order):

  1. Dropbox
  2. Hazel
  3. Automator
  4. Word 2011 for Mac
  5. Hazel again

Here’s how it goes:

I write my useless document, and save it to a particular folder in my Dropbox. It’s instantly beamed to all the other computers that are connected to my Dropbox account.Otto: the Automator icon


On my mac, Hazel is monitoring that folder, and sees a new rtf file show up. It starts a rule5 that renames the file and moves it into my “compost” folder. But the file is still an rtf instead of a txt file! Not to worry, this is where it calls Automator.

I’ve created an Automator workflow that takes the file, loads it into Word, converts it into a txt file and saves it.6  It then hands control back to Hazel. The Hazel rule completes, and colors the label of the original rtf file gray. This triggers a second Hazel rule that is watching the compost folder. This rule does one thing: if it finds an rtf file with a gray label it puts it in the trash. Since these files are only turned gray after the txt version is created I’m no longer worried about keeping the rtf file around.

This all works perfectly, much to my surprise, and (even more surprisingly) usually takes less than five seconds to run, even with all the Word opening and closing stuff. And since it’s happening while I’m not at my mac it’s effectively happening instantly.


Well, there isn’t one, really. All in all this took me about 20 minutes to set up, and will save me a few seconds of work a few times a week. But it’s work that I’m unlikely to do by myself, which would compromise the integrity of my compost folder. So, here’s to creative solutions to minuscule problems!

Note: This article was cross-posted here and at Coals[2]Newcastle.

  1. or hours []
  2. it most closely matches the functionality of WriteRoom, which is what I use on my mac []
  3. which, you’ll remember, are pretty much worthless []
  4. which may nor may not ever happen, but that’s beside the point []
  5. Hazel’s name for a set of actions that happen when a certain condition is met []
  6. and then closes Word. I don’t know why this is a separate step, but it is. []

Thank You, Steve Jobs

We will miss you. This site wouldn’t exist without you, for what little that’s worth. Apple will carry on, and there will be wonderful advances based on what you did, but the world won’t be the same without you.


Salve atque vale.



Brand New Old School Fun

Ever wonder what I do when I’m feeling bored and creative? Well, sometimes I write Interactive Fiction. If you’re looking for something to laugh at, why not take a whack at my first IF effort, Clichés? You can play it in your browser for free, provided you’ve nothing better to do and are willing to put up with the kind of stupid inconsistencies and bugs I’m sure are still in there. But hey, text adventures are supposed to be irritating and difficult!

Six Minutes to Lion

I paid my 30 bones, I sat through the download, and now it’s all about the install process. What awaits my mac mini on the other side? Will all my documents be safer and somehow more stylish? Will I have a new desktop wallpaper? Why do we put wallpaper on desktops? How will I do things without a trackpad? Why did my “Time remaining:” timer just go from Five Minutes to 18 minutes? I’d like to answer these questions, but I can’t yet. I’m still watching a progress bar. So I’ll give you my current impressions of Lion, as follows:

  • The Progress bar has square corners.


So yeah, this article is not really ready yet. But that’s not stopping me from posting it! There’s a certain something about the cusp, the moments between leaving and arriving, that captivates the imagination. The trepidation of leaving behind a world you understand and the excitement of coming somewhere new, the fear that you’ll crash and burn somewhere in between. All these meet and are best expressed in the form of, well, a progress bar.

More insight later. Assuming my computer doesn’t crash and burn1

  1. Wait, how am I writing this article if my computer’s all tied up installing things? []

Guest Review of ViTunes

Ladies and Gentlemen, we bring you, once again, the zombified remains of Richard M. Stallman, or ZRMS.1

ZRMS has joined us today to review a product that is right up his metaphorical alley, a product, that, like himself, is from somewhere out in left field. Welcome to ZRMS’ review of ViTunes, the Vim interface to iTunes.

Hello readers all. When tackling a project like reviewing a relatively obscure program that enables users of an aging open source tool to control a completely closed source and slightly anti-competitive music player, one doesn’t just slap a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” on it and walk away whistling. It’s really hard to whistle after death, for one thing. Just don’t have the elasticity for it any more. A product like this deserves close attention, like a hapless cheerleader who’s been separated from the pack and secretly takes AP classes, so her brain is crammed full of facts, but not ones that would help her right now, like “How to avoid getting your brain eaten before taking the SAT, because that will definitely keep you out of college”. But where was I? Oh yes, ViTunes.

Now, on the surface, this is a marriage made in hell. And those just don’t last. Look at it: Vim is a staple of open source programmers, a geek badge of courage, a sign that you are a true hacker in the old sense, and that you live life on the command line.  iTunes is a music player with completely closed source code and a lot of DRM still floating around inside it, locking users to their Macs like a spiritual ball and chain. The two shouldn’t have anything to do with one another. So, if we were to score the program on the sheer “making sense” scale, it’d have to get a negative two.

And then there’s the potential user base scale. A venn diagram of Vim users and iTunes users would be two circles that have a microscopic overlap, something like three angstroms or less. so, on the “look I’ve got a potential market” scale we get a nice round zero, because nobody’s going to get mad at you for making this product.

But there’s a deeper level here, something that overrides all these other considerations. The Challenge. Any real hacker knows what I mean. You program in Vim on your Mac. you like Vim, you like your Mac, and you like to listen to music. But why should you have to use any extra keystrokes to change songs or whatever? Sure, you could use something flashy like LaunchBar or Quicksilver to change songs from the keyboard, but you’ve spent all this time learning Vim and telling everyone how productive you are when you use it, so it’s time to put your money where your mouth is, isn’t it?

That’s The Challenge. You need to make a program that will save you precious milliseconds. The programming effort will doubtlessly be orders of magnitude greater than the reward, but you’ll do it because it’s just possible you can, and you have to find out. You’re going to take the oldest and least user friendly text editor ever and the newest and least programmer friendly music player and make them work together. And for this I raise my hat to you. Well, my scalp. It fits like a hat these days. So same difference. On the “taking on and completing The Challenge” scale you, dear programmer, get 400 out of ten points. You are awesome, and we are proud to include you in our ranks.

The ranks of true hackers, that is, not the growing ranks of the undead. That day will come soon enough.

And there you have it, insightful, witty, and ever so slightly terrifying. Everything that we’ve come to expect from ZRMS.

  1. In the crazy mixed-up earth-1 where CANS news comes from RMS is dead and a zombie that likes mac products. It’s sort of a running joke, and like most running jokes, it’s not very funny. It started here for those who are interested. []