The MOApp Software Manufactory Weblog.
Rants, Comments, Finds, and Tips from the Desk of Michael & Ollerum.

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iA Troller not so Pro

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There are no real ‘inventions’ in software. Period. And there is most definitely nothing ‘so’ new that it needs to be patented. Nothing. Period again.

And yet, not a day goes by when we are not confronted with the latest news about patent battles and patent trolls.

Most of the time in combination with big names like Google, Apple and Co. Sometimes in combination with trolls like Lodsys; David vs. Goliath … we all know it.

Until yesterday I thought that ‘we’ smaller developers would never start to act the same assholy way. But hey, you live and learn…

Syntax Control is a solid innovation, one we’ve been working on for more than four years. As with every serious design, once you have seen how it works, you can figure out cheap ways to copy it. We’ve trademarked and obtained patent pending for Syntax Control. If you want it in your text editor, you can get a license from us. It’s going to be a fair deal.

Oliver Reichenstein, (iA)

For those who can’t know: That functionality comes for free with the NSLinguisticTagger provided by Apple and already demonstrated on a WWDC.

But we shouldn’t be surprised. iA’s ‘Focus Mode’ had a ‘patent pending’ from day one. You know, the day they ‘invented’ Writer.

I was just told that their attempt (thank goodness!) got

That feature also comes for free with Cocoa/OS X and, as far as I know, I was the first to implement it in myTexts’ predecessor. It’s nothing else than a modification of what every text editor, like TextMate or BBEdit, did for years before Writer and Co: highlighting the current line.

BTW: TextMate was probably the first ‘Markdown Editor’ out there.

iA didn’t invent them! Byword for sure didn’t invent them!

Years ago I probably single-handedly ‘invented’ the plain text editor with markdown support, custom font, paragraph highlighting, custom background, full-screen and all the other things you can now find in all of the Markdown editor clones nowadays.

At least I pretend I did so :–)

It’s actually funny – or better yet – sad that I still get accused of ‘stealing’ from iAWriter and Co.

One could argue, though, that Ulysses ‘invented’ the plain text editor with full-screen. But then one could also argue that we all stole from the Terminal or the very first word processors, since they all were just plain text without a window.

And I used things I saw in many other Apps, like TextMate, like Ulysses, like WriteRoom etc.

And they used things they saw in other Apps. And in those Apps were things to be found that someone had ‘borrowed’ from other Apps; just remixed.

In-depth statistics, with readability stats, word statistics etc? Long available in myTexts and Free. And as it turns out (today) in Phraseology as well. That’s an App I’ve never heard of before.

You can bet your ass that the ‘patent worthy’ (sic!) Syntax Control can be found in an App we all never heard of before and that has been around for years now. I know of at least seven teachers that ‘colorized’ words for their students thirty years ago.

Yes, today iA announced to drop their patent pending. But why did they think about it in the first place?

They should have known better!

They did a great job with Writer. Even though they didn’t ‘invent’ shit! The complete App is a rip-off. They did an awesome job with simplifying things and they did an even better job with the marketing.

I don’t hate them for ripping-off things they have seen in other Apps. I hate myself for sucking at marketing.

I wish I were better at it. I too want to make a living. But I would never start to patent things I ‘invented’ or try to ‘license’ things that Apple ships for free – or to quote Jorge, creator of Byword, who also ‘invented’ shit:

If you’re having app problems I feel bad for you, son. I got 99 problems but a patent ain’t one.

I can also quote Marcus, creator of Ulysses, who probably really ‘invented’ some shit:

To wrap up: 12 years ago, we brought tons of new stuff to the text editing space. Our initial sketches? Collages of @bbedit screens.

Long story short:

We all want to make a living, we all are annoyed, when we see things in other Apps, we pretend to have ‘invented’.

Being an asshole is not an answer!
Being better is!

I need to get better at marketing! And iA should start getting better at ‘inventing’ things. Things that weren’t around for years and that ship for free with every Mac and iPad…


The simplest solution to the ★☆☆☆☆ problem

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Since the beginning of the App Stores, every couple of months, there is a new back and forth, mostly between developers, on how to handle ★☆☆☆☆ ratings and how to get people to rate fairly and leave good reviews.

We all know those annoying pop ups, alerts, hints and all the other crap developers come up with to push people to leave a rating/review.

And we are all annoyed by them.

We’ve also all read those (see above) comments on the App Store descriptions and every time we developers open AppViz to fetch new data and reviews, chances are, we want to bang our heads again the next wall after reading them.

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From the 78 ★☆☆☆☆ ratings I got (so far) this month, over 80 percent came from people you constantly have to wonder how they managed to turn on the computer or iOS device in the first place. Sorry, but I have to put it this way.

Then there are always some that had technical problems with the stores. The download did not work or they had it already installed and didn’t know what to do. There’s always a small percentage of people that did not get what the App is (was) about in the first place and are just disappointed. I’d say they are mad at themselves and have to channel it; which is (kinda) understandable.

Only a very small amount of those ★☆☆☆☆ ratings actually have to do with the app itself and us as the developers. In most cases it crashed etc. That many crashes have to do with the (new) system is another story. People can’t know that. That’s OK.

And, of course, for some bugs, crashes, and other shortcomings, we can only blame ourselves.

But when reading all those discussions on how to deal with those problems, I never read about the simplest solution:


It is as simple as that. Let me repeat it for you:


The moment you do this, most of your problems will be gone. Idiots won’t buy your App in the first place. And those who do are much more likely to ‘protect’ their investment; meaning they will contact the support before trashing the App and bitching about it.

I put the same love, care, and hard work in all my apps. Period. Sometimes there’s twice the hard work and knowledge in a ‘simple’ and ‘cheap’ app than in some of my more expensive ones.

Guess what? People that spent 80 bucks on an app will almost always contact the support and are more likely to leave a good review if you were able to help them in a professional way.

Guess what? I only receive ★☆☆☆☆ ratings for my cheaper Apps, that often contain less bugs and that are much, much wider tested. For those Apps people just don’t bother to contact you. Hell, some of them (I’m inclined to say: most of them) don’t know how to contact you. 90 percent of all App Store users don’t know the rules, how it works and that there actually is a support link on every page.

Here in Berlin there are some Christmas markets you can go to and some you better skip. They all offer the same crap, the same food, and the same really bad hot spiced wine.

The only difference is that some charge one lousy buck for admission upfront.

Guess which ones you actually visit?


Mail Apps are the New Markdown Apps

I guess Mail Apps are the new Markdown Apps. First we killed the good alternatives. Then someone wrote a decent framework and now every month there is a new Mail App available for beta testing.

Since you have to beta test first in order to create some hype; invites only, of course! And in some months no one will be able to support them any more – because the business model didn’t work out. Who could have known that…

And yes, I already wrote my first Mail App years ago :–)

Public Preview of Mail Pilot


The Security Fairy Tail

I sell software. This means that I’m selling code that is executed on your computers, iPhones and iPads. Usually you click on a link, download the App and start it with a touch or double-click. If it doesn’t do what you expect, you complain about it. Otherwise you click the next link and type in your credit card details.

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Most of you do this without questioning what you are doing. There are some that will ask first if they see something like pictured above.

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No one asks if he sees something like this. It is the same URL, the same website, it is the same payment provider. The moment there is a litte picture, a little green lock, you type in your credit card details including your real address and your real telephone number.

And the moment the registration code is not automatically generated on the server, you complain again. You don’t care that this actually means that in addition to being stored by MasterCard, by the payment provider, by other multiple companies that handle those transactions, your important data has to be stored on my server as well.

Well, I do care.

Not to talk about the fact that you can’t know what I hide in my Apps. You touch it, you click it, you execute it. You can’t know that for all those hundreds of thousands of other developers either. No, you also can’t know that for iPhone and iPad as well.

Currently, I receive dozens of queries regarding SecureTexts and its encryption, hardening process, and whatnot…

Every time I send out my standard answer that I will, of course, not elaborate on that information publicly, I receive the strangest answers and accusations. Many gripe something about Open Design and Open Source; asking about a closed and proprietary App, mind you.

Not a single one of those ‘askers’ buys SecureTexts after receiving my answer.

And now guess what would happen if I just gave the ‘right’ answer; meaning I went on about trillions of bits, even more passes, PBKDF2, and all the other gibberish?

Yes, the moment I do nothing else than the equivalent of adding a fake little green lock, most of you would pull out the credit card in a blink; especially if it were a nice looking icon.

You would sleep tight and I would have a few more easily earned dollars.

Funny that I never receive a second answer from all those smarty pants when I write exactly this as the answer to the accusations. And no, I still don’t receive dollars either :–)

There is no such thing as security. There is no such thing as secure. We all know that, sort of. But we all are not equipped to deal with that knowledge, with that feeling. That’s why we all hold pictures of little green locks in front of our eyes. Even worse: we let others hold those pictures in front of our eyes.

We all do this. We’re human. We’re unable to properly deal with uncertainty.

That’s why lying and deceiving works so well. With open eyes we believe what we are fed only because we need to be able to close them in comfort at night.

Could you please all do me a favor and walk a little bit more cautiously through life and use your brain more often instead of just parroting something you read on the internet since this ‘on the internet’ thing is the same story.

After all we only understand what we want to understand or, better yet, pretend to understand. For most things we’re simply too stupid, but for whatever reasons not able to admit it. We need it simple.

Nevertheless: Simple and secure exclude each other. They always have and always will. We all know that and yet we collectively close our eyes. iCloud, Dropbox and Co are so handy…

The mental leap that secure simply can’t be simple, that leap only the fewest take. Very often the look at reality is clouded by cute little green locks.

Security is always (always, always, always) a course for consideration. On both sides – on the developers side and on yours.

Do I make it easier for possible assholes just so that a few know-it-alls sleep better or do I sell less and make it a little bit harder for all those assholes out there?

Do you want to be lied to by me or do you want to place some confidence in me?

Yes, I know: Those lines are fuzzy…

In the end we all need to be able to fall asleep at night. I can do that better when I know that I never ever will have to send out mass emails (like Adobe for example) telling you that all your important data has been compromised on my server. I also sleep better when I know that I did not blind you with little green locks tell you lies just to make some more quick bucks.

What about you?


Welcome to the sellout!

Just open the website and you immediately know that times clearly have changed. You’re not welcomed with the high-end iPhone. No, it’s all about the cheap plastic thingy.

While MS desperately tries to become the new Apple clone – Apple is becoming the old MS. I’m pretty sure the iPhone 5c will make them lots of money.

Here’s the thing, though: I’m not sure what this strategy has to do with building the best possible products. For me it just looks like building products that will sell well.

That’s a big difference…


Dear Longtime Apple User and Supporter,

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Dear Longtime Apple User and Supporter,

you’re not important anymore. Live with it! iOS 7 and its colors (as well as the upcoming iPhones and their colors) were not created for you, our strategy has nothing to do with you and you also don’t get a special treatment anymore.

However, should you live in China and the rest of Asia we’ll welcome you with open arms!



Watches aren’t broken!

So, Samsung wants to beat Apple with its Galaxy Gear? It appears that there isn’t a single ‘big’ company out there not building a ‘smart’ watch and I still don’t get it.

Joint unimaginativeness?
Dullness as the new creativity?

Watches aren’t broken! They don’t need to be fixed! So why are we ‘all’ waiting for Apple (or all the others) to present a stupid watch as the ‘next big thing’?

A watch has a purpose. It displays the time. Period.

A thousand songs in our pockets made sense. Computer and internet for everyone and computer with internet for the pocket for everyone made sense. Apple made them usable and fun.

Apple’s next big thing isn’t a watch. Those who don’t wear one from Baume & Mercier have an iPhone. Or a Galaxy S4. Or a Q10. It displays the time as well.

If they want to repeat their success, a watch is not the way to go. And I’m pretty sure Apple knows that.

So why don’t we?