QR Code contains TinyURL of this article.The Trawler: № 5

🎁 Bumper Christmas Stocking Filler Edition! 🎄

fishing trawler (acrylic)
Credit: . License: CC BY-SA 3.0

Welcome one and all to another issue of The Trawler, the Internet’s premier collection of “stuff”.


It’s the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent: the cradle of life; home to some of the planet’s most beautiful locations and most exotic animals. The continent of Africa is big, but do you know how big? Would it surprise you if I told you that Africa was larger than the United States of America?1  How about larger than China? India? The entire continent of Europe?

In fact Africa is larger than all these countries combined: USA; China; India; Mexico; Peru; France; Spain; Papua New Guinea; Sweden; Japan; Germany; Norway; Italy; New Zealand; United Kingdom; Nepal; Bangladesh and Greece.

The little island I call home would fit into Africa a whopping 52,832 times!

The Fruit Company

An eclectic mix of Apple-related links have crossed my desk since the previous Trawler issue. In no particular order:

There’s a newly-opened Apple Museum in Prague, Czech Republic. This would certainly be on my “places to visit” list should I ever take a trip to Bohemia.

Don Melton, former Safari developer at Apple, has a great “Memories of Steve” eulogy on his weblog.

Leander Kahney gives us an insight into Apple’s super-secret industrial design team and CBS took us “Inside Apple.”

Federico Viticci describes “How the 6s Plus is Reshaping My iPhone Experience.” I’ve had my own 6s Plus for a month or two now and, like Viticci, I am happy with the purchase. It took a day or two to get used to the larger screen (coming from a 5s) and I haven’t really taken advantage of “3D Touch,” but I enjoy the device and its speed is a constant surprise.

Riccardo Mori reminds us that “The First Spotlight Interface is Still the Best.” This is a great article. I don’t agree with all of Mori’s points but he’s certainly right in extolling the virtues of the first Spotlight’s standalone interface, the utility of which was second to none. From Mori’s article I learned that a third-party application, Tembo, closely replicates that standalone Spotlight interface. Tembo has quickly become one of my “go to” applications.

Aleksander Lenart demonstrates how to replicate in CSS the “frosted glass” background effect popularised in Apple’s operating systems.

Apple has open-sourced the Swift programming language which resulted in much hugging from the community.

Safari 9 on El Capitan lost (again) the ability to interpret a press of the backspace key (or delete key on MacBooks) as an instruction to go to the previous page. Re-enable this option with:

defaults write com.apple.Safari com.apple.Safari.ContentPageGroupIdentifier.WebKit2BackspaceKeyNavigationEnabled -bool YES

The Rotten Fruit Company

It’s not all love and light in the Apple-sphere. The following articles explore the dark side:

Michael Tsai suggests that there’s “No One Minding the Store,” with an unsettling selection of tweets that expound on some of the problems with the Mac App Store. The comments are worth reading too.

Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini have published a thesis entitled, “How Apple Is Giving Design A Bad Name.” As much as I hate to admit it, I found myself nodding in agreement most of the way through their essay.

Apparently there’s been a new movie release that seems to have caused a bit of a stir.

Apple 'Star Wars' program cassette
Star WarsCredit: . License: CC BY 2.0


The ever prolific Sara Soueidan walks us through “Techniques for Responsive Typography” with her own incomparable style.

Input is a flexible system of fonts David Jonathan Ross has designed specifically for code. It offers both mono-space and proportional fonts, all with a large range of widths, weights, and styles for richer code formatting.

Marcin Wichary explains how we can use system UI fonts in web-design.

Cool Web Projects

Lucas Bebber has created an interactive travelogue that animates a map path while scrolling the page. The main idea is to connect a story of a journey with the path of the route taken. The travelogue can also contain images and a semi-transparent cone indicates where the traveller was when she took them. The cone appears as soon as the image is in the visible viewport. Bebber’s implementation also features an aeroplane icon to indicate those portions of the journey made on an aircraft. You have to check out the demo on this one.

Quinn Rohlf gives us Trianglify: algorithmically generated triangle art.

User Interface

A good user interface has high conversion rates and is easy to use. goodui.org is a repository of evidence showing which ideas work and which ones less so.

Hard-core Geek

“Third party content presents many performance challenges, more so today than it did a few years back. But at the same time, it’s an important part of the Web’s ecosystem.

We need to provide developers the tools to take control over their user’s experience, so that third party content will not be an anti-thesis to performance. Otherwise, the users will fix it for us, by blocking third party content altogether.” Third Party Content in a HTTP/2 and Ad-blockers World” by Yoav Weiss

Wired reminds us of “The Year’s 11 Biggest Hacks, From Ashley Madison to OPM.”

Igor Šarčević has discovered that “Closures Are Not Magic.” The power and utility of closures is something I have come to rely on with increasing frequency in my own programming adventures.

The Web is fragile. Neglect to pay a hosting bill, or renew a domain name and your website is offline. Collectively, we have created an unimaginable volume of Web content, much of which has been subsequently lost in the first quarter century of the Web’s life.2  The upshot of this is that large segments of our digital history have disappeared without a trace. Kyle Drake writes more about this in his article, “HTTP is obsolete. It’s time for the distributed, permanent web.” Drake discusses the experimental IPFS protocol, a method of distributing websites in a peer-to-peer configuration as opposed to on single-point-of-failure servers. I’m excited by this protocol and I hope to see the project mature and become more mainstream. The digital archaeologists of the future depend upon it.

In “The End of the Internet Dream,” Jennifer Granick writes, “in 20 years, the Web might complete its shift from liberator to oppressor. It’s up to us to prevent that.”

On a somewhat less serious note, James Hague writes about “Computer Science Courses that Don’t Exist, But Should.” Meanwhile, Aaron Andersen recounts the long and convoluted history of the browser user-agent string, with good humour and just a hint of sarcasm.

For the final item of this issue, Neal Ungerleider tells us “what it was like to attend ‘hacker high’ when they filmed ‘Hackers’ at my high school.”

I’ll sign off by wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

May the Force be with you.

  1. The Sahara, the largest desert on the planet, is larger than the United States in its own right (and it’s continually expanding). ↩︎

  2. I have lost three web projects in those 25 years, all three of which I was hugely invested in at the time. There exists now barely a trace of just one of those projects. ↩︎