Potemkin villages and the autocracy of design

tl;dr: As much as I respect the efforts undertaken by groups like Gnome and elementary, I have to wonder if what they’re building is barely enough, and provides an illusion of substance.

There’s been a lot of effort spent on the Linux desktop. The groups I respect the most on this front are Gnome and elementary, due to their focus on UX design and trying to do new things. While Gnome has been controversial due to their design and stance towards design, I think a lot of the controversy on that front is unmerited (i.e Gnome’s design isn’t actually appropriate for tablets as much as the peanut gallery thinks). I appreciate that someone is trying to do something other than “Windows 98 stomping on a human face, forever”, and it’s what I use on my desktop. Controversial for other reasons (also unmerited, a man’s gotta eat; that desktop won’t happen with getting paid in exposure), elementary’s design has been considered very nice (often making it recommended for “my first distro”), if a bit derivative at first glance. What makes it more interesting in the morass of many OSS UX clones is UX as a priority/value (instead of something that’s just there) and iterating on existing UX. Sometimes it works out, doesn’t it doesn’t, but I respect the attempt at trying something new and seeing if it’s better.

However, I wonder if what they’re doing is enough. They have a desktop, many components of that desktop, and human interface guidelines (elementary, Gnome); all components you need. What I think is missing is the substance. Where’s the ecosystem of applications that embrace the HIG, and how does the intricacies of the of the environment come into play for complex applications and situations?

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Files with accents not showing from an SMB share on macOS

I recently had an issue where some files with accents were showing, but not all of them. If none of them were showing, I might have assumed an encoding issue, but it’s clear something else was at play here. This was pretty annoying when I wanted to play a specific song.

As it turns out, on macOS, it’s almost certainly a Unicode normalization issue, where Apple is (unnecessarily) strict about Unicode. I seem to keep running into these issues on macOS – I first into it trying to notarize a zip file. Luckily, there’s a tool that can handle this for you.

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Notes with the Parallels Beta on Apple Silicon

QEMU recently gained Apple Silicon hypervisor support. That was pretty damn cool for the first few weeks of M1 in people’s hands. Even without any optimizations, Windows 10 on M1 outclasses the Surface Pro X and even my Ryzen gaming desktop. Unfortunately, that didn’t include 3D acceleration (though virtio-gpu is now a thing for 2D).

Luckily, Parallels has ported their virtualization software to M1. It’s incredibly janky (and certainly deserving of a technical preview because of that!), but shows a lot of promise, complete with D3D11 support for games. Unfortunately, it requires some hacks to get running stable, but it’ll work fine after that.

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“xcrun altool” not found on macOS

I needed to attempt a notarization of a Mac app (currently still in the middle of that long story), but I wasn’t using Xcode, so I had to run tools manually. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use xcrun altool, as it couldn’t find the command. I had upgraded the version of Xcode I was using, so I guess I had some stale links somewhere. Running xcode-select -r did the trick and fixed it.

Can’t add email accounts in macOS (stuck on final step)

When I tried to add an Exchange account (but it seemed to affect IMAP accounts too) in macOS (I was running High Sierra, but it affects other versions too), from either the Internet Accounts preference pane or Mail.app, it would let would let me add an account right until the final step where it asks what kind of services you want enabled on the account, then the Done/Next button just does nothing. You might get a throbber for a second, but it subsides and does nothing.

There’s a lot of somewhat convulted steps posted on the internet, but the simplest is to just reset your keychain from the Keychain Access application (Application Menu->Preferences, it’s one of the options there) and reboot. You’ll have to enter your passwords again (including iCloud), but I had no trouble adding mail accounts after that.