Spaces after a period

Farhad Manjoo on one of my biggest pet peeves: two spaces after a period.

Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It's one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men's shirt buttons on the right and women's on the left. Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period. (The Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, used widely in the social sciences, allows for two spaces in draft manuscripts but recommends one space in published work.) Most ordinary people would know the one-space rule, too, if it weren't for a quirk of history. In the middle of the last century, a now-outmoded technology—the manual typewriter—invaded the American workplace. To accommodate that machine's shortcomings, everyone began to type wrong. And even though we no longer use typewriters, we all still type like we do.

The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks "loose" and uneven; there's a lot of white space between characters and words, so it's more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read. Here's the thing, though: Monospaced fonts went out in the 1970s. First electric typewriters and then computers began to offer people ways to create text using proportional fonts. Today nearly every font on your PC is proportional. (Courier is the one major exception.) Because we've all switched to modern fonts, adding two spaces after a period no longer enhances readability, typographers say. It diminishes it.

Cheaper iPhone plans

This week two prepaid phone carriers, Virgin Mobile and Cricket Wireless, announced they'll begin selling iPhones this month. Although you'll pay much more for the phone up front, the monthly service fees can be considerably less than traditional carriers. The folks at PC world compiled a handy chart that shows a savings of $300-500 over a two-year period. Of course, there are some down sides. Both Virgin and Cricket seem to have smaller coverage areas than AT&T or Verizon. Plus, we don't know whether they'll have the next iPhone when it's released. I'd wager that sales of a new iPhone will be mostly restricted to AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint at the outset, which could eliminate most early adopters. Still, all other things equal, it'd be nice to save a few hundred bucks on service!

A travel guide for America

The Atlantic has a great overview of guidebooks written for tourists visiting the United States, ranging from the philosophical:

Politics get heavy treatment in the books, as do the subtleties of discussing them, maybe more so than in any other guidebook I've read (what can I say, it's an addiction). Lonely Planet urges caution when discussing immigration. "This is the issue that makes Americans edgy, especially when it gets politicized," they write, subtly suggesting that some Americans might approach the issue differently than others. "Age has a lot to do with Americans' multicultural tolerance."

To the mundane:

You might say that global food cultures tend to fall into one of two categories: utensil cultures and finger cultures. The U.S., somewhat unusually, has both: the appropriate delivery method can vary between cuisines, and even between dishes, and it's far from obvious which is which. Baked chicken is a fork food, but fried chicken a finger food, depending on how it's fried. If you get fried pieces of potato, it's a finger food, unless the potato retains some circular shape, in which case use your fork. And so on. Confused yet?

On the whole, the advice is pretty good, and ranges from the hilarious (don't bring toiletries as gifts to a dinner party) to the depressing (gays and lesbians are encouraged to avoid rural areas). Kinda makes me want to go out and buy a USA guide book!

Rogue Rules

Rogue Amoeba:

If nothing else, we’re gratified to at least have come to an understanding that we didn’t violate the guidelines – Apple simply doesn’t want us providing this functionality in the App Store. Ultimately, if Apple doesn’t want it, we can’t provide it and users can’t have it.

You may be asking why Apple would want to prevent users from having this functionality. Only Apple can provide a full answer here. We do know that Airfoil Speakers Touch’s ability to receive audio directly from iTunes and iOS enabled some users to forgo purchasing expensive AirPlay hardware, hardware which Apple licenses. It seems Apple has chosen to use their gatekeeper powers to simply prevent competition.

While I sympathize with their plight, I don't agree with Rogue Amoeba's conclusion regarding Apple's motives. I can't imagine that AirPlay hardware licensing is a big-money business, and a thriving app ecosystem is certainly more important to the long-term success of iOS than AirPlay speakers. All other things equal, I'd usually expect Apple to prioritize third-party apps over third-party hardware.

So, why block Rogue Amoeba's use of audio streaming? I suspect the reason is contractual. Perhaps the contracts for AirPlay hardware licensing include a clause in which Apple agrees not to implement a "stream to iOS" feature that would make "made for AirPlay" speakers unnecessary. Moreover, it's reasonable to suggest that Apple might agree to prevent app developers from doing the same thing. In so doing, speaker manufacturers would get a little bit of protection for their investments.

Unfortunately, the folks who aren't protected are app developers like Rogue Amoeba. If I'm right, then Apple knew all along that it was obligated to keep "stream to iOS" features out of the App Store, and could have made that clear in the App Store Review Guidelines. Doing so would have allowed responsible developers to avoid wasting time building a feature that could never be released. Just like hardware manufacturers, app developers deserve a little clarity and protection as well. Of course, clarity isn't always possible, but when Apple's contracts dictate the implementation of a rule, developers deserve to know what that rule is.

LinkedIn app sends calendar data

Disappointing, but not all that surprising:

Today's not a good day to be a LinkedIn user—doubly so if you use LinkedIn's iPhone app. Researchers have discovered that the app scrapes users' Calendar items and sends the data back up to its servers, even when those Calendar items were created outside of the LinkedIn app. The scraped data includes participant lists, subject of the entry, time of the meeting, and any attached meeting notes (such as dial-in details and passcodes).

Is anyone still surprised that social networks are not always good citizens when it comes to privacy?