The Time for HTTPS

I’ve just made the Brawer Software site run on the HTTPS protocol. The uBar purchase checkout is by Paddle, so that was always over HTTPS. But the main site was running on HTTP.

To be clear, there is no particular pressing reason to be using https on normal sites with no sensitive information.

But as they tend to do, Apple is showing the way forward. uBar 3.0.4 was the first version to be compiled with Xcode 7 back when El Capitan came out. Unfortunately, Apple had blocked all HTTP requests by default, which bricked the Sparkle update mechanism. So I had to rush a 3.0.4 hotfix and then a 3.0.5 update to fix it, hoping not too many customers had downloaded 3.0.4. Here is the required addition to Info.plist:


That said, making the Brawer Software site run on HTTPS throughout is entirely prophylactic.

The reason I got the actual SSL certificate is that I have been checking out Zendesk to setup a support sub-site, and the only way to get it to use was to get a certificate.

I opted for a 5 SAN certificate from GoDaddy, covering a bunch of domains.

As for actually getting the site to rewrite all URLs to HTTPS, I used the following in the .htaccess:

#Redirect HTTP to HTTPS
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [L,R=301] 
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} !on
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [R,L]

I’d like to get the whole Brawer Timepieces site running on HTTPS, but Shopify only allows HTTPS on the checkout ( It would be nice if they made this possible. A quick Google search reveals that people have been requesting it for years (along with multi-language stores and multiple currencies).

Get on it, Shopify!

Update: As of February 2nd 2016, Shopify added SSL support. Well done.

Iconic – The Ultimate Tribute to Apple

About a week ago I had the pleasure of having a phone conversation with Jonathan Zufi, the creator of Iconic. Among other things, we discussed Iconic and the very interesting history behind it.

The original idea behind the project was to create a museum of Apple products. The economics of creating a museum are very challenging, and the reach is quite limited. After weighing his options, Jonathan then got the idea of creating the beautiful book we know today.

I was especially impressed by the macro photography. I know from doing watch photography that product photography is quite difficult. Jonathan explained that he went to see a photography professor at a university and asked for his help on the project. Jonathan bought a wide variety of high-end cameras, lenses, and lights. He was able to eliminate shadows by sequencing three lights to flash in sequence with specific time-offsets, and thus achieve the perfect Jony Ive white infinity background.

Jonathan explained that while some had criticized the book for not having every single Mac product variant that ever existed, the difference between two models using the same chassis was often the model sticker. Rather than an exhaustive and redundant encyclopedia of every single variant, he focused more on rare products and prototypes. Indeed, I was surprised to see so many product prototypes that I had never heard of.

Between the nice, heavy paper, the beautiful photography, and the excellently curated selection of products, Iconic is truly the ultimate tribute to Apple products. By making it a book available world-wide, Jonathan reached far more people than he ever would have with a physical museum.

License Key Recovery

I finally implemented a license recovery system on Brawer Software‘s support page. It took about an hour and a half, yet I’ve been putting it off for a year and a half. Until now, I’ve been replying to each individual support emails asking for lost license keys – which typically involved doing a manual search on the database. Every time, it would take me a minute or two. At first I rationalized my procrastination by telling myself that it was relatively fast to look up versus the time it would take to implement a polished mechanism. What I didn’t take into account was how disruptive this was in terms of my workflow. I really should have done this a long time ago. I’m glad I finally did it.

New Media Server Setup

I’ve been wanting to setup a media server for a while now. I was strongly considering the Synology DS1515+, but ended up going with a Mac mini Server (2010) I got for CAD 200. I upgraded it to 16 GB RAM, and replaced the two 500 GB hard drives with two 2TB Samsung Spinpoint M9Ts striped in RAID 0 (for a total of 4 TB). The hard drives were CAD 150 each. So for a total of about CAD 500 (~ USD 350), I setup a media server.

The Synology would have cost CAD 1200 + 200 for a single 4 TB HD, meaning CAD 1400. The downsides are that the Synology has 4 link-aggregated ethernet ports versus the Mac mini’s single port, and of course I can add more hard drives to the Synology and put it in RAID 10. That said, I can just add a cheap external RAID enclosure with a few hard drives to the mini for backup purposes. I figure the mini’s Core 2 Duo is almost as powerful as the Synology’s Atom.

Software-wise, the mini is running OS X Server, and Plex. So far it’s all pretty simple. If I needed much more storage, redundancy, and speed, I would have gone with the Synology. But for my purposes, the souped-up mini is just fine. Besides, I’ve always wanted to try out OS X Server.