May 2012

AppCode’s splash screen.

In my “summer vacation” post, I talked about the tools I’d be using to learn iOS development. One of them is the obvious choice: XCode, the Apple IDE, and the standard tool for developing iPhone and iPad apps. The other is a new tool, RubyMotion, which attempts to simplify iOS development with Ruby as the programming language and Rake as the primary build tool. Each has its pros and cons, and I thought that it would be interesting to learn iOS development through these two different tools and their different approaches.

James Kovacs, Tech Evangelist for the development tool company JetBrains — the people behind IntelliJ IDEA, RubyMine and ReSharper (quite possibly the most-loved Visual Studio add-on) — read my post and kindly offered me a free licence for AppCode, their IDE for MacOS and iOS development with Objective-C. In his email, he wrote:

No strings attached. Develop the next Angry Birds with it and make your millions. Wax poetic about it on your blog. Or bitch and complain about a missing killer feature. Or ignore it entirely and use Xcode exclusively. It’s really up to you.

Thank you, James! Consider AppCode added to my set of tools that I’ll be using while learning iOS development.

AppCode’s “Quick Start” screen. Click to see it at full size.

Having spent three years in the .NET world, I’ve become acquainted with Visual Studio. It’s one of the few Microsoft products that even the most ardent Microsoft-basher will say, often through gritted teeth, beats out all the others in its field. I agree; it’s an excellent IDE, and along with the underappreciated Windows Live Writer blog editing tool, is one of those precious few Microsoft tools that is consistently a pleasure to use.

Nice as Visual Studio is, it’s made even nicer by ReSharper, which adds a whole raft of utility features to Visual Studio. It takes so much drudgery out of coding that I know a number of developers who refuse to use Visual Studio without it (and a handful of purists who disdain those who use it, saying that they’re not really coding anymore). I’ve noodled a little bit with ReSharper, and liked what I saw. At the very least, it gives me some confidence that AppCode, coming from the same vendor, might have something going for it.

AppCode’s “Create Project” window.

XCode doesn’t get the same love that Visual Studio does. You’ll find many MacOS and iOS developers who like it enough and who’ll point out that it’s improved greatly over the past little while, but even the die-hard fans will say that it’s pretty clunky in places. That’s part of the appeal of alternative tools like RubyMotion, and I was curious to see how AppCode stacks up.

AppCode’s editor window. Click to see it at full size.

A little searching took me to The Code Sheriff, Yoni Tsafir’s blog, and an article in which he compared XCode to AppCode in a number of categories. AppCode wins in a number of categories, especially in those where you are doing a lot of straight-up coding: making quick fixes, refactoring, code completion and generation, keyboard shortcuts and code inspection. In other words, the sort of stuff with which ReSharper juices up Visual Studio.

AppCode doesn’t have an interface-building tool like Interface Builder, which is no longer its own app; it’s now part of XCode. I’m going to experiment with building apps with XCode alone along with taking a hybrid approach and bouncing between XCode and AppCode. That’s not all that different from bouncing between Visual Studio for coding and Expression Blend for UI, something which I did regularly when I was the Windows Phone evangelist.

So now it’s XCode, AppCode and RubyMotion. Thanks, James and JetBrains!

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"A Better Amercia" overlay from the "With Mitt" iPhone app

Actual picture of Yours Truly taken with the “With Mitt” app.

The “With Mitt” app — an app created as a promotional tool for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign — contains the worst possible typo: in it, “America” is misspelled as “Amercia”. Let this be a lesson to all you mobile app developers trying to develop and deploy an app in a hurry: make sure you’ve got someone, preferably someone removed from the development process, to check the graphics and text of your apps!

Getting the contract to build the Romney app must’ve been a dream for the developers at first: relatively simple to program, heavily promoted as part of a presidential campaign and sure to be downloaded by many, many users. Now, I’m sure that’s a nightmare for them: an embarrassing gaffe, an angry customer and a tarnished rep for quality.

My recommendation would be for the developers to own up to it and perhaps even publish a “lessons learned” article. It’s far better to own the mistake than to have a potential client do due diligence and then discover that they were the people behind “the app that misspelled America for the Romney campaign”.

If you’re curious, go check my entry in the Accordion Guy blog, where I have a little fun with the app.

Designing for Mobile is a gallery of app user interfaces collected by an app designer from Xanadu, a mobile design and development shop, who documents interesting UI patterns that s/he comes across.

Way less wired in 2016: In Cisco’s most recent edition of its Visual Networking Index, they predict that wifi and cellular will account for 60% of all internet traffic by 2016. This is quite a contrast from last year, when wifi accounted for 40% of all ‘net traffic, will cellular making up about 2%.

The mismatch between the growth in mobile usage and making money from mobile (I’m trying to avoid using the word “monetization”), explained. Remember, there was once a mismatch between the growth in internet usage and making money from it, too.

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Cover of "iPhone and iPad App 24-Hour Trainer"

Okay, I’ve got the “vacation” part of my summer vacation down, and now it’s time to get down to work. By that, I mean one of things I’d been planning to do on this sabbatical — aside from flying to Tampa, then Manila, then back to Tampa — was to finally learn iOS programming. It occurred to me that I was long overdue when I got my annual renewal notice for the iOS Developer Program and realized that I hadn’t done a damned thing with it. I’ve now got the time and the motivation, so the journey begins!

I’ve decided to start with the exercises from Wrox’s iPhone and iPad App 24-Hour Hour Trainer because of the way the authors Abhishek Mishra and Gene Backlin structured the book: “Here’s a feature of iOS, here’s how it works, now here’s an app you can build and noodle with to take that feature for a spin”. Each exercise is short enough to be done in an afternoon (and many of the earlier ones are even shorter), so there’s plenty of that quick gratification that one needs when embarking on a new platform.

I’ll post regular entries about my progress and impressions of the book as I work through the exercises here on Global Nerdy. As I’m fond of saying on my blogs, “Watch this space!”

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Shopify Gets a Visit from the Premier

by Joey deVilla on May 30, 2012

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty recently paid a visit to Shopify, where he got a tour of the swanky (and large) new offices and chatted with the C-level Shopifolks. The video above is a quick summary of the visit, and there’s also a blog entry on the visit on the Premier’s blog.

Congrats, guys!

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Facebook Tries, Tries Again on a Smartphone: The New York Times reports that several Facebook employees report (anonymously, of course) that Facebook plans to release its own smartphone next year. According to these people, they’ve hired former iPhone and iPad engineers, one of whom Mark Zuckerberg “peppered with questions” about the inner workings of smartphones.

If this smartphone actually comes into being next year, it’s more than likely that they’ll compete primarily against Android rather than Apple. It should be interesting to see what developing for the “Facephone” (or whatever it gets called) is like.

Mobile Devices Now Make Up About 20 Percent of U.S. Web Traffic. These results come from Chitika, an online advertising network, who say that tablet and mobile phone internet usage peak during the evening hours. They also say that iPads account for 95% of tablet-based traffic, while iPhones account for 72% of phone-based web traffic. Android account for 26% of phone-based web traffic, and Windows Phone web traffic is one-third the traffic from BlackBerry phones.

Designing (and converting) for multiple mobile densities: In this article, Teehan+Lax’s Travis Hines explains how to design mobile user interfaces in a world of differing screen tech, from non-retina MDPI to HDPI to Retina to XHDPI.

Mobile Online Shopping Holds The Real Opportunity In Mobile Payments. Bill Ready, CEO of Braintree, talks about mcommerce — mobile commerce — and its opportunities.

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The Verge have published their review of the Samsung Galaxy S III. Their score: 8.5 out of 10, with the good points being unequalled performance, excellent camera, functionally sound design and “Android tweaks have mostly been for the better” and the bad points being “aesthetically challenged”, TouchWiz takes getting used to, S Voice is no less of a gimmick than Siri and ”Samsung has a history of failing to update phones on time”.

Neowin are reporting on Dell’s upcoming Windows 8 tablet, a 10.8″ device with an Intel Clover Trail Atom Dual Core processor, 2 gigs of RAM, SSD-based mass storage options with sized up to 128GB and two sizes of removable battery. My favourite comment to the article is the first one, which is pretty much what I thought when reading the article: “All for the price of $1,500″ (Dell haven’t announced the price of the tablet yet, but it’s a good bet that given the problems that PC manufacturers now have competing with Apple on price and that it’s part of Dell’s Latitude — business — line, it’s going to be pricier than any iPad.)

Express versions of Visual Studio 11 will be for Metro and web apps only. If you want to write a command-line or old-school Windows desktop app, you’re going to have to shell out about $500 for Visual Studio Pro or qualify for one of the “Spark” programs for students, startups or other demographics to whom Microsoft is willing to give their IDEs for free.

Ars Technica says that this change is a bad one, particularly for those who are just getting started out programming because there will be no current tools with the ability to develop simple command-line “Hello World”-style apps. I disagree; it’s possible to build GUI-based versions of “Hello World” that are still simple to implement, and I’d even argue these days that it’s necessary, given that when people think of “apps” these days, they think of the things they see on phones, not on the command line. I can see why Microsoft is doing this — it’s to foster the development of more Metro apps as well as to get more people to think of Windows as a web platform too — but I also think it’ll drive more people to Ruby, Python, PHP and other languages where the IDE doesn’t rule all. I just don’t think it’s the complete disaster that Ars Technica and others make it out to be.

 

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IDC’s report on the mobile market for 1Q 2012 says that both Android and iOS have increased their market shares at the expense of BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Phone and so on. Other interesting tidbits from the report:

  • Android accounts for over half of all mobile phone shipments, and Samsung accounts for almost half of all Android phones.
  • iOS is growing well year-over-year thanks to the 4S and new carriers taking up the iPhone.
  • “2012 should be considered a ramp-up year for Nokia and Microsoft to boost volumes.” Once again, we are in your debt, Captain Obvious.
  • BlackBerry lost what used to be an advantage: “Many companies now permit users to bring their own smartphones, allowing competitor operating systems to take away from BlackBerry’s market share.”

How one company found a niche business porting board games to mobile: Untether.tv’s Rob Woodbridge talks to Codito Development’s Chris Ewington about their Sage Board Games brand, which takes classic “Euro” board games like Puerto Rico and Tigris and Euphrates.

Free iBooks 2 ebook – Inspiring Apps. Described as “A business perspective on building mobile apps”, this book covers subjects that you’d best be familiar with before diving into the world of app development, including key terms, economic implications, technology options and strategic marketing tips. You’ll need an iPad with iBooks 2 to read this book.

Write better release notes. See the screenshot above? Those are not helpful release notes. This article discusses a few ideas on how to make them better.

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