December 2016

ios-http-connections-not-today

Over the past little while, Apple has been telling iOS developers that by January 1, 2017, in order to be in the App Store, any app that made a connection to a server could do so only via a secure one — that is, only HTTPS and not HTTP connections would be allowed. They’ve just announced that “this deadline has been extended and we will provide another update when a new deadline is confirmed.”

Starting with iOS 9, apps allowed only HTTPS connections by default. However, many servers — including OpenWeatherMap’s, which powers a number of weather apps, including the one featured in my tutorial — don’t accept HTTPS connections. That’s why they still offer the option to let your app make connections over plain old HTTP by changing the default App Transport Security settings in the app’s info.plist file.

You could allow apps that you were developing to use plain HTTP connections by editing their info.plist files in its text form and adding this snippet…

…or do it the graphical way:

While requiring that all connections be secure ones helps to keep network data secure and reduce the probability of unwanted access, a large number of web services are still not using secure connections. This is probably the reason for the deadline extension.

You have a reprieve, iOS developers, but the sooner your apps’ connections are secure, the better.

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2017-a-year-of-building-apps

For the new year, I’ve decided to try a new approach with Tampa iOS Meetup, the regular Tampa Bay gathering that I run, where I cover developing apps for the iPhone and iPad. Instead of focusing on a single programming topic, each Tampa iOS Meetup session in 2017 will cover the highlights of developing a single app, starting with the concept, then look at the features, technologies, and libraries that we’ll need in order to build the app, and then show you how to bring them all together and turn the concept into a finished, working app.

The reason I’m going with this new approach is that I’ve been asked the same question again and again, and it goes something like this:

“I’ve been studying iOS development for some time, and I’m still having a problem writing apps. I know how to program specific features in iOS, but I don’t know how to turn a bunch of features into an app.”

It’s one thing to go through tutorials that show you how to program a specific feature. It’s a completely different thing to take the knowledge from those tutorials and then write an app. My goal for Tampa iOS Meetup in 2017 is to show you how to make that leap by walking you through the process of making apps.

the-dreaded-tip-calculator

Tampa iOS Meetup’s 2017 sessions will start on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. at the offices of Wolters Kluwer’s Westshore office (1410 North Westshore Blvd, suite 400) with a relatively simple app: the dreaded tip calculator.

Why “dreaded”? That’s because it’s a relatively simple app, and a lot of people — especially in the App Store’s early days — made their own version. There are a few nice ones, but most of them are pretty sad. Our goal for the meetup will be to cover the many ways to make a tip calculator app that you wouldn’t be ashamed to put in your developer portfolio.

In the session, we’ll cover a number of topics, including:

  • Making the most of user interface controls
  • Animations and other visual effects
  • Using rounding functions
  • Useful hints for the Swift programming language
  • Taking advantage of those little things that make an app feel more solid and professional

This session will be suitable for newcomers to iOS development. If you’ve done some simple JavaScript development, you shouldn’t have any problem following along. If you’re new to programming in general, but have always wanted to make an iOS app, this is an ideal first project.

You’ll come out of this session with a better understanding of the app development process, as well as source code and notes that you can use in writing your own apps.

Does this sound like something you’d like to catch? Find out more on the Tampa iOS Meetup page, where you can sign up to attend. Once again, the session takes place on Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. at Wolters Kluwer’s Westshore office (1410 North Westshore Blvd, suite 400). I hope to see you there!

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it-explained-with-broken-lightbulb-excerpt

Click the comic to see the full version.

Toggl, the people who brought you the hilarious (well, hilarious to us developers, anyway) comic How to save the princess using 8 programming languages, have come up with a new one: IT jobs explained with a broken lightbulb.

I’ve posted an except above, which shows the 4 major roles that I’ve played, in one form or another, throughout my career. My current job as Smartrac’s Technology Evangelist mixes all of them together, which pleases me greatly.

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javascript30
JavaScript programming these days is quite often ridiculous. Too many projects that are the equivalent of building toolsheds by bringing in the US Army Corps of Engineers. They could’ve been done simply with JavaScript (and maybe a little jQuery for convenience’s sake), but they have a clown car’s worth of frameworks bolted on.

Wes Bos’ answer to this problem is JavaScript30, a free-as-in-beer 30-day course in which he walks you through building 30 JavaScript applications in 30 days using only JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and a browser and editor. No compilers, libraries, frameworks, or boilerplate involved!

javascript-frameworks-galore

If you haven’t read it yet, go ahead and check out Jose Aguinaga’s article, How it feels to learn JavaScript in 2016. It’s a tour of the mess of tools, frameworks, and even various dialects of JavaScript that get bolted on to a lot of web front-end projects these days. While it takes things to an extreme, it’s an extreme that many projects approach.

I’ve met too many developers who can no longer make even the simplest of JavaScript apps without reaching for one (or more) of these add-ons. There’s nothing wrong with React, Redux, Angular, VueJS, RxJS, WebPack, and all that other stuff in the clown car (hey, I’ve done presentations on React myself) — when they’re well and truly needed. It’s just that they’re not needed for many projects, and often just add to their bloat.

Enter Wes Bos and JavaScript30. His approach is simple: re-learn the basics by doing, doing often, and doing by using the ES6 flavor of JavaScript, which modern browsers support. I’ll let Wes pitch it to you himself:

Over 30 days, he’ll walk you through 30 applications, each one coded using only the basic HTML5 building blocks: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Some of these applications answer the question “How do I get this UX effect without frameworks?”, such as a JavaScript drum kit, a CSS/JS clock, an image gallery, detecting the when the user has typed the Konami code, an HTML5 video player, and even a Whack-a-Mole game. Other applications are exercises for learning the basics, such as mastering arrays, objects, events, and local storage.

As I mentioned earlier, you can sign up for JavaScript30 free of charge. Signing up gives you access to this video-based course (with downloadable files), which you can take at your own pace, any time. My guess is that Wes is using this course as advertising for his other paid courses, but those courses are well worth considering. Wes knows his stuff, he’s a solid instructor, and he’s one of those people who goes the extra mile to make sure that his material is interesting and entertaining.

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A great deal: SanDisk’s 200GB MicroSD card for $64!

by Joey deVilla on December 8, 2016

sandisk-ultra-200gb-microsd

If you’re looking for a quick way to boost your laptop or mobile device’s storage capacity, or looking for a useful gift for a techie friend or DSLR photographer, you’ll want to check out this Amazon deal for SanDisk’s 200GB MicroSD card.

At $64, it’s anywhere from $25 to over $100 cheaper than the slightly larger 256GB cards, and it’s even cheaper than some of the 128GB cards. It boasts a zippy 90MB/s read speed, which means you can read HD video without hiccups, or use it as a tiny extra hard drive. It comes with an SD adapter so that it’ll fit in your computer or camera. I think I’ll place my order for one tonight.

Thanks to Joe Healy for the find!

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Smartrac makes Spyder’s ski jackets even smarter

by Joey deVilla on December 7, 2016

spyder-jacket-radio-waves

Smartrac, the company where I hold the title of Technology Evangelist, is providing the NFC technology in Spyder’s US Ski Team collection of insulator and softshell ski jackets. Combined with an NFC-ready smartphone or tablet, these jackets can connect you to the US Ski Team and local ski information with a single tap.

What’s Spyder?

spider-pantsIf you’re into skiing, and especially racing, you’ve probably heard of Spyder. It was founded by David Jacobs, a former Canadian downhill skiing champion and head coach of the Canadian National Ski Team. When his sons followed in his footsteps and joined the ski racing circuit, only one brand of race sweaters was on the market, and he thought he could do a better job. He designed a better race sweater, and then ski pants that skiers nicknamed “spider pants”. Inspired by the nickname and his other passion — sports cars (“spyder” is another name for “roadster”) — he changed his company name to Spyder.

speedwyre

Spyder have never been afraid to experiment with new technologies. In 1994, Jacobs was granted a patent on SpeedWyre, which used a seam on the surface on Spyder’s racing suits to smooth the airflow around their wearer, reducing wind drag by up to 40% in laboratory tests. The US Ski Team wore SpeedWyre-equipped suits and captured the top spots in worldwide competitions in the mid-’90s. SpeedWyre’s downfall was that it was too good — it was so effective at reducing drag that FIS (the International Ski Federation) banned it from competitions in 1997, saying that it gave skiers an unfair advantage.

spyder-nfc-collection

If you love skiing and are a fan on the US Ski Team, you’ll want to check out Spyder’s NFC-enabled US Ski Team collection of jackets. They still feature the warm, easy-to-move-in, aerodynamic design that Spyder is famous for, but they now feature Smartrac’s Internet of Things technology.

spyder-tap

When you tap an NFC-ready smartphone or tablet (such as Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge) against the NFC touchpoint embedded in these jackets’ Spyder logos, you can find out skiing-relation information about your current location, including snow conditions, trails, points of interest, and local events. As a bonus, you can also connect with members of the US Ski Team through various social media channels.

gloves-and-smartphone

The idea of tapping your phone against your jacket to get to online information about snow conditions and trails when you can simply open the browser and enter its URL seems like a silly, superfluous shortcut when you’re warm and sitting comfortably indoors with ungloved hands. However, when you’re on the slopes, the wind is howling and it’s getting dark, and you want to find out if it’s worth risking the shorter black diamond trail versus the longer blue square one, it’s a convenience you’ll really appreciate.

What’s NFC?

nfc-payment

NFC is short for near field communications, a radio-based set of communications protocols that allow two devices to “talk” to each other over very short distances (no more than a couple of inches) or for a device to “read” relatively small amounts information stored on a chip that is typically attached to or embedded in a real-world object. The NFC chip embedded in the Spyder jacket logo is what lets you tap it to get ski information.

If you’ve ever made a payment using your smartphone with Apple Pay or Android Pay, or by tapping your credit card against a reader, you’ve used NFC technology. If you’ve used Android Beam to transfer files and photos between two Android phones, you’ve used NFC technology. If you’ve played games activated by action figures — the Disney Infinity games and Skylanders are two examples — you’ve been gaming with NFC technology.

Here’s a quick video brief of NFC technology’s uses and pitfalls:

What’s Smartrac?

Logo: SMARTRAC / Connect Things

Aside from being the company for whom I work, Smartrac is the biggest Internet of Things company you’ve never heard of. The company is headquartered in Amsterdam (with offices and factories worldwide) and was founded in 2000, growing to become a big deal in the business of developing, manufacturing, and supplying RFID transponders, tags, and inlays.

smart-cosmos

Smartrac is borrowing a page from Apple’s book — and now Microsoft’s and Google’s books — and changing into a full-stack hardware and software company. Our RFID technology makes real-world objects visible to computers and devices, and our Smart Cosmos cloud platform manages information about things and people, how they’re related, how they interact, and the metadata associated with them. Put the two together, and you’ve got the basis for building solutions that connect the physical and digital worlds.

Want to know more about Smartrac and Spyder?

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