Updating’s “AFNetworking Crash Course” for iOS 6

weather app

Whether you’re new to iOS programming or a long-timer, is a valuable resource for the iOS developer. They regularly publish tutorials, tips, tricks and other goodies that you’d be crazy to do without if you’re serious about writing apps for iDevices. In addition to articles on the site, they go deeper with their books, which are excellent. recently published an article titled AFNetworking Crash Course, which covers how to write networking apps using AFNetworking, a library created by the folks at Gowalla that simplifies iOS network programming. In this tutorial, you build a weather app that uses AFNetworking to get its data from the World Weather Online service. Check it out; AFNetworking’s useful, and the tutorial’s pretty nice.

In order to reach the widest possible audience, the tutorial was written for iOS 5 and earlier versions of Xcode. If you’re developing with the current version of Xcode and for iOS 6 (which accounted for 83% of all iOS traffic in North America in February), you might want to make a few changes to the code in the tutorial. I’ve listed the changes below:

Use Modern Array Notation

Here’s the old way to get at the element of an array whose index is theIndex in Objective-C:

element = [theArray objectAtIndex:theIndex];

It’s a little clunky, and as I wrote in an earlier article, Objective-C’s New NSNumber, NSArray and NSDictionary Syntaxes Mean Less “Yak Shaving” for iOS and OS X Developers, there’s a much nicer way to do it:

element = theArray[theIndex];

In AFNetworking Crash Course, where you see code like this:

daysWeather = [upcomingWeather objectAtIndex:indexPath.row];

path = [[paths objectAtIndex:0] stringByAppendingPathComponent:@"WeatherHTTPClientImages/"];

change it to this:

daysWeather = upcomingWeather[indexPath.row];

path = [paths[0] stringByAppendingPathComponent:@"WeatherHTTPClientImages/"];

Use Modern Dictionary Notation

Here’s the old way to get at the item in a dictionary whose key is theKey:

item = [theDictionary objectForKey:theKey];

Again: it’s clunky. Also again, in my earlier article, I showed the modern way to access dictionary items:

item = theDictionary[theKey];

Setting items for a dictionary used to be like this:

[theDictionary setObject:theObject forKey:theKey];

Now, it’s like this:

theDictionary[theKey] = theObject;

So, in the places where you see code like:

*array = [self.xmlWeather objectForKey:@"weather";];

change it to:

*array = xmlWeather[@"weather"];

…and where you see code like:

[self.xmlWeather setObject:array forKey:@"weather"];

change it to:

self.xmlWeather[@"weather"] = array;

Update the Deprecated Location Manager Delegate Method

If you use the code as-is with iOS 6, you’ll get an error message that looks like this:

Deprecated in iOS 6.0
Tells the delegate that a new location value is available. (Deprecated in iOS 6.0. Use locationManager:didUpdateLocations: instead.)

Instead of using the deprecated locationManager:didUpdateToLocation:fromLocation: method, use the current locationManager:didUpdateLocations: method instead:

- (void)locationManager:(CLLocationManager *)manager didUpdateLocations:(NSArray *)locations
    // locations is an array of locations where the device has recently been
    // starting with the least recent and ending with the most recent.
    CLLocation *lastLocation = (CLLocation *)[locations lastObject];

    // Fetch the weather only if the last location is less than 5 minutes old
    if ([lastLocation.timestamp timeIntervalSinceNow] < 300) {
        [self.locationManager stopUpdatingLocation];
        WeatherHTTPClient *client = [WeatherHTTPClient sharedWeatherHTTPClient];
        client.delegate = self;
        [client updateWeatherAtLocation:lastLocation forNumberOfDays:5];

Going Down Memory Lane with C

July 25, 1994 issue of Time magazine
The July 25, 1994 issue of Time magazine.

The computer science student phase of my academic career (the less said about the previous phase, in which I was an electrical engineering student, the better) ran from 1991 to a successful conclusion in 1994.

If you are like me, you strongly connect memories with the music of the time; you could say that my computer science student phase ran from the time of Nirvana’s Nevermind and Soundgarden’s Badmotorfinger to Green Day’s Dookie and The Offspring’s Smash. Let’s just say that I often showed up to my classes and labs in a flannel shirt.

Album covers: Nirvana's "Nevermind" and Green Day's "Dookie"

(If that last paragraph makes you think “Whoa, that was a long time ago!”, you’ll be blown away by the fact that the initial work on C ran from the time of the Beatles’ Abbey Road to Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. A fair number of you probably weren’t even born then.)

My Student Language of Choice

I don’t know what the situation was like at other schools, but at the time, computer science students at Crazy Go Nuts University were allowed to hand in programming assignments using the following languages:

(Remember, there was no Java back then. The Green Project, from which the language/platform sprang, was still ongoing at this time, and Java was still going by its “Oak” codename.)

The general recommendation that came from most of my professors was to use Turing. They told us that it was a kinder, gentler language than Pascal and even more so than C, which they implied was designed by dyslexic aliens. When some of us suggested that it might be better to use a language that saw actual use in the real world, many of them countered with the argument that learning principles of computing was more important than learning specific languages. We might’ve responded by pointing out that one of our professors was a co-creator of Turing and probably got a vig for every Turing installation (it was a commercial language), but that might have been an academic career-limiting move.

I ignored their recommendations and went with C. In the lab, I used good ol’ cc. At home, it was Turbo C at first, and later, when I got my first Mac (a Quadra 660AV bought with money from DJing), Think C.

I never used C in my professional career. My first job out of school took me away from a world where input and output was all printf() and scanf() to interactive CD-ROMs and Macromedia Director (now Adobe Director and 7 versions later), and after that, the languages remained pretty high level: Visual Basic, Python, Java, C#, NSBasic, PHP and Ruby, with only a slight detour through through Visual C++ and C++Builder.

My C Books Back Then

Cover of "The C Programming Language"

It’s almost impossible to talk about C without mentioning “K&R”, the nickname for what is considered to be the official bible of C, The C Programming Language, which was written by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie. The latest edition of the book — the second edition — is a bit long in the tooth as it was written in 1988, but for the most part, everything in this book should still apply to the current C99 standard.

I never owned a copy of the book in my student days. I signed it out when necessary from the electrical engineering/computer science library in Walter Light Hall. I did own a copy for a brief period in 2002 when my deadbeat ex-housemate left a lot of his stuff behind, but I sold it (along with most of his stuff) in order to recoup some of the money lost from his stiffing me on rent, utilities, groceries and the largest domestic phone bill I’ve ever grappled with.

Cover of "A Book on C"

The books I had while at Crazy Go Nuts University were the second edition of A Book on C and Understanding C Pointers (a book that seems to be no longer in print). I liked A Book on C enough to pick up the fourth edition on sale a couple of years ago, and someone out there has forgotten to give me back my copy of Understanding C Pointers (you know who you are!).

Back to C

I’ve decided to get back into C for a number of reasons.

"Internet Tough Guy" Magazine

I have to admit that one of those reasons is completely irrational: it’s ego. There’s certain geek cred that comes with having at least some proficiency in C. While I had those bragging rights back in school, I can’t honestly claim them now; I haven’t even written a file whose name ends in .c in over a decade. Luckily, I had a pretty good grasp of C back in school, and the noodling I’ve been doing with good old gcc suggests that I’ve still got it, which is pretty reassuring.

iPhone, Arduino 480 and the "Mac Guy"

I’ve also been meaning to do some development with things that are programmed in C or C dialects:

  • The Arduino electronics prototyping platform has its own programming language based on C. I’ve been meaning to try out hardware hacking with the folks at the local group HacklabTO.
  • I’ve also been thinking about putting together some Mac OS X and iPhone apps, which require Objective-C.
  • I’ve even been thinking about doing some GTK noodling, which is done in good ol’ C.

Homer Simpson's brain x-ray

Finally, there’s the matter of just making myself a better programmer by working in C by refreshing my knowledge of the low-level stuff that C requires you to work with, and also the “brain stretch” that comes with working with a language and environment (what with going back to strong typing, compiling and make) that I haven’t worked in for some time.

I’ll be doing some C coding in my spare time, as well as noodling with the Arduino programming languane and Objective-C, and I’ll be posting my notes, observations and experiences here. As I’m fond of saying on this blog, watch this space!