iOS Apps – Letting Go

At this point I have three apps on the Apple App Store. Dose Tracker, an app that allows you to track how many doses have been taken and how many remain of perhaps an inhaler.
Grounded, a silly app that lets you keep track of the “grounded” status of your children. And GrieveIt, a serious tool for labor professionals.

All three are in various states of neglect, due to my iOS development focus having been my full-time job as an iOS developer at Mellmo for the past several years.

So for those several years, I’ve been feeling guilty about not maintaining or improving these apps. From a financial standpoint, it makes no sense whatsoever. For inexpensive non-games with no advertising budget, the revenue is minuscule.

After giving this a lot of thought, reading blogs and talking with other developers, I think the time has come to remove most of these apps from the store. The one app that I feel I need to at least maintain is GrieveIt, so that one stays. But the other ones are going to go.

I’ll still feel guilty, but not as guilty as I feel about having outdated apps still for sale. And from a “portfolio” standpoint, those don’t really represent the state of the art, so they probably aren’t fulfilling that function either.

I think that marks the point where I clearly segregate my programming into two groups. Things that I do primarily to make money (i.e. my day job), and things I do for fun (my own iOS apps, etc.).

Yes, I know, GrieveIt falls in the middle, sigh. I’m toying with the idea of making it free, since it does help people do things I believe in. And by free, I mean truly free – no in-app purchases, no advertising. Free.
I’m still thinking about this. If I decide to invest some time to update it and add features, I might keep it in the theoretically money-making state. Or I might not – the whole effort to maintain even a simple “business” is a drag on my time and energy as well. (And if I don’t invest the necessary time and energy, then I pay in guilt, so…)

In summary: time to streamline!

Cosmac 1802 Assembler in Python

So back in the day, one of my Cosmac 1802 projects was getting FIG-Forth up and running on the 1802.

I laboriously converted the printed listings to a digital assembler source file. This file was then assembled with a cross-assembler that was written in BASIC.
As part of that effort I also modified the Forth system to run from EPROM.

Since I wanted to get Forth running on the 1802 Membership Card (see earlier blog post), I needed the ability to assemble that source, and do some updates etc.

In the same way it’s been a long time since I’ve had a computer with a parallel port, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a computer with a BASIC interpreter installed.

The obvious next step was to write an assembler in a more modern language. Again Python was my tool of choice.

This is a fairly simple assembler, just sufficient to assemble my ancient FIG-Forth listings. It is not a macro-assembler and I’m sure has other limitations relative to a “real” 1802 assembler.

The source is available here: Cosmac 1802 Assembler

This plays nicely with my 1802 Membership Card Loader. The loader can invoke the assembler automatically when given a source file, allowing you to give one single simple command line that assembles the source and downloads it to the Membership Card.

1802 Membership Card Loader

So I built Lee Hart’s slick little 1802 Membership Card and its Front Panel card. Next I wanted to load some programs onto it! There was that nice DB-25 connector all ready to connect to my PC’s parallel port. However… I’ve got a Mac, and haven’t seen a computer parallel port in perhaps a decade.

My solution to this problem was to create my own interface hardware based on an Arduino. I considered using a Spark Core to allow doing things wirelessly via WiFi, but decided that for this purpose the Arduino was something more people were likely to have, and it was just a somewhat simpler solution.

The final design uses an Arduino, a 16-line I2C port expander chip, and some software. The software consists of the Arduino program and a Python program that runs on my Mac. Since it’s Python, it should also run on a Windows system, a Linux box, etc.
You can also forego the Python side of things and directly control the Arduino loader from a terminal, or from your own software if you prefer.

Why go to all this trouble? Just a fun little project!

It’s been a good mental exercise and a nice trip down memory lane.

Here is the Git repository with the source code and documentation

1802 Loader Documentation

Coming up next – an 1802 Emulator

Unification Day!

Today I merged my blogs. Yes, I’m at that advanced level where I can ignore and fail to update not one but two blogs!

One was more technology related, and hosted on my company site (Stormgate Software), and one was this one, a more personal blog.

The theory was that I’d post things related to the company, or software and hardware technology in general on the “business” blog, and post personal stuff here. That way I could point potential employers etc. at my tech blog, and not at my more personal stuff.

The reality is that even my personal blog contained a fair amount of technology posts, and really nothing that I’d feel uncomfortable about having as part of my online digital extended “resume”.

If there is anything truly personal, it tends to go on my Facebook page. And even there I try and avoid anything too polarizing or private. I’m linked on FB with both current and former co-workers, so even there I keep in mind the potential variety of my audience. And if someone want to not hire me because I support, say, women in technology, would I want to work for them anyway?

I’m hoping that by careful categorization and tagging the mix of tech and “other” will co-exist nicely.

My goal is to post more blog articles as well. We’ll see how that goes!

Favorite OSX Applications

Here are a few of my favorite Mac applications. These are mostly generic applications useful to most people using a Mac. I do of course have plenty of task-specific and domain-specific applications I use, but those are a topic for a later post.

Clipboard (cut-and-paste) history

Jumpcut

There are many applications that do this, or do this as part of doing all kinds of other application-launching tasks, but this simple utility is the one I’ve used forever. I cannot imagine how people use Macs (or any computer) without a clipboard history.

Online backup

Arq

This is a straightforward and reliable backup tool that let’s use use backends like Amazon and Google for data storage.
Sure, I have a nice little Time Capsule for local backups, but repeat after me “It’s not backed up until it’s offsite”. And using something like Amazon’s Glacier storage means it can be economical to back up large data sets.

Retina Mac Display Resolution Setting

Eye-Friendly

Yes, the Settings app lets you set display resolutions, but with nowhere near the level of control that this utility provides.

Disk Usage

DaisyDisk

If you want to see what is using up space on your disk, this tool is a beautiful way to do it!

Disk Cloning

Carbon Copy Cloner

So there are really three pillars that make up a comprehensive backup strategy.

  1. Local and very frequent – Time Capsule
  2. Offsite – Arq
  3. Local and immediate restoration – Carbon Copy Cloner

Carbon Copy Cloner is the tool to use for making a bootable backup, or when migrating to a new hard drive.
If you are in a situation where waiting to restore from a Time Capsule, or offline, would result in excessive downtime, a CCC backup is the fastest way to get things working again.

Monitor Everything

iStat Menus

When you want to go many many steps beyond Apple’s Activity Monitor, iStat Menus is there.
Incredible detail and monitoring of your network connection, voltages, temperatures, memory, CPU and more.
Maybe it’s just my love of gauges and dials, but I really like knowing whats going on inside the shiny box.

Other Tools

In no particular order, here are a few other tools that I find useful, but not everyone will:

  • Simplenote by Automattic
  • The Unarchiver by Dag Agren
  • Transmit by Panic
  • VLC

Embedded Development – The Hobby Edition

Ok, so here are pictures of embedded controllers and such. Just a snapshot of my hobby embedded environment.

Not shown is my workbench, which gets set up and taken down on the kitchen table as needed. (apartment living!)
This includes soldering station, digital oscilloscope, and tools.

The table top near the desk:

Spark Core, RaspBerryPi, Arduino and so forth. Plus an old-time iPod!

The RaspberryPi runs the home automation system, and is connected to an XBee used for communication with various peripherals. The Arduino is one of those, in development. The Spark Core is my development core, with others already in use around the house.

IMG 6078

Drawer #1:

Arduino stuff, XBee modules, and various shields and parts from Adafruit.

IMG 6079

Drawer #2:

RaspberryPi and Spark Core. Power supplies, and a fairly ancient Radio Shack multimeter.

IMG 6080

E-Books Update for Early 2014

Just wanted to give an update on my slow but steady transition to E-Books – a process that took on new urgency when we went from suburban life to apartment renters in downtown San Diego.

As someone who has spent a lifetime collecting, reading, and cherishing physical books, this has been a challenging journey. As the technology gets better, it has become easier though.

With my latest acquisition of the new Nook Glowlight (the one released at the end of 2013, not to be confused with the Nook SimpleTouch Glowlight which was its predecessor) this transition has become even easier to accept.

In the beginning, E-Books were read either on a Mac or PC, and the mobile hardware was pretty clunky. Today we have Retina iPads and very nice E-Ink readers. My latest Nook is E-Ink, and although my original Nook was also, this one is miles ahead.

It’s actually getting to the point where in many ways I’m preferring reading on my Nook versus a physical hardcover. Sure, this was always the case when portability was the main factor. “Hey, I can take ten novels with me on the plane, and it takes up less space and weight than one hardcover!”

But now I’m finding that the technology has improved to the point where even when the weight and size isn’t an issue, the experience is as good or better.

What factors are bringing about this change? Here they are, in no particular order.

  • Incredible reductions in size and weight. My new Nook weighs about the same as a moderate paperback, and about half of what a really think paperback weighs.
  • Higher resolution screen. It’s getting pretty close (~210dpi) to printed resolution. Close enough that it’s not obvious that it’s an electronic page rather than a paper one.
  • Frontlight for reading in the dark. The new Glowlight is pretty good, with only some mild darkening at the very top of the page. Fantastic for low-light situations. And since it’s front-light versus back-light like an iPad etc. it should have less of the sleep-impacting effects that have been reported for LCD displays.
  • No page-flip “flash” that previous generations of E-Ink typical had.

And then there’s the other factors that have been present for a while: The ability to carry hundreds of books, weeks of battery life, and (if reading a book purchased from Barnes & Noble) the ability to read those books on my iPhone or iPad with my place in the book being synced between the devices. Oh, and not having to try and hold a book open when eating lunch etc. is pretty nice as well.

I’m not ready to abandon my physical books just yet – nothing is going to replace that experience. But for my general reading, I think I’m about at the point where I no longer see switching to E-Books as a necessary compromise to accommodate our new less-burdened lifestyle, but as a pretty nice way to enjoy reading.

Nest acquisition by Google

On Facebook, a friend asked about my take on the Nest acquisition by Google that was recently announced.

(I’ve given Nest thermostats and Smoke Alarms as gifts, and have a Smoke Alarm myself. I’d have a thermostat if we weren’t apartment dwellers at this time.)

Here’s the answer I gave:

Unhappy. While I’m aware of all the positives (e.g. deep pockets to allow expansion of the Nest product line and protection against some of the patent issues they are threatened with), I really don’t trust Google anymore.

Nest has given assurances that the customer data won’t be shared, but that policy is subject to change down the road. Google made similar assurances regarding YouTube and those have weakened over time.

I’m trying not to be too paranoid, and I’m not suggesting that anyone throw away their Nest devices just yet, but I’m definitely concerned.

Really wish it had been Apple. Sure, they want all my money but they get it in an upfront fashion, not by advertising or selling my data.

Oh, I should add that on the bright side, this may kick off the overarching privacy discussions that need to take place as we head further down the “Internet of Things” road.

In an ideal world, the result of the acquisition will be Google realizing that they need to make some serious promises/safeguards regarding privacy for Nest if they expect it to remain a viable product line.

In the non-ideal world they just go ahead and be evil, counting on the sales to people who don’t know or don’t care about the privacy concerns. Sigh.

iPad mini – Retina musings

When the iPad mini was released, I bought one to see just how that size would work. I really liked it, to the point where I regretted getting just the 16G wifi- only model. I also missed the Retina display of my full-sized iPad. My plan was to grab a Retina mini when they release today, but since Apple made the full-sized iPad so much lighter and a bit smaller (but same screen size), my decision became a lot harder.

And then, to further complicate things, I happened to see the latest Nook e-reader at Barnes & Noble last night, and was impressed by both it’s extremely light weight, its small size, and the nice illuminated screen. (I’ve always been a fan of e-ink)

So now I’m contemplating just sticking with my full-sized 3rd gen iPad, perhaps getting rid of the iPad mini, and grabbing a new e-ink reader to fill the “just reading a book” niche.

(Yes, I still have my original Nook, but it’s about the size and weight of the iPad mini, so it hasn’t gotten much use lately.)

Interesting Websites May-2013

This is a collection of interesting and useful websites for iOS development, as well as some more general technical stuff.


General

Apiary

If you deal with REST APIs, this is some pretty neat stuff:

    http://apiary.io

Quandl

Tons of numerical datasets. Not sure what I’m going to do with this, but I feel like I should come up with something:

    http://www.quandl.com

Xcode Tools

XCode Package Manager

An easy way to manage adding packages that modify and improve Xcode.

    http://mneorr.github.io/Alcatraz/

Snippet Editing

This is a nice tool to let you edit your Xcode snippets.

    http://cocoaholic.com/snippet_edit/

Appledoc

If you are looking to document some Objective-C classes or frameworks you’ve created, this is a very easy way to generate documentation that looks like Apple’s. This tool can also create documents that will integrate nicely with Xcode as well.

    http://gentlebytes.com/appledoc/

Objective-C

Objective-C Features

Wondering when a certain feature was available in Objective-C? Wonder no more!

    http://developer.apple.com/library/ios/#releasenotes/ObjectiveC/ObjCAvailabilityIndex/index.html

Classes, Frameworks, and Libraries

Networking

This makes networking so much easier it has to be see to be believed. There are many large and serious iOS apps and products that make use of this class!

    https://github.com/AFNetworking/AFNetworking

Core Data

    https://github.com/magicalpanda/MagicalRecord

Handy Classes

This is a collection of very handy-looking classes for iOS development.

    http://sstoolk.it

Sliding side-panels

    https://github.com/ktatroe/sidepanel-ios

JKFiltering

Filter arrays with blocks

    https://github.com/jklaiho/JKLFiltering

Numeric Entry

    https://github.com/benzado/HSNumericField
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,544 other followers