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Archive for August, 2015

Ground Floor

Estimating how long it will take to program something is famously difficult. So while I’ve been plunking away at my project for the last few months, I could see that I was still quite a ways away from anything I would be proud to release. And it’s not that I’m slow—well, I am slow, but that’s not the only reason—it’s that this project is very ambitious for a guy who’s doing this all in his spare time and teaching himself what he’s doing from scratch while he’s at it. 

At this point I was starting to get a bit demoralized. I didn’t want to spend another year at this with nothing to show. Was there something quick I could whip up in the mean time? Basically a dry run to get something into the store. If I was going to make any mistakes, let’s do it on something that would only take a month or two, rather than 10 times that. 

So I needed a new idea. I had a few criteria. 

  1. Everything is self contained. Web service? Apple Watch app? One thing at a time please. 
  2. Simple UI. Nothing’s coming from a web server, and no one wants to plug a ton of info into their phone. 
  3. Useful. Frankly having a few dollars coming in would be a nice motivation to keep this going. It needs to be something I can charge at least $0.99 for.
  4. Not a game. I am not an artist, so interaction should be text based. That and I’m not really a gamer, so I don’t know what makes a good game.

So I talked it out with my girlfriend over some pizza. Erin suggested a budgeting app. That was useful, but it could easily violate number 1 and 2. Peoples budgeting systems get crazy complicated, and of course everyone’s going to want it to sync to… something. What about a lightweight budgeting app? After a week or so you’d realize this was completely inadequate. But what if you only needed it for a week or so?

Most people have some sort of budgeting system, from using elaborate spreadsheets to just roughly keeping it in their heads. But when you’re on vacation that all breaks down. Your routine goes out the window. You could use some way of making sure you’ve not blown all your cash by day two. 

This was what I was looking for. An idea! One that seem feasible! Something to write about on my blog! Stay tuned.

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Categories: Computer Blue Tags: , ,

Without A Map

Editors note: This will be nerdy

I haven’t written about iOS development in several months. I haven’t given up, I just hadn’t had much to say. I was still soaking it in. 

I was reading two separate books, while occasionally going down rabbit holes to understand a topic a little better, and even watching some videos (specifically the much touted CS 193P). I even whipped up a few rough test apps just to prove to myself that I could get something running, even if it didn’t do much.

Then a little while ago I received an email from Apple saying it was time to renew my yearly developers membership. So I had been working on this for a year without much to show for it. So I decided I wanted to start something. Even if it’s terrible, even if I end up trashing it and starting from scratch later, this seems like a good time to take a first concrete steps.

That was my first impulsive decision. The second was, upon firing up Xcode, choosing Swift as the language for my new project.

Even though most of what I had learned so far had been Objective-C, which I have really enjoyed writing, I thought back to my initial feelings after WWDC last year. Swift was my chance to get in on the ground floor of something. 

What made me confident enough to do this the fact that I now had a basic understanding of Objective-C. This is important because Cocoa makes a lot more sense if understand that it was created hand in hand with Objective C. You can still use the Cocoa APIs from Swift, but it still feels like there’s a layer of translation happening. You end up with some weird syntax and excessive casting that only makes sense when you understand that these APIs were designed for an entirely different language.

That said, what have I got to lose, at this point? This is the future, right? And WWDC made clear that Apple was still full speed ahead on Swift.

So I jumped in and started playing around. It had been a while since I read Apple’s The Swift Language, so there was a period of adjustment in getting used to the syntax. Swift is a very programmer-y language. It was built buy compiler guys, so “fast” was as important as “easy” or “intuitive”. 

But after playing around for the last couple of months, I’m feeling comfortable with it. The pace of change has slowed down, and I’m finding myself able to work for longer and longer stretches without having to look up something basic. And Playgrounds have been really helpful. Sometimes you just can’t remember if arrays are passed by value or reference, but it’s easy enough to test in 10 lines of code on a Playground. 

There have been stumbling blocks. I watched Apple’s session on Protocol Oriented Programming, and got so excited I went into my project and made all my model layers structs that conformed to a specific protocol. That did not work out so well, but that story is for another blog post (and if you want a more informed opinion, go back and read Brent Simmons’s Swift Diary). But in general when I sit down I make head way.

So I’m still working. In fact, I’ve got a couple ideas now. It’s all starting to feel manageable. Which, if experience tells me anything, means I’m only a couple of weeks from once again realizing I have no idea what I’m doing. 

Categories: Computer Blue Tags: , , ,