Local Engineer’s cool Pen

A couple of months ago I was given a PressurePen by Chuck N, from the local Triangle Mac Users Group. The idea was to play with it and write up a blog entry. I had been running iOS7 most of the summer, and the app didn’t seem to work with iOS 7 on either my iPad or my iPhone. So It’s taken me a while to write up this post. Having said that, I’ve now had some fun playing with this pen, enabled via a Kickstarter.

Let’s begin with the device itself, it is a set of open source designs that allows you to print our a shell for a pressure pen. A pressure pen is used by artists to behave much more like a real pen or brush. Applications sense the amount of pressure being applied to the pen and translate that into things like the width of the stroke, the amount of “paint” being applied, and how fast the “paint” is used up from the brush. The goal is to make the process of creating digital art, more like traditional art.

I’ve tested the pen on three different devices and two different apps. Due to the iOS7 problems, Charles Mangin (the creator) suggested I test on my Android tablet (a Samsung Tab 2) with Infinite Painter app or if I wanted to test on iOS that I use an app called Pen & Paper. Both of these apps worked fine. My artistic skills are bad, so I won’t post any pictures of any of my “art”. If you want to use the Pressure Pen app on iOS7, it currently does not recognize the pressure off the pen. Charles does not have an iOS device, so there may be a delay on support. I have offered to test it for him, if there are others who would test, comment on this post and perhaps we can help Charles update this app.

So how does the PressurePen work? The pen is battery powered, so don’t forget to turn it on. The novel idea is the Pen plugs into your audio jack on your device and uses that to send the pressure levels to the tablet. Pretty simple. To that end I found the pressure to be a little less response than I expected, however, as I am not a digital artist, it may be that I’ve not yet trained myself to understand the limitations of this medium over pen and paper.

Overall, I think this is a very cool idea and I wish more apps supported this type of pressure pen. I find it would make a great addition to a photo manipulation application. What do you think? Go pick one up, it’s designs are open source and most of the parts a very inexpensive (there’s a kit available for $35 at the Pressure Pen website – http://pressurepen.net) or you can get a preassembled Pen for $65.

Autolayout improvements

Ok, well not really improvements to auto layout on iOS, but improvements in my understanding of Auto Layout. The biggest thing I learned is that it is easier to setup and manage constraints in code, then to try and use Storyboards to define and modify the constraints.

If you have not used AutoLayout, Apple recommends that you start with doing it in Interface Builder. I find that this is not necessarily easier, and in my mind, it seems that using the code based method is much easier. The second thing I found was that the Visual Forma language is very powerful and easy to use. For example @”[self(<=128@800, >=64@800)]” indicates that the object has a minimum width of 64 points and maximum width of 128 points withe a priority of 800. You can set relationships between objects and to themselves. By doing this, you can setup very dynamic layouts that automatically resize and will adjust certain constraints over others. The priority, lower numbers == lower priority. 1000 is maximum priority and 0 is the minimum.

A great way of thinking about constraints is to think of constraints of the object on itself, then in relationship to things around it, and finally in regard to the entire view. If you’ve not watched the WWDC sessions from 2012 and 2013 on Autolayout, go watch them now! They are fantastic.

An Event in San Francisco

Yesterday Apple made the event official – at least according to the flurry of post about people receiving invites to an event: here, here, and here.

If the rumors are to believed, this should be the launch of iOS7, iPhone5s, and iPhone5c, with a purchase date almost immediately thereafter. (According to Sept. 20th. In the past, Apple has given developers a heads up about submitting their apps in order to be available at launch. If that’s the case, I would expect the app checkers at Apple to be getting busy really soon!

Are you going to get a new iPhone? If so, are you going for the C or the S? What color will you choose?

Is Your App Ready

If the rumor mill is to be believed, Apple will announce their new iPhone on Sept. 10th. That is not too far away, and as such means developers are working hard to have launch titles available. Realistically, I doubt that Apple will make the iPhone 5s/c or whatever it will be called, ready on the day of announcement; however, I do believe that they will make iOS7 available almost immediately.
As a developer, I am looking forward to releasing updates of my app that will more closely align to Apple’s new UI vision. I am also looking forward to all the new API’s that Apple has been talking about since June’s WWDC.

iOS7 Adoption amongst Developers

I recently posted a blog entry about upgrading your app, if you should support past versions of iOS or Android. So imagine my delight when I saw this post – Majority of Developers working on iOS7 Updates. A study shows that 52% of iOS developers plan on making their apps require iOS7 and drop support for prior version of iOS. I think this is great. The many new features that are being talked about in IOS7 show that these features are the ones that developers have been waiting for. Features like better multi-tasking and improved screen layout to address multiple screen sizes have all been a long time coming, and I expect that if iOS7 is adopted quickly by consumers, that number of apps that become iOS7 only will quickly go above 70%.

What do you think?

Security and will Monday see another iOS Beta?

Prior to the security issues on Apple’s site over a week ago, Apple had been on a bi-weekly cadence for iOS and OS X beta releases.  Last Monday, (July 22nd) the developer portal was down while Apple rebuilt the site to address the security issues no iOS beta was reported to be released.  With less than 24 hours to go, will they be in a position to release a beta tomorrow?  What is the impact to the overall release schedule of iOS?  What do you think?

I am hoping that the major progress we’ve seen in the last week on bringing the site back online (while still not complete, many of components are up as of this posting), has allowed Apple to focus back on working on iOS and Mavericks.  Perhaps there are some lessons in all of this for us, as developers, that security can’t be something we think about when we are done developing.  Security is something that needs to be built into our apps from the beginning.

One of my favorite podcasts is Security Now! with Steve Gibson of Gibson Research Company. A few months back, Steve talked about the effort he went thru to retrofit his entire website to https.  I think this is something that is worthwhile to consider for this site.  It is a lot of work , and exposed to him the inter-relationship of so much of our connected world.  At an app level, if you use any third party code, are you sure it is secure?  How do you go about testing for security?

The people who want to expose or exploit security issues in your code, spend much more time testing your application than perhaps you do.  They are not worried about shipping the next release.  They are methodical in how they test, probe, and attack your application.  Perhaps this is the time to start re-thinking your development and test strategy, so that security becomes a first class requirement for all that you do.