Apple’s Wednesday Announcement – Three “One More Things”

img_0230One of the things I look forward to each summer is upgrading my iOS devices to each of the developer beta drops. It is always an exciting time, usually with lots of bugs and problems.  For some reason this summer was different.  The upgrades were simple, they didn’t cause a lofty of problems, and not once did I lose all my passwords and configurations.  

As we look at the devices which were just announced, we learn the new features that were right in front of us during the beta, but we could not see. I enjoy seeing this, as it comes as the “one more thing” that you didn’t see all summer during testing the beta.  This Wednesday there were a few interesting one more things, 2 for iOS and 1 for Watch OS3. 

The first “one more thing” is the update to the camera on the new iPhone 7 Plus.  I specifically call out the iPhone 7 Plus since it allows the new zoom feature enabled by the 2nd camera lens.  The software feature in iOS10 that I am looking forward to is depth of field in portrait mode.  I don’t take a lot of portraits, and while I will do a new selfie every so often, I am not a bit fan of selfies.  But I am looking forward to testing this feature out.  More so for close ups of inanimate objects.  Expect at least one review of this feature when my new iPhone arrives.

The second “one more thing” is attached to yet another non-surprise, the loss of the headphone jack. The software feature that looks really amazing is how much easier Apple has made pairing the Airpods with you iPhone and Apple Watch.  While I will probably not go for Apple’s new Airpods, since the shape of them doesn’t fit well with my ears, I do hope that Apple opens up this feature for third party headphones. 

The third “one more thing” is the swim mode of the Apple Watch series 2.  I have really enjoyed the updates to WatchOS3 this summer, the spead increase by keeping certain apps in the dock has made a huge difference to the usefulness of the Apple Watch.  I’ve also noticed that the battery usage has not been adversely impacted by this feature.  I have been using the three rings and the workout app this summer, a lot.  But when I do my swim workouts on the weekends, I’ve had to swap out to Garmin Swim watch.  The Garmin doesn’t integrate with the activity rings on the Apple Watch.  So I am so happy to see this update both in hardware and software.  Now I just need wireless earbuds that work with the Apple Watch Series 2, so that I can not only capture my workout, but also catch up on podcasts while I swim too!

Stay tuned for updates after I play with the new hardware and these new software updates!  I can’t wait.

Review – Home Inventory for Mac and iOS

According to the makers of Home Inventory (Binary Formations, LLC. ), September was “National Preparedness Month” and as such they made their flagship product “Home Inventory” available for 50% off.  I got the opporuntity to do a review of the Mac product, along with both iOS companion products – Mobile Backup and Photo Remote.  Binary Formations was founded a little over four years ago, but the product shows a level of maturity of feature set, that comes from building a product that is truly needed by the developers themselves.  The Mac App has a PDF user manual that is over 150 pages, and I admit I had to go to refer to it a few times to understand how to access some of the features – but more on that later.

What is Home Inventory?  Well it’s name describes it perfectly, it is an inventory that any home owner should have, for insurance purposes, of the items in their home.  Most insurance policies require some sort of inventory in order to reimburse after a disaster, and Home Inventory puts the tools in your hands to make sure you have what you need.  Given the completeness of this application, I won’t be able to cover all aspects of the program, and will instead focus on data capture.

I have been meaning to do a home inventory for insurance purposes for some time, but I never really have had the time to do so.  Writing a review of the app is a perfect opportunity to give it shot. Being a realist, however, I knew I would never be able to do a full inventory in time to make a meaningful review, so I decided to do a much smaller inventory, i.e. the things on my desk in my home office.  This still became a bit of a daunting task.  Should I do everything, or only those things which are relevant and expensive.  I again took the shorter path.  I would only do electronics gadgets, and there are plenty of those!! My plan was to enter 10 items, and see how it goes.

First I needed to install the Mac App, not a problem as it is available on the AppStore, so a quick click got it going.  I created the initial data file during the launch, and was presented with a screen to define some basic home information, including a picture of the home, a Maintenance Schedule and Assessment History.  You can also include detailed information about when the house was built, the lot size, age of the home, and purchase price.  This level of information is great for an insurance assessment, probably not so much for a review on the web.  So I have blocked out most of that information and included a random house picture for this review.

The First thing I entered was using the Photo Remote to take a picture of the DockIT Air case I reviewed recently (see that post).  The iPhone App requires that you are on the same wifi as the Mac running the software, that the Mac version of the application be running, and that you select the Menu options Inventory -> Photo Remote, or press Command-R.  You are walked thru either scanning a Barcode (which I did with another item) or taking a picture.  If you scan the barcode it will do a look up on Amazon (or perhaps other services) and pre-fill in much of the information about the object.  You are then walked through a series of items to select the location, make, model, serial number, price, etc.  If you don’t hit “save” you will lose the data you have entered.  Also, if you close the window on the Mac the connection will be broken and you will lose your information.  You cannot add all the information on the Remote Photo app, and will find yourself going back to your Mac to complete the process.  The good news is, that while some of the views have visual prompts to accept new value (for example – a Click to add receipt button), drag and drop seems to be working fine.

The following pictures show you how the iPhone App works, and include a few screen shots of the Mac App.

1) Define Inventory File

1) Define Inventory File

2) Define your home info

2) Define your home info

3) Add Picture and Address

3) Add Picture and Address

4) Add Assessment History and Maintenance

4) Add Assessment History and Maintenance

After getting your basics setup, the following screens show how I added a item via my iPhone using the Photo Remote app.

1) Connecting to Mac

1) Connecting to Mac

2) Choose how to add

2) Choose how to add

3) Add a Photo

3) Add a Photo

4) Add a Value

4) Add a Value

Given the goal of this application to make sure you are prepared in case of a catastrophic event, I like that they support storing the data on DropBox and for those who are a bit more worried about privacy and security (you will, after all want to include all of your policy and assessment data in the program), you can do a manual backup to your iPhone via wifi.  Having multiple ways and locations where you can store the data is critical for ensuring that your inventory is safe in case of an emergency.

Overall, this is a very complete, if somewhat complex, program.  I do not knock the complexity at this time, as the objective is to truly be ready for a complete inventory of your assets for an emergency, and that is a complex goal.  The program includes the ability to print many different reports, including a move report – which I thought was a great use of all the data you collect.  I hope that overtime they continue to simplify the interface and make it much more iOS and Mac like in its interface.  A single example of how this would work would be to allow the Photo Remote to be able to capture the pictures and basic information without having to connect to the mac.  Right now if you exit the app on the phone, before a “save” action, you lose the data you’ve been entering on that item to that point. iOS apps should be able to handle a loss of network communication without losing data.

I can’t say I am looking forward to completion of my Home Inventory, but I am certainly glad that this tool exists to ensure that I have captured all the things  I need to be prepared should I ever need it.

Today’s Apple Announcement

Well, today’s Apple announcement wasn’t as exciting as I wanted it to be. It wasn’t because the iPhone 5 wasn’t phenomenal, it wasn’t because it wasn’t faster, thinner, better display, or any other reason. It was because the great Apple Secrecy has been shattered. There were no surprises.. Even the last minute crazy rumor of a new set of earbuds, turned out to be true. Yes, I want one, yes I have to wait until my contract is up. Yes it will run all my apps.

As soon as iOS6 comes out officially, I will talk about how some of these new features will be amazing on the new phone. Are you going to buy one?

Book review – “learn iPhone and iPad cocos2d Game Development”

Learn-cocos2d.com is the online home of the book “Learn iPhone and iPad cocos2d Game Programming” by Steffen Itterheim. This book is designed to help the beginning game programmer understand the cocos2d game library, which is a cross platform library that is targeted at 2d games.

Steffen does a great job of introducing you to the basics of game development while also showcasing various game types. The includes not only development concepts, but also includes information on other libraries and resources to help you get started with graphics, audio, and marketing.

Steffen includes not just code snippets, but working games that he uses to explain various concepts. Each of these are well commented and structured so that you can get started with your game.

While Steffen focuses exclusively on iPhone and iPad programming, the cocos2d library has been made available for android also. So if you are looking at developing games, you should check out the book, and get gaming!!

Data Plans and App Size

Was listening to MacBreak Weekly this week and heard Alex mention that the Apple store was changing the limit of over the air updates to 50mb which made a lot of sense given the new requirements that Apple has added to all apps on the app store.  From here on out you have to include both normal and retina quality images to your app.  If you are doing game development this is going to quickly get to very large files.  To test it out this morning I started a new Cocos2d template project – looking to see the impact to a Universal binary.

There are now not only larger files but 33% (at significantly larger files given the 2x in screen resolution) more graphic files needed if you create all the images for iPhone, iPhone with Retina, iPad, and iPad with Retina.  We see that we will need every bit (no pun intended) of the data that we can get when doing updates over the air.

The second issue that my test brought up this morning is the never ending battle with provisioning certificates.  The latest version of xCode installs in the Applications folder on your device.  So unless you’ve removed the original install of xCode in the Developer folder, you will find your self launching the wrong version of xCode, as I did this morning.  Next I went to provision my sample app to my iPhone and got the ” No unexpired provisioning profiles found that contain any of the keychain’s signing certificates” message.

Now I am a member of the Developer program and I seem to run in to this problem every few months.  I guess I need to create a blog post which explains how to keep all this straight across multiple machines.  I had just fixed this on my iMac (the main development machine) back in November, but I haven’t done development on my MacBookPro in some time.  Oh well, time to figure all this out once again!

p.s. Thank goodness for Stackoverflow.. Here’s the answer.

Data Persistence Across Platforms

We are currently looking at Android for a version of WastedTime…Today when you purchase the iPhone app, you get a fully functioning iPad app two, not some cheap pixel doubling app.  Given this, you may find yourself, like I do, having to chose between the iPhone and the iPad version for all your meetings during a week.  This is because the current version of WastedTime stores it’s persistent data in the iOS’s NSUserDefaults.  Meaning that it is not shared across devices.  

Do you think that it would make more sense to have a data store in the cloud which would automatically sync up when you start the app?  We do want to add a mashup of wasted time around the globe, but did not want to store any specific data.  If we have data persistence across devices, you could show total global wasted time within the app itself.  What do you think of this idea?

Wasted Time v1.0

Well, we realized we created the category and then put all our news on the main news feed.  So here it is, we officially went live with Wasted Time 1.0 on July 12th.  It has been an exciting week, and we submitted our first update to Wasted Time to Apple on July 17th.  It hasn’t made it through the review cycle yet, so we are all waiting for that to finish.

A couple of changes are planned for version 1.2, including more graphic enhancements.  Can’t wait to submit.