Archive for 'Miscellanea'

Terminally Illin’

Now here’s a veritable novelette on a topic you almost certainly know less about than Craig Hockenberry does:

The Terminal

I’ve been using the Unix command line since 1983 and like most software developers, the Terminal app is a permanent fixture in my Dock. Over the years I’ve learned a lot of things that make working in this environment more productive, but even old dogs like me are constantly learning new tricks.

As much as I love them, these long “trick lists” on Stack Overflow have a problem: they’re poorly organized with little narrative describing why you’d want to use a technique. This long homage to the command line is my attempt to remedy that situation…

As developers, we live and die by our clipboard. Code and data moves between different contexts all day long thanks to Cocoa’s NSPasteboard. It should not be surprising that pbcopy and pbpaste are simple and powerful integration points at the command line…

Most apps have preferences that are managed by NSUserDefaults. You can easily view or modify these settings from the command line using the defaults command…

Speaking of designers, one of the best ways to communicate with them is through pictures. The screencapture tool let’s you do some things you can’t do using the Command-Shift-3 and Command-Shift-4 keys in the Finder…

Spotlight search on the Desktop has become an essential tool for developers. We find code, documentation, messages and all kinds of information that’s related to our projects using Command-space and a simple text field. Would it surprise you to know that you can do more complex searches of the same dataset using the command line?…

It’s incredibly handy to control your desktop apps using the shell. Since AppleScript has always been the best way to control apps, it makes sense that there would be a command line tool. The osascript tool is one the Swiss Army would love…

A lot of the files we deal with are executable. Even if symbols have been stripped from the app, you can still infer a lot of information by looking at the null terminated strings present in the data…

If you’re developing for Mac or iOS, you already know how damn useful Instruments is for tracking application behavior. DTrace is the framework that makes all that possible. Well, take a look at all the stuff in the shell that “uses DTrace”…

Have you ever had a folder full of files that you’ve wanted to access through a web browser? You could setup Apache to do this by editing the httpd.conf file, or just enter the following command in the folder you want to access…

Data is never in the format you need it, is it? The shell’s notion of standard input and output has always made it great for doing data conversion. Here are some tools that you may not know about…

Pretty much guarantee you’ll find a whole bunch of somethings you didn’t know in there!

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Project Management: Kanban

So chances are that, should you follow any kind of formalized project management, it’s likely to be a form of Scrum. And if so, we’ll just betcha that you’ll nod along with this piece:

Why SCRUM Sprints slow you down

Basically SCRUM sprints set you up to commit to something you can’t possibly deliver on. The only way to reach predictable performance in SCRUM sprints is if …

  • … your team’s performance doesn’t change ever: No people leaving, no people joining, no knowledge gained over time, no vacations, no motivation highs & lows,
  • … the items you are working on are highly predictable: You’ve done them many times, know which problems to expect & how to solve them, no external dependencies, no collaboration with others, no changes in scope even if they would make sense, …
  • nothing else comes up that’s more important: Server down, bug in the payment system, a security vulnerability that needs to be closed ASAP, incredible marketing opportunity if implemented & shipped in the next few hours, …
  • Considering this it is quite obvious why reaching predictable SCRUM sprint performance is almost impossible in most real world situations no matter how much time and effort you put into sprint planning and estimates.

    But the main problem is that SCRUM sprints force your team to optimize for predictability (“how much of what we’ve committed to can we get done”) instead of optimizing for value & agility (last responsible moment)…

Preach it, brother! Yes, we feel all that pain. Particularly that last point. Last time we had an interview ask about our experience as a scrum master in our last management job we scoffed “As if we ever knew what our priorities were going to be by the end of the day, never mind multiple weeks down the road!” These problems are obvious enough to everybody that sprints are usually one week these days, at least they are the last half-dozen places we’ve scrummed at … at which time you’re spending more time in planning and review than the effort is worth, amirite?

Some software companies are starting to embrace continuous delivery and feature pipeline visualization tools inspired by lean manufacturing concepts and Kanban.

This helps them to release improved versions of their software as soon as they are ready. On top of that it enables them to drop arbitrary sprint time-boxes if they want to.

By using Kanban and feature pipelines you pull new work items into your process once space (focus) frees up on the board.

This enables you to defer decisions & commitment to the last responsible moment, a time when usually more information & context is available allowing your team to be more agile compared to SCRUM time-boxes…

Well, this certainly sounds more like a project process that would actually work in the world we live in. Here’s another good discussion:

When to dump Scrum for Kanban

Kanban is useful when requirements and priorities change quickly and often. This becomes evident in teams who can see that their Sprint Planning doesn’t quite hold up for the entire Sprint duration. Kanban helps you react faster, but…

Contrary to popular belief, in Kanban, it’s not only about reacting faster, it’s about being closer to a state of Zen

But how do you get there? Simply prioritize: focus over speed

Well, that sounds worth a try. Let’s see what tools are out there:

Blossom is from the fellow who wrote that first article up there that got our attention; pricing is $19/month for 5 seats, $59/15, $149/25.

There’s approximately a zillion other Kanban tools, but these two seem widely well regarded for getting your feet wet:

Kanban Toolpricing is $5/user/month or $9 with time tracking, and a basic 2-user free one too.

LeanKitpricing is free to 10 users for basic features, $15/20 user/month for more

Us, we’re going to give Kanban Tool a shot, since the price is right and Adding tasks with Siri on iOS devices sounds pretty cool. But as always, if you have any particular recommendations of tools of this type you’ve tried and can recommend, or recommend against, please share!

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DZone’s Guide to Mobile Development

And just as a break from all the WWDC news, here’s a report worth reading to remind yourself that there are, in fact, other players in this industry:

DZone’s 2014 Guide to Mobile Development

This free guide includes:

  • In-depth articles written by industry experts
  • Key findings from our survey of over 1000 mobile developers
  • Profiles on 39 mobile development tools and frameworks
  • “Game of Phones” Infographic
  • Glossary of common mobile development terms
  • “Step-by-Step Mobile Application Development Checklist”
inforgraphic_0.png

Good read just to be vaguely aware of how people not completely Apple-focused are thinking. And we’d say that even if we weren’t leading off the ‘Special thanks to our topic experts’ acknowledgements. No, we would, seriously, DZone Research is doing a good job with these surveys, these were the first two in case you missed them:

  • The 2014 DZone Cloud Platform Research Report brings together worldwide cloud providers into one free, exclusive report that offers impartial insight into 39 specific cloud platform providers.
  • DZone’s next research guide covers the benefits of Continuous Delivery and DevOps and the strategies organizations use to adopt these practices. This guide also provides comparison data for choosing the right technology for your Continuous Delivery toolchain.

Good stuff to have handy when management needs some friendly guidance with their decisions!

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Wearable Stars Aligning

May 29, 2013: Apple’s Tim Cook On Why The Nike+ FuelBand Works And Google Glass Doesn’t

Mossberg/Swisher: Is the future wearables?

Cook: I think so. I wear this. It’s a FuelBand. I think Nike did a great job with this. It’s for a specific area. It’s integrated well with iOS…

August 19, 2013: Apple Hires Nike FuelBand Guru Jay Blahnik

Fitness industry consultant Jay Blahnik, who played a key role in the development of Nike’s FuelBand, has taken a job at Apple…

February 13, 2014: If Apple Really Is Doing An ‘iWatch,’ It’s A Huge Conflict Of Interest For Tim Cook

The FuelBand isn’t as important to Nike’s business as the iPhone is to Apple’s business. But there’s no way Cook should be getting information about how to make Apple’s wearable computer better than the FuelBand as a board member…

April 18, 2014: Nike Fires Majority of FuelBand Team, Plans to Stop Making Wearables

As the competition in the fitness wearable category has increased with entries from Jawbone and Fitbit, Nike has opted to shift its focus to software. Company spokesman Brian Strong told CNET in an email that Nike continually aligns its resources with business priorities…

as had been predicted on secret.ly

The douchebag execs at Nike are going to lay off a bunch of the eng team who developed The FuelBand, and other Nike+ stuff. Mostly because the execs committed gross negligence, wasted tons of money, and didn’t know what they were doing.

Could be, could be.

Us, we’re going to run with the hypothesis that the douchebag execs at Nike know exactly what they are doing.

Also going to posit the further hypothesis that if you haven’t been bending your thoughts towards coming up with clever things to do with data recorded 24/7 from some Apple M7-embedded device coming to you via Core Motion, right about now might very well be a particularly good time to get on that.

Just sayin’.

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Wireless Mesh Networking

Hey, this is nifty! If you’d even bothered to notice this new-ish Multipeer Connectivity thing at all, like us you probably didn’t read past

The Multipeer Connectivity framework provides support for discovering services provided by nearby iOS devices using infrastructure Wi-Fi networks, peer-to-peer Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth personal area networks and subsequently communicating with those services by sending message-based data, streaming data, and resources (such as files)…

before skipping to something that looked more interesting, amirite? But no, it actually is interesting:

How an Under-Appreciated iOS 7 Feature Will Change the World

A curious download hit Apple’s app store this week: a messaging app called FireChat.

It’s a new kind of app because it uses an iOS feature unavailable until version 7: the Multipeer Connectivity Framework. The app was developed by the crowdsourced connectivity provider Open Garden and this is their first iOS app.

The Multipeer Connectivity Framework enables users to flexibly use WiFi and Bluetooth peer-to-peer connections to chat and share photos even without an Internet connection. Big deal, right?

But here’s the really big deal — it can enable two users to chat not only without an Internet connection, but also when they are far beyond WiFi and Bluetooth range from each other — connected with a chain of peer-to-peer users between one user and a far-away Internet connection.

It’s called wireless mesh networking. And Apple has mainstreamed it in iOS 7. It’s going to change everything. Here’s why.

It can also extend an Internet connect to a place where none exists — for example, to a hotel basement, cave or to rural areas where cell tower connections are non-existent…

Read the whole thing, as they say!

h/t: @justinlbaker!

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TestFlight, R.I.P.

So no doubt pretty much everyone reading this uses TestFlight for distributing their betas, yes? Well, looks like you might have to rethink that plan.

First up, their FlightPath (née TestFlight Live) analytics disappeared with just a note to participants “so we can focus on other areas of the business”. Well, bad ideas disappear all the time; apparently that turned out to be a bad idea, competing with Flurry. Surprise level: 0.

Second up, they decided to ditch Android completely:

We are refocusing TestFlight on iOS. While we will continue to support app development on iOS, support for Android beta testing on TestFlight will stop by March 21, 2014.

What does this mean?

After 3/21/2014 no user will be able to upload any Android builds to TestFlight.

Whilst of course we thoroughly approve of that strategy, it seems … out of step with market conditions, does it not? Surprise level: high.

Next up, they stopped taking new customers on iOS too:

On 2/19/2014 we announced that only Teams who have previously uploaded a build with the TestFlight SDK will be able to continue to upload builds with the SDK.

What does this mean?

If you are an existing Team that has previously uploaded a build with an SDK attached you will need to upgrade to the latest SDK version by 2/26/2014, afterwards your build will be rejected until it has the correct SDK version.

If your team has never uploaded a build with an SDK or you are a new TestFlight user then you will not be able to incorporate any version of the TestFlight SDK. You will be asked to remove the SDK from your build and re-upload.

OK, now things are getting downright weird. Surprise level: WTF?

Well, the sleuths over at TechCrunch figure they know what’s going on:

TestFlight Owner Burstly Acquired By Apple

Burstly, the makers of an in-app ad management platform called SkyRocket and the parent company of popular mobile app testing platform TestFlight, has been acquired, we’re hearing. Though we’re working to get more information on this now, including deal terms, our understanding is that Apple is the acquirer here.

We’ve been pointed in Apple’s direction by a couple of sources…

Well, on the one hand that’s just about out of character as Apple acquisitions get, on the other hand, we sure don’t see any other plausible explanation for the increasing oddity of recent events, do you? Hopefully Apple just had a “why didn’t we do exactly this all along?” epiphany and are just bringing the TestFlight we all know and love under their umbrella, but on the off chance that’s not what’s going on here, maybe you all want to sign up for HockeyApp while the signing is good!

UPDATE:

All right, this is the first time we’ve updated a post inside the hour: It’s official!

Apple Confirms Burstly Buy

“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” company spokeswoman Kristin Huguet told Re/code.

So yeah, anything you’re relying on TestFlight for right now: figure out a Plan B. Just in case.

MORE UPDATES:

From Crashlytics Labs: Announcing Our Beta Distribution Tool

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iTunes Connect Help

Ever get frustrated with submitting your apps/IAP/Game Center stuff through iTunes Connect? Yes, who hasn’t, indeed. Check out this piece for some help with saving your sanity:

Mastering Command-Line iTunes Connect Submissions

… iTunes Connect is, of course, a critical piece of the Apple developer puzzle. However, inputting any serious amount of content requires more than a little bit of patience, good luck, and praying to the powers-that-be that iTunes Connect doesn’t kick you out before you’ve uploaded your marketing assets and copy.

As the person managing the localisation of our apps and App Store copy, I spend a not-inconsiderable amount of time dealing with iTunes Connect and you can easily lose an afternoon in the system when you’re refreshing up to 15 screenshots, the release notes and marketing copy in each localisation. It’s a similar story for the Mac – huge Retina screenshots that can only be uploaded one at a time make for a time-consuming and often infuriating process.

However, there’s a relatively little-known tool available from Apple that can ease your pain, allowing you to retrieve, pre-flight and upload your app metadata…

Ever notice the ‘Transporter User Guide’ link under ‘Deliver Your Apps’ on iTunes Connect? Yep, that’s the relatively little-known tool.

But there’s some extra niftiness here:

Whilst Transporter has been a great improvement to our workflow, I’ve been itching to improve it further. To get things started I’ve built a small app that allows you to avoid both the Terminal and iTunes Connect itself to submit your iTMSP packages. It’s called Connecter, and the source is available on GitHub

commandlineitunes.png

Worth checking out for lowering the pain level on your store management, yep.

h/t: iOS Dev Weekly!

UPDATES:

Open Source Tool Providing An Extensive CLI For Working With iTunes Connect

How to submit multiple iOS In-App Purchases

Apple In-App Purchase: Creating App Store Hosted Content

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App Annie’s 2013 Retrospective

This is worth a read to keep tabs on just who’s winning teh app storez:

App Annie Index: 2013 Retrospective – The Top Trends of 2013

2013 was a milestone year for mobile apps and app stores alike, setting the stage for exciting new opportunities in 2014. Over the last year we saw many new trends including significant growth in emerging markets, a dramatic shift in game spending on mobile and the global expansion of social messaging platforms. In this App Annie Annual Index, we will uncover a variety of trends and insights to guide you in making smart business decisions.

Specifically, this App Annie Index 2013 Retrospective report recaps the top headline trends of 2013 with insights to the top-growing countries, categories, app stores, and more. The report shows the causes of this growth, giving you insights into the trends and markets you can’t ignore for the upcoming year…

Here’s their picks for ‘Top App Trends of 2013’:

  • Trend 1: Google Play Surpassed iOS in Worldwide App Downloads
  • Trend 2: Japan Became the #1 Country in App Revenue, Surpassing the US
  • Trend 3: BRIC Countries Emerge in 2013, While New Markets Are Poised to Break Out in 2014
  • Trend 4: App Store Games Spend Exploded, Surpassing Game-Optimized Handhelds
  • Trend 5: Freemium Proves Its Worth
  • Trend 7: Music App Revenue Rocked Out in 2013
  • Trend 8: Social-Focused Photo & Video Apps Went Viral
  • Trend 9: Mobile Banking, Payment, and Financial Management Apps on the Rise

The report also includes top apps and publishers by country, and top countries and categories for both the App Store and Google Play. Nothing shockingly unexpected jumps out at us on a first flip through it, but having some quantitative data to back up your impressions is always handy, yes?

UPDATES:

Also check out Developer Economics Q1 2014 for another industry overview!

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Tip: Easy App Store Refunds

Yep, we all get ‘em: that customer who finds something unexpected about your app and angrily demands that you, yes you, refund their money NOW and don’t want to hear about how you don’t actually have any way to do that? Well, here’s instructions straightforward enough to hopefully mollify them somewhat:

You can get a refund for any app on the App Store by following this process:

1. Visit https://reportaproblem.apple.com

2. Sign In with your Apple ID.

3. Click “Report a Problem” on the offending app.

4. Choose “Problem is not listed here” and be sure to mention that you are asking for a refund because it doesn’t work as expected.

h/t: @drbarnard!

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VanCocoa 1.0

Just a quick note here for any of you other Vancouverians who might have missed this so far — there’s a new group starting up this week you might want to add to your social butterfly rounds:

VanCocoa 1.0 — August 29th, at 6:30pm

Join us for the first VanCocoa night. We’ll have two talks of roughly 40 minutes each, then off for beer. The event is at SFU Harbour Centre downtown, at 555 W Hastings St.

Nigel Brooke — Audio Inception: MPMedia, AVFoundation, and Core Audio

Padraig Kennedy — Building Tokens

28 folks have RSVPed, 22 spots are left…

Unfortunately we won’t be there ourselves, but we’ll catch you there next time!

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