Archive for 'Programming'

Standards Marked Downer

Here’s an interesting case study on how to not make friends:

Standard Flavored Markdown

It took a while, but I’m pleased to announce that Standard Markdown is now finally ready for public review.

standardmarkdown.com

It’s a spec, including embedded examples, and implementations in portable C and JavaScript. We strived mightily to stay true to the spirit of Markdown in writing it. The primary author, John MacFarlane, explains in the introduction to the spec

Well, that all sounds well and good, aside from having a snicker at the obligatory xkcd 927 mention, doesn’t it? Um, no. After not too many yay! great! finally! comments on the above, we start getting

… We all use Markdown, not just you and your pals. It isn’t yours to do with as you please. Create something new, and respect prior art…

… Besides that, the hubris involved in calling your fork standard is a bit much…

… any such effort needs to do so under a new name. Not to do so is confusing to users and needlessly hostile toward John Gruber…

… Ignoring this term means you’ve broken the deal, and opens you up to a copyright infringement lawsuit…

Oops. The comments devolve from that last point into wrangling over the legal definition of ‘derivative’ … but if you’re down to arguing on that level, well, you’ve already lost, haven’t you?

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 2.59.35 PM.png

… yeah, that’s a pretty darn good example of exactly the kind of reaction you want your new project to avoid at all costs.

Now, we generally try to actively avoid pointless drama like this — what led us to this donnybrook was actually a handy looking new pod

laptobbe/TSMarkdownParser

TSMarkdownParser is a markdown to NSAttributedString parser for iOS implemented using NSRegularExpressions. It supports many of the standard tags layed out by John Gruber on his site Daring Fireball. It is also very extendable via Regular Expressions making it easy to add your own custom tags or a totally different parsing syntax if you like…

which looked like a particularly nicely lightweight way to manage some easy attribution of strings. ‘Course, there’s lots of other implementations around too, if that particular one isn’t adequate to your needs. Or you could always start your own flavour. “Definitive Markdown”? “Authoritative Markdown”? Those aren’t taken yet!

UPDATES:

And the first attempt was to try “Common Markdown” and that didn’t work either … so now it’s CommonMark!

Continue Reading →
0

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!

Continue Reading →
0

Tip: Open Settings URL

Oops, we managed to miss this in the WWDC videos:

Open Settings URL

A quick tip I picked up from WWDC 2014 session 715 on User Privacy. Starting with iOS 8 there is now a settings launch URL to send the user directly to the settings for an App. The code snippet below will do the trick:

[[UIApplication sharedApplication] openURL:[NSURL URLWithString:
UIApplicationOpenSettingsURLString]];

If you’ve got any functionality that the user can say no to, it’s guaranteed they will, and then they’ll send you angry letters and one-star reviews when it doesn’t work, you’ve all been there right? So make sure you put on your iOS 8 upgrade checklist putting in a helpful remediation option wherever deniable things can fail!

Continue Reading →
0

Storyboard Launch Images

So, you been fearing what the likely new @3x sizes are going to do to your seven and counting launch image requirements?

Well, looks like all that fuss may be going away soon:

Replacing Launch Images with Storyboards

An Interface Builder-Based Launch Screen

In Xcode 6, there is another option. You can specify a storyboard whose initial view controller will then be used as the appʼs launch screen. This is how:

  1. Create a blank storyboard file named LaunchScreen.storyboard.
  2. Go to your target settings and, on the General tab, select the storyboard as your Launch Screen File. Xcode will add a corresponding UILaunchStoryboardName key to your appʼs Info.plist. When this key is present, Xcode will prioritize it over any launch images you might have set.
  3. Add a view controller scene to the storyboard. Add some subviews to the scene and position them with constraints. When you launch the app on a device, the OS should use the scene as the launch screen.

One Storyboard for All Screen Sizes

You can use the new adaptive UI features in Interface Builder to fit your layout to different screen sizes. If your scene requires screen-size-specific images, use asset catalogs to define different images per size class. Note that you can not only adjust constraints for different size classes, you can also remove selected views from a specific size class entirely by deselecting the Installed check box. See WWDC session 411 for details.

Also Works with NIBs

Despite the name of the UILaunchStoryboardName key, this also seems to work with NIB/XIB files containing a single view. When you open such a XIB file in Xcode, the File Inspector displays a check box named Use as Launch Screen, which is not there for storyboards…

There’s a number of partially-implemented caveats at the moment, but looks like a solid reason to get up to speed on those new adaptive UI features, because as they say

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 9.00.52 PM.png

Speaking of which, here’s a handy UICustomResolutions extension for UIWindow to help testing that!

h/t: iOS Dev Weekly!

UPDATES:

Yup, it’s 667×375@2x(1334×750) and 414×736@3x(2208×1242) just as predicted, and new @3x icon sizes to match!

As for xib/storyboards, they’re required for the new devices:

You use a launch XIB or storyboard file to indicate that your app runs on iPhone 6 Plus or iPhone 6.

Oh, wait no: You can also add raster images to the new LaunchImage.xcassets buckets.

Continue Reading →
0

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!

UPDATES:

Why SCRUM Backlogs lead to bad Product Decisions

Continue Reading →
0

Affilate API: Uber

Got an app with a map? This might be of interest to you:

Introducing The Uber API

As of today, we officially open—to all developers—access to many of the primitives that power Uber’s magical experience. Apps can pass a destination address to the Uber app, display pickup times, provide fare estimates, access trip history and more.

Note that ‘more’ does not currently include ‘actually call for a ride or anything’ though,

What about requesting a ride? Yes, we’ve implemented that endpoint as well, but because calling it immediately dispatches a real driver in the real world, we’re releasing it in a more controlled fashion, starting with a small set of partners. Stay tuned for more on that, and please let us know if you’re interested in being added to the whitelist.

OK then. So what’s in this new Affiliate Program for us exactly?

  • Offer your users credit toward their first Uber ride when they sign up via your app
  • Earn $5 (USD) in Uber credit for every new rider
  • Receive credits that never expire in your Uber account every month
  • Build something amazing and get your app featured on our site

Gotcha. Free rides! That’s awesome! Oh, no, wait … no it’s not. Not if you hang in Most Livable City #3:

Uber Has Expanded to 130 Cities, Vancouver Remains Only One It’s Ever Had to Back Away From

Oh, wait more … no, it’s really not.

This program is currently available to developers in the US only.

Well, that’s not rocketing up our priority list then. But hey, if you are a U.S. developer with a map-using app, something you probably want to consider!

Continue Reading →
0

Airship Pushing Us Overboard

So it’s been a seriously long time since we looked at APNS providing options, as it’s been the universal default for everyone we’ve worked with since to default to Urban Airship. And, generally, to be perfectly satisfied with their free level of service. Turns out they’ve had enough of us freeloaders:

We’ve discovered that we work best when we’re working closely with our customers to help them solve their problems and implement a mobile-first experience for their users with our complete solution. [Ed. - why, what a polite way to say “getting paid”!] Today, we’re taking some concrete steps toward crystallizing that focus by sunsetting our free Developer Edition product that offers a subset of the capabilities of our complete solution.

If you are using the Developer Edition offering, everything will remain the same for the next six-months until its retirement on December 31, 2014. Between now and then, Developer Edition users can either choose to establish a paid relationship with Urban Airship for access to our push-only product or our full solution suite, or migrate to an alternate solution…

Well, these days when less than half opt in to pushes at all, it’s pretty hard to make a case for that for most of our Airship usage. So let’s see what options there are in the “migrate to an alternate solution” space for the freeloading indie, shall we?

In the messaging-focused provider category:

Appoxeestarts at $500/month

Boxcar — 200 pushes per minute to 100 devices for free; goes up by ppm

Element Wave — unlimited to 5K users for free; trial-only for more

Moblico — trial accounts only

Push IO — trial accounts only

PushApps — 1M pushes to 100K devices from 5 apps for free; notably cheap unlimited plans

PushWizard — 30 messages to one app on unlimited devices for free; smorgasbord of paid additions

PushWoosh — unlimited pushes to 1M devices from 5 apps for free; tiered paid feature sets

TheAppSales — “a good size number” for free

XtremePush — unlimited pushes to 1M devices from 5 apps for free; tiered paid feature sets

In the cloud service space that provide messaging on the side:

Amazon SNS — 1M pushes for free; then $1/1M pushes

App42 — 1M pushes for free; tiered price plans

Asking Point — 3M pushes for free; pay via commission

Kinvey — 5M pushes for free; tiered price plans

mobDB — 600K pushes for free; then $15/1M pushes

Parse — 1M pushes for free; then 5¢/1K pushes

If there isn’t something there that suits your feature vs. price requirements adequately, there’s always rolling your own: By far the most popular on github, which we’ll take as sufficient proof of adequacy and not bother looking further, is

Redth/PushSharp: “A server-side library for sending Push Notifications to iOS (iPhone/iPad APNS), OSX (APNS 10.8+) Android (C2DM and GCM – Google Cloud Message), Chrome (GCM) Windows Phone, Windows 8, Blackberry (PAP), and Amazon (ADM) devices!”

but if you want more choice, hey there’s 412 following it thrown up for APNS on Github, go wild.

One last special mention of noodlewerk/NWPusher that lets you do your development with a local OS X application, which certainly would have expedited many of our past projects.

Think we managed to catch all the services currently worthy of short list consideration here; if we missed stumbling over your favourite, of If you have any positive or negative experiences with any of these to share, please do!

Continue Reading →
2

Core Data And Swift

Been quite a while since the last time we rounded up Core Data goodies, since when we’ve gone through The iCloud Angst Apocalypse and ended up with that class of problem being relegated to the new CloudKit hotness … if you don’t need, like, cross-platform access or anything. Which most people want. As, indeed, we’re going to be designing the iOS side of a project in that cross-platform space next week; so let’s take a look at what’s going on now in the new Swifty iOS 8 world, shall we?

First off, here’s an decently comprehensive curation of important tools as the Swift world dawns — keep an eye on all of these to see how they adapt to new world Swiftiness:

Top 10 Core Data Tools and Libraries :

Marcus Zarra gives us The Core Data Stack In Swift which inspired Core Data Stack in Swift Simplified

kylef/QueryKit is a nifty Core Data query language in Swift; also check out kylef/KFData for some convenient Objective-C conveniences

Another interesting initiative (h/t ManiacDev) is Alecrim/AlecrimCoreData: “a Core Data wrapper library written in Swift, “inspired” by MagicalRecord and LINQ.”

Read Swift Core Data Format String Injection — or end up as an xkcd cartoon

Like videos? There’s a bunch here. This series looks particularly worthwhile, comes with code and is updated through the current Xcode 6b5:

UPDATES:

Core Data Batch Updates in iOS 8 And Swift

SugarRecord / SugarRecord: “…you’ll be able to start the CoreData stack structure just with a line of code and start working with your database models using closures thanks to the fact that SugarRecord is completly written in Swift.”

mogenerator 1.28 has “experimental” Swift code generation

New in Core Data and iOS 8: Batch Updating with Core Data Demo: Batch Updating and Asynchronous Fetching

Swift: Distributing Core Data Entities Over a Network

iOS 8: Core Data and Asynchronous Fetching

Your First Core Data App Using Swift

Continue Reading →
0

iOS 8 Grab Bag

So, pretty much got your head around Swift now and ready to move on to all the other new goodies in iOS 8? Here’s a series that’s been chugging along since WWDC well worth your time to read:

Over in the Wenderlich tutorial empire, we see no reason to expect that this will be less awesome than the last three of which we bought all, so we’ll confidently recommend that you go ahead and preorder

iOS 8 by Tutorials: Learning the new iOS 8 APIs with Swift or hey, go whole hog with Swift by Tutorials Bundle

In the meantime, there’s lots of Swift tutorials, and this introduction to Metal

iOS 8 Metal Tutorial with Swift: Getting Started

If you deal with passwords anywhere in your app, if you’ve missed it so far (h/t: ManiacDev) head over now to

AgileBits/onepassword-app-extension

Welcome! With just a few lines of code, your app can add 1Password support, enabling your users to:

  • Access their 1Password Logins to automatically fill your login page.
  • Use the Strong Password Generator to create unique passwords during registration, and save the new Login within 1Password.
  • Quickly fill 1Password Logins directly into web views.

And even if you don’t have password management, take the time to read their very nice explanation of extension security at

Filling with your approval: On 1Password’s App Extension and iOS 8 security

Here’s a nice little button class (h/t iOS Dev Weekly) to get you started with the funky effect stuff:

AYVibrantButton is a stylish button with iOS 8 vibrancy effect. It is a subclass of UIButton that has a simple yet elegant appearance and built-in support for UIVisualEffectView and UIVibrancyEffect classes introduced in iOS 8. Yet, it can be used on iOS 7 without the vibrancy effect…

Here’s an iOS 8 savvy HUD class whose necessity is explained for those who might question it as

There already are so many other open source progress HUD components!

While other progress HUD components are nice they all have their problems. MBProgressHUD is outdated and buggy, MMProgressHUD is totally over engineered and requires a long time to implement, SVProgressHUD and HTProgressHUD are not implemented in the right way and they all don’t offer the extensibility of JGProgressHUD. JGProgressHUD was inspired by all of these components to create the ideal progress indicator.

We adore people not overburdened with modesty.

UPDATES:

Self Sizing Table View Cells; Understanding Self Sizing Cells and Dynamic Type in iOS 8

A Step-By-Step Tutorial On Using iOS 8′s New Keyboard Extension

UIAlertController Changes in iOS 8

iOS 8 Privacy Updates

iOS8 Sampler for iOS

Working with Touch ID API in iOS 8 SDK

iOS 8 Metal Tutorial with Swift: Getting Started; Metal By Example

Image Resizing Techniques and PHImage​Manager

Introducing the iOS 8 Feast!

Apps Using iOS 8 Extensions

What we learned building the Tumblr iOS share extension

EL Mustache – iOS 8 Photo Extension in Swift

iOS 8 Handoff Tutorial

Tutorial: Creating Interactive Notifications With iOS 8’s Notification Actions

Introduction to iOS 8 App Extension: Creating a Today Widget

Continue Reading →
0

Project Diagnostics: Faux Pas

Hey, we can all use some more help finding problems in our projects, right? Check out this most promising new tool Faux Pas:

What the Clang Static Analyzer is to your code, Faux Pas is to your whole Xcode project.

Faux Pas inspects all of these things together:

  • Code
  • Project configuration (e.g. build settings)
  • Interface Builder files
  • Static assets (e.g. images)
  • Version control

This means it can warn you about errors that span the boundaries between these different parts of the project. For example:

  • Code tries to load a resource file that doesn’t exist
  • Code uses a localization key that is missing for some languages
  • Project references a file that is outside of the version control root
  • Project is missing an API usage description (e.g. NSContactsUsageDescription) while using that API in the code

So we figured we’d give it a shot at our current project. In which our code compiles clean with -Weverything, because we play Xcode on hard level, so it ought to be good right? Well, not by 5825 problems, doh!

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 7.03.41 AM.png

There is a lot of stuff this thing checks that’s impossible to check efficiently any other way. We’d go into more detail … but why bother? It’s an demonstratedly invaluable tool, download it now!

h/t: iOS Dev Weekly!

Continue Reading →
0
Page 2 of 97 12345...»