Under The BridgeUnder The Bridge

Musings
Accessing The Cloud

For those of us who haven’t bothered paying much attention to that whole server side of things, here’s a nice gentle introduction:

Accessing The Cloud From Cocoa Touch

Walks you through POSTing data to the server, which chances are you’ve had to handle at some point by now; but also shows some simple server PHP code for handling that data, and has some basic recommendations for server side development. Nothing too terribly deep, but if you’re as blissfully unconcerned with server programming other than “hire a web guy” as we’ve been to date, this would be worth a read no doubt!

ThoMoNetworking

Here’s an interesting looking abstraction for your local communication needs: ThoMoNetworking!

Writing network code for Cocoa or iPhone/iPad apps isn’t terribly difficult – but it’s not very exciting either.

Want to exchange objects between two processes, on the same machine or remotely, without having to dig down into the C API of Core Foundation? Then ThoMoNetworking is for you.

ThoMoNetworking gives you client and server classes that connect automatically via Bonjour – nothing to do on your side. Pass an object to the server, and it will pop out at the client, and vice versa. If you want, have your object distributed to all connected clients in one go. It couldn’t be much simpler.

No, it really couldn’t. A handful of lines for all this, working with any object conforming to NSCoding:

But wait, there’s more that you get for free with ThoMoNetworking without having to worry about it ever again:

  • Sockets – we use them so you don’t have to
  • Bonjour – your servers and clients will find each other on the local network automatically, no need to mess with IP addresses and port number
  • Handling dropped connections – ThoMoNetworking will immediately reconnect or notify you if the other side is no longer available on the network
  • Asynchronous network calls – we handle all the threading for you so that your main thread does not have to wait for the network

All your base are belong to us – works out-of-the-box on OS X, iPhone, and iPad.

That does look pretty darn handy, indeed. Especially if you have some desktop <-> iDevice connectivity in mind. Download the source here!

h/t: MacOSXHints!

Tip: Quit In iOS4

So there’s certain classes of apps for which being backgrounded under iOS4 is more trouble than it’s worth; and if you’re wishing you could have the old school behaviour back and to Hades with this multitasking thing, here’s the trick

Fortunately there is a simple way to make your iOS 4 apps terminate for real when the user taps the home button.

This is a simple process:

1. Open your info.plist file

2. Add The Key UIApplicationExitsOnSuspend

3. Set the new key to YES

Now your applicationwillterminate: method will be run when the user taps the home key, and your app will exit for real.

Now you know!

Tip: Animating UIButton

File this one under “obvious once you think of it”: if you want to have a UIButton with some kind of animation effect, but that seems complicated since a UIButton can only have a single image specified; well then as described here, just create an animatable UIImageView,

NSArray *images = [NSArray arrayWithObjects:

   [UIImage imageNamed:@"image0.png"],

   [UIImage imageNamed:@"image1.png"],

   nil];

imageView = [[UIImageView alloc] initWithImage:[UIImage imageNamed:@"image0.png"]];

imageView.animationImages = images;

then add it as a subview of a custom button!

UIButton *button = [UIButton buttonWithType:UIButtonTypeCustom];

button.bounds = self.imageView.bounds;

Button;

Button;

Which can then be made into a UIBarButtonItem if you like,

UIBarButtonItem *barButton = [[[UIBarButtonItem alloc] initWithCustomView: button] autorelease];

And then just call [imageView startAnimating] to get your pretty pulsating or whatever action going.

TwitterConnect: DDSocialDialog

Here’s a handy piece of UI support for the next time you need to put a Twitter login into your app: DDSocialDialog!

I am working on an iPhone/iPad universal app these two weeks, and it allows user to share over Facebook, Twitter or Plurk social services.

And since FacebookConnect SDK had provided a well-known dialog design, I would like to follow it, and to create a similar dialog UI for consistent user experiences in my app.

DDSocialDialog is a UIView subclass looks like FacebookConnect dialog,

tumblr_l3xgj4f18Y1qa95u5.png

And it comes with some features:

  1. Easy to use, just like UIAlertView.
  2. A DDSocialDialog dialog with an empty contentView for customizing.
  3. A extended DDSocialLoginDialog dialog for retrieving username and password.
  4. Two themes: Twitter and Plurk. And you can create your own if you like.
  5. Optimized for different resolutions, including iPhone, iPad and iPhone 4 (Retina Display, 960 by 640).
  6. Support orientations, you can rotate with keyboard on or off. This part is acting better than FacebookConnect SDK.

Yes, what’s not to like there? Certainly vastly more attractive and functional than our wireframe quality Twitter login views to date, that’s for sure. Haven’t had any requests for Plurk yet … actually, we were completely unaware of its existence until just now … but hey throwing that in as a bonus can’t hurt.

Irregular Buttons

Let’s say that you want to have buttons that are irregularly shaped, and there’s some reason that the standard hit testing which does not check image content is undesirable for some reason, like if you have overlapping buttons like this:

overlapping buttons.png

… well, first off, you should fix your interface. But let’s assume further that there actually is a good reason, like “you’re being paid” for instance, to implement something like the above: well, then, here is how to go about turning a button’s UIImage into a hit testing mask:

Irregularly Shaped UIButtons with update here linking to latest code.

There is an alternative implementation here, as well:

OBShapedButton: Non-rectangular buttons on the iPhone

So there you go. Even if you design sensible interfaces so this exact application isn’t of great interest to you, these implementations involve UIImage content dissection that could very well be of use in other situations, so the code’s worth a look.

PayPal MPL

[EDIT: Discontinued.]

So you may have noticed in that list of commercial components yesterday that there was one called “PayPal Integrator”. That was a particularly interesting one, we thought, as we’re not particularly interested in commercial credit card or cheque processors at the moment, but we do have a PayPal account; and we weren’t aware it was possible to connect to PayPal from an iPhone app, so how are they managing that?

Turns out that there is indeed an iPhone friendly official PayPal library, the “Mobile Payments Library” — and it’s been in public beta for two months, and there’s already apps in the store using it, like this sample:

Baublet-200x300.jpg

That is indeed vastly more convenient than redirecting people buying physical goods out of your app to a Safari page as we’ve been doing, isn’t it? OK, onto the ever-lengthening list of things to do as soon as possible, let us add “checking out the PayPal library”!

Connectivity Components

So, you got a need for some unfamiliar kind of connectivity in your iPhone/iPad/Cocoa app? Well, there’s these people /n software who have quite the extensive selection for you, here’s the ones that are shipping for the iPhone in particular:

IP*Works! — FTP, HTTP, SMTP, POP, IMAP, LDAP, DNS, RSS, SMS, Jabber, SOAP, WebDav, RAS, XML, and more

IP*Works! SSL — FTPS, HTTPS, SMTPS, POPS, IMAPS, LDAPS, SMPPS, XMPPS, SOAPS, WebDavS, and more

IP*Works! S/MIME — secure SMTP, POP, IMAP, NNTP, and more

IP*Works! SSH — SFTP, SCP, tunneling, and more

Paymentech Integrator

Vital/TSYS Integrator

FDMS Integrator

E-Payment (cc/ACH) Integrator

E-Banking (OFX) Integrator

PayPal Integrator

QuickBooks (QBXML) Integrator

Amazon (S3/SQS/EC2/AWS) Integrator

Shipping (FedEx/UPS/USPS) Integrator

MS SharePoint Integrator

Not exactly what you’d call cheap any of these, but hey, if you need it right now then there you go!

h/t: iPhoneDevelopmentBits!

Gradient Buttons

So here’s another shininess option for your pretty shiny buttons:

I added two more button styles to the iPhone Gradient Buttons project and made stroke color and stroke weight configurable options. The two new styles look exactly like the old Black and White style, only the highlight state is a blue gradient. These simulate the style used in alert sheets in several Apple applications.

gradientbuttons.png

Some of the Core Graphics code was machine-generated and is in kind of rough shape, but it works…

“Machine-generated”? Say what? Well, as noted here earlier, it turns out that drawing program Opacity will export images as source!

… Opacity also now supports exporting an image as source code. This allows developers to build an image and immediately get the code to draw that image dynamically. Quartz, Cocoa, Cocoa Touch, and JavaScript Canvas are supported for creating drawing code for Mac, iPhone, and Web applications. Variables in an image will be automatically translated into variables in the source code as well, making it easy to create powerful and flexible drawing code…

Did you know that? We did not know that. That would have saved us a good bit of time … two days ago, actually. Well, next time we have some programmatic drawing to do, we certainly know what we’re going to check out!

UPDATES:

And here’s another option for the pretty shiny thing … GlassButtons!

For more of the exporting vectors to Core Graphics code thing, check out PaintCode and Qwarkee!

iPad Programming Roundup

So yeah, today we’re starting our first iPad-targeted app. Just right out there on the cutting edge, yep that’s us. Mind you, this is the first of three iPad-targeted projects waiting increasingly restively for us to get around to them, and the intended delivery dates were … well, let’s move on, shall we.

The upside of being so far behind the curve you’re starting to lose sight of it in the distance, of course, is that all the clever people who take on less work than you do have put out good stuff to get you up to speed quickly. So let’s round up some of those:

iPad Multi-Touch is a cute little project from the inestimable Matt Legend Gemmell showing how to handle the eleven (11!!) simultaneous touch events that the iPad supports.

iPad VGA Output is another snippet from same showing how to handle a VGA adapter connected external monitor.

iPadFontExample shows how to set up your plist to access an embedded .otf font and use it in UILabel and with embedded UIWebView content.

Unsurprisingly, Ray Wenderlich of cocos2d tutorial profligatality has an excellent set on iPad idioms too:

iPad for iPhone Developers 101: UISplitView Tutorial

iPad for iPhone Developers 101: UIPopoverController Tutorial

iPad for iPhone Developers 101: Custom Input View Tutorial

How To Port an iPhone Application to the iPad

Over at Dr. Touch, there’s another good porting walkthrough … and an amusing reminder of why you really really should test every config you claim to support:

From iPhone to Hybrid

How to make your Hybrid-App crash for sure

Here’s an article on how to make dealing with UIPopover controllers more straightforward:

Rewriting a Public Cocoa Touch API

And one on adding a navigation controller stack in the detail view of the UISplitViewController template:

Fixing the UISplitViewController Template

There is a good bit of advice out there on how to set up the increasingly multiplicious varieties of icons and launch images needed for a universally savvy iOS application; unfortunately, most of it is wrong and/or outdated. Take it straight from the now not NDA’d mothership, whenever you read this:

App Icons QA1686

although at time of writing this post appears to be correct about icon varieties current as of iPhone 4 release, and adds some useful commentary.

And finally, here’s some worthwhile thoughts on general iPad app and website design:

Designing for iPad: Reality Check

10 Beautiful and Usable iPhone and iPad Interfaces

48 Creative iPad Application Websites

UPDATES:

Here’s some more worthwhile tips on universal apps and such:

Migrating iPhone 3.x apps to iPad and iOS 4.0

And a better split view controller:

MGSplitViewController for iPad

And some good design advice:

Design for Mobile: iPad Design Tips

Another split view replacement, tab bar and navigation controller-friendly:

Open Source: Custom iPad UISplitViewController Allows Placement Inside Tab Bars