Archive for August, 2009



Why, things just keep hopping on the iPhone app advertising scene; you may recall the little AdMob vs. AdWhirl brouhaha we mentioned a while back that the general consensus was didn’t make AdMob look either competent or honest. Well, the decision of which to pick between those two for your advertising is now very much easier indeed: AdMob’s going with the if you can’t beat ‘em buy ‘em policy! From the AdWhirl blog:

Dear Developers,

As you may have already heard, we’ve been acquired by AdMob! In keeping with our values of transparency and openness, AdMob is open sourcing AdWhirl (both client and server) within the coming weeks. Not to fear, this means absolutely no changes to the functionality or support you have come to expect from AdWhirl and you’ll get full support for AdMob ads (coming soon). In addition, we’ll keep working hard on our roadmap w/ more features to help you guys succeed in the AppStore!

Interesting, that. What AdMob has to say is

Offering an open source solution will enable us to ensure advertisers and publishers a high quality experience with mobile advertising and publishing, and introduce an open, transparent choice into the market which has not existed to date. The open source solution will be available for all iPhone app developers and advertising networks, whether they currently work with AdMob directly or not.

One could be forgiven just a tad of skepticism regarding AdMob’s intentions here, though, so perhaps keeping an eye out for other mediation solutions might be time well spent. Not that we know of any other big ones (Tapjoy doesn’t seem to count as big) except Mobclix — you’ll let us know if we’ve missed others no doubt — and they are stoking the skepticism:

We would like to emphasize Mobclix’s continued dedication to being an open, neutral, and transparent ad exchange for the benefit of our developers and our ad networks. Our ad exchange offers developers complete transparency and performance, connecting them with the leading ad networks in the space – including Quattro Wireless, Videoegg, Millennial Media, Jumptap, Smaato, mDOTm, and others.

Mobclix always puts our developers first and chooses ads based on eCPM, not on a special preference to any one ad network. Mobclix believes that an open platform that is unbiased towards any ad network, such as we provide, is best for developers…

So there you go. AdMobWhirl mediation, Mobclix mediation, Tapjoy mediation, or any of the specific networks and other various players we try to keep track of here? What’s working out for you, Dear Readers?

h/t: iphonesb!


Posting to Facebook

So let’s say you have a client who wants to post to Facebook from their iPhone application. You could probably find on your own the official SDK here,

Facebook Connect for iPhone

but here’s a few additional resources to help you along:

RaddOnline: Using Facebook Connect for iPhone tutorial is a nice introduction if you’re completely new to this Facebook app creation thing. (Or to Facebook, period, like those of us who actually do useful things with our time…)

Mobile Orchard: Marketing In Code, Part 1 is worth a gander to judge its claims about Facebook being an effective marketing method –

One status update or feed story to 13 average Facebook users users generates the same exposure as spending the entire post-commission revenue for one app priced at the average of the top-100 paid apps.

– but Part 2: Setting A User’s Status In Facebook From An iPhone App is where the step by step instructions are, along with a set of helper classes that can be found on github.

Posting Links to Facebook Profile from iPhone Code shows how to elegantly — excessively elegantly, even the author suspects:

I guess that’s precisely the thing: there is just so much code there for such a little thing! Two levels of delegation, six separate files, and so on. It’s hard to escape the feeling that we let some unnecessary architecture astronautism enter our heads when doing this.

extend the MobileOrchard helper classes from immediately above to deal with the Facebook API.

and if the above doesn’t sort you all out and you need to ask a question, this is probably the right place:

Facebook Developers Forum >> Mobile and Handheld

So there you go: all you need to get your Facebook integration nice and smooooooth, we trust!


Snow Leopard Development Stacks

Just in case you were wondering, here’s a rundown of project versions you’ll find in the Snow Leopard GM:

After some digging, it appears that Snow Leopard (Apple’s latest OS X release) includes quite the refresh of web development stacks.

One update that is particularly exciting is the inclusion of PHP 5.3 which is fantastic for PHP developers as this release marks a major milestone in the progression of the language…

  • Apache 2.2.11
  • Java 1.6.0_15
  • Perl 5.10.0
  • PHP 5.3
  • Python 2.6.1
  • Rails 2.2.2
  • Ruby 1.8.7
  • RubyGems 1.3.1
  • SQLite 3.6.12
  • Subversion 1.6.2

All looks pretty much up to date, or at least of respectable vintage, yes?

Also take a gander at 23 Snow Leopard Tweaks You Didn’t Know About for some handy tips not generally known, at least by us … specifically, how to boot the 64-bit kernel!

h/t: DZone!


Snow Leopard lives!

Just in case you managed to somehow not be expecting this, as of just now Snow Leopard developer documentation, sample code, and Xcode 3.2 download are live at

and there seems to be quite a revamp of the reference library to go with it:

There was notice on the lists that Snow Leopard NDAs are now lifted, so … well, actually we don’t have anything Snow Leopard specific we were keeping secret, far as we know all our projects were compatible with only trivial tweaking here and there. Compatible enough that we’re not going to jump on the upgrade bandwagon immediately, we’ll give it a couple weeks and see if any massively widespread freakouts become apparent in developer land either iPhone or desktop. But if you’re ready for the bleeding edge, there you go!

[UPDATE: Heh, that was quick -- already an issue that would have been a problem for various domains of trolldom showed up on cocoa-dev:

Here's the problem. Snow Leopard ships with OpenSSL 0.9.8, with a universal 0.9.7 and PPC32-only 0.9.6 thrown in for backward compatibility reasons. The 10.6 SDK comes with the headers for 0.9.8, but not 0.9.7.

So if you need to use libcrypto 0.9.7, you must use the Leopard or Tiger SDKs. You can't use the Snow Leopard SDK and libcrypto unless you want to make your software require Snow Leopard. (You could try moving and linking things around, but then who knows what you'll break...) If this is going to be a problem, then you might want to consider using an alternative cryptography engine.

Righty then. Apparently it will be a little while before we move our operations wholesale over to Snow Leopard!]


Library: Bing SDK

Hey, if you have warm snuggly feelings about The Beast From Redmond and their so far underachieving Bing search engine, have we got a treat for you today: there’s now an open source SDK for your iPhone programming joy!

The Bing SDK for iPhone and Mac is a Cocoa Framework which enables Mac and iPhone developers to easily integrate Bing search results into their applications.

The SDK was designed to remove the headache of manually having to parse XML or JSON in order to communicate with the Bing API.

The SDK Provides:

  • Synchronous or Asynchronous querying
  • Access to Web, Image, Video, News, and Phonebook source types
  • Potential to easily add dynamic search results to all of you applications!

Not too sure why this is more interesting than [insert your favorite metaphor for uselessness here], but hey, if there’s some reason you’re not down with all the Google Mobile iPhone compatibility work, then perchance this would indeed be just the ticket.

h/t: electronista!


App Store games

Ah, a little light humour for you today: turns out that these clowns called Reverb Communications got caught with their hands in the cookie jar offering their army of sock puppet reviewers up for open bidding.

Reverb employs a small team of interns who are focused on managing online message boards, writing influential game reviews, and keeping a gauge on the online communities. … Reverb will use these interns on Developer Y products to post game reviews (written by Reverb staff members) ensuring the majority of the reviews will have the key messaging and talking points developed by the Reverb PR/marketing team.

Heh, heh. And they figured that nobody would have enough of a sense of ethics to blow the lid off that? Well, apparently it took a surprisingly long time for anyone with some honor to come out of the woodwork:

Aside from representing Pangea Software, one of the more successful App developers for the iPhone (they made Enigmo, which was featured during the Apple WWDC Keynote 2008), they also represent Harmonix (the Guitar Hero and Rock Band guys), MTV Games, and a host of iPhone game developers.

Not that it’s a given that the above or their other clients were aware of this, I suppose … but a hefty dose of suspicion is warranted, yes?

Of course, it’s not as if it’s terribly surprising that any public review forum is gamed — Penny Arcade noted years ago this is even common practice in the webcomics world, for crying out loud — but it’s a good example of how lack of moral compass will destroy the value of trust-based resources. We won’t bother following up that line of thought further or anything, except to observe that if your trust in the App Store review process is not already destroyed … now would be a good time to work on that.

In the meantime, hey; if you’re not overly burdened with morality and/or community responsibility, now you know where to get effective PR for 75¢/paid download!

h/t: Slashdot!


Snippet: Playing YouTube Videos

So it’s very easy to play a video in your iPhone app — whether local or off the web — with MPMoviePlayerController; and it’s very easy to put a video on the web via YouTube. However, there is a problem combining the two; since YouTube doesn’t give out direct links to its videos, you can’t give a YouTube video to MPMoviePlayerController. And if you tell the system to open the URL, well then your app’s gone. A non-optimal experience, indeed.

But here’s a way around that — just have a UIWebView containing nothing but the EMBED code for the link you want to pull up, and it’ll show up — once it loads, so you do have a white flash while you wait — as a YouTube brand, play button, and frame from the video. When the user taps that, the YouTube application is launched on top of your app, and when it’s finished, control is returned. Not bad on the convenience, indeed.

Unfortunately, there’s no kind of direct control or notifications of loading, progress, quitting, etc. However, you can get some indirect notifications based on your application’s window state: add in your view controller

[[NSNotificationCenter defaultCenter]
[[NSNotificationCenter defaultCenter]

to get these called when the YouTube window is shown and goes away respectively.

- (void)windowNowVisible:(NSNotification *)note
twlog("YouTube window went away");
}- (void)windowNowHidden:(NSNotification *)note{twlog("YouTube window took over");}

and hey, if that’s all you require by way of notification you’re good!

Now, if some clever spark out there would tell me how to set up the HTML delineated in that article so it would actually display an image of my choice instead of what comes from YouTube, then I’d be really happy! Bueller? Bueller? Anyone?


Snippet: Distance Calculation

So, if you’re doing a GPS-enabled application, chances are you’re going to want to figure out distances sooner or later. Perhaps even, as in this iphonesdk thread, have a SQL database of points of interest and want to pick nearby ones. And here is how you would construct that kind of query:

sprintf(buffer, "SELECT * FROM POIs WHERE (ABS(lat - %f) < 0.03) AND (ABS(lng - %f) < 0.04);", nLat, nLon);

Handy, that. And if you really need exact distance sorting, here is a formula that works at any latitude:

//spherical distance in meters
- (CGFloat) sphericalDistanceFromLat1:(CGFloat)lat1 Lon1:(CGFloat)lon1
      toLat2:(CGFloat)lat2 Lon2:(CGFloat)lon2
   return acos(sin(lat1 * 0.0174533) * sin(lat2 * 0.0174533)
      + cos(lat1 * 0.0174533)
        * cos(lat2 * 0.0174533)
        * cos((lon2-lon1) * 0.0174533))
        * 6371000;

Now you know!


User Support Services

So, since we mentioned offhandedly the topic of support woes yesterday, let’s dig around a little and see just what kind of services are out there to make that process easier, shall we? Especially since as it happens, the topic came up on the iphonesdk list a couple days ago and there were a number of options suggested:

  • The people that just a little while back we mentioned the library that you can embed right into your app; but after following up the links that Informed Reader “Jer” was kind enough to grace that post with, we’re just a bit skittish about doing business with them, slick integration and free signup notwithstanding.
  • Lighthouse for tickets paired with the from the same company Tender for customer service. This one piques our interest because as you may recall if you’re a really old school follower, we decided waaaay back when that Lighthouse Keeper was the sine qua non of OS X simple issue tracking, and why yes it still has pride of place in our Dock, no reason to second-guess that since. (And our gushiness was enough to merit a quote on their product page, no less. Heh.) Pricing starting at $19 a month though … hmmm, we’d have to have a good bit more support needs before that really made sense.
  •, which looks quite interesting; PHP/MySQL software you install on your site for free (long as you don’t mind their logo) or can have hosted if you want. Client interface demo looks nice and clean as well, a strong consideration with support software indeed.
  • SupportSuite from, as you can see on the recommender’s site here. If you want really full-featured that certainly looks like a top contender, but we at least don’t have any particular need for any of that so far, especially at the $30/month and up their solutions cost.
  • Fixx which is free for individual developers you might look at … but the recommender added “after looking at Hesk it definitely has a more user-friendly interface”; which as you see above had struck us at first glance as well. So we won’t investigate that one further we don’t think.

So there’s a number of interesting options. So far our support needs don’t actually merit the trouble of setting up even a free one; but hey, always nice to keep abreast of the subject in case the need ever does suddenly become compelling! In that vein, any opinions on these or other services worth (or not) considering, Dear Readers?


Users Blowing

No, we’re not going to talk about support woes today, and we’re not talking about anything sexual either, misinterpretable title notwithstanding; we’re pointing you at another excellent Mobile Orchard tutorial, Detecting When A User Blows Into The Mic:

The job of detecting when a user blows into the microphone is separable into two parts: (1) taking input from the microphone and (2) listening for a blowing sound.

We’ll use the new-in-3.0 AVAudioRecorder class to grab the mic input. Choosing AVAudioRecorder lets us use Objective-C without — as other options require — dropping down to C.

The noise/sound of someone blowing into the mic is made up of low-frequency sounds. We’ll use a low pass filter to reduce the high frequency sounds coming in on the mic; when the level of the filtered signal spikes we’ll know someone’s blowing into the mic….

Not that we have any actual immediate need for this … or can think of any good ones off the top of our head, really; but hey, if you want to put a cool easter egg in your iPhone app, this certainly would be a stylish way to trigger it!