Apparently I’ve missed some major feature changes to WordPress since I last actively edited this site. The tools now enable more control for editing site-wide, and what used to be called a “block” in WordPress seems to be different. Blocks used to be layout components in the site them, but now there’s a block structure to every post. Looks very powerful, but now I need to catch up. Starting with upgrading my theme.
Time flies, eh? WWDC 2021 is just about upon us, and so much has changed. For one, this will be the second consecutive remote WWDC, a format that I have found refreshing, especially for the keynotes. I don’t miss waiting in line and scrambling to find a seat, and WWDC sessions haven’t been especially good for live questions anyway. About the only part of the WWDC conference that I miss is the developer lab program.
But it isn’t just the format of WWDC that is different, WWDC is less and less the hardware announcement venue now, though I predict we’ll see an M1 iMac Pro or at least a larger format more powerful iMac, and maybe even the new Mac Pro with the M1 chip. Apple has gotten so good at rolling out its hardware announcements on its own schedule, that it didn’t even wait for WWDC to debut the latest iPads, and it rolled out the new M1 MacBooks without waiting as well. Building their own silicon is really going to allow them to release new products without worrying about the timing of Intel generations, conferences, etc. If this first wave of products is any indication, there will be some very powerful hardware coming out soon.
MacOS and iOS as platforms have gone through their own changes. Swift is prime-time now — few people starting a new app would choose Objective-C at this point, and the new ecosystem has SwiftUI as well as Combine. Apple also has a solution for cross-platform app development. We now have Face ID, crazy amounts of support for AR and Machine Learning, more security features, and more powerful and open cameras. There is increasingly a gap between the power of the newest hardware and the ability of the software development community to harness it in new ways. The engine underneath has gotten better and better, but where are the roads?
As I write this, final arguments are finishing in the Epic Games lawsuit against Apple. Epic thinks that the terms that it accepts on Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo app stores shouldn’t apply to mobile devices, for some reason. Any decision here is likely going to have impact on consumers, and I can’t imagine it will be positive. Apple’s ecosystem is no worse than others, and a lot better about customer privacy and security, at least in theory. They still need to get better at policing bad actors in the App Store, however. Third party App Stores won’t necessarily improve the customer experience. Most will be branded to narrow content for their owners, like an Epic store, or a Disney store. A broad app store on the platform has to have a substantial critical mass of content to make it.
I’ve been fairly out of the loop on what is likely to be announced at WWDC for iOS or Mac OS. We’ve seen machine learning creep its way more and more into iOS and Apple’s applications — the iPad text recognition is really good, and the Camera app is getting weirdly smart. But what access to these new technologies will really birth a new generation of apps and get them to capture the imagination of consumers?
Taking a look back at my wish list from 4 years ago, many of the things I wanted have not happened, though Apple has had to evolve its Developer Program somewhat even before the pandemic. That week of sending 1000 Apple engineers to SF for a week to talk with 5000 developers was always exclusive of many devs, even before the ticket lottery. I’m hearing that Apple is starting to host Developer labs in other cities, and has some specific outreach to some groups of developers in their local offices. It’s good to see that they are taking it seriously.
Apple TV and TVos have improved, but still lack automation or a screensaver app mode. There’s still not a super-affordable Apple TV option. But look at how many apps are available now that weren’t 4 years ago, and Apple TV+ has had some pretty good programming.
I don’t have really any wish list for this year, except perhaps a cheaper Apple TV, which isn’t likely to be in the cards given the most recent announcements. I’m hoping there’s a power-user version of the M1 iMac, or an M2 iMac, but it doesn’t have to be a iMac Pro. I’m hoping they announce big improvements to their Pro tools to really show off the new hardware, and demo at least one app on desktop or mobile which actually *needs* the hardware improvements they’ve been rolling out.
This new service, Reamaze, provides small businesses with a social-media based CRM solution. Great idea, and another example of leveling the playing field between small businesses and their huge enterprise competitors. Social media can be very time-consuming for smaller businesses, but done right is a very cost-effective channel for customer service.
Got caught by one of the gotchas in keeping things compatible between iOS6 and iOS5 devices.
While both iOS5 and iOS6 support UI Storyboarding (you have to forego this feature if you want your app to run on iOS 4.0 as well), iOS 5 does not support the new auto layout feature in iOS 6. Autolayout (which I hope to talk more about soon) has some very powerful features for making sure your screen layout works in different orientations, on the taller iPhone 6 screen, etc.
If you try running a program with autolayout enabled, iOS 5 will crash your app, as the OS doesn’t recognize the UIConstraint selectors needed to draw the screen. This is also a backward compatibility issue on Mac OS X — Lion uses autolayout, but Snow Leopard doesn’t.
Turns out, however, that when you create a new project in Xcode 4.3 and up, autolayout is enabled by default. However, there is a setting that lets you turn that off.
This site has a good tutorial of what to do, complete with screenshots.
This is one of the issues iOS (and Android, for that matter) developers constantly have to think about — which new features do I use, and which do I have to forgo in order to support older devices? In my case, I will be running this program eventually on an iPad, and my 1st gen iPad is stuck at 5.1, so no autolayout on this project.
Learned something new today. If you’ve ever gotten a PDF form via email that requires a signature, it turns out that you can easily add that signature in OS X Lion or Mountain Lion using features in the built-in Preview program.
First off, open the PDF file in Preview. If you are running Lion, look for a toolbar icon called Annotate, if you are running Mountain Lion, it’s called Edit. Clicking on either exposes a tool bar of commands for editing your document. Look for the icon with the line and an S.
The Signature pulldown gives you the option to import a signature using the iSight camera. If you’ve already scanned in your signature before, it will also allow you to select it.
All you need to do is write your signature on a blank piece of paper and hold it up. No matter what color ink you use, Preview’s image processing will turn it into a crisp black signature. You can save the signature for reuse later as well.
Once you’ve accepted the signature, you will see a crosshair cursor and a text box with your signature in it, you can move this as needed to any line in the form.
Voila! Much easier than printing, signing and scanning, or printing, signing and taking photo, or even digging out one’s stylus. Just be careful about saving your signature for later if you share the computer with others and aren’t using separate login accounts.
Note also that this Annotate/Edit tool lets you fill in text fields on the document as well, so it’s a good way to fill out documents that might not be set up as forms.
80 iOS magazine downloads for every 1 Android download, so they are throwing in the towel.
You can’t argue with their logic, but you have to wonder why the big discrepancy.
One area that screams opportunity is that it was taking them about 3-4 extra days to author the magazine for their Android targets, compared to a few hours to adapt their Retina iPad version to non-retina iPad and iPhone versions.
If you have an authoring platform that easily can generate for all the targets without manual intervention, then it really doesn’t matter how small your Android audience starts out. This seems to be the issue, that they built for the retina iPad, then ‘dumbed down’ the content to hit a broad range of Android devices. They use the Mag+ platform to publish their magazine. It starts with InDesign, and maybe that’s part of the problem. There’s a pressing need for a publishing workflow that is more organic to mobile rather than based on print content.
The other issue seemed to be discoverability — there is one place in iOS where Magazines are showcased (Newsstand), and they are also discoverable in the App Store proper. On Android, you have multiple app stores — Google Play, Amazon, and whatever storefront the carriers may have added. This means you need to submit your app to multiple stores and try to get it showcased there. If Apple has 100,000 downloads of your app, it will show up in popularity rankings, but that same 100,000 will be diluted across multiple stores on Android. And given the split they saw, it’s really 1250 downloads spread across Google Play, Amazon, Verizon, etc.
iOS 6 also has a feature that will tell you if there is an app for any sites you visit in Safari, and that certainly must drive downloads as well. The feature is called “Smart App Banners”. You basically put a meta tag in your web page that tells Safari about the app, and voila, a banner with an App Store link is visible to any Safari users using iOS 6. Android doesn’t have a similar feature.