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Archive for June, 2009

Can you build an iPhone app in 4 days?

Friday, June 12th, 2009

So here is a task we have massively underestimated! Like Boris from GoldenEye I too thought “I was invincible!”.

Boris“What? We can do anything, coding is easy I’ve been doing it for over 10 years now… A new programming language sure, add it to the list… I have made apps for windows before this will be a breeze.”David McGeorge, BigRedCircle 2009

In retrospect Boris did die at the hands of Bond in a liquid nitrogen incident. For me, Bond was out of the picture but unfortunately we came to a similar end (almost).

Why couldn’t it be done?

OK, please point and laugh at me for being so naive. I really did expect to get on board with this quick project and bash out a fairly simple iPhone application.

Interface BuilderHalf expecting it to be a little more difficult than building a dashboard widget or a little flash application. Most of my preconceptions about the iPhone SDK were gone within the first few hours of working with it. An iPhone app has all the complexities and flexibility of a regular desktop app just with a smaller screen. Web developers take note!

As a company we could create a web app in 4 days if the idea was simple enough. This is because we already know the main things that are needed.

  • We have lots of experience coding in php
  • We are experts in JavaScript
  • We can write CSS with our eyes closed
  • Coda is the application we use to make websites. We know all the shortcut keys and menu items.

All of the above are needed before you can create a web app. With an iPhone app the requirements that you have to know are:

  • How to programme in Objective-C (Apple’s programming language which is different to most)
  • Xcode (Used to write and debug your code)
  • Interface Builder (to create the interface and link it to the code written in Xcode)
  • iPhone Simulator (to test your application)
  • Not to mention the multiple performance tools needed to see how your app performs

Because we are all web developers none of these skills were instantly at our fingertips and all required learning.

Research the platform not the app

XcodeAfter doing a little more research about developing for the iPhone I found a few quotes, this one really struck home “Our team of 12 created this app in less than a month!” wow less than a month… Our team of 1.5 had 4 days.

If you are a web designer it’s a long way from Dreamweaver, trust me!

After looking at the competition I think the idea of a cinema show-times app is a good one, that’s why we will still pursue it. The competition, be it more complex and feature rich than what we proposed is simply not good enough from a user experience point of view. So unless someone else comes out with a Super Simple Cinema Times app we are still in iPhone production mode.

Was it worth it?

Totally… We love to learn new things and I will be constantly working on this app until it’s finished (but not in the usual work time).

As much as I feel bad for not reaching these, now looking back, slightly ridiculous targets, we gave it a good shot. It’s back to the class room, download a few more tutorials and hit the code again.

Jolicloud review, a netbook in the sky

Monday, June 8th, 2009


Jolicloud is a new OS optimised for netbooks and working in the cloud.

What’s a netbook?

Have you seen those little laptops which are too small to do any real work on? Well they are great and actually boost productivity. I have been a big fan of netbooks for a long time. They are often most useful when used with applications that are online and in the cloud. I will apologise now for the overuse of internet buzzwords in the following paragraphs.

And what’s cloud computing?

Cloud computing is a style of computing that is scalable and uses resources provided as a service on the internet. An application that uses cloud computing often requires an internet connection and is accessed though a browser. Google Docs is a good example of an app that uses cloud computing.

So Jolicloud is…

A happy mass of water vapour high in the sky? No, it’s a great new operating system that has been designed especially for netbooks. No stripped down version of XP for them. Jolicloud has been described as “A social Operating system” and “An OS in the cloud” but I think of it as an OS that is “properly” optimised for netbooks.

The Review

get-started-iconJolicloud is in its alpha stage at the moment so there are one or two quirks. This is to be expected so I wont dwell on it too much. What I didn’t expect is that it would look as polished as it does. Small touches which I didn’t expect such as nice graphics on the volume control and brightness indicators. User interface/experience is always about the little things.

I installed it on a Samsung NC10 which has the default Windows XP that came with the netbook. In a matter of seconds, done! No issues at all. I am indeed quite Joli!

Jolicloud offers a way to test the OS without actually installing it on your machine. After the installation a click to “Get Started” and you are promptly thrown into the Jolicloud registration process. This is all very seamless.

Jolicloud Dashboard

The main feature of Jolicloud is the Jolicloud interface (this is not the entire operating system, more like an application within the OS). Inside it has all of the aspects of a social network and an app directory. All of the apps here are very much netbook orientated. VLC, Twitter, GMail, Google Docs, Facebook, etc. Mostly apps running in the cloud.

App Directory

App Directory - Listview

I had a little issue at first not being able to install any of the web style apps. This was fixed with a quick visit to the updates tab. All in the name of alpha!

The social aspect of the OS comes in the form of a follow-me-and-I’ll-follow-you style of interaction. Giving you a dashboard full of “This person is following that person” and “This person has installed Skype”. It’s a great way to discover new people and apps.

From a user experience point of view, managing your apps and social stream is very straight forward and intuitive. Once you have installed your apps and made your friend connections you then leave the nice Jolicloud interface. This is where the nice slick design seems to trail off.

Launch Apps

At this stage, for me, you lose the nice intuitive interface when you are launching your apps. It seems a little disjointed especially if your have never used Ubuntu before.

I would like to see a boot straight into the Jolicloud interface and within this have app launching capabilities. After seeing some of the early screenshots I was expecting this interface to be the entire OS. A small gripe I know but the experience seems to change so much once you are out of the Jolicloud interface.

So is it any good, really?

Yes, it really is. The issues I have are very small, maybe even a little bit picky. Like the fact that the ‘Home’ icon and the ‘Jolicloud’ icons are the same colour and that the menu bar is very cluttered with icons of different shapes and colours. These can and will be fixed in later versions (I hope). I’m trying to be a little more objective and look at the great stuff Jolicloud is actually providing.

Overall it’s a success and I’m looking forward to seeing what will come of this project in the future. It’s free but it’s looks expensive. It’s slick and it’s fast. It WILL be my netbook OS of choice when its released. Come on, you didn’t expected me to stay with windows XP, did you?

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