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Posts Tagged ‘Mac’

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.

RSS readers never looked so good

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Times RSS reader

Morning Ritual

I get up. Have a cup of green tea. Breakfast. Check my emails. Then get down and dirty with my RSS reader full of 1000+ new pieces of the internet.

This is something I do every morning, it makes me happy. What do I need to make this happen? An RSS reader. Why am I telling you this? I have found something new.

Times from Acrylic

For the last year or so I have been into RSS feeds in a big way and almost everyday I use Google Reader to get my fix. For the last week I have been using something else. Something different, something unique, something strange but not unpleasant.

Times screen shot

As you can see Times is not your usual list/email style of feed reader. It presents you with an interface non too dissimilar to a newspaper. It has been exquisitely crafted and integrates well with OSX. Considering all of the information is dynamic and from different sources the visual layout is captivating and slick.

“Its the best non-newspaper I have ever read”

Once my initial ooh’s and arrr’s had died down from the main page I clicked on a story… Like a child at a fireworks display my ooh’s and arrr’s returned. Times uses OSX’s Core Animation to literally peel back the page and reveal the whole story. It felt as natural as flicking through a real newspaper. Well, as natural as a computer simulation of such an activity can be.

Screen Shot - Open a story

When you fire up Times for the first time its filled with all of your common or garden feeds. Now this is where the magic happens – its fully customisable! Import all the feeds that you know and love directly from Mail or Safari. Or go it old school and add the url by hand.

In less time that it takes Doc Brown to explain the concept of an alternative 1985 I made and configured a bespoke BigRedCircle page with all the feeds I love. Like this:

Screen Shot - Custom page

It’s almost too easy!

In this world of “everything for free on the internet” why would I pay?

Yes Times is a desktop application that costs $30, or it did the last time I looked. This is the kind of money that I could be spending or an over hyped summer blockbuster DVD. Why should I deprive myself of such mediocre dialogue and high octane action?

Bring the Noise!

Google Reader can help me scoff through 200 bits of RSS shaped cake in less than 5 minutes. This is its beauty. This is also where the beauty stops. With Times I tend to read every story in every feed I subscribe to.

I very rarely buy newspapers anymore, but if I am going on a long train journey I will buy a paper from the station and read it cover to cover. Times has this effect on me too.

It gives me more of an experience. Not just a quick way to get info from all corners of the internet. Although this has its shortcomings. I don’t get any work done whilst I am digesting every morsel of today’s Lifehacker stories or finding out every single new (depressing) 3G iPhone rumour.

My 14 day trial is coming to an end

Times iconWhat do I do now? Should I throw some hard earned cash at it and purchase RSS designer chic. Unfortunately no! Although I do love what they have done. Reading RSS feeds can be an experience too and Times makes it a very pleasant one.

I still can’t take myself away from the wonders that is Google Reader. I have a small but active Google Reader friend base who share their stories. Times doesn’t come with a pre configured social network. When I get up in the morning I need to get my web designer hat on as quickly as possible, Google Reader is simply the most efficient way to do this.

The last of nails to be put in this Times shaped coffin is that fact that I do a good percentage of my feed reading on my iPhone. I want my information everywhere, on any computer, any device. A desktop RSS reader is just not the way to go for this. This is not a problem with Times its a task that online RSS readers can simply do better.

If I had the Time I would use Times! Unfortunately I don’t

Check it out yourself, take a week to revel in the uber slick animation and see if you will switch. If Google Reader didn’t exists maybe I would be using Times right now.

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