Author: Rob Fahrni (page 1 of 109)

My Young Apprentice

New York Times: “Struggling to fill jobs in the Charlotte plant, Siemens in 2011 created an apprenticeship program for seniors at local high schools that combines four years of on-the-job training with an associate degree in mechatronics from nearby Central Piedmont Community College. When they finish, graduates have no student loans and earn more than $50,000 a year.”

What a great idea. Not all of us are cut out for college and finding a high paying job when you don’t have an education is next to impossible. This is a great alternative.

Work Note: git flow feature start fails

This morning I was creating a new branch to start work on a new feature and I use git flow.

To start a new feature you type…

git flow feature start FeatureName

After typing that and pressing enter git flow complained that it was initialized and I should run the command…

git flow init

I’ve been working in this same environment for two years. I know git flow is configured, but like a good automaton I followed the directions. Of course, you can guess what happened, right? Yep, git flow init says “Hey, you’re good to go!”

I wasn’t. My commands still failed with the same message.

Luckily there is a fix.

Yep, that’s right, cd into the .git directory for that repository and remove all git flow references from your git config file. Then run git flow init. All better.

Apple Professionals Group – Part II

I just saw one of Intel’s new commercials. It claims 98% of the Cloud runs on Intel. I have no reason to doubt that, but it did bring me back to thinking about Apple.

With each passing year Apple introduces newer and faster A-Series processors. They’ve also introduced a new recycling program. When they receive phones, or other devices, through the program they take them apart. Why not use those old processors?

More What Ifs

Hello, Dr. Jones.I know, all I do is ask questions, but it’s fun to ask these types of questions. Why doesn’t Apple go about building servers using older tech? That’s right. Take the components pulled from, say, an iPhone 5s and put them to use in a small blade server that accepts daughter cards with a few A7 chips on them?

Think about running a stripped down version of macOS, or a pumped up version of iOS, on these servers. We know the two OS’es share a common core. Build some experimental hardware that is scalable by adding more cores via daughter cards(blades?) and see how they perform when used as web servers. Could you still serve up expected performance? I don’t know, but I’d imagine most things are I/O bound, network bound, or bound by poorly written software.

I know Apple doesn’t really care about server hardware, and why would they, it would be another fun thought experiment to create something like this. Why not, Apple has the money to spend on some fun and potentially useful technology that is also good for the environment.

Apple Professionals Group

A wonderful bouquet of flowers.I wrote down some thoughts a couple weeks back and thought I’d throw them up here. It’s mainly a bunch of questions with some ideas. Unlike a small group of Professionals I don’t need the stuff I talk about here. I’m perfectly happy with my work 2014 MacBook Pro and my 2011 MacBook Pro. Both computers are plenty powerful enough for iOS Development. Here are the thoughts.

Why doesn’t Apple create a Professionals Group dedicated to developing a lineup of serious Pro computers and software? Maybe it moves a bit more slowly than the rest of the company? Maybe you get a computer every two to three years, but it’s at the top of the range, always. Maybe the computers are completely upgradable and modular. Something like we’ve never seen Apple create.

Laptops with “bigger” bodies (think late 2014 15in MacBook Pro), with faster processors and lots of RAM. Maybe you can only get one type of laptop? E.G. 15in MacBook Awesome with the newest Core i7, 32GB RAM, and a 1TB drive, plus a discrete graphics card of some kind driving their already awesome Retina Display.

Think of a more rectangular Mac Pro. One you could open and add RAM, processors, and drives to, easily. Maybe there is a way to plug “modules” into the front and back to the device without cracking the case? Maybe the case is the size of a Mac Mini, but is stackable so you can add additional units Toolbeltthat extend processing power. E.G. pop off a small cover on the top that exposes a slot that the next “Mini” looking device sits right on top of. Oh, how about extending the iMac using these “modules”? That would give us a 5k display and give Pros the ability to scale it up from the base model. Maybe the primary “motherboard” is just a beautifully designed Apple Bus that allows that. Would it be difficult? I’d image it would, but isn’t that what Apple does? They find unique solutions to difficult problems.

Oh, how about creating a professional level display that is also a touchscreen and is on a swivel like the new Microsoft Surface Studio? Why not make it a standalone display that connects to one of these new Mac Pro bases and could also be used with a MacBook Awesome? Super high end stuff.

Apple has billions in the bank. Why not go out on a limb to advance computing down some crazy road with a small group of dedicated hardware, software, and design professionals targeting professionals?

Look. I’m not the ultimate target of such specialized hardware. It would be professionals making movies and dealing with big honking problems. As an iOS Developer I’m fine with a laptop, but I’d sure like to see Apple strike out to create something truly wonderful. Something that changes the computing game, again. This time in the favor of professionals.

Wouldn’t it be cool if they’ve been doing this all along and they just haven’t finished? That would be awesome.

I know this isn’t the type of thing Apple does, but look at what’s possible.

Here’s the Acer Predator line of gaming laptops. Extreme? You bet. But all the same, super powerful portable computers.

How about Project Valerie?

Beloved Hedwig.I’m sure a lot of the loudest of critics would pick these apart: “Oh, they’re too heavy”, “They’re ugly”, blah, blah, blah. Sure on all points. But they’re high performance devices from people thinking outside of the box. They’re not constrained by “Lighter and thinner” at all costs. Imagine what Apple might be able to do if they were willing to make something a bit heavier. Maybe they could so something really special. I don’t think we’ll ever find out. I have a feeling Apple is going to keep making the Mac thinner and lighter until they are so close to the iPad the Mac no longer matters.

Then Apple will stop selling the Mac.

Passion Project: Update #2

Back in November I talked a bit about my passion project. I’ve rewritten the Pharmacokinetics Math library for RxCalc in C++ and I’m rewriting the UI completely in Swift. It’s been a real blast. My November update talked about bringing C++ and Swift together with a tiny layer of Objective-C++.

Over my holiday break I didn’t code as much as I wanted to, but I did manage to get some done. Since returning to my day job I’ve felt a bit more excited about working on the RxCalc update at night. I don’t know why, I just have.

I now have the new mixed Swift, Objective-C++, C++ based app in a working state, but I have a lot of polishing to do as well as adding some new features. Of the remaining 1.x features I have to implement is Options. Once that is complete I’ll move on to adding IAP, Theme, and 3D Touch support.

I really love working in Swift. The code base feels so tiny compared to its Objective-C counterpart. Not that Objective-C is bad, just different.

Next up? The Android version. For that I need to spend some quality time with JNI.

I’m not in any shape to ship this release, but it’s getting close by the day.

iMore – Best paid iPhone Apps

iMore: “I decided to include apps that you must pay for up front or apps that might be free to download, but a subscription is needed or their functionality is greatly enhanced by making an in-app purchase or by buying the paid version. I also eliminated iOS apps that might be totally awesome, but are better suited to iPad”

I use a few on the list and I’d like to add a few more.

The apps on the list I use:

  • 1Password – This app is a life saver, and it’s cross platform; Mac/iOS, Windows, and Android.
  • Fantastical – Great visual style and it uses natural language to create events. Also available for Mac, iPad and Watch
  • Deliveries – It does one thing and does it well; tracks your deliveries. Also available for Mac.

Here are some I’d like to add:

  • Twitterrific – I’ve been using this for years. It’s a beautifully designed Twitter client for iOS.
  • Evernote – I call this my digital brain. I have all kinds of stuff stored in Evernote. I like their iOS App and it’s also available for Mac, Android, and Windows. The Web Clipper is extremely useful.
  • Reeder – My favorite RSS Reader. Also available for Mac.

Twitter Addiction?

I’d like to pick up a new iPhone, 7 Plus or 6s Plus. I’m still using my iPhone 5C. The screen is fine and the green plastic shell has some minor wear and tear on it but it is getting a little long in the tooth.

While Kim and I were driving around last night, running errands, she asked me what I thought was a strange question. She asked “If you could have a brand new iPhone under the condition you couldn’t have Twitter on it, would you take it?”

Interesting question, isn’t it? If you’re addicted to the social network, as I am, it’s a toughie to answer right away. At first I said “These phones aren’t really phones. They’re computers with a phone app. If I can’t install apps, it not worth having a new phone.”

Have a Cup-o-JoeMy wife laughed at me and said “So you’d rather not have a brand new phone, if you can’t have Twitter.”

Yeah.

I thought about it a bit more and came to the conclusion I could live without Twitter on my phone, especially if it meant having a nice shiny new device. I could still use Twitter from my computer (now, if I could get an update to Twitterrific for the Mac that would be grand.)

I’ve only owned two iPhones; an iPhone 4 and an iPhone 5C. Before that I had Palm Centro, which was a great smartphone, and I carried an iPod Touch around. This worked quite well for me. I didn’t have a data plan for the Centro, just text and voice. I used my iPod Touch for everything else.

Some Favorite Podcasts

A wonderful bouquet of flowers.I thought I’d share some podcasts I’ve been listening to over 2016. Enjoy.

Release Notes: “Release Notes is a weekly podcast about the business of Mac and iOS indie software development. We discuss inspiration, design, trends, and tools — everything but the code. The show is hosted by Charles Perry, owner of Metakite Software, and Joe Cieplinski, Creative Director of Bombing Brain Interactive.”

Charles and Joe are very down to earth. I just finished episode #189: The Tyranny of the Timeclock and I found it very refreshing to hear someone present good reason for their Mac purchasing decisions. Charles laid out a great reason for deciding to go with an older model 15in. MacBook Pro. So well reasoned. Like I said, down to earth. It’s a great listen.

Supertop Podcast: “In episode 11 of the Supertop Podcast we follow up on the Castro 2.2 launch and explore options for increasing Supertop’s revenue.”

Oisín and Pádraig tell it like it is. They don’t sugar coat what’s going on with Super Top, their products, and revenue. While they don’t give exact numbers they do give you enough information to understand how difficult it is to be an Indie developer. On occasion they’ve depressed me so much I’ve had to skip the remainder of the podcast but I managed to hang in there for this episode and I’m glad I did.

Super Top creates high quality, usable, functional, and highly polished software. The very definition of software craftsmanship.

Trumpcast – This started in the run up to the election. If, like me, you don’t care for Trump this podcast is for you. Jacob Weisberg is your host and does a great job covering this wreck of a man. Oh, and the guy that reads Trump tweets as Trump is amazing. It’s worth listening just for that.

Up and Vanished: “‘Up and Vanished’ is an investigative podcast that explores the unsolved disappearance of Georgia beauty queen and high school teacher, Tara Grinstead, an 11-year-old cold case that is the largest case in georgia’s history.”

It’s a definite mystery. I hope they figure it out.

Some Oldies but Goodies

  • The Talkshow – John Gruber’s Podcast. Really long episodes but always worth a listen.
  • Core Intuition – Manton Reese and Daniel Jalkut talk about Indie Development.
  • Accidental Tech Podcast – John Siracusa, Marco Arment, and Casey Liss. Another Mac and iOS discussion show.
  • The Big Web Show – Jeffrey Zeldman, web design legend, is your host and web design is the topic.

App Stores

A snowflakeEvery once in a while developers drop interesting nuggets of information on Twitter or their weblogs on the state of Apple App Stores and how they relate to their businesses.

In late November longtime Mac and iOS developer, Panic, announced they would discontinue Status Board.

“First, we had hoped to find a sweet spot between consumer and pro users, but the market for Status Board turned out to be almost entirely pro, which limits potential sales on iOS — as we’ve learned the hard way over the past couple of years, there’s not a lot of overlap right now between “pro” and “iOS”.”

Panic is a shop I look to for direction and inspiration. They build solid, beautiful, easy to use applications. Their ratio of Mac to iOS Apps is pretty interesting. Their main Mac applications; Coda and Transmit, are aimed squarely at professionals. If you look at their remaining iOS applications two are complimentary to their Mac counterparts; Coda and Transmit, and the third, Prompt, is most likely built using code and knowledge gained from their other apps. That is not meant as a criticism. It makes total sense. Coda and Transmit are their big dogs, why not make iOS versions of them? I’m looking forward to Panic’s year end report. The last two have been amazing reads.

This morning as I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline, trying to avoid political talk, I noticed an exchange between Michael Love and David Barnard. As suspected, iPhone is the money maker and iPad is not pulling its weight.

Not long after that exchange I saw a nice tweet from James Thomson, of PCalc fame. It looks like the iOS App Store is his primary source of income.

Depending on the podcast I’m listening to, Core Intuition vs. Accidental Tech Podcast, I’m either excited about the state of the Mac or completely bummed about it. Regardless, it feels like Apple is pushing the iPad toward the Prosumer market and keeping the Mac alive for Professionals, mainly those creating iOS Apps (Hey, we need a platform for creating apps, right?)

Having said all that, I’d still like to take a shot at the Mac software market. I don’t need to make millions, but it would be nice to make hundreds. 😀

Windows 10 is a great alternative

Marco Arment: “Microsoft is boldly experimenting with PC hardware, but Windows and everything around Windows is woefully inferior to macOS and the Mac software ecosystem. Even if Microsoft did everything right, it would take Windows at least a decade to catch up — and they won’t do everything right.”

Bringing in the HarvestI doubt Marco will see this, and this is definitely not an attack, this is something I’d say to my friends. In the nicest of ways, to say it would take Windows at least a decade to catch up, is a bit hyperbolic.

I’m a fan of Microsoft’s Windows, I have been for years. It helped me get my start in this industry. I switched to the Mac around 2006 and haven’t looked back, I really do love the experience.

If we’re talking about performance, which seems to be the point of your piece, keep in mind that Windows can run on all kinds of hardware. Windows 10 can support up to 256 cores and 512GB of memory. That’s pretty nice. We know that some high end video production shops are abandoning the Mac in favor of Windows boxes because they need the horse power, another great example of why we need a new Mac Pro. But Windows as a tool of choice is very viable.

The development tools on Windows are quite good. Visual Studio is a great IDE. Microsoft’s .Net has become the standard way to develop for Windows, especially for backend services, but you can create beautiful client applications with it all the same. If you’d like you can still write C++ code to the Windows API, like Photoshop or the Microsoft Office apps.

I’m not sure what Marco’s primary complaint about Windows is? Is it just the general usability? Is it a stylistic thing? Maybe he can’t easily run his favorite tools on the platform? That’s a really big deal. I’d love to hear him go into detail about the issues with the platform.

I tell folks all the time. Microsoft’s NT Kernel is a beautifully designed Kernel. It can, and does, underpin different hardware. When it began life it ran on Dec Alpha, MIPS, x86, and eventually came to the PowerPC. Since that time the other architectures fell out of favor and it mainly became an Intel based platform, but it still powers other architectures.

In the end I’d never attempt to tell someone which platform they should choose, it’s all a matter of personal preference. Apple and Microsoft both provide great solutions in software and hardware form. This is great for us, the customer.

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