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MacBook Monster

I listen to a podcast called Accidental Tech Podcast. If you’re a Mac or iOS Developer you’ve probably heard of it or you’ve heard of one or more of its hosts. One of their ongoing topics of conversation is Apple’s apparent lack of focus on the Pro market. It’s true Apple has become very focused on more consumer oriented products, like the iPhone. I mean, who wouldn’t? When you look at the numbers it makes total sense.

When Apple announces results sites like Six Colors do a great job breaking down all the numbers and, in Six Colors case, they make really awesome charts! Just look at this one from January of 2015.

Awesome Six Colors Revenue Chart

Awesome Six Colors Revenue Chart

Who can blame Apple for spending most of their time on the iPhone? Look at those numbers. They’re stunning. It’s not to say the Mac or iPad are losers, they’re not. Most companies would give anything to have one product doing so well, Apple has at least four; iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Watch. Most likely someone will write in to let me know I’ve missed one, or I’m wrong about something, but you get the point. Apple is killing it, on multiple fronts.

What about Pros?

Much of the consternation from the ATP guys revolves around the Mac Pro. Who can blame them? Apple hasn’t shipped a new model since 2013. The hardware is now embarrassingly outdated and is due for a much needed refresh.

As a developer I can understand their need for Phenominal Cosmic Power! But they’re stuck with an Ity Bity Living Space. Not fun.

I’d love to see Apple pull together a great new piece of hardware that includes all the latest, greatest, internals and really appease the Professional Apple Workstation crowd. This would include filmmakers, photographers, designers of all kinds, the CAD folks, and, of course, Software Engineers of all kinds. On my list of nice to haves would be a box large enough to hold multiple multiple core processors (say 256 cores, why not? Windows can do it), tons of RAM, and a killer external bus system to allow folks to chain together external GPU’s. That would be a really great computer, don’t you think? Maybe the base configuration is the most popular, but it sure would be nice to be able to take a Mac and macOS to an extreme level.

Having said all of that, as a Professional Developer I’d prefer a really great Portable Workstation.  What is that? Well, it’s a desktop replacement in a laptop form. Apple is obsessed with making everything thinner and lighter. I do appreciate that, I really do. My first MacBook Pro was a lovely 17-inch beauty, but it was big. Not only heavy, but it was long enough that it was difficult to find a decent backpack to carry it in. Let’s just look at the weight alone, it was 6.6 pounds.

I remember carrying that thing around my first WWDC in 2011. Early morning to late afternoon. Yes, I got tired of carrying it, but it wasn’t a hardship. I would happily trade a bit of weight for a super powerful MacBook Pro.

I read an article recently on the new Dell Precision 5520 on Windows Central. This thing is a beast.

“Besides the big Core processors, all of which are the last generation “Skylake” variants, there is the big kahuna with the Xeon E3-1505M v6. Introduced this year, this Intel Xeon is a quad-core processor with support for ECC memory, 8MB of cache (up from the usual 6MB in a consumer Core i7), and a slightly higher base clock rate of 3.00 GHz with Turbo up to 4.00 GHz. These specs make it one of the fastest mobile processors around, besting the Core i7-7700HQ found in the XPS 15 (9560) by 200MHz.”

Yes, you read that right. This laptop can be configured with a Xeon processor, not to mention 32GB of RAM. That is professional sized horsepower in a small package. This is what I’d like to see from Apple. A true high-end Portable Workstation. Oh, and do you remember the weight of that old 17-inch MacBook Pro I mentioned above? Yes, 6.6 pounds. This Dell weighs 4.56 pounds. Compare that to the new 15-inch MacBook Pro which weighs 4.02 pounds. It’s not that big a difference.

I’d love to have this kind of power wrapped in Apple’s design ascetic. Oh, it should only come in one color. Black.

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. 😀

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