Decisions on coding my next app

Geek Alert!

My next app will need a sophisticated database. I had planned to use Apple’s Core Data framework which seemed perfect for the job, but since then I’ve learned that there’s a relatively new kid on the block, namely Realm.

Core Data’s competence is not in question, but I’ve read a fair bit on it and many comments around the net and one thing that people seem to agree on is that it’s not straightforward to implement.

Realm, on the other hand, is very simple to implement, building, as it does, on the structure of the main code in a fairly straightforward manner. For example, a Swift code fragment using Realm might look as follows:

// Create a Person object

let author = Person()

author.name = “David Foster Wallace”

// Get the default Realm

let realm = Realm()

// You only need to do this once (per thread)

// Add to the Realm inside a transaction

realm.write {

realm.add(author)

}

I don’t have the comparable Core Data code, but trust me when I say it would be a lot more complex. The Realm code is simple to understand, if you understand this sort of thing!

However, my app needs a lot more than just a database to make it all work so I’d better get on with that first. This new app will be my first app written using Swift, Apple’s brand new programming language and I’m really excited by that. I’ll keep you updated. 🙂

Identicode V1.2 now live

Apple has just passed my latest update to Identicode – no new features but a couple of bug fixes. I’ll detail these in a day or so on the release notes page on my site.

I have one new feature which I plan to implement in 1.3 which I think could be fun.

Also, I’m sad to report that yootha.com, the site with the amazing collection of digitised 60s comics, is no more as far as I can tell. It said “down for maintenance” for about a month or more and now there is just a page error. Such a shame as it was a fantastic resource and gave me the incentive to produce Identicode and the site owner kindly put a link to my app on his page.

Maybe it will return elsewhere …

Hello and welcome

Hello readers 🙂

The Black Tablet website has just had a major facelift and I now have this associated blog. On my previous site my thoughts that I wrote from time to time were intermixed with details about app updates and the like. News about app updates will now be announced via Twitter leaving this blog to be, I hope, rather more focussed.

It will be a little patchy just for now but I hope to blog more regularly than I did and I plan to bring over posts from my previous version of the site.

 

Watch this space for more in the near future.

All apps are now compatible with iOS8

All the recent updates to Black Tablet apps have now been approved by Apple and all run just fine on the shiny new iOS8.

Dicewords will run on iOS 6 and upwards, but the others require iOS7 as a minimum.

Scotland’s big day today

I’m so excited by what is happening in Scotland today and I wish I could vote so that I could put a bold tick in the YES box!

It would be so wonderful if the Scots turned their backs, not on the English, but on our corrupt, money grabbing, warmongering, austerity obsessed government and forged a bold new chance to a better, healthier, balanced and democratic future. I hope that they don’t fall for the promises that the government will give Scotland new goodies if only they vote No – Westminster doesn’t have a good record on keeping their word and the Scots will never be given a second chance.

Yes Scotland

Identicode now released … and updated!

I recently released my latest app which is the app equivalent of the ‘Identicode” blue/red code translator in the TV Century 21 Magazine. Not only that but I forgot to post the launch and now I’m sending an update to Apple already!

I was a big fan of Thunderbirds as a kid (and as an adult too!). Not only that but always watched the puppet shows Captain Scarlet, Joe90 and later the live action UFO and Space 1999 too.

Gerry Anderson seemed to understand just what some of us kids loved – SciFi, spies, fantastic technical wizardry, evil baddies, secret agents, clever machinery, fun stories and great characters. The quality of all those shows has endured to this day.

I came across the site Yootha (now it seems, sadly defunct – but try using the Internet Way back machine) which has high quality PDF collections of an amazing number of comics for very reasonable prices – Battle Picture Weekly, Buster, Countdown, Eagle, Whizzer and Chips to name a few. Not only that, but they have brilliant US comics too – The Twighlight Zone, Star Trek, Amazing Stories, Analog SciFi and more. It’s a grown-up’s childhood treasure chest! 🙂

Having bought their TV Century 21 comic collection and started reading I was aware of many references to Identicode. It was a coder and decoder supplied with the first issue of the magazine and subsequently available for a 1/- Postal Order if you missed the first issue. Here’s what it looked like on the outside:

Identicode

I never had one myself as a kid and I had a look on eBay only to find that there was one for sale for £900 and another had just been bought for £78! Phew! I couldn’t send off my 1/- but being an iOS developer I thought I’d write one for my own use and for any other fans out there who couldn’t or wouldn’t pay for one on eBay assuming that there was still one there to buy.

The result is the Identicode app which does everything that the original card and paper one did and a bit more. You can copy and paste, it flips between blue and red codes, it encodes and decodes and makes some fun sounds too!

P.S. I reckon that the alphabetic translation modules are working perfectly but I discovered a flaw in the arithmetic circuits of V1.0 which have been repaired and incorporated into V1.1. If you discover any other faults be sure to let me know like a good agent would …

Something quirky

A sequence of events recently prompted me to code up a quirky SciFi but retro inspired app. It’s just about done and I plan sending it to Apple no later than Friday. More will be revealed when it’s on the App Store.

In my continuing tradition, it’s nothing like any of my other apps …

🙂

Hypercard’s morphed child

Years ago, I helped start the Brighton LETS (Bright Exchange) along with four others and needed some software to run it. The only available software to run a LETS which everyone used across the country (and perhaps further afield) was written for DOS and was vile. I was unemployed at the time and thought maybe I could try something with Hypercard. I wrote a system to track everyone’s membership, keep their balances and handle their payments and it printed the monthly directory to be sent to all members just using Hypercard on a Macintosh IIci. Word got out and I was getting calls from Australia, Germany, France and the UK who wanted it. I sent it out to people free of charge asking for a donation but of course I soon realised that Hypercard was really not good to give out to others for storing data as if they had a problem I couldn’t give them an update as the code and their data were all in the same Hypercard document

Hypercard home

Recently RunRev in Scotland have made their take on Hypercard Open Source and freely available and it’s called LiveCode. It’s added loads of complexity to Hypercard’s original simplicity – it creates Windows, iOS and Android apps for starters – but then we’re in a different world from 1987. I’m trying it out at the moment but it’s something that may be of use to you – and it runs on Windows and Linux too.

Maybe this is the 21st Century equivalent of “Programming for the rest of us”. 🙂 Why not give it a whirl?

Empty design

There’s a strange trend in apps at the moment and it’s exemplified by having almost no interface. I suppose Clear is perhaps the obvious example but others are appearing too. I often read reviews of apps, possibly written by 15 year olds who want “the latest thing” and get really excited about minimalist interfaces as they’re “cool” and those posters on Apple focussed websites who announce their boredom with the “tired Apple interface” and warn us that they will be switching to Android because it’s more up-to-date.

A company producing themes for developers to incorporate into their own apps now has a theme called “Metro” which looks remarkably like the interface on the new Windows phone. So, you can have your iOS app look like a Windows phone app. Maybe someone will bring out a Windows mobile theme that makes it look like iOS! Who knows where it will all lead.

It’s odd. The idea that an OS is useable and clear and is being refined with each release is not enough. It’s old. It’s familiar and it’s got buttons with text to indicate their function. So … let’s change it so we have to start all over again. The trend seems to be for apps where actions are initiated by swipes, pinches, flicks and the like. Gestures as interface are all very well but the major problem as I see it is that what if my idea for the result of a flick or swipe is different to yours? We will end up with three apps, say, where a swipe does different things in each. It will be like when I started coding way back in the 80s when the three main apps I used on CPM all had totally different interfaces and the commands to, say, exit the application were different in each app. That was fun.

The best take on this I’ve seen so far comes from the makers of the very handy Camera+ app and made me chuckle very loudly indeed. Have a read

An offer to fake my App Store reviews!!

Now, I’m not a naive man, but even I was taken aback and I have to say, affronted, by the email I received today. My latest app has been on the store for just three days and today I received the following email:

Hi,

  I am a private contractor and I would like to present you an offer regarding Rating & Reviewing service. It is no longer a secret that apps have more chances of being purchased if they have positive feedback. That is why I’m sure my service will help you improve your sales after you choose one of the following packages.

    3 ratings (votes)  and  2  reviews –  9 USD

   5  ratings (votes)  and  3  reviews – 14 USD

  10 ratings (votes)  and  5  reviews – 24 USD

  20 ratings (votes)  and 10 reviews – 39 USD

  30 ratings (votes)  and 20 reviews – 65 USD

 

We can negotiate other packages too, of course.

Just let me know if you have any questions. Payment is made via PayPal.

I don’t need the payment up-front, only after the service so there is absolutely no need for you to worry.

  

Kind regards

Mark

I was, and am, gobsmacked! This is my first chargeable app (Bargain is free) and I get this. Can I expect others? Can I expect bad reviews (which I imagine I won’t have to pay for) if I refuse his offer?

He says “It is no longer a secret that apps have more chances of being purchased if they have positive feedback.” – well, it was never a ‘secret’. Any company would be very happy to receive endorsements from satisfied customers, but what would they feel about taking this approach? I would love to see some, ideally positive, reviews for my apps but I want them from real customers who have actually downloaded my apps. I could not sleep at night knowing that I’d paid $65 to have 20 reviews for my apps – it goes against everything I believe.

It certainly makes me think about what I’ve read on the app store over the years about some very odd app reviews that are either a grammatical nightmare, offer no supporting evidence or are so minimalist it’s hard to wonder what value they are to anyone – these are negative as well as positive ‘reviews’. Are there companies offering to “bad mouth” other competing products for a similar fee? It really is quite shocking when you think the whole thing through. As there is no “Try Before You Buy” on the app Store you, just like me, will rely on magazines and reviews on the App Store to guide your choice.

I will make it very clear right here: I will never accept offers and certainly no payment to have my apps “reviewed” or “rated”. Any app reviews or ratings appearing against my apps on the App Store will have been provided by customers who have actually downloaded the app in question and felt moved to comment.

Right – I’ll go and sit down and calm myself now…