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:


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:


  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


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…

The death of Steve Jobs

What a sad, sad day.

Apple are inviting comments via email on their website at www.apple.com/uk so I sent this earlier today:

Until today, I have never cried for the death of someone I’ve never known personally. I knew it was coming, but not so soon. So soon.

His Stanford address says so much about who he was and why Apple is the company it is. It is so rare to find vision, passion for perfection, philosophical reflection and a maverick attitude and sales savvy all in one person, but Steve had the lot.

Such a loss to his family, the Apple, the tech world and every one of us that uses a product from Apple or one that has been influenced by them. And that’s a lot.

Gone, yes, but forgotten, never.

You may wish to send them your thoughts.

Update: Comments sent in to Apple can now be viewed here.

Some people really are so ungrateful!

I’m sorry but I just had to comment on some people’s attitude to Apple’s “12 Days of Christmas”.

Apple, out of the goodness of Steve’s or the company’s collective heart, or perhaps a desire for a little soft-edged PR, have made an item on the iTunes store free for a day over each of the 12 days of Christmas. I came a little late to the party, but some of the things available for free download were:

  • Broken Sword for iPad (I’d already bought it and really enjoyed it)
  • Charlie Chaplin’s classic film “Modern Times”
  • Mirror’s Edge game by Electronic Arts
  • An EP by Michael Bublé
  • A song and video by the Kings of Leon
  • … and seven more.

Who could complain about 12 free items from iTunes? Well, apparently quite a lot of people (all of the comments below are from actual reviews – atrocious spelling is original – of items available for free in the 12 Days of Christmas):

“My iPhone 3GS cost me £400. My iPhone 4 cost me £500. My iPod touch cost me £200. My MacBook Pro cost me £1200. So if Charlie Chaplin is the best present you can reward me with for my loyalty then I’d rather you didn’t bother.”

“Who wants to watch this bull?!”

“Give us a decent app tht we want, give us 1 of the top grossing not 1 of the prices of crap tht u can’t sell so u give it away for free give us something like backbreaker2 or other games or movies ect….,tht we actually want !! (were is ur christmas spirt) so plzz give us wht we want and by tht I don’t mean a dam holy book tht I’ve never seen before like on day 4 I think :).” (A strange mix of appalling spelling and yet getting the apostrophes in the correct place!)

“How about giving a descent film ituns”

“What the hell is wrong with u? Why the hell would i want this? Cater 2 us young ppl! Not the sadults…happy new year!!!”

“Better gifts please Apple”

“On the sixth day iTunes gave me this Sh*t.”

“All of the stuff on the 12 days of Christmas is really rubbish the only thing that wasn’t to bad was the Cheryl cole single. The stuff really needs to improve.”

and finally


What is extraordinary, apart from the deplorable state of the grammar and spelling, in these ‘reviews’ is the sheer nastiness of some people. Some, especially the person listing their expenditure on Apple products, feel a sense that they are entitled to something that they want. The idea that Apple, or any company, offers a product for sale and you decide to complete the transaction by choosing to buy at the stated price is clearly not enough. These people feel that they must have more of just what they want and for free.

I’m sure if next year Apple decided that they would no longer run the 12 Days promotion, then these same ungrateful people would be saying that now Apple were really “CHEAP SCATES”.

The bigger issue of course is that these people probably have a desperate sense of entitlement to whatever they want in other areas of their life too …

Happy New Year.