Tag Archives: Almanac

Cryptoimagery

Pensive Hay Resident
Pensive Hay Resident

 

In an entirely unexpected and atypical burst of productivity, the updated universal version of Almanac was submitted to the app store over the weekend  and resuming Lifemodel, which had been put aside, I found it almost complete and have added the missing bits.

Providing the testing doesn’t uncover any egregious errors it should be submitted by the weekend.

In sharp contrast to Almanac, which has four selectable interfaces with lots of graphic elements, it has very little artwork. There is considerably more code and it is very calculation intensive but should be a small, quick loading app. This means that the splash screens which pop up while it is loading are only visible briefly and may not be noticed at all.

That gives the opportunity, for those afflicted by the imp of the perverse like me, to be a little playful with the images used. I have therefore picked one of my favourite local pictures as the landscape screen. I don’t suppose anyone will notice it in the app, so here it is.

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Ars gratia artis

I’ve probably spent far too much time already on the artwork for the universal version of Almanac, and today had to do a bit of tidying that came up during testing.
Taking a break, I updated the become-apps.com website and in preparation I used Fuzel, a collage making app to produce this image. I didn’t use / haven’t yet used it on the website but thought I’d post it here as :-
a) I think it is pretty, and
b) If it’s the sort of thing you like, you might want to look at Fuzel for yourself.

Make things while the sun doesn’t shine on Hay

Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark in an 1846 painting by the American folk painter Edward Hicks although since this is so long after the event we can't be entirely sure of its accuracy.

 

The Welsh are an old and wise people and Wales is an old and wise land, so on hearing a little time ago that parts of its neighbour England were enduring a drought, the land began taking precautions and has been collecting and stockpiling rainwater ever since, whilst its people carry on about their business knowing that their water supply is in safe hands.

This has given me an opportunity to do, and few excuses to avoid doing, some work on upgrading the Almanac app so that it runs on both iPads and iPhones. Technically this turned out to be surprisingly simple, the time consuming part is working out how the app should flow and display information on the bigger screen, whilst being recognisably the same and with the same functions.

The decision you make at times like these, unless you are a large corporation with access to lots of focus groups or similar, is to do what pleases yourself and then hope you are not alone in liking the outcome.

Then as you finish and start testing, trying to look at things with a dispassionate eye, voices start whispering words like “quirky” and “idiosyncratic” in the back of your mind. Well so what. Those voices were no help when you couldn’t decide what to do, so why listen to them now. Critics don’t make things.

On the other hand critics can help improve things, maybe I’ll just have a fiddle with that bit … No, I’ll be strong, I can always change it in the next release. So that’s that then.

All the heavy lifting is done, so after a couple of days of testing I will be able to pass it to the app store for approval.

The University of Life

Laurel & Hardy in A Chump at Oxford
Laurel & Hardy in A Chump at Oxford

I have just finished an upgrade to the Almanac app, completely re-writing some bits and adding some new ones, and it went through the approval process and into the App store today. I have been somewhat delayed in working on development as I was going through the Stanford University IOS development course on iTunes U. I had already been through the Fall 2010 course but the Fall 2011 one was completely updated with respect to the development environment, IOS and iCloud. Both have been excellent.

Being self taught in a technical discipline is often a bit like crossing a familiar room at night with the lights off, just when confidence builds, you bark your shin on something unexpected. Scientists are yet to develop terms which could describe the enormity of my ignorance on most subjects, but in this area I have just enough competence to get by, or to find out what I need.

So it is wondrous, now and again, to get a flash of insight like when your physics teacher pointed out that a refrigerator with the door left open would heat rather than cool the room. I’ve had a few of these in following the lectures and after each one was left with the feeling that things were standing on firmer footings. This is all very welcome at my time of life, to get past learning the trick of things to learning the nature of things.

The US is often represented in the UK media as a land of rapacious capitalists where those who cannot pay are left by the wayside. I recommend those who think that way to look at the riches that NASA has gifted to the world, and the way that a tremendously successful and profitable company has teamed up with some of the best universities on the planet to give US citizens and foreigners like me access to substantial parts of their lectures and course materials for free. Not because they know either me or any of the other thousands of users, or because they think we deserve it, but because they think it’s a good thing to share.

Shiny thing make it all better (sic)

The title is taken from the excellent Daily Mash and is their description of their own app.

I have just finished and submitted my most recent app to the iTunes store for approval for sale (You can read about it here). It is an attempt to provide useful and topical functionality presented in an appealing way. Five years ago (or less) to produce this I would have had to :-

  • Decide on the hardware (Chipset ) I was going to use.
  • Write the software for that chipset.
  • Commission the manufacture of the device somewhere.
  • Pay up front for the design, prototyping, manufacture and approvals processes in each market I wanted to sell it in.
  • Commission or devise a marketing strategy, then pay for and implement it, and finally …
  • Respond to the inevitable huge demand by shipping units to customers world-wide.

… or not.

It would have been a huge gamble and would have involved the speculative tying up of resources (Human, physical and financial) and the shipping of physical objects across the face of the earth. It would also have been expensive to buy. All for something designed to bring a couple of minutes fun to every day.

Nicholas Negroponte of MIT’s media lab describes two shifts we are currently undergoing :-

  • The shift of communications to land bound means (Cable, fibre etc.) except where mobility is essential, freeing up the airwaves for a future of always connected, high bandwidth communications, and …
  • The shift from moving atoms about the face of the earth when we buy music, films and software to shifting bits around on networks.

The second of these is analogous to the shift of western economies towards the provision of services rather than goods, broadly the goods come west, the services go east. Whether or not this geographic trend continues, I think it is clear that Negroponte is right that we will be buying fewer and fewer physical artefacts which have to be manufactured and moved about in what Neal Stephenson calls “meatspace” and more services will be provided by moving bits around.

When we consider all the devices lying around (Some even with their chargers) which when current were only used for a fraction of the time, its not difficult to envisage a significant reduction in the waste of time, energy and resources that went into their production. Some of this will be transferred to the production of increasingly powerful and ubiquitous smartphones but this is much more forgivable given the high level of utilisation they get.

A brighter day dawns for all, I think, when people like me can get hold of shiny things to make life better as apps for pennies rather than as techno clutter.