Great Update to a Great Book – Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X by Aaron Hillegass, Adam Preble

Cocoa Programming on OSXCocoa Programming for Mac OS X by Aaron Hillegass, Adam Preble

I have read several books by the author, Aaron Hillegass, and seen him speak live. He’s a great resource to the iOS development community. I am also an intermediate Objective-C developer, team leader, have published several apps to the App Store and also instruct beginners on iOS development. Whether you are looking to get into Mac OS X or IOS development this book is a great addition to your library.

To begin with it focuses on the latest version of Xcode and iOS 5 which includes ARC (Automatic Reference Counting) which is a huge time saver for development. Without ARC you had to manage the memory allocations for your own objects – take my word for it, a PITA if you are new to Objective-C. The book has been updated to work with more code automation in Xcode, using drag and drop to make connections to outlets and actions – another huge timesaver. This is one of the first books on the market to include those. For a beginner or intermediate coder using older books on earlier editions can be very frustrating.

The style in Aaron’s books is that he dispenses with the hand holding approach of most of the books I’ve read. Other books give you a step by step instruction as you go through the things you may want to learn. That approach actually impairs your ability to actually learn. The Big Nerd Ranch approach is to show you how to do something, by dealing with just one or two key concepts at a time. Then they immediately challenge you to put together what you’ve learned so far. This is completely optional, but a great concept for learning. If you find the challenge too difficult then you may want to review what you’ve learned previously.

I’ll admit when I read the Third Edition I was more of a junior dev in Objective-C and found the going rough sometimes. That was the challenge of the Objective-C learning curve – not the book. Now that I am more familiar with Objective-C, I find that the fog is gone and both editions make sense. This Fourth Edition is a great tool to get up to speed on the new concepts in iOS5 and Xcode 4. If you are just getting started or need to polish your skills, I highly recommend this book.

In Defense of Apple’s Newsstand and negative reviews

As a developer of iOS apps I regularly check the reviews on iTunes and App Store to get a sense of how apps are received. Fortunately my publisher client is not tied to adversing to produce their content – not to say that they wouldn’t enjoy advertising dollars but rather they see the iPad platform as a new medium for their message. What I do find troubling is that the new apps on the App Store are being blasted by negative reviews. This needs to be addressed because there is no way for a developer to rebut a bad review or to have a bad review removed.

Users are seeing the Newsstand Apps on the App Store, in iTunes and on their devices as free. However if they read the description – admittedly kind of hidden in the app’s description – they would find that most Newsstand Apps support paid content issues and subscriptions. The blame of this belongs to Apple and NOT the developers. The App store lists the price of the main app but does not display the cost of the subscriptions upfront, where it would be easier for users to find.

The other problem lies with the whole rating system that Apple provides. We have had over 50,000 apps downloaded and yet we have had less than 50 reviews of all of our apps. We’ve published about 25 apps among various clients. So the returns on the review process is pathetic and does not reflect what users think of your apps. The only measurable mechanism seems to be if users update the app as revisions are published. Also if you host some content on your web servers, statistics can be collect to indicate the use and repeated use of the apps.

New users do read the reviews and make decisions about whether to download an app. Negative reviews don’t help this cause. Most developers are small independent developers and very few are the actual mega publishers like Conde Nast. So the income generated from apps and development in general is meagre. It often barely covers the actual cost to develop apps. So please think twice before reviewing an app. The most valuable thing you can do is give a positive review of an app. The average developer is that guy sitting next to you on the bus. So if you like an app give it a positive review. This goes a long way to bolstering the developers confidence and supports the futire development of more apps.

The internet was started at the grass roots level and so in fact the whole personal computer industry. If users hadn’t spread the positive word about the original Apple computer then Steve Jobs and Steve Woszniak would not have succeeded – there would be no iPhone or iPad for you to read this story on your iPad.

Apple will eventually fix the problem with Newsstand 1.0. So in the meantime, read the apps description before you download it – caveat emptor applies to free apps as well. Sure if the app is craptastic go ahead and blast it but don’t write a negative review because someone is trying to make an honest buck.

Fix – ITC “No eligible applications were found.”

It took a bit of digging to find the fix for this. I regularly upload applications for different companies to iTunesConnect. Imagine my surprise when I could upload an app to my own account. I found lots of threads helping Windows users but none for Macs.

The solution, on Mac OS X, can be done one of two ways. You can delete the .plist files in ~/Library/Preferences/
com.apple.itunes.connect.ApplicationLoader.LSSharedFileList.plist and/or com.apple.itunes.connect.ApplicationLoader.plist
I’m not sure which one applies but it forces Application Loader to run the “Set Up Wizard…” again (“Set Up Wizard…” can also be run from the Window menu.)

After which you will be prompted to log in with the correct Apple ID again.

Publishing on the iPad

The App we built for 2

So here we are more than halfway through the year and over 5 million iPads sold. Consumers are rapidly snatching up all the available iPad and iPhone 4.0 devices as fast as Apple can make them. As a publishing professional you’re asking yourself what does this mean to me? What impact does this have on the publishing industry and how do we as publishers get involved?

Released to the public in April 2010, the iPad platform (aka iOS 4) has taken digital publishing by storm. If you have used an iPad then you already know that it is more than a big iPhone, digital book, Internet browser, or device for accessing digital media. If you’ve been following my articles you’d know that this is a revolutionary device and it’s causing a paradigm shift in several information industries.

Users of the iPad are looking to you as publishers to deliver content they desire in this new medium. Of course this is not just limited to Apple products but it is also pending the release of new digital devices and smart phones by other companies – who are scrambling to catch up with the release of their smart phone technologies and tablet devices. So how do you get your content into your reader’s hands?

Smart media devices all support Internet-based browser technologies and can access content online that is tailored to these devices with technologies such as HTML 5, CSS three, JavaScript. Simply adding a bit of tagging and creating custom style sheets for your website will transform content for these mobile devices. Open source publishing platforms such as WordPress and Joomla can use templates designed to optimize the display of the content.

AppleScript, Automator, and MacOS X Services can also be used to automate and build web ready content. Using Apple’s free development tools a competent web developer could build a web-based applications with a Dashcode. DashCode apps can then be converted into xCode – the application that is used to create native MacOS X and and iOS applications for the iPhone and iPad.
Apple has created its own digital reader for the iOS devices called iBooks. The iBooks Store is used to publish digital books in the ePub format. Applications like InDesign can export pages into this format. You can distribute your iBook publications from your own website or distribute for profit through Apple’s iBook store. Resources like lulu.com available to help you self publish.

Starting at $99 a year, you can become an Apple developer and be able to publish applications to actual devices like the IPad. Once you become a registered developer and pay the fees you can submit applications for approval to Apple’s App Store. If Apple approves your iPhone app, they will distribute the application through the App Store.

Native iOS apps are written using Objective-C. There are many resources available to get you up to speed. Several books have been published in physical and digital form that teach users to build apps. Online resources available such as Lynda.com and Apple’s developer website offer learning materials online.

If you’re not already an experienced programmer learning Objective-C has a steep learning curve. The TapLynx framework, among others, help build basic apps in xCode. Frameworks will help you build real iOS applications without having to learn Objective-C.

You can also look into hiring a developer to help you build a app. Simple applications range from $2500 to $10,000. More sophisticated apps take many months to develop and will cost even more. Experienced developers can be hired for between $80 US and $160 US to either consult or develop your application. Single dedicated developer can cost a around $6500 US per month.

It is both an exciting time and a nerve-racking time. Publishing on ink on paper has been under pressure for last 15 years or so. The Internet has eroded any kind of profit-making and now the iPad presents an opportunity to deliver content to an end user who will be willing to pay for that content. Or at the very least advertisers will want the opportunity deliver their message along with your content. If you’re producing a magazine, newspaper, the list of services or even a real estate listing the iPad is proving to be a revolutionary publishing platform. You owe it to yourself to explore the opportunity for yourself and your clients.