2013 Update (So Far)

It’s been a busy summer. For all of you 5 readers that I still have and who check periodically for the end of the Ice Age on this blog, I’m sorry.

Of course, the main thing that happened is the release of iOS 7 and the imminent arrival of Mavericks, which kept us all very busy indeed. I’ll elaborate on that later.

But beyond this upgrade madness, there were the job-as-usual type of thing. Astrolab isn’t dead, it’s on hiatus while the 2 other cohosts and me finished writing our 2 development books. I’ll link them afterwards if any of you is interested.

Writing a book is a very different experience for me. I’ve written manuals (back in the osxserver Puma days), a lot of programs, and quite a few articles, but nothing quite prepares you for the involvment of writing a book, especially with 3 other people. There’s the actual writing, the fact-checking, the code, the language and “message” tweaking, and the interaction with the editor. All in all, it went rather well, and I’m not ashamed of putting my name on the cover, which is a first, for me. We’ll see how that goes.

Speaking of podcasting, I have been experimenting with a different concept, with an excellent friend of mine from the Apple days, now doing stuff that blows my mind each time he speaks about it. So, we are trying to find a way to blow your minds, too, with his knowledge. It will be in French for various reasons, so all of you non french speakers out there have to get on board with the language.

And to carry on with the experiments, with a wild bunch of awesome people, we did an app that’s definitely not little : Pas a Pas. It is a combination of tourism guide, helping you discover some towns, and a litterary app, reading to you a text written by a French theatre writer named Christophe Huysman. It features some pretty cool tricks with regards to geolocalization and guiding, while keeping you fully immersed in both the view and the text. It was a little hard to birth, but the end-result is promising, if not outright genius ;)

As usual, there are a few other projects in the queue that I can’t talk about, but suffise to say I don’t remember last time I had a full night sleep.

And then, there is the dual combo IOS 7 and Mavericks. I’ll reserve my judgement on these releases for later (or never as the case may be), but the upgrade was a little traumatic for freelancers like me. Beyond the wild variations between betas (to be expected during a normal development cycle), the changes and half-fixed transitional problems are still costing me a few hours of sleep each night. Forget the appearance debate, it’s not up to us developers to say whether or not it’s good and/or better than before, the users will decide. But some low-level things (I’m looking at you autolayout) and mechanisms (some tricks we had to implement to take into account the height of the status bar, for instance) actually cause problems now. And of course the crashes/hangs when using CoreData in a way that will actually work on iOS 5 and 6…

I have no doubt we’ll ride the wave and come out with solutions, but right now it’s so frustrating to support both the old world and the new that I totally understand my colleagues who are working on an iOS7 only product. And I’m tempted to do the same thing with some of the projects, most definitely. However fast the user base goes from 6 to 7, though, there is still quite a large number of people using apps that I have written that will remain on a system/app that just works, rather than making the switch and going through the choppy waters of both upgrades.

If I had a complaint, it wouldn’t be that Apple boldly goes where it hasn’t gone before, it’s more that we developers should count for something in such a big transition. Unstable betas, we understand, being developers too and all that. Back and forth on including this or that function, as well… But giving us a week to finalize our products on a version of the OS that is clearly not ready for public consumption (the 7.0.2 version came a couple of weeks afterwards and fixed a lot of things), while completely ignoring our frantic alarms is detrimental to everybody: the early adopters, once the shine has worn off will be disappointed, the journalists covering the launch will be merciless, and the developers will be downcast. We need to be better included in this cycle: being able to submit betas for betas would be a good help for everybody: developers could showcase what they intend to do, while Apple engineers could see how the APIs are (mis)used and communicate on or fix what they think is wrong, etc.

It’s still vital that Apple applications work perfectly from the get go, but it’s also increasingly important to have the users’ apps running up to spec as well. There is money in the hardware and the software.

Alright, got to go back to work, it’s been a pleasure to see you all, and I’ll see you again soon(ish)


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