Jim Roepcke's weblog have browser, will travel (est. 1999)


iOS 7 changed my home screen

When Apple introduced folders to the Springboard (home screen), I set up a folder named "Dock" that contained the apps I use most. My dock consisted of Phone, Gmail, Safari and the Dock folder.

I had about 5 pages of apps, so having a folder on the Dock meant I could get at my favourite apps from every page. When the iPhone 5 came out, this was even better, as folders could hold an extra row of apps.

iOS 7 has changed things in a few ways that has resulted in me abandoning the Dock folder I've used for years.

  1. Folders only show 9 apps after opening them.
  2. The folder opening/closing animation is painfully slow.
  3. Folders can hold multiple pages of apps.

The combination of these changes makes the Dock less convenient, less quick, and less necessary, as I now only have two pages of apps since I've consolidated many apps into fewer more-populated folders.

Instead, I've created a folder for the apps I had on the first page of my home screen that I used less frequently than the Dock folder apps. The Dock folder apps are now directly on the first page of my home screen. Since I use the apps on the second page of the home screen least often, my favourite apps are now often even quicker to access than before.

In some ways, this is a better arrangement than I had before, but I'd still rather have folders that showed 16 apps and much quicker animations.

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You need the willingness to succeed too

Ken Segall's Observatory: Meanwhile, over at Ron Johnson’s place…

"To turn a vision into visible change, you must be immune to the criticism. You must do what you believe in your heart to be the right thing. Only when the vision is complete and has proven itself to be a success, do the naysayers quietly go away."

That is one of the most inspiring statements I've read since I read John Backus' statement on failure in his obituary in the NY Times.

Steve Lohr, NY Times: John W. Backus, 82, Fortran Developer, Dies

"You need the willingness to fail all the time," he said. "You have to generate many ideas and then you have to work very hard only to discover that they don’t work. And you keep doing that over and over until you find one that does work."

Segall's statement follows quite nicely as "what to do next" if you follow Backus' advice. After you've failed and you've found what works, you need the willingness to succeed. That can be just as hard as having the willingness to fail.

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iOS can be frustrating for Android users

I want to respond to a couple of points on Rachid Otsmane-Elhaou's mostly excellent post, Why The iPhone Is Impossible For Me To Use.

I agree with most of Rachid's arguments. The iOS is clearly lagging behind Android with respect to integration between apps. I have seen a lot of speculation that XPC is the way forward for this. XPC.framework is private in iOS 6, and developers are hoping this will become public in iOS 7. It's used in iOS 6 to present the mail compose window in a separate process.

Using the Settings app to hold app's settings sucks, and most apps do ignore the Settings app, presenting configuration options in-app.

The Notification Center also sucks. A lot has been written about this. Grouping notifications by source rather than listing by time (as they are on the lock screen) it so frustrating. I expect Apple to fix this, they've been roasted so many times.

Two points remain that I have to point out as unfairly represented...

Apple won’t let you move certain apps inside a folder, so if you don’t read magazines or newspapers on your 3.5″ screen, you’re stuck looking at an empty bookshelf forever. Literally, you can’t remove it unless you jailbreak. I know, I thought the same too, you actually have to jailbreak your device in order to move an app icon into a folder (or totally from view).

"Certain apps", really? The only icon you can't move into a folder, other than another folder, is Newsstand, and that's because it represents a folder. I too wish it could be moved into a folder, or removed, but he's misrepresented the problem, quite unfairly.

Next, regarding background processes:

Things like this happen on android automatically. Apps can have separate background threads designed to do things like sync playlists, and upload photos without eating up your battery.

(emphasis added)

There's nothing special about Android that makes uploading photos not use battery life! Suggesting that background threads that upload photos don't eat up your battery is disingenuous at best. Uploading data is one of the most battery-draining operations you can perform on a smartphone.

If you've followed Apple's evolution of Mac OS X since the late 90s, you realize that Apple moves very slowly and deliberately when adding features. It can be frustrating, but it's almost always the wisest way forward, because once you release an API publicly, it's very hard to take it back without upsetting a lot of people. Apple has a very good track record here. Had iOS allowed unlimited background processing from the start, just because it was technically possible, they would have painted themselves into a corner they couldn't get out of. It takes time, some times years, to truly understand problems like this, and Apple is obviously determined to get it right.

Some examples of what happens when Apple rushes: Shake to Undo, Siri, iCloud, Maps.

Apple is learning from their users and from users of other platforms where more background processing flexibility is needed, and they're going to figure out how to provide that flexibility without sacrificing core usability and engineering principles. If iOS 7 doesn't pave a clear way forward in this regard, I will be very disappointed.

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Ever had this happen to you?

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I’m a Biggest Winner… winner!

I joined BDHQ's Biggest Winner (BW) program last July. So far I've lost 55 pounds and feel better than I have in over a decade! Bri Westhaver, an ambassador of the BW program interviewed me after the first session ended.

Before (July) and after (September)


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BC Health Service Locator app wins Innovation award

Each year, the BC Ministry of Health holds an internal "Celebrating our Successes" event to recognize their accomplishments.

I've just learned the BC Health Service Locator app whose development I led won the Innovation award! The winner of this award is chosen by the Ministry Executive.

I'm proud to have been a part of that project, and also of all of the people at not only the Ministry of Health, but also the Ministry of Labour, Citizens' Services and Open Government that helped make the project such a success.

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BC Health Service Locator for iPhone

BC Health Service Locator screenshot

In spring 2011 I worked for the Ministry of Labour, Citizens' Services, and Open Government to mentor a new iOS developer. Mentoring is something I love to do so I was excited for the opportunity!

The Ministry was working on an iPhone app to help people find health services in BC. The prototype was developed by a Ministry employee, who I mentored. We got down to business right away. We developed the app using the prototype as a guide while I mentored their developer on Xcode, Objective-C, Cocoa Touch, UI design, source code management (GitHub FTW!) and dealing with the complexity of the Apple Developer program. We pair programmed for the first half of the project, and then each worked on features individually but side-by-side. We were pretty much finished by mid-August, with a few bug-fixes and other finishing touches added in September.

The developer I mentored was great... smart, capable, and loved the process. We quickly became friends and I really enjoyed working with him and everyone else involved. It was incredible to see him come up to speed so quickly. We used my open source HLDeferred library, and he had no problem adapting to thinking asynchronously.

While that was happening, the Government was working to get their Apple iOS Developer account registered. That was a challenge since the ultimate leader of the province is Queen Elizabeth II, and she wasn't available to sign paperwork on their behalf. :-) On the App Store, the seller of the app is listed as Her Majesty the Queen in right of the Province of British Columbia! That still makes me giggle.

Legal clearance to submit the app arrived in December and the app went live on January 1st.

The Government officially launched the app in February. Their press release mentions volunteers being used to develop the app. It's true, the developer I mentored wrote the initial version of the app in his own time, and donated a lot more time during the course of the project. The graphic designer (who did an awesome job) and a business analyst also volunteered a lot of personal time and they should be commended for that.

I was disappointed when the Government wouldn't list me in the credits section of the app, wanting to focus attention on the efforts of the Ministry employees who volunteered their time, but I'm mostly over that now. ;-) As a self-employed developer, referrals are so important!

I'm happy and proud that the app is out there, being used, and that my Government is so proud of the app and their employees for doing a great job.

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Edson becomes an Apple fan

Edson C. Hendricks is the subject of the enhanced ebook iPad app I developed for Agio Studios last fall. I was thrilled to meet Edson at the app launch party, and was honoured to spend so much quality time with him listening to his stories.

Cool to be Clever team

Dan and Bruce Batchelor, Edson Hendricks, Jim Roepcke, and Leanne Jones

My understanding is (was) Edson's never owned an Apple product. I know he has very strong opinions on platforms and believes in simplicity because complexity kills quality. So imagine my delight when I saw this email in my Inbox.

Subject: iPadded

Hi All --

Today I did it! I now have a brand new iPad, the biggest one with the 4G LTE (which automatically switches to Wi-Fi if it's available, and back to 4G LTE if not, which is even better than I expected). The rumors about the new iPad being "sold out" are true evidently at only some Apple stores. I also got a (soft) Bluetooth keyboard and case for it.
And, right there at the local Apple Store, they walked me through the setup, but used the opportunity to get me familiar with using the iPad. Wow, what an operation that place is, it's practically beyond belief. It was real crowded there, but the staff were so darned efficient I barely noticed. I believe I can now download from the App Store, and the 4G LTE connection is all set up with Verizon, and the email should work as well. They assured me that if I had any problem I could come back and they'd figure it out. I heard on the radio this morning that Apple is now the most valuable company in the world, and it's easy to see why. I had fun telling the people at the Apple Store that I worked for IBM when it was that, the biggest computer company and the richest company in the world, and they lost it all by effectively betting against the Internet.

And I have the COOL app on my new iPad now, downloaded right there at the Apple Store so I could show it to the folks there. The guy who helped me with it all went into the back to get his manager, who came out to meet me. They were really amazed at both the story, and the look of the app. The manager confirmed that she's never before seen anything quite that good, and she was going to download it herself at the bargain price of $2.99! Good, then they can show it off there at the Apple Store. And they agreed about the story, that it was odd that they also had never heard any clear story about where the Internet actually came from. I assured them that it was all because up to now I had decided just not to talk about it, for good reason, haha! They were just amazed, what fun.

Best regards,
->Ed.H 3/19/12 15:46 PDT

E-mail republished with permission.

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Xavier is 10

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of being laid off from Netstruxr, forcing me to leave the US within 10 days.

That makes today Xavier's 10th birthday!

Happy Birthday Xavier!

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Income Disparity Illustrated

Diagram of the Growth of Family Income

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