September 15, 2009

Can I Swipe?

Posted in Family tagged , , at 6:00 pm by Nick

Can I swipe? That’s what my 23 month son, Harry, asked while we were holed up in a coffee shop waiting for the current downpour to subside. No, he was not asking if he could shoplift a mocha-half-caf-with-skim-milk. He was asking if he could “swipe” the photos we were looking at on my iPhone so he could look at all of them.  I knew I had said it, at least once when he was looking at photos, but I was really taken aback. Now I’m torn because I want to say it is the genius in him that produced that, but quite frankly, those folks at Apple really know how to build human interfaces that are easy to work with, so I can’t give all the credit to my son.

Just upgraded to iPhone OS 3.1, Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) and iPhone SDK 3.1 (Xcode 3.2). Everything went smoothly; as I expected. I had to upgrade a little sooner than I had anticipated though. I updated my iPhone OS yesterday and that made my Xcode incompatible with it. So in order to continue to test my (killer) iPhone App on a device, I had to get the new SDK. The SDK can be installed on either Leopard(10.5.x) or Snow Leopard(10.6), but since they are unique builds, and I did not want to install the SDK twice, I did the Snow Leopard upgrade and then the Xcode upgrade.

I also just provisioned a second test subject’s phone to QA my app. The process went fine once I remembered what I needed to do. The new phone is using OS 3.0, so I was pleasantly surprised when Xcode gave me four build platform/target options when I went to install the game. I had a 3.0 and 3.1 option for both the Simulator and Device. I should have anticipated it, but I did not; I was happy just the same to see it.

Speaking of my (killer) iPhone App, Harry likes it. Although he really does not play the game, he just likes that the buttons change color and the game window rotates so the the settings window can appear. I should turn that into a game he and other toddlers could play…..

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August 27, 2009

As Summer Wanes…

Posted in Books to Read, Family, software tagged , , , , at 12:28 pm by Nick

As summer continues it inevitable (and sad) departure, I think it a good time to throw some random thoughts at the fly tape and see what sticks.

Memories take up space. They do — and I don’t mean just in your head. I mean in your house or apartment. My mom recently passed away at the age of 89. So, my sister and I are slowly emptying out the house we grew up in, so (sadly) it can be put up for sale. As we come across items that spark strong memories, we put them aside as keepsakes. But here’s the rub (at least for me) — my keepsakes can’t be big. I live in an apartment with my family. We have a finite amount of space. So, if I am to keep something, the (potential) keepsake in question needs to be small enough to fit somewhere in the apartment. In fact, (and follow closely here) I am probably guilty of remembering a memory to be better than another if the potential keepsake is smaller. Still there? Do I remember fondly the dining room table? Yes. Am I instead keeping some demi-tasse cups and saucers? Yes again. It’s all a matter of space.

I just listened again to the TED Talk given by John Hodgman, “A Brief Digression on Matters of Lost Time“. And again, I come away smiling. His timing is impeccable throughout the talk — just the right pause, just the right inflection. Then the talk ends and I stand there amazed that we started at point A and some how ended up at point Q, but it all fit together; and I enjoyed the whole ride.

Having more to spend more time with my boys has given me the opportunity to hear stories as they are freshly synthesized. Today, I was told a story that evolved from a picture of an Edmontosaurus my oldest son, Peter (5 years old)  was coloring. The story involved many of the elements that are high on his list at the moment. So, of course aside from the dinosaur there good guys and bad guys, light sabers and various items to be dropped onto the heads of the bad guys (this last element compliments of the Coyote in the classic Looney Tunes Road Runner cartoons). I wish I could recall the entire story but it quite long and had many course changes. But to get the chance to hear it as it was being pieced together was a thrill and opportunity I don’t usually get.

Back onto the topic of “Day Trading is back”, the iPhone App is still progressing. Have not had a huge amount of time to work on it, but I recently was able to determine that volume control is not something I care to handle via settings in the App. As documented across the internet, working with the MPVolumeView is not as seamless as all the UIxxx classes, so it is just not worth the effort; especially if the App does not need anything more than keystroke/tap sounds. These sounds can be played through the AudioServices and will be fine. I also got persistence up and working following the NSCoder protocol for serialization/archiving of objects and elements, and following the NSCopying protocol to copy objects I’ve defined. The persistence chapter in “Beginning iPhone 3 Development” explains these techniques very clearly. Then once you have the basics, everything else falls into place. My next hurdle it to try to make the app smart, so when the user plays, he/she has a real challenge — beyond what arc4random() will provide.

I saw huge line the other day on the upper east side, I thought it might be an accident or train wreck. Turns out I was right on both accounts. It was all the Mets players in line waiting to get into the Hospital for Special Surgery to have year-ending procedures. If you throw left and have a heart beat, the Mets could use you in the rotation. Is it Football season yet — Go Big Blue.

July 30, 2009

Day Trading and a Summer Reading List update

Posted in Books to Read, software tagged , , at 5:04 pm by Nick

Why create two posts when one will suffice…

My Day Trading experiment: building a killer iPhone App is progressing. (I am already trying to decide what extravagances to spend my windfall on: Health Insurance maybe? A Mega Millions ticket?). I am still reading Stephen Kochan’s “Objective-C 2.0″book, but I did not need anything complicated to get my app up and in shape for testing. Thankfully Interface Builder is smart and kept me from making a text field an outlet. Throw in a little help from the Internet to learn how to tag a button (so you can differentiate one button message from another when they all use the same handler) and before I knew it, my iPhone app was actually running. I admit, I had to use the “Your First iPhone Application” tutorial to start this project, but this time, I had a better understanding of what was going on and even remembered what some “next steps” were. My User Interface (UI) is crude, but the beauty of Apple’s design patterns allow for the UI to be improved later; and the code to remain the same. (I know, if we change model objects, the code has to be tweaked, but there is a good chance I will just improve the models I am using. And even if I do have to change the code, the basic framework will still hold). I am now going to recruit some beta testers to give me feedback and work with my brother-in-law to revamp the UI.

Now for a summer reading list update. I just finished “Work Hard. Be Nice” by Jay Mathews which is an account of how two Teach for America alumnae started one of the best performing charter schools, KIPP schools,  in the United States. They wanted to make a difference and they were not satisfied when they found their skills to be lacking. Instead of accepting mediocrity, they sought out the experienced teachers that had the skills and learned from them. They also had a plan; a vision. They knew it would be different and there would be push-back, but they were persistent. They wanted to succeed.

For anyone who believes the education system in America needs help, and want to know where that help will come from, this book might give you that answer.

July 20, 2009

Day Trading is Back, Part 2

Posted in software tagged , , at 6:46 pm by Nick

I’ve been playing with the new iPhone SDK recently. Getting familiar with Xcode, Interface Builder and Objective-C 2.0. I decided to use the Apple Developer tutorial, “Your First iPhone Application” to get my feet wet before venturing out into deeper water.

The tutorial takes you slowly through a very simple application that uses a button, a label, and text box. But these interface elements alone, are enough to expose you to some key aspects of the Cocoa Frameworks. And, if you are like me and make a mistake and have to troubleshoot your application, then you can even discover some of the debugger (gdb) capabilities within Xcode.

I was impressed by Xcode and the ease at which is allows you to write your code blocks. It’s been a while since I’ve used any IDE, but even so I have to say this one has a full set of tools at your disposal. As I worked my way through the tutorial, I could see how each step built on the previous and as each new concept was brought in, it soon became obvious where things were headed.

The concept of the delegate took a little while for me to wrap my head around. Drawing connections from “MyViewController” to “File’s Owner” was odd at first, but as I followed the steps, it became clearer. Then, when I had to debug my application and discovered my missing delegate relationships, and how those relationships affected variables in the code, I began to see things clearer.

This is not to say I have this down pat. On the contrary, I am going to visit my code and the tutorial again. I am also going to read “iPhone Application Programming Guide” to further understand the fundementals at work here. Along with reading “Programming in Objective-C 2.0”, these two guides should be a good next step in the process.

July 16, 2009

A Summer Reading List, Part 2

Posted in Books to Read, software tagged , at 4:34 pm by Nick

This will be a short post.

I recently crawled out from under the proverbial rock and started listening/watching TED Talks. There is a lot of entertaining and informative podcasts I need to catch up on. One of the talks I just finished was Bill Gates’ talk from earlier this year. In the second half of his talk, he discussed education in America. Specifically creating great teachers. He goes on to explain KIPP schools and mentions a book that covers their creation, entitled “Work Hard. Be Nice” by Jay Mathews. It should be arriving shortly and I can’t wait to start it. I will have to put Huck Finn down for a while, but it should be worth it.

Not to give the impression that it’s all play and no work this summer, and to continue in my efforts to Day Trade (aka. write a killer iPhone app), I am reading “Programming in Ojective-C 2.0” by Stephen Kochan. Mr. Kochan and I go way back. His was the first and only “C” book I ever needed or wanted (except for “K&R”, which doesn’t count). He has examples for eveything he writes about and always explains why he is doing what he is doing. He also shows alternative ways to accomplish the same task and will give the pros and cons for each method. He’s clearly one of the better technical writers in the business.

July 13, 2009

Day Trading is Back (sort of)

Posted in software tagged , , at 5:58 pm by Nick

Back in the 90’s before the dot com bubble burst, everyone was going to quit his/her day job and make a bundle being a day trader. It was so simple. Set up a trading account, buy, sell, buy, sell and at the end of the day, count your profits. Or at least that’s how it was supposed to happen. That’s what the SOES bandits told us to do. That’s what everyone in those day-trading rent-a-cube office suites said would happen. I guess I just missed the boat. I stayed employed from 9-5, and missed my chance.

Well, it is 2009 (What do we call these years anyway? The 13 years [0-12] prior to the “teens” are just out there. They have no identity. Do we call them the naughts? Not unless I lived across “the pond”, and stood in a queue and said “nil”. The pre-teen years? Too politically incorrect and challenged.  The years leading up to the teen years? Maybe, but I digress) and I am not going to miss the boat this time (even if it is the Titanic II). Nope, its time to start coding iPhone Applications. That’s right, build a killer app, make some serious cash and quit my day job. But, wait. I don’t have a day job. There you go, I am half way home. Now about that killer app….

In an attempt to keep my fingers and brain nimble, (Trust me, reading job boards does not require too much brain power) I have decided to attempt to code an iPhone Application. A little Xcode download (the Apple SDK) , some Objective-C function calls, some Interface Builder Links, a quick iPhone Simulator sign-off and we’re there. An iPhone Application is born.

At least that’s what I hope. The SDK download was simple. And following Apple’s Developer tutorial aptly named, “Your First iPhone Application”, I created an app that opened a window on the iPhone Simulator that comes with the SDK. So far, so good. As I progress through the tutorial, I will hopefully get an opportunity to create a button and use Interface Builder to link actions to code. There are also youtube videos that demonstrate this, but I figured I would start with the Apple version and progress from there. Also, it appears that many of the videos were done prior to the SDK 3.0 release. I don’t think that would matter too much, but I did not want to take anything for granted.

Does anyone have some deck chairs to loan me?

July 10, 2009

A Summer Reading List

Posted in Books to Read, Magazine Articles tagged , , , at 10:12 pm by Nick

Below is a modest selection of some things I’ve read lately.

In the June 22 issues of The New Yorker, John Seabrook wrote “Don’t Shoot. A radical approach to gang violence”. This is an amazing account of how academics and research can help police do their job more effectively and help reduce crime rates. In a country that has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and yet still suffers from violent crime in every major city, this article makes you want to believe that is a better way to do things.

Health Care Guaranteed, by Ezekiel J. Emanuel MD, PhD. is a simple, straight forward, easy to read book that describes one method of reform that will guarantee health care for everyone. Emanuel lays out the problems and his solutions to those problems in a clear step by step manner. You can disagree with him if  you like, but there is no arguing that his writing is clear and concise. He gives you his evidence, he explains his reasoning, he shows you the math. As a point of full disclosure (if you did not already know), he is the brother of the Chief of Staff for the President of the United States.

On Writing, by Stephen King. I have to admit, I read this one a while ago, but I often recommend it to others. This book is completely out of left field for the “King of Horror”. It is sort of memoir, sort of a how-to on being a writer. King wrote the book while recovering from a near fatal accident in 1999 (when hs struck by a car while walking in Maine). He takes you through his recovery and describes both the physical and emotional sides of his struggles. If you have to read one Stephen King book, this should be the one. Of course, if you want to continue to read Stephen King, he has a few other books out there.

Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. I am always reading this book. I have a well worn copy that travels almost everywhere with me. It comes to every softball game because you never know when there will be a subway delay. It traveled to Australia with me three times and usually finds its way into a bag when we (the family) go visit Grandpa Harry in New Hampshire. If I had a vote for the greatest novel ever written, this book would get my vote. Sorry, Ernest, Tennesesee, and even J.K., Mr. Twain has you beat. Huck’s tale is a pure summer adventure filled with everything one could want in a book: action, friendship, drama and joy.

July 8, 2009

…and so it begins

Posted in Family, Recipes tagged , , at 7:15 pm by Nick

Harry my 21 month old is happily sitting on my lap wondering why I won’t go to youtube so he can watch more John Carlin videos. He’s also proudly informing me that the table we’re seated at is white. Its hard to explain to him why I need to do more “work on the computer”. He doesn’t understand the recession. All he knows is now Dad is around to fix him lunch, find “yellow blanket”, and get him in for a nap, while moms “goes to the office” in the morning.

Explaining all of this to our five year old, Peter, was a different matter. Christine came up with “Daddy’s old job finished. Now he is going to find something new and Mom too is going to ‘go to the office’ “. What Peter really understands is that it is Dad that takes him to pre-school, makes his lunch, and picks him up in the afternoon. We think that’s enough information him; at least for the moment.

What both boys do know for sure is that with Dad home, breakfast during the week is sometimes a treat. I’ve been known to make them David Eyre’s Pancake and homemade buttermilk pancakes. Both pretty easy  to make (Especially David Eyre’s), and also leaving very little in the way of leftovers.

July 7, 2009

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:00 pm by Nick

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