iOSDevUK 2017

iOSDevUK is a conference for iOS developers that takes place at the Aberystwyth university campus in Wales (You get to be a student again).  It is a 4 day event which features talks on the latest iOS frameworks, best practices and ends with a 10 hour hackathon.  Sadly Andrew (iOS developer from Priority) and I could not attend the Hackathon.

The event was less hands on than previous developer events like iOSConf which was a shame but we still got to learn about some of the latest iOS 11 frameworks like:

ARKit

This is Apple’s augmented reality framework which looks really impressive.  We have been waiting for Apple to do something in the AR space since they brought Metaio in 2015.  With the new iPhones having 2 back facing cameras to allow the device to detect depth, the mapping of virtual objects to real life objects has become very accurate.  In the workshop we saw how to place space invaders ships in the real world.

CoreML

CoreML is Apple’s machine learning framework which allows you to take your algorithms from other platforms and use them on your iOS device.  You can’t actually generate your model on the device but you can import it from many different tools (Caffe, SciKit, Kera) and it will run on the device hardware accelerated. The main aim of this talk was to clarify what CoreML’s abilities were as there was a lot of confusion when Apple announced it

FileProviders

So with iOS 11, you’re going to get a file system, like you do in Windows etc.  This workshop showed how you could make your own cloud service like Dropbox and integrate it into iOS11.  This was one of the only talks in ObjectiveC rather than Swift.

ServerSide Swift

This talk went over 3 apps that the company had made using ServerSide Swift which included a SlackBot, a CI tool and an Alexa tool, however the presenter did say that server side swift was far from production ready which was a little bit of a let down.  They suggested the best way to get started with it was to use Docker.

There were a few talks on Design patterns and where to use which ones like VIPER, MVVM, MVP etc.  VIPER seems to becoming popular if your iOS app is very big.  

There were a few talks on the whole pipeline of testing and releasing builds using Unittest, UI test, Jenkin’s, Fastlane and GitHub issues however it was only a overview and not actually how to go about setting it up

 

 

 

WWDC 2017

This years WWDC saw lots of new hardware being released but not too much cool new features mentioned. This definitely felt the year that Apple played catch up to Amazon, Google and Samsung.

Safety

2 Features that stood out to me, Emergency SOS and Do Not Disturb While Driving. The first allows you to setup an “Auto Call” to the emergency services if the Sleep/Wake button is pressed five times.  The 2nd feature will block all notifications, texts and phone calls if the phone detects your driving.  Of course you can turn it off if your friend is driving!  I think features like this really should get more attention because they can save lives!

Business Chat

This was not mentioned on the main WWDC keynote but thanks to Sean Antony from Digital Products, it was brought to my attention.  This is actually a big deal.  The idea is that you can just message a business like you would a friend instead of phoning them up, being on hold, listening to terrible music etc.  You can even purchase goods directly in the chat.

HomePod

In simple terms this is Apple’s answer to Google Home and Amazon’s Echo however it’s being marketed as a smart speaker rather than a smart assistant.  It designed to deliver amazing audio quality and uses spatial awareness to sense its location in a room and automatically adjust the audio, however it costs over twice as much as an Amazon Echo or Google Home Device and requires a Apple Music subscription (sorry Spotify fans).  That being said, Apple fans will buy it, and don’t be surprised if high numbers are sold.

Hardware updates

New Macbook, iMac and iPad pros all got announced, the one that caught my eye was the new iMac pro, the most powerful machine they have every made, starting at $5000, it should be!  I am an Apple fan however you can buy a lot for $5000.  The new iPad pros’ support brighter screens , the 9.7” one has put on some weight and is now 10.5” and both offers screen refresh rates of up to 120Hz for better responsiveness smoother motion

MacOS High Sierra

Apple’s new operating system is called High Sierra, I am not sure much effort went into the name (previous version is Sierra).  It will finally allows Mac users to experience Virtual Reality (assuming you will need a new Mac) and supports a new file system called Apple File System.  Safari will now block autoplaying videos and keep advertisers from tracking Mac users.

Apple TV / Apple Watch

Very minor updates here, Apple TV can act as a HomeKit Speaker and is getting Amazon Prime (Whoop Whoop), Apple Watch got some new fitness stuff, Core Bluetooth support, Toy Story clock faces and a watch face that uses Siri to offer up dynamic suggestions that change based on user preference and time of day.

iOS 11 “The Biggest iPad release ever”

This is what we are truly here for!  So iOS 11 for iPad looks to really improve the multitasking ability on a iPad, it allows you to drag and drop things and give you a Mac like dock at the bottom of the screen to.  The demo they gave did get me wanting a new iPad.  They have also introduced a new Files app which is just their iPad version of Finder / Windows Explorer.

Other new features, Apple Pay now supports person-to-person payments via iMessage, a new framework called ARKit which will make making Augmented Reality apps a lot easier and a new machine learning framework called MLKit which will allow you to take your complex algorithms from other systems and use them on your phone GPU.  This will pave the way to more intelligent apps.

Siri is also getting smarter via deep learning and will soon suggest content to its users based on their Safari searches 🙂  iOS 11 also knows when you use an app and so now has a setting to offload unused apps, this is a great feature to save space on your device.

Swift Playgrounds

This is a iPad app that allows you to learn to code in Swift.  Since its been on the AppStore (just under a year), over 1 million people are using it to learn Swift.  Version 1.5 has a host of new features including a framework to talk to robots, drones and robotics kits like the LEGO Mindstorms kit, the Parrot Drone or Dash Robot.  

 

iOSConf 2017

iOSCon 2017

iOSCon is a 2 conference in London for people interested in iOS development and the Swift programming language.  I got the chance to attend with a few people from Digital Products who work on our apps like MyO2, O2 Drive and Priority.   I was rather looking forward to going as I have had my feet out of the iOS development circle for a while.  Working in the Lab requires you to jump around from technology to technology, each project could be written in a completely different programming language, tool or involve no coding at tall.

The conference covered things like:

  • New design patterns / ways to architect your app (VIPER, VIP and Clean to Flux, Redux and Reactive, POP)
  • Better ways to do API calls(Protocol Buffers and GraphQL) ,
  • How to get started in functional reactive programming,
  • Better ways to do Test Driven Development (some people call it Test Driven Design) by using Swift Playgrounds.
  • A few talks on accessibility and how to debug it.

What was interesting about this conference compared to others was the focus on behind the scenes stuff.  Previous conferences I had attended featured a lot of talks on UI, user experience, building custom controls etc.  This conference focused on making your code more stable, structured and easier to test.

You can find most of the talks here for free: https://skillsmatter.com/conferences/8180-ioscon-2017-the-conference-for-ios-and-swift-developers?tc=260f81#skillscasts

Here are 2 talks I really enjoyed:

It’s about time by Daniel Steinberg

This was a rather hard hitting talk about striking the right balance between work and home life.  He focuses on things like, either work or relax, don’t try to mix them, don’t go home and think of work. He tries to get you to focus on why you’re doing something, not the what your doing.  He also covered planning your day better and how interruptions cost you.  Every time someone bothers you for a minute, it takes 23 minutes to recover, even if it’s you who caused the interruption.

If you’re interested in watching the talk, check the link below, warning it may make you rethink things a bit.

https://skillsmatter.com/skillscasts/9447-keynote-it-s-about-time#video

The second talk I really enjoyed was

Natural Swift: write Swift the way it was meant to be written by Paul Hudson

The talk focuses on 3 topics which together can really help you improve your code.  The first is POP (Protocol oriented Programming), the second is Functional Programming which focused on the map, flatmap, filter and reduce commands.  These really impressed me because they can do in 1 line of code, what I would usually do in 5.  The last topic he covered was value types,  ObjectiveC is very different to Swift and you need to know what is a value type and what’s a reference type.

Sadly this talk was not filmed by Skillscast however you can download it for free from https://gumroad.com/l/natural-swift

Xcode 6.4 crashing after installing Xcode 7.01 when viewing a storyboard

I don’t usually blog about crashes etc but this one wasted me a few hours.  I was working on a iOS 8.4 project in Xcode 6.4.  Each time I edited the storyboard, Xcode would instantly crash.  However my colleague’s machine did not?  The only difference we could see (even after reinstalling Xcode) was I had also had Xcode 7.1 installed.  Usually this would be fine however something changed with the libraries it uses (PepperUICore).  It was only when I found this post, I saw the fix

https://forums.developer.apple.com/thread/21927

The fix, which worked for me was to run the following commands to make some symbolic links

sudo ln -s “/Library/Developer/CoreSimulator/Profiles/Runtimes/iOS 8.4.simruntime/Contents/Resources/RuntimeRoot/System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/PepperUICore.framework” “/Library/Developer/CoreSimulator/Profiles/Runtimes/iOS 9.0.simruntime/Contents/Resources/RuntimeRoot/System/Library/PrivateFrameworks”

sudo ln -s “/Library/Developer/CoreSimulator/Profiles/Runtimes/iOS 8.4.simruntime/Contents/Resources/RuntimeRoot/System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/SockPuppetGizmo.framework” “/Library/Developer/CoreSimulator/Profiles/Runtimes/iOS 9.0.simruntime/Contents/Resources/RuntimeRoot/System/Library/PrivateFrameworks”

 

 

New version of Hack24 submitted!

I May of just solved a programming issue that’s been bugging me for many months. The only way I thought I could get round it was a complete rewrite of the 3D engine for Hack24. However it seems you can get around the massive performance with Hack24 by having multiple threads. Yes seems obvious however this is OpenGL world and that is completely different, the items have to created in the main context!

The fix worked, so a new version of Hack24 has been submitted (with other bug fixes!)

Xamarin : Results so far

So, I been playing with Xamarin on and off (damn meetings) and I am slowly getting to grips with it.  I am not a C# developer so while learning Xamarin, I am also learning C#!

I have to be honest, some things I have found a real struggle.  The Android part of my project just died, would not build for toffee, after many hours of search for info, even talking to Xamarin (work call), it turned out to be a corrupt package in a hidden directory.  To be fair, with every new tool, language you are going to learn these issues.

The other random issue which I have not solved is using OpenTk and OpenGL to render a cube on the screen.  This is completely shared code (WOOHOO) however iOS works, Android does not.  One thing I picked up from when speaking to Xamarin is that if any platform is going to break, its Android due to Google pushing updates.  I can respect that!  Android Studio 0.9 -> 1.0 broke every project for me.

The Show must go on!

I can see some real benefits from Xamarin, if I was a C# developer I would be in heaven!  I really want to see whats possible with Xamarin Forms, the holy grail of mobile development (Be warned its not!, its a good technology for a certain job, not all jobs).

In all honestly I don’t have much interest in Xamarin Native which is where you write C# code that directly binds to native Apple/Android Api’s.  I would prefer just to do it in Xcode / Android Studio.

Focus!

I think my personal focus for Xamarin is looking at cross-platform game development using MonoGame or OpenTK.OpenGL.  I either need to learn XNA for MonoGame 3D stuff or see how different the OpenGl is on OpenTK.  This however brings me to the question, why am I not using Unity3D?

My work focus is Xamarin Forms and working out how far you can go with them.  I have been told things like custom pins on a map is a no go on Forms.

I will keep you posted on what I discover!

 

 

WWDC 2015 Keynote highlights

This years WWDC was divided into 4 key areas.  The overall keynote felt more of improvements to current systems / apps instead of anything ground breaking.  This is not a bad thing if it improves the user’s experience.

iOS 9

  • Apple News app allows you to get all the latest news in a very rich way (pictures, animations etc). I been told by others it’s like Flipboard,  sad times for Flipboard.
  • Apple Pay is coming to the UK and Apple Wallet allows you to group your store / credit cards together.
  • Maps now show Transit routes for major cities.
  • New iPad only split screen / multitasking modes that allow you to use 2 apps at the same time.  Looks super fun and cool but the best parts are only supported on a iPad Air 2.
  • Swift 2 announced and is going open source.
  • iOS 9 installation size will be a lot smaller than iOS 8!

WatchOS 2

The biggest announcement from a developer’s point of view was WatchOS 2

  • Native Apps.  This is the big change, you now have access to the watch hardware (sensors and buttons).  The watch can now do stuff without being connected to the phone.
  • Third-party complications.  Complications are basically watch face widgets that you can create.  You could create a Complication that shows your heart rate as part of your watch face.
  • Better health and fitness performance
  • New Siri capabilities.  You can now ask Siri to start a 5 mile run, or go for a 300 calorie bike ride

OSX El Capitan

Lots of small improvements however it felt like a maintenance release instead of a new big shiny thing.  The support for split screen for apps is cool, but Windows 8 has had that for a while.  Mac gets the 3D engine called Metal which iOS got in iOS 8

Apple has merged it iOS and Mac developer program which is a good move, the Mac app store is a bit of a graveyard.

Apple Music

This was Apple’s big announcement.  In summary, imagine Sportify + a 24 hour radio station managed by Zane Lowe.  $9.99 a month or $14.99 for families (up to 6 people)

Xamarin ???

This week, I will mostly be looking at Xamarin 🙂

On a serious note, I have been asked at work to take a look at Xamarin and see if it’s something that can be used, and if so for what.  The native iOS/Android developer in me instantly goes NOOO.  However the excited child in me always says yes!

I think I assumed I knew what Xamarin did without actually knowing, and their hugely limited free version kept the hobbiest in me away. However, starting the free trail and looking in to things, shows that actually this is could be pretty cool!  I am not ready to review it yet because I have not made my first app yet, but initial research of a few days is looking promising.

The main decision I need to make is to choose between Xamarin Native and Xamarin Forms.  Xamarin forms does look very good (Universal app) however I don’t think their website info on it is up to date compared to what is actually possible.  They basically say that anything marginally complex should be done in Native.  However if you see some of the stuff people have done, its very impressive.

I hope to do a post by the end of the week on how I got on with making a simple app 🙂