I attended the iPhoneDevCamp in Boulder over the weekend. It was an awesome event with about 30 people attending. The iPhoneDevCamp is an un-conference. That means that there is no schedule and that the attendees decide what they want to talk about. Friday evening was a get to know you and find out what folks wanted to discuss on Saturday. There were a variety of topics from how to use Xcode, to Core Data to how to sign code for a client. Attending any session is optional and the idea is to participate.
Kendall Gelner is quite the expert on Xcode, but unfortunately he was out sick so I lead the Xcode session as I have attended his xcode debugging sessions 3 times, so by now I remember some not all of his tips.
We also has sessions on Interface Builder and Core Data. It was good to get another primer on Core Data as I am about to start using it for my Super Secret Project. I had two highlights. First was seeing a DFVideoOut demo, which can be used to demo your iPhone using the video out. No need to crowd around the iPhone or point a video camera at the phone. My second highlight was seeing Bob Kressin tell us a bit about the hardware certification process and how his company is developing prototypes. All in all a great day. I missed out on Sunday, which was a code jam. Two teams were given a few words that they had to use as the title for their application. Both teams managed to produce something to show in one and a half hours.
Thanks to the sponsors Metafy LLC, Xcellent Creations, Inc., and especially Joe Pezillo for putting it on.
I was just reading on Mobile Orchard that 148Apps is holding their second annual “Best App Ever Awards” for iPhone Applications. There are 55 categories, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a “Best App for Primary School Kids”. That is so great that the educational apps have been broken down into sub sections as many educational apps are geared toward different end users.
I naturally nominated my “Math Explosion Multiplication and Division” App as it is a great way to get kids to learn their Multiplication and Division facts without using boring flash cards. The game is pretty simple and is based off minute math, where you have to solve as many equations as quickly as possible within 1 minute. It is race against time as the fuse burns down on the dynamite. The equations are initially easy and get progressively harder. The kids use a calculator type interface to enter their answers as I think the multiple choice approach leads to guessing. If you are successful you are rewarded with fireworks and you get to go to the next level. If you are not successful the screen “blows up” and you have to start again.
For parents and educators the application only shows equations you have not seen or have previously got wrong. The game also has a high score system so you can see how well a child did. Plus it gets kids motivated to try to do better each time.
For the kids the buttons make fun sounds which of course include fart noises. Having levels and a scoring system gets them trying to beat their friends and they try to go so fast to beat the fuse.
So go and nominate “Math Explosion Multiplication and Division” for “The Best App for Primary School Kids“
I think I had a great week all in all. It sometimes felt like everything I was coding just did not want to work. But things worked out on the home stretch. The nice thing about having multiple projects to work on is that you can switch gears if something is not working and you need some time to figure things out.
I have been doing some consulting for a small business in town. They are expanding and moving into a new building. As part of their expansion plans they wanted to ensure Internet connectivity and so wanted to have redundant incoming lines. I found a Syswan Duolinks SW24 load balancer that looks like it will do the trick. It should load balance traffic over the available connections and notify you if a line goes down. Now if both lines go down, how will you get notified? I guess it will be stumped.
Part of the expansion was a need for more phones, with the ability to start off small, but be able to expand as more staff is added.
I found what looks like a really good VOIP service www.vocalocity.com for a small business in town that I doing some consulting for. The phones and service will be purchased early next week. VOIP is the way to go to keep your costs down and for all the amazing features you can get even without owning any telephony equipment. The owner decided to go with VOIP phones Cisco SPA942 4-line IP phone that uses POE (Power Over Ethernet). This means that the phone gets it power needs via the Ethernet cable. No power adapters to deal with, and so long as the network equipment is on a UPS the phone will still work.
The last piece of equipement to buy was a Netgear FS726TP 24 port switch with POE to power those phones. All the equipment can bought at www.amazon.com.
The main Top Secret iPhone Application I am working on is going well. It looks really good as we have an awesome graphics designer. There are many screen and I have been getting the basic framework knocked out. That had some challenges, which I finally surmounted. I think there is a bug with one of the UINavigationController calls, but I found a simpler way that worked.
Next week will require some more coding to get content into those many blank screens.
I have been busy with a few projects. Some are straight forward contract projects doing iPhone development. I have also been working for another start up, which is in super secret, stealth mode. We will only have a product ready to be released in April 2010. The nice thing about this project is that it includes both web and iPhone development. On top of that I am also doing some contract work for RightStart helping them get their systems up and running. But all in all I had a great Thanksgiving and even took the Friday after Thanksgiving off.
Here is an interesting article on very young kids using smart phones. http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2009/11/01/why_an_iphone_could_actually_be_good_for_your_3_year_old/ While I think it is fine for very young kids to be using technology the amount of time they spend with technology needs to be limited. Get out and get some fresh air and talk to your kids. Don’t let the iPhone become the baby sitter.
I was briefly excited when the phone rang and it said Apple Inc on the Caller ID. Maybe they were going feature one of my applications? What was the call for? Before I could let my mind wander much further I answered the call and a very nice Apple employee told me that I had to remove the Cover Flow look alike images from my screen shots. At first I thought I had to remove it from Pill Puzzle, which would not have been nice at all. But it was just one of the images that I used to promote the application on iTunes. The change has been done. I should have asked for a phone number so that I could have my Apple insider.
The new version of Pill Puzzle has been released. there are two new levels. I see that what I write in the “What is new section” is what users see. I thought this was what the Apple reviewers saw and so I did not hype up the two new fantastic levels that are just fabulous. Well this a learning experience. I just received an email though telling me that the review of “Pill Puzzle” has been delayed. I hope they mean the Lite version as the updated Pill Puzzle seems be available.
I decided to update the icons for the Math Explosion games as I felt the old ones did not convey what the applications did. They looked a bit static and more like an application that taught time. So I added an equation to each icon to make the purpose very obvious, these are math applications. But in order to jazz it up a bit I made the clock faces blurry to give it a sense of urgency. I kept the grunge look for the Multiplication and Division game and kept the clean look for the Addition and Subtraction game. Hopeful this will get peoples attention and more downloads.
This update took a bit longer 9 days only, not too bad. The email arrived on Friday evening. I have been so busy I thought that it was shorter until I counted the number of days. There are so many apps that have been released that I think it was pushed down on the new releases list. I changed the release date to today so hope it will be noticed for a while.
I do not have do cabling very often, but know how it supposed to be done. I mean what is so hard about putting on an RJ45 plug and connecting a new WiFi router. I can never remember the order of the wires but a quick search on Wikipedia and I was away. I have a nice crimping tool I bought from my previous employer when they went out of business, so I was all set. I figured that adding this extension to my kids school network would be a piece of cake. I unfortunately hit a snag as soon I arrived. I could easily get onto the WiFi, but could not get onto the wired network. I was using my Macbook and am not all that familiar with the networking on it but at home it has always been simply plug and play. I knew it would be no use putting on the plugs if I could not even connect on an existing working cable. I figured that I could log onto a PC and see the network setting and configure the laptop to connect. But alas… I did not have any of the passwords for the PC’s and could not get hold of anyone to get the passwords. I figured that I may as well put the on the RJ45 plugs and test the cable my test tool and verify that the cable test matched a working cable. After crawling around in and out of the basement putting on plugs cutting off plugs I finally gave up feeling quite frustrated. The following day with passwords in hand and two laptop, my faithful HP tablet running Ubuntu Linux and my Macbook. It turned out that my Linux laptop simply worked once connected to the existing Ethernet. A quick check of the main router and I saw no weird settings to prevent me adding to the network. That was a good sign as I would be able to test the new cable. Excitement soon led to dissapointment. The cable would not work. Replace the plug on one end of the cable, still no workee, replace the plug on the other end, grr still not working. In and out of the basement, now I am wondering if the cable is too long and I start pacing it out but cannot trace where it has been run too when it disappears through a hole. I finally called a friend who has a tool to specifically test Ethernet cables. 20 minutes later with new tool in hand I test the cable and yes it is failing on some pins. There are no crossed over wires, which is a good sign. I cut off the plug insert the wires and then decide to pull the cable out before crimping. Sure enough there was one wire that was all scrunched up that had not gone into the plug correctly. I trimmed the ends of the wires and tried again. This time they all went in nice and smoothly. A quick race down to the basement to replace the plug on the other end and yet another test. Yahoo!! the cable tester verified the cable was good. I plugged it into the laptop and was online surfing the web. If only I had been more careful about checking the wires had gone in all the way. Next time I have to do cabling I will have to remember that little trick to ensure the wires are in snug. Today I connected the Linksys WiFi router and made sure that it worked in the class rooms. It didn’t take too long to do. I setup a new subnet and simply left the router acting as a gateway. I will probably change it to be a router if there is a need to send and receive files between computers on the two LANs. But it is all working and confirmed to be working using a Mac, Windows XP and Linux. I wish the hardware part of this project had gone as smoothly as the software.