Thursday, October 19, 2017

Apple Has A Second Chance at the SEx (iPhone that is)

There's an old story that when Apple was getting ready to release the fast version of the Macintosh SE, their naming convention should have resulted in a Macintosh SEx, but they demurred and gave it the tamer name Macintosh SE/30.  I can remember desperately wanting one, one of the most legendarily future proof machines ever to come out of Cupertino.

And now, I'm waiting impatiently for the rumored new iPhone SE with a modern A11 Fusion chip to replace my rapidly slowing iPhone 5S. And what would you call an iPhone SE with the same processor as an iPhone X?

The Legendary SE/30 (via Wikipedia)

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Why Doesn't The Compass Work in Some iPhone Apps?

As a writer of apps—such as TV Towers USA—which rely on the device's compass, I periodically would hear from users who don't see the compass in my apps. This confused me as they would also report the built in iPhone compass app working. And the apps worked perfectly well for me.

I've finally figured out what is going on. At some point, the users had turned off compass calibration in their location privacy settings. And since my apps are set to request calibrated data, the app gets no compass data at all.

So, to fix, open the iOS Settings app.

Tap the Privacy item:

Tap the Location Services privacy item:
Tap the System Services item (way down on the bottom):

If Compass Calibration is disabled, then this was likely your problem. Enable it.

And, I hope, your app will go from not having an active compass, to having one:

I should look into detecting this condition and warning the user. Hope this helps.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

True North and the iOS Compass App

I recently got a 2 star review for my TV Towers USA app.

This would be a nice app if it pointed in the right direction!  Most of the time its sense of

direction differs from the compass app.

How can that be? ⭐⭐

Well, the short answer is that the iOS compass app tries to act like an old timey compass where North means magnetic North, and TV Towers USA instead is displaying the direction based on North being the Earth's north pole. You can go into the settings for the Compass app, turn on "True North", quit the Compass app and from then on, it will act like a super-compass that can calculate the location of the North Pole based on both magnetism and location.

I've put together a short video to describe the situation, and how to configure the iOS compass app.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Why an Ad Supported Model Isn't For Me

As always, I was grateful to get a 5 star review for Signal GH, my app to let HDHomerun users best point their antennas. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Very useful. - Does exactly as described. Very useful if you are aiming an outdoor antenna, especially on a roof or similar. Gives data that is all in one place and not easily found with other software. Kinda stings to buy an app that you only really need once or twice. Would be ok with ads built in to make it free as nobody needs an app like this very frequently.

I think this idea deserves a response.

I don't like apps with ads in them. As a consumer of apps, I don't download ad supported apps. I don't like the contortions ad support brings to an apps layout, and the lengths it drives developers to get more views.  So, I'm not inclined to use ads just on principle.

And even if I were so inclined. A little research indicates that a good ad rate would be $4 per 1000 ad views, or .4 pennies per view. Let's say that I could prolong the antenna pointing session long enough to squeeze 10 views out of my users, that would be 4¢ per user. Maybe, if I did a poor job in the first session, I could rake them back in for a second, so 8¢. I make $2.10 from a sale of Signal GH, and with that I'm far away from quit my day job territory, or even pay for my computer hardware territory. Nor is there a universe out there with 40 users for the app that will download a free version for every 1 that would pay for it, and if there were, how would I be able to respond to any tech support they needed?

Meanwhile my users have paid $100 for a decent antenna, $90-200 for an HDHomerun, plus cables, a pre-amp, connectors, paddle bits, drills, masts, grounding wires, and a TV. All of these cost more than the $2.99 they pay Apple for my app, and ending with a set up that will deliver free (ad supported) content for years.

So, no, I will not be moving to an ad supported model.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

On Typing Everything In - My Updated Web Site

I have a quirk of typing what most people wouldn't think type-able.

My wife was once going to be the stateside representative of a Beijing University department, and needed a business card. And as I wanted it to be a perfect business card, I typed the entire thing as EPS as in:

%!PS-Adobe-2.0 EPSF-1.2
%%Title: peking university logo.eps
%%CreationDate: 4/8/08 1:30 PM
%%BoundingBox: 0 0 50 50
{ circtextdict begin
/radius exch def
/centerangle exch def
/ptsize exch def
/str exch def
/xradius radius ptsize 4 div add def
centerangle str findhalfangle add rotate
{ /charcode exch def
( ) dup 0 charcode put outsideplacechar
} forall
} def
{ circtextdict begin
/radius exch def /centerangle exch def
/ptsize exch def /str exch def
/xradius radius ptsize 3 div sub def
centerangle str findhalfangle sub rotate
{ /charcode exch def
( ) dup 0 charcode put insideplacechar
} forall
} def
This was back when Postscript was fresh in my mind after rebuilding ChemDraw's Postscript sink, nowadays this looks about as confusing to me as it does to most of you. I will admit that doing text along a path in Postscript is not as easy as it sounds. 

And, of course, I write all the graphics for my iOS apps in raw SVG. This has been great for responsive design and reusability. as in this location dot/compass from my broadcast towers apps. 
It seems to me that a good way to learn something, whether it be Postscript, Swift, SVG or any other computer language, you have to roll up your writing sleeves and start typing. Thus, my goal the last month has been to learn CSS. As anybody looking at my sloppy Blogspot blog here can see, I have not been an expert in either HTML or CSS, and I have hopes of changing that. 

So, I took my old iWeb website (yes, I was still using iWeb) and wrote a new one from scratch in pure HTML/CSS. No Javascript, no Typescript, no frameworks or templates. The new meets my simple needs and is pretty nice, I  think, for somebody with so little experience with modern web page development. It's mobile first, responsive, and makes good use of many of the SVGs I use in my native apps. For instance, all the app pages, use the actual SVG I use to generate the PNGs for the app icons. 

It'd be nice if Safari supported my favorite SVG property: vector-effect="non-scaling-stroke" but other than that, the graphics just work and make for some very light pages, and graphics that scale as the size of the page changes. If you are on a desktop browser, go and see how the icons on my home page scale smoothly with the size of the page. Extra responsive and extra gratifying. 

Maybe now, I can get to work on my Swift CSS parsing project. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

When The Simulator Doesn't Act Like a Device

I had to pull Signal GH from the App Store two days ago because mach_absolute_time which is based on CPU clock cycles returns quite different values on my Mac Mini than it does on an iPhone 5S, and a quick hack I had done to fix the build for Xcode 8 resulted in a severely degraded user experience.

Well, thanks to the magic of Expedited Review, it's back in the Store. Thanks Apple and my apologies to any customers that had a bad experience.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Apple Doesn't Make a Mac I Would Eagerly Buy

I've been using Macs pretty much exclusively since I walked into the computer lab at International Falls Senior High and saw one in 1984. I've never not owned one since I bought a Mac Plus at the University of North Dakota bookstore in 1989.  I'm happy with the 2012 Mac Mini I'm writing this with.

And there is not a Mac that Apple sells that isn't so compromised that I would consider it worth its asking price.

The MacBook

Great looking computer, would buy them for my kids or to take on trips, but a single USB-C connector and a 1.2GHz Intel Core m5 do not make for a general purpose computer. At some point, somebody is going to have come with a single cable replacement to Thunderbolt that will drive a 5K monitor. Until then, I'd feel like I was buying a disposable machine. 

MacBook Pro 13-inch

Yes, Apple is still selling the same MacBook they sold me in 2011, more or less. It did manage to pick up USB 3.0 ports. Can put an extra hard drive in it. But 802.11n WiFi? 1280×800 screen? I already have this excellent but out of date machine. 

MacBook Pro Retina

I use one for work, and it is a great machine. Plenty of ports. Beautiful display. Great trackpad. Adequate keyboard. MagSafe connector.  Solid as a rock. I guess I could see getting the 13" model. But to be my main machine it would need a lot more that 1TB of storage and unlike my 2011 MacBook Pro, there's no place to put an extra drive in it. Plus, why is the 15" $700  more than the 13"?

MacBook Air

Who, at this point, is going to buy a MacBook Air, with its ridiculously out of date screen?


The 5K Retina iMac is actually quite a nice looking computer, but I just cannot get around the idea of permanently tying a desktop Mac to such an expensive monitor. Also, a desktop Mac with pretty much zero internal expandability. I used to own a PowerMac 7600, now that was an expandability monster. Maybe if it were cheaper. 

Mac Pro

I could buy one if I needed the performance level, but I'd feel foolish given how it hasn't been refreshed in 3 years and still has an entry level price of $3000.

Mac Mini

The current Mac Mini is a compromised product crippled—I would guess—to keep it from taking sales from higher margin machines. I feel bad for the engineers tasked with taking the epically nice 2012 design and removing all traces of internal expandability or quad-core processors. I feel bad for Phil Schiller for having to introduce it. I feel bad for anybody who paid full price for it. I feel bad.

The Buying Trigger

I'm happy with my Mac Mini. In order for me to get out my credit card, a Mac would have to do something my current one can't. So, if there was such a thing as an affordable quad core 13" Retina laptop, with 2TB of storage, and it had a single connector that would drive a 5K display, that would be something I would buy on the first day of availability. Until then, I'd only buy a new Mac if an old one broke.