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WWDC 2010 – An Aussie’s Experience

In 2010, I was fortunate and lucky enough to be awarded an Apple University Consortium (AUC) staff scholarship. One of the advantages of working at University! At the time, I had been heavily involved in mobile web apps and iOS apps – both professionally and personally and was also well and truly an Apple convert. So to say I was over the moon was an under statement.

With WWDC 2011 only a few days away, I thought I would share my experiences and a few tips.

Tip #1 – Stay up until night time on the day you arrive

Coming from Australia, jet lag can be an absolute nightmare. The first time I visited the USA, I made the mistake of crashing at the hotel as soon as I arrived (about 2pm). The next 4-5 days were a whitewash of hazy memories, waking up at 3pm and wasting entire days.

For WWDC2010, I made an effort to stay up to 9pm on that first day – and was completely fine the next day. A world of difference and a great start to your trip.

Tip # 2 – Seek out your core group

Being part of the AUC group made a huge difference to my experiences and I still keep in contact with some of the AUC group I travelled with to this day, a year on. Having fellow Aussies (and a few NZ’ers) to talk to made me feel relaxed and feel as though as I was amongst friends straight away. Travelling by yourself can be difficult, and without this core group, I probably would have stayed in my hotel room a fair bit more than I did. It was great to hear about people’s experiences around the AUC community – some very interesting projects and initiatives – particularly from some PhD students.

Tip #3 – Go to sessions which you don’t necessarily know anything about rather than ones you are familiar with

In the first few days of the conference I stuck to the sessions which I was already somewhat familiar with. Of course, I still learned a lot and I would recommend you continue to go to these sessions. But! Make an effort to go to at least a couple of sessions where you really don’t know the first thing about the topic. That’s when you really start challenging your own approach to development.

Tip #4 – Go to the Design Awards & Stump the Experts

The Design Awards are a great homage to the cream of the crop of app developers. It a fun and light hearted award ceremony where the Apple execs really do place an emphasis on what the talented developers have made for the Apple platforms. It’s also a good chance to gain an insight into what apps the Apple team members themselves use.

I admittedly skipped the Stump the Experts session because I was simply too tired that night. But if you can have a red bull or two, I hear its well worth attending – particularly for your inner geek.

Tip #5 – Go to the WWDC Bash

The band is generally OK, but its more a chance to have a few drinks and get to know your group of friends a bit more. The food is also pretty nice too.

Tip #6 – Sign up for app appraisal session as soon as you arrive

I was too late for this sadly. Apple was offering a limited number of spots for a developer to sit down with some Apple employees and talk about their app. From design suggestions to suggested functionality improvements, it sounds incredibly useful. Unfortunately the limited number of spots per day were booked out very very early on. So if this sounds like something you would want, make sure you make it your first task when you arrive at the Moscone Center. I think its worth checking each day if there had been any cancellations too…

Tip #7 – Eat lunch with a different table of people every day

It can be pretty daunting walking into the absolutely huge lunch area, being funnelled through the lunch stations and then looking at the mass of tables everywhere and trying to figure out where to sit. For the most part, if you haven’t gone into the lunch room with someone you know, you will have no chance of “bumping’ into someone you know. So don’t look like an idiot trying to find your buddy, just find the nearest free spot on a table and ask if its free. Done! Remember, a lot of people are in the same position as you. So asking a simple question like “What session did you just attend?” can be a good ice breaker. It can also be really interesting to find out what they do for a living and more often that not, people are keen to show off their apps.

Tip #8 – Line up early for the keynote… but not crazily early

The keynote is one of the bigger aspects to the WWDC experience. There are always going to be the hardcore people that start lining up the night before or at some ungodly hour in the morning.

For me, I work up at 6 and was in the line just before 7am, with my breakfast burrito and and hot drink. I spent about 90 minutes being funnelled through a spiral of rooms inside the Moscone Center. But I easily got into the main room well before the Stevenote. I obviously wasn’t up the front but there are plenty of big screens around to give you  close up view of the man himself.

The keynote is definitely worth going to, for the announcements ofcourse. But also for the buzz and atmosphere.

Tip #9 – Afternoon/Morning Tea’s – Watch your sugar

The food and drink provided in between sessions is just what a geek ordered. But it usually consists of sugar sprinkled with more sugar. So go easy if you are on a diet.

Tip #10 – Take your macbook and use subthaedit

I never used subthaedit but from what I could see, it was heavily used at the sessions as a collaborative notetaking initiative. Also great if there are two sessions on at the same time (which aren’t repeated later on in the week) which you are interested in. Ofcourse, the video’s of the sessions will be available after WWDC anyway..

Tip #11 – Remember the NDA

Remember not to tweet about new stuff announced at WWDC (the only exception being the keynote announcements). You are under NDA not to disclose things. Don’t tempt fate by being a loud mouth.

Tip #12 – Be nice to security & organisational staff

They do a great job – it can’t be easy to have to deal with thousands of geeks lining up and occasionally whinging about the stupidest things. Take a moment to say thanks to them as you go into a session.

Tip #13 – Wireless

In 2010, the wireless situations was pretty terrible. I ended up staying in the session rooms which had a decent wireless signal. Hopefully this year they have sorted it out – but definitely do not MiFi up the area.. that would just be terrible.

Tip #14 – Take time for yourself

After back to back sessions, day after day, you will get tired. You can’t concentrate anymore. So if you are starting to feel it, take some time for yourself. Get away from Moscone, do some tourist stuff. Whatever. Just recharge your batteries so you can ensure you are fully engaged for the sessions you really really want to go to.

I would love to go to a future WWDC, it was a great experience. The biggest thing I took away from the conference was the networking with fellow AUC’ers and the amount of motivation it gave me  to continue with mobile and iOS related projects. It really did inspire me to keep going and improve on my personal app too.

Evolution of an iOS app – Part 1

Back in 2008, in the middle of a 4 month trip overseas, I purchased an iPod Touch. It was awesome and opened my eyes up to the new wave of hand-held smart phone devices which were being released. My mobile phone at the time was a trusty but severely outdated Sony Ericsson. Time to immerse myself in the latest technology! So when I arrived back home after my travels, I quickly bought my first iPhone – an iPhone 3G. And so started my interest in all things mac and all things iOS.

By the end of 2008 I had also completed my mac transition by purchasing a macbook. During 2009, at work I became heavily involved with mobile application development and iPhone app development (although not from the programming side).

On a personal level, although I had the tools available (mac + iPhone) and a knowledge of programming, I didn’t feel capable of developing my own iPhone app. Prior to this, I was well versed in web development. It is what I felt comfortable doing and had had a fair bit of success doing. Application development & dealing with things such as memory management just seemed like another world which I was a complete novice at.

First Idea

So sometime in 2009, I wrote a blog post with an idea for an iPhone app. It would allow someone to post to various social networking websites at the same time – twitter , facebook, myspace, yammer etc. It seems like a very obvious thing to do now and their are now companies who make a lot of money from widgets and apps that do this – but back then, there was only one other iPhone app which did this – and it required you to sign up to their service and was all around not user friendly. So my blog post put the idea out there and it was picked up be a UK developer who worked with me to develop the app. In the process of the app being made, I started thinking “hey.. I could have done this myself”. So after the app we did together launched and failed to get any traction I set my sights on thinking of another idea I could do completely on my own.

Second Idea

10 months later…

It was the end of 2009, Christmas time. I tend to buy a lot of my Christmas gifts online as I really hate shopping centres at that time of the year.

So there I was getting many presents delivered by various companies. Having to login to all the tracking sites, copy/paste my tracking numbers each time. Annoying. So an idea for an app was born. Of course, the first thing to do is track for apps that already do this! After a search, there was only one app which had a great design – but it only supported ~10 U.S. based providers. Great! Still a huge market left and a great opportunity to make my app even better with more features. I initially would focus purely on Australian delivery companies. In fact, at this stage expanding beyond Australia was not even on the cards..

It Begins

I signed up for the iPhone Developer Program, downloaded XCode and in early January 2010, opened up Photoshop to come up with some initial designs.

You can see the initial name for the app was “Postee”. I had forgotten about this haha. I quite like it. I wish I could remember why I changed it 🙂 (update – ahh chat transcripts are great for nostalgia – here’s why). Another name which a friend suggested was “Keep Me Posted”. I liked this, but I decided against it because it wouldn’t neatly fit in the space available under the app icon on the device home screen.

So design is the (kinda) easy part of this whole experience and you can see that even today, the current app still looks pretty darn similar. How about the coding?! Well with zero knowledge of Objective-C and little application programming knowledge (despite dabbling in some .NET apps) I sure had a lot of learning to do.

Next?

Part 2 (and more?) will cover how I managed to learn Objective-C and the iPhone SDK and make the app a reality. I will also cover more on the business side such as contacting a whole bunch of shipping providers, GST obligations, earnings, marketing, support methods and how the app and feature set has evolved. Stay tuned.

iOS Development – Gotcha #1

I do some iOS development (both personally and for work). It’s great. But. It’s also very painful at times.

One reason it is painful is the provisioning profiles & certificates setup. I dread the next time my provisioning profiles or worse, certificates expire. It’s just annoying. And always involves way too much clicking and anxious holding of my breath when I click the magical “build” button.. just waiting for those terribly unhelpful codesign errors.

Certificates expire every 12 months.
Development provisioning profile expire every 3 months.
Push notifications certificate expire every 12 months.

Anyway, I experienced a terrible gotcha today. I had to shake my head in wonderment. I was helping a colleague do a distribution build for a new app for work. As I am team agent (i.e. super admin) for our work’s iOS Dev Portal I was assisting in setting up their macbook with the distribution certificates, creating app ID’s and all sort of other annoying stuff.

The gotcha came as I was creating the distribution provisioning profile. My process was:

  1. Login to iOS Provisioning Portal as Team Admin
  2. Create Distribution Provisioning Profile
  3. Download to my mac
  4. Email to colleague
  5. Have him double click it to install into his XCode

Sounds simple right?

Well, the last step refused to work. No matter what. We tried everything we could think of. Extensive googling and an all around waste of 20 minutes of our frustrating afternoon.

So for giggles, I asked him to let me login to the iOS Provisioning Profle on his macbook. Thinking I was asking to do something which was a complete waste of time.

So I logged in, downloaded the provisioning profile & double-clicked to install. Voila. It worked. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

It was the SAME user logging in. Downloading the SAME provisioning profile.

The moral of the story for anyone experiencing a similar issue and who googles “provisioning profile won’t install”: DONT EMAIL PROVISIONING PROFILES. They obviously dont like to be emailed.

* Compressing the provisioning profile prior to emailing may have worked. But I didn’t want to waste any more time on the ridiculous process, so I didn’t try. I was emailed through exchange, but exchange didn’t complain about the file type or anything like that.

More iOS related posts to come. Both positive (i.e. making money!!) and probably more gotcha’s.

Running & C25K

In October 2010, I was feeling quite unfit and unhealthy, so was looking for something to motivate me for exercise. I have been through a number of different phases for fitness – namely doing some home video workouts – Body Combat (which I love), ChaLean Xtreme (which I love) and even a little bit of P90X and Insanity (which I love to hate). They are all great, but you do get a bit bored of them after a while. When you have memorised every little joke or inflection in the trainers voice on each video, you know it might be time to move on. I reckon doing each of those for a month each would be great, to keep things a bit fresh. And during winter I probably will revert back to this style of exercise.

But I digress.

I have never enjoyed running long distances. As a youngster I was an OK sprinter but would absolutely hate the torture of running cross country. But being a little older now I thought I would give it another go – armed with some technology for extra motivation ofcourse!

Running Programs

In browsing through some of the offerings for running apps on the iPhone App Store I came across the C25K program – which stands for “Couch to 5k”. C25K is a fantastic program that’s been designed to get just about anyone from the couch to running 5 kilometers or 30 minutes in just 9 weeks. The training program is freely available on the c25K website (metric version here). The program eases the participant into a running longer and longer distances, starting with frequent short bursts of running with recovery walking sessions in between each short run. It slowly builds up your fitness and stamina until your body is ready to attack the longer distances.

iPhone Apps

So I had the running program which would keep me motivated and allow me to achieve goals each week. The next component to assist in my motivation was finding an iPhone app which would complement the running program.

The core features you would want in a running app are:

  • Audio cues for interval alerts (e.g. “Run now for 1 minute”, “Walk now for 2 minutes”)
  • Audio cues for progress alerts (e.g. “Current pace is XX:XX” & “Current distance is XX.XXkm” etc)
  • Map your running path via GPS
  • Split and interval times
  • Calories burned
  • Listen to your own music

Searching the App Store for “C25k” you get a fair few results. The first app I took a look at was “C25k (Couch 2 5K)” by BlueFin Software. It looked and seemed to function well, but I was after something a bit more future-proof which I could use well beyond the C25K 9 week program.

So for general running apps there’s a few big players – all of which are great and would satisfy my requirements. The main ones being “RunKeeper Pro“, “Runmeter” and “Kintetic“. These range from $5-$12 – although RunKeeper Pro is currently free on an extended promotion.

I went with RunKeeper Pro which was pricey sum of $12 at the time – but well worth the money. RunKeeper syncs my workouts to the runkeeper.com website, the GPS works really well & battery life does not suck too badly. It doesn’t have the C25K program built in when you purchase it, but it only takes 5 minutes to setup the program as a set of custom activities. The main advantage being that I can use this beyond the C25K program and for a large variety of other exercise types besides running.

Accessories

The other running related accessories I had to buy were:

  • iPhone Armband
  • Decent running shoes

For the iPhone armband, I ended up getting a Belkin armband from eBay. There’s heaps of armbands out there to choose from – the main things to make sure you get are ones with good moisture control (after all, you don’t want your iPhone to lose its warranty because of sweat), adjustable strap and ease of getting the iPhone in and out quickly.

I spent the first couple of weeks running on grass at the local park and with my standard running shoes. I quickly found I was getting a lot of arch pain as I have quite high arches and tend to roll my foot in. It got to the point where I felt I would need to stop the program. So I went down to Athletes Foot and got a decent pair of running shoes (Brooks Addiction 9) with some extra arch support inserts. The salesperson warned me the pain might get worse before it gets better due to the significant change in arch support and my body needing to get used to it. But the effect for me was immediate – the only pain I felt the first time I ran in the new shoes was the blisters. Fantastic shoes.

I also have found I much prefer running on concrete/footpaths as I find grass to be too uneven. I think the unevenness in the ground was contributing to my arch pain as my feet must have needed to make minor stability adjustments with each step.

Future Plans

So how did I go with the program? Well, I got to the final week of the C25K program and really did fall in love with running during the 9 weeks. I looked forward to getting home from work and going out for a run, it became a routine and one which I really enjoyed. The only thing I didn’t like was running on the really hot days – I really struggled in the heat. But when there’s a nice breeze and the sun is out without being too hot or humid, it was an enjoyable experience.

Unfortunately in the last week of the program, life for very busy with bringing a new puppy home and I didn’t stick to the program in the final week. So I didn’t quite manage to do 30 minutes of continuous running @ a 6 min/km pace. But I did get very very close.

After finishing C25K i did have plans to continue on to the other running plans such as Gateway to 8K (GW28K) and Bridge to 10K (B210K) or One Hour Runner (OHR). Unfortunately, since I didn’t quite commit to the final week of the C25K program so I am not yet ready to take on the next challenge and am actually starting to feel a little unfit and untoned again. So I need to further consolidate on running for 30 minutes without a break, and more importantly increase my pace from ~6:30 mins/km to 6 mins/km. But knowing there are new programs that I can work on in the future is a nice a feeling.

I would wholeheartedly recommend the C25K program to anyone wanting to increase their fitness and lose a bit of weight. The program, paired with some great technology such as the iPhone is a winning combination and certainly converted me from someone who hated running, into someone who (mostly) loves it!

Flippin’ Websites & Makin’ (A Tiny Bit Of) Money

I have pretty limited experience in selling websites, but I thought some people might be interested in what has happened so far.

iconPot

My first experience with selling a website was iconPot which I sold in March 2010. I made this website in literally 4 hours one weekend in early 2009. It was a ridiculously simple single page HTML website. Seriously. I didn’t even bother with a back-end! With the usual marketing ploys, it got covered on some blogs, delicious, stumbleupon and others. After a while, the traffic levelled off and we were doing about 5,000 pageviews a day (definitely not huge by any standard). It also averaged about $60-$100 per month in advertising through BuySellAds.

I then received an email asking how much I wanted to sell iconPot for from a guy in the USA. I emailed back and said $8,000 initially. Totally trying my luck as I hadn’t really considered selling it and also was being a bit cautious having been contacted out of the blue by someone when it involves money. After exchanging traffic analytics of the website, the guy surprisingly came back with a $5,000 counter offer – and I agreed to sell. How could I not!? That figure was something like 4-5 years worth of projected revenue – totally unheard of in most website sales where the selling price is usually 12-24 months revenue at a maximum.

We settled on payment being done via Escrow.com which is (from what I could see) the safest way to transfer money for website sales. It basically involves the buyer paying Escrow, who then wait to confirm the domain name has been transferred before passing the funds on to me – taking a small cut themselves of course.

The transation went smoothly and I bought my DSLR camera and accessories with the money, and banked the rest 🙂 And of course, the iconPot website was quickly totally ruined by the buyer, removing all useful content and replacing it with ads. *clap clap*. I have to be honest in saying that it is sad to see something you made be totally destroyed and lose all credibility and usefulness. But when selling a website you have to try to forget about that and remember the stuff you used the money for!

FWDitON

The other website which I always thought could be sold is FWDitON.com. This website was started in 2006 and the idea for the website literally came to me while driving my car one day – a social repository for all of those FWD: FWD: funny email you get in your inbox. Back then, nothing of a similar nature existed. This site is totally different to iconPot in that I really would have lost count of the number of hours of development I have spent on the site – hundred and hundreds for sure. It has been through 3 major redevelopments in those ~5 years, consistently adding more and more features and improvements.

The site’s heyday was definitely during 2008 & 2009, when it was covered on major blogs like TechCrunch and even had a couple of mentions on broadcast TV in the USA. At this time, the site was doing amazing (in my eyes) traffic (400,000 pageviews per month) and decent revenue ($300+ per month).

This was all happening during one of the web 2.0 bubbles and I was contacted by a number of Venture Capitalists (VC’s) and investors wanting to invest in the site. I never could quite get my head around their interest and take the site in such a serious business manner. So like an idiot, I always sold myself short in my phone calls with them, saying things like “oh, we are not a company, its just a site I work on in my spare time…” and my favourite, “I don’t really have a set plan of what to do to grow the site. I guess I could quit my job to work on the site fulltime and spend money on marketing?” – all of which is probaby not the thing to say to people who want to give you money! Business plans and faux confidence would have been good right about this time.

Lesson learnt. Who knows what the site could have become.. a profitable business like collegehumor would have been on the cards for sure. Or perhaps I should have just sold it at this peak. Either way, I should have been smarter. I can look back on my ignorance and laugh now.

Anyway, so slowly but surely I lost interest in the site, traffic and revenue died off and I have barely touched the site since late 2008. So I recently thought  that I may as well try to sell the site. I turned to the Flippa website which is quite well known for “flipping” (a.k.a. buying/selling) websites. I spent a bit of time collating all the required information for potential buyers and created a new listing on Flippa for FWDitON.com.

At the end of the auction, the price had only got to $2000US. Which is approximately 2 years of revenue. Even though this price is probably about right for the site’s current revenue and traffic, I just couldn’t let it go for that – seeing as how popular and profitable it had once been in the glory days. I do believe that with the right owner who has more motivation than me, the site could climb up the rankings again. I am fully aware that I am probably in the wrong here in not being able to accept the site for what it is right now. My experience with selling iconPot also hasn’t helped my impression for what I *think* FWDitON should sell for.

My experiences with these two sites demonstrates that the selling price of a website doesn’t always correlate to the number of hours development effort and preceived worth. I simply cannot fathom how anyone could think a silly site like iconPot was worth more than a complex and more popular site like website FWDitON.com. The value is in the eye of the beholder I guess! My experience with selling iconPot may also show that, well, sometimes you just get lucky!

HTPC & Media Centre Experiences

My household has gone through a few iterations when it comes to media players & HTPC setups. The main requirements were something to provide a nice front-end to our collection of movies, TV shows and music which has grown a fair bit over the past 8 years.

Linux & MythTV

Way back in 2005, we started with a bunch of old computer parts, put into a nice Silverstone HTPC case, and then setup to run Linux with MythTV. This setup never really took off as MythTV (at the time) didn’t have TV episode support – in terms of presenting information from TheTVDB.com. We also had continual problems with the stability of the MythTV software and the linux driver support for our TV Tuner cards was flakey at best. MythTV also didn’t play too well with the remote we bought for the HTPC and I seem to remember the linux flavour we used at the time (Arch Linux) had some serious issues with hibernation/suspend power management, which became a bit of a show stopper for us.

Windows, MediaPortal & XBMC

Next we switched to Windows for some better driver support (at the time) and more software options. We ran MediaPortal for a while… which was OK but had some quirks which annoyed us. I can’t quite remember exactly what the issues were unfortunately.

So at that stage we dropped the TV Tuner cards as they seemed unnecessary for us as we do not record any TV (never have & probably never will). And we were happy to just put up with having the HTPC on one source of our TV (i.e. VGA), and free-to-air TV on another source on our remote control.

Without needing TV Tuner capability we could then look at the XBMC project (XBox Media Center) and this is what we used quite happily for a couple of years. The software was stable, playback was fine and the scraping of IMDB & TheTVDB was generally fairly reliable.

Dilemma

The only problem was that all of our movies, TV shows and music were stored locally on a 4x500GB hard drives inside the packed to the brim Silverstone case. As a result of being so packed, we never really felt comfortable leaving the computer on all the time due to potential overheating issues and power usage. Oh and ofcourse, since our collection was starting to get quite sizable, we were outgrowing the 2TB of space we had available. And most importantly, since the data was “valuable” to us, if one of those drives failed we would have cried a fair bit as we did not have a redundancy/backup process in place.

Solution! Mac Mini + Drobo + Plex

So the solution that suited us was to purchase a Mac Mini & Drobo (which I will cover in another post). I definitely can’t say this would be the best solution for everyone.. as it is quite an expensive way to go. The Drobo in particular is an expensive gadget, but the built in data redundancy and ease of use was just too irresistible.

And the best software for the Mac Mini has definitely been Plex – which is free and has its roots as a fork of the XBMC project but it now a standalone product with a huge following of its own. It is an incredibly easy product to use, very intuitive and has a great community of plugin developers and theme developers.

= AWESOME!

I have been using Plex for over a year now and there have been some huge changes in that time. The most notable change to my own experiences has been the addition of an iOS app for iPhone and iPad which transcodes videos on the fly for flawless (and simultaneous) viewing over wifi and even 3G. It really has added a whole new dimension to our media centre setup. I can start watching something on the main TV and then finish watching it in bed while Rob watches a silly Arnie or Stallone classic on the main TV. Heaven!

The standard Plex theme is attractive and the way it displays the TV Show and Movie artwork leads to a rich media experience. Playing the TV Show theme music in the background when browsing episodes of a particular show is a beautiful finishing touch.

One thing I look forward to utilising more is the ability to connect to a remote Plex library. I have experimented with this with a friends Plex setup, it basically allows me to browse and play their Plex share from within my own Plex installation (and vice versa). The only issue is our ADSL2+ upload speeds are not the best, so streaming video over peer-to-peer Internet has not proven fast enough to stop the stream stuttering. Of course, once we get some fibre goodness that will all be a thing of the past – bring on the NBN!

My parents were also so impressed with the Mac Mini & Plex combination that they bought a Mac Mini and had me set them up in a similar fashion. The fact that I have had no support calls from them speaks volumes for the reliability of the mac and the user friendly interface of Plex.

Our journey with HTPC setups has come a long way. In the end, our solution is expensive but suits our needs in terms of data redundancy, attractive front-end software and reliable/powerful hardware. I would thoroughly recommend Plex as a front-end for a media centre experience.

CD Artwork Concepts for a Local Band

I have close ties to a local funk/rock band called Buffalo Everything. They graciously let me fiddle around with a lot of their design stuff such as their website design, gig posters, a bit of photography and now CD artwork.

The band will be launching their first EP in the next couple of months – well, they *should be* anyway, at least if they never do, this blog post will document the results of my effort. For the EP launch, they wanted some artwork concepts to make their CD look professional. Consider this a sneak preview for all of the BE fans out there 🙂

I haven’t been exposed to a huge amount of print design before, and I definitely hadn’t done any CD design to this extent before. So this was a new and interesting opportunity to put some of my basic Photoshop skills to use in a really creative way. After opening up Photoshop, I pretty quickly came up with a few concepts which looked fairly grungy and I thought might suit the style of the band. After a bit of initial feedback from the band, I managed to come up with the following 5 concepts (ignore the largely dummy text).

Concept #1:

Concept #2:

Concept #3:

Concept #4:

Concept #5:

My personal favourite is #2 or #4!

The band decided to go with Concept 1. This was mainly because although they mostly liked the other concepts, they didn’t want their first EP to look to “showy” or “over the top” – considering they are really just starting to get their name out on the local band scene. I thought this was a good choice in the end and good reasoning behind their choice. I am looking forward to finalising the concept and seeing the final product printed.

As I am a beginner designer, I would be interested in any feedback from those more experienced or just what your preferred choice would have been and how it could be improved for the future. I know the basics of Photoshop fairly well, and with a few free grunge brushes this was pretty easy to whip up. But I know there’s a lot of room for improvement to perhaps get a more polished look for next time.

Leeane

Eye-Fi With My Little Eye

Eye-Fi

I purchased an entry level DSLR about 10 months ago, and since then, I have developed a keen beginners interest in photography. But the one thing I absolutely detested about taking photos was the process of getting them onto my computer. As you probably know, this involves having to turn the camera off, take out the SD card, put it into the USB reader, plug that into my macbook and then use some terrible software to transfer them to my macbook.

I know this sounds incredibly lazy of me, but ugh. After a while, it becomes a tedious process.

So being a stickler for convenience (I will seriously do almost anything for the sake of convenience and efficiency), I heard about this “Eye-Fi” product through a work colleague and thought I would give it a go. The idea being that the SD card itself magically will transfer your photos “as you take them” whenever you are in range of your wifi hotspot.

Since there is no distributer in Australia, I had to buy it from Amazon.com. There’s a number of models available, which differ in terms of size/capacity and some features. I settled on the top of the range card, the Pro X2 8GB which was a little over $100US. After a short 4 day wait, it was delivered and ready to use. I wish I could say it was smooth sailing from there. But unfortunately it wasn’t.

The Eye-Fi product consists of the SD card, and a small USB reader (used only during setup & configuration). Upon plugging in the SD Card and USB reader, I was prompted to install the Eye-Fi Center and Eye-Fi Helper software. The “Center” is the software you use to manage your Eye-Fi card, and the “Helper” is a system-tray like application which is used to detect the card, firmware updates and debugging logs etc.

The Helper software is fine and uneventful. The Center software on the other hand, is pretty terrible to use. It requires Adobe Air (not so much a problem in itself) and the user interface is terribly clunky and the response times are slow.

Nevertheless, I installed the software and this is where the initial problems started. It seems my card suffered from two main problems:

  • The card would simply not connect to my wifi
  • The card would randomly eject itself, and sometimes I needed to wait a bit before it would remount the card when plugging it back in

Since I am not a complete novice when it comes to software & wifi setups, I tried a lot of troubleshooting myself before contacting Eye-Fi Customer Service. I made my wifi network completely open (no mac address filtering, no hidden ssid, no wep/wap keys etc) just to rule that out as being the problem. When the Eye-Fi failed to connect to this as well, I knew I probably had a dud product. So I sent an email to Eye-Fi support with router & wifi details and logs of the card. After a few days, I had no response and was sadly a click or two away from confirming a product return via Amazon. But then I thought I would try the Eye-Fi  support forums which seemed fairly active.

So I posted a thread which outlined the issues. I quickly got a response from a Customer Service Rep (CSR) who confirmed that it sounded like a dud card and he would arrange a replacement straight away. This was great news.

A few days later, the CSR posted in my thread for me to try the “just released” new firmware update as he thought it might solve my problem. I tried the firmware and (despite some more issues with the Eye-Fi Center software) it worked! Turns out the firmware update tweaked a few sensitivity (?) settings on the card in order to improve compatibility with certain routers.


Once the wifi network was setup and working as normal, I was very quickly able to finish the setup process for the Eye-Fi card and I was transferring my first photos within minutes. After the initial (and significant) teething problems, the Eye-Fi really has been fantastic.

At the moment, I have the photo’s being transferred to my Drobo, although I can also have them transferred to a huge range of online services (or FTP) if I really wanted to. I also think I will become a big fan of the “Endless Memory” feature – which seems to involve the Eye-Fi card knowing which photos I have safely already transferred, and so when my SD card becomes XX% full (user defined) it will start deleting the photos which have already been transferred to make room for new photos – all while I am out on the road taking photo’s. This will save the other annoying part of photography of needing to clear the card and sometimes not knowing if you are deleting images which haven’t already been backed up.

There’s also been an announcement from Eye-Fi that a future firmware update will enable a “direct mode” which will transfer my photos to my iPad directly. This could be pretty cool in order to preview photos on a larger screen if you are out and about (especially useful for those more serious togs who might like to show clients some photos on the fly).

All in all, I am not so reluctant to take photos with my camera anymore! I would recommend the Eye-Fi product to anyone.. just please don’t ask me to help you set it up 🙂 That was a pretty frustrating experience for a while.

Leeane

A new year & an attempted resurgence of this blog

Long time…

VERY long time. 2 years in fact!

I have decided I will give the blogging thing another go. And in the process will blow away most of the old posts I had on this blog – since they are not too relevant to what I am doing these days. I have also renamed this blog from “leeane’s webdev blog” to “{leeane}blog” since it will be a lot more general in content. Website development still plays a large part of what I do.. but the passion I have for that has diminished somewhat.. although I admittedly do feel I am just a cool idea away from a resurgence.

So a little bit about me, and what I have been up to (see my full portfolio here – http://www.leeane.com)

Since teaching myself PHP/MySQL back in 2004 I have amassed a decent portfolio of website applications that I have built & designed from scratch. Even having one of my sites featured on the hugely popular and influential technology blog called TechCrunch. I tend not to develop websites for other people – instead I build things for my own enjoyment as its a lot more fun that way.

In addition to websites, I also dabble in iPhone Development (see my app called “Posted”) and small utility application development. I also have a huge passion for design – and although I lack the raw drawing talent, I do think I have a fairly good eye for layout and what “looks nice” (don’t judge my comment by the design of this blog!).

I also am in the beginner stages of getting into photography. So I expect I will have some posts on my learnings in this area in the future. Other topics to expect include fitness, exercise, restaurant reviews, movie reviews, gadgets and general tech.

Lets see how long I can keep this up!

Statuso Goes Live

iphone_screenshotThe iPhone application which I have been collaborating on over the past 2 months has finally gone live onto the iTunes App Store. It’s called Statuso and this is exciting times!

You can grab it from here if your interested.

I have collaborated with Jeff from England on this – he did most of the hard work in actually developing the app, whilst I did design/logic and website stuff mostly. We submitted the app to Apple about 2 weeks ago and after a nervous wait it was made live today.

Of course, I have been spamming it to as many blog and iPhone related websites as possible. And also asking everyone I know with an iPhone to check it out!

I don’t think this app is going to make us rich – but it has been a great learning experience and also brings a huge sense of accomplishment to actually have something out there in the world which we created from scratch ourselves. We do not have any sales data just yet, but if theres anything interesting I will be sure to share it with y’all 🙂

What’s next? Well maybe there will be another app (a game to be more precise) but for now we want to improve Statuso by adding more support for websites (and maybe a few features here and there).

Leeane

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