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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.

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.

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

10 of the Best Tools For Web Development on a Mac

Having only had my macbook for a couple of weeks, I am still very new to OSX and all the apps which are available. The primary reason I bought the lovely new macbook is for web development – specifically for PHP/MySQL sites which I develop.

I spent a number of weeks both before and after purchasing the macbook looking for the perfect web development environment for me. In this post I will outline what I am using and why, any pitfalls I have had and also alternative software which you might want to try out.

Apache/MySQL/PHP

screenshot_s1_3_enProbably no real suprises here, but I opted to go with MAMP (MacOSX, Apache, MySQL, PHP) as the tool to manage my web and database servers. It is incredibly easy to setup.

There are two versions, MAMP (free) and MAMP Pro (not free). MAMP Pro gives you access to setup and manage your virtual hosts as well as GUI access to other things you might want such as loading certain Apache modules. I tried out both, and honestly I have uninstalled MAMP Pro (and just kept the standard MAMP) as I found I was actually having issues where my Apache server would fail to start with MAMP Pro. I definitely do need access to edit virtual hosts but read on for my alternative program to do this.

MAMP allows you to choose the PHP version to use (4 or 5) as well as any caching engines or php accelerators. Stuff that any serious developer would appreciate having quick and easy access to. You can also easily change the ports which Apache and MySQL use to the defaults (80 and 3306). Definitely makes things a lot easier if you use the normal ports.

Download: http://www.mamp.info/en/index.php
Price: Free
Alternatives: XAMPP (includes Perl), or do it all via the terminal yourself! See http://mymacinations.com/2007/10/28/apache-php-and-mysql-on-leopard/ for more info.

Virtual Hosts

vhSince I didn’t want to be paying for MAMP Pro, I came across another free application which will let me manage my virtual hosts in a nice and easy GUI screen. It is called Virtual HostsX and once again is pretty simple to use. It automatically detects MAMP and prompts you if you want to update MAMP’s apache configuration files (yes). I believe it is limited to 3 active virutal host entries at any one time – but this shouldn’t pose to much of an issue for me. If you need more entries at any one time, hey its only $9 to buy and support the developer.

An important thing which new people to Virtual HostsX sometimes do not realise is that when installing the program, it automatically enables the “Web Sharing” option in your System Preferences > Sharing screen. So make sure you go in there and un-tick the Web Sharing option – this will just cause all sorts of issues if you are using MAMP.

One pitfall I had with MAMP was a compatibility issue with Virtual HostsX application (the virtual hosts weren’t being picked up properly). After finding a thread on the same thing, it was recommended to use MAMP 1.7.1. For this reason, I actually had to downgrade from MAMP 1.7.2 to MAMP 1.7.1.

Download: http://clickontyler.com/virtualhostx/
Price: Free – $9 if you want more than 3 virutal host entries at any one time.
Alternatives: MAMP Pro (I couldn’t get this to work though) or edit apache config files via terminal yourself.

Code Editor

codaOhh mac people are spoiled for choices in this category! On my Windows machine I was a Dreamweaver user (hey it is decent and does the job). And although the Adobe CS4 suite was one of the first things I installed on my machine (yay for academic agreements) I wanted to try out a few of the mac editor apps which I kept on hearing so much about. More specifically, Coda and TextMate. After using both for a short while, I came to the conclusion that:

Coda – wins.

After watching the videos on the panic website, everything just seemed to make sense. It seems to be very intuitive and so far I am really liking it. When first opening the application, I was quite underwhelmed as there didn’t seem to be many bells and whistles. But after watching the videos and playing around with it for an hours, I realised that all the bells and whistles (and more) are there, they just do not clutter the interface in a way that I am used to with something like Dreamweaver. Kudos to the developers – I think this really sets a new standard in code editors.

Download: http://www.panic.com/coda/
Price: Demo available. $99 to purchase after demo expires.
Alternatives: TextMate, Dreamweaver etc

Database Manager

screenshot-1I normally like to use a desktop-based tool to manage SQL databases. On Windows I have used SQLyog and the MYSQL Administrator package. The popular choice for this functionality on a Mac seems to be Sequel Pro (formally Cocoa MySQL). It certainly is more than adequate for most users and I am happy with it so far. The interface is pretty standard for these types of programs and I haven’t had any problems working out how to do something.

Important: If you are using MAMP, make sure you put the following into the “socket” field in Sequel Pro: “/applications/mamp/tmp/mysql/mysql.sock”. Otherwise, you wont be able to connect to the MySQL server!

Download: http://www.mjmedia.com.au/sequel-pro.html
Price: Free
Alternatives: phpMyAdmin (web-based), NaviCat, Aqua Data Studio etc

Database Designer

a-200Everyone loves a good database modeler – right? For your bigger projects you want to have a good tool to map out your tables, keys and relationships. Make sure everything looks about right before you dive into the deep end. I didn’t really look around all that much for software for this. I stumbled across a free tool called Power*Architect which looks to be a tool which will handle the job nicely.

Download: http://www.sqlpower.ca/page/architect
Price: Free
Alternatives: SQLEditor

FTP

transmitAlthough I don’t have much need for FTP anymore (thanks to SVN) it is handy to have a good FTP program for the odd job here and there. There are a number of alternatives here, but the main contenders are CyberDuck (free) and Transmit (paid). I have to admit that I prefer Transmit’s interface (especially since I am using Coda which is by the same developers) but at the end of the day, CyberDuck is a fantastic free program which is fine for what I am actually using FTP for.

Download: http://www.panic.com/transmit/
Price: Demo available – $29.95 for full version.
Alternatives: CyberDuck FTP

SVN Tool

versionsSome sort of code versioning is an absolute must for any serious developer. Once you make the jump into versioning you will never look back. There are a few options (cvs, git etc) but I choose to use subversion (svn) as there are plenty of tools out there to make it all very easy to integrate into your development process.

Coda has some built in svn integration, but since you cannot add comments to each revision with Coda I was on the lookout for something a bit more powerful. There are a number of options out there and for now I have settled on Versions.app which is a powerful (and pretty) tool to manage all your svn goodness. Whether or not I end up buying it after the demo runs out will depend on how I go over the next few weeks.

Download: http://www.versionsapp.com
Price: Demo available – $52 for full version.
Alternatives: SmartSVN, SynchroSVN etc

SVN Hosting

assembla_logoThere are a few options when it comes to hosting – you can host it yourself or use a hosted solution. I have opted for a hosted solution although I am still tossing up between Dreamhost’s SVN option or using an application such as Assembla (which will include wiki, miletstones, trac etc). I like the idea of Assembla so will probably end up giving their free plan a go.

Download: http://www.assembla.com
Price: Free plan (200mb limit)
Alternatives: Unfuddle, Google Code, Sourceforge or set it up yourself on your own server.

Graphics

adobephotoshopcs3I couldn’t go past Adobe PhotoShop and Adobe Illustrator for this. Seriously, if you have access to them for free you really need to consider using these tools. CS4 has some great improvements (tabbed windows ftw!) and I am still finding new features every time I use it. It truly is the industry standard for a reason.

Download: http://adobe.com
Price: Very expensive… unless you have access to free version (e.g. academic agreement etc)
Alternatives: GIMP, Fireworks etc

Browser

firefoxEveryone will have a favorite browser – and for me that is Firefox. Combined with a few plugins such as Web Developer Toolbar, ColorZilla, YSlow and HTML Validator it is unbeatable in my opinion. But it doesn’t stop there as we need to check our websites in other browsers (Safari, Opera, IE6 and IE7 at a minimum).

Testing IE is the biggest pain of all on a mac. You can use VMware Fusion or Parallels to install Windows and test IE7. But then you cannot run native versions of IE6 and IE7 on Windows at the same time. Boo to Microsoft. So that means two installations of Windows which therefore means you need 4Gb of ram otherwise your development machine will be crawling.

I am still a bit undecided about all of this. I have installed ies4osx which at the moment only supports IE6 (despite the fact that the website says both IE6 and IE7). IE6 seems to work well enough so hopefully the developers can add in IE7 to the new version soon. I have been wanting to avoid installing Windows (via vmware fusion or parallels) as I do not want to slow my machine down just because I need to run IE6 and IE7. So for now I am just going to check rendering on my Windows desktop machine (with Multiple IE’s installed).

Conclusion

Now there is definitely room for improvement, and I will always be on the lookout for something better. If you have any great suggestions please let me know. I also haven’t really started using all of these together to any great degree just yet – the first task was just getting is all set up.

Maybe things will change in the future – but for now I am pretty darn happy with it all.

Simple iPhone App Idea for a Bored Developer

I have finally got my new macbook. And it is absolutely lovely. I also signed up the iPhone developer program – but I am kidding myself if I think I will be able to start making apps any time soon. I just do not have the time to spend getting up to scratch on Objective C and Cocoa.

But here’s an idea for an application which I reckon people would pay money for. At least 99c anyway. I know I would.

Before I go into detail, here’s the deal. If anyone wants to go ahead and make this idea, you are more than welcome. Credit to me for the idea would be appreciated, and if you are a morally good person maybe you could even split some of the profits with me for the idea. I also have the perfect name for the app (Statuso) and domain name which I would be willing to give ownership over to whoever develops it.

The Idea

The idea is for an application called “Statuso”. Essentially, it is an application which allows users to update their social networking “status” messages from the one application and at the same time. E.g. Facebook, Twiiter, Friendfeed, Identi.ca etc.

It would be a very simple app with only 2 or 3 screens, all interacting with the relevant website API’s. Here is a mock up (click for larger view):

Features I would like to see:

  • Main page:
    • Enter text to post
    • Toggle on/off which accounts to post to (accounts which have been added in the settings page)
    • For certain accounts (e.g. facebook) have the ability to set the text to prepend with the message (e.g. Bob is blah blah)
  • Setting/Preferences:
    • Add social networking accounts

Things to consider:

  • Validation of the number of characters before posting. Must also take into account any “prepend” text as well and then display error message if the number of characters is over any of the limits set for any of the accounts the message was to be posted to.

After the initial release, you could look into:

  • Displaying @reply from twitter or comments left to a facebook message (for example)
  • Allowing multiple accounts for one social network website (e.g. multiple twitter accounts)
  • Prettying up the interface by adding the website favicons/logos for example

So there you go. Do you think it’s a good idea? Wold you use it? Would you buy it for 99c?

I haven’t seen anything like this on the AppStore so far. There was one app which apparently did something similar to what I am wanting, but it also did about 100 other things which made it incredibly complicated according to the reviews I read.

If noone goes ahead and makes it, maybe I will eventually do it myself.

Leeane