The Blog

Quick thoughts on Auto Layout

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Auto Layout is a new feature in iOS 6.0 that’s meant to help developers create user interfaces that adapt to different screen sizes and orientations. In practice, it can be tricky to use. Others might even argue that it’s not really ready for regular development.

In any case, I spent a few hours with working with Auto Layout constraints in order to make a few views that had been designed for the 4″ iPhone screen size (iPhone 5) capable of adapting to a 3.5″ screen size (previous iPhone models.)

Here are several very quick observations on working with Auto Layout:

  • Moving controls in Interface Builder will change constraints in the view and you may in effect, lose constraints that you have set up.
  • Sometimes you may need to experiment and create new constraints in order to change automatic constraints (xCode generated and not editable) into user constraints (editable and deletable).
  • Turning auto layout off and on again in the File Inspector will clear out all constraints. This includes the ones you may have added but it will recreate the automatic constraints from the current control positions. I found this helpful on occasion just to do a reset, either after moving controls in the view or unsuccessful experimentation on my part.

I admit, these observations are from my early experiences using the feature – please correct me if I’m mistaken on any of these items here!

Snow*Mobile conference recap

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I recently went to the inaugural Snow*Mobile mobile technology conference in Madison WI, one of the more unique technical conferences I’ve attended.

For me, the value in the conference was the exposure to different facets of mobile technology. Too often we’re heads down and immersed in our day-to-day development responsibilities to see how others are creating mobile experiences. This was a great way to find out more about a variety of mobile technology topics in a fast-moving, two day, single track conference.

During the conference, I was able to learn more about things like PhoneGap, RubyMotion and Firefox OS; these are technologies that I’ve been curious about but don’t currently use. Also, as a native app developer, it’s always helpful to see presentations on the mobile web and learn more about that aspect of mobile development.

More importantly, over the course of the conference we learned about uses of mobile tech that we may not be familiar with such as how the blind use mobile and how mobile technologies are changing and improving lives in less-developed countries. These two presentations were revealing and thought-provoking — I highly encourage you to look at the slides which are linked above.

Lastly, the conference was well-organized and strove to build a sense of community with frequent breaks for interaction and socializing. I don’t believe I’ve ever been to a conference where the attendees were so strongly encouraged to talk with the speakers after their presentations. Personally, I found them all to be both gracious (and patient) when I spoke with them during the course of the event.

Oh, and we had fun too — paper snowball fights, pinball, prizes and talks from a local coffee roaster and LEGO league students (who at their young ages were extremely inspirational.)

Snow*Mobile was a really great event — I’m already looking forward to next year’s edition.

The boutique and the flea market

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A metaphor that I find useful for explaining the differences between the Apple App Store for iOS apps and the Google Play Store for Android apps is comparing them to a boutique and a flea market.

The Apple App Store is run more like a boutique. Boutiques tend to be pricier and they don’t try to be one stop shopping. Most importantly, their merchandise is specially selected – not everything gets in and it’s usually at the discretion of a buyer or owner.

In contrast, the Google Play store is more like a flea market. Items are cheaper but quality can vary wildly. Some purchases might be of dubious legality. It’s a bit more “buyer beware” but there can be bargains and finds.

There are certainly pros and cons to both approaches. As a user, it’s nice to know that the apps have been reviewed by Apple before they enter the store. On the other hand, anyone who’s had an app rejected for what seems to be an arbitrary reason knows it can be a frustrating experience.

On Google Play, it’s great as a developer to be able to get your app in the store in minutes. For users, they have to be a little more careful about what they download due to the lack of quality control. It’s less of an impulse acquisition at that point.

Keep this in mind if you have to describe the differences between the Apple and Android marketplaces to anyone who might be unfamiliar with them – they can go a long way in shaping your strategy as you develop, market and possibly sell your product.

Upcoming area mobile conferences – Snow Mobile and CocoaConf Chicago

Here are a couple of upcoming mobile conferences that I’ll be attending. If you’re an mobile app developer in the area, you should consider them as well!

Snow Mobile 2013
February 15-16
Madison WI

This is a brand new conference so unfortunately, I can’t give a review or preview for it. I do know that it’s put on by the same folks who have done UXMad and Madison Ruby and I’ve heard nothing but good things about those conferences.

I believe the conference format is is single-track conference and includes presentations on various types of mobile development – iOS, Android, Windows Phone and mobile web.

One of the interesting things that they have done with their other conferences is to have additional speakers from completely different disciplines outside of software development. Given that the current speaker lineup features a coffee professional and an improvisational workshop trainer, it would seem that Snow Mobile will follow in that vein as well.

CocoaConf Chicago
March 7-9
TBD – Chicagoland area most likely

This is a independent iOS and Mac OSX development multi-session conference held outside of Chicago. I attended last year with a few other Milwaukee developers and had an informative and very fun time. They have a great speaker lineup from around the country including authors from the Pragmatic Programmer series of books. It has a solid technical focus so if that’s your goal, you’ll be very pleased with this conference.

Hope to see you at one or both events!

A place for my stuff

The late George Carlin had a bit where he expounded that all we needed in life was places for our stuff. Tables, houses, suitcases – simply put, all places for our stuff.

That what this is blog is too – a place for my stuff, digital stuff that is. Might be some stray thoughts, interesting links, hopefully some longer form ramblings at some point, possibly a presentation should I get around to it. We’ll see what develops.

I can’t promise regular postings given I have been known to take 15 minutes to craft a 140 character tweet.

But that said, I’ll strive for quality in lieu of quantity.