inessential by Brent Simmons

February 2011

App store revenue numbers, long tail, future unknown

Tim Bray: Making Money in Mobile: “First of all, the number of people making serious money selling apps is pretty small. Second, that doesn’t matter very much, because we’re so early in the game that we don’t know how it’s going to shake out.”

MsgFiler on Mac App Store

Adam Tow’s MsgFiler is up — for all you folks (like me) who like using the keyboard, because we need to get things done, and we want our time spent on the drudgery of email house-keeping kept to a minimum.

Voices that Matter in Seattle April 9-10

Voices that Matter: April 9-10 in SeattleI’m totally looking forward to Voices that Matter this spring in Seattle.

Last year’s conference was fantastic, and I expect no less this time.

Speakers include folks like Aaron Hillegass (who taught me how to write Cocoa apps, through his book), Mike Lee, Andy Ihnatko, Erica Sadun, and local luminary Daniel Pasco (who’s written code that runs in outer space).

Note: early-bird pricing (save $200) expires Friday.

Blocks + GCD design patterns

Cocoa Samurai: “With grand central dispatch and blocks many problems that have been traditionally associated with multithreading go away.”

Nice work by Colin Wheeler.

Meet Sinatra

A List Apart, Rapid Prototyping with Sinatra:

Sinatra is a kind of web designer’s swiss army knife. It doesn’t take long to learn, it comes in handy for prototyping bigger projects, and it’s also great when you need to get a web app running quickly without dwelling much on the back end.

I didn’t know about Sinatra before. I’ve been meaning to learn recent web technology, just to exercise the mind a little bit — and Sinatra is intriguing. Small enough to learn without a huge investment, but powerful enough to be useful.

Shawn Blanc takes indie plunge

Shawn Blanc begins the Beginning: “This is a sentence I never thought I would publish: Beginning the first week in April I will be writing as my full-time gig.”

Congratulations and best wishes to Shawn! I’ve enjoyed his weblog for years.

Matt Mullenweg on Blogging and that New York Times Article

Blogging Drift: “…the stats show all the major blogging services growing — even Blogger whose global ‘unique visitors rose 9 percent, to 323 million,’ meaning it grew about 6 Foursquares last year alone.” (Via danielpunkass.)

Git tags and building

Fraser Hess, on Cocoa Is My Girlfriend, revisits his system for adding the git version to your app’s info.plist, so that the system works for the Build-and-Archive submission process.

iTunes Store RSS feeds

Want to see new music releases, or top 50 free Mac apps, or whatever? Apple’s iTunes RSS Generator generates feeds for the iTunes Store

I just stared using it myself. I’ve got feeds for the top free and paid Mac apps. As a long-time Mac developer, I’m fascinated by the Mac App Store. And like everybody else I like knowing when there’s something new and cool.

Mike on Compound Literals

Mike Ash: Friday Q&A 2011-02-18: Compound Literals: “Although Cocoa takes care of its most common types with NSMakeRect and friends, there are still places to put compound literals to good use.”

There’s a good chance I’ll use this a ton with NSRect and CGRect.

Mac app tip: pane splitters often look better

I’ve been going through the Mac App Store. Tons of awesome stuff there, and a bunch that’s so-so and a few things that are, well, rather hurried-looking.

But it occurs to me that many of the apps are made by people new to Mac programming. (They may not be new to Cocoa, but they’re new to Macs.)

So I figure that a series of tips on writing Mac software might be useful. Here’s the first. A simple one.

What’s the difference between this…

Screenshot of a splitview not using the pane-splitter style

…and this?

Screenshot of a splitview using the pane-splitter style


Screenshot of the pane-splitter setting in Interface Builder

The pane-splitter style often (though not always) looks better. It looks like the splitter in Mail.

And it’s easy to do — just set it in Interface Builder, and you’re done.

CGAffineTransform shortcuts

Jeff LaMarche on how and when you can avoid matrix multiplication and gain a little performance boost in your Core Animation code.

Uli on learning

Uli Kusterer: They’ll die out eventually…:

Just like people in the original Mac days thought users would not understand keyboards, I hear people today saying that users will never understand multi-tasking, will never understand what an “application” or an “app” or a “web site” are, and how they differ and how they are the same.

Worth remembering: people learn. Think how fast the web was adopted. Think how fast cell phones went from nothing to everywhere. Very young children know how to install apps from the App Store.

As a species, humans are incredibly resourcesful and adaptable — that’s the key to our success. And today most of our problems come from way too much success. Which is a good problem to have (better than the alternative, at least).

So anyone who’s worried that people won’t be able to learn new things should just stop worrying. For humans in general, learning new things is as natural and happy-making as sunlight.

Microsoft + Nokia

Apple Outsider: Microsoft Buys Nokia for $0B: “In Nokia, Microsoft now has an established, experienced, recognized OEM with one of its own men at the helm.”

If you’re not already reading Apple Outsider, you should fix that.

HSL colors

Jon Hicks on HSL colors. Apparently Safari supports hsla (in addition to rgba). Like.

Twitterrific 4.0 for Mac

Ars Technica: Hands-on with Twitterrific 4.0 for Mac: “Since this app is our old favorite (and remains a top choice among Mac users), we decided to give the new app a spin. So far, we like what we see.”

Me too. Bought it right away. Love cmd-L for toggling the sidebar.

On The Daily

I’m bowled over by The Daily.

There are easy criticisms to make: the carousel is a bit slow, transitions between pages sometimes seem laggy, etc. Whatever. I’m not terrifically surprised that a 1.0 app has room for improvement.

Maybe I’m speaking more as a fellow developer than a potential The Daily subscriber, and maybe I’m aware that some of my friends worked on it (and I probably can’t say who) — but I am, nonetheless, impressed.

There are plenty of apps out there that do less than a single page of the The Daily does. It very much rewards exploration — I was delighted when I found the 360 panorama of Venice, for instance.

Is this the future? Yes. Well, the future will be faster and better, sure, but this is one of the first big sights to see.

What makes me sweat — I can’t think about it too much, because I’ve already spent the last couple years trying not to think about it too much — is what the whole thing looks like under-the-hood. How do you specify the different content and interactions and layouts? You can’t just take snapshots from InDesign and push them out: you need something almost like a Hypercard stack (Hyperpad?) that says what should happen when you tap here and rotate and swipe and so on. They had to create an entire platform for this.

And that’s no small achievement. I’ve spent years thinking about it, dreaming about it, fantasizing about it — which is probably only enough to have a small notion of the difficulties involved and no real concept of what it really takes to create a platform and production system like this.

I would not at all be surprised if a product appears out of this, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it makes a ton of money.

Update: Jonathan Wight pointed me to Inkling as an example of a similar platform. Looks good.