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Podcast #34 – “Be Excellent And Valuable”

Episode 34, recorded Saturday April 21th, 2012

We can learn about cool company philosophy from the Valve employee handbook, Objective-C is creeping up to C++ as the world’s almost most favorite programming language. And iOS 4 can now  be retired.

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Show Notes

Still no WWDC, some people start to get nervous and some even try to jinx it. Marco Arment, of Instapaper, would prefer if WWDC 2012 didn’t happen in the week from June 11th through 15th because that would mean he couldn’t spent his birthday at home which falls in this interval. There are no other obvious candidate dates for WWDC so we keep on being stressed out by Apple with every passing day.

And yes, I am stressed too. Aren’t we all… for the next big update to my iCatalog framework I’ve spent the last week to migrate everything to ARC. The whole project started out as one iPad app and over time the number of target has grown exponentially. We’re now developing some more advanced features but decided that these will be iOS 5 only. So – of course – I’m switching to ARC. And of course there is ShareKit which has no hope of being migrated to ARC soon, so I had to pack that into its own static library with ARC turned off. In the end I want the iCatalog project to be only for the core functionality. All the iCatalog apps should be in a different project so that I don’t have to mess with the dozens of targets for all the catalog apps any more. I am telling you this for two reasons: 1) as an excuse for not having a better show prepared. and 2) as a pointer that you might want to have reusable core functionality also in your own modules and sub- projects.

Oh, and I have another excuse: my MacBook Air is still being repaired. I suspect that the power regulator had a problem. Sometimes it wouldn’t charge, then it would. If you were lucky you could start it, but then it would shut down by itself after a short while. And then you couldn’t start it until you reset it with these secret key combinations. But fortunately I have AppleCare for it and so that should be fixed next week.

And now for some interesting news … yes there where a few…

TIOBE Software publishes their Programming Community Index every month. This is sort of a hit parade of programming languages somehow measured by an elaborate methodology that uses search engines to determine the relative importance of programming languages. In the current April report the top position went to C which overtook Java on second place compared to a year ago. C++ stayed put on third place. The big winner in the top 10 is Objective-C which moved from 8th place last April to number 4. Objective-C also became the “Language of the year” in 2011 because it seems to be rising in these ranks like a rocket. All of us iOS and Mac developers using this for our favorite platform probably helps here quite a bit.

Google Currents launched internationally this month, after almost half a year being US-only. Will Kiefer, the iOS developer behind Google Currents, told me that they too make widespread use of UIWebViews for the main reason that their online publishing tool requires Javascript to run and that only the HTML5 CSS support in web views allows them to expose the customizability for their content partners. Will told me that to speed up image loading he replaced the normal NSURLCache mechanism with NSURLProtocol. This is faster because NSURLCache can only return one cached response at a time while NSURLProtocol can work concurrently. That’s definitely something worth looking into. I’m trying to get Will on the Cocoanetics podcast in one of the next episodes.

LLVM.org published in much greater detail the new Objective-C literal syntax for NSNumbers and Containers. Users of Apple’s compiler will be able to start using these features with Apple LLVM Compiler 4.0. Users of open-source LLVM.org compiler releases can use these features starting with clang v3.1. The 4.0 compiler will be in Xcode 4.4 which is due out about the same time as OS X Mountain Lion sometime this summer. The good thing will be that since this is compile-time technology it will mean that we should be able to use the new Literal syntax also in older iOS versions.

Valve software, makers of Steam and amazing games like Half-Life, have published a copy of their new employee handbook online. This manual is supposed to give new hires an overview of the Valve company philosophy. I recommend that you download this book and read it on your iPad because it is truly a piece of art. The manual in itself is a piece of art, it has beautiful illustrations and a ton of interesting content, even if you don’t plan to try to be hired by them.

Valve is nevertheless quite unusual in their philosophy. They don’t have a hierarchy or managers. Instead you are free to pick the projects that you would like to work  on. It’s like at Google where people have 20% for their own projects. Only at Valve this is 100%. I’m astonished that this can work, but I too will need to read the manual first before I can tell you how they do it. Quite inspirational!

Speaking of the value of employees: In the last quarter the profit per employee of Google, Apple and Sony were: $96,090 (33,464 employees) at Google, $215,200 (with 60,400 employees) at Apple and at Sony the average employee (of 168,200) lost the company $11,690. It’s interesting to see how Apple employees manage to make their company more than twice as much profit per person as Google employees. What is it that makes them so valuable? Possibly Apple selling boatloads of iOS devices?

David Smith published his latest 5.1 Upgrade stats and he reports:

Upgrades appear to have leveled off into the slow trickle phase. After the initial surge of upgrades (both OTA and otherwise) user adoption has transitioned into a more measured pace. Overall there is still a clear movement towards the newer OS variants. 82% of all users are now running some flavor of iOS 5.x.

What’s interesting in these statistics is that there is even greater adoption of iOS 5 than it seems because the numbers are drawn down by laggards on various versions of the iPod Touch. On iPad you’ll find no less than 86% on iOS 5.0 or higher. On iPod Touches this is only 65%. My theory is that these iPod Touches are mostly in the hands of children which don’t care for a newer iOS versions while the games they want to play still support iOS 4.

David Smith concludes that these numbers are good enough for him to drop iOS 4 support in his next major updates.

App Store Review Weather: As of April 20th there was a 3% chance of raining on your New Apps, 1% of bad weather for App Updates.

Kickstarter Projects mentioned:

  • Geode from iCache! – An iPhone case with build in e-ink display for dynamically displaying loyalty card barcodes plus on-the-fly programmable credit card
  • Galileo – an remote-controllable robotic iPhone stand for panning and tilting
  • Pebble – E-Paper Watch
  • Double Fine Adventure – previous record holder until the Pebble beat it
  • Make Leisure Suit Larry come again – cutting it close to the $500,000 goal, Larry is dear to many but a bad influence for many more

Categories: Podcast

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