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Unicode, Schmunicode!

You are listening to user feedback, especially those in Italy. You solve all their problems with a new version, in my case LuckyWheel 1.0.3. You polish it, test it (you think) and submit it to Apple for review. After a week you get this message back:

Your applications, LuckyWheel and LuckWheel Lite, cannot be posted to the App Store at this time because they do not achieve the core functionality described in your marketing materials, or release notes.  Applications must adhere to the iPhone Human Interface Guidelines as outlined in iPhone SDK Agreement section 3.3.5.

The release notes for both applications state, “Italian UI and Instructions added”.  However, in our review, when we put the device into Italian language mode and launched the applications, the application UI was still in English.  Only the instructions were changed to Italian.  See attached screenshots.

In order for your applications to be reconsidered for the App Store, please resolve this issue and upload your new binaries to iTunes Connect.

That’s a very long way to say: “Hey buddy, your Italian is English!”

When I got this message I was stumped. I though I had tested it. Thieves! Who has stolen my Italian UI?! But then I remembered something I had found out some months ago.

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Stanford University iPhone Programming Course

Stanford UniversityFamous Standford University goes the way of the modern educational institution and beginning today makes it’s iPhone Programming Course available in parallel on iTunes U for free while it is being taught live in class by original Apple framework guru Evan Doll. So you don’t get a dusty teacher figure, but the real thing!

I encourage all students of Cocoa Touch to participate in the sessions. Simply subscribe to the video podcast on  iTunes U and watch it comfortably at home or on your iPhone. The course material including downloads and assignments can be found on an accompanying web site. Don’t be fooled by the low price tag: FREE. People usually don’t appreciate what can be had for nothing, but in this case you probably cannot find anything better.

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"AppRanking for FREE" by Michael Dorn

NOTE: AppRanking has been deprecated in favor of Applyzer.

Michael Dorn (my collaborator on LuckyWheel) just couldn’t stand having to dig through iTunes to find how our game is doing in 62 iTunes countries. So he took it upon himself to create a nifty tool that allows you to conveniently look up rankings of any app. He wrote it in RealBASIC as an OSX desktop app in less than one day.

AppRanking Screenshot

Michael makes it available to all readers of Dr. Touch because it’s just soooo useful. And for free, that’s how nice he is!

AppRanking for FREE (No longer available, see above note)


It’s a ZIP file with an Mac APP inside. Again, like all free software this comes without any warranty. Use at your own risk.

Minimum/Maximum of Multiple Values

MadIvad asks:

Is there some sort of math function for the minimum of a set of values? I have searched the docs and not found one reference to math in iPhone OS2.2, and min only returns the like of ‘minimum’ for different control values. or for stating what the minimum of the integer or NSUInt class etc…

Does a function/class/anything exist that would simply return the lowest value of 2 or more values?

Boy, that was easy. There are compiler macros defined that work on any scalar datatype. MIN(a,b) and MAX(a,b). Note the case.

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Cracker Tracker and Apple Stalker

I would like to draw your attention to two ideas that might work if enough people organize and contribute. I know that your time is valuable and most of you won’t have extra time to spend helping with a “good iPhone cause”, but hear me out. If we organize, contribute automatically we can all benefit enormously.

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Variable Number of Decimal Places

Trapper asks:

I have one integer holding a variable number of decimal places that another variable needs to be rounded to when I stringWithFormat it. What is the correct way to do this?

Trapper is not content with just specifying %.2f in a stringWithFormat, but he wants the number of decimal places to be dependent on a second variable.

Here is the shortest method I came up with.

int decimals = 3;
double d = 3.1415;
   
NSString *format = [NSString stringWithFormat:@"%%%0.1ff", decimals/10.0];
NSString *formattedString = [NSString stringWithFormat:format, d]; // e.g. %0.3f 
NSLog(formattedString);

I got confused at first because the NSLog would always output a strange value when wanted to output the formatting string. Then I remembered that the first parameter of NSLog itself is also interpreting formatting information. NSLog combines stringWithFormat into the output.

That’s good to know in case you want to add an NSLog statement for debugging floating point variables.

double d = 3.1415;
NSLog("%0.2f", d);  // formatting directly here

Don't Quit Your Day Job

Rob asks:

I have decided to start writing apps as a full time job. Assuming I can master this, and assuming I can get 1 app per month accepted in the App Store, can anyone give me some guidance on how much income I am likely to make.

Here are some numbers from my data that might help you:

  • A general purpose tool app like GeoCorder might sell between 1 and 5 copies a day.
  • Something interesting or unusual like iFR Cockpit can expect to sell around 5-10 copies a day.
  • A niche market tool like iWoman might to do well at 10-20 copies a day.
  • A game like LuckyWheel would sell around 20 copies a day IF you also have a LITE Version that has about 900-1000 downloads a day. Without a LITE version it could only be 5-10 copies a day.;-)

So assuming you concentrate on niche apps and games and calculating from $25 a day per such app you might make around $2000 a month if you manage to land 3 of those in the store. NOT taken into account additional cost like taxes or hardware. And not considering that Apple has the painful final word. Does that sound easy enough for you to immediately quit your day job?

For me it didn’t and it took me 8 months to get where I am today. It’s ok to see it as a lucrative hobby or even second income, but to stake your existance solely iPhone development you have to be extremely disciplined. Or even better: to know how to build teams of bright minds who can bring skills to the table that your don’t possess yourself.

Anything goes … into NSArray

When switching to or beginning with Objective C you might be tempted to try to use the old c-style arrays, but that’s better left to the hard core C-enthusiasts. For programming Cocoa Touch we always use the NSArray class because of the additional intelligence it provides for us, not to mention integration with memory management.

The first thing I ever added into NSArray was string objects. And so will probably everybody who starts with Objective C.

NSString *someText = @"Static Text";  // static allocation
NSString *someMoreText = [[NSString alloc] initWithString:@"More Static Text"]; // manually allocated
NSArray *myArray = [NSArray arrayWithObjects:someText, someMoreText, nil];  // note the nil
[someMoreText release];  // don't forget to release
 
NSString *retrievedText = [myArray objectAtIndex:1]; // first index = 0
NSLog(retrievedText);

How about numbers? Generally you can only add instances of objects into NSArray. But luckily Apple has created the NSNumber class which provides a container object for any kind of number, i.e. int, float or even BOOL.

int i=123;
float f=5.0;
 
NSNumber *num_i = [NSNumber numberWithInt:i];
NSNumber *num_f = [NSNumber numberWithFloat:f];
NSNumber *num_b = [NSNumber numberWithBool:YES];
 
NSArray *myArray = [NSArray arrayWithObjects:num_i, num_f, num_b, nil];

With the methods above you are able to add strings and numbers into arrays. There is yet another wrapper class that allows to put even more complex data types and structs into arrays: NSValue. Most usefully are the UIKit additions to NSValue which give you the possibility of packaging CGRect, CGPoint, CGAffineTransform or CGSize structs into objects. And those are just as easy to put into an array.

CGRect aRect = CGRectMake(0, 0, 100.0, 100.0);
CGSize aSize = CGSizeMake(10.0, 20.0);
 
NSValue *val_rect = [NSValue valueWithCGRect:aRect];
NSValue *val_size = [NSValue valueWithCGSize:aSize];
 
NSArray *myArray = [NSArray arrayWithObjects:val_rect, val_size, nil];

Soon you will find it odd that NSArray does not have any method to add and remove objects. The reason for this is that most standard objects are non-changable (aka “immutable”) as such. To gain such modification features you have to use the mutable cousin NSMutableArray. This gives you methods like addObject or removeObject.

NSMutableArray *myArray = [[NSMutableArray alloc] init];
[myArray addObject:@"first string"];
[myArray addObject:@"second string"];
[myArray addObject:@"third string"];
 
[myArray removeObjectAtIndex:1];
 
NSLog([myArray description]);  // a quick way to show contents
 
[myArray release];

NSArrays are the meat and bones of most Objective-C apps. Anybody trying to master this language has no way around them.

LuckyWheel 1.0.3

Since we released LuckyWheel 1.0.2 together with a Lite Version we have around 1000 new downloads every day. Of course we are listening to all the user feedback und therefore I am hastily pushing out a new update. This is mostly aimed at the many Italian users, but one change will also benefit Spanish and French players.

  • Italian UI and Instructions added
  • accented letters are now counted as guessed correctly if you guess the non-accented letter. i.e. E = È
  • completely replaced Italian proverbs with cleaned up set
  • prettier icon

Depending on how long Apple takes to check it out I guess you will see the update appear in about one week.

Apple Rejects Incredibly Useful iTunes Report App

ASiST First screenshotMostly out of personal necessity I had created MyAppSales to download and chart the sales reports available on iTunes Connect, the website where Apple makes daily reports available for only 7 days. A dozen BETA testers helped me improve it and iron out some kinks and finally it was ready to be submitted for sale on the app store.

Some people suggested that Apple might not want any app to interface with their website, but someone found an all called Sales Report on the app store for $14.99 which does precisely that. I assumed that Apple had to be fair and allow all apps that do the same thing. So I submitted it.

There was an occasional back and forth where every time I got an additional line of the full answer, but I kept arguing for fairness. After many weeks of keeping my app MyAppSales under review they finally came back with a rejection reason that I cannot counter:

Thank you for submitting your application to the App Store. Unfortunately, your application My App Sales cannot be added to the App Store because it violates section 3.3.7 of the iPhone SDK Agreement:

“Applications may not use any robot, spider, site search or other retrieval application or device to scrape, retrieve or index services provided by Apple or its licensors, or to collect information about users for any unauthorized purpose. ”

There is no public API allowing information from iTunes Connect to be used in the manner demonstrated by your application. 

Now I am baffled. I and a dozen other people keep using MyAppSales and we are quite happy with it. But Apple seemingly does not feel a moral obligation to appliy those pesky SDK Laws equally to all developers.

Requests for comment about why the other app is still available on the app store have not been answered so far. I sent an e-mail to “Maringo Holdings, LLC” to congratulate them for having successfully outsmarted Apple.

Currently I have no time or strength to rip out the heart and usefulness from my app. Therefore for now I am offering the source code for purchase. You can compile the app yourself and use it on all your iPhones as you please. I think $15 is a fair price. Send it to me via PayPal (oliver@drobnik.com) and I will send you the source project. I will also keep providing free updates to source license holders.

Maybe in the future I will find a workaround, either via an FTP server in between Apple and the App or maybe interface with one of those numerous services that are popping up proposing to manage your reports online.