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Starting an OpenSource Project on GitHub

In my article on CoreText I mentioned that Apple left out some very useful methods from NSAttributedString, namely the ones that would allow you to create an attributed string from HTML. Now you would probably not want to create attributed strings from complex HTML documents, but use that for simple tasks like displaying one word in a different color or bold.

My first thought was that maybe I should make it a sellable component, but I dismissed this idea for two reasons:

  1. there is a certain likelyhood that Apple will implement the missing functions in the next major SDK refresh
  2. if I would get help from people who are more experienced in dealing with HTML parsing then this would benefit everybody involved

So I posted the question on Twitter as to where to put the shared code. The response was a resounding GitHub (one mention of Mercurial and Assembla each). So far I had put off dealing with GitHub, because – in contrast with many other iOS developers – I happen to very much like Subversion integration in Xcode.

Read on to learn how to get started.

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HTML Colors

I am building a category for NSAttributedString that will allow me to make attributed strings from HTML code. For coloring the text there are two methods in HTML, via the deprecated font tag and via style. Both use color names or hex to describe the color.

The W3C knows 147 color names, clearly too many to type in manually. So I used a bit of shell script magic to hammer this into Objective-C. Then I also needed an elegant method to make regular UIColor objects from a hex string.

Both I am sharing in this article. These methods are invaluable if you are dealing with web people who are used to specifying colors this way. Also it might be more intuitive if you can specify colors in hex format yourself. That is, if you are a geek who is used to thinking in the hexadecimal system.

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Befriending Core Text

Before the iPad was released you had basically two ways how to get text on screen. Either you would stick with UILabel or UITextView provided by UIKit or if you felt hard-core you would draw the text yourself on the Quartz level incurring all the headaches induced by having to mentally switch between Objective-C and C API functions.

As of iOS 3.2 we gained a third alternative in Core Text promising full control over styles, thread safety and performance. However for most of my apps I did not want to break 3.x compatibility and so I procrastinated looking at this powerful new API. Apps running only on iPads could have made use of Core Text from day 1, but to me it made more sense supporting iPad via hybrid apps where the iPhone part would still be backwards compatible.

Now as the year has turned the adoption of 4.x on all iOS platforms is ever more accelerating. Many new iPads where found under the Christmas tree and by now even the most stubborn people (read needing 3.x for jailbreaking and sim-unlocking) have little reason to stick with 3.x. Thus we have almost no incentive left to stick with 3.x compatibility. Yay!

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Detecting Taps Outside of Tableview Cells

iWoman Date Picker

In the latest version of iWoman- which I’ve been working on the past few weeks – I had a situation where I am sliding up a date picker when the user taps on a date cell. Sliding it out when the user taps on other cell was easy, you can do that in the other cells’ didSelectRowAtIndexPath. But if you have that in a grouped tableview then there are several areas outside of cells that also could become the targets of a user’s taps.

Generally a user would also assume to be able to dismiss the picker by tapping there, in headers or empty areas where you see the background shine through. In this blog post I’m showing you a technique on how this is done most efficiently and also backwards compatible.

I tried out several approaches before settling on this solution. You might be able to use a gesture recognizer, but that would rule out 3.1 compatibility. You could override the touch methods of the table view and do some fancy detective work there. But I found – as I did so often before – that by far the most convient way is to override hitTest.

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How to Spy on the Web Traffic of any App

Have you ever wondered what is going on when all those apps on your iPhone communicate with websites and web services? In this article I will explain a technique to employ your Mac as a spy to be able to inspect all the traffic that goes on between the public Internet and your iPhone.

This is wonderful for learning what POST requests need to be made of if you do screen scraping. It’s also quite useful if you are planning to reverse engineer some API that is not public yet. Finally you can use it to look for potential security concerns to report to the makers of your favorite apps.

You require a Mac that has a wired internet connection as well as built-in WiFi. We’ll use the Mac as the “Man in the Middle” and route all Internet traffic from our iPhone over it so that we can inspect the HTTP/HTTPS.

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NSURLConnection with Self-Signed Certificates

A year ago I touched upon the question as to how you can prevent NSURLConnection from aborting a HTTPS GET if the certificate is invalid. At that time it seemed like the only method available was a forbidden one: allowsAnyHTTPSCertificateForHost. It’s undocumented, works, but gets your app rejected if Apple finds it when scanning your symbols.

But what should people do who don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for a trusted HTTPS certificate just so that they can reap the benefit of encrypting their web traffic and possibly hide user login data from prying eyes? The alternative to those commercial certificates is to produce a Self-Signed one and install it on your web server.

In this article I will demonstrate how to properly and officially deal with self-signed certificates via NSUrlConnection. It just so happens that I have a *.cocoanetics.com on my website, primarily used for protecting SVN communication. If you go to https://www.cocoanetics.com you will see it in this dialog:

Since a Self-Signed certificate does not have a trusted root the standard is to ask the user if he wants to trust the web site temporarily, permanently or not at all. The reason being that encryption only makes sense if you know that the recipient is who he says he is. Any other site can also produce a *.cocoanetics.com certificate for their IP address. Root Certification Authorities (CA) provide security that only a certain IP address can be the holder of a domain name. This is why you see the trust of the certificate be dependent on the trust in the certificate of the CA.

But if you are calling web services of your own you can forego this mechanism. In this article I am documenting how.

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Draggable Buttons and Labels

luckysmiles asks:

Pls anyone help me…how to move controls(like button,label.. ) from one place to another using touch events in iphone..

There are 3 possibilities nowadays on how to enable items – that is UIViews and UIControls – to be draggable.

  • override touchesMoved
  • add a target/selector for dragging control events
  • add a pan gesture recognizer

All those are variations on essentially the same thing: the iOS delivers touches to your app and you have more or less intelligent plumbing to calculate a moving vector. Then you apply this delta to either the frame of the thing to be moved or, more intelligently change the item’s center property.

When I started building a sample I wanted to create a UIButton subclass with the added draggability and have this button be instantiated from a XIB. Now it turns out that you can only create custom buttons like this, not rounded rect buttons like you usually do. The reason for this being that the regular initWithFrame or initWithCoder for a subclassed UIButton would need to instead create a UIRoundedRectButton (private Apple class) to look like that.
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Custom-Colored Disclosure Indicators

Sometimes you may want to have a different background color on your table views than Apple White. One problem you will most likely be facing is that this makes it impossible to use the regular table view cell accessories. Black arrows on black background are kinda hard to see.

You will have to draw your own. And in this post I’m going to show you how I did it.

Just today I discovered a mechanism that makes it even easier to roll your own custom-colored accessory view. The property name containing the word “view” is somewhat misleading in this case. You might be tempted to create your own UIView subclass and override the drawRect to draw there. This has one disadvantage though, you cannot switch colors when the cell gets highlighted.

Update Feb 1, 2013: DTCustomColoredAccessory presented in this article is now part of our Open SourceĀ DTFoundation and covered under a 2-clause BSD license. You can either uses it with attribution for free or you can purchase a non-attribution license in our parts store.

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Embedding Binary Resources

When creating a static universal framework we’re facing one quite annoying problem. How do we get our pretty images added to the app bundle that our code will be used in?

Contrary to what you might be used to on the Windows platform there is no built-in method of embedding graphics files into an app binary. Because of this you see famous SDKs like FBConnect provide a bundle together with their libraries. To add these you have to add both the library/framework and the graphics bundle to your project.

Bundles are basically just folders that have been named with the .bundle extension. This hides their content from lazy clicking, but you can still look inside in terminal or by right click and “Show Package Contents”. This opens the bundle like a folder and you can edit its contents.

Now for the longest time I had a longing to package library and SDK code in neat frameworks that you would simply drag&drop into a target project. I managed to build two libraries and glue them together so that the same library can be used for building for simulator and device. Then guest author Netytan demonstrated how you can hack a bundle project to create a framework instead. The graphics problem was literally the only open loop to close.

Until today …

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Backwards Compatibility if Apple Starts Polishing

You can see that Apple is constantly polishing the APIs from version to version, but sometimes they make a more drastic change that breaks existing code. Well, not exactly “breaks”, but starts to show warnings about you daring to use deprecated methods.

One such change came out of their trying to adhere to their own naming conventions of methods. The second kind of late polishing is if there are new structures introduced without a matching Make macro for easy filling of said structures. I have an example for you, also in CoreLocation.

In this post I’m exploring two such changes and tell you how I dealt with them in a backwards compatible way.
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