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Category Archive for ‘Tools’ rss

The new Whites – Worthy Polycarbonate Successor

A couple of days ago I got a chance to take a first feel of the new “low-end” MacBook. Well, it’s not so low after all.

For a while it looked like Apple would totally abandon the plasticBook line in favor of making everything out of Aluminium Unibodies. Though there still seems to be a magic line for quite a few Mac buyers at $1000. The cheapest Pro starts at $1199 and personally I would prefer if this would be the Thousand-Dollar-Laptop, but there’s also something psychological or maybe historical that entices Apple to continue the white line.

Maybe it’s because you can more easily affix stickers on a shell that’s made out of Polycarbonate? Hey it’s just a fancy pancy word for Plastic, so it would not mind if your kids stick some cartoon characters on it, next to the glowing Apple logo. Reimagining the fruit as just having been handed by the evil queen to Snow White?

These days when I get asked, “Oliver can you recommend a Laptop?” you can guess my answer: Mac and if you absolutely need Windows, run it in Bootcamp or virtually. Turns out the school director already had been Mac-infected for at home, so my suggestion to also get a Mac for use at school fell on fertile ground.

Being the resident Mac-Maniac I was asked to set up E-Mail, printing and install Office. In turn I asked to be recorded while unboxing the beast.

I had almost forgotten to mention this video on my blog. But then I saw on YouTube that the views already had surpassed my previous video of Unboxing a Magic Mouse. So I felt compelled to also provide an honorable spot on my blog for it.

It appears that while the Magic Mouse is way more hyped as being revolutionary and many people openly discuss if it’s worth it, the audience for white MacBooks is an order of magnitude larger. Or put differently, way more people are looking for the cheapest method to enter the Apple ecosystem, than are in the market for a fancy new mouse.

The White MacBook again pushes the envelope. Now the shell is made of 2 big parts and the top feels like plastic, the bottom like a powdery rubber. No firewire, No more seperate line-in. That’s now combined into the headphone jack. I supposed to be able to use an iPhone headset for remote-control and external Mic.

You now get up to 7 hours worth of battery life with the enclosed big battery. Now all mobile Macs have no user-servicable battery any more. So you will have to bring your favorite toy to the store and get it replaced there in 2-3 years when the retainable charge drops below a useful mobile working endurance. There’s been much discussion about the user-friendlyness of such an approach, but having now doors or stickers on the bottom of a laptop goes a long way to give you even more the feeling that “Mac just works”. Being a Windows administrator by day and seeing lots of notebooks, I honestly believe that even the simplest mobile MacBook blows any other Laptop out of the water in terms of ease-of-use and industrial design.

While we are still waiting for Apple’s answer to the netbook craze – which will not come this holiday season – the new white one is the perfect choice to give as a first Mac to your kids or wife. Daddy can still have a shiny aluminum Pro on his lap and thus be the king of the castle. All coming together in perfect Apple-Harmony for Christmas.

Magic Mouse has landed

After waiting 10 days – the Apple Store website claimed “ready in 4 days” – my order has arrived. Yesterday I got slightly nervous when I tried tracking the package and found the number was shipped to Manila one month ago. But there was another shipment with a different reference number below it, showing that the package has left Prague and was on it’s way to Vienna.

This morning I found two packages on my desk and so I recorded a quick unboxing ceremony in my lunch break. Thankfully I had a colleague hold my iPhone 3GS, he’s done a good job capturing my emotions. ;-)

After you free the Magic Mouse from it’s Snow White glass coffin you might also feel tempted to kiss it to life. But instead it comes to life if you turn it on and seek with the bluetooth assistant. It gets recodnized as a regular mouse, no gestures yet. Then you need to look for software updates and download the mouse-related update. After a reboot the mouse settings panel changes to something similar to what we are used to from the glass trackpad of the Unibody MacBooks.

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Useful Push Notification for Developers

A couple of days ago I put in a feature into MyAppSales so that my server gets pinged anonymously if a user sees a new report. Actually all downloaded reports are reported by date, type and region, but I am keeping track of the first report for a specific key. Turns out the reports really DO get available simultaneously around the globe. That’s fair.

Now what good is this information? Well, if you are like me you are still excited to see the previous day’s sales figures as soon as they become available. But with Apple sometimes being very slow in processing it could mean that you have to try the download serveral times until finally it is there.

Notifications AppEnter Push! You can get the new report availability notification in three ways:

  • Tell me an e-mail to send it to
  • Via the iPhone app Notifications. Tell me your token.
  • By following @myappsales on Twitter.

What else could be pushed to be useful to you? Anything relevant to iTunes Connect?

Even though MyAppSales was banned forever from the app store with the help of Notifications it still get’s push. And it works fabulously well for three days straight.

Even if you don’t use MyAppSales you could still benefit from knowing when your new daily report is available and download it via AppViz or any other downloader of your choice.

One idea are availability notifications. You would notify a server when you submit an app to apple. Then you would get a notification when Apple tests the app online. Finally you get a notification as soon as the app appears on the app store.

I want to hear your needs. Maybe there can be an app for that … or a service … or a notification.

Making (Google) Waves

Being a geek at heart I instantly got excited when Google presented Wave to developers attending the I/O Conference. They call Wave a “personal communication and collaboration tool” when they unveiled it to the public for the first time. Since then a digital divide has opened up: those who have Google Wave accounts and those who want one.

For some reason that has many heads shaking in disgust they opted to not immediately release it to the general public like they would do with BETA versions but instead do it in waves of a couple hundred-thousand each. So besides from working for Google or being close to them in any other way, the only way to get a coveted Google Wave account was to wait to be nominated by one of the few members who have nomination rights. The first bunch of accounts went to people who are looking to write plugins aka “bots” to add more functionalities.

After a few minutes of experimenting you start to understand how to edit Waves. You can double-click into a body of text to get an option to edit. Once you do, all other people watching the wave will see your named cursor making the modifications almost live. You can also respond to specific blocks by clicking on their lower border. At the end of a thread you get “Continue this thread”, on a post in between you see “Insert Reply here”.

Due to my interaction with the iPhone developer community and me making no secret out of my wish to get on Wave, some friendly colleague blessed me with an invitation and two days later I was on. If you want to use Wave for something more than just a glorified rich text editor, you need to have contacts to “wave” at. So I started a wave where I am adding every iPhone developer who also happens to have a Wave account.

Wave

If you happen to have a Google Wave account yourself then please wave me at oliver.drobnik@googlewave.com. I am still “collecting” developers. As of this writing there are 16 developers on it. If you open the wave you see the other participants at the top and by clicking on their icons you can add them to your own contacts. The experiment is to see if some creativity could could be sparked if you just get enough like-minded people in the same place.

I am excited about Wave because in daily life I find myself in many situations where I get e-mails with just one line of text that would have been better put in a tweet or instant message. And if you respond to specific parts of the message all the original text is quoted and mangled differently between different e-mail clients. Wave could solve this problem by having one Wave being one topic that is being structured by all its participants. The original bits stay intact. Also you can play back a wave to step through all the changes that where made over time to find out who is responsible for a specific edit.

Wave in mobile Safari

Google Wave can be seen as a the bold attempt to make e-mail and instant messaging obsolete, but it can only achieve this if it reaches critical mass sooner rather than later. It was only 2 years ago, with the purchase of my first iPhone, that I got e-mails working and in sync between my mobile device, my Exchange mail server and my Mac. To make Wave a success over just being a glorified geekery about how cool it is to have multiple cursors editing the same document, there needs to be total integration into the platforms we already use. And I mean BINARY integration. Not just a browser window into a cloud but also offline capability and a mobile UI that will convince people to make Wave their primary means of communication.

Yesterday I also experimented around with the mobile version of Wave. If you access it with your iPhone’s safari you get a warning about it not being supported, but you can proceed at your own risk. Basic reading and responding to threads works well, though after a while you see why its not yet “officially supported”. Well, because of the ALPHA status its not even inofficially supported, but you find that some of the functions just don’t work. For example I found no way how I could enter editing mode for an existing Wave, some miniature buttons don’t do anything when tapped. But it is clear that Google is making an effort, because at first glance it looks quite usable even over 3G.

People, or the current lack thereof, are just one of several factors that need to be addressed to make Wave a success. The other main reason for people writing a blog and trying to interact with readers and friends alike is that you will be able to embed waves into blogs retaining the possibility of commenting and collaborative editing. Somebody could ask me a question and I could elaborate on the answer in a Wave. Once everything has been ironed out I can publish the wave to an article.

One question that’s been on my mind is if Google Wave will also be capable of replacing Wikis. There are many people who either keep all their “documentation” in their mail client or meticulously sort them into their personal Wikis. Or somewhere in between, say text files on harddisks. Wave offers folders and custom searches, but I don’t see yet how you can organize knowledge on a larger scale with it. But maybe down the road we will also edit Wikis from within Google Wave.

Finally the promise is also to be an open standard based on open source. Companies will be able to set up their own Wave servers and provide identity to users. Still, through a process called federation, the promise is to still be able to interact with Waves hosted on Google or other Wave servers. That is clearly the way ahead because even though Google claims to “not be evil” it is simply prudent to keep your confidential data on your own servers.

PS: One video on YouTube was also making waves. Some creative guy used quotes from Pulp Fiction to demonstrate a few of the things you can do in a wave.

Oh No! All App Sales Data Gone!

When I updated my iPhone 3G to OS 3.0 to be used on – shall we say – the network of my choosing I found that the signal strength reported is much less. Most of the times it is even “No Service”. On various forums you can read that this might be due to restoring the iPhone from backup. So I did a full factory reset hoping to fix the problem, which it did not.

But when I wanted to get back to my normal life I found that the wipe also had removed important data like all my daily sales reports since October which I have been faithfully collecting with my trusty MyAppSales app. With the built-in import/export web server it is easy to copy the sqlite database over to your Mac. But then it dawned on me that I had done so the last time 13 days ago.

So if I would put this in db in, I would have a gap of 6 days. I needed to find a way to get back to just the single apps.db contained in the iPhone backups that iTunes routinely creates every time you synch.

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The Definitive List of Sales Report Tools

I am trying to convince somebody (other than myself) to do an in-depth comparison of all the ways you can download your app sales reports from iTunes Connect. I wonder why no blogger ever thought of this, clearly there lots of people with apps in the store and all of these are fed up with the crappy way of manually downloading the reports from Apple.

So far the only blogger who made an effort to compare sales report and ranking tools available was MarkJ.net. Another one can be found on MacStories.net.

All of these would benefit if we could nudge Apple towards creating a Web 3.0 open report download API. Because then we could compete on merit of our tools and not of who does the best marketing or who was able to fool Apple or not.

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CRACKED! (But Surviving)

I woke up this morning finding over two hundred additional LuckyWheel installations. My first thought was that I must have striken a gold mine. I looked around for a new review, or if LuckyWheel got finally featured. Nothing of this sort.

Then I responded to a thread on iphonedevsdk forum regarding crack detection when I dawned on me: CRACKED! And if you google “Luckywheel IPA” you immediately find 3 sites that have posted a cracked IPA:

LuckyWheel Cracked

The right question to ask now is: AntiCrack still working?

And I can respond resoundingly – with proudly swelled chest – YES!

I checked the cracked IPA and found that all copy protection checks are still fully functioning. All those people downloading the cracked IPA are actually getting a limited Lite version without knowing it.

So either the cracker used an old version of Crackulous or it simply does NOT (YET) prevent the prevention. It just removed the Apple shrink wrap.

So what will happen is that all those people will find after 10 rounds that they have downloaded a Lite version and will be prompted to purchase the Full one. My current conversion rate from Lite to Full is 0.7%, so these more than 1000 additional customers might translate into ten or so additional dollars of sales every day. Not a gold mine, but still more business that I would have done without the additional marketing channel.

So the news are good! AntiCrack is still 100% safe and will continue to be because the community forming around it has begun to share knowledge as to make the copy protection even more secure.

Make Your Apps Crash-Proof!

Yesterday when I went into iTunes Connect to download some promo codes for peer reviews if noticed a new announcement. Apple has begun to provide customer’s crash reports for your apps. That’s great news as you now can see precisely where your apps need work.

Crash logs for applications are now available. To view them, go the Manage Your Applications Module below, click to view the desired application’s details, then click View Crash Report.

You can test all you want, in all likelyhood one of your valued customers will find a method to make your app crash because they use it in a way that you did not anticipate.

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Apple Owes Me Millions, or Lucky Women on Top

When you are trying to be successful with something you think a lot. You are researching methods that worked for other people. You are pondering, designing, sweating. You are emulating what caused success in others. And it does not get you anywhere where you would already call yourself successful.

But then comes a long a new aquaintence, a little tool called AppRanking for FREE, that turns your world upside down and with this external help you suddenly realize that you are already many times more successful that you thought you are. You just looked in the wrong direction.

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Transfer App Data Back to Your Mac

If you are saving data in your apps then you are saving them to your app’s sandboxed documents directory. In simulator files you can easily inspect the contents of the directory if you just browse there with finder or cd there in terminal. Note that there is a space in the path, so you need to put exclamation marks around it if you use it with cd in terminal.

NSArray *paths = NSSearchPathForDirectoriesInDomains(NSDocumentDirectory, NSUserDomainMask, YES);
NSString *documentsDirectory = [paths objectAtIndex:0];
NSLog(documentsDirectory);  // output documents directory to debug console

Copy this path, open terminal and go:

MacDrops:~ Oliver$ cd "/Users/Oliver/Library/Application Support/iPhone Simulator/User/Applications/AAC8D0E8-C134-4A94-ACA9-88C7A58DCE1C/Documents"

Or if you prefer Finder then use the handy option “Go To Folder …” and paste the path there. Bear in mind that with every new build the documents directory gets moved to a new application ID. The contents will persist, but the path changes. If you navigate to the ../User/Applications folder you will find that the newest directory is the one that belongs to your just-built app.

There are some rare cases though when you find that Simulator behaves differently than a device. How can you inspect the files there?

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