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Learning to program the iPhone

4 Sep

Based on the rumors of an upcoming portable ultra-thin 10-inch screen mobile communication device, aka Apple Tablet or iTablet, I decided to learn how to program the iPhone and iPod Touch. My guess is that the supposed Apple Tablet will not only be made from Unicorn tears, but also run an OS based on Cocoa and Objective-C, just as the Macintosh (aka Mac) and the iPhone and iPod Touch do.

Because I am on a tight budget and new devices come out all the time, I decided to make do with the free iPhone developer kit with iPhone simulator first, and only invest in one (or several) device(s) once I have a good idea for an application. So at this moment I’m laying a foundation for possible future development of an application on the iTunes App Store.

To give me a firm grounding in Objective-C, Cocoa and the basics of iPhone programming I’ve bought these three books, based on several recommendations and positive Amazon reviews:

  1. Programming in Objective-C 2.0 (second edition, third printing, March 2009), by Stephen G. Kochan (Pearson Education, 2009)
  2. Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X (third edition), by Aaron Hillegass (Pearson Education, 2008)
  3. Beginning iPhone 3 Development – Exploring the iPhone SDK, by Dave Mark and Jeff LaMarche (Apress, 2009)

Accompanying these print books are these websites, respectively:

  1. Official forum for Programming in Objective-C 2.0 (maintained by the author, Stephen Kochan)
  2. Product page for Big Nerd Ranch books (you can download the solutions to exercises here)
  3. Support forum for the books of the authors (after you’ve registered, you can download the source code through the forum)

I only have had contact with Stephen Kochan (who is also on Twitter), and he is very responsive and supportive. Of course, as always, you have to do as much research on your own as you can before you bother other (very busy) people with your question. Many of the questions you might have are probably already answered in the forum. If not, just register, post your question, and it might be answered in a few hours (or more likely days). Always remember that you don’t have to pay for this service. It is being offered as a free bonus to the book. If you want to learn faster and have more interaction, consider paying for a computer science class in your local area and several thousands of dollars in tuition fees.

As I don’t have that kind of money, I opt for learning by books and experimentation. The beautiful thing is that the tools are basically free, so anyone with a fast Internet connection can learn how to write iPhone applications. Only when you want to publish in the App Store you have to pay a yearly fee of $99 USD. And even if you never write an application for the iPhone, you can still develop applications for Mac OS X, because you’ll need basically very similar skill sets.

I won’t be bothering you with my studies, but if I have something important to tell, I will let you know via this blog, like I did with this post.

I already had some basic knowledge of computer programming. If you are completely new to computer programming, I recommend learning that first, for instance with the book How To Think Like a Computer Scientist. I know from personal experience with a previous version of this book, that it will ground you firmly in the principles of computer programming. It uses Python as the programming language, which many recommend as the first programming language for adults.

Of course, if you’re on a really, really tight budget, you could try to only use what Apple has to offer on their developer.apple.com website. However, I don’t recommend it, because Apple assumes that everyone interested in that site is at least fluent in the C language and has some years of experience in writing working applications. In short, what Apple offers on their developer website is a reference for experienced programmers, either in C++, Java or just plain C, who want to expand their expertise into Objective-C and Cocoa.

That is all.

Another Windows 7 beta review

14 Jan

For those of you who really detest everything remotely Windows, here’s a cartoon for you.

Win7beta poo flinging

That is all.

Monkeying around with Windows 7 Beta

14 Jan

This is my review of Windows 7. Because I’m not a tech journalist, this little piece is just me writing that I had fun using Windows 7. It is a different perspective from the many reviews you may have seen from technology pundits.

I’m on a Mac, so I used VMware Fusion 2 to install Windows 7 Beta. I got the .iso file by searching for it on Google, used it as the .iso for installing a version of Windows Vista in VMware Fusion. This went without any problems. I picked Windows 7 Ultimate out of the list of four options.

win7beta install screen

Once Windows 7 was installed within 15 minutes, I again used Google to find the place to get a registration key (a product key in MS terms). I have a Live account, which I needed to retrieve my product key. I used the Windows 7 Help Center to both find out how to register with the key at hand, and how to do it online. This means I can keep using Windows 7 Beta for longer than 30 days.

As the first program to install, I tried Sandboxie, but it complained that it couldn’t be installed on Windows 7. And sure enough, it crashed the OS. Luckily for me, Windows 7 crashes gracefully, and after some voodoo (while I could relax and enjoy the view, because it went mostly without human intervention), it came back up, without any pain or Blue Screen of Death (BSoD). Next, I tuned down the amount of available memory for Windows 7 to only 512 MB of RAM (768 MB was recommended by VMware Fusion as the absolute minimum).

Next, I installed FireFox 3.05, with the add-ons NoScript and SSL Blacklist, to ensure some security while surfing on the Internet. I also installed Adobe AIR 1.5 and twhirl, so I can use twhirl to keep in contact with my friends at TWiT Army Canteen.

I simply dragged the shortcuts of these programs on the desktop to the taskbar, and they registered as a shortcuts to the programs. I unclipped the Internet Explorer 8 shortcut (by right-clicking on it and selecting the appropriate menu option), so I got that out of my way.

Last, but not least, I installed Paint.net, with which I drew this picture:

monkeying around

Windows 7 Beta seems to be very stable and reliable. It tries to stay out of your way, and only intervenes when needed for security reasons. It is very productive, very much like Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. And it runs on a very minimal system, inside a virtual machine, with only 512 MB of RAM.

That is all.

ecto

2 Dec

I’m quite pleased with the Mac OS X blogging software called ecto. ecto is published by illumineX. You can write blog post locally, on your computer’s hard drive, and publish them on your favorite blogging platform (Drupal, Movable Type, Nucleus, SquareSpace, TypePad, WordPress and more).

The advantage is that you have a single application on your Mac, and you can publish to several types of blogging platforms. If you have a single blog, this won’t really matter, but if you have, for instance, a personal blog and a work-related blog, it may be a huge timesaver, because you only have to deal with a single user interface (that of ecto) for writing your content.

Its advantage is also its disadvantage, though, because you can only do so much with blog posts. With that I mean that most blogs nowadays have widgets, both in the post itself and in the sidebar. As far as I know, those widgets can’t be previewed (sidebar widgets can’t be edited either) with ecto. To do that, you still need the online editor that is supplied on the blogging platform.

The best way I found for dealing with this limitation is to change the preference for publishing. I let ecto save the posts as drafts on the blogging server, do some additional editing in the online blogging editor, and then publish. It is a good workaround, with an added bonus.

That is, this workaround can used as a “safety net”. The extra step prevents the author from publishing a text prematurely. How many times have you pushed the publish button, only to realize later on that the post would have been much better after several more revisions? Better safe than sorry does apply here. Furthermore, editing a text which already has been published is considered controversial in some circles and for certain applications (e.g. news facts). The extra step of reviewing the draft in a different editor can prevent awkward posts.

In conclusion, this is great software for editing blog posts, and worth the registration costs of $17.95 (excluding VAT) if you own several blogs. especially if those are on several blogging platforms.

That is all.

Scrivener

1 Dec

Literature and Latte has developed an authoring software for creative writing on the Mac, which is called Scrivener. It lets you create bits and pieces of your text as a draft, and gather other pieces of media (text, photos) to base your work on as a resource. After you’ve finished the draft, you compile it into a final version for external review or publishing. I haven’t gone through the tutorial yet, but it seems very promising.

I already have an idea for a first project, a cross between the A-Team and Star Trek. I should get my inspiration from watching old episodes of those TV shows and mix them together into something completely different. I’m told it is one of the best ways to enter the field of story writing, because most of the work has already been done by others, and you only have to do light work to create a new story.

A good site to publish your fan fiction writing on is FanFiction.net. However, I don’t think one should publish one’s very first story there, but rather write several stories and pick the best one for review on such sites. Even then, be prepared to get some serious feedback from experienced fan fiction authors. That is, I guess, the exact reason why you publish on such peer review sites, to get positive critique, so you can improve.

Of course, Scrivener will not tell you how to write. It is just a tool to enable a particular method of creative writing. People who prefer developing a text in their heads first and then write the whole text in one go should look elsewhere. Scrivener is for the rest of us, who organically develop their story.

At least, that is my first impression of the software and its intended users.

That is all.

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