Can I have my Tumblr iOS 7 update NOW please!!!?
Suddenly I hate all gloss icons and apps with no transparency! I was doing fine, then Twitterific came along and ruined everything!!
Yes, so, anyway. I suspect the Tumblr folks are having as much of a laugh as everyone else with this stuff. It’s just so much FUN writing iOS 7 if your app benefits from some playfulness.
Mind you, the way I’ve delayed my own app because I forgot all the physics and vector maths I used to know is a trifle embarrassing. At first I was struggling with Object Orientation concepts, now arithmetic is my nemesis!
You know when you sat in maths class and ignored all that boring trig stuff? Yeah…
Given how stable iOS 7 is reported to be on iPhone compared to the iPad, it does suggest that a new phone could launch in 4 weeks but without a sibling iPad if there was never going to be one anyway this autumn.
That would let the phone launch with something stable and the iPad version of 7 to launch after some dedicated polish.
The iPad could move back to a spring release giving them time to work on a retina mini.
The two problems with that are that given just how fast they’ve polished up iOS 7 already, 4-6 weeks starts to look about right to finalise both platforms, and a 6 month release window for iPads is also impressively plausible.
Still, the clock is now ticking to get the new apps out there. It could be a frantic month.
There’s a weird thing which happens when you tell people you are working on an app.
They immediately tell you of their own app idea. Almost every time.
(Unless they are a programmer, then they explain why your idea sucks).
There’s no doubt that for me, the ideas and the design are what gets me all excited in the first place. A somewhat distant second is the code and structure.
Weirdly, the bit that is harder is doing the graphical work. It shouldn’t be, as I love drawing, but drawing within the confines of a program is hard work, so it sucks the life out the fun stuff.
But people always think the hard part is “inventing” an app that calculates the water flow of their guttering depending on the weather, then posts it on Twitter.
I do wonder when all the hard stuff lost its mystique. Seeing an over abundance of great apps may have a lot to do with this.
So maybe we just need some more terrible apps?
iPhone’s grunt is redefining complexity
Somewhat tragically, I think about how people use computers a lot. Increasingly I’ve been struck by the different use cases in mobile and web and traditional enterprise computing, but lately now that tablets are I the mix, I’ve been seeing more cases where the focus is getting an iPad app out there.
Mainly because it’s cool, rather than compelling.
I’ve been looking at systems management a bit lately, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve always been inclined to reduce the interface down to a single set of traffic lights at the most visible place people are going to look.
(This leads into my Raspberry Pi lightbulb driving portable monitor project, but that’s another post).
For traditional large scale web apps, there are clear distinctions between tasks where complexity and volume tend to be at the opposite ends of the architecture. With a more personal computing approach, you would normally expect it to be the iPhone doing the simple tasks, and the large scale complex stuff to be back at base.
However, in terms of raw processing grunt, there’s a skew in an iPhone in that the hard work is mostly in the interface, rendering and doing animation and so on, so the hardware should also be able to do a lot of what would traditionally be seen as high complexity.
This frees up the mobile device from a back end in many ways. In contradiction to the old model, the interface is probably less able to cope with tons of data than an old web page.
So that pushes the interface complexity back onto the iPad or web page, with the iPad still not being the sort of place you expect to want to handle large volumes tabulated data, such as a complex system monitor or customer handling system.
If you want to try to stay inside an iOS environment then, you might have a problem.
This means the UI has to be novel instead, and rather than just chuck all the data at the user has to use all its animation power to be more imaginative.
Make it slick enough, and you could end up back at the phone again of course.I reckon that if you take this to its logical conclusion, the high end processing back in the datacentre may eventually be distributed out to the mobile devices which will barely be ticking over. The issue then becomes one of security and distributed mobile communication. The move from mainframes to middleware has been inexorable. The beginning of a move to fully personal may be underway soon.
If you code you already know this…
…but before you spend half the night debugging a simple sound effect, DO make sure the flippin’ file you’re using actually works!
And if it saves anyone even 5 minutes, the iOS 4.2 Library Metronome project has a working .caf file.
There’s a fair bit of interesting discussion at the moment around the topic of overly engineered interfaces on iOS devices, and to a lesser extent, OS X. This post by Rene Ritchie captures it perfectly for me, in that you look at the skeuomorphic images, then compare them to all aluminium ones, and the aluminium ones are clearly less busy, easier to scan and more importantly to my mind, more calming.
As someone forced to use Windows at work for the last 20 odd years, it’s struck me that it’s become more shrill (Hotdog Stand theme notwithstanding) and more panic stricken an environment to work in.
Overlapping glass windows, lots of constantly pulsing IM notifications, email windows, beeping and popping, it’s not at all conducive to calm, thoughtful working.
When I finally did manage to switch at home to Snow Leopard, it was like walking into a library. No fuss, everything gentle and calming.
Part of this is the chrome that you hardly even notice. An almost transparent aluminium like substance, that’s almost apologetic that it exists at all. It’s interesting that Apple’s metal appears less substantial than Microsoft’s glass, but the glowing glass is so in-your-face that it yells at you, demanding notice.
And as for most Linux chrome, there’s a reason I prefer to ssh to them…
(Sidenote: is the reason that so much Linux has angry, angry interface design the reason so many of us that use Linux so annoyed all the time?)
So I think some people objecting to the fact that things are skeuomorphic may really be articulating the fact that they object to having busy, stressful places to work.
For play, it’s different.
I think the Find My Friends interface is quite lovely to be honest, but it’s light, and a bit whimsical. Game Centre is meant to be brash, and that’s OK too, so when you start gaming you should feel a level of excitement and if the UI can help, well that’s great. For other high profile apps, the Calendar seems to rankle the most, as it’s hard to see how faux leather is at all useful there.
So maybe in all that, it’s just that it should be appropriate to the task in hand, and the default should be calming and just getting out the way.
iOS 6 made some strides in toning down the UI, more silver than blue, more blacks than silvers, and I thought on the iPhone especially, it felt more relaxing and pleasant to use.
Hopefully iOS 7 will carry that on and keep calming.
Application development for old people
One of the weirdest things I’ve found while trying to get back into programming after two decades away from it, is just how many of the underlying assumptions about skill levels in basic maths and arithmetic still hold true.
I ran into this issue in University for the first time after I’d been doing a reasonable amount of C coding in other places, and had a decent grasp of the language.
Because I was jumping straight into a 3rd year course from a different course, we were looking to see where I could skip a few classes, and C programming seemed a natural fit. I was expected to be able to breeze past the exams in that at least, and spend the time catching up on subjects the rest of the class had taken in 2nd and 3rd year which I hadn’t seen yet.
Which was all fine until the exam came around and I was expected to perform some seriously tricky mathematical ballet on a maths subject I’ve barely heard of. It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t code the equations, but I’d no idea what they even meant.
That was a very painful exam.
I’m finding that I’m faced with similar things doing iOS tutorials now, in that a lot of the maths, while not as hard as at Uni, is still lost in the mists of time for me, and it’s really true that you can leave University and never see another differential equation in your life again.
So, I’d like to just pile in there and learn to code again, but am finding I’m having to pile in and learn the maths all over again. Which is annoying, but I’m now twice bitten so less surprised.