Give the Girls a Chance: Support the San Diego Girl Scouts

You have 4 days to help a whole bunch of girls in San Diego learn to code.

Actually, that’s not quite true. You really only have 3 days, and it’s not just “learning to code” in that shallow, “everybody should learn to code” boot camp sense. This is a full-fledged curriculum. It teaches math, physics, programming, product management and marketing through the creation of an adorable cookie-themed video game. It will undoubtedly strengthen the girls’ collaboration skills and give them a sense of what it takes to bring a real game to market.

There’s something for all skill levels: beginners can work using Scratch, while more advanced learners can work on porting the game to iOS, Android and the web.

Some of the girls can’t afford to participate. The program needs a meeting space, computers, dev accounts, and teachers. As of the writing of this post, they have a little under $16,000 left to raise. And with Kickstarter, it’s all or nothing. For as little as $5, you can be a part of empowering a group of girls by giving them the opportunity to gain valuable skills and experience.

I was never a Girl Scout. But if this program had been available to me as a kid, I dang well would have been.

So buy 5 boxes of Tagalongs and Samoas to support your local troop and then hop over to the Marshmallow Run Kickstarter. You’ll be helping improve the tech industry by ensuring its next generation of developers and entrepreneurs is as diverse as its customers.

A Little Local Project

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a stay-at-home mom. I say it quickly, hoping the conversation will be whisked along to something else before my husband can interject—as he typically does—with “and she also makes apps.” At that point I blush and explain that I don’t really know what I’m doing and no, I can’t really show them anything I’ve made.

I don’t know why I do that, because most people don’t care whether I know what I’m doing or not. They just want to pitch me their app ideas! Unfortunately most of them either exist already, are too expensive to implement, or are just literally impossible. However, a friend posted this simple little request on my Facebook wall a few weeks ago:

A request for a Nebraska license plate game

In 1922, Nebraska adopted a license plate numbering system that assigned a specific one- or two-digit prefix to each county. Therefore, you can usually tell what county someone is from by their license plate number. The reason I say “usually” is because three counties eventually switched to non-specific alphanumeric codes because their population outgrew the 6-digit system.

Nebraska is a big state and there isn’t a whole lot to look at if you’re traveling between towns aside from crop fields, pasturelands, and sand hills. With 93 counties, it would certainly be a challenge to spot them all!

So, that’s what I’ve been working on lately: a little license plate game.

Some features I want to implement:

  • information about each county, including population, county seat, and some fun facts
  • the ability to mark a county as “found”
  • a state map that highlights the counties you’ve found
  • a progress indicator
  • confetti when you find all 93
  • a few stickers or badges depicting state landmarks that you unlock when you find certain counties

The audience for this app is obviously small. It’s a fun project though, and it continues to help me sharpen my development skills. Before Charlie came along, I think I could knock this out in two weeks. With my little buddy around, it’s going to take months. And that’s okay. 😊

Here’s what I have so far: I traced a map of Nebraska in Affinity Designer, exported it as an SVG, and imported it to PaintCode.

Nebraska map in PaintCode

From what I understand, the only way I can toggle the visibility of each red county shape is by giving it its own unique boolean variable. So that’s 93 booleans, otherwise known as “one heck of a switch statement.” 😆

I also have a list of counties in a UITableView and a detail view that shows the location of the county seat, the year the county was established, and its population. Below that will be a fun fact and maybe someday some pictures of county landmarks, if I can find a good source.

In-progress screen shot of detail view

As you can see, the app will be ad-supported as well.

I was going to keep this project under wraps until it was finished, but honestly, I’d much rather share it with you. Some secrets aren’t worth keeping, especially when they might help and inspire other beginning iOS developers to start their own projects!

In Support of (Micro)Blogging

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Manton Reece’s vision and passion for the future of blogging and of the open web. I’ve backed his Indie Microblogging book on Kickstarter and am really looking forward to his Micro.blog service, which he has described as “a step forward” in the direction of a more de-centralized, open web.

It’s caused me to reflect on what attracts me to Twitter and what aspects of that could be replaced by Micro.blog if a significant portion of the Apple community began using it.

When I open Twitter, my favorite things to see are:

  1. Links to thoughtful blog posts, articles and podcasts
  2. General commentary on any of the above
  3. Dog pictures and photos from the people I follow
  4. Jokes, memes, banter

I’m old enough to remember when people left the commenting feature turned on for their personal blogs. Then, when everyone became fed up with the toxicity of comment sections and the ridiculous abundance of spam, bloggers started inviting readers to contact them on Twitter (which is, arguably, only slightly less toxic). Manton hopes to successfully combat harassment on his platform, and I have faith in his ability to do so.

I can easily see myself using Micro.blog to read the thoughts, ideas and commentary from my friends and people I admire. For pictures? Most of my favorite people are on Instagram. So where does that leave Twitter?

There are a few things that Twitter really excels at, such as:

  1. Live event commentary
  2. Breaking news (even just local stuff like school closures)
  3. Jokes, memes, banter
  4. Having a huge subset of celebrities, athletes, public figures, TV writers, etc. actively using the service

I find Twitter particularly useful for the first three items (I’m not big on celebrity culture), so I’d probably keep it around.

Microblogging isn’t new. One only need look to the thriving Tumblr community to see that short form blogging is a proven concept. On Tumblr, users don’t just create their own posts; they reblog the creations of others, often providing their own commentary in the tags section (seriously, Tumblr tags are usually stream-of-consciousness sentence fragments). By doing this, users curate a selection of content that speaks to who they are and what they like. This is, in a way, similar to the “link post” format that Daring Fireball uses as well as myself and many other bloggers.

Where am I going with this? I can see kids who have grown up posting anonymously on Tumblr and ephemerally on Snapchat moving on to something like Micro.blog when they’re ready to have a public presence on the web and take serious ownership of their writing. 

I imagine Micro.blog as a vehicle for civilized, thoughtful discussion. Whether it turns out to be so is yet to be seen, but my hopes remain high that Manton will indeed rescue us from the centralized, ever-burning dumpster fires that hold captive our ideas. (Long live RSS!)

macOS’s Sticker Problem

Since iOS 10 launched, many have bemoaned the lack of feature parity between Messages on iOS and macOS. While Messages on the Mac did gain some new features such as rich previews, Tapbacks, and the ability to view stickers, it still lacks the ability to use screen and bubble effects and to send stickers.

I’ve been thinking about how Apple could add stickers to Messages on the Mac and honestly, I’m stumped. It’s a much more complicated problem than I initially imagined.

First, there’s user expectations. I don’t know about you, but I would expect that all of the apps in the Messages app drawer on my phone would also be available on my Mac. For plain vanilla sticker packs that use the sticker template in Xcode, that could potentially be an easy transition, as Xcode could simply compile something that would work on macOS.

But what about sticker packs with custom code? Or full-fledged iMessage apps such as turn-based games? Users can’t tell the difference between a bare bones sticker pack and an iMessage app. They wouldn’t understand why some stickers and apps were available and some weren’t. What then? Does Apple require that developers add a Mac target to their iMessage app projects? (Uh…nope.)

And what about the built-in store? Users would need a way to re-download purchases and to purchase new apps and stickers. But what if a user purchases an app or sticker pack that’s bundled with an iOS app? What if that user doesn’t own an iOS device? They’d be paying for something they could only get partial value from.

Maybe Apple could sync users’ currently installed iMessage apps to the Mac and omit the store entirely, requiring users to manage their stickers and apps on their iOS device. However, requiring that users have an iOS device in order to use stickers in Messages seems insane. This solution also fails to address the issue of iMessage apps even running on the Mac in the first place.

The only thing I can think of in the short term (before the great merging of the iOS and macOS SDKs that will probably happen someday), is that when a user opens the Messages app drawer on a Mac, what pops up is essentially an iOS emulator. Is that even possible? I don’t know. It’d be slow as heck probably.

Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but it certainly seems like a tough problem to solve. Fortunately, it’s Apple’s problem to solve, not mine!

Fireworks

New Year’s Fail-o-lutions (Sent with Fireworks)

I’m a big fan of setting small, achievable goals. I’m also one of those people that adds things to my to-do list that I’ve already done just to make myself feel good. Both of those things sound harmless until I remember that they actually stem directly from my monstrous, soul-crushing fear of failure. ☠️

Failure’s not so bad though, right? It’s like C.S. Lewis said: “One fails forward to success.” I have a few goals for this year, and I also have a little boy who’s on the cusp of learning to walk. So yeah, I might achieve my goals, or I might spend every waking moment pulling my toddler away from the dogs’ water or kissing bruises on his little head. (Honestly, I’m fine with both of those scenarios.)

With that said, here are some things I might fail beautifully at this year:

Blogging More

I love Twitter, but I also love my blog and I feel like I’ve been neglecting it. Also, Manton Reece’s upcoming Micro.blog service has gotten me all excited about self-hosting my thoughts again (check it out on Kickstarter!). Accomplishing this goal will require me to make a significant lifestyle change: I will no longer be able to be a Twitter timeline completionist. It’s just too time consuming! Thinking about declaring Twitter bankruptcy on a regular basis simultaneously pains me and frees me. I’m looking forward to trying it.

There’s a second part to this goal, and it’s this: I want to “be myself” more on the Internet. It’s not that I haven’t been genuine; it’s just that I’ve been a little withdrawn and I feel like my own blog posts have been lacking “voice.” Hopefully that makes sense!

Making Money

I’m becoming a competent iOS developer and that means it’s time to make some money from this gig. My goal is to make $1000 from the App Store this year. This means I’m going to have to work hard and ship some stuff. I’d love for one of those things to be Corgi Corral, however I’m not actually expecting to make any money from that. I just started working on a new project that’s of local interest, and I’m hoping it’ll help me get started toward my goal.

Reading Some Books

Here are some books I’d like to read this year:

  1. Swift Style by Erica Sadun
  2. Making Sense of Color Management by Craig Hockenberry
  3. Aqua and Bondi by Stephen Hackett
  4. A book on either animations in iOS or UI design

There are also a few non-techie books about parenting that I’d like to read (the kind that inspire you and make you feel better, not the kind that make you feel like the world’s worst parent!).

I’m sure I’ll think of some other things throughout the year, but this list is a good start. I also decided that I’m going to try to earn the New Year’s Apple Watch activity achievement. One day down, six to go! 😅

Year in Review: 2016

As 2016 comes to a close (do I hear a “hallelujah?”), I thought I’d take a look back at what I accomplished this year.

I worked on Corgi Corral

I started off 2016 six months pregnant and working obsessively on my little hobby project. Between January and March, I transformed Corgi Corral from a prototype made out of circles to an actual iOS game with art, basic menus, and sound effects. I also learned a TON about SpriteKit and GameplayKit.

I had a baby!

On March 15, my life changed forever as I welcomed my son Charlie into this world. He’s 9 months old now and blesses me every day with his sweet smile. I spend almost all of my time with him which prevents me from getting much else done, but I know these days are fleeting so I’m trying to soak them in one by one.

Charlie 9 months

I released an app

In early May, I got the itch to learn some new stuff and tackle a coding project. I was annoyed that there was no way to rotate Live Photos in iOS 9, so in the course of a month I put together an app that did just that. LiveRotate only spent a few months on the App Store, (I removed it from sale when iOS 10 was released to the public) but I learned so much in the process of creating it!

I released a sticker pack

After WWDC, I knew I wanted to have an app on the iMessage App Store. Several people suggested I make a corgi sticker pack, so I spent several weeks turning doodles into vectors for Sploot the Corgi. Despite appearing high on the list in searches for “corgi,” Sploot hasn’t sold as well as I’d hoped. On the other hand, I was able to buy a pair of AirPods with the proceeds which is pretty awesome!

Overall, it was a good year for me. In particular, my confidence as an iOS developer increased to a point where I at least feel capable of learning whatever I need to know in order to tackle whatever problem I want to solve. That’s huge for me! Just two years ago I felt way too dumb and inexperienced to ever be a successful developer.

I have several big ideas and goals for 2017, but I’ll save those for a separate post. I hope you all enjoy ringing in the new year!

13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar with real world dust

A Review of the 2016 13″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Intro

This isn’t going to be your typical MacBook review because there are plenty of those out there and most of them are very good. This review is for people who don’t give two craps how this year’s model compares to last year’s model and instead want to know how this year’s model compares to their crusty old ThickBook Pro from five years ago because that’s the one they’re upgrading from. Cool? Cool.

Without further ado, here’s how the 13″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar fares against the mighty 15″ MacBook Pro (Early 2011).

Size and Ports

Old and new laptops in a stack on my Christmas tablecloth

I thought my old 15″ MacBook Pro was a laptop. I was wrong. Not only did it frequently burn my lap from running too hot, it was also heavy and annoying to lug anywhere. In contrast, my new MacBook Pro stays cool and feels light as a feather.

The early 2011 15″ MacBook Pro weighed 5.6 pounds. The new 15″ models are only 4 pounds, and the 13″ inch model is actually weightless. Just kidding. But at only 3.02 pounds, it kinda feels like it! I can carry my 9-month-old son Charlie with one hand and my laptop with the other, so it doesn’t get much more portable than that.

My old laptop had a lot of ports, some of which are mysterious to me (a Kensington lock slot? Really?!). My new one has four: Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 3. Oh, and a headphone jack that’s inexplicably on the opposite side of all previous MacBooks.

Side view of MacBook ports

So yeah, you’re gonna lose your CD drive, SD card slot, Ethernet port, flimsy old USB 2.0 ports and good ol’ FireWire 800. In exchange, you’re getting four ports that are approximately one zillion times faster at data transfer than what you had. I’d call that a win.

Sure, the loss of MagSafe is a bummer, but being able to plug in the power cable on either side of the computer is really, really convenient.

And honestly, I’m not upset about the adapter situation because the ports on this old MacBook are mostly obsolete, and because I really only need an SD card adapter, and a USB-A adapter for my Time Machine backup.

Display

The 2011 Pro models were the last to have non-Retina displays. If by chance you’ve never seen a Retina display in person yet: it alone is worth upgrading your computer. It’s like taking Claritin, or getting glasses for the first time. Everything is so crisp and clear that you’ll never be able to go back to blurland.

Note, however, that in order to enjoy the full Retina experience on the 2016 MacBooks, you’ll need to change the display’s default scaling.

In addition to being ultra clear, the display is also significantly brighter than the MacBooks of yore and can display many more colors (in technical terms: it has a wider color gamut). It really is beautiful!

Right below the display you’ll see the familiar “MacBook Pro” label in silver lettering except now it’s in the new system font, San Francisco, which looks much nicer in my opinion.

The Touch Bar

I never learned the keyboard shortcut for comparing an edited photo to its original version in Photos. I still don’t know what it is, and probably never will because there’s a button for that on the Touch Bar now.

I like the Touch Bar. I think it’s fun, and I enjoy customizing it in any app that will let me. Like adding stickers to the outside of a laptop or changing its desktop picture, choosing which functions to add to the Touch Bar makes my MacBook feel more personal to me.

I personally know several people who struggle to use computers but who always buy MacBook Pros because they understand that they’re the nicest in the line-up. These users rarely look through an application’s menus, and if they do, they’re afraid to try stuff. I think the Touch Bar helps surface some useful things for both professionals and people who aren’t particularly “good with computers.”

Keyboard and Trackpad

Once you get used to it, the keyboard on this thing will make your old MacBook Pro’s keyboard feel mushy.

The new keyboard is low and tight and snappy. That’s the only way I know to describe it. It feels really good to me, and I don’t like going back to the old one.

Some reviewers have noted (both positively and negatively) that the new keyboard seems louder. That’s true, but you can also type quietly on it. My baby wakes up if he hears a fly buzzing across the room and I was able to type sitting next to his bed without waking him…so there’s that.

The trackpad is roughly as wide as my iPhone 6s is tall (in its case!) which is to say it’s fairly ginormous. Unlike your old MacBook’s trackpad with a physical button at the bottom, you can press down anywhere on this thing. I opened my 15″ Pro the other day to find a file and was super frustrated that I couldn’t press down anywhere…and I’m normally a tap-to-click person! In other words, this trackpad is rad and I love it.

Speed

Despite moving from quad-core to dual-core, this computer can run circles around my old one. It used to take 20 minutes to copy Xcode into my Applications folder on the 2011 MacBook Pro with a 500GB spinning platter hard drive. My new 13″ Pro with Touch Bar has a 1TB SSD and I don’t even remember seeing a loading indicator when I moved Xcode. It’s fast. Everything is fast. Launching applications, compiling code, performing Spotlight and Mail searches, saving and moving files…it’s all fast.

I ran Geekbench 4 on both machines and here were the results (click or tap to enlarge):

I also ran Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, which is where you can really see a massive difference:

I had upgraded my 15″ Pro from 4GB to 8GB of RAM which is something you can’t really do on these new machines. They’re locked down tight, with an abysmal 1/10 repairability score on iFixit. Still, my new MacBook has 16GB of RAM. Even with Xcode, Simulator, Photoshop, Affinity Designer, Safari, Photos and iTunes open, I still haven’t come close to running out of memory.

Conclusion

If, like me, you’ve been waiting for a very long time to upgrade your MacBook Pro, the new models with Touch Bar are an incredibly vast improvement. And if you also enjoy being an early adopter like I do, you’re going to love playing around with the Touch Bar. I see no compelling reason to hold out for the next iteration of these machines. It’s unlikely that Apple will bring back any legacy ports, and besides the usual speed bump and the possibility of an e-ink keyboard, I’m not sure what else might change (other than the price, which will hopefully drop a bit). In other words, if you’re holding on to a four- to six-year-old machine, now’s the time to open your wallet and get yourself a great new laptop!

A Clean Slate

Last Thursday my shiny new Space Gray MacBook Pro finally arrived at my doorstep and so far, I absolutely love it. This post isn’t about that, though. It’s about setting up a clean install on my Mac for the second time ever.

That’s right, I’ve been transferring files from Mac to Mac ever since I got my first iBook in 2002 or 2003 (can’t remember). As proof, here’s a couple pages from one of the welcome guide PDFs that came with that computer:

Where’s Wi-Fi?

Since that’s the way I’ve always rolled, the first thing I did when I opened my new MacBook Pro was connect my Time Machine backup via an Anker USB hub. The restore went surprisingly quickly, and I set about double-checking that everything was in order.

It was, except for one thing: most apps couldn’t establish a network connection. Dropbox wouldn’t connect and Safari Technology Preview wouldn’t load any websites. I spent several moments in despair, thinking I’d received a defective unit and would have to send it back after waiting for so long. Then I tried switching to regular old Safari and…everything worked fine. For some reason, Safari was the only program that was able to access the Internet. I still don’t know what the problem was, but evidently something went awry during the restore. [Update: Rob Poulter suggested that my recent installation of Little Snitch might have something to do with it, and I think he’s probably right.]

So, I wiped my new Mac clean again, re-installed Sierra and set up a new user for the first time in 13-ish years.

That Fresh App Smell

The first thing I did was install my must-have apps and utilities: Dropbox, Homebrew, Xcode, Pages, f.lux, Tweetbot, Textastic, Cyberduck, and Affinity Designer, to name a few. I installed Caffeine only to realize for the first time that it hasn’t been updated in several years and doesn’t even have a Retina-ready menu bar icon. I searched for alternatives and found Amphetamine (Mac App Store link), which is great and gives you a selection of menu bar icons to choose from (I chose the coffee carafe).

Finally it came time to download Photoshop CS6. The download took over an hour on my sad rural internet connection and when I finally ran the installer, it quit with an error every time. So, I got to test out a feature I never thought I’d use: Remote Disc. I found my Photoshop install CD, popped it in my old MacBook, and voila! I was able to install the software. I guess I should have tried that approach first!

Photos Woes

The next thing I wanted to do was move my Photos and Music libraries over. I dug into my last Time Machine backup and transferred the 90GB Photos library file to my new Mac. However, when I opened Photos, things got…weird. Only a few thumbnails appeared, and Photos refused to let me switch on iCloud Photo Library without purchasing more space, because it was planning to re-upload everything. I went ahead and upgraded to the next storage tier hoping that Photos would check with the server, realize it didn’t need to re-upload everything, and calm the heck down. I was wrong.

So, I closed the program, trashed the library, and started over. This time I switched on iCloud Photo Library to begin with. All of my thumbnails appeared, and Photos started downloading all 11,000 photos and 200+ videos from the cloud. Although not ideal, this was the better option for me because my download speed can top out at 10Mbps while my upload speed is only 0.73Mbps. As of right now, 6 days later, there are ~2,500 left to download.

Still, I can’t believe Photos forces users to either re-upload everything or re-download everything if they use iCloud Photo Library. (Wait, yes I can. ?) I’ve read that iCloud is supposed to check for duplicates server-side, but I’m skeptical because it definitely seemed like it was trying to upload files.

The Little Things

I never thought that performing a clean install would make much difference to me. However, here’s a short list of things that are so much better now (note: I could have cleaned all of this up on my old machine; I just hadn’t realized how cluttered everything had gotten):

  • FONTS. Oh my gosh, I had so many freaking fonts installed that I never use and the font menu in all of my apps was so horrible and unmanageable. A clean install fixed that!
  • System Preferences panes. I had icons in System Prefs for devices that I never use anymore, like a 10+ year old Wacom tablet that I’m pretty sure doesn’t even work.
  • Printer drivers and utilities. Back in high school, I’d install whatever drivers and printing/scanning utilities came with my printer. And I went through quite a few printers. Starting fresh helped get rid of whatever unnecessary software remained.

So yeah. If, like me, you’ve never set up a clean user account on a new Mac: I highly recommend it!

The Mac for Me

Last November, I published my wishlist for the 2016 MacBook Pro. Here’s what I wanted:

  1. Lighter. According to Apple, the average weight of the current 15″ MacBook Pro is about 4.49 pounds. Given the company’s unwavering commitment to shrinking things, I think I can reasonably expect that number to drop a bit for next year’s models. Check.
  2. Touch ID. Because why not? Check.
  3. Individually backlit keys. (Check.) I don’t really want to see any changes to the key travel, but those backlit keys on the new MacBook are rad.
  4. Wider color gamut, like the new iMacs. I don’t know if this is technically possible because I have zero knowledge about display technology. However, since MacBook Pros are generally geared toward creative professionals, this would be a change that makes sense. Check.
  5. Different finishes. Gold. Space Gray. Black. White. I don’t really care, as long as it’s not just stupid boring silver. Ugh. Check.
  6. USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports. Because if I’m going to be using this laptop for another 5 years, it needs to have the Port of the Future. Or whatever. Super check.

Looks like I’m six for six! (except the key travel did change, but ehhh I’ll get used to it.) Also, one of my “dream big” requests was for a bigger trackpad with Pencil support, so I guess you could even say I got six and a half of my wishes.

I’m really, truly sorry if this MacBook Pro isn’t for you, and I hope Apple will renew its commitment to the rest of the Mac lineup ASAP.

That said, this is absolutely the Macintosh for me.

On iPhone 7/MacBook Pro Compatibility 

I’ve been thinking about how neither the iPhone 7 nor its accompanying headphones can connect to the new MacBook Pro without an adapter. My conclusions are as follows:

  1. Apple wants you to use iCloud and to buy iCloud storage. I’ll come back to this in a moment.

  2. Apple doesn’t really intend for Lightning headphones to be a thing. They included Lightning EarPods in the iPhone 7 box as well as an adapter in order to appease consumers. They assume you either 1) already have some 3.5mm headphones you like or 2) will embrace wireless headphones. So why put a Lightning port in the new MacBooks?

  3. Apple doesn’t want you to charge your devices by connecting them to your computer. I think the 12″ MacBook introduced that idea. Apple wants everyone to charge their stuff via power outlet, probably overnight. I realize the batteries probably don’t last long enough for that to be practical for most people, but there it is.

  4. Apple doesn’t want you to backup your devices using your computer either. They want you to buy iCloud storage, as stated above, and use iCloud backups.

That leaves developers as the only ones who would need to connect their iPhones to their MacBooks, and Apple has no problem selling an extra $25 cord to developers.

So really, putting a Lightning port in the new MacBook Pro makes absolutely no sense, and neither does including a Lightning to Thunderbolt 3 cable.

Viva la (r)evolución

Much to laptop-lovers’ delight, Apple announced three new MacBook Pros yesterday: a 13″ model with a traditional row of function keys and two models, 13″ and 15″, with a “revolutionary Touch Bar.” Now, I don’t have the patience to scrub through the video of the event to see if Phil actually called it revolutionary. And actually, it doesn’t matter because the word is all over their marketing copy.

Apple ad for new MacBook Pro on Facebook

An ad on Facebook for Apple’s new MacBook Pro models.

I agree that the Touch Bar is revolutionary. It’s a dramatic change to what we’re used to. As many have noted, however, the new Touch Bar is also evolutionary: one more change in a long series of tweaks that Apple’s made to the lower half of the clamshell over the past several years. Jony Ive himself told CNET that this was “the beginning of a very interesting direction.”

As I sat mulling over which model and configuration I wanted to buy, I felt slightly uneasy knowing that the Touch Bar was only the first step towards some grand, yet-to-be-realized Jony Ivian vision. How long would I have to wait for him to complete his masterpiece? One year? Two? How about five? The answer, of course, is that it will never be complete. Technology evolves too quickly for anything to remain extremely cool and intensely desirable for more than a year. Design sensibilities fluctuate, new materials are synthesized, and new interaction models are imagined at an incredible rate. In the end, what’s important is that I have a good, functional, reliable tool for doing what I need to do right now.

So, I’ve decided to just embrace the evolution. I will have to buy a hub, as I am a frequent user of the SD card slot and regular USB ports. I’m looking forward to using the new Touch Bar and seeing what developers do with it.

I’ve also decided to move down to a 13″ display. In doing so, I’m going from a computer that weighs 5.6lbs to one that weighs 3lbs, which should feel amazing (and also fit comfortably in my giant diaper bag if necessary!).

“But won’t it suck to have less screen real estate?” my mind asks as I type this entire blog post on my 4.7″ phone display. Sure, Xcode will be a little cramped, but I’ll just have to learn to actually hide various panes when I’m not using them. Full screen will be my friend. And if I decide to get a 5K monitor someday, my little 13″ buddy can handle it.

I saw a lot of snark and negativity on Twitter yesterday, some of which was probably warranted. Regardless, I would encourage Apple lovers to try to separate your desire to see Apple be its best self (and be the perfect, pure source of your futuristic dream devices) from your actual, realistic day-to-day technology needs. If what Apple offers meets your current needs, be glad, and by all means continue to encourage Apple to excel still more. If it doesn’t, then maybe sit back and carefully (prayerfully?) consider switching to something else.

Life is way too short to be grumpy about tech all the time. Embrace the evolution!

Fall Corgi Sticker Pack Update

Sploot the Corgi Fall Promo art

Yesterday Apple approved an update to my Sploot the Corgi sticker pack that includes 5 fun new autumn-themed stickers!

New fall stickers!

Nearly all the stickers in Sploot the Corgi started out with hand-drawn doodles like this:

I then took pictures of my drawings and traced them with the pen tool using Affinity Designer.

I’m planning to add more new stickers (both winter-themed and general-purpose) in the coming months. I’m also considering increasing the price to $1.99 when I hit a certain number of stickers, so grab it early!

Sploot the Corgi Stickers!

I made a sticker pack!

It features a corgi named Sploot (a “sploot” is a common corgi position where both hind legs are splayed out, as illustrated by this helpful Buzzfeed article). There are currently a dozen stickers in the pack and I plan to add more throughout the year.

Sploot the Corgi

I want to talk a little bit about Sploot’s launch.

At some point last Monday night, the iMessage App Store unexpectedly went live and sticker packs became available for purchase for anyone running the iOS 10 beta. I rushed to the store and checked all the featured lists and…nada. Apparently Sploot, like many other apps, was still “Pending an Apple Release.” I admit, I was bummed not to be featured (doesn’t everyone love corgis?!). Looking through those lists, it seems I would have had better luck creating something that was purposefully bad (see: failmoji) than attempting to create something good and falling short of the mark.

Anyway, when my stickers were finally ready for sale the next day, I sent out a couple tweets about them. Meanwhile, other sticker packs were getting featured in round-ups on all my favorite Apple sites. My mistake? Not inviting bloggers to beta-test my sticker pack. Sure, they might not have listed it anyway, but it would have been worth a try! I’ve often talked about how important promotion is; apparently, I can’t take my own advice.

My next mistake became obvious to me as I was spamming my husband and best friend with stickers: my stickers were too big. I mistakenly thought that everyone would use the maximum sticker size of 206×206 points. However, it looks like most stickers are around 130×130 points. So, I resized mine and submitted an update (which was approved yesterday). I also changed the name of the pack from “Sploot” to “Sploot the Corgi” and switched it from the “Emoji & Expressions” category to “Animals and Nature.” I’m hoping these changes will make it easier to find.

In the last week I sold about 80 sticker packs—which is fine, but I was definitely hoping for better!

I think the best thing I can do now is to get working on an update with some seasonal stickers and continue hoping for a feature. And hey, if you’re in need of some cute corgi stickers, you can download Sploot the Corgi from the App Store!

Submitting Stickers Through iTunes Connect

As I sat down to submit my corgi-themed sticker pack last night, I realized I actually had no clue what to do. Apple’s instructions for submitting standalone sticker packs are actually spread across two separate guides (iMessage App Submissions | Sticker Submissions) which added to my confusion.

So, in case you’re as confused as I was, here’s some answers to questions you may have.

What size screenshots do I need to prepare?

You need to prepare two sizes: iPhone 6s Plus (or any of the 5.5″ devices) and 12.9″ iPad Pro.

Where do I upload the screenshots?

You need to add them in two places: at the top of the iTunes Connect record under “App Preview and Screenshots” and farther down under “iMessage App.”

Do I need to add a 1024×1024 square app icon even though Apple doesn’t list it in its Human Interface Guidelines or icon template?

Apparently. There’s a paragraph at the bottom of the iMessage App Submission guide that makes me think it might be possible to view sticker apps on the iOS App Store if you’re not running iOS 10:

if users are on an operating system lower than iOS 10, the link will open the product page on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, and users can download your app from there.

Of course, that might just apply to full iOS apps that include sticker extensions. Who knows? If you’re using the Photoshop template provided by Apple, double click on the “icon” layer under the 58×58 size. It will open as a 1536×1536  square version…you can size that down to 1024×1024 and hit “Save As” (so you won’t mess with the template) to easily fulfill this requirement.

What should I include in the screenshots?

I was a little unsure about this, but decided to go with one shot of my sticker pack in expanded view, and one shot of a sample conversation using my stickers. I took all of my screenshots in the Simulator because I don’t have test devices. I used Photoshop to add profile pictures for my message participants using royalty-free stock photos from Pexels.

What category should I put my sticker pack in?

Why, the Stickers category, of course! From there, you can choose a subcategory or two.

Can I use “stickers” and “iMessage” in my keywords?

Yep! There are some caveats though, as described in the iMessage App Submission guide.

Removing the Headphone Jack: Pros & Cons

I know, I know. This topic has been done to death. However, as we’re two days out from Apple’s “See you on the 7th” event, I thought it’d be fun to list my personal pros and cons of eliminating the headphone jack. 

Cons

  • Without a cable, baby will have one less thing to yank on while nursing. How will he occupy his hands? What will he coat with his drool?!
  • I won’t be able to practice identifying nautical knots several times a day after retrieving my earbuds from my pocket.
  • After I drop my phone in water for the 19th time, I won’t experience the simple joy of digging a single grain of rice out of the headphone jack.

Pros

  • I love remembering to charge things!
  • I’ll no longer be spoiling my ears with high quality audio. Take that, you pompous flaps of cartilage.
  • My phone will finally be thin enough to mince garlic on the go.
  • I love having to triple-check whether my headphones are paired so that sudden noise doesn’t wake Charlie. Aw, who am I kidding? I love it when he wakes up from his naps early!
  • Don’t tell anyone, but I dream of buying dongles. Especially when they’re $29.99. Especially when I’ll probably lose them.
  • Wireless stuff is so so so reliable always. And easy to use in old cars too.

Wow. After reviewing my pro and cons list, I’ve determined that I actually don’t care what happens to the headphone jack. If Apple thinks this will propel us into a perfect future filled with pure, unadulterated Slabs of Glass, then who are we to stand in the way? ?