October 22, 2010

Mac App Store

I’m a bit torn on the upcoming Mac App Store.  On the one hand, it will be a fantastic way to distribute applications for the Mac.  (When did they stop being called applications?  Probably the same time when everyone stopped saying Macintosh.)  On the other hand, the restrictions are horrible.

For instance, none of my current Mac software meets the criteria for distribution on the Mac App Store.  That’s OK.  I don’t really mind.  I’ll keep on distributing it the old fashioned way.  I may be relegated to obscurity, but since I haven’t ever tried to make any money with the Mac, I won’t feel bad.  Creating my Mac software has always been a fun pastime for me — it was never about being “famous” or “popular” or “wealthy.”  (Although money certainly would be nice…)

Even if I were to develop some Mac software that would fit in the Mac App Store distribution channel, I still think I’d go my own way.  Based on the trouble I’ve already had on the iOS App Store, it’s simply not worth it to me.  Will I begrudge anyone who feels differently?  Of course not!  I’m sure the Mac App Store will be a fantastic new distribution channel for many developers and customers alike.  I just won’t be one of the developers partaking in it.

August 18, 2010

Keystroke

I initially tried some iAd experimentation with my free app, Waft.  So far the jury is still out on whether or not it’s better than charging for the app directly.  I put an in-app purchase inside Waft to disable the ads.  As far as I can tell, nobody has used that feature at all.

…so my next iAd experiment, Keystroke, leaves out the in-app purchase feature.  That’s right — I have a new App in the store.  I had been playing around a long time ago with making an App that could type the entire gamut of Emoji, but I never got around to polishing it up enough to be a viable product.  Once I got back into the iPhone game, I dusted the old project off (actually I started it completely fresh with no code from the original prototype) and filled in all the missing blanks, including localization to a ton of languages.  I left in-app purchase out of Keystroke for now as it seems to be more work than it’s worth, especially since Keystroke is such a simple App to start with.

July 13, 2010

The sweet sweet sound of music Wafting through the air...

Back from my self-imposed iPhone development exile, I wrote a new App:  Waft.  Waft plays streaming Internet radio stations.  For free.

Waft makes it easy and fun for listening to the vast spectrum of Internet radio stations on the iPhone.  Just pick a station and Waft begins to play, showing any song information embedded in the audio stream.  Waft plays beautifully in the background in iOS 4.0.

Most of the other streaming players I’ve seen provide you with a giant list of stations and you get to choose from them.  Waft does have a small station list to get you started, but in addition to choosing stations from an arbitrary list of limited stations, Waft lets you add any station from standard .pls or .m3u playlist files.  Most Internet streaming stations are supported including those broadcast via Shoutcast/Icecast and Live365.

And yes, you heard me right, Waft is free.  I am trying out the new iAd system to see how that works.  I also provide a way to turn the ads off — via an in-App payment, of course.  I don’t know how it will all pan out.  But it’s going to be a fun experiment.

Waft requires iOS 4, as playing in the background is a core feature, as well as iAd.  So for now, only iPhone and iPod Touch customers are supported.  Once the iPad receives its OS upgrade I’ll have to make a few user interface changes before Waft becomes native, but that’s true of any app making the transition to the pad.

I couldn’t stay away…

I tried.  I tried not to do it.  The iPhone kept beckoning me, though, and eventually I had to succumb to its siren call.  If you’ve been watching your App Store updates page, you’ll already have noticed that quite a few updates became live recently for my Apps.  I went back and threw in some updated graphics for the new iPhone 4 screen.  (I love the new high resolution screen!)  Yes, I know, I said I wouldn’t be doing any more iOS development.  I really did stick to my plan.  But I changed my mind when the new iOS 4 and iPhone 4 hit the streets.

Most of the Apps (Ball, Circle Theory, Guimbarde, and Meteorology) just received new graphics and a few fixes for bugs only present on iOS 4.

Dates, however, does get some new functionality for iOS 4.  It now shows a badge on its App icon indicating how many events there are for the current day.  I’d always wanted that feature but it was impractical in prior OS versions as when the day changed and Dates wasn’t running, the count would not change.  With iOS 4 I can now post some notifications so the count stays current even when Dates is not running.  Nifty!

I updated Horn and Slasher with new higher resolution graphics too.  Slasher is still waiting for approval.  However, Horn was approved.  Wait… what?  Approved?  I submitted it with iPad support still in there!  What ever happened to the App Store policy that “do-nothing” Apps are not allowed on the iPad?  Oh yeah.  Just as I suspected.  It’s a totally capricious system.  I half expect Horn to be approved and Slasher denied.

So… a bit more on Slasher still being in review:  I submitted everything on exactly the same day.  (June 24, the day the iPhone 4 came out.)  Dates even was rejected once and I resubmitted it.  I even submitted a brand new App, Waft, over the July 4 weekend and it was approved before Slasher.  I guess the internal App Store politics are hard at work thinking about pictures of Knives…

I’ve been rather critical (since day one) of what they call the App Store “curation” process.  It’s not curation as that presented by a museum.  It’s a bouncer at the front door of a club only letting the pretty girls inside.  Or the girls with rich daddies.  And every so often, a girl slips in through the side door when the bouncer is not paying attention.

April 23, 2010

Macintosh Horn

...because sometimes you just need an Air Horn for the Mac!

It doesn’t make as much sense to have Horn on the Mac as it does on the always-in-your-pocket-and-ready-for-action Horn on the iPhone.  But the recent actions from Apple in disallowing Horn for the iPad made me want to rebel against “The Man.”  You see, Apple has absolutely no influence over what I can or cannot make for the Mac.  So, even though it isn’t the world’s greatest Mac software, the point is that I can do it.  And it’s even a bit of fun.

So go out an enjoy the Mac version of Horn.  For free!  Yes, I’m gladly giving away the Mac version.  Perhaps it will drum up some iPhone / iPod Touch sales along the way.  (I wish I could include iPad in the list, but, alas, yeah, um, “The Man” is keeping me down.)


P.S. I almost worked on a Mac version of Slasher too since it’s also not allowed on the iPad.  However I didn’t have a decent solution for the lack of an accelerometer, which is the whole point of the App.  Somehow clicking on the knife just doesn’t have quite the same feel as shaking the phone.

April 12, 2010

Unworthy

I just received an interesting phone call from Apple.  (…that my iPhone kept dropping the call, thanks AT&T, is a different matter entirely…)  It turns out that Horn and Slasher are not going to be approved as Universal builds for the iPad.  Apparently there is a higher bar for entry when targeting the iPad.

The Apple representative was very nice and pleasant to converse with, so I enjoyed the call.  He gave some reasons why the new level of entry is being required, one of them citing that some people have a business model of making simple do-nothing apps and hoping that enough people will spend $0.99 to rake in the dough.

Once again, Apple has shown how unfriendly it is toward developers.  Why should Apple care what someone else’s business model is?

I’ve been debating this for a while now.  I actually almost talked myself out of it since the iPad launch went mostly without a hitch and I was happy.  But the phone call stopped me in my tracks and pushed me over the ledge the other way.  Going forward, I refuse to develop any more apps for the iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad.  As fun as the platform is, I just cannot bring myself to support a model where my work never sees the light of day due to the fanciful whim of Apple.

I won’t pull my existing Apps down from the store, but neither will I enhance them or create new ones.

That’s it.  Game over.  I’m done.  Who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind one day, but it’d have to take a really amazing App idea.  Or it’d take Apple changing their mind.  Yeah, I know, don’t hold my breath on that one…

April 4, 2010

The Meteorology Arriveth

Quick update:  I rebuilt and resubmitted Meteorology with zero changes to the priorly twice-rejected code after testing it on the iPad.  I guess it found a different reviewer who had a clue this time around because by the end of the day, you guessed it, it was approved available on the App Store.

(Horn and Slasher are still in review…)

April 3, 2010

The iPad Arriveth

Early this morning I went down to the local Apple Store to pick up my iPad.  Nifty.  Even if I didn’t need one to support my existing Apps, I’d be happy with it.  Countless others have described the iPad so I have no need to pile on that cart.  Instead…

I renovated some of my more popular Apps to work with the iPad:  Ball, Circle Theory, DatesHorn, Meteorology, Mystery House, and of course Slasher.  For the most part the conversion process was straightforward.  Luckily the user interfaces were already simple enough that all I really had to do was scale it all up and use higher resolution graphics.  (Luckily I had the foresight to start with huge images for most items in the first place as just such a contingency.)  The one exception is Circle Theory, where I had to slightly redesign the interface a bit to accommodate the larger screen size and support all device orientations.

All in all it was a painless process.  Until… of course… submission for approval to the App Store.  The final beta release of the development tools arrived and I rebuilt everything with the beta tools and sent things off for submission.  I received some feedback on Meteorology for suggested, but not necessary, changes.  They said if I left it alone it would still be accepted but the improvements would be welcomed on the iPad.  I think having something that works up there at launch time, even if not picture-perfect, is better than nothing at all.  So I filed the suggestion away for a future revision and moved on.  Hey, so far not too bad, right?

The final tools build arrived, and with it came a rush of acceptance emails for all my other App submissions.  Cool.  I rebuilt with the latest tools and resubmitted everything for final approval.  First rejection:  Meteorology.  Say what???  They already approved it!  I made no changes whatsoever between the build with the beta tools and the build with the final tools.  It was rejected because they said, essentially, it didn’t work.  Riiiight.  Then why was it approved before, and why is the existing version on the store working, and why is the build working on my equipment?  There was no way to test on an iPad since I didn’t have one yet, so it missed the opening launch party.  What a stupid crazy haphazard approval system.  I’m extremely disappointed.  When I got my brand new iPad home I did a build for the device and what do you know:  it worked.  Just fine.  No problems.  Grrrrr!  Resubmit the thing again.  This time if it gets rejected once more I’ll… um… well what can ya do?  Nothing.  Just keep trying I suppose, perhaps an exercise in futility.

Then another strange thing happened.  Ball was rejected for a valid iPad UI reason.  Why did it make it through the approval process the first time?  I only had a few hours available to make the necessary changes and resubmit to make the iPad launch deadline.  Fortunately the changes were not difficult and I was able to build a revised version and resubmit it just under the wire.  But if it had been anything involved, or if my schedule had been a bit less free, I would have been in a very unfortunate situation with Ball too.

After an excruciating (at least to me) wait of a couple days my Apps finally received approval and went live on the store.  Well… except for Horn and Slasher!  They still sit in “In Review” stasis.  Aggravating!  Those two Apps are perhaps the most simple.  How much does a reviewer have to test?  In five seconds you’ve seen everything the Apps can do.  However Apps like Circle Theory or Mystery House are way more involved — and they sailed right through the approval process.  All my effort to revise perhaps my most popular two Apps of the bunch were for naught.  They missed the iPad launch and there was nothing I could do about it.

So, to sum it all up, I’m both happy and sad.  Overjoyed with the iPad and underwhelmed yet again by the App Store red tape.

February 23, 2010

Bikinis Mysteriously Disappear

It’s all in the news headlines again now — Apple is removing content from the App Store.  This time instead of my picture of a knife, Slasher, it’s “sexually-suggestive” apps.  I’d write a lot more on the subject, but I think my earlier posts accurately describe how I feel about it all.

Frankly I’m a bit surprised the apps were approved in the first place.  I remember the very first drafts of the App Store agreement explicitly disallowed sexual content.  But I’m sure some developers didn’t read it, or read it and didn’t care, and tried to put their mature content up there anyway… and then by some stroke of luck either Apple changed their policy, or chose to not enforce the rule.  Apps showing skin are bound to sell and sell very well, so it’s no surprise that once the door was opened the flood began.

And now the developers are in the same boat I was when Slasher got pulled.  I empathize with them.  It took me many months of unanswered emails and a couple of telephone calls that I thought went nowhere to get my app back online.  I doubt Apple is going to reverse course on this one, as the number of apps being pulled is way too large.  (But Apple has surprised me before countless times — they may do so again.  You never know.  But don’t hold your breath.)

In summary:  Apple should not be a censor based on content.  They have parental controls on the device.  Use those instead.  People also have filters in their own actions:  if someone does not want a sex app on their phone, simply do not download it.  Problem solved.  Next.  Move along…