Category Archives: Tech

iPhone Development Resources

I promised a list of the websites I mentioned in my talk at the HTC on Wednesday. Instead of putting my own list together, I defer to the master: Ari Braginsky. This google doc is where I found most of the sites that I follow daily:

iPhone Resources

It’s a huge list, so I’ll give you a few must haves.

  • Mobile Orchard is a great iPhone Development Blog. There’s lots of great info there, and a pretty good podcast as well.
  • Games from Within – Noel Llopis writes about his experiences as an indie iPhone game developer.
  • Jeff LaMarche’s iPhone Development Blog – Jeff wrote the Apress book Beginning iPhone Development, and his blog is one of the best places to get started with OpenGL ES on the iPhone, especially if you don’t have any OpenGL experience.
  • – All about the business of developing iPhone apps. It’s also the home of the app store metrics.
  • TouchArcade is a great iPhone game review site, and a lot of developers are active in the forum there.
  • iPhone Developers on Twitter is a community maintained Google spreadsheet where you can find the Twitter handles of thousands of iPhone developers.

These three iPhone analytics companies also blog metrics periodically:

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

As promised, Here are the slides for my talk at the Houston Technology Center’s Web Based Startup School on 6/17/09. The slides aren’t really useful on their own since I only used them as a visual aid in the talk, but they might trigger some memories for those in attendance.

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? – What it Takes to Become an iPhone Developer


Since the opening of the iPhone app store, many developers have turned themselves into true success stories. While these stories are more exception than rule, their telling has inspired countless others to give iPhone development a shot. The app store is a revolution in software distribution, and it gives independent developers the power to make their own success. If you are considering becoming an iPhone developer, or if you are just curious what it’s all about, this session is for you. You will learn how to get the SDK, how to join the iPhone developer program and some common iPhone business models. We will also look at the technical side of iPhone development and get a look at the tools of the SDK. Since this session falls on the day of the release of iPhone OS 3.0, we will also get a good look at the new features in the OS and SDK that enable even more rapid development and new business models.

[Download PDF]

Virgin Mobile Buys Helio Out of Petty Cash

Helio’s demise does not come as a shock, but that price! [Engadget]( “Two years and half billion later, Helio sells for a song. But why? – Engadget”) says it best:

> We know Helio was burning cash like crazy, but that doesn’t entirely explain why SK Telecom was so absurdly desperate to dump their $500m investment. At a $39m acquisition price, SK didn’t just lose its shirt — it lost that, the shoes, and then the pants. You know, the pants with a half-billion dollars in them.

The [MVNO]( “Mobile Virtual Network Operator”) model seems to be a great idea. Mobile phone users should not care who owns the towers and runs the network. They should care about the phones, the software and the customer service. It makes sense. Let the network details be a [B2B]( “Business-to-Business”) transaction. I really don’t care who my ISP is as long as my Internet service can keep up with my daily [Hot Chicks with Douchebags]( “Hot Chicks with Douchebags”) addiction.

I’m not a marketer, and I don’t know what it will take for the MVNO’s to convince consumers that retail mobile phone service from someone other than the telco is better. I don’t even know that consumers understand that Virgin Mobile is really just a marketing and customer service organization. When looking for mobile phone service, I suspect that most people look for the biggest (aka most reliable) provider. After all, we all hate dropped calls. If any provider can make the MVNO model work, it’s the original one, [Virgin Mobile]( “Virgin Mobile”). Few are better at branding and providing an experience that people want than [Richard Branson]( “Richard Branson”) and [Company]( “Virgin Group”).

I wish Apple would get into the MVNO game. It has already taken the carrier out of the software and phone business. Now, all we need is for Apple to start selling the phone service. A world where I could deal with Apple’s user experience and customer service instead of AT&T’s is a world I would gladly pay a little extra to live in. Who knows, AT&T might get better. [It had the sense to get the heck out of San Antonio](

*(via [Engadget]( “Two years and half billion later, Helio sells for a song. But why? – Engadget”))*

Get Out of Dodge (or San Antonio)!

In an only slightly surprising move, [AT&T announced]( “AT&T moving headquarters to Dallas from San Antonio”) this week that it is moving its corporate headquarters from San Antonio to Dallas. I’m surprised that it took so long.

While I’m sure that there are numerous reasons for the company’s departure, its primary excuse is air travel. I know, from personal experience, that non-stop flights from San Antonio to any major city outside of Houston and Dallas are as rare as a south Texas winter snowstorm. Trying to fly out of San Antonio on a regular basis is an exercise in patience and frustration (and lots of connecting flights). As airlines cut schedules and ground aircraft, this problem will only get worse. Still, I doubt that air travel is the *primary* reason for AT&T’s exodus. I share [Stacey Higginbotham’s skepticism]( “Blaming Airlines, AT&T Takes Flight – GigaOM”):

> Perhaps the lack of good flights is a scapegoat to help Randall Stephenson avoid insulting San Antonio’s technology credentials. Although after a decade and a half in the city, the fact that few technology related startups grew up around one of the top 25 companies in the U.S., is a damning testament to the city and the company itself.

That a sea of tech startups have failed to materialize in the home of AT&T and Rackspace exposes a reality of life in San Antonio: it’s boring. For a city of its size, San Antonio has a remarkably small town feel, and most people are comfortable and content with their lives and surroundings. While admirable, this contentment is a vise that relentlessly squeezes the entrepreneurial and creative spirit from the city. There is nothing wrong with San Antonio being boring. Many people would love to live in a place where they are comfortable and content, but a boring city will not encourage creative and daring entrepreneurism, and a boring city will not attract young, creative talent. I suspect that San Antonians are content with that as well.

Even so, AT&T is not moving to Dallas because it is less boring than San Antonio, or because it is a more entrepreneurial city, or even to make air travel a little easier for its executives. Dallas is bursting with telecom companies and employees, and it makes much more sense for the nation’s largest telecom company to be headquartered there. I doubt that there is little more to it than that.

*(via [GigaOM]( “Blaming Airlines, AT&T Takes Flight”))*

Houston AT&T Store Chosen By Apple Designers

When looking for an attractive looking AT&T store to to showcase on its “[Where to buy iPhone]( “Apple – iPhone – Where to Buy”)” page, Apple’s designers matched the Houston AT&T store on 59 between Edloe and Weslayan with the 5th Avenue Apple Store. As far as cell carrier stores go, it’s nice, but I’ll still be at the Galleria Apple Store on July 11th.

Houston AT&T Store Next to 5th Ave Apple Store

*(Hat tip to the very awesome [Swamplot]( “59 Feeder AT&T: A Starring Role in the iPhone Ecosystem » Swamplot: Houston’s Real Estate Landscape”))*

Apple’s Influence on the Smartphone Market is Painfully Obvious

Blackberry 9000 First Look
I met a Nokia developer the other day at a local event. We chatted about mobile phones for a good while, and he showed me a couple of the Nokia smartphones he was working with. While none of them are as blatant a knockoff as [this one]( “Nokia’s iPhone — no, seriously – Engadget”), we both marveled at the strikingly familiar design: shiny and black, surrounded by a chrome ring. RIM’s newest, ([the Blackberry 9000]( “BlackBerry 9000 in the wild – Engadget Mobile”)) is no exception. Look familiar?

It’s no secret that Apple has snagged a huge portion of the smartphone market in the last 9 months. In fact, Apple and the iPhone [catapulted to #2 in the U.S. market]( “iPhone Second In U.S. Smartphone Market Share – Switched”) in its first 6 months on the scene. As a new entrant to the market with a *single device* competing against established players hawking multiple devices, that is quite an accomplishment.

With that kind of success, Apple’s competitors have been scrambling to crack the recipe to Apple’s secret sauce. So far, they have all failed miserably. While they have all failed in slightly different ways, it is clear that no one in the smartphone market “gets it” like Apple does. **It’s the software stupid!** Yes, the iPhone is a gorgeous piece of hardware, but, like every other Apple computer, the true power lies in the software. Steve Jobs understands this, and he has said, multiple times, that Apple is a software company. The company makes its own hardware to complement its software and to allow its developers the control they need to produce amazing software.

Many people have asked me over the past 9 months whether they should get an iPhone or some other smartphone. As much as I love my iPhone, I’ve hesitated to recommend it to everyone. That changed at the beginning of March. Thanks to [Apple’s announcement]( “Macworld | Apple unveils iPhone SDK”) of the iPhone SDK and accompanying [iPhone 2.0]( “iPhone 2.0: Enterprise Ready. Developer Ready.”) software update due out in June, I am now bullish on the iPhone, and I won’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone for business or personal use.

Apple has made the iPhone business ready by adding support for Exchange ActiveSync, Cicso IPSec VPN, and making some much needed improvements to the email client. Also, as it has done with Mac OS X on the desktop, Apple has made building applications for the iPhone simple and accessible to any software developer. The icing on the cake? For $99/year and a 30% cut of sales, Apple will list your application in the ubiquitous iPhone app store, and the company will handle all distribution and billing. The developer is just cut a check at the end of the month. This allows bright developers to do what they do best: build cool applications.

The game is changing again, and I have little doubt that Apple will continue to be a force in the mobile market. The rest of this year is going to be very exciting for those of us who love mobile devices, and I’m ecstatic that I will be able to contribute to it.

Third Party iPhone Applications


*I wrote this before I read [David Pouge’s iPhone FAQ ]( which mentions that the iPhone’s Safari will not run Flash or Java Applets. D’oh! Since I spent some of my morning on Friday writing this post, i figured I’d publish it anyway. The benefits of Java Applets apply to web apps whether or not they target the iPhone. So, hopefully, there’s some value in here.*


*It looks like Pouge has recanted the comment about the iPhone’s Safari not supporting Flash and Java. It’s the first item in [his second FAQ]( This post might be relevant after all!*

[Todd]( wrote [a post]( Thursday on his blog that piqued my interest.

>The only way to write software for the iPhone that I can imagine is via web applications.


> Are Java applets once again an attractive option? Or will devs and users prefer HTML/CSS/JS/Ajax?

I’m of the belief that Java applets have been given a bad rap because of their early history as slow-performing, memory-hogging toys in the 90’s. The truth is that Java is now a very powerful desktop platform, and applets allow developers to use the full power of that platform in a “web app.” I don’t believe that applets will experience a renaissance in the average data driven Web 2.0 app, especially with the advances being made in the DHTML/Ajax/etc. world, but I think Todd has an interesting point with the iPhone.

If the iPhone runs a full Java VM, “desktop class” applications are only an applet away. Deployment is simple. Pushing updates is trivial. Applets are also extremely simple to package and deploy. What seals the deal for me is event handling, drawing API, networking, and filesystem access for offline and advanced usage.

I’ll admit that I don’t have a bunch of experience with DHTML, but I wonder how DHTML compares to Java when it comes to handling events, especially the multi-touch gestures? 2D drawing is also very easy with Java, but this might be a toss up due to Safari’s support of the [<canvas>]( tag. My gut tells me that Java2D is more full featured and easier to use, but I have no evidence or experience to back that up. If the iPhone really runs OSX, then Java also has [jogl]( to do 3D OpenGL drawing. I’m drooling just thinking of multi-touch and 3D. I’m sure you couldn’t do a whole lot with the limited processing power of a small device, but there are still some possibilities there.

Filesystem and network access is a completely different story. Provided that the applet is signed, and the certificate accepted by the user, the applet has the same rights as any other desktop app when it comes to reading and writing files to the filesystem. I don’t know of any equivalent in the DHTML world. The only thing close that I know of is the [great work]( done by the [dojo toolkit]( team. The API only allows you to store data in the client in a specific location, though. It is just for offline storage, and it’s not a real filesystem API. It also requires Flash to be installed and enabled on the client. A Java applet would have access to all of the preferences, pictures, video, contacts, music, etc. stored on the phone. This is a big difference, and opens up many other possibilities.

Applets also have all of Java’s networking libraries at their disposal. You can emulate some of this functionality with XMLHttpRequest, but not all. One example that comes to mind and ssh client, or maybe a VNC server over Bonjour (although I don’t know why you’d want to do that). Obviously, there is a lot more at the developer’s disposal here.

At this point, this is all speculation. I don’t know what kind of tools will be available for the iPhone. If Apple is not going to provide the tools and rights for developers to write real “desktop class” applications for the iPhone, the developer community **will** find a way to do it on their own. [It’s a moral imperative]( I’m really interested to see how this all comes out.

Why I Left TextDrive

From the TextDrive helpdesk site:

> Please be aware that due to some temporary hardware and network problems we need to work out, backups are not currently being made on any of the shared servers. This situation may take some time to resolve.
> So… let me take this opportunity to remind people how important it is to own your data and keep local copies of anything that is important.

This was posted on July 13, and it has not been updated since. In other words, none of my data has been backed up in a month and a half. Even though my blog has been on my VPS at the wonderful [Rimuhosting][] for about 6 months now, I still host my email on my “legacy” TextDrive account (which is down right now…again!). The email server has been down way too often the past few months, most often at peak business times, and I can’t take it anymore. I *will* be moving the remainder of my Internet presence away from TextDrive this weekend.

I know that some occasional down time is a fact of life on a shared hosting account, but what bothers me most about my entire TextDrive experience is the attitude toward the customer that pervades the company. In most of my communication with the company (whether it be direct customer requests or just trolling forums), the attitude has been similar to this: *”There’s something wrong with your server. Another dumbass user like you did something he shouldn’t have. It must suck to be you. Deal with it.”* The company is rarely apologetic and frequently blames its customers rather than take responsibilty for its poor service. One thing I learned at [Rackspace][] is that hosting is easy. It’s service and the customer experience that is important. Unfortunately, service and customer experience are the most difficult things to get right, and very few hosting companies are able to pull it off. That is why [Rackspace][] has been so successful while charging more than most of its competitors.

I joined TextDrive because of the hype in the open source community, and I love the idea that a chunk of my bill every month goes to [an open source project]( I would have been an easy customer to keep. I don’t want to worry about my web and email host, and I definitely hate switching, but I have been driven away. I stuck around too long, and I feel bad that the chunk of money that didn’t go to an open source project went into the pockets of the jokers at TextDrive. I rarely care enough to publicly slam a bad company, but the attitude at TextDrive is deplorable, and I would advise all my friends to steer in another direction.

Whew! Glad I got that off of my chest. I promise my next post will be much more positive.

[Rimuhosting]: “Rimuhosting”
[Rackspace]: “Rackspace”