Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: My Highlights

Well would you look at that, the year is over already. Before we condem it to history i wanted to have a quick look back at this year.

Float-Right (aka my career)
I've been self employed for entire year! Thats right folks a whole year. In that time Float-Right has really grown. While i'm not quite groupon, and i haven't bought that Aston Martin Rapide yet, i'm happy with what i've been able to achieve in that time. I've had some help mind you, not only in the form of my Mum, who has kept me snug with regular cups of tea, but also my small but loyal twitter following who make up for the lack of work colleagues.

2011 should see Float-Right do more work internationally, not only in terms of client base, but also in terms of where i will physically be located (thats right, i'm going back to Espana!). Also i hope to finally meetup with the rest of the iOS/Mac dev community at WWDC this year. As a result please send me work! Flights to San Francisco, hotel stays, and WWDC tickets are not cheap. Even my budget travel ethos doesn't cover me on this one.

In 2009 i travelled to China, Hong Kong, Barcelona,Spain & Paris,France. I thought that was fairly amazing. Well i think it's fair to say i've had another good year, visiting Amsterdam( Netherlands), Barcelona(Spain), Sevilla(Spain), Tel Aviv & Jerusalem (Israel).

Despite now being essentially banned from a number of nations thanks to my visit to Israel, my list for 2011 is even bigger. Argentina, Australia, USA, Switzerland, Norway and of course my new home (in the sun), Sevilla.

Have had a lot of interesting moments and times this year, but here are some of my highlights.

* Encouraging Ezra (@ezrabutler) to take a boat trip in international waters for his birthday ... this was about 1 month before the infamous flotilla incident

* Meeting Joaquin. Not that it was bad, it was just overwhelming.

* Hanging with Jason and his friends in Sevilla, he really helped make that experience amazing.

* My "lovely" trip to sunny barcelona, hint, it wasn't lovely, and it damn sure wasn't sunny.

* Being confused for a homeless person on the streets of Barcelona at 2am.

* Meeting Jonathan/Joe (@improvmonkey), full of interesting facts and views on life, the world, and the babylonians.  I've never met a grown man that can party like that. I can't mention Joe without mentioning some other folks i met on that trip; @ahoova @llan_peer and @guy.

* Amsterdam with the lads, while people find this hard to believe i don't smoke, but that was hilarious. Especially the trip to the park on the last day. Shout out to @andrew_francis & @jai_morjaria. We gotta do that again.

* The sheer number of people that i met in Sevilla, too many to name them all (well i might have forgotten some of their names ... ). Strangely two of my favourites were both Aussies, Amy & Jardana.

* While i also met her in Sevilla, she deserves a bullet point all to herself, Serpil, aka El Professora, the woman that helped beat my spanish into shape, while also showing me what being truly multilingual looked like. She was also a really nice person!

* Buying stuff in a spanish shop in chinese. Absolutely hilarious.

* FOWA after party, that's always funny.

Anyone else noticing that all the good stuff happens overseas ... i'm just saying

* Geeky i know, but i finally purchased my first ever Macbook pro :)... which i put a rather large dent in three weeks later :(

* Living in a hostel(s) for two weeks. It was awesome at first but really started to get depressing towards the end.

* Finally having a piece of published software! Only took 22 years.

* Having a flight cancelled for the first time in my life.

* Watching the sunrise on beach in Tel aviv.

* The way people (who aren't from California) get excited when i tell them i make iPhone apps for a living, (putty in my hands i tell you...)

* My cafe con leche experience ... aka hot milk with a tea bag in it. Priceless.

* Completely stopping Web Development, i can't explain how great that is.

* Meeting the Girls as @andrew_francis and i call them, hilarious night. Good people.

* Saying the Stweetfight app would only take a couple of hours (thanks @samwilliamh)

* Doing a standup like performance for a roof terrace full of germans.

Well that made me smile, if no one else. So lets give away some awards.

My most hilarious moment of 2010 ...
Watching Nykia drop off a chair. Being 2010 it's on video of course

My most depressing moment of 2010
Letting go one of my early clients.

My happiest moment of 2010 ...
I can't pinpoint a single moment, but as the above shows all the time i spent outside of the UK were my happiest times. (i'm still game for the passport swap if you are)

My Saddest moment of 2010 ... 
My grandmothers funeral, never have i shed that many tears in so little time

Goals for 2011
I have many, being the continuously improving sort of person i am, but here are a few.

* Go back to spain (por todos tiempo)
* Go back to China (on my to the DPRK perhaps ....)
* Build a Mac App
* Discover this work/life balance that people talk about
* Go somewhere i haven't been
* Improve my Spanish & Chinese, especially my ability to read the latter.
* Starting learning Arabic
* Pray a little/lot more, at this rate someone might confuse me for an atheist! I'm actually a christian shock horror!

To everyone, best wishes in 2011. Don't forget it's just like 2010, but your older this time ^_^

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Offscreen drawing on the iPhone using NSOperations, CGImage, CGLayer

Creating and or modifying images offscreen or in a background thread.

Chiefly for performance. The main thread of an iPhone application is usually fairly busy doing all sorts of things. By rendering complex images in the background, you can do all manor of things. In my case I wanted to know how to render an image larger than the size of the device screen, and then save that image to disk.

For my fellow lovers of NSOperationQueue(aka possibly the most awesome class in Cocoa), this allows you to bundle image processing and generation in to NSOperation subclasses or if you like the new hotness a block, and add it to the queue.

Well with a lot of C. If you have ever overridden UIView's drawRect: then most of what is below should make perfect sense.

First thing is first, as we want to operate on our own thread we have to create everything ourselves. Primarily that means no quick calls to UIGraphicsGetCurrentContext().

The key thing to remember is that the drawing coordinates are inverted. This means that CGPoint(0.0f,0.0f) is actually the bottom left not the top left corner. I'm lead to believe this is a hold over from the Postscript drawing system that originated on the mac, and this is how the big boys do it. So stop whining and code.

Nicely it would appear that the UIImage representation methods automatically invert the image, so you only have to invert your coordinates for CGContext drawing calls.

Exactly How?

This is the process
*Create a CGColorSpace
*Create a CGBitmapContext
*Create a new CGLayer
*Get the the CGLayer's context

Draw into the context as you would normally, using the CGContext methods

*Render that CGLayer into the CGBitmapContext
(if you want an image)
*Create a CGImage from the CGBitmapContext
*Convert the CGImage into a UIImage
*Use one of the UIImageJPEGRepresentation or UIImagePNGRepresentation methods to get an image that can be saved to disk or sent over the wire etc.

NOTE: This code will not work unless you have a image named sample.jpg in your bundle or change the assignment to the backgroundImg variable.

Sample code

Go forth and code.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ultimo Videos de Sevilla

My last videos from sevilla, headed to a Flamenco club with some new folks after my flight got cancelled, enjoy

Sunday, November 14, 2010

End of an era

This morning I found out that my grandmother died. While it's a sad event in and of itself, bares an additional level of significance.

It signals the end of Samuels surname. My grandparents only had girls, 3 of them to be exact. While my surname might be Dalrymple, I identify more with my maternal side of the family, and felt more in touch with that side of my family.

It was also that side of the family that was the first to come to England during the wind rush years, and is partly why I hold a British passport, and thus am able to live in Sevilla.

My grandparents did a lot for me, not only did they raise me but much of my personality and drive developed as a result of their influence. So I owe them a lot.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sevilla en el Video

Heres triplet of videos that i've shot on the iPhone 4 since i've been here.This first one is just some kids playing football down by the river.

This second video was taken one evening in one of the many plazas in Sevilla. The locals (mainly students), are doing pre drinks before rolling before heading to a club, or knowing so of them, just simply having dinner!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 22

Today was a personal milestone. It signified the longest time I've been away from home in my relatively short life.

Before this china held the record, at 21 days. Now while you could argue that I was in Jamaica for much longer, I was living with my grandparents so it was a very different scenario.

I'm relatively settled now, I know my way around town, my Spanish and more importantly my confidence in my Spanish is improving. I got some friends, most of whom speak English sadly.

How long will I stay for, your guess is as good as mine. But
the sevillianos are wonderful (& beautiful) people, they have awesome food and are really friendly. Why would I want or need to go else where.

Only time will tell, I look forward to the next 22 days.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Are you for real?

I've been in spain for 12 days. During that time i've been looking for a place to call home. My conversations with various parties have usually begun with this.

¿Puedo visitar de habitacion hoy o esta semana?
This is spanish for "Can i visit the room today or this week?" However some of the responses i get back to this simple request are crazy. Take this one for example


         Thanks for the email and am really glad for you interest in my  Apartment.I owns the Apartment,My name is [REDACTED] and also want you to know that it was due to my wife's Sickness that made us to leave the  Apartment and also want to give it out for rent and looking for a responsible person that can take good care of the  Apartment, we are not after the money for the rent but want it to be clean all the time .So for now,I am in Benin Republic Cotonou in our new home and also I am with the keys and documents of the  Apartment,we tried to look for an agent that we can give this documents before we left but could not see and we don't want the  Apartment to be used any how in our absence that is why we took the keys and documents  along with us here and as you know that,I and my family are in the Benin Republic Cotonou on a christian mission of God all because of the sickness,so i hope you will promise us to take very good care of the  Apartment but your absolute maintenance of my  Apartment is most important thing.So get back to me on how you could take care of our  Apartment or perhaps experience you have in renting a home.Note that the rent is going to be ( 260 Euro) No extra fees.I will like you to give me a call on this effect to know how serious you are.Hope you are okay with the price  per month with DVD Player, air conditioning,alarm system. The kitchen is fully equipped with all necessary cooking utensils,refrigerator-freezer, four-hob and oven,microwave,dishwasher and washing machine and Dryer and i will want you to get back to me with the Application form below :


            ========  RENT APPLICATION FORM  ========
            ========= PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL========  
    Also,Pls answer these questions below:
    1)Your Full Name__________________________ ____________
    2)Present Address(where you reside now) & Phone
      Number________________________ _______
    3)How old are you _____________________________
    4)Are you married ______________________________ _____
    5)How many people will be living in the  Apartment ___________________________
    6)Do you have a pet ______________________________ ___________
    7)Do you have a car ______________________________ ____________
    8)Occupation ______________________________ ___________________
    9)What is your religion ______________________________ ______________
    10)How long are you willing to stay
    ______________________________ ___________
    11)When do you intend to move in ______________________________ ___________
    12)1 month Or 2 month deposit needed ______________________________ ________
    13) Pictures of all the Occupant that will stay in my  Apartment ______________________________ ________
    Looking forward to hear from you with all this details so that i can have it in my file incase of issuing the receipt in your name and contacting you.Await your urgent reply so that we can discuss on how to get the keys and the documents to you,please we are giving you all this based on trust and again i want you to stick to your words,We are putting everything into Gods hand,so please do not let us down in this property of ours and God bless you more as you do this. Pls note that you will be viewing the  Apartment from outside and won't be able to inspect the Interior because the keys and the documents to the  Apartment are with me here in Benin Republic Cotonou and It is located on a cool, quiet and safe neighborhood.
    Thanks and God Bless.
Um, ok. So do you want to take me out into the woods and shoot me too? I thought for a moment, that this could be true story, even though it may as well have had SCAM in the title. Later that same day i got another email from another landlord.

La renta mensual es de 450 euros para todo el piso, incluyendo todos los servicios públicos (agua, electricidad,gas,calefacción, Internet, TV,garaje, aire acondicionado, lavavajillas, recogida de basuras). Se puede mover en cualquier momento. El problema es que soy la única persona que tiene las llaves y estoy lejos,en Romania con mi trabajo, pero si sigues interesado podemos tratar algo,utilizando un servicio de efectivo en entrega como TNT, que se encargará tanto de pago y la entrega de las llaves en la manera más segura para usted.
Thanks to google translate ...

The monthly rent is 450 euros for the entire floor, including all utilities (water, electricity, gas, heating, Internet, TV, garage, air conditioning, dishwasher, garbage disposal). You can move at any time. The problem is that I am the only person who has the keys and I'm far away in Romania with my work, but if you interested we can work something out using cash on delivery service such as TNT, which will handle both payment and delivery of keys in the safest way for you.

Wow, so apparently everyone in Sevilla goes away and takes their keys with them. Maybe they need an iPhone app for that ...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Los Negros

So I've been in Sevilla almost a week. What can I say its a cool city. Filled with beautiful women, nope of whom speak English. But hey I wanted a challenge.

So like all places what makes Sevilla so different from Hemel Hempstead. Well there are a lot of differences. There are no crazy roundabouts, the women look better, and they speak better English... I think the biggest difference is the attitude of the people. People here place a premium on family and community. The focus on work is significantly less and 'hustling' mentality is almost absent. The people here wish to enjoy and their lives. That's not to say I've moved to a society of lazy folks, but they certainly do know how relax. As one person put it 'they work to live, not live to work'.

The search for a place to live is going slowly, I've decided that I want to live with Spaniards as that's the only way I'll improve my Spanish. While it's difficult, nothing worth doing is ever easy right?

What has made this trip a great deal easier and somewhat less nomadic, is the presence of Jason, in his own words the 'original g'. However I prefer a more apt term for the two of us, Los Negros. He also happens to cook a mean steak.

Friday, October 08, 2010

48 Hours

In 48 Hours i've met, and gotten to know the following

6 Aussies
8 Americans
1 Canadian
3 American Iraqi War Vets
2 Spanish Teachers
Several Spanish students
2 Beautiful German ladies
A load of Germans
1 Korean women needing her photos backed up.
1 Moroccan
1 Frenchman

And last but not least, 2 Brits.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More than just a place in the sun

Every 10 years, that was, and has always been the plan. To move country every 10 years. Next April, will signal a decade back in England, having come back from Jamaica in 2001.

I made this decision In my early teens because I reconized that the world is a big place. My fairly recent acceptance of all things chinese has only strengthened that, not to mention the negative direction I see Europe taking politcally and socially.

While the lure or being a tax exile is not only atractive, but downright sexy, it's the adventure of the unknown that I think atracts me. I often think of my grandfather, in his late 20's boarding a boat to sail to Southampton in the early 50's. Alone and leaving his young family behind to carve out a new life. While I know I'm nowhere near as brave as he was I like to think that what I'm attempting to do is on a parallel with his feat.

As it stands my plan is to shun English, and the lands that promote it as a first language. My first stop is Seville, in southern Spain. I plan to stay there for a few months and relearn most of the Spanish that my old 7 grade teacher taught me. Then sometime before the end of the year make my way to South America and adapt my new found linguistic skills for the new culture. After that who knows.

Unless I take up residency in any one country, I can usually only stay for three months. So the plan is two move around every 2 1/2 months so that I don't end up having Interpol chasing me down.

Having said all of this my plan may fail, and my warm freshly baked semi Latino ass might find its self back on these shores, looking for work. But hey, you can't win if you don't play.

The flight is booked for October 5th, let's see what happens.


Sunday, September 05, 2010


Update 6/09/2010

Well looks like i was wrong. The actual problem was that the intermediate certificate had not been installed on the remote server. Sorry, Go Daddy. I would like to thank vincent who suggested this, and the GoDaddy representative on twitter @godaddy.

In my defense (Read: covering my ass) i didn't setup up the server, so i assumed that it had been done correctly.

On the upside it's working now :)

Don't buy cheap SSL certificates from GoDaddy if you plan to use them with the iPhone (read DON'T BUY THEM EVA). GoDaddy doesn't use a Root Certificate Authority that is validated by iOS.

How i found this out
For my latest iOS app i was working with in collaboration with some other developers that were building the server backend for the app. Like all good programmers we agreed that communications between the devices and the remote servers should be performed over SSL.

After shipping a beta to my clients, the backend team reported that they didn't have any traces of my app in their server logs. This was strange as i was using my favourite ASIHTTPRequest library. I've used it countless times, so i was fairly sure that i wasn't making a mistake, but logs don't lie.

When stuff like this happens, my first instinct is to grab wireshark, and see whats happening on the wire. Now any 12 year old hacker will tell that you can't sniff SSL traffic, so i made my requests over plain old HTTP. I confirmed that the requests reached the server, were processed and a 200 response was returned. I reported my findings to the backend team, and shipped them a new beta with logging enabled so they could see that i wasn't a complete retard...

And this is where if got strange, they responded that they saw my application report the requests and their failure, but stranger still their log messages where blank. Usually an Apache log entry contains the URL requested, along with a user agent, not this time, there was only a timestamp. After enabling Debug mode on the server, it reported that the connection had been aborted partway through the SSL handshake (1st Clue)

With that obvious clue, i completely ignored that, and used NSURLConnection to make my request instead of ASIHTTPRequest. However my requests over SSL where still failing, returning a nil NSURLResponse object.

The answer (as always) lay embedded in the [NSError localizedDescription]

The certificate for this server is invalid. You might be connecting to a server that is pretending to be “” which could put your confidential information at risk., NSUnderlyingError=0x2f8c30

So i checked the certificate ... It was of course valid for another year. Ok that was weird. So i googled the error number "NSURLError 1202". It led me to a page on the Facebook developer forums

This error code is know in the iOS world as


On the page, they mention the phase "trusted root certificate authority", something that i've learnt about from Steve Gibson & Leo Laporte on Security Now.

So i decided to find out the name of the servers root authority, it was a company called
The great folks (you guys better approve this app!!) at Apple have published a list of trusted root certificates and guess what ladies and gents (Drum roll) is not there.

Sure enough visiting the URL in the browser presented me a dialog asking me if i wanted to proceed with a untrusted certificate. Now while i can press yes, any user using my application would have to do the same thing, Not a good user experience anyway you swing it.  Hence the headline. The solution is to  splash the cash, and use a more widely recognised authority.

On the flip side this is a massive win for Apple, as it means you gotta use most of the money (that you don't share with me) you've been stealing from peoples accounts using that botnet to purchase your certificate, and fake business address. But seriously hats off to Apple, this should help keep the amount of spoofing on the iPhone to a minimum, well if they fix all the buffer overflows first ...

Hopefully i've saved someones nightmare.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

So i got bored and made a web app part one

So i woke up this morning knowing that i had to ship a beta to a client tomorrow. Now you can't have a beta without a bug a tracker, so i started to looking around. One of my clients uses mantis, which is ok, but i'm not really a fan. It's a little ugly.

I also looked at lighthouse app and some of the others and thought to myself, these are relatively expensive for what i need, plus i can see this scaling to a large number of users in short order.

And lets not forget most importantly i wanted to stroke my own ego ...

My goals are to make a simple tracking app, with support for multiple projects and maybe even some github support :) Also i want to play around with CakePHP's ARO support for Happy Not Happy, so it's a double edge sword.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Application wide Fonts

So you get your nice shiny PSD's from the designer and your ready to tear though the new UI for your fantastic Application. However their is one problem. While the designs look great, the designer has chosen to use non default fonts. 

AFAIK there is no way to change the global default font for your app. So this means that have UILabel, and UITextField, and UITextView instance that you create needs to have it's font configured.

Configure each might take a while but what will take longer is if they decide to change their mind! While i'm relatively young, i've had this happened enough times that i know you should always plan for it.

so ....

This category provides you with some simply methods modelled on the existing UIFont class methods. Now if you couple this category with categories on the other text rendering classes, you have a nice short hand way to quickly render text in the font you want.

So as an example you could create a category on UILabel, and create a class method called labelWithAppSettings. This method would do the following
  1. Allocate and instantiate a UILabel
  2. Set it's font using one of the methods from UIFont+Additions
  3. Return a Autoreleased object
This would allow us to create (Outside of IB) UILabel's across our application with the default settings by calling [UILabel labelWithAppSettings].

Now if you want to use IB (and you should, cause it's awesome, seriously), you either swizzle or use a category to override the awakeFromNib  on the text rendering classes and set font there.

While the above is very cool, i generally dislike using swizzling, or overriding methods via categories in production code. This generally causes your fellow programmers to swear at you while your not there.

Happy Coding

Saturday, July 24, 2010

BBC News app, It's alrite

Now usually i don't blog about anything, but the BBC's new app provoked me. Fortunately not because it's bad but because it's really good.
Now what would make me stand up and take notice of this app. Well there are a couple of things.

Cross Platform design
I've never seen this grid like layout in a new app on the iPhone. While it works fairly well on this size device it really excels on the larger screen of the iPad. However the fact that both versions of the app share this is fantastic, and i think lends it's self well to the branding of the application.

Well i first started making iPhone Apps i found the interface for the UITableViewDataSource annoying. Fast forward a couple of years and i love it. What amazes me even further is how versatile the UITableView class is. As far as i can tell that scrolling pane and it's content is all part of UITableView, with each row of cells being a custom UITableViewCell with a UIScrollView embedded within it, Pretty nifty if you ask me!

For all i know they could be using the mythical AQGridView, however i doubt this because of the nature of the "non-grid" content below the "fold".

Now because i'm the only iPhone developer in the world without an iPhone, i have performance issues on my iPod touch 2 gen. However while the app is a little slow i can still appreciate it.

In closing i think the folks at the beeb did a bang up job, well done

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Upgrade your iPhone Simulator to v4

If your building an app your pretty much guaranteed to have to use the iPhone Simulator. However in all the excitement it seems that Apple have forgotten to update the simulator graphics to reflect the fantastic new design.

So i had a little peak in to the iPhone bundle... and then i opened photoshop ... and i ended up with this

Initially the main take away, is that you can upgrade the appearance of your simulator to reflect the device of your choice, however realistically you could replace the image with anything you like.

Incase you want to do this for yourself, follow these steps

1. go to where you have installed xcode, usually /Developer
2. From there goto /Platforms/iPhoneSimulator.platform/Developer/Applications/
3. Control/Right click on the iPhone and select show package contents
4. Open and edit the frame.png image to your hearts content.

For the image above, i used the iOS4 UI mockup PSD from Geoff Teehan

Getting Annoyed so you don't have too

So your starting a new project, and you want to use some of the fantastic features of the three20 framework. Then you get hit with this

Ok, simple fix to this "there is no SDK with the name or path 'iphoneos3.0'" problem, you obviously forgot to set the SDK to iOS4 ... oh, but it's already set ...

Fortunately i'm here to save you some time and pain. What you actually need to do is navigate to the three20/src folder, and open each and every one of the three20 components and set project base SDK to iOS 4.0 and the deployment target to 3.0/3.1.

Once you do this to all the "dependencies", you should find that the project will compile and run just fine. There are few forks on github where peeps have done this for you, however i like to always pull from the main trunk where possible, so i'd rather do it myself.

Happy coding

Monday, May 17, 2010

IPhone OS 4: The multi-tasking myth

I have nothing against apple, from their overpriced consumer electronics to there world class software. But once in a while they really grind my gears, to quote Peter Griffin.

Recently i had a prospective client who wanted to take advantage of iPhone OS 4 new "multitasking" feature. I had to break the bad news to them that there is no true multi tasking,just apis to allow specific things to be done in the background.

And that is the key phase "multitasking api", real multitasking doesn't require an api it just happens. Sure you might need some events to determine focus, but beyond that you just write code as if your app was the only one in existence.

So heres a quick run down of mulitasking on the iPhone. If your application adheres to any of the following use cases then checkout the new 4.0 sdk

Always on VOIP client 
Receive device location updates
Play music in the background
Send messages to be received after a predetermined interval.
Operate for an addition 5-10 seconds after termination.

For everything else the solution is push notifications, Yay!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

You had me going for a sec!

So i'm the Leeds boss, i've just won the Johnstone Paints trophy, and won the league 24 points clear, i then get this message

So i click accept, my chairman is ken bates after all so it's not impossible!

Well apparently it is. Not sure how i'm going to explain that £100 million pound bid for messi. Football's coming home you know!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Trends in iPhone app design

I spend so much time developing iPhone apps that I rarely get time to
appreciate design changes in other developers app. However due to my
recent brush with RSI I suddenly have some more time. So here is list
of my favourites.

Finanical times
I love the fade transition that they use when you change the device
orientation. I mean really love it. And from a development point of
view it has a couple of major wins. Namely that unlike the standard
rotation animation, you have a nice delay between the switching of the
views. Ideal if you want to load some Additional content or an
additional view. Granted you would have to do this quickly as you
don't want you user staring at a blank screen while you parse so e XML
or execute a network operation.

Also I assume it's just a case if Animating the properties of the ui
to change the super view opacity to get the desired effect.

Yahoo finance
Loving the charts btw. The Apple UIG generally tells devs to stay away
from displaying multiple types of content. However this app does a
nice job of making it work. This design should also scale nicely to
the iPad.

I have a fetish for finance apps not only because of my forays into
the markets, but unlike most apps they need to deliver a lot content/
information to their users.

The other neat thing about this app is that it give the user control
over the size of the widgets that are display for each security. You
can also swap the arranged ment of the items. Now I guessing this is a
hell of a lot of interface code. On top of the code they are using to
generate the graphs. But awesome ui.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mocking Core Location

One of my current project is a location aware iPhone App. It requires the device to "unlock" a location when the user/device is close enough (a couple of hundred meters).

One of the problems with iPhone development is that there is no way to simulate moving around with the device, or to feed it pre made coordinate data.

Anyone that has worked with the iPhone SDK and Core Location knows that CLLocationManager is the primary class that you need to interact with in order to get location updates.

What i wanted to do was to create a Mock Core Location Manager, that would allow me to create a text file full of coordinates, set a update delay, and then call my Core Location delegate methods, so i can manipulate my app as i please.

If your like me you would think that this should be as simple as creating a CLLocationManger category, and overloading some methods, namely startUpdatingLocation/Heading & stopUpdatingLocation/Heading. 

Now this works for most applications, however it doesn't work with the Iphone's native MapKit's MapView. For that we need to use a different callback then the publicly documented method.

There is a little app called Class Dump that generates header files from compiled binaries. Now thanks to the big drive by hackers to develop for jail broken iphones, you can find copies of the headers without having to generate them yourself.

MKMapView uses a class called MKLocationManager as it's CoreLocation Delegate. You notice that it adheres to the CLLocationMangerDelegate as you would suspect, but along with the public callback method 


is also has a very similar method called


This is the winner. MKLocationManger will not respond to the former, but will respond to the later. I don't yet know what the usingSupportInfo parameter does. But my assumption is that it is a NSDictionary, however in the example i've posted i simply pass it nil.

So time for some code ...

This is fresh out of the oven, i plan to add a timer and exec the sendUpdate method after a set delay and read the locations from a text file. I'll post it up on git hub if i ever get it done

Update 29/03/10
Since writing this post i've put up a working version of the code on GitHub, Fork away

Monday, March 22, 2010

SVG Graphics on the iPhone

A new project came across my desk. The client want to import vector graphics, manipulate them and export vector graphics. No problem i thought.

Well the problem is that there is no native support for SVG graphics. Not one iota! So as a developer you have two choices. Building a JS interface and loading it in a UIWebView or implementing your own SVG parser, and loading the loading the objects as native paths using Core Graphics/ Quartz 2D.

Most smart programmers would go for the former method of course, however if you have complex SVG's you might have a performance problem, as illustrated by this video

Yeah, that performance sucks.

My problem is two fold, my client wants to export the data as a vector. Common sense wil tell you, that importing multiple vectors and then trying to export them again as a vector, in raster/bitmap based container isn't going to work.

So it looks like me and the SVG spec are going to get really cosy. The only blessing here is that SVG's that my client wants to use are fairly simple, so i should need to implement the entire spec.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Non Global Singletons in Obj-C

Everyone seems to hate singletons. Personally i find them really convenient, but then i'm a lazy programmer. On my latest client app i decided to take a swing at making a hybrid singleton.

Generally speaking, Cocoa coventions (at least in all the documentation i've read), recommendation for sharing object instances across multiple controllers is to make it part of the application delegate. Personally i hate this, as it leads to a congested app delegate full of random iVars. Now it could be argued that if you find yourself in this place your doing it wrong, and in all truth you probably are. But considering that apple themselves suggest placing the CoreData ObjectContext in the app delegate, i think we're in good company.

My solution takes advantage of one of objective-c's many unique features, categories. Categories allow you to add methods to a class without modifing or subclassing. To most non cocoa programmers i just blew your mind, just wait to you find out about Swizzling!

Essentially i define a category on the class that i want to use as a singleton. In my scenario i wanted to have a single CLLocationManager In my entire app. This is because i need to access the devices location on a regular basis, and i want a global accuracy configuration ... and i just wanna try out some stuff :).

Code time

What i have done is simulated the typical method that you would expect to see for a singleton instance, but behind the scenes this method calls a property on the app delegate to get the shared instance variable.

In my eyes the positives to this approach are:
No global variable for the instance.
The Share instance is where you would expect it to me, and if required can be serialized on app exit.
Accessing the instance is as easy as [CLLocationManager sharedInstance] vs [[[[UIApplication sharedApplication] delegate] locationManager]

Lastly, if the internets tell me that this is a wacky idea i can refractor this to classic singleton, without making mass changes to my app. Thoughts and opinions.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Reverse Engineering: Youtube & h.264 for the masses

So a client asked me if he could get a youtube video in their new iPhone app. I replied it should be possbile ... Hence this post

Like any sensible mac user i signed up to the youtube beta as soon as i heard about it. My beloved 2007 macbook is starting to show it's age, and while it can handle 1080p videos without melting (it's sweats a fair bit!), flash videos truly bring it to its knees.

So first thing i did was select a random youtube video, this one happened to be a short about the upcoming indian premier league (i personally hate cricket, but anyways...).

I was immediately disheartened, it wasn't going to be as easy as simply reformatting the link ...

This format is new and exclusive to the HTML 5 beta, from my research the h.264 content delivered to the iphone has a different format, and is served from a different domain.

Also a quick glance shows that a different series of subdomains are used, and while i haven't tested, i'm guessing these are a series of load balance servers, so there is no guarantee that the video will be on the same server.

Even more bad news the signature param appears to change on every request, suggesting that it's generated for each session. I tested this, my using the same account to watch the same video, but once in safari and once in chrome, checking the signatures each time.

Signature A

Signature B

Beyond the signature nothing else seems to change. My guess is that youtube will have to open this up when they start to provide video embed tags instead or in addition to the standard object/embed mashup.
Retardation, tells me those are 2 SHA1 hashes separated by a dot, the age old question is whats the plain text?

I'm not kevin Mitnick (Holla at me Kevin ;) ). My minimal security knowledge tells me that the plain text includes a variable that is changing. My assumption is that it user session key, but with no know access to it. (Unless the people aka google are dumb uninformed, which is highly unlikely i assume they encrypt their session cookie).

So for now the h.264 videos are safe :(

Monday, February 22, 2010

CakePHP & User Uploads

The first time i tackled this problem i did the obvious thing, and placed the uploaded files in the webroot folder inside of the app folder. However the key problem with this is that you lose the ability to quickly move the app folder around without fear. This is important for me, as sometimes i'm working with bargin basement hosting, so "cap depoly" isn't always an option. Leaving the quickest way to deploy to simply replace the entire app folder via FTP. (We all have to start somewhere!)

Thankfully cakes media views allow you to specify a folder anywhere on the webserver!

What i decided to do was to make a simple controller called media and route all of my USG images through it.

class MediaController extends AppController {
 * @var string
 * @access public
var $name = 'Media';

var $uses = array();

 * Index action.
 * @access public
function index( $file = null, $size = 's'  ) {

$this->view = 'Media';

$components = split('\.',$file);

$params = array(
'id'=> $components[0],
'name'=> $components[0],
'extension'=> $components[1],
'path' => ROOT . DS. 'media' . DS .'filter'. DS . $size .DS . 'transfer' . DS . 'gen' . DS




So the controller looks a little something like this in it's raw form. I'm using the Media plugin, hence the addition folder paths. The key thing to note is the 'Path' key/val pair in the $params array. Notice you can pass an absolute file path! so in theory you could even mount another drive, and serve your media from there, pretty awesome.

This way, i can use a url like this

To get a large image, and

And this to get a small image.

Quite handy!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Its 2010, Time to blog

For one reason or another i haven't done any blogging in ages. While i was at MWC the other week i decided that i ought to change that. While i don't really have time to be airing my thoughts into the ether, i feel as if i really ought too.

I've had an online property called Russian Space Station since late 2001, If for history's sake alone, The show must go on!

Monday, February 15, 2010

MWC 2010

Is huge. While I have little to sell and even less to buy it's been
interesting so far, and a overal good experience. Sadly none of the
folks that I know personally are here. But this is a different type of
event than what I'm used to going to. I mainly went because the ticket
was free, when yo get a 700 euro ticket for free you don't really
complain. So thanks to the folks from vodaphone.

The scale of this thing is crazy, my legs are knackered and I've only
been here for an hour and a half.