First iPhone App

I am learning iOS  development as a full time subject at school like I did electronics last year. Yep, I go to school and learn programming. Pretty f$#^@&g awesome. We’d been doing terminal apps to learn the basics of objective c when we had a one-day workshop from apple engineers. Real apple people. The people emerged from the shadows with a holy white glow. No, they were really nice down to earth people actually. After they showed us iBooks author in the morning (it has a VERY hard to solve bug –  changing the background colour of a page) they moved on to some more advanced stuff – iOS dev. I was expecting some big thing where you have to code all this stuff to get it to display a black screen. It had to be harder than little terminal apps right? He dragged and dropped a text field, linked it up, pressed run and there was a hello world! I was like REALLY? Is it really that EASY?

This was awesome. I’d never seen anything this easy. So I mucked around for the rest of the workshop making some little things with the button and text outlets. We did a map example which everyone thought had a critical bug. It turned out to be that the simulator was set to simulate every single apple store location. So it was flying around before the map image was loaded. Making it look like the animation feature was stuffed.

I got home from the workshop and I was like, make something, anything, now! There’s some kids on my bus who talk about Minecraft EVERY day. And a lot of kids in the junior school robotics class that I teach are crazy about the stuff. I decided to make something minecrafty for them. I settled on making a little app that allows people to view all the splash texts and see what their meanings are. If you don’t know what the splash texts are go here: http://www.minecraftwiki.net/wiki/Splash . They’re basically just references to popular culture, games and in jokes. There’s 304 of them and one is randomnly displayed each time you load the game in a bright yellow flashing font.

So I set about making a little browser for these. Luckily all the splash texts are stored in a text file called splashes.txt found in minecraft.jar. So all I had to do was get the text file out, write some code to convert it to an array and print out the result. I also added the ability to view what each text means on the wiki page, and the text number. It was made as a project to learn how to make, debug, refine, submit and manage an iPhone app so I know what I’m doing when I want to make something good. The app is rated 17+ because apple has a silly rule that anything that has web access is highly dangerous. I think because it’s 17+ it’s banned in Korea or something. It’s a free app available for download from the app store.

It should top 50 downloads by the end of today. I don’t understand who would download it. Honestly.

Get the app here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mc-splashes/id514227231?ls=1&mt=8

Some of my favourite reactions:

“So, what does this actually do?” Nothing really.

“Are you serious?” Yep. Vaguely.

“You’re going to charge people money for this aren’t you? Yes?” Um, no.

“Can’t you just view the wiki page?” Well, yeah but it doesn’t display them in the font and colour.

 

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The one annoying thing about the iPad. No programming!

The iPad is awesome. You can create artwork, music, videos and write blog posts on it. You can also use hundreds of thousands of pre-made apps available for download at apple’s app store. However, it does have one major downfall. You need a Mac computer to code for it.

There are some ways around this. None of them result in a fully-fledged app store app though.

My favorite choice is an app called codea. It costs $1 and is very easy to use. You program in the Lua programming language and there is an included code reference and sprites that are well made. It is very easy to program for the iPad with this. I had a cool accelerometer graphics thingy running in about half an hour after looking through the examples to find what I needed here and there. It even makes having adjustable parameters in your program easy with pre made sliders. It also has a text output window that you can easily write to using the print function. It’s by far the best and is great for testing out a coding idea. It doesn’t produce anything that looks like normal iPad apps as it doesn’t have support for all the fancy UI elements.

The other option that I’ve read about quite a bit is using JavaScript and other web technologies to develop for mobile devices. This means that you can code web based apps for the iPad using an on board web code editor like textastic. However, this has it’s issues as textastic doesn’t support server side technologies like php in its previews. Also, this is often quite a messy solution relying on complex libraries and extensions.

This is a problem that apple needs to solve if it wants people to chuck out their laptops for iPads.

My little iPad stylus made from chip foam.

Well I got an iPad for Christmas. Which is quite possibly the best Christmas present I have ever received. However, after about half an hour of operation it became clear that some tasks on the iPad are just better with a stylus rather than a finger. So I decided to make one instead of paying $20 for one at a department store.

I remember reading somewhere that iPads only work with anti static material. This was soon validated when I used some anti static chip storing foam to operate the touch screen. Instead of sticky taping the foam to a pencil (very messy) I took advantage of the small hole in the end of a pencil where the eraser is housed. I removed the eraser and replaced it with some foam which was then cut to shape. I then cut the sharp end of the pencil off as it wasn’t needed and I felt like I was going to stab myself in the eye sooner or later. The end result is shown below. Just saved myself $20!

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