Software Development

Some thoughts on the Apple App Store, and App Store quality, as a developer, as a consumer, and a parent

There have been a lot or articles around the App Store, and App Store quality, in the last few weeks, and I’ve had some frustrating interactions myself, but John Gruber’s article below hit home the most, maybe Apple should spent more time using their muscle policing the quality in the App Store, and the end users experience rather than their bottom line.

Daring Fireball: A Moment of Clarity Regarding the Raison d’Etre for the App Store:

Feel free to file Google’s release this week of an update to their iPad Gmail app with support for split-screen multitasking under “better late than never”, but this is so late it borders on the absurd. It’s like the difference between showing up fashionably late and showing up a week after the party.

The quick summary of John’s article is that that Google’s gmail app for iPad could have had split screen (good for more productive work on the iPad, eg email on one side of the screen, another app on the other) 5 years ago, but it didn’t, yet this app is one of the most downloaded, most used iPad apps on the platform. Should Apple not be policing these top tier apps, the most used / downloaded, however you chose to measure it and pushing them to be better, more features, a better user experience, after all there are many, many users who will benefit.

Gmail split view 0

In complete contrast, I’m at the final stages of a cross platform, open source, demo app (don’t tell Apple!) it has very little functionality, a simple utility, that’s free, who’s reason for existence at my end is a technical one, to show how this cross platform code can develop the same utility on iOS, Android, Mac and windows desktop (for starters). It’ll be on Github and an example for others to build on. It got rejected by Apple for not having enough features, they even openly admitted that it’s not for them to define the functionality of the app, except they were, and they did! (Not a biggy, I’m just putting some of the version 2 ideas I had in now). My point however, is if apple can dictate quality, and functionality to little old me, in an app that will affect approximately 20 people on the planet, why can’t they do the same for an app that’s offering a poor experience to millions? Because it involves butting heads with Google 🤔

On a similar note, in terms of improving the end user experience, Gems, game drugs as I call them, the concept of In App Purchases for games, marketed at kids, who just, want, want, want. I hate them. This caused tears in my household this weekend, all thanks to the need to buy gems to progress further in a game (there’s no method to earn progress, you have to buy it). Now we use parental controls, so my daughter has to request in app purchases, and most of the time we say no and suggest Apple Arcade which we also pay for (something created by Apple because they can see the problem these games create), as it has no IAP, no gems, just good quality games. On this occasion, as a treat I said yes, the next day she requested again, so we had a conversation about how this wasn’t going to be a habit, and I said no, the first time was a one off. A few hours later she came to see me, all excited, she’d found a YouTube video that ‘showed’ how if you download this other app you would get free gems to the former – so clearly the need for gems was on her mind and she’d been off looking. Of course this won’t work, at least not in the way she thinks, and just perpetuates the problem more, another app, with adverts (which is how their short attention spans find these in the first place) probably asking for gems itself, and so the cycle continues. So I had to sit down and explain to her, that this was not what my poor trusting daughter thought it was, the offer of free gems was not true, it was just a lure, and of course that she couldn’t have her gems, and her world was broken, cue tears, and me, an angry helpless parent 😢

Unknown

I need to spend more time in Apple Arcade with the kids, I’ll admit that, but the games are almost too big, too good, the kids don’t invest time in mobile games – not like PC or console – they like quick pick up, put down games I’m open to any recommendations, as a big kid I enjoy the odd game too), and obviously indifferent to quality! Apple Arcade games are more traditional, and for what ever reason they aren’t appealing to my kids – I really think Apple need to refocus on this, but of course will they? The cynic in me thinks they like their 30% cut on gems, game drugs, and aren’t motivated to fix that.

So back to the premise, if Apple are going to preach, quality control on their App Store then do so, do it well, and be dictate it, and be consistent. But don’t pretend, that’s almost worse than letting things become a dumping ground like the Google Play store can be, at least you know where the bar is there, and protect accordingly. People want App Store quality, so please give it to us, and as a developer I’ll work with you to hit those standards.

Rant over.

About me

Andy Flisher is a Mobile App Developer based in the North East of England with over 20 years software development experience. He is available for hire and specialises in cross platform mobile app development, web applications, desktop software, bespoke cloud architecture solutions and providing outsourced project management services.

Some thoughts on this weeks Apple Developer conference – WWDC 2020

Today sees the conclusion of the annual Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (aka WWDC 2020), and I just wanted to offer a few thoughts and highlights as to what’s been announced, what we can expect, and what it means to me and my clients.

First off it was a highly polished and professional keynote, as you would expect from Apple, but more so considering much of the events charm is in the atmosphere of a full auditorium of developers, something not possible this year for obvious reasons.

Wwdc 2020 mr logo

Apple Mac and the move to ARM

The big announcement, and worst kept secret, was that going forward new Apple Mac products (iMac, MacBook, Mac Pro etc) will be running Apple Silicone (ARM based processors – like the iPhone and iPad), a move away from the current Intel (x86 – like most Windows PC’s and Laptops use) chips. At a technical level this is massive for developers, but Apple have made as easy a pathway as possible, where it does become interesting though as this means there will be the ability for iPhone apps to run, out of the box on new Apple hardware. This means there will be a lot more apps available for the Mac instantly, but also a dilemma for developers and clients considering a Mac presence, to you optimise the Mac app as you have always done before, or make do with your iPhone app working on the Mac even if the experience is not idea?

Mac OS Big Sur as it’s named got a visual overall too, looking very similar to the iPad it has to be said – time will tell on that one I think

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iPhone and iPad

Even though technically iOS and iPad OS are separate things now, I’ll tag them together under the iOS 14 banner. I’m already running this in Beta, and so far it looks very pretty, stable, and a decent step forward, highlights include;

– Widgets on the home screens
– Upgraded Messages app (Pinned conversations, mentions etc)
– Offline translation
– App clips – Mini apps you don’t have to install / login and just use once, eg car parking apps
– Improved privacy notifications in Safari
– Scribbles – Handwriting recognition from the Apple Pencil to enter small amounts of text / search etc

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Apple Watch

No real headline grabbers here, Watch OS 7 is just everything a little bigger and better than before, new workouts, watch faces, emoji (of course!), sleep tracking, and make sure you wash your hands properly!

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Overall there’s a lot to work through, for many it’s, just an iterative year, for developers a little more exciting, but if you’d like to know more about Apple, WWDC 2020, or you are considering getting an App developed for any of the Apple platforms then I’d love to hear from you.

About me

Andy Flisher is a Mobile App Developer based in the North East of England with over 20 years software development experience. He is available for hire and specialises in cross platform mobile app development, web applications, desktop software, bespoke cloud architecture solutions and providing outsourced project management services.

How to fix the ‘This app is no longer shared with you’ error

There seems to be a surge of people reporting the ‘This app is no longer shared with you’ message when they open apps on iOS devices. Not sure why, our suspicion is that it’s a server side bug in and around family sharing, but that’s not confirmed.

Deleting the app and reinstalling will work, but you will potentially lose any data that’s stored locally, so our recommendation is to ‘offloads the app. This was introduced as a means to save space on your device by temporarily removing apps that you rarely use, but not losing any data or settings.

So whilst it’s a pain you can offload the app and then immediately restore it to fix this bug, full instructions are over at https://www.idownloadblog…

If this helped you fix the ‘This app is no longer shared with you’ error on your iPhone then would appreciate the share, if you have any other updates or solutions then please hit up the comments and we’ll update the article.

Microsoft’s new cross platform software framework – What does it mean to your business?

Yesterday at the Microsoft Build conference they announced MAUI, the roadmap to their new cross platform software, single codebase framework, quoting from their release;

Introducing .NET Multi-platform App UI:

As we consider what building device applications will look like in a unified .NET, we see many devices across multiple platforms used, from Android and iOS to Windows and macOS. To address this need we are excited to announce a new first-class UI framework for doing just that: .NET Multi-platform App UI, affectionately call .NET MAUI.

This means a lot to us as developers, but what does it mean to you as business owners, decision makers, and end users? To your business?

App languages – how they differ

All computer software (apps are just software applications, all the same really) is traditionally designed to run on it’s intended platform, the Web, Windows PC, Apple Mac, iPhone, Android etc – an app written for one platform will traditionally be written in the language that platform expects, all these platforms have different native languages, ie an app written for one won’t work on another.

In layman’s terms, if you learn French it will stand you in great stead on a holiday to France, but pop next door to Spain and you’re stuck. Unless you learn Spanish too, but that’s twice as much work.

 

Maui 01 overview 1536x864

Multiple App Platforms

Which is where us developers come in, most developers speak more than one language, but certainly not all, and in the past you had to be careful that the language choice the developer was making for your project was because it was the right one for your needs.   Not because it was the one they knew. But as IT expanded, people started using their own devices, and mobile computing became the norm it stopped being about which platform – Mac vs PC if you will, but which platforms – plural.

So if you ask a developer to create you a mobile app you are probably targeting iPhone and Android, two platforms, two languages (Objective C or Swift, and Java in case you were wondering!) – so that’s actually two apps you need, twice the work, twice the support, twice the cost!!! If only there were some (good – there are bad ways, we don’t do them) way of creating good, native, performant apps on both platforms, from one codebase, one product to support, and only one to pay for – cheaper is better right?

How can Xyroh help?

Well for most cases there is, it’s niche, here at Xyroh we do it, and have spent a lot of time and resources investing in these skills, the platform we use is Xamarin from Microsoft, and in *most* cases, certainly B2B projects it’s perfect – outputting great, custom mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Windows Phone – Tizen even – at good value to your business.

Mobile App Development Native App vs Web App vs Hybrid App

Well that’s what this announcement was about, the next stage. Microsoft’s new MAUI framework will allow us to create line of business apps that run on;

– Android
– iOS (iPhone and iPad)
– Mac OS
– Windows

All from one project, one codebase, one cost – but much more value. So if you have a need for apps, be it a mobile app, a desktop app, or even a web app in your business then we’d love to talk to you.

Related Articles:

Native App, Hybrid App, or somewhere in between?
Xamarin Cross Platform Application Development – Book Review

Andy, the founder of Xyroh, is a mobile app developer, specialising in cross platform mobile apps, iphone apps, android apps, as well as web applications and desktop software for business clients across the North East – feel free to contact him to engage his services

Service Engineers Reminders Software Case Study

Prior to Xyroh, Andy was the founder of dotUK (A software development firm based out of Yarm and Stockton on Tees here in the North East),  again specialising as a developer in mobile apps, web applications and desktop software for a number of business clients – this is one of those portfolio case studies for windows based resource planning app

Desktop Software

Desktop Software, or desktop applications are the built in or installed apps available to you on your desktop / laptop computer of choice, for many this is a Windows based PC, but it could be an Apple Mac or a variant of Linux.  We can develop desktop software for all of those platforms, often a cross platform application that can operate across all three.  This case study is for a windows based desktop software application, operating in a client / server environment ie multiple desktop users puplling data from the central database server.

Project Summary

The Service Engineers Reminder Software is a simple, single user, windows desktop app that helps tradesmen keep track of scheduled work, services, safety checks etc

Sometimes the simplest solutions are best,  this service reminder app, which has been commissioned by a local heating engineer, will start life as a single user, stand alone, windows desktop application. However it is easily scalable into a multi user networked environment (with little to no infrastructure costs) and even options to sync / backup data through cloud services to make a multi user, multi site product.

The core functionality is to record when clients have products, services, or schedules that are due for renewal and offer a range of reminder options. As an example landlords are required to have annual gas safety checks which is a service the client offers. This app will allow this to be recorded, and when comes due the option to remind via email, text message, or generate a mail merge document that allows letters to be sent out in the post.

As always the focus is on specific functionality, ease of use, and value.

Desktop Software for Resource Planning Case Study – RetroFlo

Prior to Xyroh, Andy was the founder of dotUK (A software development firm based out of Yarm and Stockton on Tees here in the North East),  again specialising as a developer in mobile apps, web applications and desktop software for a number of business clients – this is one of those portfolio case studies for windows based resource planning app

Desktop Software

Desktop Software, or desktop applciations are the built in or installed apps available to you on your desktop / laptop computer of choice, for many this is a Windows based PC, but it could be an Apple Mac or a variant of Linux.  We can develop desktop software for all of those platforms, often a cross platform application that can operate across all three.  This case study is for a windows based desktop software application, operating in a client / server environment ie multiple desktop users puplling data from the central database server.

Project Summary

This project was to create a Windows Based Resource Planning Application, allowing businesses to see at a glance upcoming resource availability and holiday allocations

This was the second of our recent commissions for bespoke windows desktop software, and was for an electrical contractor based here in the North East. The challenge to overcome here is the ability to see clearly, quickly the spread of human resources in upcoming months, both those engineers and fitters allocated to existing projects, and of course holiday time when resource is unavailable.

 

Beskpoke Desktop Software application

Our bespoke solution will record the allocation of staff resources to projects, and allow the categorisation of the labour types. It will also record upcoming staff holidays, with this combination of data managers will be able to scroll to a specific timeline and view, filtering down if need be, the allocation of resources and ability to schedule in, or not, additional work based on the still free resource.

This project is the precursor to a bigger solution, but allows us to focus on and solve immediate business problems for the client in a cost effective and timely manner

Version 1.7 of our ‘Worst’ Server Monitor released

Version 1.7 of our ‘Worst’ Server Monitor is now available, includes support for multiple Status Cake accounts – hit the link to our community boards for release notes and App Store Links, you can also shape the future by suggesting your own ideas and commenting on others – https://clients.xyroh.com…

Industrial Programming Case Study – Glasgow Watersports

Prior to Xyroh, Andy was the founder of dotUK (A software development firm based out of Yarm and Stockton on Tees here in the North East),  again specialising as a developer in mobile apps, web applications and desktop software for a number of business clients – this is one of those portfolio case studies for an industrial programming project

Industrial Programming

Industrial Programming is a term reserved for the programming of industrial equipment, pumps, valves, etc to control and monitor any number of simplex or complex scenarios. In many small business scenarios the distinction is being blurred with the advent of ‘Internet of Things’ products such as Hue Lights, Ring doorbells, Tado home heating automation etc – the concept however is the same, you turn things on and off.

In this case we are using a combination of a web and mobile based dashboard to turn on and off the paddle sports course pumps as required, the dashboards being the visible, more traditional development side, but the industrial programming being what happens behind the scenes to interface with the pump infrastructure.

Project Summary

The Glasgow Watersports project is a multi phased industrial programming project that will ultimately empower the user to control and administer the canoe course pumps and lighting from mobile devices, and place site bookings over the web.

The core control system part of the project allows for programmatic control of the sites pump, lighting, and klaxon systems using the industry standard Modbus protocol. This is being offered in conjunction with Retroflo, a North East based Electrical Contractors and bringing on board their expertise in industrial process control.

Glasgow Watersports Industrial Programming Dashboard

The full flow of the development will commence with a web based booking system provided by dotUK, end user bookings are then pushed privately to the Glasgow Watersports site where the onsite infrastructure will allow users to access their booking and the control systems via any wifi enabled device.

Local users can then control the pump output (strength of water flow) on demand in accordance with the abilities and expectations of their group.

A full remit of expected industrial safety, and health and safety best practices are of course in place but this investment allows the end user, through dotUK’s software development expertise, to bring control and a more beneficial user experience to the end user.

Release 1.0 of XyrohLib,

Release 1.0 of XyrohLib, our multi platform C# interface to a number of common crash reporting and logging services;

– Log file recycles at 1MB or at a customisable int (bytes) value, eg

– Can get full log file path back from Lib

https://github.com/Xyroh/…

The case for ‘App Watcher’

App Watcher is a new service (actually that’s a fib, it’s been around more than 3 years, so that’s not a good start!), it’s a new ‘public’ service I offer that anyone can sign up to. So who is it for, what does it do, and what do you get for your £25.00 a month.

So who is it for? Anyone who has a website, eCommerce store, cloud app, mobile app backend or any other publicly available web based endpoint – so that’s all of us then! More importantly this should be something you depend upon, a revenue stream or application without which your business will struggle to operate. Within that it’s geared more towards the SME sector who don’t have dedicated, fully skilled IT and developer support on hand 24/7 – that combination is where App Watcher is of value.

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What does it do? Well on it’s own it merely monitors, it checks periodically to make sure that the monitored web service is up and responding – and then let’s you know if anything looks amiss – normally by email and / or SMS. Additionally we also keep an eye on the related domain name and any attached SSL Certificate to warn you when they are likely to expire so you can mitigate downtime before it happens – however none of that is particularly new, if all you want is monitors and alerts then there are great services already out there such as Pingdom for one that will look after.

So our justification, is the worst case scenario, we offer peace of mind that there will be real, dedicated, independent human support available – and already investigating – should your monitored web site, app or presence go down unexpectedly. As soon as is practical we will manually investigate, diagnose, and provide a report back letting you know exactly where the problem lies, and give you and indication as to who to speak to to get it resolved – and remain accessible until it’s back.

Consider the scenario, you’ve commissioned an e-commerce store a few years back, they person on staff familiar with the details is has since left, but the store is up and running, earning you money, and all is good – until the day it stops. What’s wrong, and how do you fix it?

  • Has the domain name expired? Ex employee registered a few domains – always good to keep control of your domains and not leave it to the hosting company, but who did he register them with? Have we paid the bill.
  • Who is it hosted with, possibly the developer you originally contracted, but you don’t have much to deal with her now as the site is all done, and chances are she set that up with a third party anyway, or even a reseller – will they act on out instructions, or was the hosting with the domain name company?
  • Or could it be the SSL Cert, vague memory of our IT firm setting something up, or was that for the mail server – I forget.
  • Where to start, and who do you trust, no one likes admitting an error so are the answers you’re getting back ones you can trust?

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This is where we come in, we’re independent so no vested interest in anything other than being truthful and honest. We also have years of experience, we know where to look, what to test, and how to come to a quick, accurate conclusion – and more importantly communicate that to you in ways that are useful, relevant, and helpful to pointing you in the direction of the resolution to your woes.

We’ll also provide you with a written report to use for your records, or to forward on upstream to any interested parties to help you bypass their first line support and give hard facts to the engineers that can resolve it, after all we’ve done the detective work for them.

All that, an insurance if you will, from just £25.00 per month, and no risk to you as no minimum term, you can cancel when you wish. To signup our see the options just head over to our signup page to get started or if you have any questions just drop us a message via help@xyroh.com.

Look forward to having you onboard.