red when excited

things we think while we do things we do

a lot of what we do is typing, so we thought, let's do some more typing about what we are typing about. make sense?

Tim Cook Executes

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I wanted to make a note on the executive management changes at Apple.

In my opinion Tim Cook’s actions were not only necessary, but a turning point for the post-Jobs Apple. Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi form a strong cohesive team. Each has significant experience contributing to and delivering the products Steve envisioned. Scott’s departure (Browett barely merits a mention) is sad, and he deserves significant recognition and credit for his role in iOS. However, it was clear that his ambition had become disruptive and divisive. These changes feel right and perhaps a little overdue. I am left with one nagging question.

Who at Apple will envision the next 10 years of new products?

Editing files for an iPhone/iPad iCloud enabled app without the app… on the Mac

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Continuing in our mini series of blog posts looking at how you can use Cloud Mate to best effect… here’s “The one where you create a file on your iOS device and want to edit it on the Mac even though you don’t have the same App on your Mac”. If you would like to be nerdy… let’s call it “asymetrical iCloud transactional editing”. Hum. 

Editing iCloud files on your Mac… when you don’t have a matching app

The example here is quite simple. I have a file editing app on my iPhone (in this case iA Writer), but I don’t have it on the Mac. The Mac has a text editor (Text Editor) that does the job for me and comes with the OS… so I’ll use that. Now in this case the text editor is iCloud enabled itself… but it doesn’t need to be. Let Cloud Mate handle that. 

We’ve recorded a little video (Air Server allowing iOS mirroring) to show it in action… but here’s the flow before you watch it

  • Create the document on your iOS app when you are out and about
  • When you get back to base, the document is there waiting for you in Cloud Mate
  • Double-click on it in Cloud Mate and it will open it in your default editor for that file type. It doesn’t matter if that editor isn’t iCloud enabled.
  • Make your edits
  • Cloud Mate gets the changes back into iCloud
  • If you open your original app (or in this case I just left it running)… there’s the updated document (well after a pause while it grabbed the data)
Easy! Here’s the video…

Transfering files to iCloud with Cloud Mate

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We’ve really been enjoying the response to Cloud Mate, and we thought it would be a good idea to talk about some of the things our users are doing with it, and how they are doing it, and other Apps they are using to do it… It seems like a good idea to start off with probably the most common case we hear about…

Moving files to an iPad/iPhone using iCloud

You are probably familiar with the situation… you have a file, perhaps something to read or review on a trip… and you want to get it on your iPad. iCloud seems like the most obvoius way to do it… but how?

The first thing you need to have a plan for is how you will be reading it… there will need to be an App to catch it that is iCloud enabled. If you have Apple’s Pages or the like that’s easy enough if it’s a pages document. However, there is a simply great app that reads a whole host of file formats from Microsoft Office, PDF, ZIP files, text files, and more… GoodReader. You can get it for the iPhone/iPod and the iPad.

iCloud needs to be turned on, that’s very easy. Go to Settings->General->iCloud and turn on Use iCloud

Your “My Documents” panel in GoodReader will now show an iCloud folder.

You’ll find anything you add to GoodReader from Cloud Mate there.

Fire up Cloud Mate (you did buy it didn’t you??)… and you’ll see GoodReader in the list of known Apps. Super. There are a number of things you can do from here…

  • Drag and drop your file directly onto the GoodReader app
  • Select the GoodReader app, create some folders (or use ones you’ve created in GoodReader) and drag and drop your file/document straight into it. It will be added to that location
  • If you have set-up Cloud Mate’s services (click here to learn how) just right-click on the file on the Mac, pick Services->Move/Copy to iCloud. When prompted, pick GoodReader as the App to copy it to
That’s it. The file will appear almost instanteously in GoodReader, but depending on the file size it may take a little longer to be available to open. GoodReader is also a great app for opening that file in other apps you may have installed.

That’s it for now

Cloud Mate News…

Friday, August 31, 2012

We’ve been blown away with the response to Cloud Mate. It’s been amazing and we are really glad you are finding it as useful we are. 

We are currently readying an update with some exciting new features, one of which is support for Photo Stream. 

We’ve also greatly improved application detection, meaning that even if an App isn’t installed on the Mac we are normally able to determine what it is, even if it is an iOS App. You might spot Infinity Blade in the list in the screen shot above. 

There’s going to be small number of UI tweaks, as well as a few features for the real pro’s out there. 

Reflections on FastSpring vs. Mac App Store

Monday, August 20, 2012

What happens when you can’t use the Mac App Store to distribute your latest creation?
We recently released a new App, Cloud Mate. This time around we needed to use several OS X features that in order to make it “just work” for customers, we really couldn’t abide by the App Store rules (the whole point of the App is to remove the need for a user to have to manually find a hidden directory).

We thought it would be useful to describe the process of setting up another channel, and some of the oppertunities and challenges it poses both in terms of the technical and marketing work. We are not going to talk about the “business” side of it however. FastSpring have a very reasonable cut that they take (and two models you can adopt), but how the payments reach you will impact what finally arrives in your account. In our case, it works out about half what the App Store takes (so that’s 15%. Ish.) 

So is Apple making it any easier for their 15%?

FastSpring Product & Store Set-up

It’s easy enough to register and get an account set-up with FastSpring. The process is not instant however, you first register your interest, giving some details about your first product. They state a 36 hour turn around, but we had approval and the ability to start getting things set up within 24 hours. 

None of these tasks are any harder or more involved than setting up a developer account with Apple, and in general we breazed through it in a couple of hours. 

However there is an extra step. You need (at least, we would strongly recommend) to style the store to match your site. As our site is driven from a single CSS style sheet this didn’t take too long, but we did find that the templating system didn’t lend itself to tweaking and exploration. You have to make a style locally, creating an example HTML file with some carefully placed HTML comments indicating where the various elements of the store should be plugged in. That’s all fine, but you then must zip it up, upload it, test… and so the cycle continues. Being able to tweak this in Fastspring’s web-interface would have greatly reduced the number of interations. 

That said, within a few hours we had a reasonable faxsimile of the style in place. This isn’t something you have to do with the Mac App store, and I must admit I’d like to see an App Catalogue from Fastspring (or any other vendor). We are less interested in having our own store, and our own store branding. 

We’ll be looking at Steam when the Sept 5th announcement is made for this reason, but I’d have loved to see something similar from Fastspring. Everything else works so well.

Adding Licensing to your Application
To some extent the Mac App store deals with licensing… but not completely. The App developer is still responsible for validating the receipt, and that is non-trivial. 

We opted for CocoaFob for license keys, and Fastspring supports that “out of the box”. We simply gave them the right encryption key and everything worked. Obviously you need to add a bit of logic and UI to capture the user’s registration information, but again that took just a few hours to get in place and tested. 

In fact, this took a little less time than our receipt validation for iExpression Mac on the Mac App Store. Go figure. 

Going Live
Getting your app up to Fastspring and configuring the order fullfilment process to make sure a link was delivered was again very easy, well under an hour to get done. Now that’s all in place, updating the binary is very easy and certainly no harder than uploading a new build to the Mac App Store.

It’s worth noting that the final “go-live” is achieved by a support ticket request. I believe this is a “first-product” only task, but we weren’t expecting a 24 hour delay to be introduced. Perhaps our fault for not reading ahead, but it would be nice to see a little flow chart right at the beginning. 

Other Tasks & Next Steps
The one area we still haven’t addressed are updates. Obvoiusly Sparkle is easy enough to integrate, but we haven’t yet looked at the impact of Sparkle and Gatekeeper. Once that’s in place though we will have a complete “Mac App Store” experience… 

There is a certainly a burden of marketing on you, you can’t rely on App Shopper to highlight your newly introduced app. That said, we really believe the problem many app developers face is doing that regardless of the channel, so we believe that using a non App Store channel just casts a spot light on it, rather than being an additional task.

Actually it was much easier than we thought. We had budgeted 3 days to get it all done, and although the elapsed time was 3 days (with registrations and such), we probably only spent a woking day to get a solution we are very happy with. The marketing is just beginning to ramp up, but so far no complaints or funnel drops on the Fastspring side so we have to count this as a win. 

Our recommendation
We are still App Store only for iExpression, and will probably stay that way simply because we see iCloud as a significant feature, and to use that we need to be in the App Store. 

Anything that didn’t need that, we’d use Fastspring too. It’s easy to get in place, and it makes perfect sense to have a couple of channels. Go for it. 
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