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An iPad, multiple users

This year Apple gave *a lot of love* to iPads: we're all in awe for how well they've implemented drag and drop, and I'm personally even happier for system-wide markup. 

The new iPad Pro 10.5" is probably the best incarnation of the most versatile tablet form factor, and the combination of a Dock and an app switcher that both feel very Mac-like and platform native at the same time made this WWDC one of the best Apple events ever for iPad users.

There is one thing, though, that iOS still misses, and it's something the operating system always had under the hood: the ability to allow multiple users to use the same device with a separate environment, giving each person in a family access to her own data, apps and settings.  They made something last year for education, but it was pretty limited in scope and a bit different from regular users' needs.

I am not saying that adopting multiple logins would be an easy feat for Apple, nor that it would be viable on all devices: since iOS apps save data inside their own app containers, I guess it would be a serious challenge for Apple engineers and app developers, and many devices haven't enough disk space to allow the comfortable coexistence of different people on one device. The list of problems wouldn't stop there: Touch ID would certainly be a requirement for quick user switching, inter-user document sharing would soon emerge as a need... the list of challenges would be long indeed.

Maybe more important than the technical reasons, which I believe Apple would be able to overcome in a reasonable amount of time if they decided to put their technical resources at work, I've read in the past that our favorite fruit company would never allow multiple users on the same iOS device, since iPhone and iPads are very personal appliances, and it's also good for business to have each family member to buy a separate one. This is an argument I don't buy: while it actually makes perfect sense for every person who can afford it to have a personal smartphone, for many households a tablet covers completely different needs, and actually most families can get by with just one iPad, and they are doing it right now.

I actually believe allowing multiple users on iPads would be great business for Apple, given how many old tablets are still around since they are already so good people don't see the need to update: make iOS 12 accept multiple users just on iPad Pros (they started at 32 gigs from the beginning and all have Touch ID and a lot of processing power), and you'll give families the most compelling reason to buy a much more expensive device (the 10.5" Pro costs almost twice as much as the new iPad, which by the way is almost too good for that price point, posing a challenge right there for Apple revenue, since it could be very tempting for most users to renounce Pencil support and some other advanced features in order to spend significantly less money).

This ship has sailed for iOS 11, but the silver lining is that now Apple has almost a year to make it happen the right way, just like they did with drag and drop.

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App Store reviews, no authentication required

 A few weeks ago I've realized that Apple made a huge improvement to the App Store user review system, and I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere: we can now leave ratings and reviews without authentication! No password required, no Touch ID... just tap Write a review or simply the stars.

Maybe this has been around for a while and I didn't notice, but if you haven't realized this was possible too, there's never been a better time to leave a review for your favorite apps! 

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Walk More

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Walk More

As I announced earlier this week, I submitted a new app to Apple.

Walk More: powerful pedometer for step counting is my fourth app and it is available for download.

Walk More is a simple iPhone app with a dynamic dark look and lively orange accents. It helps you to keep track of:

  • Every step you take when you have your iPhone with you.
  • The distance you walk (in miles or kilometers).
  • How many stairs you climb (iPhone 6 or newer required).

You can set a daily goal, see your progress inside the Notification Center widget and review your statistics and top results with the help of simple graphs.

Walk More is free, and you should download it right now: seeing your progress every day can really help you achieving a healthier lifestyle!

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WWDC 2017

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WWDC 2017

Some thoughts on yesterday's Keynote and Platform State of the Union:

  • Appocalypse intro video: not particularly funny, but the ending message "Keep making apps. The world is depending on you" was a nice touch and a good way to kick off a 2+ hours developer (-ish) event.
  • tvOS: as expected, just the Amazon Prime announcement, but I'm pretty sure a 4K Apple TV is coming this fall, so yesterday wasn't this platform's day...
  • WatchOS 4: the new Siri face is very Googley, and the trippy one was designed by the same team who picked the name for macOS High Sierra; but the night notification containing a specific nudge ("you need a 12 minutes brisk walk to reach your goal") to fill the rings is a very nice touch.
  • macOS High Sierra: I kept thinking they were replaying the 2014 WWDC naming video, but they actually went with macOS version 4:20 🙄. Anyway, not a lot to see on a mature operating system (though, a tablet mode for iPad Pro connected to Macs would have opened the doors to some cool new workflows), but that huge blow at Google with Intelligent Tracking Prevention is Apple at its best: protecting its customers’ privacy. It’s worth noting that starting next year Apple will begin abandoning support for 32 bit apps (which is already true in iOS 11).
  • Macs: Kaby Lake across the line is good news, albeit a little late; getting iMacs to be able to execute (and create) VR content was long overdue. The iMac Pro sure will be a beast, and it's priced accordingly; I'm very happy to see Apple commit to a niche pro machine, but I have no doubt that its specs confirm that they were determined to drop the Mac Pro 'til a few months ago... and it's a good thing they reversed that decision, because a 5.000 $ (more likely, a 6.500 $) pro machine without user replaceable parts makes very little sense to me... It would have been cool if they went with a bigger, curved screen for the pro model (32 inches? 34?), but at this point it’s pretty safe to assume that curved Macs won’t be a thing.
  • Metal 2: the interwebs picked a better name, Heavy Metal. It seems really nice, but I bet VR developer would have liked at least a mention of OpenGL.
  • A wireless keyboard with numeric keypad: finally, we have the technology 😱. Sadly, it's so advanced this futuristic device has to cost 129 $...
  • Apple Pay: direct money transfers between users just raised the level of the ocean: it was VCs funding Venmo & co. crying.
  • Siri (and machine learning, machine learning, machine learning everywhere): I think they are being cautious touting new Siri capabilities at this stage, but I'm pretty optimistic. The translation part was cool. I would have expected a few more new intents, but I got what I wanted 🤐, so I'm cool…
  • iOS 11 on iPhone: I like the new lock screen, and this could be their chance to make it a bit customizable (change the default calculator app, place a HomeKit button in the main view...). I expected a more substantial, system-wide redesign, but as they made clear in the Platform State of the Union, the Music-style big headlines are now available to everyone almost for free, and Apple uses them in most of their apps (they should fix this, though...), setting the new platform standard. The car DND is a very nice and safe idea.
  • Augmented Reality: very cool demos (the table one was amazing, but my arms hurt just watching the presenter hold that iPad for so long), I’ve never seen this resolution and realistic effect in HoloLens videos. This should be one of the major headlines today: Apple went from 0 to 11 (see what I did there? It’s the joke of the week!) keeping their work completely secret. This should probable silence (it won’t) all those critics voicing concern about Cupertino's position in AR and VR (which too they acknowledged more than ever in the Mac part, confirming they are aware that it's one of the next big things, though maybe less huge than many expected).
  • iPad 10.5": I would have expected something a bit bolder on the design front, or at least a few new colors, but it's still a great device. I use my mother's 12.9 iPad Pro pretty often, and while I like it, it's really, really big and heavy. This will probably be the best iteration ever of the original form factor, which happened to also be the perfect one. The six-core A10X is cool too.
  • iOS 11 on iPad: this is a huge step forward. Obviously, it's not like computers never had drag and drop and file managers before 💁‍*, but they seem really well implemented, and drag and drop is also really easy to adopt on the developer side. I also liked the Dock implementation and the new app switcher. All those features and the system-wide markup capabilities really got me excited about using the iPad more... I think that 12.9" will be the first device I'll install the beta on, when the next version will be released (I'm not that young and reckless anymore...).
  • HomePod: first, I dig the name, and I don't think the price is excessive (I paid that exact amount in 2006 for the iPod Hi-Fi, and this thing does a couple of things more...). I'm curious to see how it sounds, and also to see it in person, because I'm not particularly impressed by its design. Given what they showed feature-wise, I don't think it's a device I'm interested to buy at this time, but of course they would be the only company I trust with a microphone in my home.
  • Swift Playgrounds on iPad: really neat stuff that I should probably check out.
  • Xcode 9: Apple's IDE in my opinion was the absolute star of the Platform State of the Union. They seem to have fulfilled almost every possible wish a developer could have had: new source editor, faster indexing and compile times, clearer warnings (no dots anymore!), amazing refactoring capabilities, wireless deployment to test devices, Swift 4 adoption not mandatory when opening a Swift 3 project. I'm in love 😍, and I can't install it because my 2008 Mac Pro can't run Sierra or Fully Baked Sierra 😭.

I can only express my congratulations to the teams at Apple that made all this (and the many things I forgot to mention) possible. Thank you!

With so many sessions bookmarked to watch, this will be a fun week...

 

* Squarespace doesn't let me use the boy emoji...
 

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It's been a while...

The last post here on cdf1982.com was appropriately named "Cultivate bad ideas", and I have indeed pursued a lot of ideas in the last 8 months.

One (me) might actually say that I have bitten off more than I can chew, considering my day job and other personal commitments...

To be specific, I have worked on - and skillfully avoided completion of:

  • Tasktic 2.0 (80% done, but the last 20%... let's just say it will take a few more months to release it);
  • A new Apple TV media player (currently nothing more than a stub);
  • Walk More, my take on pedometer apps (more on that later);
  • A secret project;
  • Setting up a Virtual Private Server, just to see how hard it was (it's not) and to be prepared for future needs.

I believe that all those ideas are good and worth pursuing, just not all at the same time.

So, today I submitted Walk More to the App Store; I would have liked to add a couple more features to version 1.0, but tbh the core functionality is there (and has been for months), as is the overall look and feel of the app (which I very much like), and it's time to start shipping products again.

Reaching the release of an app, and placing another (the media player) in the parking lot, will free up a bit of mental space and, also important, should stop me from feeling guilty every time I think of opening TextMate instead of Xcode: I completely stopped blogging in the last months because I tried to prioritize software development, but writing more commentary posts about tech news was one of my goals for 2017.

So, let's start WWDC week planning to watch a lot of sessions, blog a bit more and focus all my development work on one app at a time (starting with that secret project mentioned above)!

In the meantime, I'll let you know when Walk More will be available for download... please let me know if you'll enjoy it!

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Cultivate bad ideas

I don't usually link to articles and blog posts here, but Shawn Blanc's You have ideas today is really worth your attention and time:

Out of ten thousand ideas, only one of them might be truly great. If you sit around waiting for the great one, how are you going to get it?
— Shawn Blanc

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Laying the foundations for the future: Tasktic 1.5

Later today Tasktic 1.5 will be available for download on the App Store as a free update for all our Users.

We have no revolutionary features to announce today, but this is a good release: under the hood we've worked long and hard to adopt new technologies (a new version of Swift, iOS 9 and watchOS 2 capabilities, updated libraries and a crash reporting and analytics system that's respectful of our Users' privacy, as we'll describe in detail later) and to lay the foundations for the future development of Tasktic.

Here's a quick recap of what's new and what is improved in Tasktic 1.5, plus a few details about our thought process on important questions like analytics and App Store reviews:

  • Tasktic now works with iPad multitasking modes (of course, only on devices that support them), so you can be even more productive. We'll look forward to your feedback on this much requested feature.
     
  • Tasktic for Apple Watch has been rewritten for watchOS 2 and now it is much faster!
     
  • While the free version of Tasktic is powerful enough for many Users, we've made Tasktic Pro more affordable for students, veterans and unemployed people: the new Tasktic Pro Value Edition offers everything (every. single. feature.) Tasktic Pro does, but for an even lower price.
    This is purely based on trust: if you're a student (from first grade to college / university, age doesn't count, it never does), a veteran or you are currently looking for a job, and you're interested in the advanced features of Tasktic Pro (recurring tasks, multiple tags, statistics and achievements, export to file, overdue tasks in Tasktic Today and Tasktic for Apple Watch, etc.), you can get Tasktic Pro Value Edition - as usual, buy once and use forever on every iOS device you own - and enjoy those features for an exceptionally low price.
    If you're not part of those categories, please purchase Tasktic Pro or, if you feel like it, show us your love and buy Tasktic Pro Big Supporter (as over a quarter of our customers do)!
     
  • Starting from this release, Tasktic requires iOS 9 and watchOS 2; we've supported iOS 8 and watchOS 1 for as long as possible, but with less than two months to the introduction of iOS 10 and watchOS 3, and with so many interesting features that were precluded to us by our legacy support, it is time to move to the current versions of Apple operating systems.
     
  • We've squashed some bugs: one prevented the task selected in Tasktic Today, inside Notification Center, from being opened by the main app; another, in Tasktic Share, caused both buttons to show the same "Cancel" label instead of "Save to Inbox"... and we've also made other minor bug fixes (some rare issues caused by iOS 8) and improvements.
     
  • Adopting the latest versions of iOS and watchOS is part of our continuous effort to get rid of every single bug and, Heaven forbid, crash. To accomplish this goal for our Users and move Tasktic forward, we've realized we need a little more knowledge about crashes and what happens within the app (meaning, which features and sections are most popular and which need more work, but not of course the content you save in Tasktic).
    As we've always said, and we're proud to repeat today, we're committed to completely avoid being creepy with your data; not only we don't have access to what you save inside Tasktic by design, we don't even want to know who you are: you purchase Tasktic directly from Apple on the App Store and you don't need to create an account, nor provide personal details such as name, payment informations or email, to use Tasktic.
    Having said that, we think we've found a great balance between getting useful, anonymous and aggregated statistics and respect our Users' privacy by implementing Fabric, Twitter's well respected and secure developer service for analytics and crash reporting that has been an essential part of many popular apps (Spotify, Foursquare, Pinterest, Evernote, Overcast... it's a long list!) for years.
    Let us be clear at risk of repeating ourselves: starting with Tasktic 1.5, we'll use Fabric only to collect anonymous and aggregated crash and usage informations; no personal details about the content of your tasks (task names, notes), project names, tag names, etc. is collected with Fabric or in any other way. We can't connect any information with a specific user, nor we want to.
    Most apps need this kind of generic informations, and we believe we've found a way to improve Tasktic and feel good about ourselves at the same time; if you'd like more informations about this change, please take a look at our updated privacy policy and don't hesitate to contact us for clarifications!
     
  • We get a significant amount of positive feedback (and many great suggestions / feature requests, all of them really precious to us) from our Users, especially via email, but honestly the number of reviews in the App Store has constantly been a bit low.
    We know the process of leaving a review for an app is slightly painful, we've written about it before, but Users' feedback really makes or breaks a product in today's App Store... so we've decided to be a little more proactive (hopefully not annoying) asking for reviews inside Tasktic.
    As anybody else, we don't like to be prompted for reviews whenever an app starts and then again every two minutes, so that's not what we have done before, nor it is what we'll do from now on: up to Tasktic 1.4, we showed you a subtle reminder for the review only inside the first view, on the background of Tasktic Today, and only after you completed at least 3 tasks in one session and had no more tasks left for the day... so many conditions, chances are most of you never even saw that request.
    Starting with Tasktic 1.5, we'll show you a quick prompt for review after you complete 3 tasks in a session and you haven't been asked about it for the current release (it is important that users review new versions of the apps they love, since the App Store resets the "stars" for every new release, almost punishing updates) or you chose to be reminded about it later. If you agree to review Tasktic, you're our new best friend; if you tap "No", we're still friends, but you won't be asked to leave a review again until the next version. But seriously, we need your reviews!
    As mentioned before, you can also tap "later" to dismiss the alert without refusing to review the current version and you'll be asked again the next time you open the app and complete 3 tasks in a row.

So, as we said earlier, this isn't a feature-packed release, but it opens the way for a lot of features and improvements we plan to introduce in the next months. And since you've read so much, a sneak peak is in order: when Tasktic 1.6 ships in a few weeks, you'll love to work with Tasktic at night.

As usual, thanks for your time! Please subscribe to our RSS feed to never miss an update and, if you have any question, please contact us at tasktic@cdf1982.com or send us a tweet at @TaskticApp, we love hearing from you!

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