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  • 28.03 MobileTech 2012 – Native iOS-Apps: What can we learn from the Web?

    March 28th, 2012

    Native iOS-Apps: Was können wir vom Web lernen? by Heiko Behrens – getBeanApp.com

    Heiko states that, despite the fact that native apps generally provide a better use experience, we can learn a lot from the Web world.

    A couple of impressive HTML5 demonstrations bring home the point that we shouldn’t underestimate what modern web technology is capable of. The question is: Can we make use of this? Heiko brings us three reasons which show how we can:

    1. There are Web tools and SDKs out there, which we can use directly within our iOS apps
    2. We can take a leave out of the REST world and use this to improve the communication between apps (and between the Web and our apps) – and hence the user-experience
    3. We can make direct use user authentication strategies developed for the Web in our apps

    As for tools and SDKs, Heiko demonstrates Hype – a tool for creating HTML5 keyframe animations – and shows how we can utilize the result directly without our apps, essentially by piggybacking of the UIWebView. This is certainly a lot easier to develop than hand-coding with Core Animation and related APIs. Secondly, he also shows Weinre – a tool for remote debugging Java Script.

    Inter-app and app-web communication can realized using an app’s custom schemes. This mechanism enables an app to be registered for invocation, when the device is confronted with a URI, which specifies the custom protocol. What follows the protocol can be flexibly defined and exploited un a number of ways.

    Heiko finally draws our attention to some clever strategies for enabling user-authentication. His example is based on Facebook. Many apps need to access the user’s Facebook account and this, of course, cannot occur without the user authentication. What Heiko shows is how an app (a simple example in this case – but it’ll work for any app) invokes the Facebook app (using a custom scheme) pin order to obtain an access token. Assuming the user has already logged into Facebook, then the Facebook splash screen is briefly shown before the devices switches back to the current app. If the user is not already logged into Facebook, he’ll be prompted to do so. Furthermore, this prompt comes from the Facebook app – an app he can (presumably) trust – which means phishing is less likely to be successful.

    A very nice presentation from a gifted presenter. If Heiko comes to a conference near you: Go see him!

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    28.03 MobileTech2012 – Visual Gesture Recognition

    March 28th, 2012

    Visuelle Gestenerkennung by Andy Abgottspon – The Foundry

    Andy begins by classifying various types of visual gesture recognition. Cites Xbox Kinect and other tools are proving increasingly popular.

    He demos a simple app which tracks the user’s motion after he has configured it to track the position of his face and a couple of colourful gloves.

    His implementation ia based on OpenFrameworks, OpenCV. The latter has been ported to Objective-C for use on iPad 2.

    A simple algorithm is preferred because poerformance on the portable device is limited. The problem with 2-hand recognition is that the the recognised contours overlap. To deal with this, we need to consider the previous position of the contour. The size of the identifed contour can be used to recognise grab gestures.

    Head tracking is supported by OpenCV.

    Using colours to track hands is great except in situations where the colour can change. Even a grab action can cast a shadow which effectively changes the colour – potentially breaking the tracking.

    Andy (with an assistent) demos a 3D game. This seems to work reasonably well.

    He then goes on to describe possible applications. One interesting area is medicine, where touch screens cannot be used for hygene reasons.

    Given what I’ve seen, I’m not actually sure there are that many applications of this technology (given it’s current state) beyond gaming, which may in itself be a gimmick and not much more. On mobile devices in particular, the “touch” paragim seems to be sufficient – and in practice far more performant – for most situations.

    However, I’m not famous for my imagination, and I’ll probably be proven wrong sooner rather than later.

    Still – a great talk, because I feel it has given the audience an opportunity to sense what the future may hold.

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    28.07 MobileTech2012 Day 3 – iOS Framework Development

    March 28th, 2012

    Entwicklung eigener Frameworks am Beispiel QuartzMaps by Felix Lamouroux of Biosphäre GmbH

    This was a pretty technical talk about how to construct professional, reusable frameworks for use by other parties.

    Felix talked firstly about how to create intuitive APIs by following the maxim WWAD – What Would Apple Do? He went into some detail about how best to handle internationalized elements, provision of constants etc. Finally, he described how to best package the framework.

    This was first class presentation… a MUST for everybody who wants to learn how to create reusable components for themselves and others.

    Big thanks to Felix Lamouroux and the creators of QuartzMaps!

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    28.07 MobileTech2012 Day 3 – Beautiful apps sell better!

    March 28th, 2012

    Schönere Apps verkaufen sich besser! from Dr. Stephan Gillmeier

    My good friend and colleague Stephan shares his deep experience in the creation of gorgeous looking graphics and animation.

    Key message: It’s all about the experience! From the first encounter with the product though to daily usage and beyond.

    According to Stephan, Interface Builder (the drag and drop UI designed built into XCode) on its own is not flexible enough for the creation of truly stunning UIs. However, Apple provides APIs which enables programmatic realisation of such interfaces: QuartzCore, CoreGraphics, CoreAnimation.

    Stephan shows how – with relatively little programming effort – subtle but profound improvements in the UI experience can be achieved.

    To finish up, he recommends that as much up-front preparation of images as possible should be made. The reason for this is that despite the power of the aforementioned APIs, their use comes at a relatively high cost in terms of computing power. Graphics can be prepared in advance using tools like Keynote, Photoshop, Preview.

    After seeing this presentation I feel both inspired and empowered to make big improvements in my UIs. Still, it’s not clear to a geek like me how one comes up with ideas in the first place. I remain convinced that not everybody possesses an aesthetic sense. Not everybody is like Stephan G or, for that matter, Steve Jobs.

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    27.07 MobileTech2012 Day 2 – The next crash is guaranteed

    March 27th, 2012

    Thomas Dohmke @ashtom presents “Der nächste Crash kommt bestimmt” = “The next crash is guaranteed”

    This is a highly technical talk, the primary focus of which is how to capture crash data.

    I won’t go into the details here but, speaking as an iOS developer, I found Thomas’ hints and tips extremely useful.

    Anyone who’s developed apps for iOS knows that the typical stack trace is all but incomprehensible. Furthermore, now that stack traces are being generated on mobile devices, the potentially valuable information that the stack trace provides should not be kept secret.

    Thank’s to Thomas, I have now learned about a number if tools, services and techniques which can be used to tap into this treasure chest of information.

    To name some of these briefly:

    AirBrake, Bugsense, HockeyApp, JIRA Mobile Connect, TestFlight, PLCrashReporter, atos, symbolicatecrash, CodeRunner.

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