First iPhone App – What’s My Weather?

Wow, my last post was in November, where has the time gone?

weather-appFor most of the winter my evenings have been spent learning how to code, and in particular how to build iPhone apps using Xcode and the newish programming language Swift. I purchased a number of online training courses through Udemy and have been diligently working through the lessons. I will admit that it has been a struggle; my brain finds it hard to retain the information nowadays, but my understanding of the coding has improved and am able to follow many of the lessons.

One of the courses, iOS 9 and Swift 2: From Beginner to Paid Professional, teaches through a bootcamp style and whilst it is geared for people who want to make programming a career, it also is effective for people who just want to try to learn to code and create apps for fun (which is why I am learning!).

Anyhow, one of the techniques it covers is extracting JSON data from the internet and presenting it in an app. The example app is a basic weather app and the course encourages students to hone their newly learned skills and build on the basic version to create a more functional version.

And so I did.

And I managed to build an app and release it in the Apple app store.

So those of you who have an Apple device can download What’s My Weather for free.

I have a few ideas for different apps which I would like to charge a fee to download but need to do some more lessons and lots more coding before I have confidence to release them.

PS I’ve just supported the developer of some of the online courses through a Kickstarter campaign. Worth checking out if you are interested in learning how to code.

About turn

This time last year when renewing my phone, I defected from Apple to Samsung after the disappointing release of the iPhone 5S, which although having the cool fingerprint reader, just didn’t appeal due to the model retaining a smallish screen. My replacement was the Samsung S4, which at the time, was one of the larger screened mobiles available. I was also keen to try out the Android operating system, which I’d heard positive things about and soon found it to my liking, especially with the vast choice of apps that were available.

I will admit there were times when I felt I’d made a mistake in switching, especially when I started getting latency issues (I’d press a button or icon and the screen wouldn’t react immediately which was really annoying). Thankfully the updated OS (Kit Kat) resolved this and I was quite satisfied with my lot; the camera was particularly pleasing, with photos on my blog evidence of the quality.

Then it all changed last month.

There had been leaked reports of new iPhone’s being launched in the Autumn with two new models with larger screens and better cameras, but with a year to go on my existing contract, the new models would have to be something special to make me switch.

Then I visited the Apple store at Milton Keynes!

And I had a Sharesave windfall!

At the same time 🙂

I took one look at the iPhone 6 Plus and had a ‘I want one’ moment, to the dismay but inevitable acceptance of Tina. Disappointingly though they didn’t have the size I wanted in stock and the online delivery time was 3-4 weeks, too long to get it before our holiday so instead I embarked in an online vigil of shop stock on the Apple website. Finally I managed to reserve a Gold 128GB iPhone 6 Plus at 4am in the morning and duly picked it up from the Leicester Apple Store later that day.

And wow, what a phone. It is so impressive and the larger screen is bloody lovely. The finger print reader is really accurate and the camera is superb, with the ability to record video at 240fps, just sublime. I’ve not really used the camera in anger yet but did shoot a small video which really is impressive (It’s worth watching full screen). See what you think…

 

I know another gadget is just wrong but…

ipad miniSo another birthday has materialised; they do seem to come around very quickly these days. With the announcement of a bonus this week, I thought I’d treat myself to another gadget and so decided to go for one of them iPad mini’s that everyone is raving about. I must admit I have been thinking about getting one since the launch back in October, but kept putting it off until now.

The main reason I wanted the smaller version was to be able to take it to work as the larger version it a bit too bulky to carry around. The smaller footprint model will be ideal as a device to use around the office; especially as our work internet is so slow sometimes.

As for the other iPad I am hopeful the smaller one won’t make it redundant; I’ve heard that lots of people who have bought the mini version now no longer bother with the bigger one, I guess time will tell?

 

Taking the publishing world by storm…

Well not quite, but you may recall I mentioned in one of the February blogs that I was in the process of writing a couple of iBooks using the new free Apple application iBooks Author, an interactive book creator. Well over the past few weeks I have been working on my first book (I got disillusioned with writing the ones about my website and a daily diary but might finish them some day) and decided to do something a bit different.

Having a keen interest in all things to do with Space (I did go and see a Space Shuttle launch you know), I thought that it would make a good subject to cover in an interactive book so I did some research and found loads of information within Wikipedia. Now I know that Wiki’s can be inaccurate but as my iBook was going to be mainly photos I thought it would be an ideal source of information and it also gets over the issue of copyright as the majority of photos within Wikipedia are covered under the ‘Creative Commons‘ agreement. I could have signed up to use some stock photos but as that would cost me a fortune and I had no intention of selling the book I thought it would be perfect.

Therefore I started planning the book, deciding what to include and looking for some interactive content to include. I found some 3D models of the Space Shuttle, Saturn V Rocket and the sun which would be ideal and contacted the owners to seek permission to use their work in my book. I created a couple of timelines of space exploration using an app called ‘Timelines 3D‘ which produces superb presentations which can be inserted into the iBook. I built an interactive picture giving information on our solar system and the different components of the sun.

I finally pulled it together on Monday and submitted it to the Apple iBooks store and sat back and waited. According to others, the the process of actually checking the books for quality by the Apple people can take up to two weeks to complete so I didn’t really expect to hear back until next month. So I was particularly pleased when I woke up this morning to find an e-mail stating that my book had been published and it there waiting for anyone in the world to download and read. Just think anyone with an IPad 2 or later can view my little masterpiece. The book can be downloaded from the iTunes bookstore or below if you don’t have an iPad.

I wasn’t quite sure at what age group to aim the book at but in the end just left it as general as it might interest anyone who fancies to look at some pretty pictures. I appreciate all the same information can be obtained through the Nasa site or Wikipedia, but my book is more pictorial based and hopefully people will enjoy looking at it (I’m not looking forward to the reviews as I’m bound to get some criticism).

High from the excitement of publishing my first book on Monday, I then thought about creating another; this time something of my own creation. So I decided to bring together my holiday journal when we went to California last year with many of the photos and videos I took. Again, it would be an ideal way of displaying the trip in an interactive way and hopefully some people may find it of interest. As I was off this week with some time to spare, I started compiling the content, deciding on the photos to include and converting the videos I have previously edited and putting them all into an interactive version. I also created some maps showing the routes we took on each of the days we were travelling.

As most of the work had been done i.e. I’d already written the journal whilst I was in America, it was a fairly quick process, especially as I’d learned many of the nuances of iBooks Author when creating the Space book. And by yesterday morning the book was done and ready to submit. Again I assume that there will be a delay whilst Apple give it the once over but hopefully by this time next week I’ll have my second iBook published.

For those that don’t have an iPad (shame on you) I have created PDF versions of the books but of course they’re only going to show screenshots so you won’t get the full interactive experience. You can download The Interactive Space Book and the California and Nevada Travel Journal but be aware they are large files due to the size of the images contained in them.

So what’s next?

If reviews of the two books are positive I might add my other journals to the list!

Be afraid Mr Murdoch, be afraid!

Christmas is coming…

So it must be time for a new gadget!

“So what do you want for Christmas?” Tina enquired whilst we were shopping at Peterborough yesterday.

“Hmm, I said, I’m not really sure I will have a think”, not really having a clue what to suggest.

When I got home I thought I’d check out the Apple site to see what was new when I spotted that they were having a ‘Black Friday’ sale for one day on the 25th November. Not one to miss a chance for a new Apple gadget I checked the prices today and saw that the iPad 2 had been reduced in price, £30. Still I already have an iPad 1 so could I justify getting another? I then recalled there are were number of online sites where you can sell your old gadgets, sometimes for good prices. So a google search later and I found ‘Gadget Panda‘ and got a really good quote for my existing iPad, which is in pristine condition. I still have the original box, which meant I would get the top price too.

And so I ordered the new iPad, along with a Smart Cover, which cleverly protects the screen when not in use and have agreed it can be wrapped up as a Xmas present to open next month. When I mentioned it to Matt he said he was thinking about getting one too, so he ordered the same model this afternoon (we agreed to give him some money towards it for his Christmas present).

With the old iPad packed up and posted to Panda, I just hope the price they have quoted is honoured or else it could be an expensive present!

Siriously Good Phone

As mentioned in my last blog, I have been waiting for months for Apple to launch their latest iPhone and today the day finally arrived. The intention was to order the iPhone 4S on line and get it delivered but as previously stated Three refused to give me credit so I was resolved to have to go into town to purchase my latest gadget.

Up until Wednesday this week I was still undecided as to which network to go with; the Three offer was tempting but after speaking to a few people the concern over network coverage was still nagging away in the back of my mind. So I decided to stick with O2, who I have been with for the past two or three years and have been happy with the service they offered.

The O2 website stated that their shops would be opening early on launch day but would only be serving existing customers so I was confident that I would be able to get the phone of my choice. Then I spotted they were going to give out stock updates every half an hour during the day and alarm bells started to ring as perhaps I’d underestimated how popular this latest Apple release would be.

And so I decided to get to the O2 shop first thing this morning and thankfully I made the correct decision as when I arrived at the shopping mall around 7.15 I found three other people in the queue in front of me. After passing time chatting to the fellow saddo’s and accepting the free breakfast offered by the O2 staff the opening time of 8.02 soon arrived (not sure why the opening time had to be so precise but they opened bang on time). By this time there was fifteen or so people waiting in the queue all holding on to their precious numbered card given out on arrival. Luckily there were four staff serving so I was seen straight away and 20 minutes later I was the proud owner of a new 64GB iPhone 4S.

My initial thoughts of the new iPhone are extremely positive; Apple seem to have continued to build on the success of their earlier versions and this one should be a match for many of the smartphones in the market place. The feature that I believe will set it apart from others though is the built-in speech recognition application called ‘Siri‘. Without any training required, the phone is able to accept verbal instructions and carry them out with great accuracy. I managed to send a text without touching the keyboard, searching my contacts list or correcting the words I spoke. Amazing.

I have yet to try out the other new features such as the 1080P video or camera but I did manage to transfer my contacts and apps using the new iCloud service. That was so easy.

3…2…1…go…oh…no!

It was the iPhone 3GS that started me down the road of being an Apple fanboy with the iPad, iMac, AppleTV and the Macbook Air soon following to extend the family into a pretty much Apple-only affair.

One thing I didn’t do was to upgrade last year from the 3GS to the iPhone 4, not because I didn’t want one, but because I was locked into a two year contract with O2 and it would have cost a fortune to break. So I decided to wait for the next release of the iconic phone, which was announced last week.

And so, a year later and well out of contract with my current provider I was eager to sign up a new contract to get myself the latest Apple offering, the iPhone 4S. But who to go with. I’d been quite happy with O2, I had an unlimited data plan and enough talk time and texts for my usage, but in order to change phones I would have to give up that package and sign up for one of their new talk plans. Something I did want though was the ability to use the new mobile for tethering to the internet. This would mean I could use my Macbook Air and iPad away from WiFi only situations. But the O2 plans were data limiting and so I started looking around for other carrier options.

And then I thought I’d found the perfect solution.

My mate Mark visited us on Sunday and mentioned he had recently moved from his long-term carrier Orange onto the Three mobile network and found the coverage was OK (Three has always struggled with network performance so I had never considered it before as we live out in the sticks). Later in the evening I checked their website and confirmed coverage was good in our area and discovered a great deal for the iPhone 4S, on an eat-all-you-can data plan that allows tethering and sufficient texts and a calling plan sufficient for my needs. And so I signed up.

All went well and I even managed to get a £20 accessories voucher from Vivian, the on line sales rep. I received the customary credit check call yesterday afternoon which seemed fine.

Then I got home and checked my emails to find a mail from Three. This is what it said…

We’re sorry but your details don’t match what we need for you to pass our credit check. Unfortunately this means we’ve had to cancel your order.

Bugger.

I was shocked. As someone that prides on having an excellent credit history I was incensed that I had been turned down for a credit issue. A call to their customer services team confirmed that the credit agency they used has advised I was not credit-worthy.

In order to see what was going on I then signed up to CreditExpert, an online agency that allows you to analyse your credit history. As expected, when I checked my score I was in the ‘excellent’ category, with the highest possible rating that could be achieved. So why had I been turned down?

I called Three back explaining what I’d discovered and to inform them that they had got it wrong but they would not budge. The only way I could get an iPhone 4S on the Three network would be to go to one of their shops and sign up in person (apparently they don’t do the same checks as the online people so the oroder would go through). Well you can guess what I thought of that!

And so I am now back to square one, having to trawl through the various offers trying to decide which carrier to sign up to. I only hope that I don’t experience similar credit issues with them or else I may be stuck with my old  iPhone for ever!

Another Apple convert

This time last year Tina crossed into the 21st century  when she decided to get a Samsung Wave smartphone. For the first few weeks she seemed happy with her new purchase, able to use Twitter and Facebook, play games and read the occasional e-mail she received. But frustration started to set in when the phone started acting strangely, not allowing her to get into certain applications and giving false text alerts.

I did a firmware update which seemed to sort out the false messages but I could never seem to be able to resolve the Facebook access issue. In fact it got to the stage where I actually deleted the built-in application and installed another, which seemed to improve things but it wasn’t as good as the native version.

I did some research on line and the Samsung forums, but couldn’t really see anyone one else experiencing similar problems so I just put it down to some sort of software glitch (Tina didn’t want me to do a hard reset as she would lose all her contacts etc). Tina persevered with the new version of Facebook, but occasionally I would see her phone hurling through the air, in a fit of frustration, swearing that it wasn’t working properly.

As the contract Tina signed up for didn’t expire until 2012, it was not viable to swap it out and as the problems with the applications was so intermittent, we couldn’t see the point of sending it back for them to look at. The phone itself was OK, it had a good display, the battery life was acceptable and Tina was able to text proficiently with it. So she accepted that she was stuck with it until next year.

That was until the weekend!

On Sunday morning, we were enjoying our breakfast when Tina’s brother turned up. I remained at the table preparing my toast with some jam, continuing to read the local free paper that had arrived that morning. After spreading the strawberry preserve, I went to put the jam jar down but dropped it onto the newspaper by mistake. There was a thud and when I lifted the paper realised Tina’s phone was underneath, but on inspection it seemed fine. With no visible damage to the phone, I didn’t think to mention it to Tina.

Half an hour later, and I could hear Tina and her brother discussing a problem with her phone and when she showed me I immediately realised why she couldn’t see the display. The pot of jam had cracked the screen, to a point where the display was unreadable. I, of course, confessed straight away and got a big hug from Tina, pleased that I had done what she had been trying to do for months and months.

We checked our insurance and whilst the phone was covered, the excess would have been £30 and on researching the value we realised it was only worth £50 trade-in (and that was in a working condition).

As it happened Tina has been speaking to one of her work colleagues on Friday, and she had recently bought an iPhone and was raving about it. And so the seed had been planted.

We did some online research and then drove into Kettering to see what deals could be had. Eventually we ended up in Phones4U and were served by James, who sold Tina a shiny, new 16GB iPhone 4 and even gave her £40 cash for her broken phone. Unfortunately the downside was that we couldn’t get out of the old contract and will have to settle the remaining payments with Orange, but Tina seemed pleased with the deal.

And so once again, Tina is having to learn to work a new phone, but as I explained to her, the reason why Apple products are so popular is that they are intuitive to use and reliable.

I will shortly be buying a new phone myself; my existing iPhone 3GS is out of contract, but I am waiting for the iPhone 4GS or 5 when it launches next month, and incredibly the value of my old phone is still worth around £150 if I sold it on.

The Apple domination of the Wright household is nearly complete!

Spy in my pocket

I suppose I should be outraged; the cheek of it, but somehow in this day and age I guess I just expect it. I am, of course, talking about the iphone tracking scandal.

It seems that when you sign up to upgrading the iconic phones’ software, there is a clause in the T & C’s that you agree to allow Apple to collect data, some of which includes tracking the whereabouts of the iPhone. This little known clause has not really been an issue up until this week as I guess most people either didn’t bother reading the small print (me included) or thought that any data collected would be secure and only available to Apple. But since some clever blokes recently discovered that the data is actually stored, unencrypted on your phone and can easily be accessed via a small, downloadable app the revelation has become headline news.

And so I thought I’d take a look to see if my movements have been tracked, and sure enough after downloading the iPhone Tracker app I was amazed to see that many of my journeys are shown, on the map, without me having to enter a password or anything. Talk about Spooks in real life!

As I said I don’t really think I’m bothered whether I’m being tracked or not; I am not having an illicit affair with anyone or doing anything illegal so I’m happy to share my movements, but it does bring home how technology has moved on and I guess if you had access to this, along with CCTV pictures and bank card transactions the authorities have pretty well got a solid picture of your whereabouts.

Now when was I in Worcester?

iMac – Day 20

OK so a regular update as to progress didn’t happen…I’ve been busy.

I am now slowly sussing my new iMac although still finding it a struggle to navigate around the screens; but I guess after many years of using a Windows based machine it would always be strange at first. I guess it doesn’t help when I am still having to use Windows XP at work and Vista is still run on my laptop. I am still finding it difficult to adapt to the smaller keyboard; I seem to be making lots of mistakes when typing and I do miss the delete key which is not available on the smaller Apple wireless version. There is probably a way of programming a delete key in or using shortcut keys but I haven’t found it yet. I also cannot get used to using the ‘cmd’ key rather than ‘ctrl’ key for  actions such as ‘cut and paste’. This is particularly annoying as ‘ctrl’ and ‘v’ does something completely different than paste and I end up having to undo the action.

I am also still struggling with the trackpad, still having to flip between the mouse and trackpad to get things done. A simple example is moving items from folders. With a mouse it seems easy to drag and drop but with a pad it is a bit more awkward. Also, it is difficult to ‘right click’ with the trackpad, but again with more practice I’m sure that will improve.

As for the applications, I am working my way through the ones that came installed with the Mac; I have now sorted through my photos using iPhoto and it is now very easy to locate and view the many thousands of pictures I have taken over the years. I also downloaded a free trial version of Aperture, which is a high end photo manipulation programme from Apple. It seems very feature heavy and has similar features to Photoshop but at £169 I don’t think I will be purchasing it once the 30 trial ends.

iBank is working well; it’s great that I can sync my iPhone and iPad with the application allowing me to record what I’ve spent without being at home. I did get stung for an upgrade a day after purchasing v3 but I’m pleased with the product so I won’t complain.

I have also been messing around with iMovie, another programme that comes pre-installed with the Mac. As I don’t own a video camera yet (that may be my next big purchase before our California trip) I have been creating slideshows with my photo albums. The software took me a while to work out but a bit of searching on YouTube and I found some good tutorials showing how to get started. I have created a couple of movies from my trips to Florida and New York but my first effort was using the photos from the cowboy painters I snapped the other day. See what you thing by clicking here. (I’ve not worked out how to make it a smaller download to insert in a webpage yet so it may take a while to load on its own page). I did also add some music to complement the slideshow but I am not sure whether I can include it due to copyright laws so have removed it from this version. I have been reading up about the best use of the ‘Ken Burns‘ technique of pan and scan of photos to bring them alive, and judging by the feedback from Tina when I showed her my New York recording I need a bit more practice (she said watching it made her feel sick with so much movement).

I am still scouring the web for useful Mac programmes to download but I am conscious that I don’t want to fill my lovely large new hard drive with loads of crap that I will never use. One application I have downloaded though is called Screenflow, a screen recording programme. I was impressed by the YouTube videos people has been making demonstrating how to use the various software programmes so I thought I’d take a look at how they did it. Using this programme you can record the steps in using an application, putting text on the screen, zooming in to particular sections of the screen and adding an audio commentary. You never know, once I become an iMac expert I may even publish my own ‘how to’.

So just over three weeks into using my iMac and I’m not regretting switching from Microsoft. I just wish my company would switch too then I really would become truly Apple-centric.