DC Universe

DC Universe is a new product that my company (Warner Bros. Digital Labs) recently shipped.

It’s a project that a lot of us in the company have been working on for almost two years now. We’ve had other projects to work on during that time, but during the last few months, this has taken center stage during our days, nights and weekends.

I’ve spent a lot of time working on the comic book reader for both iOS and tvOS. I’ve worked on other parts of the app(s), but my “baby” was the comic book reader(s). They aren’t perfect and I could probably tell you everything that’s wrong with them. But I’m proud of how they turned out. The iOS/tvOS comic book reader(s) were both written (mostly) by me and from scratch. It was nice to see something like that come to fruition.

We had a very rough Summer getting it ready for consumers and finally released it on September 12th. There was a bit of time where I wasn’t sure if we would ship the app. But we all pulled through and shipped an amazing app.

The DC Universe app was featured on day one. Since then, we’ve had an App Store Story featured about the app. That was a really good feeling. It was also a first for me and any project I’ve worked on before. We’ve had a few apps featured, but never had an app store story about them.

We recently released an update that featured some original content (Titans) that was developed explicitly for the app. It’s something that we’ve been talking about for a long time and it’s finally out for others to enjoy too.

I know the entire team was proud of what we have built. I’m not sure what’s coming next for the app and service, but it will be fun to watch.

Notes Apps: Bear vs Agenda

Both Bear and Agenda are note taking apps for macOS and iOS. Both are great note taking apps that support my favorite markup syntax called Markdown.

I’ve been a Bear user for over a year now. I use it on a daily basis. I’ve even included it in a post about My Development Toolbox. I really do use it almost every day and I really love the app. I’m happy to pay the yearly subscription fee for it.

Recently (roughly two months ago), a new note taking app was released for macOS and iOS call Agenda. It looked promising. It also has a few features that Bear does not have. Agenda allows you to link notes to both calendar events (and days) and to people. These custom features are great for taking notes during a meeting. You can have notes and action items from a meeting (or day) linked directly in your note taking app.

Agenda is a really well done app. However, there is one feature that is missing from the app that is currently a dealbreaker. Inline images. I often attach screenshots or other images to my notes all the time. Agenda doesn’t currently support this. But it’s something that they are currently working on.

There are also something about the user interface in Agenda that I’m not completely sold on. If you have a bunch of notes, they can be difficult to hide (or declutter). If I want to only focus on a given note at a time, Agenda’s interface makes that tough. Bear has this nice sidebar with a list of notes, which I can select one and focus on it completely.

For now, I am going to continue to use Bear as my main note taking app. I am a subscriber to both Bear and Agenda. As Agenda continues to evolve, I will revisit from time to time to see how they are growing.

July Books

Photo by Aaron Burden

I did a little better job of reading in July than I did in June. I had a few books that I was determined to finish. At the start of the month, I had too many books that were in progress. I’ve finished a few, but I think I still have too many books that are in progress. I’m still trying to finish those before I start any new books.

What books are in progress?

I’ve got three books that I’ve been reading for over a few months. I really want to finish these before picking up a new book.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

I’ve been reading Doctor Sleep for a long time. A few years in fact. It’s been great so far. Oddly enough, I remember what’s happening in the story.

This was a paperback book that I bought a while ago and left in the car to read during my son’s soccer practices. I’d read for an hour or so and then leave the book in the car until the next practice. Whenever my wife or daughter came along I didn’t read the book. Likewise, if I just dropped him off and ran home (or errands), I wouldn’t read it either. There were also other times, when I would read a different book.

This book is still sitting in my car. 🤣 Needless to say, I need (and want) to finish this book.

Server-Side Swift (Vapor Edition) by Paul Hudson

I started reading Server-Side Swift (Vapor Edition) a few months ago before Summer started. I made some amazing progress in a few days. Since then I’ve slacked off quite a bit.

I can’t just read this book. The book is a series of projects that you need to work through with a computer. So I typically setup the book on my iPad and work through the examples one by one.

I’ve learned quite a bit about server-side Swift so far. I’m about halfway through the book. I have finally been able to get back to the book. I should be able to work through the rest of the book in the next few weeks.

Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender & Rick Tetzeli

I’ve also been reading Becoming Steve Jobs for a long time. I got this book on the Apple iBooks Store. I had been reading it slowly at night on my phone. When I’m reading in bed, I usually opt for fiction instead. Reading non-fiction has never been my strong suit, I typically read it much slower than fiction.

Normally, when I read fiction, I prefer listening to an audio version. It’s just easier for me to consume. I’m not sure why, but it is.

I’ll finish this book. I like it so far. It’s just taking me longer than I want to.

What has been finished?

I read quite a bit actually. Not as much as some previous months. But certainly more than I read in June.

A few of those books were hanging over my head from the pervious month. Armada, Gone Girl and Point of Contact. I had started them all in June and only finished them last month.

There are also a few comic books on there. What can I say, I like reading them.

Got a favorite?

I think I enjoyed Gone Girl the most. Even though the story was spoiled early for me, I still enjoyed it.

Armada was a disappointment for me. Ernest Cline’s first book (Ready Player One) was just so good. I was expecting the same thing from this one. But when I’ve talked to other people, they were also disappointed in Armada. It was still a good book, but just not as good as Ready Player One.

Not the best month I’ve had reading, but better than others. At least I’m reading. That was one of my goals for the year.

My Development Toolbox

Photo by Barn Images

As a developer, there are a handful of tools that I use (almost) every day. I thought I would write a blog post about them.

This post is about my the applications that I use every day for development. It doesn’t really get into my office/desk setup or some of my favorite applications. Only what I use on a day to day basis in order to get my job (as an iOS/tvOS developer) done.

Maybe in a future post, I’ll go more into my office/desk setup. I’ll save that for another time.

Xcode

Xcode is my primary development tool. It’s an Integrated Development Environment (IDE). Its got everything I need including a source editor, interface builder, compiler, profiling tools and much more.

I both love and hate Xcode on a daily basis.

Xcode has gotten much better over the years. It still has it’s moments. On most days, I really appreciate it and what it gives me as a developer.

There is at least one alternative to Xcode. AppCode has been around a while. I’ve tried it before and even purchased a license a few years ago. I’ve just never been able to fully commit to AppCode. I don’t know why, but I haven’t. I’ve stuck with Xcode instead.

Xcode is available on the Mac App Store for free.

Charles Proxy

Charles Proxy is an HTTP proxy/monitor application. It allows you to monitor web traffic from a variety of sources, including macOS/iOS/tvOS devices and the iOS/tvOS simulator.

Charles Proxy is a great tool. I don’t use it every day. I do use it 3-4 times a week. I like Charles Proxy so much that I’ve written about it before. Not just once, but twice.

I use Charles Proxy to look at the web data coming into the apps I develop over the network. I’m usually looking for a few things.

Firstly, I need to see what that data looks like coming across the Internet into the apps that I write. I need to know what it looks like so that I can use that data properly within the app.

Secondly, when there are issues with our apps, I like to make sure the data we’re getting from the services we use are what we’re expecting and seeing in the app.

Charles Proxy is available through their site for $50 (USD).

Tower

Tower is a source control client for Git. We use Git (through GitHub) at work and I use GitHub and BitBucket for my personal projects. Tower is a great tool for both of these sources.

I used to use SourceTree, but a change in the app about a year ago lead me to look for another tool. I don’t even remember what the change was, I just knew it was time for a change. I asked on Twitter for suggestions, and Tower was the overwhelming response.

During the writing of this post, I was describing how I wish Tower could squash commits. GitUp was one of the tools I tried while looking for a new Git client and it allows commits to be squashed. Turns out, Tower will allow you to squash commits. The instructions on how to do this is here. It’s not super intuitive, but I’m glad I’ve figured out how to do it.

Tower is available through their site for $69 (USD) a year.

Dash (with Alfred integration)

Dash is the perfect document browser. I use it constantly throughout the day for iOS and tvOS documentation. But it’s not limited to iOS/tvOS documentation. You can download documentation for almost any language or tool that you can think of.

Dash is perfect with Alfred. Alfred is an application launcher, but it’s so much more. If you purchase the Powerpack, you can set up (or install) more complicated workflows. One of these workflows I have is to launch Dash and search for terms I’m looking for. So, I will trigger Alfred (option + space) and then type dash {search term} and Dash will be launched and search for what I’m looking for. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it saves me a few steps dozens of times a day.

Dash is available through their site for $29.99 (USD) Alfred is available through their site for free. The Alfred Powerpack is available through the site for £19 (GBP).

Bear

Bear is a note taking app. I’ve got notes for everything in that app. I track my 1:1 meeting notes with managers and other folks. I track general conversations. I’ve got outlines on application and component designs in there. I’ve even got video game notes in there.

I could just use the built in Notes app, but Bear is much nicer. I love the built in Markdown support. I use Markdown for just about everything (documentation-wise). Bear supporting Markdown has made it my go-to note-taking app.

I have just started tinkering with Agenda, which is a different note taking app. I haven’t used it enough to make a decision one way or the other.

Bear is available on the Mac App Store for $14.99 (USD) a year.

Honorable Mentions

Here are some development apps that I love, but don’t use every day, or even on a weekly basis. They are great apps and I thought I would mention them.

BBEdit

BBEdit is a text editor. It’s a super simple, but (almost) perfect text editor. I’ve been using it forever. I think I got my first version of BBEdit in the late 90s. The first version I got came in a box and I’ve been using it ever since.

I learned how to write code in BBEdit. Sure, it was HTML, Javascript and CSS, but it started me down the path to where I am now.

BBEdit is perfect for editing single (or multiple) source files in a large variety of languages. I’ve used it for everything from HTML, to CSS, too Ruby, to Java, to Swift and Objective-C.

I don’t use BBEdit every day, but I do use it a lot. It almost made it onto the non-honorable mention list, but I left it off since I may only use it every other week. It will always have a special place in my heart.

BBEdit is available through their site for $49.99 (USD)

Paw

Paw is an HTTP client app. It can make HTTP requests to APIs and display the results to you in a variety of ways. This is a network tool, like Charles Proxy, but is used differently. This tool is to send requests to an API and inspect the results.

I use Paw a lot when I’m being introduced to a new API. I use it when I need to learn how call an API and what to expect from that API.

I will use Paw heavily when learning a new API, but once I’ve learned how that API works, I won’t use Paw as much.

Paw is available through their site for $49.99 (USD)

Soulver

Soulver is a fancy calculator. That simplifies things a bit. But I use it as a calculator/scratchpad. Instead of writing down numbers and doing calculations on paper, I use Soulver. I have a bunch of “scratchpads” in my iCloud account for a variety of different things.

Soulver is available on the Mac App Store for $11.99 (USD).

Supporting Developers

A lot of the apps I use have free alternatives. But I am a big believer in supporting app developers who do quality work. I use more apps than I have listed here, but these are my daily development apps.

In future blog posts, I may also go into my office/desk setup and other non-work related apps I use day to day.

June Books - Reading is for Losers

Photo by Dawn Armfield

Just when I thought I was doing well with reading, it all went wrong. June was a rough month. It should have been a great one for reading, but it just wasn’t.

The only thing I read in June were comic books. I finished three of them. They are:

The first week in June, I went to Apple’s WWDC conference in San Jose. I was traveling and did read a little bit while on the plane. But really, I spent most of my time while not conferencing watching movies on my iPad.

At the end of the month, I went on vacation with my family. I forgot my Kindle. Bad move on my part. I could have read on my phone, but the experience is so much nicer on the kindle. I got lazy and just hung out instead.

This mess of a month in reading means that I have a bunch of books that I am currently reading. I am in the middle of seven books. Seven books… I know, right? What was I thinking?!?! I have two paperbacks, a Kindle book, Apple Books book, a comic book, an audio book and a technical book that I’m currently reading. I’ve been able to keep them all straight. I need to start finishing these.

July should be a good month for finishing books. I’m reading all of these books at the same time. And I’m at least 50% through them all. I just need to start finishing them.