UserDefaults In Practice. đź”—

My favourite UserDefaults1 use-case is preserving User Interface states, one of essential items on the list of every good Mac and iOS application.

UserDefaults is one of most powerful examples why I love writing programms for Apple hardware. It is easy to get started, performant, and got even simpler2 over time. Just two-three lines of code and you wrote something to permanent storage. Which you can read at any time, so efficient, adding your own caching code would even hurt performance3.

David Smith wrote an excellent guide to UserDefaults for DS Coder. I have learned something new from the article:

Having an alternate code path for “no value set” is also generally unnecessary, as you can provide a default value instead.

Thank you David, for this excellent guide.

  1. Ommitting NS prefix, it doesn’t exist in Swift. 

  2. There’s no need to call synchronize() method any more. 

  3. UserDefaults optimised for reading. 

How to Get Bugs Fixed by Apple. đź”—

Greg Scown, writing for Code Cook Read:

First and foremost, write good bugs. This is fairly easy to do, though it can be time-consuming. If you’re not already familiar with bugreport.apple.com that’s the site for reporting bugs to Apple. When you create a new bug, Apple includes a template in the description for exactly how they want you to report your bug. Apple isn’t looking for you to create your own format or to report things entirely in prose. They also include a handy page of tips for reporting bugs which you should follow.

Greg’s article inspires to do a better job reporting bugs to Apple. Reducing the scope, if possible, and reading Apple manual is 2 excellent take aways. Whenever I get a reply on a bug, it’s usually asking for sysdiagnose report with PDF manual attached. I had no idea that yo can get all manuals in advance from the Apple tips page. Let’s write better bug reports, targeted to the cause and with as much information attached as possible.

Apple’s Game Changer. 🔗

We all want Apple to buy Nintendo. But now it makes sense.

It doesn’t make sense. Nintendo is a hardware company as much as they are software company. Games published by Nintendo always released for a single platform, with physical controller included, while Apple Arcade is more about simpler games which can ran on multiple devices with or without a controller. Nintendo makes profit from every console they sell, not just games. And games they made take full advantage of hardware. Their hardware doesn’t need to be an everyday computer and can cost less, lowering entry barrier. Nintendo 2DS costs $80, Apple will never make an iOS device so cheap.

What really makes sense is Nintendo mobile games on Apple Arcade. Apple doesn’t need to buy Nintendo to make this happen. Super Mario Run playable without internet connection, that’s what we need.

Preventing RSI.

Why Now?

RSI1 is not a new issue, why I am writing about this now?

  1. Larger smartphone screen sizes.
  2. People love to spend time with Nintendo Switch.
  3. Many people started to use iPad as their primary computer.
  4. Apple introduced low travel keyboards in their laptops.

We use iPhone a lot. Larger touch screens force your fingers to stretch and work more in unnatural ways.

The Switch allows you to take one of the best games ever made with you, but it’s heavy and Joy-Con controls are tiny, if you have moderate or large hands, your fingers are crippled.

Like laptops introduced new ergonomic challenges, iPad introduces even more challenges, when working for an extended period time, we use elevation docks, external screens. iPad can be used in many more new ways and it’s your job to take care of your body, maintaining natural wrist position and healthy posture.

Not everything that happened brings more risks to your hands, there’s positive changes, like ever reducing keyboard travel time. I have a theory that newer quieter keyboards are ergonomically safer.

New thinner MacBook Pro/Air keyboards are not reliable, Apple gets a lot of criticism and rightfully so. However, smaller travel means that your hands have to do less work to press each key. RSI caused by micro injuries in hand muscles. More travel means more force. Each individual press is harmless, but when repeating it thousands times, it can accumulate to a big amount of force which your hands have to deal with. Loud typists are at greater risk, and new keyboard are all about quieter typing.

Solutions.

  1. Choose a smartphone with a small screen.
  2. Use large Pro Controller, give your Switch support while playing, reduce wrist strain.
  3. Use external keyboard and stands when working on iPad.
  4. Consider keyboards with lower travel time.

Also there’s some simple rules.

  • Type as light and quite as you can.
  • Move and shift your entire hands and shoulders.
  • Don’t rest your wrists while typing.
  • Don’t stretch your finger in unnatural positions while typing.
  • Use stronger fingers more, press larger keys with multiple fingers to reduce required force.
  • Position your keyboard flat.
  • Give your hands and body regular breaks.

Wrapping Up.

The most desired scenario is when you treat your hands with respect and don’t injure yourself in a first place. That’s the easier and healthier option. I am fortunate to have heathy hands so far, however I had experienced warning signs and I have not ignored them since. I am careful about my hands, particularly, how do I type and play. You should be to. There’s many kinds of RSI, but the one I am concerned the most is the one which injures you wrists to a point that you can’t type without a pain or can’t type and play any more at all. The only cure is time and full recovery is not guaranteed.

We don’t speak about RSI enough. It’s a life injury and it’s happening around us. Normally, only people who already experienced RSI taking measures and talking about it,2 while what everyone in software industry should do more, is to take preventing measures. I am calling for more RSI awareness among people in software.

Further Reading.

I recommend this book (Amazon), which is only available in print. Used price is not bad at all. If you know me in person, I will happily let you borrow it.

  1. Repetitive Strain Injury 

  2. I’ve heard this from John Siracusa and some of Relay.fm members. 

Running 1Password 7 in Stand-alone Vault Mode.

Be warned.

Having lived with this setup, I found out that I have to perform this steps every time the app is updated. I also have to disable Safari extension.

1Password 7 and local mode.

Although I’m paying for 1Password Family Subscription, I was experimenting with ways to run it locally. It wasn’t obvious but I got it into stand-alone mode accidentally after restoring from backup.

It’s easy with 1Password 6.

  1. Buy the app.
  2. Disable iCloud sync.
  3. Create a local vault and use it.

With 1Password 7 subscription model you can download the app for free but in order to use it, you have to sign-in into your 1Password account. After that, you can create a vault outside of your cloud managed account but you’l still have a local copy of all of your 1Password account items. You can hide cloud vaults, but there’s no obvious way to sign-out and stop 1Password 7 from fetching your data from the cloud.

How to run 1Password 7 in local mode.

You will need a 1Password backup file. I have tested this with 1Password 7 and 6 backups.

  1. Download 1Password 7 from Mac App Store or AgileBits website.
  2. Sign-in into your 1Password account.
  3. Open 1Password 7 > Preferences… > Advanced and enable local vaults.
  4. Click File > Restore… > Find Backup.
  5. Find it and click Add Backup.
  6. Select a backup and click Restore.

This will prompt a warning that all your local data is going to be replaced. If you restore, 1Password quits itself and you will have only the vault from your backup. 1Password account is gone for good. You will have only 1 vault and it would look like you have signed out.

Don’t forget to backup.

1Password makes automatic backups but it’s your duty to copy them to some place which is not your Mac. Time Machine can do it automatically.

It's Four of Us Now.

Svetlana and Victoria. Asian women holding a baby.

It’s four of us now, welcome new family member — Victoria. She was born recently, her mom went through gigantic challenge and it’s still very hard work for us, now with two kids in the house. Trying to shoot more videos, I will never forget this moments. Spending more time with my son Steven.
Best holiday I ever had.

Returning to Azeroth.

Night Elf waiting for a dungeon party near the Meeting stone.

It’s impossible to experience all the story at this point, since 2004 US release there were 7 expansions, history of the world changed a lot, you had to be there from the beginning. But not all is lost, there’s time walking events, there’s books and graphic novels. So much story can be overwhelming, so I recommend taking advantage of “Class Trials”, you can start playing at level 110. Choose your character — Honourable Horde or Righteous Alliance member, or maybe, neutral Pandaren and jump into this huge world with million of others. It feels like you part of something big.

I still remember the day when I picked my World of Warcraft box. The box felt good, thick, with colourful illustrations and beautiful characters. But that wasn’t the reason I decided to buy the original game, I only picked it up because of familiar and friendly Mac log on front. Blizzard still supports Mac and even Metal 2, so it won’t be affected with deprecation of OpenGL. Even though it’s very old game, you will be pleased with level of details in a new areas. I play on my 13-inch MacBook Pro and I get ~30-50 FPS with low graphics but native Retina resolution. Text is so sharp in quest descriptions.

How game changed since beginning? There’s a trend to make it more approachable, you don’t need to learn a lot and you don’t need to invest huge portions of time, completing single quest can take you 5 minutes. It’s genius how questing is used to advance your character and give you motivation to explore new areas. There’s always something to do, dwellers to help. It’s a very smooth experience, it gives you bits of story and landmarks peace by peace, it’s addicting and rewarding. No commitments at all. It can be a pleasant routine, an escape into different world.

There’s 2 phases — levelling and the end game. Anyone will tell you that the end game is the most fun part, but for me questing and small dungeons always were more than enough. I never even got to the end game. When Battle for Azeroth was released, I subscribed again, this time I will try to reach the end game.

There’s interesting accident happened in the game called Corrupted Blood plague which simulated chaotic deceases outbreaks from real world. It’s even studied by scientists.

How iOS Developers Lie with Photo Permissions Dialog.

Telegram requires access to photo library to change profile picture

If you try to change your profile picture on Telegram, it’ll demand access to your entire photo library. Telegram doesn’t need it. System image picker doesn’t need user permission! But many developers intentionally lie to us, so we would think we have to give a permission. In fact permission is only needed to add new image to the library, or for custom picker UI or if you want upload all of your pictures.

Since very beginning iOS allows user to select any photo with sandboxed image picker. The app sees the only photo you picked, and you can browse through your library in private and familiar way, without leaving the app. However even apps which use system image picker ask photos permission. Is it laziness or ignorance?

Did it happened to you? You wanted to changed profile picture, or selling something and attaching a photo. You can do this easy on the web but if you use iPhone or iPad app, you have to give full access to your media. With this access app can easily upload all your photos, GPS coordinates history, or even analyse all your photos with machine learning. I’m worried about potential privacy disaster which can come at any moment now.

Not only it’s unnecessary extra step, but also often users need to navigate through custom buggy UI.

I’ve build simple proof of concept to demonstrate that native UIImagePicker can work without your permission, your photos won’t be accessible to the app.

I’ve tested it on device because I can’t believe that so many developers ask photos permission not in the right moment. Yes, you can ask me if I try to save a photo but you can’t do it when you trying to show UIImagePicker.

Go through all your apps in Settings > Privacy and disable everything you can. Often you can still get things done by pasting an image, but sometimes the only private way is using Safari.

Boycott McCafé.

2 Starbucks plastic cups

I’m trying to reduce our impact on environment. We have 2 reusable coffee cups in our family and I am using them in Starbucks, Nero and Costa. Not only this is good for environment, but it also helps to save money, Starbucks offers £0.25 off, and Nero gives you 2 stamps for one purchase instead of one. I have also banned plastic straws in our family because straws kill sea life.

2 McCafé with plastic lids

For years I was regular customer in McCafé, collecting their loyalty stickers, their coffee is good and it doesn’t cost much. One day we went to McCafé with our Starbucks cups, here’s my conversation with McDonald’s person behind the till.

— Hi, can I use my own cup please?
— No.
— Why not, you not it’s bad for environment, I use them everywhere else.
— Sorry it’s our safety policy.
— That’s wrong, okay 2 lattes please, without lid… Without plastic lid please!
— Sorry I can’t, that’s a policy.

Not only they don’t offer benefits for bringing your own coffee cup, McDonald’s employee do not allowed accept reusable cups at all! Yes, recently, they are trying to phase out plastic straws in UK but that’s not enough.

McDonald’s must change its stupid outdated policy about not allowing us to bring our own cups. I’m not buying their coffee any more and I encourage you to do the same.

Me with collection of reusable coffee cups

If you do have any cups laying around, don’t throw them in recycling bins please. Common coffee cups is paper combined with plastic. Costa and Starbucks can accept your cups from coffee and soft drinks and send them to a special place.

I Left Glance.

I should’ve write about this earlier but couldn’t find time. I still want to, because this is big step in my life. I left Glance Creative, app agency where I worked for almost 3 years. 1 All this time together with great CEO, amazing people and doing my best work. Glance has big portfolio, it was fun to work on different projects and ship one app after another.

Me on background with app icon frames built by Glance and Locassa.

I left Glance so I can start new role at IG. I was flattered to receive offer from them, it’s hard to find good place to work in my situation 2, even in London. I’m fortunate to be able to continue to earn money from doing something I love.

  1. 2 years at Locassa, and 1 year at Glance. I usually combine this periods, because 2 companies share same people. 

  2. I don’t have British or EU passport, I can only work in UK under special visa called Tier-2. Visa can be sponsored not by every company and it requires special certificate. On top of extra expenses and paper work, sponsor needs to do market search for 30 days and try to find another candidate from UK or EU before it can hire Tier-2 immigrant. 

Sky Remote With Voice Control.

Sky remote

Spotted this on the Tube. The ad says “My mon is obsessed with Voice Control.” Can you see where is voice control button?

I couldn’t find it so I made this picture. I found full remote picture and still could not find the button. Turns out, the voice control button is on the side. They couldn’t find space to put it on the front? I don’t think my mon would ever be able to find voice button on this remote.

While Apple TV remote has many flaws, at least it has obvious voice control button. It embraces voice for everything, so there’s no search button because you can search with voice. If I would have to design this remote, I would remove most of the buttons and replace search button with voice control.

When I bought my first MacBook Pro, I fell in love with white Apple remote because it had almost no buttons and was so inviting. I am glad modern Apple TV remote inhereted this simplicity.

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