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.

What's Like To Use Cheap Android.

In past 2 days my friend asked me to help with her smartphone.1 That’s the only computer device she uses and she said she “can’t contact my husband any more because of ads”.

Device has to be charged from the top, which was very uncomfortable to use and cable was constantly disconnecting. The battery was old, we could use it only when charging.

First thing I noticed, is how big screen was, compared to my iPhone 6s. It was easy to read, with larger touch targets. That’s a plus, considering affordable cost of the device. Of course with such a low cost,2 there’s many compromises.

She started to show me dozen of apps she didn’t installed, games and gambling apps. While I navigated the phone ads popped up, I saw 4 kind of ads which could appear even on the Home Screen.

  1. Banner in the bottom.
  2. Ads which look like Facebook bubble.
  3. Google Play redirects. When I was using Google Play app, it would show me page with random game.
  4. Full screen ads, some of them even faked lock screen UI.

I was bombarded with notifications and alerts from “antivirus” and “cleaner” which I was canceling, I was sure it will go away after I reset the phone. How naive.

First thing I did is backed up her notes from third-party app. I could log in into Google and sync it. Then I installed Google Photos. Device didn’t have enough space and it offered to delete some apps right from the modal alert, which was nice. However then I run out of space again, and the modal alert offered to delete apps which I didn’t want to get rid of. There was no button to jump into Settings, I had to find storage manager on my own.

We uploaded all her photos and videos to Google. I even liked the experience, because Google offers free unlimited storage. I installed Google Contacts and Chrome. She had almost 2,000 contacts on her SIM card, Contacts app offered to back it up and it’s even cleaned SIM card automatically.

Ignorantly, I didn’t backed up WhatsApp conversations, which is possible to do with Google Drive. I though I could restore them logging in into her account but because her account was linked to her another oversea phone number, we couldn’t receive the text. So I had to create new account for her and we lost all conversations.

I reset her phone from the settings, surprised how many bloatware it had as part of the system. It wasn’t possible to remove system “antivirus” and “app cleaner”, Opera Mini and many other not wanted apps. All I could do is to disable notifications and disable constant monitoring. I didn’t trust it.

My biggest disappointment was the lack of OS update option. The device was sold with 5.1 and it is the only Android version it supports. I couldn’t even find this model on Lenovo website.

Another surprise was lack of Chinese keyboard from the OS. And this is device which specially made for China and sold by Chinese manufacturer. I installed Gboard but it also didn’t have Chinese. In despair, I searched Play Store for “Chinese keyboard” and found another keyboard from Google which did the job, it had only 1 Chinese language option which was poor because iOS has 2: traditional and simplified.

I installed Google Photos, Contacts and Chrome again but at some actions I was presented with option which include system app, there was no way to make OS remember my choice even when I ticked specific “do not ask again” option. This duplication felt through entire OS, there’s 2 settings app and many system apps can be find with alternatives from Google — Clock app, messages app. I tried to install messages app but it didn’t work properly, it didn’t show SMS messages.

Because Lollipop doesn’t have privacy permissions controls, when denying permission and then changing my mind, I had to reinstall an app. App would say “I can’t access camera, restart your phone” — which is ill-advised.

  1. She has Lenovo K50-t3s with 5.1 Lollipop. 

  2. About $106.99 on this day. 

Horrible Custom Smart App Banner Collection.

Apple has simple manual for web developers how to make Smart App Banner. It looks like this: Picture from Apple website.

Over past years I was collecting different custom implementations from all over the web. You will be surprised how creative some developers are.

eBay Glassdoor Tastemade Cnet Daily Mail Adobe Peak Telegraph

And still it remains secret to me why would anyone wants custom solution for this problem? Is this blunt ignorance or might be it is designers who think their design is better than standard solution? Or perhaps it’s greed and website owner wants have more tracking? Anyway, this custom banners look worth and don’t work well. They have worth privacy as well, so don’t tap on them.

Screenshots edited in Altershot.

How Electron Made GitHub Desktop Worse.

Not long ago GitHub released new version of their Mac app. Big update which is actually rewrite. New version uses Electron. We know Electron from Slack. I decided to compare 2 versions to demonstrate difference between native and not native.
Website presents new version of GitHub Desktop

The fact that new version is presented as “The new native” offenses me. GitHub Desktop at farthest point from native it ever was.

Let’s look at App size.
2 app sizes

Old app is 63.7 MB and new is 168 MB. Not surprised as web app need to include all dependencies and custom frameworks. Native apps can use powerful system frameworks which is already included into OS once.

Let’s open application. First thing I noticed, minimum window size for Electron app is much larger. Look how many white space is wasted. Old native app could be resizes to much smaller size which makes it’s superior for those who keep many windows on screen and value space.

Native version of GitHub Desktop Electron version of GitHub Desktop

Now let’s focus on the title bar. Electron app missing title. Not only title shows what item selected but is also possible to click on it and navigate file hierarchy. Right Click on the drop down menu and select item, this opens Finder. Title Bar options

New app has black top and white content area. That’s not a good look, usually Mac apps have main color scheme, dark apps dark everywhere, iMovie is perfect example, and apps like Finder and Safari have light background.

On the screenshots you can see how basic “Add Local Repository” interface differs. Pay attention on the buttons styles, old GitHub apps has familiar buttons looks which is the same as any other Mac app, while new Electron app has its own style. Not only it looks out of place, this also adds additional cognitive load. The same is true for apps font, old app uses excellent system font. At least Cancel button is on the left.

Last let’s click on the File menu. Menu bar is important on Mac. Everything that’s app does can be accesses from menu bar, it allows user to study what app can do, it also displays shortcut commands.
Menu comparison

Now here, I have to say, new GitHub Desktop does not a bad job, some web apps don’t have menu commands at all. However particularly in the File menu I noticed that old app had more options. One of most important changes is ability to open multiple windows. This core function is lacking from Electron version.

Another subtle benefit using native app is lack of need to click twice when window not active. Any web site or web app can recognize click only in active mode. Normal Mac apps can receive click events even when window not active. For example, you can click on the + button in top right corner of GitHub Desktop even when window is not active. Any web application will require 2 clicks in this situation.


Web apps never going to feel native. You can call it “React native” but it will not make code more native. You can call it “Electron” but it will not make app size smaller and efficient.

Native GitHub Desktop app is no longer available but you can download my copy. I still use it to this day and I will continue until it stopps working.

Auto Layout Scroll View with footer.

iOS simulator screenshot with blue content area and yellow footer

The goal of this Auto Layout exercise is to build scroll view with dynamic content height and footer. There’s 2 challenges here.

  1. Sticking footer to the bottom even when there’s very little content.
  2. Allowing scroll view to scroll even though content height is unknown.

First, read “iOS: How To Make AutoLayout Work On A ScrollView” from Natasha as it’s very practical and saved me many hours.

The fastest and easiest way to get started is Storyboard and Interface Builder. Download sample project from GitHub.

  1. Add Scroll View to your root view and add pin it with 4 constraints. Your root view should have only 1 child which is the scroll view.
  2. Create new “container” view and add it to the scroll view. Scroll view can have only one child view. This was mentioned by Natasha and I always follow this rule since, I lost many hours when I didn’t know about this.
  3. Add constraint for container view width to be equal with root view width.
  4. Add footer view and pin it to the bottom.
  5. Scroll view can’t function when content height is unknown. Add height constraint outlet. In this example for my content I have single label, I don’t set container view height because it will change depending on label height. I pinned label to its superview. Make sure your Storyboard file doesn’t have error messages and layout conflicts resolved.

Interface Builder with footer sticking to the top

At this point you should get something like this in your Interface Builder. We still have some work to do. Open view controller and add following code.

labelHeightConstraint.constant = view.bounds.height - footerView.bounds.height

So far I have no content and we had to increase label heigh so footer sticks to the bottom as design required. If I set text for the label it will truncate which I don’t want. I had to disable this constraint and allow scrolling.

labelHeightConstraint.isActive = false

2 screens with text taking all the space.

iPhone X

I thought I was done but when I run the code I realised it was broken on new iPhone X. Here’s code snippet that helped me.

override func viewDidAppear(_ animated: Bool) {
	labelHeightConstraint.constant = (view.frame.height - view.safeAreaInsets.top) - footerView.bounds.height

The key is viewDidAppear because safe area insets equal to zero in viewDidLoad. I also had to disable landscape layout.

I noticed that iPhone X screen is very tall so all my text was visible and footer was in the middle of the screen, I had to activate constraint again. Only disable height constraint when you have many pages of content, iPhone X can fit surprising amount of information.

iPhone X screenshot

State of Mobile Gaming.

Black iPhone and Nintendo 3DS on the white desk.

I carry my Nintendo 3DS almost every day. Completing one game after another, surprised how good and memorable Nintendo games are. I try to play on iPhone sometimes but it always disappointment, ether game requires internet connection or it is too plain, too simple, without a story and characters, repetitive. Generic sense I’m getting from mobile studios is maximising revenue from each player with tracking, dirty psychological tricks, micro transactions and cool-off timers. Sadly neither developers or consumers care about gameplay and story aspects. Yes, there’s a Monument Valley but the game is short and very simple, it’s not comparable to Super Mario 3D Land (recently discounted) or Legend of Zelda.

Is it because price raise to the bottom or short playing sessions or lack of physical controls included with every device, or, more likely, combination of all? I wonder can this market be sustainable in a long run? Classic video game industry always relied on creating something special, experience which is art form more immersive than TV and movies. To play best games you have to own dedicated console. For a long time you had to own MP3 player and photo and video camera separately but now all this markets cannibalised by iPhone. Gaming industry is still separate. Hardware is not longer an issue, even last year iPhone 7 are more powerful than Nintendo Switch, has much better screen as well. So why no one makes exclusive iOS games with big budget and controller support? I am not talking about ports or multi platform games. Nowadays tools like Unity and Unreal makes it easy to deploy game on each platform but this approach doesn’t take advantage of unique hardware aspects like 3D Touch and Haptic Feedback. Or why there’s no iPad exclusive games which take advantage of a larger screen? There’s ports but that’s all.

Nintendo is very smart by releasing Switch which can be used in commute and games which can be played together with all necessary controllers included, games which use consoles unique features (HD Rumble). It’s a natural evolution for 3DS. I am very happy about progress they made and have a lot of hope that people who experienced game on Nintendo console will never look towards Rovio, King again.

Apps Should Work Offline, with Visible Status Bar.

We have not expensive data plan, and I disable mobile data for most of my apps. I have a problem with “Internet Wall” appearing in even one of the best apps like Carrot Weather (iOS or Mac) or Super Mario Run (iOS). Just today I opened Carrot Weather while on vacation to have white screen of nothing telling me there’s connection problem.

Apple Wather on left and Carrot on the right. Apple app has visible status bar and shows all data even though both apps don't have immidiate internet acces.

And not only I can’t check the weather but I can’t see time, battery level and most important, connection status. I guess developer decided their custom made artistic interface is more important than Status Bar.

I use Carrot Weather for their great Apple Watch app. On iPhone I prefer Weather but I launch Carrot from time to time. Recently Carrot Weather had big 2.0 update with new UI. I am sure developer very proud of all extra features and personality added into Carrot Weather but I don’t care. I even turned off all “fun” features. And this is why I continue to use Weather, it shows me the weather in any conditions, especially when I am trying to manage my data plan usage. It also shows me Status Bar at any screen.

Recently we shipped goEvo (iOS), app with daily planner for meals and exercises, and function to log emotional state and even have 2 way conversations with virtual coach. I am proud that all of its features work without internet connection.

Every non-web software developer should understand that application they develop should not require immediate internet connection. It’s not hard to do, and it’s good for performance and energy efficiency. Otherwise what’s point of making native app? If Carrot Weather can’t do data persistence, they should’ve focus their development building web application instead.

Raise of Smart Consumer.

In a light of approaching Safari release with Intelligent Tracking Prevention and ad industry reacting with public letter to Apple, I am seeking view in which industry can change while technology is used in favour of people privacy.

Classic Ads.

As example, after Soviet Union fall there was new market opportunities for western companies. Russians were ready to buy new products and their choices were determined by ads. Richest and biggest companies captured the market. TV ads worked — some products has been called by brand name, like some people call each MP3 player as “iPod” — to this day most Russian people call nappies as “pampers”. Advertising is a big market driver and necessary part of any successful product. It worked well without any data collection or tracking.

Track, Convert, Repeat.

World we live today is not as simple. “Big Data” became annoying buzz word, most of tech used to collect and analyse people’s behaviour. Company getting bigger. There’s new loyalty schemas with cards like Nectar Card and Tesco Club Card is pure not hidden tracking in which customers acquired by small portion of a sale, about 0.1% to my rough estimates earned in points which on top of all can expire.

There’s web tracking too, with cross domain cookies identifiers and whole industry of companies which entire focus on maximising conversions by any means. Facebook ads generate thousands of dollars every second. Advertisers exploiting VR and AR as well, you can get Google cardboard VR just as part of movie promotion walking on streets of London. Although advertising industry arguing no wrong doing to as the only “serve consumer interests”, we know they only serve only their own interest.

@marcoarment: If the ad industry is complaining, you know Apple made the right decisions for us. Thanks, Safari team!

Those tactics has only single goal — maximising profits by using technology while influencing peoples choices. Those companies want to use same advertisement models with invading new areas of our personal lives. Their lack of ability to change means we will find a way around their primitive “track, convert, repeat” model. Ad industry complaining about decreasing profits but instead of changing they only make thing worse by using even more ads often through mediation networks, inserting video ads, fighting content blockers.

Trust and Research as Primary Buying Factor.

My wife wanted to get me new slippers. I saw massive ad campaign all around London Tube and on the web. I knew the brand she’s going for. 5 minutes of research gave me everything I need to argue against the purchase. I found one youtuber who purchased this slippers 1 year ago and reflected on his purchase recently. Slippers broke soon because cheap materials and customer support was not up to the high price. Company invested all the profits into advertisement and almost none in the product quality and support.

Nothing stops websites to continue serve ads, but they will have to do it with respect to readers privacy, without profiling and identifying. Facebook, Amazon and Google continue to track us on their own. Not much can be done, as they deploy code from their own domains, except maybe abandoning services altogether, hence switching from Google to DuckDuckGo. However, we should make harder identify us across. Videos we watch on YouTube shouldn’t influence recommend products from Amazon, click on a search result shouldn’t make us an ad target. Safari already doing great job while blocking third party cookies by default and for 2 years supports innovative efficient and private ad blockers like 1Blocker for Mac and iOS.

There’s individuals like Jhon Grubber who started first using sponsored posts in RSS, websites and podcasts with exclusive subscription model, podcasters which experience product while sponsoring it ensuring basic curation. There’s Marco Arment created his own advertising network in Overcast. This innovation is a new way for products to rich their customers and they fund independent content creators. This examples show there’s new ways for advertisement to exist without breaking trust.

I believe our economy and society are better off when individuals make conscious choices about products they purchase. Choice influenced not with massive surveillance and propaganda but trust and research. I want to leave in a world where companies compete not by sole marketing but with design, quality, customer service and environment impact. Looking into future, I want to end this by quoting a reaction comment from MacRumors.

I want to be respected as a consumer, able to make my own choices about my needs, seek them out on my own and be helped by knowledgeable people when I want information on what to purchase.

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