The developer’s iOS 9 public beta conundrum

[UPDATE – I’m being trolled by my bank! See the update at the end of the article]

The above is a conversation that I had with my bank about their iOS app and highlight, I think, an increasing issue that developers are going to have with more and more public involvement with beta testing.

I have been running iOS9 for a while now and on the whole it is pretty good but having beta software out in the wild does cause issues for developers of apps. It may not be possible to get fixes that are caused by the beta out or, as is the case for Nationwide, they simply aren’t going to until they know it is stable and released.

Apple has, in part, recognised this and has stopped those on the beta programme from leaving ratings and comments in the app store feeling, rightly, that developers shouldn’t be disadvantaged by negative comments during the test period. However, what hasn’t been addressed is how developers should handle issues during this period. Apple has a reasonably well developed process for reporting (although I can see little evidence for it being acted upon) but how do other developers deal with this?

The above Twitter exchange with Nationwide is a good example of the problem. I found an issue in their app which I felt they might welcome some feedback but the initial response was just to close down the conversation by saying that they didn’t support the app on beta versions, which is absolutely their right to do. That doesn’t help move the app forward at all and it will be interesting to see whether the app works when iOS9 is released or how soon after the release it is fixed.

To be honest I am not sure what the answer is – perhaps allow developers to decide whether their app is available on beta versions of the operating system. Could be an unpopular move if you use the app regularly. What are your thoughts on how to best handle this?

So literally an hour after I pushed send on this article Nationwide pushed out an update fixing the issue I had tweeted about. Maybe they were listening after all!

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Flattery as a form of spam

As spam goes this is pretty benign but irritating nevertheless and I have no idea how to rid myself of it.

Just recently I have started to receive messages through the contact form on our website that are allegedly related to our blog posts and they are smothering with kindness and praise for our work.

I blog quite often and I seriously appreciate your information. This article has truly peaked my interest. I’m going to take a note of your site and keep checking for new information about once a week. I subscribed to your Feed too.

When they take the above format I am not sure what they are trying to achieve whereas the following is an example of a comment that is designed to illicit a response (I never do):

With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement? My website has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my agreement. Do you know any ways to help prevent content from being stolen? I’d truly appreciate it.

I am fairly certain that these must be created by a human hand as we have a captcha on the form to discourage robotic comments but the flood of them (we get half a dozen a day) is irksome. I would remove the form but it is useful for prospects and other interested parties to contact us.

The following comment is interesting and shows that they haven’t been to the site as we have no videos on the blog whatsoever!

Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point. You obviously know what youre talking about, why throw away your intelligence on just posting videos to your blog when you could be giving us something enlightening to read?

Is this a recent phenomenon that is affecting others? I certainly don’t see it on my other blogs. Anyone have any ideas how to stem the tide?

Test Driving iOS 9

Update: Almost the moment I pushed the post button Apple released beta 3 of iOS9 so I have added some things to reflect that.

So a few weeks ago I took the plunge and installed iOS9 on my iPhone, despite the dire warnings that accompanied the beta and I wanted to put down my thoughts.

Firstly iOS9 isn’t a radical departure from iOS8, in fact it feels more like a point update rather than a full update. That’s not to say that there aren’t some nice features that are included, which I will briefly cover below.

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iOS9 is here!

The first thing that you notice is just how sluggish, nay, slow the device can be with iOS9. I suspect that is more to do with this being a beta release and there is likely a whole host of debug logging going on in the background. At least I hope that is the case because if it isn’t that there is going to be real trouble when it is finally released.

Also some apps no longer work as their developers intended. To begin with the Twitter app wouldn’t switch between tabs and my banking app no longer allows me to transfer money between my accounts. Things that will no doubt be fixed when apps are updated to take advantage of the new OS.

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A little wonky

Swiping past the first page now gives a combined search and information view. As you can see from the image below there are two issues I have with the information as presented. Firstly what is a “Gas Station”? In the UK that would be my cooker! Secondly the first two news stories displayed are in languages I don’t speak, this despite my phone being set to UK English. So things like this will need to be resolved before it is truly useful.

Some localisation issues

Some localisation issues

There are somethings that I really like about iOS9, in particular the Low Power Mode which kicks in when the battery level drops below 20%. This features turns off some aspects that drain the battery and I have to day, in my unscientific tests, having this enabled makes a huge difference. So much so that I have wondered about running it full time.

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Saaaaaaave me some poooower

Other things that I like include the ability to search for an option within the system settings which is such a no-brainer that you wonder why it has taken nine iterations to include it.

There are a couple of other changes which are car related. For some reason iOS8 and my car never played nicely together and the car refused to recognise my iPhone. Now, miraculously, it has started working again and once more I can listen to music on the move.

The second change seems to be that when I now get into the car my iPhone (sometimes) tells me how long to get home. I am not sure if this has always been there or is new in Maps or is part of iOS9 but it is interesting but seems unreliable. It also isn’t much interest to me as I never use the Maps app.

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Get me home!

So all in all a positive if not earth shattering update. I am hoping that the final release will have a few of the more obvious bugs ironed out and a bit of speed added back.

A little spring cleaning

This is why you need to open up your PC occasionally and give it a bit of TLC. The pile of grubby dust above is just six months worth from our always on media server.

I got into the habit of cleaning it out regularly after it started (unsurprisingly) to become pretty noisy and given that it is in our lounge that became an issue. It is amazing the difference that a really good clean makes.

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One important thing is that you MUST NOT use your normal hoover to suck out the dirt. This is a bad idea as it certainly take up the dust but most of the delicate components too. Get yourself one of the above, a cheap USB vacuum cleaner. There are plenty available on Amazon.

I’m hoping that doing this on a regular basis also increases the life of the machine as, while it is all backed up, it would be (will be?) a real pain when it finally gives up the ghost.

Have you considered opening up your machine to clean it? Do you have any tips on how to keep your PC in tip-top condition? Let us know!

A (Very) Simple File Manager in PHP

A while back I decided that I didn’t require my iPad any more so I sold it. On the whole I haven’t missed it until this week when I needed to do some testing for a project at work. Given that this was such a short term requirement buying an iPad just wasn’t sensible but I decided sitting in the local Apple store and spending half an hour doing the testing there was! However, part of what I needed to do was to save some screenshots and get them back to my work machine, something that the restrictions on the Apple store iPads make difficult.

The solution? I decided to write a simple web app that allowed me to upload and manage images from an iOS device (actually it works for pretty much any device mobile or otherwise). To begin with all I did was allowed the upload of files and then I extended this to list the uploaded files, view and delete them and finally, to download all files as a zip.

This all sits behind a password protected page on my web server and as a quick hack works pretty well, this is what it looks like:


The server side code makes use of a number of PHP’s file handling capabilities and so I thought that others might also find this useful to see.

I have taken this as an opportunity to make my first commit to GitHub where you can see the code here. It is only there to serve as a sample, rather than a shining example of best coding practice. Hopefully it will be of some use to you.


The dio Naked Reversible USB cables

Reversible USB cables are, it seems, a lot like buses – you don’t see any for ages and then two come along in quick succession. Just last month I wrote about the Belaycord and now here is the dio Naked from moopti.

Like Belaycord this is also being offered through a Kickstarter campaign and as of writing there are just over two days before that closes. Rather than have to wait for mine to arrive (I have backed the project) moopti kindly sent me a sample to review which arrived today.

The first thing you notice is how well the dio Naked is made with metal caps at both ends and a strong braided nylon cable. However, the most striking thing is the USB plug has no boxed cover, it is just the plug itself, making it look very much like a bigger lightning plug.

Of course the advantage of this is that the cable inserts first time, every time, as you can see from the short video below:


So no more hunting under the desk or in dark corners wondering if the cable is the right way round (how is it that it NEVER is?). Now it will always be right first time. My only disappointment is that we have had to wait so long for someone to work this out.

There isn’t much else one can say about a cable other than it does what is expected of it and, in this case, saves a whole load of frustration while it’s at it. What’s not to like?

Back the project over at Kickstarter and you could have yours before the end of June.

Crapware, courtesy of Oracle Corp.

I thought that the practice of forcing useless software onto users as part of an installation had died out but apparently not by the looks of this Java installer.

That this is being foisted upon us by Oracle, who clearly don’t need the little money they must be making from this, is a surprised as I thought this practice was restricted to smaller outfits but clearly not.

If you want to help stop this practice you can sign a petition at here.

Thoughts on Apple Watch Battery Life

I have been wrestling with the idea of an Apple Watch for a while and admit that it is beautifully made but what is really putting me off is the need to charge the thing every single day.

On reflection I can see that could be considered a positive thing. My existing Pebble has what can only be described as a variable battery life ranging from about 2 to 5 days. I have never been able to work out what makes it drain quicker sometimes more than others but it does mean that I need to keep an eye on the battery to make sure that I have enough charge for the day ahead.

Apple Watch owners will not suffer from this affliction knowing that they will get a days battery life and then it will need charging so, for now, there is that element of certainty there. However, in my experience Apple products tend to start off at the stated battery life and quickly that diminishes. I do wonder how it will be before people are finding that it is no longer a days batter life but considerably less than that. And that is why I am, for now, sticking with the Pebble.

Photo: Yasunobu Ikeda via Flickr

Casting a Presentation to Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV

The last few years has seen the emergence of small devices that plug into the HDMI port of a TV, connect to your wifi, and allow you to stream from online services such as Netflix and Amazon.

What you also can do is “cast” content from a mobile device to the stick, content that includes movies, photos and music.

What isn’t currently possible is to cast documents to the stick and onto the screen which is a shame as it would be good to do so in situations where you might not have your laptop but do have the stick and a HDMI enabled screen. However, with a bit of foresight it is actually possible and I will show you how.

The following method is, I admit, a bit convoluted but it does work and involves converting a PowerPoint presentation to either a series of images or a video.

As a video

Choose Export from the File menu (where this appears depends slightly on the version):


Select Create a Video:


Choose the options – the defaults are probably fine.


Now copy the exported file to your device (I did this via Dropbox).

For the actual casting I used Allcast which is available for both Android and iOS. Here is the app with the presentation running as a movie:

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And on the TV:

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If you have an Amazon Fire TV you will find that you can stop and start the video as needed.

As a series of images

Choose Save As from the File menu:


Choose where you want the exported files to go and choose “PNG Portable Network Graphics” from the “Save As Type” drop down list.


When asked choose to export all slides rather than just the current slide:


Confirm the export:


As before transfer the older of images to your device and cast through AllCast:

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Neither of these methods is perfect but they do serve a purpose until casting is added to native applications.

Too Much Apple Watch

I woke up this morning to find that Apple’s App Store has been overtaken by apps offering Apple Watch support. Nothing greatly surprising in that as it was officially launched today.

But does it really have to take up so much precious screen real estate? In fact given that I don’t have a watch and nor am I likely to be getting one anytime soon (due to this) can’t I make it go away altogether?

No, of course I can’t. That’s not allowed.