Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Rebecca: Alarm failure

This morning, I had the rare experience of waking up before the alarm.  It was nice and toasty under the covers, so I thought I will lay here and wait for the alarm.  After a little more dozing, I finally thought about checking the clock.  PANIC.  I overslept.  I did not wake up before the alarm because the alarm failed to sound (the power drained on my electronic device that also acts as my alarm).  I immediately went from cozy and comfortable to panicked and harried.  I needed to get me and the kids out the door in under an hour.  We made it, with a lot of help from Ben.

Currently, I am living like I am in cozy, comfortable hideaway without a care in the world.  Ben finished his 30 day project, and he fixed the major bugs in Family Bank.  I am wrapping up 2013 for my job.  Even though I always have projects, emails, meetings, and unfinished business for my job, I have fallen victim to the holiday lull.

The reality is...we have stuff to do.  While Ben and I have a lull in the busyness, we need to map out our business plan for 2014.  What is Ben's software/app goal for 2014, what am I going to do for the business in 2014 (see New Years' resolutions post), what are our revenue targets, what went well in 2013, and what do we need to adjust for 2014?

For my corporate job, I need to re-energize.  What will I do in 2014 to become better?  What processes helped my productivity in 2013 and what got in the way?  What do I want from my career?  What changes do I need to make?

Ben and I also need to balance our professional aspirations with our personal and family dreams.  Are we out of balance with the family?  How should we invest in our family, our children, our parents, and our cherished relatives?  Do our professional goals helps us meet our family goals?  Personally, what do we want to accomplish in 2014, in 2019, and beyond?

It is so easy to doze, but life will wake you up.  I want to be ready...but just one more hour.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rebecca: Charity

Our children receive a weekly allowance.  From this allowance, they put $1 into savings and $1 into charity. Using Family Bank, I am able to track their contributions throughout the year.  The kids are able to donate at any time of year and to just about any charity. Not only am I able to track their charitable contributions, I am also able to record to what organization that they donated.  Over the years, the kids have supported organizations like the following:
local animal shelter - http://www.kingcounty.gov/safety/regionalAnimalServices.aspx
Toys for Tots - http://www.toysfortots.org
Vine Maple Place - http://www.vinemapleplace.org
The Bridge - http://www.thebridgeofhope.us
World Wildlife Federation - http://worldwildlife.org
JDRF - http://northwest.jdrf.org
USO - https://usowishbook.uso.org.


For me, it is important that our children learn the importance of giving.  Firstly, we are blessed with way more stuff than we need.  There is a world and a community full of people that need basic things like water, food, shelter, and clothing.  We are our brother’s keeper, and we should spread our blessings.  Secondly, there are many organizations that rely on charitable donations for their mission.  If you enjoy the opera, support it.  If you want to save the turtles, contribute to make it possible.  If you love the national forests, donate for their upkeep.  Finally, as a contributor, you are becoming part of your community, part of your world.  It is so easy to get lost in your own little world.  For my family, charity causes us to reflect on our bigger community.  What are the problems facing our local community, our nation, and our world?  Instead of just worrying about it, charity gives us an opportunity to help solve the problems.  It allows us “to put our money where our mouth is.”


Bugs and Design


    I love coding.  Granted, on days like yesterday, it can be frustrating when the bug is hard to find, but I like the detective work involved in finding the problem.  In this case, the reason why Letter Rain's X number of letter words achievement is not working with the wildcard tiles included.  If you ever get the chance to monitor a programmer trying to find a bug, it can be very entertaining.  (Not really.  If you are given this chance, run away as fast as you can.  Only the developer is entertained.)    

    Developers use different systems for working bugs.  Some use the compiler and debug system to 'walk' through the code step by step and capture the point in time the issue occurs.  Others dig into the existing code and create a logic chart of some sort to track what is happening.  Myself, I use a combination of the previous two, but usually throw in some Log messaging to see what the results look like.  It is an old school programming technique, where we had to rely on log messages a lot more than we do today with the fancy development environments.  I like it, because I can turn the logs on/off when I want to see more detail in how the program is acting.   I also find at least one part of my data layer that could use a bit of polishing to allow it to display the important information easier.  This helps later when you revisit the code for a different bug.

   The best part of coding is seeing the results of an idea form and display on the screen or device.  Logging data or logical points in the code is also a part of this fun.  You dig into the code, add your display hooks, and then watch the magic unfold as you run tests on the program.  This is not always necessary if the code you are working on is fresh in your head, but after switching to 1 or 2 different projects, you can find your old familiar code is looking a bit foreign.   Sometimes turning on the logging is just the jumpstart you need to get your head back into the frame of mind you had when you created the program.   I also like the pretty print outs.

    Coding is as much about a concept and design as it is about using some sort of language to implement that design.  The little feedback loop that logging or tests on the code provide are the 'pellets' that keep the developer going on the project.  "Yeah, that worked!  So what is next?"  The logical thinking and analysis is much like working a logic puzzle or figuring out a crime scene from the clues.  Only in this case, I was both the victim and the culprit.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Rebecca: A beautiful game

One of my favorite games at iFest Seattle was Buddy and Me by Sunbreak Games (http://sunbreakgames.com).  The game has amazing graphics and a wonderful story.  I was able to pick-up the iPad and play.  (In our household, I am the most tech inept.  My kids are light years ahead of me.  They get frustrated because I am never able to help them in Minecraft.  I purposely keep it this way.)

As I mentioned, the graphics are great.  The artist creates a world that is straight out of the fantastical dreams of children.  As a mom, I love that game is graphically rich AND does not involve blood and gore.

Sunbreak Games is a small team.  If I recall correctly, the team is less than 10 people.  The company has 1 very talented artist and 1 very overworked developer.  I know that there are other folks that invested a lot blood, sweat, and tears into this project.  While it may feel like corporate America dominates our lives, there are a lot of independent people creating wonderful products.  Kudos to Sunbreak and the many other entrepreneurs that remain the backbone of America.  It is a lot risk to go it alone or with just a few close colleagues, and Sunbreak should be proud of their accomplishments.  With great graphics, a solid story, and excellent playability,  Buddy and Me is a great app for all ages.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Walkabout or What I learned from Crocodile Dundee


    Yes, the family watched this movie over the weekend and it was still very entertaining.  One of those times when you need to not think, but just enjoy the moment.  I especially liked the notion of the "Walkabout" which Dundee used to clear his head and find his path, I suppose.  Thanks to being a dog owner, I too get mini walkabouts every day to clear my head and get away from the computer.    

    At least once a day the dog and I walk for about 1 - 1 1/2 miles on a nice trail near our house.  The dog gets time to explore nature and I get to work on design decisions or dream up new concepts.   We both need the exercise, so it is a win-win situation.

    Todays walk was pretty chilly, but gave me time to put together a schedule for putting the latest updates into Letter Rain and Letter Rain Free, our spelling game.  Along with some code and achievement fixes, I also need to clean up the interface a bit.  The app is not showing everything correctly in iOS 7.  It is a fairly small set of tasks, but would be nice to have this submitted before the 15th.

Geek Side Note

    The really major changes to Letter Rain will be replacing the core graphics with the Sprite Kit framework. I need to run some more tests, including how the sound effects will perform, but the prototype is looking good.  Since this is fun code to play with, I will confirm the whole Sprite Kit revamp decision during the later part of December.  Should I enhance the existing custom graphics and sound framework, or replace it with the 'Kit'?  Either way, I will be releasing an iPhone version of the game.

    It will probably be an easy decision at this time next year, due to the extra year of Kit testing and feedback by developers like me.  Apple seems pretty committed to the game space, so I assume an update to the Kit will be at WWDC 2014.  Also, the iOS 7 requirement will be more acceptable to people who have upgraded their phone.  It seem to be a safe bet for us to release a Universal version of the game using this framework.  I am just not sure if it will be in early or late 2014.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Holiday Season AKA Crunch Time


First of all, I have to be thankful for a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We had the traditional dinner with family and friends, which was great!  Only later in the evening did we realize we forgot the cranberry sauce.  For those of you that don't like 'the Sauce', no biggie.  For myself, I think it completes the turkey dinner and it did with the next day leftovers.   We hosted the festivities this year which means we have the lion share of the leftovers.

Tis the season for getting those last minute items put into your App and published before the Holiday season.  When developers submit Apps to Apple, you use the iConnect site.  For the last few years, Apple has enacted a policy that limits your submissions to before Christmas or after the New Year.  It is a good policy, as I am sure they are swamped with new or upgraded Apps for the holidays.  I like the idea that people get the holidays to just enjoy family and friends.  Put the code aside, it will still be there next year.  Waiting.
What this really means is that if you are submitting changes to Apple in December, get it done and submitted well before Christmas.  I am assuming that the 15th is the last day for submitting anything that I want available on Christmas day.  2 weeks of crunch time to plan and update the lucky Apps that need updates.   I haven't decided which Apps will get the attention yet, but will have to split my development time with a bit of Christmas shopping.   Tis the season.
In hind site, I should have done the shopping on October.  What the heck was I doing that month?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Rebecca: Time to Pause

After Ben completed the Thirty Day App, I was intending to take a short break from the blog.  It was not meant to be a whole month.  Without Ben bugging about the blog, I added other things to the “to do” list.  Zenerdgy fell to the bottom.  For me, I never get to the bottom of the “to do” list.

I did start to feel a little guilty about shrugging my responsibilities, but Ben decided to host his family for Thanksgiving.  I had a great excuse for neglecting Zenerdgy. For the weekend, we had 2 additional families staying with us.  Six adults and eight kids (under 11) all stayed in our home.  In case you’re wondering, it was hectic. It was loud.  There were tears and tantrums and fights. 

We also had laughter, hugs, smiles, huge family dinners, and love.  Because of Ben’s decision to start his own business, we had the time and energy to host Thanksgiving.  Finishing an app in 30 days (October) was brutal for Ben, but he was able to choose to spend November with family and friends.  Our lives are different since Ben started Zenerdgy, and I love it. 


During my time of pause, I was reminded of my priorities.  Zenerdgy cannot always fall to the bottom.  More importantly, I am so thankful for Faith, Ben, our family, and the amazing rollercoaster of life. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Website Design


    What have we been up to in the last 2 weeks?  Well, I took the time to finally start evaluating some website building software.  The excuse was to update the Zenerdgy site for the changes involving Score Genie, but really any time I can play with new software is a good time.   The old Zenerdgy website was thrown together using one of the 3 browser based website builders available at HostMonster.  Although it did the job and were faster than I could build it by hand, I much prefer building the website locally using software and then deploying the results.  Less surprises this way.
  So new website tinkering took up most of once week.  The last week was fixing some small issues with Family Bank and getting our house in order.  Not the company 'house', but our actual house.  It is Fall around here and those leaves are not going to pick themselves up.  Here in the Northwest, we have to jump on those sunny Fall days and get as much yard work in that we can.  You never know when it will begin to rain and not end until March or so.  I can tell you, wet leaves definitely do not pick them selves up, even with a leaf blower.  So a little house work was involved this last week.  Oh yeah, Rebecca has been out of town for business lately too, so I also had the kids all to myself.  Like leaves, they also do not pick up clothes and junk by themselves unless you follow them around the house yelling like a drill sergeant.  Lucky for them, I have that background.  Thanks Uncle Sam!
  Thanksgiving and the holidays are coming up fast, but I will try to get the upgrade packs to Score Genie out and also fix an advertising issue with Letter Rain Free.

Geek Side Note

    Although I have built a lot of websites in my past using a simple editor, I prefer using a WYSIWYG software package.  You give the control of every little detail, but get the perks of seeing what the site would look like in various themes and styles.  Thanks to the new Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and HTML 5 standards, you can create a lot of reusable site elements pretty easily.   My favorite example of this is the most excellent CSS Zen Garden site.   It is still the gold standard for showing off the same information, but with different CSS styles applied.  Pretty eye-opening, if you have never seen it.
  Along with new software, you also have to learn the quirks and tricks of how the software works and what are its limitations.  Now I had an old version of Dream Weaver sitting around, but it is not compatible with the latest OS X version, and was pretty out of date with the latest standards.  So it was off to Google and a search for the latest and greatest (within our budget).  I looked at a few, but narrowed my choices down to Sandvox and Freeway Pro.  These are both impressive products.    In the simplest of terms, Sandvox allows a user to create lots of themed sites quite easily, but Freeway allows you much more control of the site.  In the end, I decided on using Sandvox for the ease of use and more importantly, the ability to show the different themes to Rebecca for approval.  After running different versions of the site by Rebecca, I decided that Sandvox fit our process better.   In Freeway's defense, I could have eventually built up my own templates to do this, but was lured by Sandvox's nice and easy themes.  "No, no Baby, its not you, its me that has the problem."



Monday, November 11, 2013

iFest was a Blast!


   I have to admit that the room with all the old classic Atari and Nintendo game consoles was a pretty damned nostalgic.  You forget those old games that made you fall in love with computers in the first place.  Good job on the iFest organizers to have those consoles up and running for everyone to play.  There was everything from old Atari 2600 to the more modern Nintendo Entertainment System.  Lots of game cartridges too.
    The event itself was also very entertaining and especially informative.   There was an excellent Virtual Reality simulation with a simple target shooter.  We got there early, so the wait was minimal and worth the effort.  It is always fun to see someone standing in a room with a bunch of equipment on his head and back, moving and twisting in reaction to whatever only they can see.  Of course, once you are that person in the harness, you realize the monitors everyone else is watch do not do the game justice.  You need that sound and the environment moving when you do.  I don't know if I got high score, but I did enjoy that prototype game.
  It was amazing to talk to the other game designers/developers that were showing the results of months or even years of work.  Walking around and seeing these impressive games and their creators was a real treat.  There was everything from interactive graphic novels, to real world physics games using spaceships or even swinging from cables all over a city.  I know we will be buying a few of these games, which we were unaware of until we saw them at iFest.  We also learned a few tips on how to market our products in the future.  I must admit, I think Zenerdgy will be displaying a game or two next year.
   There were also some lecture hall talks about how independent gamers have dealt with various issues in creating and marketing their games.  We attended a few of these and really enjoyed getting some background behind some of the design and funding choices made by other developers.  There was also a good talk on how to keep your chin up and deal with happiness as a small independent developer.  It had an impact on both Rebecca and I and we are still talking about that today.  The mental aspect of the independent developer is critical in this field.  Instead of working for the 'Man', you have to make all your own decisions and live with the results.  It is not for everyone, we realize.

Side Note

Why is it always the 'Man'?  Isn't that a bit sexist in this day and time?  Why not the phrase, "Working for the Woman"?  or Person?  Eh, it just loses something in the translation when you say it that way.  Oh well, someday it will be a computer running everything, then we will say we are working for "The Bot" or something.  
I, for one, welcome our new Computer Overlords...  (Simpsons joke)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Rebecca: Putting yourself out there

Yesterday, Ben and I attended iFest.  It is a conference where independent game developers may showcase their games.  The organizers also had a variety of speakers on topics ranging from raising money, handling legal issues, and defining happiness as an independent developer.  Although the conference is small (number of exhibitors, number of attendees), it had a huge impact on me.  I will probably have 2-3 posts related to iFest.

One of the most impressive things about iFest is the independent developers.  The largest development team that I met had 6 people.  Most of the games are designed, developed, and marketed by 1 person.  The person has poured his/her passion into a game that they hope will make some money.  Yes, they would love to make millions, but they are really just hoping that they make enough to "keep the lights on."

Like artists, these mostly young developers have put so much of their heart and their love into their games.  In return, they make themselves vulnerable to the masses.  As the saying goes, "you cannot make everyone happy, all the time."  Players or gamers (endusers) provide invaluable feedback about the playability of the game, about the graphics, and about the "fun" of the game.  But the criticism may also be harsh.  I am not a programmer, but I know so many of the design or programming choices are subjective or the result of necessity.  When you build anything from your heart, it is hard to hear that your creation is not perfect.  It is easy to criticize:  "screen movement is jerky, I do not like the background, the game is confusing, or I don't like how it plays."  We are entitled to like/dislike a game, but I appreciate the huge efforts and love that goes into all the games I saw.  I hope the developers take the feedback that is helpful, but ignore the more hurtful comments.  You cannot make everyone happy.  If I learned anything from Ben's app development for Zenerdgy, it is make games you are proud of.  Have a few individuals that believe in you, follow your heart, listen to helpful criticism, and keep developing.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Rebecca: Approved

ScoreGenie was approved today.  Congratulations to Ben for writing an app in 30 days.  Like Ben, I enjoyed the blogging.  It is cathartic to express your challenges and your frustrations.  I also like putting in writing, in public what I need to accomplish.  While I have not received any angry feedback about my lack of progress on marketing initiatives, I know that my commitments are in the public space.

I will continue to blog about my musings, thoughts, and actions on Zenerdgy.  I also want to blog about how we use the Zenerdgy apps.  Ben is creating the apps for public consumption, but all of the apps have been driven by a family/friend need.  The apps are meant to be family friendly; and ultimately, I want Ben to feel proud of what he has created.

Thanks for taking time to read our musings.  We welcome comments, and we hope you continue the journey with us.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Score Genie on Day 30


Well we named the App "Score Genie".   I orginally had all kinds of thoughts about having magic type effects as you recorded and viewed scores, but it just was not in the cards.  Perhaps a later version or the upgrade packs will have these type of features.  For now, I am just glad the App performs well and is simple to use.

Today was the last day of the challenge.  Since I submitted the App yesterday, today was mainly clean up.  I added any known bugs, tasks, and future design goals into my issue database program (You Track).  I also updated my design notes and generally put this App away for the time being.  I imagine I will be opening it up next month or two to add some upgrade packs.  For now, I am very glad to have the App submitted.  I can finally get my weekends back and most of my evenings, which is nice too.

I imagine Rebecca and I will continue to blog on the company, since we both find it kind of cathartic to document the challenges and other work we perform.  Since this was our first blog, it was fun to jump-start the process using the 30 day challenge.  It turns out we kind of like blogging too.

Would I do this again?  Maybe.  It makes for a very busy month, but it also really feeds the Geek part of me that gets to do so much coding in a compressed timeframe.  I also admit the thought of cranking out Apps every 30 days would be an exciting boost to the Zenerdgy App portfolio.  For now, it is just comforting to know that we can put out an good App this fast.  It will probably help for future project planning.

For those people who actually followed this blog, thank you for your time and attention.  I hope it was at least mildly entertaining.  I imagine that I will poll my friends and family to see what they like or disliked about the blog.   I am sure we can improve on the Musings.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I Clomp?



For the record, I do clomp into a room.   Its not intentional, but from listening to my kids, it must be genetic.  They get it from me.
Oct 29 and I have submitted the App.  I am pretty excited about it, but as usual, wish I could have done a better job.  Better job?  Ask any developer and they will probably tell you about how they could have just added this or that, or if they had just a bit more time...  At these times, its best to just nod your head and say, "Thats nice."  Developers and their additional features/fixes are a Mobius Strip of intentions, but can drive you mad if you follow them all.
I am feeling pretty confident that this App will get accepted, but you never know for sure.  I usually introduce something new with each project.  It is one of the ways I learn and grow as a developer in that platform.

-- Geek Side Note -- 

I have to qualify 'platform'.  Each language or environment you develop in has its own advantages, quirks, and limitations.  Developers learn to adapt to these platforms over time.  Some developers may adapt faster than others and some may remember all the layers of the platform better than others.  I am neither of these groups, but I do enjoy learning and progressing in a platform.  Code is fun.


Tomorrow is a going to be a clean up day.  Get the project ready to sit on the shelf for a month or so.  (I hope.)  Prepare for Halloween and plan the next phase of Zenerdgy.

Rebecca: New Year Resolutions

Last night, I was all nice and cozy, under the covers, in the bed.  I had the reading lamp positioned just perfectly.  I only have 50 more pages in my mystery novel…the killer is about to be revealed.

Ben clomps into the room and announces that he will submit the scoring app this week.  I try to look interested, and I murmur, "That's great honey.  I am so proud of you."  Back to reading.  Ben is not finished.  He tells me about the few remaining tweaks and the testing plan.  Again, "Great honey.  Sounds like you beat the 30 day challenge."  Back to reading.  Ben is not finished.  He starts, "I think…"

He completes this sentence with "…you should make a New Year Resolution."  WHOA!  What???!!!  People are horrible at keeping the resolutions that they make for themselves.  Most have given up the grand commitment by January 2nd.  I cannot even imagine the success rate of a resolution created by someone else, even if it is your life partner.

Ben does not miss a beat for declaring my 2014 resolution.  He states that I should resolve to spend more time on the marketing of Zenerdgy.  He has fulfilled his commitments on designing, programming, and submitting the apps.  The apps will not make money if I do not get busy on the marketing.

I am not sure what I said out loud, but in my head: "Get in line, bud.  Everybody wants their pound of flesh - my JOB; my children; our family; you, as my husband; and now you, as my co-worker.  GRRRR."

After some time to think (and calm down), Ben, my business partner, is right.  I do need to fulfill my marketing commitments to Zenerdgy.  We have a business plan with tasks, person responsible, and due date.  Ben has been great about staying on track and following the plan.  It has been fun and amazing to watch Ben build an app in 30 days.  On the my side, there are a lot of missing checks.  To give Zenerdgy any chance for success, I will need to increase my efforts.  In my very full schedule, I just don't know how or when.

Ben, my husband, just needs to let me finish my mystery!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Almost There


I know.  I skipped a day yesterday.  The Boss is upset, deadlines are not being met, dogs and cats are lying down with each other, its bad.  Well, maybe not that bad.  I did get back to the project today and have cleaned up an issue with the zooming of the score pad.  Last night while playing a family game, we noticed that the zoom was not filling the screen in all cases.  That was one of today's fixes.
Another issue requested by my users was for the "+/-" input screen to keep track of the last type of entry.  Since most games are just adding or subtracting scores, it is nice to have the app auto-remember the last type used.  Again, it would have been useful while we played last night.  Fixed today.

I created the app submission with iTunes Connect, with all the required descriptions, App icons, and screen shots.  I also built a prototype support page for the app, which is also needed for submission.  Since I have a whole 2 days left, I am planning on submitting the app tomorrow.  I want to run through both the iPhone and iPad versions one more time and see if there are any other 'gotchas' that I missed.
I prefer 'Morning Guy's' better for performing this testing, as 'Evening Guy' seems tired and possibly unreliable today.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

I Little Pinch Will Do Ya


Well that was easy.  I added a total of about 6 lines to the scoring screen and now it is supporting 'pinch' zooming in/out.   Of course, I experimented with a few different approaches before I hit on this solution, but am pleased with the end result.  It didn't take too long, which is good for a Saturday goal.  My other Saturday goal to rake up the leaves in the yard.  This took up a few hours of the day, but gets that off my plate until more leaves fall… Hey!  This chore is going to be around for a few more weeks!

I should note that even after I submit the App, the work on the App is not done.  I try to catch up on my design notes, comment the code better, log future upgrades and bugs in the system, and get everything looking tidy.  This help me to put the App on the 'shelf' while I switch over to working on another App creation or upgrade.  If I do my tidying job right, it will be much easier to pull of the shelf later and get right back to working on it.  I have set aside a few leisurely days for this effort before the month ends.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Rebecca: Not much left over

Because of my corporate gig, I had to leave the house before 5:30am for the past two mornings.  Since I need more than 30 minutes to put myself together, I had some early alarms.  I am so glad it is Friday...

BUT Ben has needs.  Ben wants to submit his scoring app by Sunday, and he needs me to review his recent design changes and the app description.  Before he hits the "send" button, he likes me to generally review the app and stamp my "approval".

With my longs days at work, Ben has picked up the slack at home. He is ready to get this app submitted,  and I know he is trying hard not to put extra pressure on me.  Although I am ready for a glass of wine and brainless TV, I will put some time and thought into the app key words, description, and help pages.  While the tank is almost empty, there is enough to get this baby home.

Thats Not Where I Left My Font!

    Nothing Earth-shaking was done today.  I did some more clean up of the code and bug fixes.  I added the 'splash' screens on App startup for all the different device resolutions.  I also updated the Text color and sizes to be saved between sessions.  This means the last text size and color you were using will still be chosen when you come back to the app.  So, "Yes, this is where you left your font…"  Now the app pretty much goes right back to where you were when you left it.  Worse case, the previous game will be available in the History tab with all the latest scores and changes.

  I also added some smaller updates like showing the App version in the About screen and using a layered image approach to build the Scoring type icons and images.  The means I merge a scoring type image with transparent sections on top of a background page image.  This is done on the fly and saves me a lot of preconfigured icon image creation.

    I merged all the changes back into the 'trunk' and then promptly made another branch for a 'pinch to zoom' experiment I want to try.  I would like to give the user the ability to get a overview of the scoring pad by pinching or stretching the screen.  If I can get it work without messing with the existing score layout, then it will be a nice addition.  If not, the App can live without it for first release.  I am giving myself until Sunday to get this branch working.

    Sunday is also the day for submitting the App to iTunes Connect.  Hopefully, I will have all the descriptions and help page information ironed out by them.  Actually, that is Sunday Guy's problem, because tonight, Friday Guy is going to enjoy a beer and a movie.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Collections and Selections


    Today was not an exciting one, but a few bugs and layout quirks were worked out on the App.  I was able to clean up the various Scoring Type and Text Color selections.  Both of these options use Collection Views, which are a fine way of showing a bunch of boxes in a flow layout.  It handles resizing and keeps a pretty good layout look.  Kind of like tables, but instead of just vertical item growth, it goes horizontal too.  They are pretty easy to create, but I still managed to kill a lot of time trying to get the selection of a box to show correctly.  I already had them working, you could select items and they did their actions, but I wanted a simple highlight box around the box to show it was selected.  Three hours later, I finally stumbled across the correct code combination that worked with my layout and storyboards.  Pretty silly and a grand waste of time for such a small item, but I did need the knowledge and the screens look better.  Another lesson learned.
   So the App is in good shape.  I have to work up a splash screen and possibly some other feature, but I think it is ready for the family to bang on it.   My revised schedule is a release on Sunday, Oct 27. This is 3 days early for the 30 day project, but the submission process could have a few snarls.  Better early in this case.  I hope.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Setting Pretty


    Well, it was a good day.  I hit all my daily goals early.  Now the score text (font) colors are customizable from the Settings screen.  Along with the different font sizes, it adds a bit of polish to the App.  The fact that I got some more practice using the Collection View again is just a plus.   I also added 4 more 'scoring types'.  These are working well, but I think I could do some small re-design to make them more modular.
    What else?  Oh yeah, I submitted the keywords, App description, Help and Information/About Screen documents to the Marketing Dept.   I realize that I am lucky to have that option.  Rebecca is very good at polishing up my ramblings into a coherent description of the product.  I only hope there is enough time for her to give it a good look before the weekend.  
  So I still feel very much on schedule.  I will be doing mostly bug fixes tomorrow, along with an automated save of the last users Font size/color and current score screen.  In fact, I need to 'freeze dry' the app in any situation, so that the user returns to the exact place they were when the App exited.   Thanks to the latest update to Xcode 5 this is much easier to do, buy still requires some study time and experimenting.   (Somewhere in my brain a little voice is saying, "Soon time will be all gone…")
    I think the weekend will be spent bugging the family with the 'finished' version and getting feedback.  Some of the info will be used to fix last minute bugs or quirks, others will be stuffed into my issues database for a later version or update.

-- Side Geekier Note --

    I track all my projects using You Track, it works on any system with Java, can run local or remote, and has pretty good screens for managing not only bugs, but the project itself in a Scrum/Agile format.   The application available from Jet Brain, which makes one of the best Java IDEs available, IntelliJ IDEA.  I know a lot of developers are pretty religious about the IDE, or plain editor, that they use.  I am too.  In my Java days, I evolved through quite a few development environments from "vi" to IntelliJ.  It was hands down my favorite for the last few years.  Before that, it was Eclipse for a long time.  
    I can't lie, the best part of being a developer is all the shiny digital toys we get to play with in our careers.   Sometimes, we even build our own toys too.  There is a dark side to all this also.  We normally crave the latest toys and will struggle to use the 'old stuff' when that is the proper tool for a certain client.  Sometimes you can get around this by buying your own modern toys and making it work anyway, sometimes not.  With that in mind, it is nice that Apple updates Xcode every year.  It is a shame how hard it is to get into WWDC anymore, but there developer videos are excellent, if you have the time.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Check out the size of my Font!


    I put together the new About/Info and Settings pages today for both device types.  Although I was leaning towards a paging type navigation, I ended up 'punting' and using Ye Old Table navigation.  It's expandable, easier to create in storyboards, and handles both Portrait and Landscape orientations.   I am a wimp, but this wimp is short on time.
    So far, the entire app handles either orientation very well.   The new Settings page allows the user to select font size or color scheme.  I have the font sizes working, but need to test it out more thoroughly to make sure the drawings are all still readable.  I will do most of this testing tonight and tomorrow.
Also on the schedule for tomorrow is new color schemes.  I need to cobble together at least 4 good readable color schemes with background images, build icons for selecting them, and implement the new functionality.   Should be fun.
    I also started the keyword listing and App description for later submittal.  Kind of light so far, but I will run it by the Sales Dept. for extra content.  I also need to submit the new Help and Info wording for review.  Hopefully, Rebecca has time for the review.  Otherwise, well... lets just say I can be a little to geeky in my descriptions.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Rebecca: Follow-up on commitments

Last week, I committed to answering some basic questions about Family Bank.  BTW, I apologize for the confusion on apps.  Ben is working on a scoring app while I think about the marketing of Family Bank (I really need to get beyond thinking and into the doing).

Regarding Family Bank, the price is really reasonable ($0.99), and the target audience is parents with children over the age of 5ish.  At the core, Family Bank is an app that allows the parent to be the bank.  It tries to teach some basic concepts about financial responsibility.  There are a lot of nuances to this, and I have decided that we need to update the description pages.  When I re-read them, I realized that Ben wrote them from a developer perspective.  For example, "user configuration allows banker..."  This is not a critique of Ben, but my learning that marketing is about "speaking the language of the customer." This is not a given.  I find it difficult to harness the power of words to describe the many uses of Family Bank and to communicate in the concise, compelling language demanded by our super overloaded lives.  I will probably write some future blogs about how I use this app.  Marketing suggestions and ideas are welcome.

In answer to "Does the app fulfill a need?"  Family Bank is the first app that Ben wrote, and he wrote it for me.  Being married to the Lead Developer does have some advantages.  For allowances, I had 3 envelopes for each child.  The envelopes were marked Savings, Fun, and Charity.  When my kids got allowance, they had to put a set amount into Savings and Charity.  The Fun envelope was their money to spend on do-dads.  There were many Saturdays (wee ones' payday) that I was scrambling for dollar bills to meet payroll.  When Ben started the Zenerdgy venture, I, acting as CEO, demanded an app to replace all the allowance envelopes and to free me from the endless quest for dollar bills.  So for me, this app does solve a problem.  How do I translate that into a CONCISE, compelling marketing message?

Day 21 of 31


First of all, thank goodness that there are 31 days in October.  I would have hated to try this on a short month like 28 days of February, non-leap year of course.  Since I committed to the App being finished in 30 days, technically the 31st day does not count.  In spite of this, I am happy for the perception of an extra day.

So, the App now has a tab system set up and I began to add in the new Info Tab, where the general application information, help, and contact data will display.  It will be a paging type navigation similar to how I implemented Help in Letter Rain.  In the future, this will also be the area where the possible upgrade packs will be accessed.   I will need to fill in the Info/About pages tomorrow along with the scrolling side to side navigation.  Fun stuff.

I am still hoping to submit the final version of the App on Friday.  In order to do this, I think the week will break down as follows:
Tuesday - Get the Info pages done.
Wednesday - add some extra feature design to support custom font and color options.  This will be needed in the future for upgrade packs.
Thursday - More testing and an additional scoring Type added.
Friday - Fill out the submittal form in iTunes Connect, and submit.

Since this is the 25th, I have 5 days of grace to deal with any additional issues I run across.  Given that this week is pretty aggressive, I figure I will eat into that buffer a bit...


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weekend Warrior


Ok, I took a day off from the project.  Other than discussing the design of the 'Tab' navigation idea, nothing really got done yesterday, including the blog post.  As you can see from the picture, it was not much explanation.  Rebecca pretty much said, "That looks nice".

I wanted to implement this new navigation today, but have spent the time with the family or playing guitar instead.  I might tinker with the product tonight, but I am more inclined to tackle it tomorrow.  I figure that if I can get the App showing 4 different scoring styles along with Info/Help by Friday, it will be ready for submission to Apple.

Family Side Note

We played a little Magic the Gathering with the family today.  Rebecca suggested that we use the new App for scoring.  It worked like a charm.  I also noticed some good enhancements we could add, like larger fonts, coloring, and some more ability to re-use a game setup.  Good items for later enhancements.



Friday, October 18, 2013

I Go Out on a Branch


Now that the App is performing the basic functions correctly, I am moving on to adding on more features and the other necessary screens, like Info/Help/About.  There is also more bugs to work on and additional unit tests to verify the program keeps acting correctly.  Not the glamorous part of the application, but it can be satisfying to see all those green lights of a successful suite of test cases.
Since it was Friday, I also spent some time on research and education.   Talk to any software person, and they will usually be learning about a new technology at the same time they are lamenting how far behind they are on other technology.  Software and computers just continues to evolve.  So must the developers library of tools.  Hence, you have to set time aside for study.

Today, it was watching the the latest World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2013 video on source control management.   The ability to freeze any file or set of files in a certain state is very useful.  When working with a team, it is the primary means of sharing and distributing code to others.   It also gives you the confidence to try something new out without jeopardizing the code that works.  Worse case is, you can go back to your previous version of the code.  Best case is, you added the new features and merge them back into your code successfully.

After my study session, I explored the new source control features of XCode 5, and 'branched' the stable version of the code.  I will be working on the branch for the new features and merge them back into the 'trunk' periodically.

-- Geek Side Note --

This entire post is too technical.  
It is funny that if you are a computer savvy person, you usually get asked questions about technology by your family and friends.  Kind of the default tech support person.  It is the same for other career fields, but I really don't know if the cable installer gets hit up at every party for advice.  Then again, maybe he does.  Lord knows, I could use some advice to work the system and bring down by cable bill.  I think the guys down the street works for the cable company.  Hmmm...

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Stage 3: Testing and Refinement


    Well, the app is performing pretty well now.  The problem I had last night really was a silly spacing issue.  Another case of using an absolute value as a place holder for me to view the design. Today I revamped the score drawing routines to be a little less judgmental about the size of the device.  Ok, I admit it, I am using percentages to handle height and width.   It also helps when you rotate the devices.

    I believe I am officially to the 3rd stage of development, Testing and Refinement.   (Stages 1 & 2 were the iPhone and iPad devices)  The app now works well with both devices, scores games like a champ in two different styles, and saves and retrieves old games.  I have started to deploy the app onto the family for testing and feedback.  Now I will concentrate on cleaning up the cosmetic stuff and possibly adding some new scoring styles.  With any luck I will have a production ready product next Friday.    There is still a lot of work to do, but I am optimistic.


Rebecca: I am the IT master

When writing my post on Tuesday, I had a few questions about hyperlinking.  While teaching me how to hyperlink, he also advised that I had forgotten to title my post.  I smartly replied that I had typed the title in the title box.  He was completely unaware of the the title box.  What???  I guess he had been highlighting and editing the first part of his blogs for titles.  I had noticed that his titles were just the first line of his blogs.  I assumed he wanted it that way.  No, he never saw the title box.   He admitted he wondered how I figured out on my own how to make such nice title for my post.  I didn't; it is a feature of the program.
 The title box is at the top of the blog page.  It is so obvious to me because I need it.  If it was not there, I would skip titling my post.  Since Ben had a way to hack a title, he did not look for something as convenient as a title box.

I guess my IT ineptness and Ben's IT expertise complement each other.  In app design and development, I provide the "everyday" user perspective.  He gets caught up in the programming and software language, and he forgets the end user just wants to push a button and have magic happen.  At times, I make recommendations that seem easy or basic, but the programming gets way more complicated for very little added functionality.  We have to balance each other out...user friendly apps that have robust programming.  Like all companies, however, we still blame each other for application failures:  IT blames sales, marketing, customer service, etc. for not knowing what they really want or asking a program to do too much.  Sales, marketing, customer service, etc. just want the program to work...right now, never break, and by the way, can you add...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Broke It.


It was a productive day, for a programmer.  This means I was able to fine tune and add some new functionality to the App.  Unfortunately, this was also the reason it is currently broke.   I wanted to support different ways of showing a players recorded scores.  In this case, a "Tally" system and a "Cross-Out" version.  I changed some of the scoring display logic and now the scores for the game are not displaying correctly anymore.  Kind of the basic function of this App, so thats a problem.  Silly issue, but it was where I was at when dinner started.  I just never got back to the project until now.  Once I get this fixed, the App will support more ways of displaying and handling game scoring.


-- Geek Side Note --

I also started to fill out the pages for distribution of the App using the iTunes Connect web site.  It never hurts to start getting this information gathered, like keywords (only a 100 characters), description of your App that will make the whole world crave your App (try to keep it to a paragraph), and pictures that describe the App (5 of them will be fine.)  Every time I do this process, there seem to be a few more steps or lessons to learn.   That said, the development system for building and distributing App has really improved over the years.  Apple has put in a lot of work to create this ecosystem and it shows.  


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I Learn about Titles (again)


You might have noticed the Blog overview looks a lot better with Titles for each post.  Chalk this up to my Geek nature.  This morning I happened to look over Rebecca's shoulder as she typed on her blog and I noticed the BIG OLD TITLE TEXT BOX AT THE TOP OF THE PAGE.  A shame it did not scream at me 15 days ago...  All this time, I thought She was changing the first line of the blog to Header font, Blue, etc...   No, she was just using her brain and eyes.  Lesson learned.  Ask for help if you see her doing something your blog entries do not.
 No wonder it was always such a pain to get to look right...

Today was the refinement of the back end and some code clean up.  The backend objects were intentionally duplicated in the App until today.  I sometimes need to create a layer between the 'database' backend and the actual functions the user cares about.  Now the App deals directly with the database and makes the code simpler.

Tomorrow is more work on the History screen to allow the user to delete past games.  The only question is will the future user say, "Cool!" or "WTF Are all these games auto-saved?"

- Geek Side Note - 

I flat out refactored my proxy data objects out of the project, replacing them with actual NSManagedObjects the represent.  Save data after each score entry or change, and voila!  Auto-saved feature.   I also managed to get hung up

Rebecca: McDonald's

Since you know I have children, you probably think this blog is about McDonald's great tasting burgers.  This international company has served over 1 billion burgers, and they continue to sell millions and millions of burgers every year.  Kids all over the U.S. may think it is the best food ever, but most of us will agree that McDonald's is the #1 fast food company because of marketing.

As the blog clearly shows, Ben is the technical guru. Less obvious, I handle the marketing.  Because our company is young and lacks a following of 3 years old demanding meals with toys, I need to figure out this marketing puzzle...if we want to realize a profit. I have few clues and no experience about where to start.  What is our product? Who is our target audience? What price will people pay?  Does it solve a need?  "An app, everyone, millions, sure" are the answers I like for the above questions.  If it were that easy, Ben and I would be drinking cocktails in the Caribbean.

Where to start?  At tonight's cheer practice, I commit to working on Zenerdgy marketing, instead of reading a "whodunit" novel (my favorite down-time activity).  I am going to answer product, audience, and need for Family Bank, an app available in the Apple store.  I am also going to find a babysitter so that both Ben and I may attend iFest.  Ben will attend to "geek out", and I will see how other people are presenting their companies and products.  I let you know if I am able to resist the "whodunit."