Posted: April 1st, 2013 | Author: Paul Schifferer | Filed under: Software Development | No Comments »
This last weekend, Michelle and I decided to create an app together. The purpose was twofold: to teach her how to program, and to create something that we could use for our D&D campaign, which we just started a week ago.
The campaign is running on First Edition D&D (AKA Advanced Dungeons and Dragons), and if you know anything about First Edition, you know that the interdependencies between classes, races, and genders are complex. The bulk of our first session was spent rolling ability scores, comparing them by hand against the requirements of the various classes/races/genders, sometimes only to determine that, “no, you can’t play that combination with those scores”. That was a time-consuming process.
Being a human who writes software for computers, I thought that a small app might be helpful for just this sort of thing. And that’s where we are.
Not having any kind of formal education in Computer Science, I lack some fundamental knowledge of data structures. Granted, I understand the basics, and adequately grok arrays, dictionaries, sets, but ask me to explain “big O notation” and my eyes glaze over. In order to deal with the complexities of D&D’s class/race/gender system, I figured that some big blob of dictionaries/arrays/sets would be able to store the information about this system, and a generic algorithm would be able to process that data and tell me if a given set of ability scores (Strength, Intelligence, and so on) would “qualify” for a particular combination, or provide a list of combinations for which those scores are eligible. This is as opposed to writing a gigantic mess of if/else if/else statements.
It’s proving to be quite tricky. We’re currently working it out, and will hopefully have something working soon.
Posted: November 19th, 2011 | Author: Paul Schifferer | Filed under: Business, Software Development | No Comments »
Things have been going rather slow lately: development, sales, etc. I’m certainly not ready to quit my “day job” and do this full time. But because I’m impatient, and I really want this to be, it’s easy to get discouraged.
Fortunately, a bit of serendipity occurred on Twitter recently, when Matt Drance tweeted a post from Brent Simmons on going independent. I consider it serendipitous because I was feeling discouraged, the post spoke to me, and it was from 3 years ago!
[...] have faith in your ideas and abilities. Getting recognition — or even that first bit of feedback — can be slow. It can take a lot more work to get there than you think.
But you can get there. When it looks like nobody’s noticing, have faith that someone is, or soon will be, if you keep doing your best work.
There are those nights when you think you should burn it all up and go back to the quieting hug of whatever-you-did-before. Faith in yourself, and in the world’s knack for finding good things, will keep you coding.
Posted: October 5th, 2011 | Author: Paul Schifferer | Filed under: Technology | No Comments »
The first computer I really fell “in love” with was the Amiga. I bought one just after I graduated high school, and had the same machine for 10 years until it finally gave up the digital ghost. I lived through the turmoil of watching my favorite computer company go bankrupt, and have its assets shuffled all over the place, hoping that my beloved Amiga would live on. When I was finally force to find another platform, I flirted around with Linux and Windows for a while, and spent a little time with BeOS, until, in 2003, I finally bought my first Mac, a PowerMac G4 tower.
Any Amiga enthusiast back in the day would tell you how much they loved their computers, and why they thought it was the greatest computer in the world. It was a wonderful environment to use and program in. I wanted something like again, after my Amiga was no more. When I got my Mac, I knew I had that. I was already a Unix nerd because of my job, and I loved it. But I also loved the amazing UI that I had with the Amiga. When I got my Mac, I got to have both of those again, a powerful command-line, and a beautiful UI. I was in computing heaven again.
I’ve had many Macs since then, mostly laptops of varying models, a Mac Mini, and an iMac. I love them all. I converted my wife to the Mac. My kids use only Macs. I even got my mother to buy one recently.
When the iPhone came out, I was riveted to my computer to see the presentation. I was amazed at what a revolutionary device it was. I knew that this platform was something, and I wished I had been here longer. But I’m glad I’m here now.
I had a conversation with one of my co-workers once, about product quality. He mentioned to me something he’d read in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Big-Q quality, he called it. He described it as something that certain products have that seems to transcend explanation; something that becomes a part of the product because of the care and attention of those who made it. He said that Apple products were like that. I couldn’t agree more.
When I saw the keynote introducing the iPhone 4, I noticed something in the part about Face Time. Steve Jobs showed a video clip of a family communicating using Face Time. When the video ended, Steve turned around, and I noticed that he seemed to choke up a bit, emotionally, and he said something like, “that’s what it’s all about.” Wow, I thought, he really does love these things. Apple products have Big-Q quality, and you can see it in his face, that care and attention.
I’m trying to start a business writing Mac and iOS software. I see the other products that are out there. There are quite a few bad ones, but then there are great ones. And when they’re great, they’re really great. I want to write software like that. And I can see the care and attention in those products, and “hear” it in the things I read from other developers, people who love this platform, and appreciate the vision of Steve Jobs, and are trying to make their own dent in the universe.
So I just want to say thank you to Steve, for being passionate, for persevering, for beating the odds when Apple was in its dark days, and for constantly striving to make great things, and putting his heart and soul into it.
You, sir, are a giant among men. Thank you for your vision and the legacy you left for us. I hope that I can make my own dent in the universe.
Posted: July 30th, 2011 | Author: Paul Schifferer | Filed under: Writing | No Comments »
Kevin Hoctor, on writing:
I love the Black Hockey Jesus blog post ‘He’s Not My Character to Write Anymore’ not just because it’s a touching tribute to his 13-year old son, but because he writes about the struggle of writing. I have too many posts that rot and die in my MarsEdit Drafts folder because I don’t like them enough to publish them or I let writer’s block prevent me from spending time on a post until it stops being current. I delay them and they die.
This sounds all too familiar.
Posted: July 13th, 2011 | Author: Paul Schifferer | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Craig Hockenberry, on the pitfalls of being an independent developer:
So, just as in the days of magnetic media, the independent developer now finds him or herself at a point where it is again becoming very expensive to distribute their products to a mass market. This time the retail channel itself is very cheap, but the ancillary costs, both financially and emotionally, are very high.
It’s pretty scary right now, especially for someone just starting out.
Posted: July 12th, 2011 | Author: Paul Schifferer | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Patrick McKenzie, on running a business:
Let’s talk about a different quirky culture for a moment: you go from a place you like being, surrounded by people you love, to a place where you do not really enjoy being, surrounded by people who you pretend to like but honestly wouldn’t choose to be friends with. You stay there for half of your waking hours, five days a week. Why does anyone put up with this? I don’t know, it’s the culture or something.
Posted: July 10th, 2011 | Author: Paul Schifferer | Filed under: Software Development | No Comments »
We decided to take a vacation this week, so we packed up the RV and headed to my wife’s cousin’s two states away.
My day job is “enterprise Java programming” and my side job is this site (which I eventually hope will become full-time). I figured that during this time, since I don’t have to think about the day job, I’d mostly be on the computer and plugging away at the side job, working on Apples and Pencils (which I really need to finish) or perhaps an update to Proelia.
I’ve had a constant struggle with “the creative process”. That is to say that it’s easiest to work on a program when the mood is right, the creative juices are flowing, and everything is just clicking. When that mood isn’t there, or when it gets interrupted by external issues, or gets sabotaged, I find for me that it’s very hard to get things done. Unfortunately, “the mood” is absent more often than present. It takes effort to Get Things Done when the mood isn’t there.
What I have found is that there are also occasional ideas related to the larger project that come to me, and getting them written down (or sketched, if it’s UI design [I like to use a pencil and spiral notebook for UI designing]) helps to get things moving forward. It’s usually enough just to get the ideas out of my head and onto paper or a digital notepad, and eventually the subconscious percolation kicks in and helps to flesh out the ideas, ultimately bringing about “the mood” again.
Posted: June 30th, 2011 | Author: Paul Schifferer | Filed under: Mac App Store, Rants, Support | No Comments »
You left a review for Proelia on the Mac App Store, titled “Buggy interface, no tutorial”:
I had high hopes, but buttons only seem to work when they want to, and figuring out what the buttons do is a full time job.
Now, if they added a print feature, I would PAY for this app, even in it’s [sic] very buggy state!
You gave it one star, and I can accept that, because it’s your opinion.
The frustrating thing for me is not that you are having problems with the program (although this is something I desperately want to rectify), but that I can’t interact with you.
There’s a support link, which you might or might not have noticed, and it leads to an easy form that you can put anything in, and it automatically opens a ticket in FogBugz. Alas, no tickets or bug reports ever came in from you. Since you had “high hopes” for the software, and it didn’t live up to them, it would have been nice to hear about what you were having trouble with and/or how the program could be improved.
This is more a complaint about the system that Apple has provided (or not provided, as the case may be) to get feedback from customers than it is about your particular review. Nevertheless, I would honestly like to hear directly from you and anyone else about how the software can be improved.
Posted: June 29th, 2011 | Author: Paul Schifferer | Filed under: Mac App Store, Rants, Software Development | No Comments »
Recently, I happened across a series of applications that showed up in the Mac App Store that seemed to me to be in violation of one of the guidelines. Giving in to my OCD tendencies, and being a person who generally believes that we should always try to do the “right thing”, I filed a complaint against the applications.
(Specifically, there were two sets of two apps, one free and one paid (each), wherein the free version was crippled so that the user could “demo” the app before deciding to pay for it. This was clearly stated in the app’s description, and violates section 2.6. The way I see it, if you want to participate in the Mac App Store, you need to play by Apple’s rules. If you don’t like the rules, take your app elsewhere. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.)
In my complaint to Apple, I called out what the app’s developer was attempting to do, and told them which section of the MAS guidelines I thought it was violating. The answer I received from Apple’s support organization contained a series of hyperlinks that weren’t relevant to my complaint, pointed out that they “couldn’t find my order” (I didn’t provide an order number), and even encouraged me to submit feedback because it would “yield results”. (I’m not seeing that.)
So, I responded with a reiteration of the original complaint, and encouraged the support person to re-read the original complaint. I received another response from Apple’s support group, apologizing that I couldn’t save my apps. (Huh?)
In both cases, the responses from Apple’s support were nonsense, having nothing to do with my complaint. The names of both the support individuals sounds distinctly Indian (to me), leading me to believe that this “support organization” is “out-sourced”. What’s (almost) clear to me, however, is that these two individuals either lack enough mastery of English to understand my complaint, or didn’t bother reading it, and instead probably scanned for keywords and pasted in some boilerplate responses.
I’m a one-man shop, so I get to handle support emails and write software and maintain the website and loads of other things. I like to think that I will be able to communicate clearly with my customers, and take the time to read and understand their requests, complaints, suggestions, and everything else.
Posted: April 30th, 2011 | Author: Paul Schifferer | Filed under: Technology | Tags: Education | No Comments »
I didn’t go to college. It’s another facet of the flaw in drop-down identities that LinkedIn assumes someone in my social context had to have learned in a traditional way in order to participate in the career that I have.
I didn’t go to college either. I like to think that I don’t need this kind of validation, but it’s nice to know that there are people out there whom I respect and consider infinitely smarter than me, that have made their way without a formal post-high school education.