Federico Viticci

8149 posts on MacStories since April 2009

Federico is the founder and editor-in-chief of MacStories, where he writes about Apple with a focus on apps, developers, and mobile software. He can also be found on his two podcasts – Connected and Virtual.


This week's sponsor

Udacity Start Your Journey in iOS Development

‘Why I Unfollowed You on Instagram’

Thought-provoking post by Ian Rogers, former Beats Music CEO and Apple Music director, on Instagram, social networks, and using popular online services for what they're best at:

Of all the apps discussed here, Facebook is the only “Social Network”. Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram are more valuable as Interest Feeds, LinkedIn is a network of people from your professional life, and Snapchat is a Communication Tool (aspiring to be an Interest Feed). Yet the fact that my “friends” on Pinterest will get a notification when I start a board about “Skateboarding” (even if they have no interest) is an example of how these tools were built with “social” features that actually detract from what they’re great at.

We would do ourselves a favor to stop lumping all these tools together and calling them “Social Networks” or “Social Media” and instead note what makes each service uniquely great and push these companies to improve what they’re best at. What they all are is “distribution”, ways of building direct connections between people and each other or brands. Person -> Person, Brand -> Person, Person -> Brand.


The “Swiftest” Way From No Programming Experience To Being An iOS App Developer [Sponsor]

There is literally a world of opportunity waiting for anyone with the skills to build for iOS. But like any journey to success, there is a path you have to take, and the question is, what’s the quickest (or shall we say “Swiftest?”) way from Point A to Point B? To answer that, let’s consider the beginning and end of the journey.

At Point A, you’re computer competent. You know your uploads from your downloads, and you set up your new phone yourself when it arrived. At Point B, you’re an iOS App Developer. You’re impacting lives on a global scale with the apps you build. Now, how long is the distance between these points?

That depends on a number of variables. The most critical is the question of whether you have programming experience. Traditionally this can be a real barrier, and that’s understandable. When you’re standing on the wrong side of the water from where the programmers are, it can seem really, really difficult to get across. To continue the water metaphor, you need stepping stones.

It’s that need that drove Udacity to create the Beginning iOS App Development Nanodegree program (BIOS NDP). A lack of programming experience shouldn’t be a barrier, and if you know iOS is where you want to be, then the opportunity to learn Swift (Apple’s custom programming language designed specifically for building iOS and OS X apps) is the first stepping stone you need.

Any stage of the journey has the potential to be difficult, but there is something unique to the early days; to succeed you need a really special degree of mentoring, support, and instruction. The suite of resources built into all Nanodegree programs becomes particularly important for those taking their first steps into programming. All Nanodegree programs feature:

  • An innovative online model that is accessible, affordable and inclusive.
  • A focus that is outcome-based and project-oriented
  • Intensive coursework, expert instructors, and cutting-edge curriculum
  • A compact and flexible model that allows for structured self-pacing
  • One-on-one coaching and facilitated peer interaction
  • Best-in-class project review that is both rigorous and timely
  • Empowering and informative career support

Combine all this with an explicit focus on transforming pre-programming students into adept coders with solid programming foundations, direct experience working in Xcode, and a growing facility with Swift, and suddenly there exists a very clear path forward to that next big stepping stone, the iOS Developer Nanodegree program (INDP). Think of the this as the advanced, career-track portion of the learning journey.

When you emerge from the INDP with a Nanodegree credential, you are genuinely ready to begin a career as an iOS Developer.

Our thanks to Udacity for sponsoring MacStories this week.

Google’s App Indexing Adding Support for iOS 9 Universal Links

Google Developers, on surprisingly-it's-still-around Google Plus:

Getting your app content found on Google just got easier. App Indexing is now compatible with HTTP deep link standards for iOS 9, as it has been on Android from the beginning. That means that you can start getting your app content into the Search results page on Safari in iOS, simply by adding Universal Links to your iOS app, then integrating with our SDK. With this improvement, we will no longer support new integrations on iOS 7 and iOS 8. Users will start seeing your app content in Safari on iOS at the end of October.

Google has additional documentation here. I'm glad they're adding support for this relatively soon.


Overcast 2.0: Streaming, Chapters, New Patronage Model, and an Interview with Marco Arment

As I guessed in my iOS 9 review, the temptation to go back to Overcast has been stronger than the allure of Apple's refreshed Podcasts app.

Released last year for iPhone and later ported to the iPad, Marco Arment's podcast player launched with an elegant design and the distinctive Smart Speed and Voice Boost, two audio effects that allowed users to save time when listening to podcasts by shortening moments of silence, and enjoy a superior audio quality.

In using Overcast for the past year, Smart Speed has turned from a simple and clever addition to a lock-in factor for daily listening: I know that Overcast will make shows I listen to shorter without making them sound odd or unnatural, and it's the kind of feature that I can't enjoy in iOS' built-in Podcasts app. Apple's player has gotten considerably better on iOS 9; but, when looking at the total amount of hours saved with Overcast, I realized that those are hours of my life I got back by using Arment's app instead of an alternative. This, combined with the many thoughtful touches of its interface, makes me happy to stick with Overcast.

Arment faced two problems, though. Overcast always needed to download new episodes before playing them: due to limitations of iOS 7's web download and audio APIs, Smart Speed and Voice Boost couldn't work with streaming – a popular feature that many podcast apps implement to avoid taking up storage on users' devices with downloaded audio files. And, while it was Arment's goal to gain market share with a freemium model that made Overcast free to use with an In-App Purchase to unlock advanced features (such as unlimited effects), the majority of Overcast users ended up staying on the free tier – a less capable version of the app that Arment himself wasn't using, and which couldn't be easily differentiated in a sea of podcast clients for iOS.

Overcast 2.0, launching today on the App Store, fixes both problems. With version 2.0, Overcast users will be able to stream episodes and use audio effects at the same time, getting the same experience of Overcast 1.0 with no upfront download required. But more importantly, Arment is taking a bold step with pricing: Overcast 2.0 is a completely free app, with an optional patronage model to support Arment directly.

Read more

Austin Mann’s iPhone 6s Camera Review in Switzerland

Each year, Austin Mann puts together the camera-focused iPhone review I want to read. This year is no different, and I was curious to see what he'd create this time given the camera improvements to the iPhone 6s.

I liked this bit about Live Photos:

I really appreciate the deeper story each of these tells — the sound of the cowbell, the flying dust under the drone, the steam rising from my Swiss hot chocolate. We take pictures to tell stories and share experiences with those around us, and Live Photos helps us do that in a way we simply haven't before.

What I love about Live Photos is its ability to accomplish this, completely behind the scenes. Some of these Live Photos in this gallery were completely unintentional, which is the best part about it.

His entire review is full of videos, comparisons with the iPhone 6 Plus, and technical explanations than aren't hard to understand and are well-illustrated. Recommended.


Ulysses (and Other Apps) to Gain Medium Publishing Support

Ulysses, The Soulmen's excellent text editor for iOS and OS X, will soon gain a Medium publishing feature thanks to the company's newly announced API. From their blog post:

You may wonder why we don’t allow you to really publish from Ulysses, as in “publish a story, not just a draft”. For one, Medium’s API has just been released, and we wanted to stay on the safe side. We don’t want you to accidentially publish something you didn’t intend to, or in a state you didn’t mean to make available to the public. Plus, some of Medium’s advanced options, such as pull quotes and fancy header images, are not available yet, so we figured you might love to tinker around a bit, before you really commit your piece.

Lastly… we all make mistakes, and right now there’s no way for us to allow updating your stories from within Ulysses. So again, we figured it would be best to do drafts, since you can have as many drafts as you like, mistakes and all. Plus, this will only get better in the future, so there’s room for anticipation and excitement at your end, too.

In addition, Byword and IA Writer will also receive updates to publish posts to Medium.

I've been keeping an eye on Medium, and though it's not for me, they've managed to reignite interest in the idea of a blogging platform – and any respectable blogging platform needs an API. While I won't move MacStories away from WordPress, it's good to know that I have another solid option if I should ever decide to use another platform for another website. To me, Medium looks like a cool company that's trying something new. And I think that's more important than ever to empower as many potential writers as possible.

On that note, don't miss Daniel Jalkut's first look at the Medium API. Daniel has been developing MarsEdit for several years, and he's the voice I trust when it comes to blogging APIs and native clients.


1Password’s App Extension and Time-Based, One-Time Passwords

I had no idea developers could use the 1Password iOS extension to prefill one-time passwords in addition to regular usernames and passwords in their apps:

Did you know that our App Extension API supports one-time passwords? In fact, it’s been there since version 1.5 of the API. If you haven’t already, I recommend that you upgrade to the latest version, 1.6.1. Not only can your users fill their usernames and passwords in your app with a few simple taps, their one-time passwords can be filled just as easily.

I use the 1Password extension every day (it has strong app support at this point), but I've never come across apps that supported one-time passwords as well. Speaking of which, it's always a good time to switch from Google Authenticator or Authy to 1Password.