Learn By Doing

This year saw me release my first personal iPhone app, which is now available as a Universal iPhone and iPad app. Last November I decided I wanted to create an iPhone app for Beanstalk.

At the time I wasn’t sure I’d be able to develop all the features I wanted myself without help but I’m pleased to say you can download it from the App Store right now and little help was sought. I have had a few days training on iPhone development thanks to 383 Project. Everything thereafter has been self taught, just like everything I know about web development.

While some people would sit down at this point and go through tutorials & read books. I have never found a method as good as sitting down and getting stuck into the actual project. While developing Magic Bean, Google, GitHub and various iPhone development sites/forums proved to be invaluable. If I wasn’t sure how to do something then a quick search returned the answer I was looking for. This new knowledge was then integrated into the app when/where needed.

As with most things mistakes are made and you learn from them and improve. There were a few instances while developing Magic Bean that I removed part of the existing code to improve it not only for my benefit down the line but also for Magic Bean users. As you learn new stuff you pick up better methods to do tasks that you had previously completed. An example of this came in v1.3.1 of Magic Bean. The update included a complete re-development of the way Magic Bean makes requests to the Beanstalk API, this not only improved the speed of the app but also improved stability when multiple requests were made. I wouldn’t have had the knowledge four months ago to do this from the off which just shows that my knowledge of iOS development is growing.

I am definitely more comfortable with more advanced iOS development compared to before I started Magic Bean. Not only that it helps you to get a grasp on how long tasks will take that you hadn’t done previously done.

I found a quote from Aristotle (a Greek philosopher & scientist) which pretty much sums this post up.

I am looking into a few more app ideas so watch this space!

Magic Bean now available for iPad!

After a few months of coding Magic Bean is now a Universal iPhone/iPad app. You can now keep up to date with your Beanstalk repositories on your iPad as well as deploy changes to server environments you have previously set up via the website.

More updates are on the way with some exciting stuff planned for the next few versions. Watch this space for more updates about Magic Bean, I may even get round to writing up processes and tutorials time permitting.

If you use Magic Bean please let me know what you think. It is currently available for £1.99 on the App Store.

You Only Live Once…

Once again Reel Big Fish have left the UK after 16 straight days of playing at various venues around the UK, 23 if you include the few shows in Europe beforehand. Not content with going to one single gig I managed to get to four gigs overall.

Now if you don’t know by now (i’ll be very surprised). Reel Big Fish is a band I have known about since about 2006. After seeing someone on something called “MSN Chat” listening to it constantly I thought i’d give it a listen and was instantly hooked.

Shortly after hearing them for the first time their live album “Our Live Album Is Better Than Your Live Album” came out and I got myself a copy and loved everything about it. To this day I find myself listening to it alot. You can tell from my Last FM profile just how hooked I am on Reel Big Fish compared to other bands… Although recently it has been straightening out with other bands, who happen to be previous support bands for Reel Big Fish’s UK Tours. I can still easily rack a good number of listens in a week. When they are over here in the UK that figure can increase up to 300+ plays in a single week (mad huh?).

As usual when Reel Big Fish come around it creeps up on you and you find yourself arranging the first gig in a matter of hours, from buying the ticket to getting somewhere to sleep for the night. That’s exactly what I did for their first show at Rock City in Nottingham. Just so happens to be the most random gig i’ve been too, not because of the performers but because of the antics in the audience. Random is good by the way, it made for a really enjoyable night out.

Now, if you were in the 383 Project office you would know how indecisive I was about going to Nottingham and Bristol. Obviously I went and enjoyed every single minute, some may ask (and have asked) why I went to see the same bands over and over on the same tour. Each show is different, the set-list is/can be different as well as the atmosphere in the venue. Also the buzz from the show makes you want to come back for more.

Music highlight for me was hearing 241 being played live a few times was great, what I would class as an instrumental despite “241” being sung a few times throughout. If only I could hear them play Victory Over Peter Bones live. Was also amazing to get the opportunity thanks to Dan Reagan of Reel Big Fish and Jenn Ringrose (an uber fan) to snap them at Southampton University, you can see the results on my Flickr here. Also another thanks to Dan and Jenn for also getting me into the sold out Birmingham show.

I’ve said a few times in the past that i’d love to see them outside of the UK, hopefully next year i’ll get the chance to do that. Just need to insure I don’t plan it at the last minute like the UK Tours.

As a band that are celebrating their 20th Year Anniversary with only 1 original member left, they’re still awesome. If you like Reel Big Fish then feel free to head over to the Unofficial Fan site ReelBigFish.info.

Magic Bean – Beanstalk iPhone App Launched

Last week saw me release my first personal iPhone app onto the App Store. Magic Bean allows developers to login to their own Beanstalk account to view recent revisions within repositories and also allows sites/projects to be deployed when you’re away from your computer screen via the app.

Beanstalk is a nice web app made by Wildbit that provides it’s users with an easy to manage hosted subversion and GIT repositories. The app also offer great deployment tools allowing you to deploy repositories to single environments or multiple environments. It also integrates with some other very well known web apps like Bacecamp and Lighthouse.

You can find out more about Magic Bean on the Magic Bean site here, you can also follow @MagicBeanApp on Twitter.

If you use Beanstalk and would like to download the app from the app store click here.

Designing in the Browser

For the past few revisions of this site I have designing the site in the browser.

To start the process I grab my HTML5 markup and save it locally on my machine with fresh CSS files that hide every element to begin with so I have my blank canvas.

For this revision of the site I decided I wanted to go down the 960 grid route so grabbed an image of the grid and set it as the background for the site. This worked very well as I was able to position all of my content over it and line it all up with pixel precision just like I would if I were to design it in Photoshop.

Once the grid was in place I started to go through the elements of the page one by one styling them. Starting with the header, which I decided would be once again fixed but not a vertical header like the last design.

After some pixel precision positioning I was happy with the overall layout. Passing the link around to people I work with and people I admire due to the work they do. A few tweaks were made based on the feedback I received, which was mostly positive.

After tweaking, I set about giving it a lick of paint, using the usual pink for a few elements and using Photoshop to create a very basic background for the site as well as a gradient for the buttons.

The main change I have been wanting to do for a while was to make my homepage a homepage and not just the list of latest blog posts like it has been for a while. It now displays the latest bits and bobs from the various sections of the site and includes my Flickr stream as well.

Now I started this on a Friday evening over a coffee after having the urge to design something. I completed the layout on the Saturday with very little tweaks thereafter. WordPress integration was completed on the Sunday however I tool it upon myself to get my site working in IE6 once again. I launched the site on Tuesday, which in my eyes is a pretty good turn around for a redesign.

I hope you still like the design.