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My wife and I have a tradition of staying somewhere nice to celebrate our wedding anniversary. This being our 15th, we thought we'd do something special, something we've never done before — a trip on a cruise ship.
For our first cruise, we decided to start with a "beginner" 4-night cruise to Baja Mexico on the Carnival Paradise ship. Since it's a special occasion, we sprang for a suite with a balcony.
Overall, the cruise was a great experience. The suite VIP treatment was well worthwhile, with express embarkation (bypassing a 1.5 hour line) and priority disembarkation, among other benefits.
We attended three of the four dinners at our assigned table, including the formal night, and enjoyed conversations with the tablemates. On Wednesday we were feeling peckish early, so partook of the poolside grill instead, which was nice.
We had interesting shore excursions on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday was Catalina Island, where we had a small bus tour of the city of Avalon and walked around the botanical gardens, which was created by the Wrigley chewing gum founder — he originally bought the whole island. We then walked around town and bought some souvenirs.
Wednesday was Ensenada in Mexico, on the Baja peninsula. There we did a wine country tour, with a coach trip out to an organic winery and a wine tasting, followed by a photo stop at a bullfighting ring, then on to a larger-scale winery and more tasting. We bought two bottles of wine at each, plus were given two more as part of the tour. We were worried about getting those home, but they survived the rough baggage handling, buried in the middle of our luggage.
Speaking of alcohol, as people who follow me on Twitter (@dejal) may know, until a couple of months ago I was a teetotaler, by choice — I never saw the point in drinking alcohol. However, I recently changed my mind about that, and have started sampling various alcoholic beverages. On the cruise, I had my first taste of some mixed drinks, including a margarita (invented in Ensenada) and others. My impression was that such beverages are tastier than wine and beer, though of course more dangerous (and expensive).
And speaking of that, it was certainly nice having all the free food and lots of eating options on the ship. I gained several pounds. But they certainly pushed the alcoholic beverages — you hardly sit down somewhere before a server comes by asking if you want a drink. Still, that could be considered good service... and yes, the service was great; everyone was attentive and friendly. Apparently the ship has a passenger capacity of 2,052 and a crew complement of 920, most of which are servers and room stewards.
The room stewards were very friendly, too, greeting us by name when we passed in the corridor, and leaving cute towel-animals on our bed each day.
Another practically constant thing were the photographers — before you even get on the ship, you have your photo taken a couple of times, and getting off in Mexico we had our photo taken no less than four times. There are photographers lining the public hallways, with differing backdrops, and photographers during dinner. They display the photos around one of the main decks, encouraging you to buy them; another great way to extract $$$ out of passengers. We did buy some nice shots of us on our formal diner night.
Thursday was a "fun day at sea", travelling back from Mexico (though most of the day was spent parked off Catalina Island — it doesn't take all that long to travel between the ports). We had a formal lunch and dinner, but otherwise didn't do much... just sat around on our balcony and read for much of the time. We did stop by their evening dance show, but it looked too cheesetastic for our tastes.
Then Friday we woke up early with the ship back at its Long Beach base, and did the VIP early disembarkation, coach shuttle back to LAX airport, and our flight home (which caused some worry, as we had difficulty trying to check in online, but fortunately the check in agent helped us out).
We'll definitely do more cruises in the future. It'd be nice to try a longer one, and one in warmer weather — it was nice enough, though a little cool at times.
Now that Tweeps is available in the iPhone App Store, I'm starting work on the iPad edition.
Obviously, the iPad has a lot more screen space than the iPhone, so a different design is needed to take full advantage of this extras space. I've been thinking about iPad design concepts ever since the iPad was announced, but have yet to come up with something that entirely satisfies me.
A difficulty with coming up with a good design is that Tweeps can show any number of levels. You start with a list of your accounts, then show your profile overview, then can show a list of people you're following (for example), then delve deeper by showing the profile overview for one of them, and their followers, and so on to any number of levels. This works fine with the navigation display in the iPhone edition, where you can keep pushing views onto the screen, but is harder with a more traditional interface.
For quite a while, I've been thinking about something like the iPad Contacts app design, with a two-page book metaphor. The idea would be to display the profile details on the left page, and the avatar, web, map, following, followers etc views on the right (one at a time). It'd then flip the page when viewing a different person's information. That seems like a reasonable approach, though the very different content displays on the right seems to break the book metaphor.
The latest idea I've been exploring is more of a notepad metaphor. The idea is a single notepad page with the profile overview, and bookmark tabs (like Post-it® flags) sticking out from the right for related pages like those listed above. So you touch a tab to flip the notepad to that page. There would also be bookmark tabs on the left side to go back to the previous profile(s) or the accounts list.
Here's a rough mockup, done in the great OmniGraffle (click to see full-sized):
Don't worry about the fine details; as I said, it's very rough.
You'd tap the Following tab on the right to flip pages to the Following view, which would be similar to that in Tweeps now, except would have room to show more information about each person:
You could then go back to the profile overview via the new tab with the avatar icon on the left, or go straight to other pages via the other tabs on the right.
If you tap a row in the Following list, it'd flip the page to the profile overview for that person, and the tabs on the right would then show more information about them.
It might look better with a black background, to merge into the iPad bezel, as follows. In which case I'd eliminate the space around the edges (still shown in this mockup), providing more room for the content:
What do you think? Would this design work, or am I on the wrong track? Should I forget about trying for a real-world look? I'd love to hear other design ideas too.
Like many others on the West Coast of the US, I woke up at the unreasonably early hour of 05:30 this morning to place my pre-order for the iPad. I wasn't planning on waking up so early, but my internal alarm clock had other ideas. I ordered two iPads — the Wi-Fi-only model for myself, and the 3G model for my wife. Plus most of the accessories.
Anyway, I (and others) noticed that Apple has just added more information on the iPad product pages. One change of particular interest to me is that they've changed the mute switch on the side of the iPad (above the volume rocker) to a screen rotation lock switch:
I think this is a great change. The mute switch is very useful on an iPhone, to easily switch to vibrate mode while watching movies and such, but would be much less useful on an iPad. It would be nice if they made it a setting, so people could opt to use the switch for rotation lock or mute (like the home button can be configured), but rotation lock is a more sensible default setting.
This particularly interests me as my new iPhone app, Tweeps (an app to easily manage your Twitter accounts) includes a software-based rotation lock feature, as shown in the following looping movie. I'm about to start adapting it to native iPad support, and was thinking about how I'd adapt the rotation lock feature... and now I have an answer: I should just remove it in the iPad edition. It'll still remain very useful on the iPhone edition, though.
I'm fine with that — having a system-wide setting that is easily accessible is much better than individual apps having to implement their own solutions. Though I must admit, part of me is a little sad... I'm proud of my implementation.
For the past few months I've been working on a new iPhone app, which after a private beta period is now available in the iPhone App Store.
It's been quite a fun project, with lots of interesting technologies going into it. One thing I'm particularly pleased with is the rotation lock feature — you can see a movie of the lock wobbling below. But it also includes lots of other things, like a zoomable image view, integrated web browser and map view, and a custom theme. Lots of behind-the-scenes stuff, too, which I'll probably blog about later.
But for now, welcome to Tweeps, an iPhone OS app to easily manage Twitter accounts. Here's the main part of the product page, including a demo movie that shows most of the features. There's also a slideshow of screenshots available if you prefer that.
Check it out on the iPhone App Store! For a limited time, it's on special for just $0.99!
Tweeps is a Twitter companion app for iPhone and iPod touch, with an iPad-optimized edition coming soon. It isn't a full Twitter client — you can't post tweets from it. Instead, it is a tool to manage your Twitter account. Edit your avatar, name, bio text, website URL and location, plus follow/unfollow people, see if someone follows you, block people, and find people.
Add multiple accounts to Tweeps, and easily edit them:
Learn all about your own accounts and others:
Read recent tweets from each person, or skim through the lists of people you're following and who follow you, and see more information about them, including who they follow and who follows them. A great way to discover interesting new people to follow — and you don't need to wonder if you already follow them or not, since it is shown right in the profile detail information.
Load newer updates simply by scrolling to the top, or automatically load more tweets or people by scrolling to the bottom.
A nice feature is rotation support — Tweeps works in all orientations, like an iPad, plus displays a fun wobbling rotation lock button to stop it rotating when you want to read lying on your side.
An edition of Tweeps optimized for the new iPad is in the works, and should be available soon after the iPad is released. Follow the Dejal Blog, or @dejal (main account) or @dejaltweeps (Tweeps account) on Twitter to learn when it is available.
Tweeps is available on the iPhone App Store for just $0.99 for a limited time (normally $1.99). Tweeps is not "abandonware". Dejal is a long-established independent Mac software company, now also producing iPad and iPhone software (which uses much the same Cocoa technology).
Simon, my essential server monitoring tool, has been updated to version 2.5.6. This update is recommended for everybody, and includes:
This time, an unmasked close-up of one of the views, showing the animated rotation lock. This briefly appears and wobbles cutely when you rotate the iPhone or iPod touch. If you tap the lock, the current orientation is locked, so rotating the device won't change the screen orientation. Very handy if using it lying on your side, for example. You can unlock it just as easily. And the lock state is remembered, so you can have the app always remain portrait-only, or landscape-only, if you don't like rotation.
I'm on schedule to submit to Apple on Monday. Then the waiting game starts — will they approve in just hours, or days, or weeks? Exciting stuff!
Here's a similar view to last time, with an improved design:
And another non-pixelated one:
Who's excited to see the app? I'm hoping to release it in a week or so.
Ready for another hint on my secret new iPhone app?
How about this highly-masked screenshot:
And another non-pixelated one:
I thought I'd drop another hint about my forthcoming iPhone app.
Here's a masked screenshot of one of its main views... can you make anything out?
Oh alright, one more... and not pixelated this time. Here's the Edit Location view:
Any ideas what the app does?!
Not too long to wait; it should be released within a few weeks. But if you can't wait that long, I'm adding a few more beta testers: apply now if you'd like to try it before release, and get a free copy if you provide helpful feedback.
Narrator, my fun application to read out stories and interviews in multiple voices, has been updated to version 2.0.7.
This is a minor bug-fix update to correct an issue with looking up licenses in certain situations, but is recommended for everyone.
I hinted before about my secret iPhone app, which is very near to being ready for release.
I was planning on distributing it as a free app with In App Purchase to upgrade to full functionality, as I discussed a while back.
But I've been rethinking that of late; while I really like the idea of In App Purchase (IAP), I don't think it really works in its current form. Many developers have reported that when they try free+IAP, they get lots of 1-star ratings via rate-on-delete from people who download the free app then delete it without really trying it. Plus they get lots of negative reviews from free downloaders who don't understand the concept of IAP and expect something for nothing.
I'm thinking that until Apple fixes this by removing the horrible rate-on-delete feature, and perhaps educates users more about IAP, this won't be a feasible distribution mechanism for demo-style purchases.
So, that leaves me with two options:
I've done both variations (Valentines and SmileDial Lite & Pro), and neither was ideal. With option 1, people can't try the app to see if they want it, though apps are cheap enough that it isn't too much of a gamble to just buy. Whereas with option 2 people can try the free edition, but they have to re-enter their info if they switch to the Pro one, and I have to maintain two releases.
I'm currently leaning towards option 1: just release it as a paid app. Then maybe in the future I could add a free Lite edition, and perhaps offer IAP in that edition if there seems demand for it.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments or privately via my contact page.
Time Out, my free tool to remind you to take regular breaks, has been updated to version 1.5.6.
This is minor release that makes the break screen now still appear if the Time Out application is hidden.
Apologies to everyone who has been waiting for the promised Time Out version 2. It is still in the works, but has been delayed due work on IPhone apps. My secret new iPhone app is almost ready for release... but then I'll be doing an update to it for iPad compatibility, then I have a Simon update (version 2.6)... then I'll be ready to work on Time Out 2. So yes, it's still coming this year. I'm looking forward to getting back to it.
With Valentine's Day coming up, I thought I'd point out an iPhone app I wrote for this very occasion: Valentines.
Valentines enables you to create any number of fun Valentine messages with your own text and a photo within a heart-shaped frame. The photo will have a slightly pink tint — see the world through rose-colored glasses. :) You and your valentine can view it on your iPhone or iPod touch, or you can save it to your photo library:
Flipping over, you can edit the message and choose an existing photo from your library or take one with the iPhone's camera:
You can also display a list of all valentines, and add new ones, rearrange their order, or delete them:
Valentines is available on the App Store for just $0.99. Check it out!
I've just done bug-fix updates to a couple of my Mac apps. Caboodle, my lean clean snippet machine, was updated (actually late last week) to version 1.3.5. And BlogAssist, my handy HTML markup tool, was updated to version 2.2.4.
Both of them included a fix for an issue with looking up licenses in certain situations. BlogAssist also enhanced the application icon to 512x512 size, for ideal viewing on Snow Leopard. (Caboodle's icon was updated to 512x512 in the previous update.)
I thought I'd drop a hint about my secret new iPhone app, coming to the App Store in a few weeks. I have hinted a little about it via Twitter (@dejal), usually referring to it as [DEJALDACTED], a play on the "redacted" label often applied to new iPhone technologies covered by Non-Disclosure Agreements.
This app has been in development for about six months, part-time (around Dejal support, other app updates, and contract work). I'm still not ready to announce the app, but it won't be too much longer. The initial version will be for the iPhone and iPod touch. I also plan to add native support for the iPad, leveraging the larger screen, once it is available.
The app is currently being tested by a small group of beta testers. I will soon begin accepting a few more people into this elite beta group, to get some fresh perspectives and more testing. If you're interested, you can apply to become a Dejal beta tester.
Here's a little teaser of part of the app's icon:
Last week I posted some predictions on Apple's forthcoming tablet device. I knew that I'd get some of it wrong, but felt fairly confident that I would get some things right. Let's see how I did!
Name: I think that "iTablet" is probably the most likely name, though I'd prefer simply "Tablet". "iSlate" is a popular idea, which could also work. I also like Cabel Sasser's idea of "Canvas". I doubt it'd be called "iPad" as some have suggested, as that is too close to "iPod" and would cause confusion.
Well, I was wrong on the name. I still think "iPad" is too close to "iPod", but I'm sure people will get used to carefully enunciating the device name. I don't dislike the name, other than that issue, though.
Form factor: I would expect a rectangular slab with slightly rounded corners, much like the iPhone. It would likely have a aluminum unibody back, to provide rigidity for the screen.
Yes, it has a form factor much like the iPhone, though a larger bezel around the screen than I would have expected. I haven't seen definitive info about the case material, but it sure looks like an aluminum unibody to me.
Screen: The rumors seem pretty set on a 10" color touch-screen display, and that seems entirely reasonable. That would be a good size for watching media, reading books, browsing websites, and other activities. I would expect it to be much the same as the iPhone's, with a glass front, though that'd add quite a lot fo weight. I wouldn't want to them compromise on a plastic screen, though.
Yes, it's a glass touch screen. It's actually 9.7", which is close enough. The pixel resolution is 1024 x 768 at 132 ppi, compared to iPhone's 480 x 320 at 163 ppi. Interesting that the resolution is lower, but I guess that makes sense, since you might hold it slightly further away than a phone.
Buttons: I'd expect it to have just a Home button like the iPhone, and probably a volume control and power button on the sides, again like the iPhone.
Correct: Home button, mute & volume control on the right side, and power button on top.
Connectors: A recent rumor is that the tablet will have two dock connectors (one one a short edge and one on a long edge). This makes sense, so you can dock it in either orientation. I wouldn't be surprised if it came with a more substantial dock than iPhones, to prop it up at a comfortable angle for watching movies etc, and provide support for using the device while docked. I wouldn't expect any other connectors.
Only one dock connector (unfortunately), so the iPad can only be docked in the portrait orientation. Can't believe I forgot to mention a headphone jack, though. Plus it has a built-in microphone and speakers, of course.
The dock is more substantial, plus there's a welcome addition of a dock with a built-in keyboard.
Connectivity: It'll definitely have wi-fi, and almost certainly Bluetooth connectivity. I would like an optional 3G connection as well — one device model that can be used with or without a 3G contract. I would see the tablet as most useful around the house, so I wouldn't want a mandatory 3G contract, but I can see that some people (e.g. real estate agents) would benefit from a 3G connection.
Yes, wi-fi and Bluetooth. A pleasant improvement that it supports connecting Apple's wireless keyboard via Bluetooth, too (which I think would be a better option than the keyboard dock).
The 3G connection is indeed optional, via separate models (for an extra $130). I'm very pleased about that, though the price difference seems a little high.
Sensors: The device will definitely include an accelerometer for rotation, and may include other sensors. Probably not the proximity sensor, though, since people won't be bringing the tablet to their face!
That all seems accurate. I forgot to mention the ambient light sensor, which it does still have.
It also has a digital compass, like the 3GS, though interestingly only has "assisted" GPS in the 3G model. I guess WiFi-based location would probably be accurate enough for the WiFi-only model (e.g. when taking it to a coffee shop with WiFi access).
Camera: I would expect a front-facing camera for chatting. Probably a higher resolution than the existing one in iPhones.
I was wrong on this one; there's no sign of a camera. I think that's a mistake, but perhaps one that will be addressed in a future model.
Keyboard: It will have a software-based keyboard. A 10" screen wouldn't fit a full-sized keyboard, but it'd be bigger than the iPhone's, so could be typed on with 10 fingers if you're so inclined. Having originally learnt to type on a ZX81 membrane keyboard that would be about the same size as the tablet's I know it's entirely possible to type just fine on such a size (and a smooth surface). One thing I'd like would be for the keyboard to be scaleable: pinch it to resize the keyboard to expose more or less of the app window. It'd also be nice if they supported a Bluetooth-connected keyboard (and hid the on-screen keyboard in such cases), though that would definitely be optional, and I think it not entirely likely.
Yes indeed, a software-based keyboard. The intro video showed people 10-finger typing on it. Looks like the keyboard might be more flexible than on the iPhone, with more customized buttons, though no sign of a scalable keyboard option.
But yes, they do support a Bluetooth keyboard. I'm confident that the OS will be smart enough to hide the on-screen keyboard when a Bluetooth or dock keyboard is in use.
Storage: I'd expect it to come in a couple of storage capacity sizes, probably 32 GB and 64 GB. Still built-in flash memory like the iPhone.
Yes, 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB models.
Operating system: I expect the tablet to use a variation of the iPhone OS. I wouldn't be surprised if it uses iPhone OS 4.0, i.e. so the iPhone and tablet share the same OS (with device-specific features, just like between the iPhone and iPod touch). If so, I'd expect Apple to rename it as "Touch OS" or similar... which they should have done with the intro of the iPod touch anyway.
There were a lot of people expecting a full Mac OS, or a new OS X-based OS. But as I predicted, it's just the next generation of the iPhone OS. Looks like they're sticking with that name, though. Apple seems to get overly attached to names, even when they're increasing inaccurate — look at iTunes for example. Hardly all about music anymore!
Multitasking: With the larger screen and no doubt faster processor and more RAM, I'd expect the OS to support multitasking — allowing it to run multiple apps at the same time. There might be an easy way to switch running apps (e.g. press the Home button to flip through them), or it might be more transparent, simply not quitting apps when you go Home.
No sign of multitasking, unfortunately. (Though I haven't seen the SDK yet.) The OS does seem to use multiple windows within an app now, though, based on what I saw during the intro.
iPhone apps: Existing iPhone apps will probably be supported, launching into a window the same size as the iPhone screen for compatibility, perhaps with the ability to resize the window.
Very happy to be right about this one. I like the little "1x" / "2x" buttons to scale iPhone apps up to (mostly) fill the screen.
Other apps: No doubt Apple will bundle the device with new and updated apps written to leverage the larger screen. For example, the iPod and YouTube apps would play videos full-screen. There have been rumors of iWork for the tablet, which seems possible (and certainly welcome), though maybe not entirely likely.
iWork was indeed a correct rumor, and looks very nice. I'm pretty comfortable with the $9.99 price for each app, too; better than giving them away, and setting a more reasonable price than the average "ringtone" app on the App Store. I would hope that app developers will treat the more work for iPad apps as an opportunity to set more realistic prices. But we'll see.
Price: I've heard various prices suggested, as high as $1,000, but most people seem to think that $700 is the maximum it could go for. I'd hope for something around that range, or less if they can swing it. Like the iPhone, I'd expect the initial release to be priced fairly high, and for the price to drop later.
The prices did turn out to be around that range. Six models, from $499 for the base 16 GB WiFi-only model, up to $829 for the 64 GB WiFI + 3G model.
Availability: I expect Apple to announce it on Wednesday, and perhaps make a beta release of the developer SDK available at that time. It might be available for pre-order at that time, too. The tablet release will probably be around April, I would guess. Some people say March, but I don't think that would give developers enough time to update their apps or write new apps for the tablet. I wouldn't be surprised by a June release date, along with a new iPhone model and OS update for existing devices.
The developer SDK is indeed available today (I haven't had a look at it yet, but will do so shortly). The iPad isn't available for pre-order yet, but there's a form on Apple's site that implies it will be before long. The release date appears to be late March for the WiFi-only models, and April for the WiFI + 3G models.
How'd I do? Not too bad; more of my predictions were correct than incorrect. Better than a lot of people's wild notions, anyway. :)
So will I buy an iPad? Without a doubt. Which one? Probably the 64 GB WiFi-only model ($699). As I said, I don't see much use for 3G coverage for my needs, so the extra cost of a 3G model, plus the ongoing monthly costs, don't really make sense for me. But I'm glad Apple has the option for those who need it.
I can't wait to get my hands on one!
Inspirational video. "What you do for a living is not be creative, what you do is ship," says bestselling author Seth Godin, arguing that we must quiet our fearful "lizard brains" to avoid sabotaging projects just before we finally finish them.
20% of Mac Bundle Box purchases will be donated to the American Red Cross for Haiti disaster relief.
I thought I'd indulge in a little punditry regarding the rumored Apple tablet device, expected to be announced at the Apple event next Wednesday. This is just based on rumors I've read and my own thoughts; I don't have any inside knowledge.
That's all I can think of at the moment. It'll certainly be interesting to see how far off I am when the event rolls around. Apple has a great capacity to surprise us — nobody could have predicted how great the iPhone would be before it was released, and I don't expect to be disappointed with the tablet.
What features would it need for me to buy one? Just one: existence. As soon as Apple announces a tablet for pre-ordering, you can bet I'll be breaking out my credit card. Even if the tablet isn't a life-changing device like the iPhone, which I expect it to be, I'll want one so I can develop for it.
Yesterday around 150 independent Mac and iPhone developers participated in Indie+Relief. These developers pledged to donate proceeds of all yesterday's sales to a charity of their choice for Haiti relief efforts.
This event was organized by Justin Williams of Second Gear Software. It started off as an idea for himself, and he shared it with people on Twitter, and the idea spread. Soon, he was gathering information from other developers and setting up a website, with the design help of Garrett Murray. What started as a simple idea for himself grew into a major fundraising effort involving hundreds of applications.
I was more than happy to join in, and am pleased to be able to report sales totalling $1,350 yesterday (which is definitely more than a typical day!).
Furthermore, my wife's corporate overlords have a program of matching charitable donations, so that will bring the total up to $2,700.
It'll probably take a few days to get a total from all developers participating in Indie+Relief, but it sounds like more than $100,000 has been raised.
A very big thank you to everyone who participated, and especially to the many kind people who purchased Dejal products yesterday. I got emails from a few people saying that they had been thinking about buying Simon, and decided to buy the Enterprise license as a way to help donate to Haiti.
If you missed this event, not to worry — you can still make donations to the charity of your choice. I recommend Mercy Corps, but Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross and others are also excellent choices.
Finally, Narrator is currently in the Mac Bundle Box promotion. The bundle organizer will be donating 20% of all proceeds from this bundle to the Red Cross. So you can still donate while getting great software.