What I… (June 2015)

Welcome to the 3rd instalment of “What I…” for June 2015 – again a little late this time. I blame having to dog-sit my girlfriend’s mom’s dog “Lucky” ;)

… Did

Dog Lucky

Dogsitting.
Lucky is with us every now and then, but having him here day and night for an entire week is a completely different experience.
For example, getting up at 5.45 sharp to take him out for a walk is something else compared to my typical routine.

ScreenFloat Update (click)
After successfully (and finally) releasing Glimpses, I’m able to move on to the next app that needs updating – ScreenFloat.
I have a couple of nice things planned. That will take some time, though, as I need to restructure some parts of the app, for example the storage of screenshots.
I don’t have an ETA yet and haven’t even started coding yet, I’m very much still in the planning stages and code-reviewing.

New App for Mac (and possibly iOS)
Another reason I haven’t started coding on the ScreenFloat update yet is that I’ve started working on a completely new app this month.
I like working on side-projects, it tends to restore my energies. Sometimes, working on an app that you’ve been working on for quite some time can become unexciting. At times, you want to do something else.
So projects I work on on the side are a good way to get my head out of what I should be working on and ‘reboot’ so I can return to, in this case, ScreenFloat with fully recharged batteries and a fresh eye at things.
Regarding the new app itself, it’s too soon to share anything about it, other than that progress is going quite well. I’ve been working on a custom UI for it and it has been taking a lot of time. It still is ;)

… Didn’t Do That I Had Planned

Post about ESSAudioWaveView
In my Mac app Glimpses, that turns your photos and music into stunning still motion videos, I use a piece of custom UI called ESSAudioWaveView, and it allows the user to select a portion of a song to be selected and used for the video.
I had planned to post about it this month but time wasn’t on my side.
It’s on my list, and perhaps I can do it in July. It will be a multi-part series.

Start coding work on ScreenFloat
Having gotten distracted with the new app I wrote about above, I didn’t get as much work done on ScreenFloat as I had hoped and wanted.
On the other hand, having updated Yoink to version 3, Transloader for iOS with a Today Widget and Action Extension, and Glimpses 2.0 in the last couple of months, I just needed some time to get away from my existing apps and do something else for a while.
A new app is always good therapy ;) 

… Downloaded

Gestimer Icon

Gestimer (click)
Developed by fellow Austrian Martin Nguyen, this Mac app sits in your menu bar and lets you quickly create short-time reminders (for example, take the dog for a walk in 30 minutes).
It has a great UI and I suggest you go check it out :)

LEGO Jurassic World Icon

LEGO Jurassic World (click)
As soon as it was announced, I knew I had to get it. And I wasn’t disappointed.
I played LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Indiana Jones and they were just plain fun and entertainment, with a unique style of humor.
The only thing that, “uhm, urr, staggers me” (inside joke here) is their use of in-movie-audio for dialogs. I often have a hard time understanding what is being said – perhaps they should have play-tested this a little longer and adjust the audio levels here.
Anyway, I’m at the beginning of the second movie now, ‘The Lost World’, and can’t wait to play again.

… Read

Link: The Process Behind Putting Firewatch On Stage At E3 (click)
Written by the Campo Santo team who are responsible for the game Firewatch which will be released some time in the future (in case you don’t know, the well-known Mac software company Panic, Inc. acts like a sort-of-publisher for the game), this blog post gives a look at what goes into a E3 demo. A very interesting read.

Link: An Oral History Of Deus Ex (click)
Fifteen years ago, Deus Ex was released. The girls and guys of Gamasutra sat down with the project director, lead programmer, composer and lead writer of the game, trying to “shed some light on how this seminal game was developed”.

Link: Postmortem: Blizzard’s Diablo II (click)
Also fifteen years ago, Diablo II was released – one of my (if not the) all-time favorite games I ever played. This is a post-mortem of Diablo II, written a couple of months after Diablo II was released, back in the year 2000.

We Don't Need Roads Book Cover

Book: We Don’t Need Roads – The Making of the Back To The Future Trilogy (click)
As the title says, a book about the making of the Back To The Future movie trilogy. Based on interviews with the people who made the movies, Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale, Christopher Lloyd and countless others.
The cover looks great. I guess the way they figured, if you’re going to make a book cover, you better do it with some style!

… Listened To

Der Übercast Episode 32 (click)
A german podcast (alternatively with video). In this episode, the guest is Thorsten Lemke, the legendary developer responsible for Graphic Converter.

… Watched

WWDC Sessions (click)
Of course, as always with WWDC, there’s plenty of new stuff and with Apple posting the sessions as videos online, it’s very easy to get caught up with everything that’s coming.
My favorite sessions are:
– Session 102; Platforms Sate of the Union
– Session 506; Editing Movies in AVFoundation
– Sessions 603 and 607, 604, 606, 608; (What’s New in Metal, SpriteKit, SceneKit, GameplayKit) – Even though I don’t work on games right now, these sessions are always some of the first I watch
– Session 225; What’s New in NSCollectionView
– Sessions 704 and 715; What’s New in CloudKit and CloudKit Tips and Tricks

Images

Jurassic World (click)
What Jurassic Park sequels have taught me is to go into these movies with very, very, very low expectations. So I did. And what happened? I actually found it enjoyable.
Please do not read on if you haven’t seen the movie yet but plan to, there might be spoilers from here on.
Spoilers to come…
Still to come…
One more for good measure…

Here we go:
Forget the ‘love story’ – it’s totally inconsequential and unnecessary.
Forget the ‘brother story’ – it’s completely tacked-on.
Forget the characters – they’re totally underdeveloped.
Forget the ‘dinosaurs as weapons for the army story’ – sucks.
Forget the ’training Velociraptors like dogs’ thing – sucks big time.

With all that, I still found it to be enjoyable and entertaining. I can’t exactly put my fingers on it, but it’s got some good action, suspense and dinosaurs.
Perhaps it’s enjoyable to me because it’s the first ‘Jurassic’ movie I’ve seen in the cinema.

Dil Dhadakne Do Movie Cover

Dil Dhadakne Do (click)
A very funny comedy about a dysfunctional Punjabi family on a cruise trip.
My girlfriend wanted to see it and she was not disappointed – and neither was I. She loved the songs and dance numbers.

… Ate

Lemon Curd Berry TrifleLemon Curd Berry Trifle

… Went to See

IMG 9986Carnuntum, an archaeological site near Vienna, Austria

Guest Blog Post: The Story Behind Review Times

[ Note: This is a guest blog post written by Frank Gregor (@TheCocoaNaut on twitter), an OS X- and iOS developer based in Austria, about his Mac app Review Times ] Review Times Icon

Once upon a time… No, only fairytales start that way. And this is no fairytale. It is a “true story”, like, I’m sure, many other developers have experienced one way or another. (-:

Some time around Christmas 2014, I stumbled upon a tweet, linking to appreviewtimes.com. Many of you may know about this website already. It gives you the average time Apple is currently taking to review apps for submission on the iOS and Mac App Stores.

I thought, hey, that would make a nice little Mac tool. So I asked a couple of developers on Twitter what they thought of such an app. The response I got was great. Without exception, everyone I asked wanted something like that. I had had some free time on my hands, so the idea manifested.

I wanted to build a small app that would live exclusively in the menu bar and offered a Today Widget. The information I would display in the app I would get from appreviewtimes.com. So I contacted Dave Verwer (@daveverwer on twitter), founder of Curated and publisher of the well-known iOSDevWeekly newsletter. He was the contact listed for the Shiny Development team, who are the creators of appreviewtimes.

I asked Dave if they perhaps already had such an app available or in development, and if that wasn’t the case, if they’d mind if I developed the app and used their data for it:

Hey Dave,

I found you as contact for Shiny Development, the maker of App-Review-Times. So I think it would be a great thing to have a little OS X tool that shows in an app extension the current review times via Notification Center. I’m building exactly such a tool and I have to grab and parse the website to get all the needed data.

So, to make things easier for development: Would it be possible to get all that raw data (iOS & OS X) as JSON or XML? Would be really great! (-;

Cheers, phranck

Dave answered promptly:

Hi Frank

I’m afraid that we don’t have either JSON or XML feeds of the information.

Please feel free to scrape the HTML though, as long as you include a link back to the original site.

Thanks Dave

Great! Now nothing stood in the way of me selling this App on the App Store (though I would learn better later). I got to work and within two days, I had a working prototype.

The fact that this app would run as a menu bar tool was very beneficial to me. I had been working on a piece of open source code, which does exactly that: place an icon in the menu bar and display a popover when clicked. This gave me a very good reason to further develop and improve the open source code.

Screenshot of Review Times Popover

Now was the time to tweet some screenshots, to whet the appetite of potential customers. It worked well. I received a lot of inquiries about what the app was about. This way, I got my first beta testers.

Review Times Today Widget

All in all, about three to four weeks went into developing the app and I believed the app was ready. I needed a nice icon that should really catch the eye. I made the acquaintance of Dan (@derpixeldan on twitter) and he created something truly wonderful at an unbeatable price… (-;

Around Mid-January, I submitted the app to the Mac App Store. Excitedly I waited for the notification on my iPhone that the review process had begun. About three weeks later, I received the message I longed for.

It didn’t take long and the review team contacted me again. But this message wasn’t what I had hoped for. My app got rejected! The reason Apple gave me was

…featuring speculative information about Apple products/services…

which I didn’t find reasonable at all. I was shocked. Every developer who ever received a “Rejected” notice knows this feeling of unease. I was annoyed and angry at the same time. Why in the world… ?!?! Did I go about this entire thing too naively?

Appstore Rejection

If you are familiar with Apple, you know they like to have control. And speculative information – like the average time it may take for Apple to review an app until submission to the App Store, shown by an app by some developer – well, that was completely out of their control. So Apple showed me, who’s boss.

That took the wind out of my wings in respects to this tool. I didn’t want to get into a discussion with Apple, it wouldn’t have lead anywhere anyway. I vented on twitter and let the whole thing rest for a couple of days – until, again on twitter, I received inquiries about what had happened to the app and how I would proceed with it. There were two possible options for me: 1) publish it as open source code 2) sell it outside of the Mac App Store from my website

On Twitter, I asked for input.

Since previously, people had stated their interest in paying for this app, I decided to go with option 2. After some research and testing how to best implement selling it from my website, I came to the conclusion that I should use Paddle. Their integration into an app is absurdly easy to do and they have first-class support.

All said and done, it took three more days of coding and testing and then everything was ready. I built a one-page website, wrote to many Mac-Blogs and magazines (none of whom replied!) and announced the release on twitter. Since so many developers wanted this tool, I was preparing for incredible sales-days… (-:

Poppycock. Virtually nothing happened. I sold a couple of copies, but all in all it went very, very slowly. Even after two months – with heavy-duty tweeting about it – I didn’t even make up for the cost of the icon. Reality had its grip on me again. So I had to act. Without thinking about it too long, I deleted all license- and purchase-handling code and released the app for free from my website.

Now everyone can download and install the app from http://reviewtimes.cocoanaut.com. Since then, I’ve had about 1-2 downloads a day.


Frank Gregor (@TheCocoaNaut on twitter) is an OS X- and iOS developer based in Austria. Among others, he is responsible for the Mac apps Review Times, Nekrologger and the iOS app f4analyse.

Introducing Glimpses for Mac – turn your photos and music into stunning Still Motion videos

Glimpses App Icon

Glimpses 2.0 for Mac

After a lot of hard work, I’m very happy to finally be able to announce the immediate availability of Glimpses 2.0 (formerly known as Briefly) on the Mac App Store.
The app has undergone some major changes, and I wanted that to be reflected in the app- name and icon (wonderful work by the very talented Alexander Käßner).

What Does Glimpses Do?

Still Motion videos typically show photos for not much longer than the fraction of a second.
Glimpses is designed to let you create these videos with just a few clicks, with stunning results.

The app produces high-quality video with a resolution of up to 4K and lets you add a soundtrack to make your video really sing.

Glimpses with soundtrack selection

What’s New?

– Soundtracks: Glimpses 2.0 makes it much easier to add multiple soundtracks. It also lets you select the parts of the soundtracks you really like to make your Still Motion video really shine.
– Face Detection: Glimpses analyses your photos for faces and places the photos in your video accordingly for much nicer and more personal results.
– 4K Resolution: Going beyond 1080p, Glimpses now renders your videos with a resolution of up to 4K.
– Projects: You can now save your projects. Up until now, the app only remembered the last used photos and soundtrack.

… as well as many more, minor improvements (like improved support for panorama photos) and fixes.

Details

Soundtracks

Soundtracks are a vital part of a Still Motion video. Glimpses makes it so much easier to add and edit one or several soundtracks.
With its new selection feature, you can select just the part of a song you like best that should be used for your video.

If a soundtrack is too short, you can either loop it or add another one. The order of appearance can be changed at any time.
Should a soundtrack be longer than your video, Glimpses will automatically fade it out at the end without you having to do anything.

Face Detection

In earlier versions, Glimpses used to center your photos within the video’s frame.
Glimpses 2.0 is much smarter and analyses your photos for faces and if detected, moves them into the video’s frame, resulting in much nicer and more personal videos.

Briefly without and with face detectionA still from a video created with Briefly 1.5.2 (top) compared to the same video created with Glimpses 2.0 (below)

Resolutions and Video Settings

With cameras getting better and better, it was only logical to include new resolutions in Glimpses 2.0 – the app now goes beyond 1080p and adds support for 2K and 4K resolutions. You can set the resolution manually or let Glimpses decide, based on the smallest photo.

Glimpses Video SettingsGlimpses Video Settings

A photo’s duration can be set from 0.1 seconds up to 4 seconds in 0.1-second-increments, an improvement that allows for more fine-grained control over the resulting video. Glimpses can also automatically do it for you, based on the duration of the soundtracks you selected.

Pricing and Availability

Glimpses is available exclusively on the Mac App Store (click) for the introductory price of $9.99 for a limited time (about 60% off), after which the price will revert to $24.99.
A free, 15-day trial can be downloaded from the website (click) (direct download). If you’re from the media and would like to get more info about the app, please download the press kit (click), thank you.

Glimpses Website: http://eternalstorms.at/glimpses
Glimpses on the Mac App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/app/glimpses/id637565340?mt=12
Glimpses Demo Download: http://eternalstorms.at/glimpses/Glimpses.zip
Glimpses on Twitter:https://twitter.com/GlimpsesApp
Glimpses Press Kit: http://eternalstorms.at/press/Glimpses-2-Press-Kit.zip
Glimpses on Product Hunt: https://www.producthunt.com/posts/glimpses

Thank you for your time, I hope you enjoy this great new version of Glimpses :)

If you have any feedback or questions, please be sure to let me know via twitter (click) or eMail (click). I’m looking forward to hearing from you.