Prowl

2009-07-06 20:00:00 -0400


I have somewhat consistently maintained that the Apple Push Notification Service for iPhone developers is a really bad kludge. I still stand by that! It’s a poor stand-in for the local system scheduler that’s already on the device.

That said, there’s a proper tool for every job, and APNS is absolutely perfect for Prowl:

Prowl is a Growl client for the iPhone. Notifications from your Mac can be sent to your iPhone over push, with a full range of customization and grace you expect…. As soon as a Growl notification pops up on your Mac, Prowl will forward it to your iPhone or iPod Touch over the push notification service found in iPhone OS 3.0. Which notifications are pushed is configurable, allowing only the important messages to be delivered.

The possibilities there are really huge. Not to mention that it’s a geek’s dream, and perfect for sysadmins. Now you never need to miss those sweet nothings your desktop whispers in your ear when you’re out and about tolerating the company of other fleshy ones. Imagine:

  • unix box: OMG disk is full!
  • mail server: OMG OMG OMG I/O SPIKE!

All kidding aside, this is a nice bridge to between web/internet services on a dedicated connection and mobile devices, and it in no way involves text messages. Anything that cuts into the bottom line of the Text Message Tax Collectors makes me smile.

Another recent innovation with APNS is the arrival of the first middleman, Urban Airship, which handles the details of maintaining state with APNS so you don’t have to construct the infrastructure yourself.

Image snagged from the Prowl website.


Deep Thought

2009-07-01 20:00:00 -0400


The Well was the first social network.

Although, I’m just being a contrarian to the social network hypers. The good old BBS probably pre-dates the Well, anyway.


Tempo's New Look: An Introduction

2009-06-30 20:00:00 -0400


In preparation for taking Tempo’s new design out of beta and moving it to production, we’ve put together this overview of what has changed.

Will I still be able to use the old interface?

No, this is it! We’ve spent quite a lot time and hard work responding to your feedback and incorporating it into the new design. We know it’s not going to make everyone happy, but we’re pretty certain that after you use it for a little while, you won’t miss the old skin.

We are planning to make the move as early as next week, so if you still haven’t taken a look at the new version, if you still haven’t told us about that one thing that’s missing that you really need, now’s the time to try it out and get in touch!

The Layout

The basic layout consists of a left-side navigation bar, a footer (unseen in the image above) and desktop-window-like modules in the main content area. What you are looking at above is the Time screen, which is new to Tempo. Well, sorta.

In the initial version of Tempo, there was one screen that did just about everything – entering new time, reporting, viewing, exporting, etc. This became more and more cumbersome as we added features. For starters, you had to modify the current report view just to see your own time! In the second major revision of Tempo, we tried splitting a ‘My Time’ screen off of the main reporting screen, but it was poorly received. Our design skills just weren’t up to snuff, so we reverted.

In the new design, however, I think we’ve really nailed it, thanks to nGen Works. The Time screen gives you stats pertaining to your recent performance and a full listing of all your time (reflected in the API, as well).

It also allows you to easily switch between full-form entry of time, with all the various options laid out for you, and the simple command-line entry that we prefer here at Zetetic:

In the image above you can see the new tagging setup we blogged about recently, which includes support for Suggested Tags on a project! Here’s the command-line entry form, on the same Time screen:

One other big change here is in the table showing entered time. Have you ever found yourself looking at a data set, and thinking, “Hmm, what else is on this project?” Or, “I’d like to see all entries this goofball has tagged with ‘foo’.” Now, it’s as simple as clicking on the labels on an entry to dial up a new report on the Reports screen, fitting that criteria!

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before we discuss reports, let’s take a look at another one of the major design changes:

The Sidebar

One of the biggest changes is the introduction of a sidebar for navigating the application. There were a couple of things we wanted to emphasize here, aside from providing quick and easy access to the main areas of interest on the site.

The Add Time link produces a modal dialog (sample) allowing you to enter new time from anywhere in the application, even the Project or Account screens. Your Reports links out to a full listing of each of your saved reports, with creation dates and details, and the report links below it provide you quick and easy access to those reports you need to run at the end of each billing cycle.

Reports

The Reports screen is what used to be the one-stop-shop for all reporting functions in Tempo. This is probably the interface that changed most dramatically:

Still at your fingertips alongside Tempo’s powerful reporting are the charts, exports, invoicing, locking, batch-tagging, and saved reports features. There’s something about these various features that always threw new users, and hopefully this new design makes it clearer: they all pertain to the current report! E.g. If I dial in all time billed to Spacely Sprockets for the current quarter and then click on Export or Invoice, I’ll be exporting or invoicing all the time billed to Spacely Sprockets for the current quarter!

For those of you who are used to Tempo, these functions haven’t changed much, beyond their skin:

Projects

We needed to give the Projects screen some love to bring it into the fold of the new design, and also to pave the way for new features. The project listing itself isn’t new, but hopefully breaking out the team management helps to make things a little bit more obvious for new users:

Coming soon: individual project dashboards! Each project will have its own page where we can provide project-specific tracking and statistics.

Account

Finally, the account screen got a facelift. This is where all manner of things are handled, from billing to user profile to account preferences, it was all here and it was getting to be a long mess! This time around we’ve sectioned things off to make it way easier to work with.

That about wraps up the major changes in this round of hacking. It’s mostly design-centric, aside from some non-insignificant API changes you should be aware of, if you have your own software that interacts with Tempo’s API. We’re not done yet, there’s still more tweaking to do, more fixes to implement that have been sent in by our always-helpful customers! There’s still time to comment on the changes and make your voice heard, please get in touch right away if you haven’t already; we’re looking to push this out next week, barring any show-stoppers.


Quote: Only the Art is Irreducible

2009-06-28 20:00:00 -0400


Musician and writer Tris McCall:

michael jackson’s death may hasten the day when we put aside the garbage once and for all and hear only the music. but that was bound to happen anyway. gossip is gas and dissipates; only the art is irreducible.

A tremendous and inspiring thought.


New article published: migrating data from Lite to Paid iPhone applications

2009-06-28 20:00:00 -0400


Stephen has a new tutorial published over on Mobile Orchard, in which he introduces a means of migrating the data from a so-called “Lite” application to the paid version. A lot of apps don’t provide this facility, and others use (or suggest using) a server component, which can add considerable development overhead. Our solution, which we use for Strip and Strip Lite, is really easy to implement and the migration happens on the device itself. Check it out and let us know what you think!