iBeacon

24 07 2014

Aeronautical beacons are well-known but the only relation to my topic is that the communication between Apple’s iBeacons and mobile devices also works over the air but not in the visible frequency spectrum of electromagnetic waves but in the invisible near frequency spectrum.

About waves …

Your iOS devices are nothing without waves.
Waves are the food for every mobile device connected to the internet, your carrier, or an iBeacon and contain the information e.g. needed for your browser to show websites, for a phone call to transmit your voice, and for an iBeacon connection to exchange data if you are near to it.

You all know water waves, seismic waves and waves that transmit the sound from one person to another or from speakers to your ear. Sometimes sound waves contain good news or bad news. Whatever is transmitted by waves it’s always INFORMATION.

In case of iPhones contacting your carrier or iPads contacting your wireless access point, waves are Electromagnetic Waves. In contrast to water waves (propagating through water), the sound (propagating through gas) and seismic waves (propagating through the earth) electromagnetic waves don’t need a medium. They also can carry information while propagating through the vacuum with the speed of light (about 300.000 m/sec). That’s pretty fast and helps when transmitting information to your device because there are many disturbers around us and so information has to be transmitted several times before being identified as those destined for you.

Look here for waves in motion

Simple Wikipedia

Properties of waves are among others the amplitude (height of cycles) and the frequency (number of cycles per second). Sound waves have a low frequency when we hear a deep tone. The frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz).

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Image (1) shows an AM (amplitude modulated) wave and Image (2) an FM (frequency modulated) wave. You all know AM and FM if you ever looked on a radio’s dashboard. The more important method is to transmit information with a frequency modulated wave.

In an area of interference signals may be extinguished due to the fact that a wave peak may meet a wave trough.

About iBeacons …

iBeacon is Apple’s name for a technology that allows mobile apps to know how close they are to tiny, low-cost, wireless transmitters called hardware iBeacons.
iBeacons technology isn’t a development of Apple’s. Many recent Android devices already support it. iBeacons broadcast signals using the well-known Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) standard, allowing precise, indoor geo-location (often called ‘Micro- location’) where smartphones or tablets are not able to receive GPS signals from satellites, but also contextual interaction and engagement, as proximity to an iBeacon can trigger some specific app functionalities or even launch an app.

Bluetooth low energy, Bluetooth LE, or BLE, marketed as Bluetooth Smart, is a wireless personal area network technology designed and marketed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group aimed at novel applications in the healthcare, fitness, security, and home entertainment industries. Compared to “Classic” Bluetooth, BLE is intended to provide considerably reduced power consumption and cost while maintaining a similar communication range.
Bluetooth LE was originally introduced under the name Wibree by Nokia in 2006. It was merged into the main Bluetooth standard in 2010 with the adoption of the Bluetooth Core Specification Version 4.0.
Mobile operating systems including iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry, as well as OS X and Windows 8, natively support Bluetooth low energy. The Bluetooth SIG predicts more than 90 percent of Bluetooth-enabled smartphones will support the low energy standard by 2018.

iBeacon-enabled apps are notified when the device moves in and out of the range of iBeacons. They monitor the distance as their proximity changes over time. This allows apps to know precisely where they are not in terms of a map but relative to known points within a building.

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iBeacons are tiny battery-operated radio signal stations you can place wherever you want; if your Mobile device gets within range, it senses iBeacons and locates itself.
iBeacons broadcast a “I am here!” message (approximately once per second) to any device within range of the Bluetooth Low Energy radio signal; since each iBeacon has its own ID, the Mobile device can tell them apart and recognize the context of the world around itself.
iBeacons usually just identify themselves by an ID but do not transfer other data than this.

Micro-locating a device can initiate interaction, engagement, and contextual information. Mobile apps receiving signals of iBeacons can be triggered triggered to perform a specific action on a specific mobile device at a specific time and in a specific location.

Summarized, iBeacon signals can

  • precisely locate you within a building
  • triangulate constantly and quietly in the background
    When you pull out your phone, the right content is there waiting for you. This immediacy is one big advantage Bluetooth now has over clunky predecessors like NFC and QR codes.
  • make suggestions what you can do with the help of an iBeacon capable app

iBeacons therefore make it possible to seamlessly engage with people in a physical space through their mobile devices.

Some examples …

Contextualized deals
iBeacons technology allows to convey specific, customized deals to shoppers based on time and day, their purchase history, their loyalty, etc. Think of very customized offers; for example a shopper has checked an item in a store but did not purchase it. The retailer then can offer the shopper a discount via email or directly on the mobile device the next time he enters the same store (or an other chain store).

Monitoring shoppers behavior
Monitoring shoppers behavior (store visits, walking-paths, etc.) is another possibility. With the help of an iBeacons the retailer may get the information (in real-time) that the shopper has been standing in front of one specific display for more than three minutes; sensing second-by-second a shopper’s (inferred) interest about a specific product, the system can supply additional information such as online reviews and – talking about fashion – other available styles or colours. As you go on shopping, a blue tie might (metaphorically) tell you: “I’m perfect with the gray suit you purchased here last week”.

This is one side of a coin and this application of iBeacons might be nerve-racking for many of us who already suffer from the constant onslaught of ad on TV, on websites, and nearly all other areas of live.

So let’s have a look on the coin’s backside.

In developed countries with public health care the emphasis on personal responsibility has been the best way to both reduce costs and make the system more efficient. In America you have to go through the gauntlet of health care providers and insurance providers and pharmaceutical companies to take charge of your own good health. If Apple’s iBeacon software is installed in the next ambulance to arrive at my home then an iPhone might light up with your emergency information automatically once you are inside the vehicle. You might not even be conscious. But your iPhone can give them what they need to know to start treating you. The device might also tell them you have had high blood pressure for the past six weeks and rising. All this with a personal tracking iWatch and the M7 motion processor on the iPhone.

To emphasize the more useful applications of the iBeacon technology let me another example.

You are walking through a museum of art, iBeacon micro-locates you and provides information about the artist of an artwork you are looking at.

It would be no problem to write further 10 blogs about possible applications of this technology. It’s up to the creativity to find out nearly unlimited further applications.

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Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

The crux is that a new operating system provides an option – like for Location Services – to turn off the bit radiation which might affect our health. The two communicating devices, the iBeacon and the iPhone – shouldn’t get control over our most important processor, our brain.

Platforms …

The great news about iBeacons technology is that both Apple (with iOS and OS X) and Google (with Android) have committed to support for Bluetooth LE – this means very, very broad availability (literally millions of devices are already iBeacon-enabled) and there is no danger of launching services targeted at a single operating system.

What about Microsoft?

Microsoft appears to have recently added support for Bluetooth Low Energy in Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8; Nokia’s recent Lumia WP8 phones are confirmed to include BLE hardware.

Some technical details …

An iBeacon identifies itself using three customizable values

  • Proximity UUID (128 Bit)
  • Major (16 Bit)
  • Minor (16 Bit)

So there are three levels to identify a micro-location: only Proximity UUID, Proximity UUID and Major, Proximity UUID and Major and Minor.

For example

  • Proximity UUID identifies your entire retail company, Major identifies a specific store and Minor specify individual shelves or different checkout tills inside each store.
  • Proximity UUID identifies your museum, Major identifies a specific gallery within the museum and Minor identifies an exhibit within that gallery.

The radio signals of iBeacons allow to calculate distances in qualitative

  • Immediate
    (less than 50 cm)
  • Near
    (approximately 50 cm to 2-5 m)
  • Far
    (more or less between 50 cm and 30-50 m, depending on walls, the iBeacon output power, and many other factors like interference)

Bluetooth low energy is not backward-compatible with the previous, often called Classic, Bluetooth protocol. The Bluetooth 4.0 specification permits devices to implement either or both of the LE and Classic systems. Those that implement both are known as Bluetooth 4.0 dual-mode devices.

Bluetooth LE uses the same 2.4 GHz radio frequencies as Classic Bluetooth, which allows dual-mode devices to share a single radio antenna. LE does, however, use a simpler modulation system.

iBeacon vs NFC vs QR-Codes …

I think we must not talk about QR-Codes which are powerful for industrial production but not accepted as a relevant source of information by the majority of people. Admittedly we might find QR-Codes on boxes containing iBeacons or NFC Tags.

Since Apple’s 2013 announcement, the press has been praising iBeacon for its ability to passively identify the in-venue presence of smartphone-equipped consumers. They have also been praising it for its ability to passively notify and then subsequently deliver localized information. These features, along with the press’ embrace of iBeacon’s perceived ease-of-use, location services, energy efficiency, security and low cost, have made iBeacon the sweetheart of the tech industry.

Since the press’ enthusiasm for iBeacon has gone largely unchallenged, many have taken the liberty to label NFC as irrelevant because it lacks iBeacon-like features. But, is this the truth?

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Although the NFC environment is very different and has many non-overlapping applications, it is still compared with iBeacons.

  • NFC range is up to 20 cm (7.87 inches) but the optimal range is < 4 cm (1.57 inches). iBeacons have a significantly larger range.
  • NFC can be either passive or active. When using passive mode, the power is sent from the reader device as radio signals. Whereas although Passif (a company acquired by Apple) has worked on reducing the energy consumption, a battery pack is still needed inside iBeacon tags at this time.
  • Most smartphones ship with both Bluetooth 4.0 LE and NFC support but at this time, no iOS device has been released with NFC support.
  • A BLE beacon is great for passively enabling a retailer’s mobile app to deliver promotions, coupons or offers direct to the consumer’s smartphone when the consumer is in the general vicinity. NFC can’t do that. But if you want to research a specific Nikon SLR, for example, you can scan an NFC-enabled shelf tag next to it and study to your heart’s content. BLE can’t deliver that much location granularity.

So the final conclusion is:

iBeacon is the much more powerful technique mainly because of it’s range and automated communication.

Advocates of the NFC technology might argue with the lower costs of NFC tags (about 0.5$) compared to iBeacons (about 25$). But because of the limited range you need far more NFC tags distributed e.g. in a retail store (approximate price Apr 2014).

iBeacon demo …

Here is a video showing iBeacons in action.
It was published on December 10, 2013 by InnoQuant, an advanced analytics software company founded in Barcelona in 2010. InnoQuant provides data analytics services and software solutions to solve problems of Big Data Analytics such as real-time mobile marketing.
InnoQuant technology allows users to monitor, analyze and engage their customers via mobile apps providing strategic tools for their business.

Summary …

iBeacon technology is extremely powerful and flexible, so engineers, marketers, and others have the opportunity to create new important applications to improve people’s lives and to create business value for big and small companies. But don’t worry about the innovative new big brother. Instead of crying ‘Stop bothering me!’ just turn Bluetooth off.

I’m sure that apps of serious retailers will offer some options to choose the kind of information you want to receive. If not they are at risk that customers will delete the app, block information flow, or in a worst case scenario, say Good Riddance to the company.

Related links …

iPhone’s Dining Habits

Mystic signs of progress

About Bluetooth

List of BT Smart Devices

Thanks for visiting my blog beacon.





About Innovation

18 07 2014

Apple is an innovative company and discussions about its innovate power first need a close look on what innovation means for a tech company.

The term …

On Wikipedia we find …

Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society. The term innovation can be defined as something original and, as consequence, new that “breaks into” the market or society. One usually associates to new phenomena that are important in some way. A definition of the term, in line with these aspects, would be the following: “An innovation is something original, new, and important – in whatever field – that breaks in to (or obtains a foothold in) a market or society”.
While something novel is often described as an innovation, in economics, management science, and other fields of practice and analysis it is generally considered a process that brings together various novel ideas in a way that they have an impact on society.

Innovation differs from invention in that innovation refers to the use of a better and, as a result, novel idea or method, whereas invention refers more directly to the creation of the idea or method itself.

Innovation differs from improvement in that innovation refers to the notion of doing something different rather than doing the same thing better.

Regarding the major tech companies Apple, Samsung, and Google we can see an ongoing war between fanboys each claiming their beloved company is innovative.

In the organizational context, innovation may be linked to positive changes in efficiency, productivity, quality, competitiveness, market share, and others. However, recent research findings highlight the complementary role of organizational culture in enabling organizations to translate innovative activity into tangible performance improvements.

The measure of innovation at the organizational level relates to individuals, team-level assessments, and private companies from the smallest to the largest. Measure of innovation for organizations can be conducted by surveys, workshops, consultants, or internal benchmarking. There is today no established general way to measure organizational innovation. Corporate measurements are generally structured around balanced scorecards which cover several aspects of innovation such as business measures related to finances, innovation process efficiency, employees’ contribution and motivation, as well benefits for customers. Measured values will vary widely between businesses, covering for example new product revenue, spending in R+D, time to market, customer and employee perception and satisfaction, number of patents, additional sales resulting from past innovations.

So we are faced with a complex topic but what should be clear is that a final assessment whether a company is innovative can only be done by knowing all the facts and waiting until the society respectively the market shows any reaction.

In 2010 Apple released its first iPad and some years later we can definitely say that it was innovation born out of many preceding scientific results, above all the touch screen and the appropriate software to control apps.

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What we can see is that scientific results taken for its own are not enough to be innovative. It needs a vision, persistent efforts, and outstanding people motivating each other to bring an innovative product to the market. Steve jobs once said …

Customers don’t know what they want but are looking for something new and exciting

The iPad was a high level innovation, an ‘ocean boiling’ new kind of device whereas follow-ups could be described with the words of Tim Cook

Some people see innovation as change, but we have never really seen it like that. It’s making things better.

I would like to add an important point

An innovative product is only born if it provides space for essential improvements in the future. So in an essential first step the conditions for a long-term impact already must run in the blood.

It needs a close look on and into products to see innovative steps which, in some cases, are only laid out. If the basis already includes technically feasible visions, the new product usually will be successful.

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A more superficial view on the iPhone 5S, Apple’s flagship, could lead to an assessment like “same shape, same size, same everything”. But the truth is that there is a fingerprint scanner solving the dilemma of security in a much more convenient way than before and the M7 motion processor which could later be used in a new kind of device like an iWatch, possibly disrupting the health care system. And be sure, it will not be a shiny new gimmick like the Galaxy Gear watch.
And there is iOS 7 supporting a 64-Bit architecture, designed for future software capabilities. And there is much more only visible if colors and shapes are disregarded.

The process …

Here are the steps to innovative products.

Step 1

in any innovation process is to generate ideas. This includes gathering ideas both internally and externally, within the company and by looking at competitors.

Note
The ongoing war between fanboys e.g. of Samsung and Apple only reflects a psychological problem of the involved people because collecting information from everywhere is a normal process in which lastly lead to the many benefits we have in our modern society. No scientist would ever get a Nobel Prize if he wouldn’t refer to results of his colleagues.

Then it’s inevitable to prioritize and make sense of these ideas. The goal must be to find a structured way to catergorise and prioritise your ideas, so that your long list becomes a shortlist.

Step 2

is to incubate the best ideas. Incubation could just be further theoretical development, or it could move into piloting or an initial roll-out of the idea. That’s what Samsung did with its Galaxy Gear Smartwatch. But also Apple with its M7 motion processor and the fingerprint scanner first introduced in the iPhone 5S in late 2013.

Step 3

needs excellent engineers and designers to focus on an issue, a solution and implement your idea fully.

Step 4

is an essential step for a business oriented company. It’s effective marketing. A product shouldn’t be called innovative if it doesn’t have an impact on society. This needs a significant number of customers, worldwide. It’s one if the strengths of Apple to push customers with sophisticated ad. The Motorola Atrix with its fingerprint scanner is an example for a good idea but poor marketing and the result is well-known, it was a product without significant impact.

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Step 5

in any innovation process is choosing to either exit or sustain the project. Innovation can’t go on for ever!

Even if the project becomes self-sustaining, at some point you will need to send it back through the innovation process to check that it is still relevant, delights people, is useful for their everyday lives and perhaps make plans to adapt or replace it altogether. In these circumstances, the innovation process is very much an iterative one. The iterations of the iPhone, and not to forget, of the environment (stores, iCloud, iOS 7, 64-Bit processor, etc) are a shining example of this last step a company is faced with.

Looking on more than 4 decades of Apple there is no doubt about a constant improvement of all hardware products, software and services. This long-term strategy made the company to the most valuable brand in the world.

About Apple …

Nearly nothing comes out of the box. So innovation is always combined with the ability to
connect the dots in a way that people are excited, benefit from a new technology, let them change the way to do things more efficiently or even with more fun and engagement, and inspire them to think different and force creativity.

And it’s not only the iPad initiating a paradigm shift there are also Apple’s desktops which have to be taken into account.

When the iMac appeared it made everyone look. It was meant to be a “look-at-me” product. It was meant to show Apple was not dead. Last year Apple showed off their new professional grade desktop machine and those who do serious computing and media production have been lining up to get them. Apple is still making the finest desktop machines in the field.

See what I found on Google+ in a comment section written by Dave Trautman who once again hit the nail right on the head …

For those in America, where is there a huge problem with respect to personalized health care? Like – everywhere! In other developed countries with public health care the emphasis on personal responsibility has been the best way to both reduce costs and make the system more efficient. In America you have to go through the gauntlet of health care providers and insurance providers and pharmaceutical companies to take charge of your own good health. If Apple’s iBeacon software is installed in the next ambulance to arrive at my home then my phone might light up with my emergency information automatically once I am inside the vehicle. I might not even be conscious. But my phone can give them what they need to know to start treating me. My phone might also tell them I have had high blood pressure for the past six weeks and rising. All this with a personal tracking iStrap and the M7 chip on my phone.

I am thinking Apple has been slowly and carefully putting the seeds into the ground for some years now which will later be sprouting a completely new category of personal device(s) which we cannot live without.

So let’s put all these considerations together. If you are a regular visitor of my blog you already recognized that I like to do it with a map, a mind map or a concept map.

Innovation targets …

It needs a close look on all the activities of Apple, it’s leaders as well as it’s excellent engineers, to screen a picture on what the targets of innovation are. I added some quotes of Steve Jobs and Apple’s Industrial Design Group (IDg) to point to some basics of the company’s philosophy which is primarily influenced by Steve Jobs and Sir Jonathan Ive.

It needs a company DNA and blood flowing through the veins of responsible people to be innovative.
This DNA is followed by innovation not only brought into sold products but also into the corporate structure and the infrastructure customers are faced with.

This all is also a lesson for successful leadership which compels admiration and a cult-like status. If this happens over decades a company becomes a brand and in case of Apple the most valuable brand in the world. The worst case hampering innovation and customer satisfaction are early releases of unfinished products with less benefits for customers and follow-ups which manifest the lacks of predecessors.

So an essential part of innovation is simply time even if there is an increasing pressure from which side soever, market, shareholders or deliberately provoked by publishing (or in case of Apple one could often say ‘punishing’) media.

I purchased my first Apple device (an iPhone 3GS) in 2010 and started blogging in late 2012 with just one target, to learn more about the company and its mobile devices, an exciting journey through technologies of an amazing company.

So this concept map is based on what I learned and published on iNotes4You. See the different articles under ‘Related links’.

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I tried to connect each topic with an Apple product which, I think, is a meaningful example for what the content stands for.

Summary …

To decide whether a technical product is innovative or not is a quite difficult task and in many cases it’s also a very personal assessment. Innovative features of products might change the life of an individual and can be useless for others. And there are developments which can be seen as useful for all people like a smartphone automatically sending information to health care assistants in case of an accident.

Related links …

About the company …

Steve Jobs Timeline 2000-2011

Apple’s Focusing

Apple’s Ecosystem

Apple’s Strategy and Ad

The New Philosopher

Apple’s Intangible Assets

Apple, a unique company

About some products …

Sensitiveness

Fingerprint Technology

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.





Tap Zapp Software Inc.

12 07 2014

The strong benefit of a database is the synopsis of otherwise widely spread information. Apple’s App Store offers a lot of apps suitable for productive operations but all the information saved by these apps is cut into pieces and saved in app-specific folders. Database management tools manage all the different types of information in just one app.

I’m a programmier for Microsoft Access databases for about 20 years and founded a software company in 1979 in my parent’s basement with a Z80-based Sharp MZ 80K computer, the first publicly available computer in Germany.

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After buying my first Apple devices, an iPhone 3GS and an iPad 3, it was obvious to look for a powerful database app for iOS. Reviewing Bento 4 (which was removed from the App Store in Sep 2013), zBase, and many other apps it turned out that the SQLite-based app Tap Forms by Tap Zapp Software Inc. (Canada) is the best choice by far. I found what I expected …

  • many features wrapped in a plain and self-explaining UI
  • useful field types for all purposes
  • iCloud support
  • a continuos development
  • a fast and friendly support

And it’s not only me rating this app with 5 stars. Check out the March issue of Mac Format Magazine.

Tap Forms was the winner in a shootout between FileMaker Pro, iDatabase, Numbers, Panorama Sheets, and Symphytum. Each database app has its own strengths and weaknesses and are great apps for various purposes. But the conclusion that Tap Forms came out on top was great to see.

“Although picking a winner will always be subjective, for a straight Bento replacement, Tap Forms is the clear winner by a mile. The user interface is beautifully Mac-like, the structuring of data is similar enough to Bento that it offers only a shallow learning curve, it offers a direct import of Bento templates, and the iOS companion app is great.”

My interview with Brendan …

Brendan Duddridge is the founder of Tap Zapp Software Inc., Canada. Sadly there was no way for me to talk to him face to face but thankfully a mail sent from my iPhone and winging its way to Canada and back fixed the problem in a jiffy.

So here is what I asked and what I got back.

01 The way to a successful business sometimes starts in the parent’s garage or basement up to the climate conditions.
What was your way to writing your first line of code?

I wrote my first lines of code by copying code from a magazine about computer programming back in 1979 on a Radio Shack TRS-80 computer that a friend of mine owned. It was in the BASIC programming language. So a very very long time ago. Ever since then I’ve been hooked on programming and have never stopped. There’s always so much to learn and new things to make. Computers and programming was always my hobby, but they are also now my career. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

02 If you look back what were the reasons for learning a programming language?

I was just fascinated to see that typing these strange commands into a computer could make things happen on the screen. I was first amazed by seeing one of my teachers typing out a computer program on the TRS-80 computer we had in our classroom. It was amazing how quickly he typed. At the time it looked like complete nonsense to me. Ever since then I knew that I wanted to be able to make programs myself.

03 Do you think programmers are basically autodidacts?

Well, I have a degree in Computer Science, so I learned a lot about programming from university. However, for the most part I think anyone can learn to program without a formal education in Computer Science. There’s so many learning materials available for free on the Internet these days and through iTunes University that if you have the slightest interest in learning to program, you can basically do it all on your own. It’s also very helpful to work in a team at some point because you can learn a lot from others. I think the main thing is to just be passionate about it. If you’re interested in creating new things and seeing them come to life on screen, then just go for it. Don’t wait until you have that amazing idea. That could take years. Start small and work your way up from there.

04 Founding a company is a quite painful job because you have to focus on many administrative tasks you probably don’t like. Can you give us an estimated value for the time you spent for developing the environment as a percentage of your 24h day?

I’m terrible at the business side of things. I tend to just want to program and I procrastinate a lot on the business side of operating Tap Zapp Software. I mostly just do programming and customer support. I love to program and I love to engage with customers via my blog, my forum, and via email. I usually get incredibly positive feedback from my customers. So much so that it keeps me working as hard as I can because I just have an innate desire to please them as best as I can. After all, when people say nice things to you, you want to do nice things for them. I do have an accountant to do all the nasty accounting work for me and to prepare my taxes. But because I am a one-man shop who works at home, there’s not a lot of overhead involved in running Tap Zapp Software. That’s a great thing because it gives me more time to focus on improving Tap Forms.

05 When did you start with coding your database application Tap Forms?

I started the design of Tap Forms by using Omni Graffle to layout the screens that I thought I would need to make the first version of Tap Forms. I did that probably back in May of 2008. WWDC that year was from June 9 to June 13 so I started thinking about Tap Forms just before then. I knew that I wanted to have an app idea before going to WWDC that year. The initial idea for Tap Forms came about after a friend of mine showed me an app on his Blackberry which he used to keep track of his passwords. I don’t remember the name of the app though, although it was pretty rough.

After seeing the original iPhone and seeing which apps it shipped with, the one app which didn’t come installed was some type of database organizer. Sure it came with the Notes app, but you couldn’t really organize notes into different categories and utilize all the different keyboard types for the different types of data you would want to organize.

Well that was a good thing because I had lots of database development experience already and I knew I could build an app that would let people organize all their personal information.

06 When did you upload your first version of Tap Forms to Apple?

I believe the first version I uploaded to Apple was around September 5, 2008. The first version was approved and went live on September 28, 2008.

07 Can you give us the a priority list for the most important three tasks?

I’m sorry, but I’m not sure what you mean by this question. Do you mean what 3 new features I’m working on for Tap Forms? Or do you mean a priority list of tasks that must be completed in order to develop any app?

Sorry, obviously not the best and easiest wording I used.
I mean tasks regarding your profession like brainstorming, testing, coding, staying tuned via social networks, or something like this.

I think of how I’m going to implement new features all the time. I don’t have a team to work with, but that does not mean that I cannot brainstorm new ideas. I can be driving my car or doing other mundane tasks and still be thinking about implementation details for new features. In fact, I’m doing this task almost all the time. As far as staying in tune via social networks, mostly I follow a few iOS developers who are very good and provide some very useful advice. Stack Overflow is also an incredible resource for any developer who’s working on tough problems. There are some very smart people on there. I answer questions from time to time if I feel confident I can provide a good answer. I get a really good feeling if I am able to help someone else out with a problem they’re having.

08 Many of my blogs are app reviews. At the time I installed about 150 apps on my iOS devices. Nearly every day I get an update notification and in many cases an app was already updated some days ago. The description always contains the word ‘Bugfixing’.
Can you give us a brief overview of your internal control system for testing apps before launching?

I utilize the excellent TestFlight system for distributing Tap Forms to my beta testers and translators. I also have a private forum on my website where authorized beta testers can provide me with bug reports and feedback. I also have a feedback button on my home page which links to UserVoice where I also receive bug reports, feature requests, and other feedback. Many customers also just email me with their bug reports, feedback, and feature requests. I get a lot of help from my translators and beta testers for making sure that Tap Forms is functioning properly. I also do a lot of testing myself of course.

09 Do you think maths is an important part of education for a developer?

I think it’s important to have an analytical mind to be able to develop applications. But I think you can have that without having a strong mathematics background. I had to take some crazy math courses in university, but for the most part I haven’t had to use them very much for the types of apps that I program. If you’re programming games you may need to know some math, but even today a lot of libraries are provided for you that handle the complex math that you would need. Now you can just type in a value and tell an object how much gravitational force is applied to it and it will do all the math for you and your object drops to the ground and bounces around a bit. It’s amazing what is available for free for developers these days. In fact, an app that I recently helped to develop (in between work on Tap Forms) is called PencilCase by Robots and Pencils (www.pencilcase.io). PencilCase lets you build an app using objects by dragging and dropping them onto a canvas. You can apply physics to objects, have them collide with each other, prompt the user for information, display web sites, etc. All without writing a single line of code. You can even publish a PencilCase to the App Store! So there’s lots of tools available now for developers of all skill levels. No maths required :-)

10 Do you think a developer should be experienced in more than one programming language?

I’ve personally learned about a dozen languages over the years. I think it’s important to learn a few in order to give you a broader idea of the capabilities of different languages. It also helps when you’re wanting to communicate with other systems. For example, you would most likely write a web application using Java, Ruby, Python, or Perl, but write your mobile app client in Objective-C or Java. So I do think it’s important to know more than one language. It opens up opportunities for you.

11 Tell us, what’s on your work desk?

Not much actually. I don’t actually program at a desk. Because I work at home, I pretty much just use the armrest of the couch. It’s quite comfortable :-) I program using a Retina MacBook Pro 15” with 16 GB of RAM and a 768 GB SSD drive. I backup everything over Time Machine to a Synology NAS drive.

12 Your hobbies are?

Strangely enough, my hobbies are programming. Although I do enjoy watching movies, but I’m not sure that can be considered a hobby. In the summer time I like to drive my Pontiac Solstice GXP convertible sports car as much as I can. I occasionally make modifications to it to enhance its appearance or performance. So I guess that’s kind of my hobby.

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13 Steve Jobs founded Apple and his philosophy was the key to success.
What duo you think are the main points also valid for you personally?

I like Steve’s philosophy on design. Make it simple and beautiful to use. Steve surrounded himself with brilliant people who he could command to do the best work of their lives. I don’t have that luxury so I just try to build the best and easiest to use app that I can possibly think of.

14 Steve Jobs’ philosophy is often summarized in ‘Focus’, ‘Say No’, ‘Connect the dots’, ‘Secrecy’. Can you put it in an order for us?

I’m not as big on secrecy as Apple is of course. But I kind of operate under the radar. Apple has all eyes on them with every little move they make, so they have no choice but to keep everything a secret for as long as possible. Occasionally I’ll mention a new feature on my forum that I’m working on or let a customer know that the issue they’re having has been fixed in the next update.

I do get requests from customers for features which would be great to have, but for only a minor subset of Tap Forms customers, so I have to politely decline some feature requests. After all, I can’t possibly put every feature into the app, not just because I am only one person working on it, but because I don’t want Tap Forms to become a bloated mess. But still, there are many new features which I have planned for Tap Forms that I believe will delight current and future customers for years to come.

15 What are your thoughts about the Android platform?

I don’t particularly like the Android platform. It just feels clunky to me. It’s not a very smooth experience navigating around. Perhaps that’s because of it’s Java roots. I don’t know. Or perhaps it’s because they’ve had to work around Apple’s patents on scrolling and bounce-back and other aspects of iOS. And just because you can add a setting for this and a setting for that and add this feature or add that feature, doesn’t mean that you should. Some people may feel like it gives you a choice, but I believe that giving people too many choices just makes your product bloated and inelegant. I’ve been asked to make Tap Forms for Android, but I have no intentions on doing that at this time. If the iOS and Mac eco-system ever deteriorates enough so that I need to switch platforms then I will at that time. But for now Tap Forms is doing exceptionally well. Before writing for iOS and Mac, I used to be a Java developer. So developing for Android wouldn’t be much of a stretch for me. I just choose not to do it right now.

16 What’s your strategy for the future?

My strategy for the future is to just build the best version of Tap Forms that I possibly can. There are so many features that customers have requested that it gives me an endless pool of things that I can draw from in order to improve Tap Forms. Of course I can’t add every feature requested, but I can certainly add the best features that I believe will be of most value to the majority of my current and future Tap Forms customers.

Brendan, thanks a lot for taking your time.

Features of Tap Forms …

Brendan brought a powerful database management system to Apple’s mobiles and the Mac following this guideline

Simplicity is often equated with minimalism. Yet true simplicity is so much more than just the absence of clutter or the removal of decoration. It’s about offering up the right things, in the right place, right when you need them. It’s about bringing order to complexity. And it’s about making something that always seems to “just work.” When you pick something up for the first time and already know how to do the things you want to do, that’s simplicity.
(Sir Jonathan Ive)

So even users without special knowledge about databases are able to organize their data.

Here is a mind map visualizing all features of Tap Forms. It was created for a comparison of Tap Forms with the competing app zBase (see the full post under ‘Related links’).

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Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

Summary …

An exciting insight in the work of an engaged company developing the best available database for devices running on iOS and OSX.

Thanks a lot Brendan. Keep on coding at it’s best, drive carefully and stay on track with your Pontiac Solstice GXP.

Related links …

About the company…

Tap Zapp Software Inc., Canada

About the desktop companion of Tap Forms …

Tap Forms for Mac

An application of Tap Forms …

Go Paperless with Tap Forms

About app development …

App Development and Marketing

About the usage of databases …

DBMS on iOS devices (1)

DBMS on iOS devices (2)

DBMS on iOS devices (3)

DBMS on iOS devices (4)

DBMS on iOS devices (5)

Importing Data

From Access To Tap Forms

zBase vs Tap Forms

Thanks a lot for visiting my blog.





Facts about iWork for iCloud

6 07 2014

Since October 2013, shortly after Apple’s Keynote event, iWork for iCloud is available as a beta version going along with a redesign of it’s components Keynote, Numbers, and Pages. The iOS 7 adapted productivity tool is now free for new purchased devices.

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iWork for iCloud now allows working on documents across all kind of devices even on devices of other vendors. This works with every any browser like Safari, Google Chrome, or Microsoft Internet Explorer after signing in to iCloud with your Apple ID on iCloud com.

Use copies …

It’s always good to have a copy.

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Resolve conflicts …

If you use iWork on more than one iOS device and activated syncing via iCloud conflicts might occur if one of the devices you are working on is temporarily disconnected from the internet. In this case the document is saved locally on your device but cannot be updated in iCloud.

There seems to be a problem with iWork documents if one of the iOS devices wasn’t connected to the internet when editing a document.
But don’t panic. There is a way to fix it in a jiffy.

Just keep both versions of the document and decide later which one you finally want to keep.

This method of resolving conflicts is much more sophisticated than resolving conflicts which might occur in other apps like e.g. ByWord, a simple markdown text editor where you only can keep one version.

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And Apple wouldn’t be Apple if there would’t be more:

Edited documents are saved to iCloud along with a *history of the edits* you made. So when you open the document on another iOS device, you can undo individual edits, just as if you made them on that device.

If an iOS device is not connected to the internet a local copy of an iWork document is used to allow editing.
If you finish your work and the internet connection is still not available you will see an up-pointing arrow on this document in the documents overview. It means that the document is waiting for an upload to iCloud. The arrow disappears if your device connects to the internet again via WiFi or a cellular connection.

File sizes …

I myself use iWork for iOS extensively.
File sizes always matter if it comes to your iCloud data plan (5 GB for free), your data plan you fixed with your mobile provider, and the memory of your device.

So here are some average values for the ZIP files of iWork documents …

App Content File size
Keynote 100 slides 100 MB
Numbers 2 tables 1.1 MB
Pages 10 pages 3.5 MB

Notes

Keynote
The ZIP file of the mentioned Keynote presentation consists of 489 single files, primarily images.
Numbers
The ZIP file of the mentioned Numbers spreadsheet consists of 11 files with 4 tables and 2 images.
Pages
The ZIP file of the mentioned Pages document consists of 21 files with 10 pages, a table, and 5 full-page images.

Go to Settings – General – Usage and you get a list with you installed apps and the amount of memory they use on you device. If you extensively use the presentation tool Keynote keep an eye on the used storage, Keynote is a cormorant space eater if you extensively make use of images.

Exporting iWork documents …

If you use ‘Send a copy’ or ‘Open in another app’ for an iWork document you have to choose a format (e.g. for Numbers, PDF, Excel, or CSV within the app Numbers).

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If you choose the native iWork format for Keynote, Numbers, or Pages the app then generates a ZIP file. It contains the document, images used in the document, and a further ZIP file index.zip which contains properties of all objects you created in the document.

This is quote different from former versions of iWork which produced a single file with the extensions .keynote, .numbers, and .pages. The reason is the new collaboration feature of iWork for iCloud. It needs to save all objects separately to check whether they have been changed or not.

And it’s quite different from Microsoft Office documents which can only be edited by a single person.

This file can be easily opened on all devices running on iOS or OSX.
If you want to open Apple’s proprietary file format from within a cloud client app like Microsoft’s OneDrive client just choose ‘Open in Another App’ and then select the appropriate iWork app.

Syncing ….

iWork sync documents via WiFi or Cellular connections.
Go to Settings – iCloud – Documents+Data and at the end of the list you will find the option ‘Use Cellular Data’ to turn syncing via Cellular networks on or off. If you have a small sized data plan or work on large file sizes it’s recommended to set this option to OFF.

Optimizations …

I already explained that each iWork file is split into a set of files which allows improved collaboration features as well as performance improvements.

See what happens if you open an iWork app which files have been edited on other devices.

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In a first step you only can see the file names and after downloading the preview images iWork looks up file sizes so that only small files are immediately downloaded and others are downloaded not until you want to look into the content or edit it.

iCloud security …

iCloud secures your data by encrypting it when it is sent over the Internet, storing it in an encrypted format when kept on server (review the table below for detail), and using secure tokens for authentication. This means that your data is protected from unauthorized access both while it is being transmitted to your devices and when it is stored in the cloud. iCloud uses a minimum of 128-bit AES encryption—the same level of security employed by major financial institutions—and never provides encryption keys to any third parties.

iWork documents are part of the ‘iCloud – Documents + Data’ section in ‘Settings’ for your device. Documents are encrypted at a minimum of 128-Bit AES in transit (when sent over the internet) and at rest (when stored on Apple’s servers).

When you access iCloud services using Apple’s built-in apps, authentication is handled using a secure token. Using secure tokens eliminates the need to store your iCloud password on devices and computers. Even if you choose to use a third-party application to access your iCloud data, your username and password are sent over an encrypted SSL connection.

Summary …

I’d like to think Apple products are perfect and (not surprisingly) they obviously are (with some resyrictions). A powerful new approach to collaborative working. Apple’s ecosystem got a forward-thinking improvement.

Related links …

iWork to AirPort

iCloud, a paradigm shift

iWork and Sharing

Thanks for visiting iNotes4You.





iWork to Airport

30 06 2014

iWork for iOS syncs all your iWork documents via iCloud with all your other devices running on the same Apple ID. Sometimes it’s useful to save an iWork document on an external storage e.g. a USB stick connected to your router e.g. an Apple AirPort Extreme.

There seems to be a problem with iWork documents winging to an USB storage.
I’d like to think Apple products are perfect but they obviously aren’t.
But don’t panic.
There is a way to fix it in a jiffy.
There is an app for that.

Here is how you can do it seamlessly.

The hardware and software …

This is my home configuration, an iPad, an iPhone, and an Apple Airport Extreme router connected to cable internet via a CISCO modem.

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I use the USB port of the router to connect external storage media with the WiFi network.

To seamlessly connect to external storages I use the app FileBrowser by Stratospherix. Over time it was improved many times and seems to be the best app to connect to local storages as well as cloud storages via WebDAV or predefined connections to well-known cloud providers like Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, or even Point.io. It also supports Microsoft’s SMB protocol (Server Message Block) to automatically connect to Windows networks and since the last update the FTP protocol (File Transfer Protocol) is supported with which you can seamlessly access web servers.

With FileBrowser, the iPad or iPhone becomes a powerful tool for business and private use. The app is easy to use and allows files to be downloaded, edited and uploaded back to the original location or distributed to other employees, partners or customers. With FileBrowser, users can access their documents from their mobile device and no longer need to take bulky laptops to meetings or out of the office when visiting clients.

Let’s take a look on this universal app by summarizing its features in a mind map.

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Feel free to download this map from my Box account.

The alternative file formats have been created with iThoughts HD for iPad (.ITMZ file format). Compatibility to other tools is limited. The DOCX file format is suggested for those who don’t use a mind mapping tool. The file contains the image as well as a detailed outline of all topics.

Application File format
Adobe Reader PDF
Apple iWork/Microsoft Office DOCX
iThoughts ITMZ
MindManager MMAP
XMind XMIND

The steps …

Step 1
Connecting to an attached storage

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Step 2
Using ‘Open in Another App’ in iWork

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i

An alternative …

An alternative to FileBrowser is GoodReader by Good.iWare. The app connects to the attached storage via SMB protocol.

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About SMB …
In computer networking, Server Message Block (SMB), also known as Common Internet File System (CIFS) operates as an application-layer network protocol mainly used for providing shared access to files, printers, serial ports, and miscellaneous communications between nodes on a network.

Not only does SMB allow computers to share files, but it also enables computers to share printers and even serial ports from other computers within the network. For example, a computer connected to a Windows network could print a document on a printer connected to another computer on the network, as long as both machines support the SMB protocol.

Though SMB was originally developed for Windows, it can also be used by other platforms, including Unix and Mac OS X, using a software implementation called Samba. By using Samba instructions, Mac, Windows, and Unix computers can share the same files, folders, and printers. This is great for those Windows-based office networks where there is a graphic designer who refuses to use anything but a Mac and a tech guy who does everything on his Linux machine.

Because of the many more features of FileBrowser, the clean UI, and the support of Point.io it’s more powerful than GoodReader.

An application …

If you don’t trust in cloud services or if your documents contain sensitive data you might want to disconnect iWork from iCloud.

Unfortunately you cannot deactivate iCloud syncing for single documents.

So you have to go to Settings – iCloud – Documents + Data and cut the connection for an app e.g. Numbers.

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From now on documents created with Numbers are saved locally and you can use the procedure iWork-To-Airport to save backup copies on the storage attached to you AirPort router.

Summary …

iOS devices with installed iWork apps should be improved regarding access to Apple’s routers and there should be an option for excluding single documents from automatically saving them on iCloud.

Related links …

Point.io

Thanks for dropping by.








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