Monthly Archives: August 2011

Gaining Perspective

Ever so often, I feel the need to take a step back from life’s activity in order to gain some perspective. This process is usually a melancholy experience for me filled with truth and bittersweet revelation. Perspective can come from reviewing our own experiences but it can also be found from the experiences of others. I have just created a monthly task to read this list of Regina Brett’s life lessons. A couple of stand outs:

1. Life isn’t fair but it’s still good.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

41. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

via Roger Buswell

 

Incubate the Idea

You’ve got an idea for a mobile app. What do you do?

As a programmer, I find myself wanting to jump right into Xcode to prototype but I have learned the hard way to mock it up first. Whether the app is mine or belongs to a client, I sketch the user interface. Inevitably, a few iterations happen immediately just by visualizing how the pieces of the app will interact. If the work is for a client, go over it with them. If not, find a friend who is willing to be bound by the FriendDA and walk through it.

My iPad app of choice is App Cooker due to the breadth of its design abilities such as an icon editor, store prep and a method for helping determine the app price. The glaring omission right now is the split view controller but they say it is coming. There are many similar apps such as Blueprint, iMockups, SketchyPad, Interface HD and others. There is also a cross-platform solution in Balsamiq Mockups.

Fiction Finally

I just finished reading Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne.

No big deal, right? Except that I haven’t read fiction since middle school. Programming books, news feeds and personal improvement? Yes. Fiction? No.

What changed is that I now carry books with me wherever I go on my iPad. A month ago, I discovered the Kindle app that I had installed early on and decided to read a couple of pages to see how well the fonts worked for reading. Two chapters later, I wasn’t thinking about typefaces. I was transported into another time where a professor and his nephew were solving riddles and heading to Iceland to search for a hidden passage underground. It had me. And, yeah, it took me a while to finish because I read with stops and starts. But I have rediscovered a love of words long since forgotten.

The Kindle app is now proudly displayed on my first home screen.

Inspired by Tech

Last weekend, my wife and I used the Apple TV to find a Netflix movie to watch. My iPad was positioned between us for viewing trailers so we could both kinda see them. After a duh moment, I used AirPlay to broadcast the video to the television. It was easy and seamless and, for some reason, inspiring.

Sometimes the simple things seem the most magical.

Tim Cook, Himself

Michael Grothaus interacted with Tim cook and relates his experience. The world around me disappeared as I read this well-written article. After giving us a glimpse into the man, he ends with this.

No one can ever replace Steve Jobs, the man, the genius. But Apple is not only Steve Jobs, no matter what anyone thinks. Apple is the interns and executive assistants; it’s the retail employees and the designers; it’s the marketing and PR departments, it’s Scott Forstall and Jonathan Ive; Bob Mansfield and Phil Schiller; it’s the dozens of other names you see on all those Apple patents that we talk about every week. Apple is not any single one of these people. It is the sum of them all, run by a leader who possesses enough wisdom to know that everyone in the company matters, that everyone’s concerns are valid and deserve attention. Tim Cook is such a leader.

via Tim Cook: my first-person impression of Apple’s new CEO | TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog.

Refreshing

I get to build Enterprise Applications for a living and love what I do.

It’s a lot like playing with LEGO bricks while also having access to a foundry for LEGO bricks. I get to design the pieces so they fit the odd angles and the difficult transitions that are prolific in the Enterprise. This career comes with magnificent challenges which my brain loves to tackle. Maybe you can relate.

Then there are the mosquitoes. The annoyances that produce a barely perceptible buzzing that eventually drives me freaking CRAZY! Like the proxy server.

My iPad is integrated into all aspects of my life. Tasks and project management live there as does my information repository. Those two apps account for most of my iPad usage. The important points here are that the apps are native, not web, and that my iPad connects to the wireless network at work.

This matters because the proxy server at work, for some reason unknown to me, severs the connection after a random period of time if I am not using a web browser. The red exclamation mark announces that it is time to traverse the well-worn path to the web browser, tap three to five times on the annoyingly small refresh button until it finally stops smirking at me and refreshes. (It is not that hard to increase the hit region for the refresh button!) This mundane action miraculously reconnects my frayed connection and I am able to return to productivity. This pilgrimage is revisited a dozen or two times each day. I liken this to having a sliver in the tip of your finger while typing all day long.

So how does a builder of tools reduce this annoyance? By building a tool, of course.

Here is a link to the refresh page hosted here at Stellarwell. It is a simple page with a big ‘ol refresh button sitting in the middle. If you’d like to use it, feel free but I made it for me. It is my home page in the Terra web browser. Not Safari. Because when the proxy server DOES ask for authentication (a mere half-a-dozen times each day), entering the information is faster in Terra. The mosquito still buzzes. Just not as loudly.

Igniting the Remote Control

It is convenient to have access to my home computer when out and about. Every week or two, I need to retrieve a file or initiate something from afar.

Today, there are many methods to do this but when I purchased LogMeIn Ignition a couple of years ago, there weren’t many. I paid a considerable $30 for what was then an iPhone app. Buyers remorse has been eliminated, though, due to all of the updates the app has received. The experience on the iPad is even better and I wholeheartedly recommend the app.

Bonus: Right now, LogMeIn Ignition is 50% off.

(via TiPb)

Evernote Acquires Skitch

Do you use Evernote as your information repository? Do you ever take pictures of white boards or hand-drawn diagrams and then mark them up?

I do and am quite excited about Evernote bringing Skitch into their family. I use and like both products.

As Skitch users will attest, this is one of the most innovative, easy-to-use applications available on Mac. We’re going to keep it that way. We are committed, not only to making the Skitch Mac app more awesome, but also to bringing Skitch to every desktop and mobile platform under the sun. In addition, in the coming months, you’ll see tighter integration between Evernote and Skitch to let you easily draw, ink, grab screenshots, annotate and share your favorite memories.

The Android version has already been released!

via OmMalik

Mobile ERP Connections

It is an understatement to say that mobile devices are growing in popularity. Many people are talking about the consumerization of IT meaning that employees are bringing their personal technology to work. More and more shops are taking advantage of this by creating mobile, authenticated interfaces into their business systems.

This can be a challenge in many iSeries shops that have been around for many years because most iSeries ERP systems assume a 5250 green-screen interface. They have no API.

This issue and many others in the iSeries world such as file recursion and unmanageable triggers can be eliminated by using design patterns. For instance, the Model-View-Controller pattern separates your system into layers. Each has different responsibilities.

  • The View layer consists of your 5250 screens, your web pages and the user interface of any mobile apps.
  • The Model layer contains the business interface into your database. It may also include a local database for disconnected storage in HTML5 and mobile apps.
  • The Controller layer is the glue between the other layers. It is where important issues like connectivity and security are managed.

Years ago, creating these layers in an iSeries system seemed like wasted time. Now, with many of our systems requiring some form of internal or external mobile connection, creating a single reusable authenticated API into the system is important.

The biggest question in my mind is this. Where is the business logic? This brings

Will there ever be a day when you are required to integrate mobile devices into your ERP system?

The executives may want a dashboard to show them the pulse of the business. Maybe you want to give inventory control access to more information than an RF gun can display. In this competitive climate, you might choose to make it as easy and enjoyable as possible for customers to purchase product from you by creating a custom mobile app. There are hundreds of possible scenarios.

If you allow people to use an interface other than the green screen, consider the architecture. Do everything possible to avoid duplicating validations and business logic in every interface.

As mobile devices become more prominent, the issue of how to connect them to our systems becomes more important. My goal is to help you start well.