Tag Archives: iTunes

Adventures in Objective-C – Part 2

On the subject of the Stanford University (iTunes U) iPhone Programming class.

I had a professor at university who walked in the door on the first day, slammed a book on the podium, and in a loud Germanic accent bellowed, “There will be no stupid questions in this class! The only stupid questions are the ones you don’t ask.”

To my young, impressionable 17 year-old mind, it made so much sense that I thought it almost profound.

The problem is, youthful idealism can be rapidly eroded away.

There are stupid questions. The ones that used to particularly annoy me were when a fellow student would ask the professor a question that had just been covered or had just been asked by a different student and answered by the professor.

I remember sitting in class thinking, “Pay attention next time. You’re wasting my time.”

These unpleasant memories all came flooding back to me during the first few videos of the Stanford iPhone class and I really thought I might have to give the whole endeavor a miss. When I was 17, I didn’t have to take blood pressure medicine.

Fortunately, within the first few classes either the offending students were gone, or they’d gotten with the program. Since then, it’s really been invaluable to my study of iPhone programming. Typically, books have never worked well for me hen learning a new programming language/paradigm/whatever.

Hands on is what works for me but even that needs some “seeding” with some information. The iPhone developing environment/community was stifled for some time. Apple’s (some say) draconian non-disclosure agreement for early developers prevented source code and discussions from appearing on the net. It even prevented books on the subject from being printed. Thorough as Apple’s documentation is, it’s better as a reference than as a starting point. There hasn’t been a whole lot out there until recently.

I’ve completed plowing through “Beginning iPhone Development: Exploring the iPhone SDK” (Dave Mark, Jeff LaMarche) and am most of the way through initial development of my first iPhone application – more on that another day – so I’m not coming at this class completely cold. Nonetheless, it has helped me resolve numerous logical problems with my in-development application. This is not because the detail or content of the course is far-reaching, but simply because…

Let me digress for another moment.

Here’s another thing that I learned very quickly at university. Not all professors are created equal. In the Computer Science Department in the College of Engineering they had two kinds of professors. They had staff professors who carried a typical teaching workload and they had professionals who worked at some of the local companies who came in and taught the 7:20AM classes and then nipped off to to their real jobs.

You could guarantee those 7:20 classes were the best. In Computer Science knowledge and theory are essential but there is no substitute for solid, real-world experience. The professors who had both were awesome.

So back to the class. The two lecturers, Alan Cannistraro and Evan Doll, both Apple employees working in iPhone development, really demonstrate their knowledge of the subject. It comes across best when they’re answering some of those (good and/or not-so-good) questions from the class. More than once, when they switch over to do some code on-the-fly or respond to something that’s just askew from their prepared lecture I have those, “A Ha!” moments that get me closer and closer to understanding.

I feel this class is really a good example of what iTunes U can do. While I’m not exactly sure what the incentive for universities are to put things in iTunes U, this has convinced me to check out some other courses.

I read yesterday that the Stanford iPhone class has had over a million downloads. Impressive. Of course, if that represents 1 million viewers, (which I doubt it does, but we’ll just use that number for giggles) that still means that at least 900,000 will do nothing with what they learn. That leaves a 100,000 who will try and 90-95% of the them will probably have to go buy Macs to do Xcode development on. I can see why Apple seems happy to share its employees in this project.

Why the iPhone Rules the World – Shazam and SnapTell

I just picked up two new free applications at the iTunes store today and both of them are fantastic beyond belief!

The first is SnapTell Explorer, a program that will, no doubt, get iPhones banned from bookstores inside of 6 weeks. Just use the iPhone to snap a picture of a book, CD, DVD or video game and the image is transferred to SnapTell, identified and links to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Wikipedia, Google and other sources are sent back to you. Perfect for when you don’t want to pay $39 for a computer book you can buy for $26 at amazon.com.

I tested this program on about 25 technical books, 5 to 10 old paperbacks, several DVDs and at least 2 video games (WII) and had about a 95% success rate. (And I have some pretty obscure stuff.) This is the application I’ve been dreaming about since the first cameraphone was invented.

Second, not quite as useful to me, but even cooler, is Shazam.

Like SnapTell this is a program to identify and purchase things. Instead of the camera it uses the microphone to record 12 seconds of audio and then identifies the song for you. I’ve been putting this one to the test since I got home and it’s also had an impressive hit rate. It’s only missed one “popular” music genre song – something a little obscure by Herb Alpert. It’s also done a darned fine job identifying music only tracks from various James Bond soundtracks.

Here’s a little story I think I forgot to blog: I watch international cricket and, when possible, English county cricket. In English cricket, there is a song they play when a Six Boundary is hit, it’s an instrumental piece, a rather jazzy trumpet or horn segment. I love that song, I also had no clue what it was. Google searches were to no avail. I put two separate friends who had both resided in England during the 80’s trying to help me identify it.

After a very long afternoon one day, one of them an I spent hours looking at videos, listening to various audio clips, etc until we finally identified this song: Tom Hark, by the Piranhas. In the US, it’s an obscure 80’s song that really never got play here. After identifying it, I was finally able to get the song.

Shazam identified it in 12 seconds.

That’s impressive indeed

Doctor Who – Under the Radar

My Apple TV did something very strange today – something that I can’t recall that it has ever done before. I think it crashed.

One minute it was showing my flickr screensaver and the next moment I noticed it was asking me what language I wanted my Apple TV to operate in. I choose English and it forced a reboot.

When it was done, I poked around to see if I had somehow missed a software update and looked over the content. Under TV shows, there was a staggering number of channels! Far more than I realized were available on the Apple TV. (TV being such crap as it is, rarely has anything I want to watch, let alone pay for the “privilege”.) But there was BBC America, so I thought, why not look.

Shock! Primeval! Torchwood (blech), Little Britain and Doctor Who… but not just Doctor Who with a Tennant… I was full-on staring at Tom Baker in Creature From the Pit! Sure enough, iTunes now not only has classic Doctor Who, but they have episodes spanning most of the Doctors and many that have never been released on DVD.

Real classics like “Time and the Rani”, “Underworld”, “The Sun Makers” and Nightmare of Eden”. Sadly, Horns of Nimon seems to be missing.

All kidding aside, there’s about 27 stories, including real classics like The Time Monster, Planet of the Spiders, the Mutants and The Krotons.

Each story is sold by the individual episode of $1.99 each, with each story being packaged as a “season” for the cost of the episodes put together.

A quick check on the net revealed this story on Wired from last month revealing that they were available. Wonder why I never saw anything about it in either my regularly monitored Doctor Who or Apple news feeds?

007 on Top

007 on top

I happened to hit the wrong sort order today on my iTunes, bringing the “most played” songs to the top. I must say, I was a bit surprised at the results.

I can only imagine that I must have put a 007 playlist on and left for vacation.

Only one non-007 song cracked the top 35 – the theme from the Return of the Saint. OK, I know why that one’s up there.

Flippin’ iPhone SDK!

OK, today’s iPhone announcementsPhone announcements were 300% better than I’d ever dreamed to hope for…

But…. Apple’s developer download site for the SDK was crushed within minutes of the SDK being available. I was right on it, I was just about to download and BAM! (As Steve Jobs probably wouldn’t say in this case) the whole thing was dead, and I haven’t been able to get at it for hours.

I want to write iPhone code. I have an idea. I want to make my program, and I can’t because I can’t get the SDK. I want my SDK, ss that so much to ask?


Update: 4:50AM, Friday Mar 07, 2008 – Finally, it’s coming down.