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Archive for Learning Resources

Some tips for new iOS developers – 360iDev and don’t look back

// April 6th, 2011 // 3 Comments » // iDevBlogADay, Learning Resources

As I creep my way further and further into iOS development, I’ve discovered 2 things which help immensely:

1. 360iDev

A lot of people will claim that WWDC is THE conference to go to, but for me, it’s 360iDev. One of WWDC’s selling point is hearing from the masters and engineers at Apple talk about their work (code, classes, languages, frameworks). However, for a beginner, a lot of things like the labs and face time with the engineers just go unused.

For me, part of learning is not just watching someone talk about a particular language (Objective-C) or framework (UIKit), but hearing HOW developers use those items and then actually programming along side some of those same developers. 360iDev excels in those 2 departments. You get to hear from developers, big and small, about HOW they make the magic happen. They’ll openly talk about all their tricks in their session, then whip out a laptop in the after hours to show you even more.

The game jam alone is worth the price of admission to 360iDev. Basically, you have 12 hours to build a game (8 pm to 8 am). Imagine a ton of great iOS programmers, all sitting in a room, coding away the night. The best thing is that you can tap into the minds of a lot of these people since they are there and the community is so great. Now, this is not a free ticket to hog up all their time because they are trying to make a game too. However, a few well thought out questions to get you unstuck is pure gold. It will help build your confidence in your tech skills faster than many months of book learning and practicing. Trust me, I know. I learned more in the two game jams I was at, then all the books and sample code I read up until then.

2. Use the latest SDK and don’t look back

I now realize one of my biggest mistakes when starting iOS development. I was reading a book on iOS 2, when 3 was out. Then I was reading an iOS 3 book, when 4 was out. I thought, “Well, if I want to maximize profits, I need to support as many devices as I can and therefore, I need to support the oldest iOS version out there.”

There’s a few flaws to that logic. One, if they haven’t upgraded their OS, the likelihood of them buying and running your app is next to slim. Even if they did buy your app, are you going to want to spend your time supporting the handful of users on the old OS? Or would you rather spend that time working on new features? You have to remember that every version (or platform even) that you choose to support, means just that: support! If you don’t support them, they’ll cry afoul.

The other reason that is flawed is because of improvements to the SDK. Case in point: UIGestureRecognizer. Of you’re still messing with IBOutlets and onTouchUp and crap, don’t! Skip all that and learn all about UIGestureRecognizer instead. Apple’s brilliant engineers are constantly trying to make your life better. If you wait until 2 or 3 releases down the line before you use a new feature, you’re sort of missing the point. Help them help you!

That’s it for me. Next time, I’m hoping to have an update on our game codenamed “Darts”. See you then!

 

Scheduling – Did not make the October deadline, but 360iDev is fast approaching

// November 1st, 2010 // 4 Comments » // Game Dev, iDevBlogADay, Learning Resources

So, PoV’s Challenge is over. Sadly, we here at Area 161 did not make the magical deadline. It was a crazy deadline for us going in and we knew that. One of our dependencies is an iOS version that’s not even released yet, so we knew hitting the October deadline was not going to be possible. However, we did get a much needed jolt from the challenge.

One thing is certain for novice game makers like ourselves. To quote an email from my dad (the main artist):

Are we still on schedule?  Is there a schedule?

That’s the thing. If you’ve never made a game, you’re not really sure what the schedule should be. I figured taking on PoV’s Challenge would at least get us moving towards a goal and 1 month seemed as good a timeline as any.

The lack of progress probably rests upon me more than other team members. I need to be the driving force behind this effort. My dad can draw to his heart’s content and Smiley can throw idea after idea, but until I can code faster and more regularly, I’ll be the bottleneck. I’m getting comfortable with iOS dev, but the speed definitely isn’t there yet. If only there was somewhere I could get a turbo-boost in the iOS dev category. Oh wait, there is.

360|iDev is next week

Exactly one week from today, I’ll be in Austin participating in 360|iDev, the best iOS conference for an indie dev. I announced Area 161 back at the last 360|iDev. We then sorta validated some of our ideas at WWDC. PoV’s Challenge sorta put steam into our engines. I’m looking to this version of 360|iDev to finally get us to full steam. The game jam is my favorite part of the conference. Despite what the rules are, I’ll be coding “darts” while I am there. Taking full advantage of all the genius game making minds there to help me make this game.

If you’ve never been to a 360|iDev and you want to jumpstart you iOS game making career, drop everything and attend it. Yes, I’m biased cuz I helped create it back in the day, but others sing its praises. There’s even a great 101 intro to iOS dev on Sunday by the great Ray Wenderlich and it’s included in your base registration.

If you go, see you there. It’ll definitely be a game changer for us (pun intended). If not, you’ll be sorry. Really, you will.

My Learning Resources

// August 23rd, 2010 // 3 Comments » // iDevBlogADay, Learning Resources

I noticed today that I didn’t list any of the resources I used to actually learn how to program on the iOS. I have quite a few and I figure I should probably list them for posterity before I forget. I came to the iOS world from the Adobe Flex (read: Flash Platform) world. To say it’s a change of pace is a bit of an understatement. If you’re coming from PHP, JavaScript, etc., I’m sure the iOS world will seem as foreign to you as it was to me. What follows is my pointers to getting up to speed on the iOS platform.

Don’t Give Up

First and foremost, I have to say that the biggest hurdle to learning any new platform is your own stubbornness. The older we get, the more set in our ways we become. This applies to languages we speak as well as languages we code in. Objective-C in a unique language. I personally find it extremely fun, but I know the whole message sending and crazyLongAndDescriptiveMethodNames tend to freak people out. Stay at it. I promise, it gets to be very fun. I’m having a blast now!

Think the Objective-C and Apple Way

One of my problems when I started learning Objective-C and Cocoa was my technical baggage. I wanted the iOS platform to perform like other platforms I had programmed in the past. The more I tried to write apps like I used to, the more frustrated I got. It wasn’t until I looked at the language and platform from its perspective that things started to make sense.

Case in point, you’re probably used to subclassing framework classes. On the iOS platform, don’t do that. Subclass your own classes all you want. If you want to subclass NSString or NSMutableArray, don’t. Go learn about categories and use that instead.

Like all frameworks, look at how the framework makers code their stuff. Use that as the basis and jumping off point on how to code your own classes.

Books Are Your Friends

I love books. They are the #1 way I learn…period. In my last business, I worked and interfaced with a ton of publishers. On the iOS platform front, there’s one that stands head and shoulders above the rest: Apress. Granted, I sort of went in reverse order (iPhone -> Obj-C -> C), but hey, I’m stubborn and think I’m smarter than I really am at times. :)

The must have books to get started are:

Learn C on the Mac was a great help. Like I said above, it was the latest book I read despite it being the one I should’ve started with. The thing it teaches you that I didn’t realize I needed to learn was pointers. If you got a handle on pointers, than you can probably skip it. If you don’t get this and get a good grasp on that important topic.

Also, if you’re brand spanking new to programming, this book has a great primer for getting you introduced to the concepts you’ll live in with your code.

Dave Mark is a great guy and he has a love for the language that shows in his writings.

Learn Objective-C on the Mac by Mark Dalrymple and Scott Knaster is a great follow up. This teaches you all about messages, categories, protocols and, most importantly, memory management.

Beginning iPhone Development by Jeff Lamarche and Dave Mark is the book that started it all for me. I figured I could just jump in and become an iPhone expert off their book.  Their book will get you darn close, but you really should go get a foundation of C and Obj-C before jumping here. Think of this book as the icing on your C/Obj-C cake.

Jeff is a great guy that I met a couple of years back. Despite a misunderstanding and miscommunication, Jeff was a great sport through it all.  He’s a great person and often teaches classes. If you find one open and in your area, definitely take it. I’m sure he’s worth every penny.

Speaking of events

Other than books, there is one thing I love: conferences. Books get you the technical knowledge while conferences help you find new friends to help you along in this new journey. Below are my two recommendations.

360|iDev

Hands-down, for community vibe and interaction, this is the show to end all shows. Granted, I helped start it, but I’ve got nothing to do with it now. It’s run by John Wilker and he’s a huge fan of community driven events. It’s cheap, but don’t let that fool you. You get quality goods for a low price!

WWDC

This is Apple’s big developer event. Unlike 360|iDev, WWDC will put a dent in your wallet. However, every speaker is an Apple employee. The people who build the products are the guys delivering the presentations. You can’t get any more expert than that.

The Labs are extra cool. You get to go and chat with the team responsible for all your favorite frameworks and packages.

Blogs

All the writers listed above have blogs. Speakers at the shows above have blogs. There are way too many to list here, but I have to mention at least two:

http://www.raywenderlich.com/

This is hands down one of the best tutorial blog sites out there. Ray really knows how to pack a lot of info into bite-size chunks. He has a donation button. I’ve contributed to it (and probably will give more), so don’t just leech. Pay the man for a job well done. He’s worth every penny you donate.

http://idevblogaday.com

This is the coolest thing to ever come out of any coding community. Organized by the fearless Miguel Friginal, this is a great resource from a (semi) revolving band of indie game devs. The topics are varied, but the knowledge (aside from ours) is deep. Subscribe, read, learn and enjoy!

That’s It

I’m not an expert…yet. However, thanks to the resources above, I’m on my way. The iOS platform is incredible and so is the community that supports it. Don’t forget to pull your head outta your loops and statements to participate in it. Make friends (and, heck, maybe some enemies) but get out there and participate. You’re learning will only increase because of it.