Author Archive for: ralf

Best RSS Feed Reader for the iPhone

07 Feb
07/02/2009

I haven’t done many iPhone application reviews or recommendations on 24100.net because there are so many other sites which do just that. Today I want to quickly point you to Feeds (link opens iTunes) which got released to the App Store the first week of January.

Feeds

Feeds

The German App Store returns more than 100 RSS related applications and I’ve certainly not tested them all but I did trie a lot. Google Reader syncing is one of my key requirements as I’m heavily using Google’s web based feed manager to go through my daily updates. If this is also one of your requirements, it significantly limits the number of options.

For almost a year I’ve been a loyal user of Byline. Byline has a decent user interface, syncs perfectly well with Google Reader and provides you with a good overview of what’s new and hot even if – like me – you’ve subscribed to 30+ feeds. The biggest issue I’ve had with Byline was performance and the fact that I could not add feeds from within the iPhone app itself. So in case I’d discovered a great new feed while I’ve been on the move, I had to wait to access a Mac to add the feed via Google Reader’s web interface and then sync it to the iPhone.

While Byline became recognizably slower with a growing number of feeds I always thought this might not entirely be the developers fault. Maybe syncing with Google Reader’s APIs did not allow for a better performance. It’s been Prime31 Web Design’s Feeds that told me the better.

Feeds feels about 20 times as fast as Byline! I cannot provide any real numbers but purely from an end user’s perception Feeds is just amazingly fast. Once I got used to its performance, I’ve never touched Byline again.

Besides this Feeds supports many other features, too:

  •  Star feed items
  • Share feed items
  • Email feed descriptions and links
  • Categorize feeds into folders
  • Read feeds offline
  • Integrated view of the web version
  • Tag feeds
  • Add feeds to InstantPaper

Some of them depend on having a Google Reader account (sharing and tagging) but Feeds can also be used as a standalone RSS reader.

Feeds

Feeds

Feeds is available in the App Store for 2,39 €.


ObjectiveResource 1.0 released

06 Feb
06/02/2009

No doubt: Apple has established a new standard in smartphone design and software. Palm, HTC and others will follow and competition is generally a good thing as it drives innovation. I’ve recently found myself participating quite regularly in discussions about the iPhone platform’s maturity. While this article is not about that topic I generally believe that part of the maturity of a platform can be derived from the available ecosystem.

Without any question the App Store has outperformed any other platform’s offering targeted at mobile software distribution in terms of active developers, number of downloads, purchases and end-user acceptance and ease of use.

As a developer who started with the very first beta release of the iPhone SDK and strict SDK policies in place, I’m really happy to seeing that more and more frameworks for the iPhone get released.

Y|Factorial yesterday released ObjectiveResources v1.0 It basically is an Objective-C (the language native iPhone apps are written in) port of the well-known Ruby on Rails’ ActiveResource.

With ObjectiveResource consuming RESTful web-services that return XML or JSON responses, published by many Rails applications, is extremely simple.

The Y|Factorial people created a dedicated site for all things related to ObjectiveResource. I’ve just started to check it out and so far everything works as “advertised”. Go check it out if you’re working on an iPhone app that will be connected, needs offline syncing capabilities and you’re going for Web Services based back-end communication.


App Store Valentine Special

06 Feb
06/02/2009

Mark your calendars: German developers are discounting their leading apps up to 80%!

AppsForSale.de

AppsForSale.de

Holger Frank, creator of the famous Mobile Butler application, is on a mission to promote German iPhone developers. So check out AppsForSale.de on Valentine’s Day and get the best German iPhone apps for less than anytime before!


Multitasking coming to the iPhone?

04 Feb
04/02/2009

iphone3gAt the last Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) Apple announced a push notification service. This centrally Apple managed service would allow developers to create iPhone applications that get notifications of new data without the necessity of running said app in the background. Steve Jobs explained that many of the instability issues of current smartphones are actually caused by poorly implemented multitasking and crappy third-party apps. Therefore Apple made a strategic decision to prevent any third party app from running in the background. Jobs stated that Apple does not consider “simply allowing apps to run in the background” the right solution for this common problem and until “really finding a perfect solution Apple would not allow background processes to ruin the great iPhone user experience and performance”.

Notification services did surface in beta versions of the iPhone SDK but got pulled out shortly thereafter. Since then Apple never updated the developer community about the state of affairs.

Since Instant Messaging, Reminders and many other type of applications rely on the ability to receiving updates (from the cloud) even when they are not active, the absence of a solution started to annoy developers. In addition many great applications running seamlessly in the background became available in the jailbreaking community.

According to MacRumors, Apple may be considering background processes after all.

MacRumors states that a part of the 3.0 iPhone firmware, users might be able to decide on a per-application basis which app would be allowed to run in the background. This change might come in light of the enhanced processing capabilities which are expected for the next iPhone hardware release in the June timeframe.


More App Store Confusion

03 Feb
03/02/2009

Yesterday something cool happened: TAXIRUF, one of our iPhone applications, hit the “New & Featured” list in iTunes and the device store. We were experiencing a peak in downloads and wondering why. In the past we saw this happening when Mac Life, TechCrunch and others were reviewing our apps so we googled for reviews. Finally we found out about the updated and very prominent listing of TAXIRUF on iTunes.

Taxiruf iTunes Listing

Taxiruf iTunes Listing

While we definitely appreciate this move and do feel honored, we once again wondered about the statistical analytics Apple applies. We already knew that the review system is, well, far from ideal. Now we add “Featured & New” listings to the what-the-heck-goes on bucket.

Taxiruf App Store Listing

Taxiruf App Store Listing

Here is why: TAXIRUF was submitted to Apple during the first week of September 2008. It got approved September 17th, 2008. Shortly thereafter it hit the Top 10 Sold apps. Since then TAXIRUF moderately continues to sell across Germany.

So what’s the reason for the application to appear on the “Featured & New” list five months too late? And in light of this how reliable are all the other ratings and listings? Or is it all a big mess?

By the way, just in case anybody from Apple happens to read this: We’re not asking to remove TAXIRUF from its current prominent place. In fact we do like heavy download days. Messed analytics constitute a problem but having an app on the iTunes landing page is just fantastic!


Guest blogging at iphone-notes.de

03 Feb
03/02/2009

I feel honored to announce that starting as of today I’m going to co-author posts on iPhone-notes.de. The site is 100% dedicated to the German speaking market so I thought it would be a perfect idea to further separate my various activities in this field and contribute to one of the most popular German speaking independent iPhone sites.

Those running jailbroken iPhones (I myself don’t as for the professional iPhone apps development business it’s important to have a model which is compliant with the ones shipped by Apple) definitely know iPhone-notes.de and it’s linked Installer/Cydia repository – sendowski.de – as it still is one of the most favorite sources for iPhone tooling and software.

I’m looking very much forward to working with Andre on expanding iPhone-notes.de reach and keeping you up-to-date with the latest and greatest in Apple Smartphone Land.

More announcements to come. Stay tuned!


iPhone Visual Dial

03 Feb
03/02/2009



Welcome back (sort of)!

03 Feb
03/02/2009

Welcome back to the third iteration of 24100.net – my personal blog and Internet home. If you came here, you’ve probably been around for a while. Beginning in 2009 I’ve started to consolidate my various online presences. The primary driver for this effort has been to achieve a better separation of the more private and technically detailed content from my business focused articles.

I also wanted to get rid of what over time has become kind of a “platform zoo”. The parallel use of Textpattern, Subtext and Typepad has become a bit of a pain lately, though Ecto – an offline blog publishing solution for the Mac – helped streamlining the process. I’ve decided to unify everything on WordPress. It has been around for a couple of years and I occasionally installed it to see how things are going. Last December I did another check and found that WordPress has matured a lot and addresses most of my requirements right out-of-the-box.

Last but not least all articles here will be in English only. The majority of my subscribers, followers, fellows and friends are from other countries than Germany. Google Analytics provides some great insight as to the regional distribution of my visitors and more than 85% do not speak German.

A couple of words to names, URLs and what will happen to my “old” articles:

My blog has always been available at www.24100.net. However, due to technical limitations imposed by my ASP.NET hoster, I had to redirect to another address (www.talentgrouplabs.com/blog). This situation has been less than ideal for a long time but I really couldn’t do anything to resolve it. The good thing is that was has been a disadvantage for so long comes in very handy now: As all of the direct links to previous posts are pointing to http://www.talentgrouplabs.com/blog/<post title here> they are not going to break.

Also search engine listings to old posts will continue to work, too.

Taken together this means:

  • My personal blog, the one you’re currently reading, will be available at www.24100.net.
  • My corporate blog is available at blog.acceleract.com.
  • www.talentgrouplabs.com/blog is frozen as of now. I’m not going to add any new posts. Comments will be closed. It’ll essentially become a read-only site.
  • The most favorite posts from the old site will be duplicated and copied over to this place. I’ll preserve the original date/time of publication.

This has all come a long way. Social Media is receiving more and more traction these days and I’m happy to having you here. Thanks!


Things in life change

01 Feb
01/02/2009

Things in life change.

This is true for presidentsmobile telephonesthe universe and life. After more than four consecutive years of successful growth and the recent acquisition of our spin-off by Alcatel-Lucent/Genesys I’ve decided to withdraw from my daily operational job at VoicInt Telecommunications. As a loyal shareholder I’ll remain very grateful to the company and stay in touch from a healthy distance to accompany its future evolution. VoicInt has become a software vendor with an exciting future and I’m happy that we were able to build a strong new management team from its existing employees. I’m sure they will continue to further drive VoicInt’s positive development.

Taking a startup from incorporation to crossing the chasm is such a grateful task and I’m really thankful that I could play such a vital role in this process at VoicInt Telecommunications.

I’ve incorporated acceleract GmbH which will serve as my own holding for the next entrepreneural adventures I’m starting. acceleract GmbH will allow me to invest into and partner with businesses that share my passion for innovative technologies that make our lives more easy and comfortable. acceleract GmbH predominantly will hold the shares of VoicInt Telecommunications, straight2market and soon-to-be-disclosed other partners.

Operationally I’m going to help straight2market to become the leading management resulting company for go-to-market strategies and profitable product sales engagements. straight2market’s mobile marketing arm has already been cited by TechCrunch and several other important technology blogs for the outstanding applications for Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch, so we are pretty much on track here :-) .

We’ve incorporated straight2market in early 2008. The one thing I like most about creating and growing businesses is that it allows me to work closely and creatively with extremely gifted and dedicated teams. I’m glad that we could win Karl-Heinz Land – which Time Magazine considers to be “a tech pioneer that’s changing our lives in amazing new ways” – as being our chairman. I’m looking forward to working closely together with two of my friends, Roland Freygang and Martin Willnow, who have been such a tremendous source of inspiration over the years and are among the best sales people I’ve been working with.

I’m eager to get in touch with everybody who values integrity, honesty, openness, personal excellence, constructive self-criticism, continual self-improvement, mutual respect and has a passion for technology. If you want to get in touch here are a variety of classical and Web 2.0 options:

With that said, I’m extremely excited and amazed in light of 2009 with so much new things to come!

Thanks for stopping by. Thanks for your continuous loyalty. Let’s go for an amazing, exciting and new 2009!


I am migrating

20 Sep
20/09/2008

I am migrating.

From a Microsoft and Windows dominated world to an Apple and Mac dominated universe. For almost two decades I’ve been a pure PC and Windows user. Much of my professional career has dealt with Personal Computers and the ICT industry at large. I’m an absolute professional when it comes to most of the (Enterprise) Microsoft technologies and developing large scale solutions in C, C++, C# and using Visual Studio etc. I’ve been using Word, Excel and PowerPoint since their DOS incarnation.

Mostly due to time constraints I’ve not spent too much time with Apple products besides the iPod which I’ve purchased once it hit the market and since then “upgrade” to almost every model which Apple released. Well, I am a technology addict – kind of.

It’s actually my investment into an iPhone Development start up which kind of forced me to put an Apple desktop PC, sorry, an iMac right onto my desktop. As I assume for most of the people out there who transition from Windows/PC to a Mac OS X/Mac environment my first steps where – at best – scary. After years with MS DOS and through all iterations of Windows I know almost everything about the MS Operating System. I know every hack and I can fix things without even looking at the screen.

On my iMac I literally had to google for keyboard shortcuts. (And many, many of the Mac OS X features are accessible only via non-intuitive shortcuts…) I kind of started from scratch. I had to leave Visual Studio – without any doubt one of the best integrated development environments available today – and replace it by a tool called Xcode on the Mac. I had to leave my beloved Windows task bar behind and started to work with a single central menu bar and a beast called “The Dock”.

To make a long story short: Last week something extremely significant happened in my life: I made the iMac my main computer. :-)

Initially the iMac has just been planned for iPhone related development. While in the past weeks the PC has still been the central computer (and screen) on my desk and the iMac stood right beside it I noticed that I slowly and kind of subconsciously had started to not only do iPhone development with the iMac but also slowly started to use it for some of the other tasks. I surfed the Web with Safari instead of Internet Explorer, instant messaged with Adium instead of Trillian and used Entourage and Mail for my electronic communication.

The interesting thing is that in retrospective this had happened for no obvious single reason. In fact most of the programs (Safari, Entourage, Adium) are not so different from their PC equivalents but it had to do with the sum of these almost ideal user experiences. I cannot point out a bulleted list of facts but it just is more fun to do stuff on an iMac than on a PC. And Mac OS X simply rocks. It’s fast, reliable and visually appealing. Its consistent user interface and its many hidden features which just become accessible when you need them by far outperform Windows. (Maybe I’ll do a separate post and provide some examples.) Everything has just gotten easy, intuitive and fast.

Once I’ve made the decision to use the iMac as my new main workstation and keep the Windows machine as a backup what I’ve found difficult was to find replacements for many of the tools that I’ve become so used to on a PC. Over the years some of the available software for Windows has become kind of mandatory for me and significantly boosted my personal productivity – however, most of these tools are Windows only. Unfortunately as many of the Apple programs have more fancy names – opposed to the somewhat technical marketing in the Windows world – I was unable to resolve the situation by simply googling for replacements.

This search for “give me back my tools” is what actually inspired me to start this post. I believe there might be others who like me changed to a Mac OS X environment and are looking for the right tools for their day-to-day work. Well, here is my current list. It is in no way complete nor do I know whether there are better, cheaper or newer alternatives available. If there are, I’d be happy if you’d leave a comment.

  • I used to use Windows Live Writer as my blog publishing tool. I loved Windows Live Writer. In my opinion it still is one of the best blog publishing tools available for the Windows platform. As blogging is a very important part of my professional and private life I kind of missed WLW the most during the first few weeks on the Mac. In fact I regularly switched back to my Vista machine purely for blogging. I tried many of the programs for Mac OS X but none really worked well for me. (In fact the blog engine I’m using is Microsoft ASP.NET based Subtext which works perfectly fine with WLW…). What finally changed the game was Infinite Sushi’s Ecto. Infinite Sushi is the company name. You’ve got to get used to somewhat strange company names when you deal with a computer manufactured by a company named Apple! :-) Ecto delivers 100% of what Windows Live Writer does. I could reuse all of the tagging and categorization infrastructure of my blog and setting up Technorati tags worked like a charm. All of the September blog entries have been produced using Ecto.
  • For my professional work and for blogging I heavily rely on screen captures. A leading solution for the PC is TechSmith’s SnagIt. It’s been one of the rare tools that I’ve actually had in my Vista Autostart folder. Unfortunately there is no Mac version available and I don’t know whether TechSmith is actually planning to release one. Mac OS X’ built-in screen capture capabilities are, sorry, a shame. For a computer which is largely used for imaging and design I’ve expected something with the quality of SnagIt right built into the OS. Well, it’s not. There are many screen capture utilities for the Mac available as freeware and commercial solutions. I tried more than ten different ones and finally purchased FlySketch. FlySketch has a great intuitive and simplistic user interface combined with just the annotation features I need.
  • While FlySketch is good for taking the actual screen captures and creating some simple annotations it does not make up for the editor which ships with TechSmith SnagIt and Camtasia. I therefore had to look for an additional solution for quick image editing. I stumbled across Pixelmator. In short Pixelmator is an Adobe Photoshop clone. While it does not offer every single feature found in Photoshop CS 3 it is extremely close and ships with an absolute astonishing feature set at a price point below 100 US$. In fact I do own Adobe’s Creative Master Suite for the Mac but find myself using Pixelmator more and more because of its great user interface and low footprint. If you’re not a Photoshop Pro chances are you’ll find everything you need in Pixelmator.
  • Need a multi protocol instant messenger for your Mac? Go for Adium! I’ve been using Trillian and Windows Live Messenger in concert on my PC. On the Mac Adium simply rocks. You can customize every single aspect and it integrates so well into the Menu Bar and The Dock that you’ll never look for another instant messenger.
  • Are you in need of an SFTP, SCP and SSH client and used to work with Putty on your PC? Well, get Fugu for your Mac OS X computer. It’s free and works brilliantly.
  • As an advantage of Trillian over Adium you can get an IRC plug-in for the first one. I could not find one for Adium. Therefore if you’re following IRC discussions (as I do) I recommend Snak a pretty straight forward IRC client supporting the latest features of the IRC protocol.
  • As I’m a native German I quite frequently used Babylon to translate text snippets on the fly. Luckily Babylon just started to support the Mac platform and I had to learn nothing new!
  • When it comes to the (Microsoft) Office programs I simply had to keep a version of Microsoft Office 2008 for the Mac. Word, Excel and PowerPoint are still predominant file formats in the business world and while many other solutions come with import and export capabilities I almost always ran into trouble when I used some of the more advanced features of Microsoft Office and tried to import/export. So I do use Microsoft Office 2008 on my Mac. I kind of hate Entourage. It’s slow. It’s totally different from what Microsoft Outlook and it hangs more than every other application I’ve been using in the past 12 months. (I also don’t understand why Entourage – the Mac version of MS Outlook – does support multiple Exchange accounts on the Mac while it does not on its native Windows platform…)
  • While I keep using the Microsoft Office suite for the above reasons whenever possible I use Pages, Numbers and Keynote (the Apple equivalents for Word, Excel and PowerPoint). Pages outperforms Word in its simplicity and clean user interface. It has everything I ever needed for word processing. Keynote clearly leverage the graphical power of the Mac. It ships with beautiful and meaningful animations that help your presentations look great even if you’re not an artist.

Well that’s it for my little rundown through my Applications folder. I might occasionally come back to my list and amend or add stuff but so far I’m almost at the same level of confidence with power using my iMac as I’ve been on my various Vista machines.

In case you can recommend additional utilities, tools, helper applications are have better alternatives than the one I’ve outlined above, please do submit a comment and let me know.