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Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 3.50.11 PM

TestFlightApp.com goes away February 26, 2015 – use new iOS 8 Test Flight App

IMG_1295The website we have utilized for beta testing of apps, TestFlightApp.com, shuts down on February 26th, 2015. All app testing will be moved to the iOS8 TestFlight app and managed through Apple’s iTunes Connect.

As a developer, and a user there are many more PROs to this than CONs. The new TestFlight app for iOS8 radically simplifies the process of beta testing apps.

In the old TestFlight.com, a developer had to:

  • invite users to TestFlight
  • get the user to register a device on TestFlight
  • take the UUID of the device and register it on developer.apple.com
  • put the device ID into a provisioning profile
  • use that profile to build
  • re-upload the build (or the new provisioning profile if that was all that changed) to TestFlightApp.com
  • distribute the build to designated TestFlightApp users

There were several places where that process could get stuck and could indeed go wrong.

With the new TestFlight iOS8 app, the steps are much simpler:

  • developer submits app (there are several steps involved here for developers, but they are basically the same as submitting an app to the app store. After Archiving, you “Submit” the app to a version on iTunes Connect that is marked “Prepare for Submission”
  • check the box for “TestFlightBetaTesting”Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 3.50.11 PM
  • select “External Testers” (this will not be visible until the app goes through Beta App Review)
  • invite the test user via email (does not even have to be their iTunes email, as Apple will do the mapping)
  • the users will be asked to download the TestFlight app (if they have not already done so)
  • the app will then be available for install from the TestFlight appIMG_0128
  • apps installed via TestFlight app will have orange dots beside them
  • users will be notified when new versions are availableIMG_1296

The device ID mapping is done by Apple. No changes in the provisioning profile are needed.

What else is different? Here are the cons:

  • No Android. Obviously, since Apple acquired them, support for this has been dropped. It was an advantage to have all testers and testing in one web site.
  • Beta builds only available for 30 days. After that time, the developer must submit another build.
  • No TestFlight SDK. The developer could including TestFlight’s SDK and get more data on what parts of the app the users was testing. These feature has not yet been moved over to the new TestFlight app (if anyone has found it, please let us know).
  • Wait for Beta App Review. Apps do have to be submitted for “Beta App Review”. The first time this is done, it can take a few hours to a couple of days. After that, it is quite quick, if the developer answers a question concerning the level of changes in this build (fewer changes do not apparently require an extensive review).
  • Issues with Gmail invites. We’ve run across one issue with invites receive in Gmail that were not able to acknowledge the TestFlight invitation and thus allow the app to be run under the TestFlight app.
  • Works only with iOS8. This is not as big an issue as it was. We assume Apple waiting until the adoption rate was high enough before discontinuing the Test Flight app web service.
  • If this is an upgrade to an existing app store app by the same name, the Test Flight app will write over it. The user will be notified of this with a alert notification. The user can always get the production version back via the app store.

Overall, the PROs far outweigh the CONs, and hopefully some of the other pieces will show up in the future.

Existing users can be exported from TestFlightApp.com into CSV files for import as external users on Apple’s iTunesConnect web site (where user management is now controlled). Detailed instructions here.

Cloud Storage Options (with pricing table)

There are several options for cloud storage with different pricing options and some slight difference in features. Pricing is changing quite a bit. The table below tries to show for a given amount of storage which option is the cheapest amongst the major players.

Note that I ignored the variety of promotions; for example, I received 50GB for free from Box when I installed their iOS client and signed up for an account in January. I did include extra space that the user gets when doing somewhat simple tasks (like inviting friends as DropBox provides).

I also did not include multi-user (cost per user per month) plans, as a lot of them state “custom pricing”.

There are other options out there like MEGA and BRIGHT COVE which I did not include yet in this comparison.

I’ve tried to note where there are other things which might impinge on the amount of storage (for example, the Google drive storage is shared by several applications.

For the color coding, Green is the best price for the amount of storage, Red is the worst.

For those of you that are more organized that I, take note that you can get a total of 44 GB for free by simply by signing up for all of these (5GB from Amazon, 10GB from Box, 2GB from DropBox, 15GB from Google Drive, 5GB from iCloud and 7GB from MS One Drive); but like your car keys, you just gotta remember where you put everything.

Everybody except DropBox offers at least 5GB for free; one would assume DropBox will change that soon. With recent announcements, DropBox also has the most expensive options in several tiers, so one would assume that will change as well.

Amazon and Google come out as the least expensive options the majority of the time.

I included the iOS 8 iCloud Drive pricing that came out of WWDC; with current pricing, Apple’s options suck…with the iOS pricing (which is not on a price sheet yet, but on presentations) they are actually competitive.

If you see any errors or changes, add a comment. This is from public pricing sheets (except for Amazon’s, which I had to login to find, and iOS8 pricing, which is only from WWDC presentations) as of July 6, 2014.

Long table after the break.

(more…)

mid-2011 11" Mac Air vs. new 13" Mac Air

Apple Mac Air 13″ and Migration Assistant

I’ve had a mid-2011 11 inch Mac Air for two years. This was my first Mac laptop, and the size (perfect for traveling), the instant on and several other features sold me on it. I had Compaq laptops for my duration at Compaq (of course) and had meandered from Sony VAIO’s (good product) to ASUS netbooks before deciding that paying four times the cost of a Windows laptop might actually be worth it. It would be difficult at this point to convince me to go back to Windows (though I do keep a Windows desktop for some apps).

But I upgrade to the just announced Mac Air 13 inch for several reasons:

  • Size. Yeah, I know, I said that. But customers squinting at the 11 inch screen to see demos just didn’t get the point across;
  • Battery life. The new 13″ was spec’d at 12 hours of battery life. Running multiple apps plus XCODE and sometimes Eclipse just wasted the battery on the little 11″.
  • Performance. See above…sure, I could shut some apps off, but why should I?

My local Apple store, who I have a good relationship with, had the fully loaded 13″ (8 GB RAM, 512 Flash storage and the upgraded processor) in stock. My son’s big ole Windows laptop was giving him fits so he was the designated hand-me-down recipient of the 11″ Mac Air.

This lead me to try Apple’s Migration Assistant.

I have never been a big fan of automated migration programs. They either seem to miss a configuration (or several), don’t move all your files, or just plain don’t work.

In addition, I had three types of XCODE development profiles and certificates on my Mac: one set for Media Sourcery, one set for JoSara MeDia (our publishing company) and one customer’s (an Enterprise License that we develop under for them). Having just been through the un-documented gyrations of renewing and reissuing the one Apple Enterprise cert/profile, I was not optimistic.

However, after a false start or two, Migration Assistant blew my incredibly low expectations away.

It not only moved all my files, it:

  • moved all of the certs and profiles that XCODE requires, without any additional configuration;
  • moved all WiFi configurations;
  • moved browser history;

Except for the Microsoft Office license (yes I run Office for Mac, and will as long as my customers use it).

My main hiccup was when I first set it up, Migration Assistant projected a nice 75 hours for copying files over. That issue was attributed because Larry has too many WiFi networks at home, including a new one from an AirPort Time Capsule (more on that in another post). When I made certain that both laptops were on the same WiFi network, Migration Assistant projected a more reasonable 4-5 hours to copy everything over.

I let it run over night, and started getting used to a bigger screen (which isn’t easy…the 11″ is nice…the things we do for our customers). But, just for precautions, I asked my son not to delete anything on the old Mac for a while.

cca8

COMPAQ: Building implosion, HP and Apple

The implosion today of two buildings (CCA 7 and 8) on the former Compaqcca8 campus comes nearly ten years to the day after the business implosion of Compaq through its acquisition by HP. Like Compaq, CCA7 and CCA8 on the Houston campus, now owned by the local community college, had been deemed too expensive to renovate; the choice was made to blow them up and rebuild.

This parallels not only HP’s recent “blowing up” of its tablet and (profitable) PC business, but the final disposition of the great COMPAQ Computer Corporation, a company that I proudly worked at for fifteen years. Compaq in the beginning was an incredibly innovative company in portable computers and servers…but in the later years was one Steve Jobs shy of a full Apple cart.

It is easy to envy Apple, now one of (if not the, depending on market closings) the highest valued companies in the world, and in the enviable position of charging and receiving premium prices on almost all of their products. The history of Apple is well known, and its story and that of Compaq can be seen as mirror images…until Apple’s turning point, when Jobs returned, grown up and ready with innovation, differentiation and a long term plan.

In between the leadership of John Sculley and Steve Jobs’ return as interim CEO in 1997, Apple faced similar crossroads to Compaq’s at the same time. Obviously over-simplified, in 1998 Compaq chose to follow the kings of the day, and emulate IBM by acquiring services (and people and debt)-heavy Digital Equipment Corporation; while Apple chose a gambler’s path of innovation, a path to no longer try to compete on the speeds and feeds of cpu/memory/disk with the PC vendors of the day, but to create a content consumer/content creator vision, to innovate and differentiate.

In 1997, Compaq’s revenues were approx. $25 billion, and income was approx. $2 billion.

In 1997, Apple’s revenues were approx. $7 billion, and income was a LOSS of approx. $1 billion.

Three years after Compaq acquired Digital Equipment Corporation, HP acquired Compaq, a controversial acquisition according to HP’s board (mixed if with a bit of Deutsche Bank conflict of interest scandal). The services division of the combined Compaq and DEC was not meshing, and was not proving as “accretive” as had been hoped in the original merger documents. CEO Eckhard Pfeifer was let go in 1999, and by 2001 Compaq’s meteoric time in the technosphere flamed out.

Four years after naming Jobs interim CEO, Apple released the iPod..then the iTunes store…then the iPhone…then the iPad.

Could those paths have been switched? If Compaq had not purchased Digital, would it still exist? There were many variables, and I’ll leave the possible scenarios to the academics, to future business school case studies. As a man I admired said, “you can’t un-honk a honked horn.”

Like many people, I found my fifteen years working at Compaq an incredible experience. I met the love of my life while working there. After we were married, she would look out the windows in the break room at CCA8 and see our daughter waiting for the school bus in front of our house in Lakewood Forest. With the demise of those buildings, and the presumed demise of the last vestiges of Compaq with the pre-announced sale of the PC business, we choose to think back fondly on those days , the great people we worked with… and whimsically wonder what could have been.

My new novel, Software by the Kilo

My new novel, Software by the Kilo

In the summer of 2005, I was about to venture into my third
small start-up company, wrapping up the last items with my previous employer. As luck would have it, my previous employer had offices in Europe, in Milan, Munich and London. We were lucky enough to wrap in a non-business trip to Greece, including the island of Paxos around my visiting the European customers and offices.

I was hiking around that island one day, being pursued by thoughts of start-up company financing, when I came across a large villa, facing out across the Adriatic Sea towards Italy. Wouldn’t it be great, I mused, if there were a nice angel investor in that villa who would like to invest in this next venture?

What if he were an Italian drug smuggler?

That was the genesis for my new novel, Software by the Kilo.

But it wasn’t until last November, several years after that first trip, that the novel was finished, with a World War II back story that tied the original start-up plus Italian drug smuggler story line together.

It is no coincidence that the book is released on December 2, the anniversary of “Little Pearl Harbor”, the bombing of Bari, Italy in 1943, which ends up as a pivotal setting in the novel.

Of course I had to add in that one of the Italian henchmen loves Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns, and that led to the body count game…

I never thought it would be more than three years between novels; obviously Stephen King I’m not, in more ways than just output. But I’ve enjoyed thoroughly the writing process, getting the pieces of the story to fall into place, bouncing ideas off of friends and fellow writers. The voices in my head never shut up, so my therapy to keep what little sanity I have left is to keep putting them down on paper.

The book is available at your local independent book stores like The Twig in San Antonio (now in the Pearl Brewery!), Books Inc. in California, BookPeople in Austin, Murder by the Book in Houston, Katy Budget Books in Katy Texas (if they don’t have it, stomp your feet and ask them to order it, please), at Amazon (.com and overseas), Barnes and Noble, and other outlets.

If you have any questions or feedback before, during or after, please let me know. More info on the novel is here.

droodpicacio1

bookrev: Drood by Dan Simmons

Very few authors can make something as mundane
droodpicacio1as a fictionalized account of the last five years of Charles Dickens’ life appeal to readers outside of those with Degrees in English.

Dan Simmons is one of that select group. Drood is an enjoyable read, that intersperses factual references about Dickens and Wilkie Collins (a lesser known author of the time) with a character either real or imagined named Drood. Whether the Drood character is truly real or is a figment of Collins’ opium delusions (or some other reason which I won’t spoil here) is a large part of the enjoyment of this novel. This novel succeeds on multiple levels, introducing or reminding one of Dickens’ works and life, introducing the works of Collins, and blending historical fact with fiction in a smooth fashion, quite similar to Simmons’ previous tome, The Terror.

I read the traditional Little, Brown and Co. version, but I also most point out the magnificent cover (see picture) that graces the limited edition from Subterranean Press, designed by fellow San Antonian and Northside School District veteran (although my high school was better than his) John Picacio; another excellent cover, John!

The novel covers the last five years of Dickens’ life, told from the perspective of his sometime friend, rival and collaborator, Wilkie Collins. (more…)

Conquering Dan Simmons commitment issues

Being a Dan Simmon’s reader and fan takes a lot of commitment, but I must tell you, Dear Reader (pun intended) that it is certainly worth the commitment.

Having just tackled the 766 page behemouth that is The Terror and then immediately diving headlong into the 771 page door stop that is Drood, Simmon’s latest, I’ll admit that I did question my sanity. There are lots of quick little reads staring at my from my reading pile (not to mention writing of my own); was I truly committed enough to this author to spend that kind of time on his disparate works?

In a word, yes.

Mr. Simmon’s efforts do require a high level of commitment, for the following reasons: (more…)

bookrev: Olympos by Dan Simmons

bookrev: Olympos by Dan Simmons

When people are recommending SciFi/Fantasy books to non-SciFi/Fantasy readers, books such as Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card or movie tie-in books are listed. Because of how seamlessly the science fiction is interwoven into the multiple story points, and the inclusion of Shakespeare, Proust and other literary authors and their creations, Dan Simmon’s Ilium and Olympos should also be on that list. My only caution for the new reader is that Simmon’s books are long (the hardcover Olympos is 690 pages), contain complex plots, and do not always answer all of the questions that the prose poses.

The Ilium/Olympos duology examines a world where mankind has given into to the temptation to play Gods, where humans have evolvedphysially into ‘post-humans’ technologically capable of terraforming Mars and transporting the Greek/Troy war and warriors from the past onto that terraformed battlefield.

After reading the extraordinary Ilium, which ended after several hundred pages with more questions left, I was concerned that the sequel Olympos would not live up to the high bar Mr. Simmons set. I found the writing in the second tome just as good, the story lines equally well laid out….my only slight concern is the ending. I’ll try to present my thoughts on that later without spoiling the ending.

Spoilers after the break for the ending of Ilium. (more…)

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

click on the image for more info and to support this blog

Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo

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