Back to the iMac (Pro)

I’ve always been a fan of the MacBook Pro+Thunderbolt Display setup. It worked very well, the monitor was amazing and it offered me the required versatility that I needed at the time as I had an office both at home and with other fellow developers.

iMac 5K

Then in 2014, came the iMac 5K. We’ve been spoiled by Apple since 2011 with the Retina Display (let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger and my eyes could use a break) and figured that I would switch to a MacBook Pro+iMac setup while Apple works on the Retina Thunderbolt Display or whatever they would end up calling it.

This dual computer setup is less ideal for me as I would code on both and syncing source code via Dropbox or some other sharing service is no option. Having to commit unfinished work to Git on one Mac only to keep working on the other is really a pain in the butt and is prone to human errors.

A very expensive and frustrating experience

“Finally”, Apple announced late 2016 new MacBook Pros and 5K external Retina displays to go along. Great! I thought. I could get rid of the iMac 5K and go back to my ideal laptop and external monitor setup.

The word ‘finally’ is in quotes because the 2016 MacBook Pro and LG Ultrafine display has been nothing but a frustrating experience. Luckily, I never had any keyboard issues (yet) but the setup never really worked well. Not to mention the poor build quality of that LG display, which would wobble every time I would hit a key on my keyboard or just refuse to turn on unless I made some dance or forced reboot the MacBook Pro.

The fact that Apple gave away its display business to LG reflects how the company feels you shouldn’t plug in an external monitor to their laptops. If you do, then they don’t care about the experience.

Then came the iMac Pro

So I bit the bullet this week and got an iMac Pro. My intention is to use an iPad Pro on the rare occasions that I’m not working from home and use that time to do tasks other than coding, like blogging for instance.

If I really need to use Xcode, I can always fire up Screens and connect to my iMac Pro!

As a backup, I have a 2014 MacBook Pro that still works very well.

Apple seems to have done a pretty good job with the iMac Pro. It is the most expensive computer I’ve ever purchased but I intend to keep it for a very long time.

Let’s hope this doesn’t end up being another expensive and frustrating experience!

My LG UltraFine 5K Display Review

hkn62

Well, I’ve annoyed my Twitter followers a lot those past few weeks so I’d better write a review!

I like having a one computer setup. For years, I had a Retina MacBook Pro attached a Thunderbolt Display and that worked quite well. Then in 2014, Apple announced the iMac 5K – I just had to get that beautiful, gorgeous Retina display! My plan was to have a two computer setup for a couple of years until Apple releases a Retina Thunderbolt Display or whatever it would be called it at that point.

Unfortunately, that day never happened. Instead, Phil Schiller briefly mentioned during the October 2016 Keynote event that Apple worked with LG on a new UltraFine 5K display and was now the official external monitor for the MacBook Pro. That Apple wasn’t releasing a new external display was expected at that point but my hopes were still high as Apple was seemingly involved in the design of the display.

That 4K Display That Never Worked Well

Being the impatient person that I am, I ordered an UltraFine 4K display to test out while the 5K version would become be available. After cleaning out all the styrofoam that got everywhere when unboxing the display, I plugged in my MacBook Pro the UltraFine 4K – nothing. The damn thing wouldn’t turn on. After multiple reboots, cable plugging/unplugging, it finally complied.

After a few days of use, my MacBook Pro wouldn’t recognize the display when plugged into the left side Thunderbolt ports. A SMC and NVRAM reset didn’t help. Only one of the right Thunderbolt ports would let me use the display.

I then proceed to return the display within the 14-day period in order to get a refund from Apple.

That 5K display that was DOA

The first 5K display I received had the same issues as the 4K except that it worked for about a minute and then just died. Since I had similar issues with the previous display, I went to the Apple Store to exchange the laptop for a new one, thinking that something was wrong with it. Unfortunately it didn’t solve the issue and had to, once again, send the display back to Apple and order a new one.

The second display has worked well since I’ve received it so maybe there are some quality control problems over at LG or software issues at Apple. Who knows! ¯_(ツ)_/¯

The Good

As expected, the display is gorgeous. This is great since once you start looking at it, you forget about its bland design. Where’s the aluminum? Where’s the glass?

Having only one cable to plug in is great.

The Bad

The thing wobbles like a Bobblehead. I don’t have the most stable desk but that was never an issue with my iMac.

Sound quality is not great. The volume level is also broken. You cannot go over two notches without being way too loud. Hopefully a software update will solve that issue.

I sometimes need to unplug USB accessories (iPad, etc.) when I plug in my MacBook Pro because they stop working or charging.

This seems to have been fixed in macOS 10.12.3 but I still need to open my MacBook Pro’s display before unplugging it because the display won’t turn on otherwise. This also could be solved by a software update.

The overall construction quality not what you would expect from a product endorsed by Apple. This display is more expensive than a Thunderbolt Display and yet it feels much cheaper. That Apple is fine with that is beyond me.

It smells weird while it’s turned on, although it seems like the smell is slowly going away as weeks go by.

Conclusion

I’m keeping the display but I think Apple made a mistake by leaving the display market. Like John Gruber and Ben Thompson discussed on The Talk Show #179, Apple probably never made much money from their displays but they did it because the user experience was important. I’d love to learn the rationale behind that decision.

Apple handed a part of its business to LG on a silver platter and instead of seizing the opportunity to impress Apple users, LG did the minimum required and left most disappointed.

Ten Years

January 2017 marks the tenth anniversary of being an independent developer. It all started in August 2006, when I got laid off by my employer and found another job that turned out to be very bad for me. So bad that I thought I would end up with a nervous breakdown so I had to do something about it.

I resigned later in December, took a few weeks off during the holidays and started being my own boss in January 2007. Then a few weeks later the iPhone was announced.

I still had to work as a contracting web developer, which I hated but not as much as that last job. It wasn’t up until April 2008, when my application to the Apple Developer Program was approved, that I could finally do what I wanted: make my own apps.

I was able to release two apps for the July 11 App Store launch and since then, I’ve been very fortunate to do what I love. Every year brings its challenges but I wouldn’t be doing anything else.

How to be a successful indie developer*

* Not a guarantee

There has been a lot of words written lately about how hard it is to make a decent living as an independent software developer. While I agree that it has become harder every year to stay on top of things and keep making it in a crowded space, it is possible if you apply these rules:

  1. Find a real problem to solve
  2. Make sure that those that have that problem are willing to pay a fair price for your app in order to solve it
  3. Make a great app

That is what I did with Screens and I’m making a pretty good living out of it. Of course, the app was released back in 2010 when there weren’t as many apps out there and it was easier to get noticed but it is still a proof that a $19.99 iOS app ($29.99 on the Mac) is possible.

Yes, it takes a lot more time, money and personal investment nowadays to make it as an indie but that’s what we call doing business. This isn’t 2008 anymore and it is not enough to just release a $1.99 app out there and hope to make it. Solve a problem and ask good money for it and you’ll have more chances to become successful.

Back to the Mac

Brent Simmons, UXKit Again

I have no illusions that I can talk any iOS developers into Mac development. I will say that it’s fun, though, for a bunch of reasons. Your apps run on the same machine as your development environment. You have the freedom to distribute outside the app store. You have a chance to write something that all your peers — many of whom are also programmers — will run all day long on their Macs. (And you have a decent chance of making better money. Mac users tend to be loyal and supportive and awesome.)

I’m not kidding myself, Edovia wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Apple and its respective App Stores. However, I’ve had this urge lately to try to make it on my own, without Apple’s help. Of course, there’s no way out of the App Store for iOS apps but you can still hold the reins of your destiny on the Mac side.

Just a few weeks ago, Screens for Mac made more than 90% of its revenues on the Mac App Store. My goal is to increase the percentage of copies sold directly drastically by the year’s end.

It’s not only about the money. Of course, having FastSpring taking roughly 9% off every sale compared to the hefty 30% taken by Apple on each sale is nothing to sneeze at.

For me, the real gain is to be able to push bug fix releases in the matter of minutes, not days, and taking care of my users in a much less frustrating way. Direct customers also tend to be less of a pain compared to App Store customers and easier to work with.

As for UXKit, I don’t understand all the fuss. Yes, AppKit is sometimes frustrating compared to UIKit but seriously, just learn the damn thing.

I don’t know why but for me, shipping a Mac app has always been something special over an iOS app.

Trust

Peter Cohen, NSFW: Note to Apple: Innovation shouldn’t cost stability

But Yosemite and iOS 8 are fraught with enough difficulties for enough users that I feel like neither of them are fully baked.

There are so many reliability and stability issues with both OSes that at some point we cannot trust them anymore and that’s a shame because these new features are truly great.

Trust is hard to gain and even harder to re-gain once your users have been burned by your promises. This, coming from the same company that took 2 years to implement copy and paste in iOS.

Price Trolls

$4.99. This is the price you’ll have to pay for Pixelmator, a desktop-class photo editor. I don’t know if the ridiculously low price was set at Apple’s request (a $19.99 price tag at the end of a Keynote demo would have much less impact) but if this trend continues it may hurt the App Store on the long run.

Of course, the makers of Pixelmator can afford such a low price since they’ll get a ton of promotion and the download volume will make up for it but this is not the case for most developers.

It sends the message to consumers that they shouldn’t pay much for quality software and that developers asking for a fair price are greedy. Eventually, it will be no longer profitable to develop for the platform and we’ll start seeing less quality apps on the App Store.