Aleksandar • Vacić

iOS bits and pieces

Attending conferences

There are so much good conferences around the world, technical and not, that I would like to attend, especially in spring and autumn. I want to go either to learn valuable new skills or just to meet people from my industry. However, living and making an earning in Serbia makes going to foreign conferences a big deal, financially and in some cases logistically.

Conference tickets are rarely below several hundred euros, prior to local taxes which you can’t refund back. Then there’s the cost of travel as most conferences are not in neighboring countries. Again few to several hundreds. Plus accommodation and food.

Logistical problem is related to entry visas. For mainland Europe, things are now fine, as EU has removed entry visa requirements for Serbia. Thus I can travel anywhere on moments notice.

For UK and Ireland though, I still need to plan my travels very carefully as I need to apply and get entry visa for both. Ireland’s visa is 60€ but it still takes about 10 days to get it. Just this March, I applied for it to go to Úll; then got swept up in day to day work and it slipped my mind. Several days later I packed myself to go to Hungary for short trip until I realized I don’t have my passport yet. Really annoying.

In the case of UK, there’s double trouble. First, visa is very expensive: 120€ for 6 months, 460€ for 2 years, 800+ for 5 years or more. The larger problem is that it takes 2-3 weeks to get the visa during which time your passport is somewhere in embassy or in transit and you can’t go anywhere. As I heard, British Embassy in Belgrade is no longer issuing visas so all passports are sent to Poland.

Another example: to get into Canada, I need to send my passport for a month to Vienna which is the nearest office and that’s the time they advise you to plan with. This alone is the reason I never went to Çingleton, to my eternal disappointment as the conference has now retired.
Both Canada and US still have another problem – they are pretty expensive to travel to, unless you can get your ticket months in advance. (Don’t get me started on WWDC and insane SF hotel prices).

All in all, it’s a considerable investment. This makes it hard to justify going to conferences just for the fun and socializing. Which is exactly the kind of conferences people are most excited about.

It’s head-scratching Catch 22. To advance in your business you need to get around, meet people, gain valuable leads – conferences are the place to be. But to attend them you need to have a business that will pay for it. Going to just one conference will not cut it (unless you are very, very lucky) thus you need to plan long-term.

After years of avoiding this problem, I decided to risk it. In 2015, I plan to attend as much conferences I can.

Let’s just hope in 2016, I will look favorably to this decision. :)

Automatic image creation for WatchKit animated progress bars

Image-based animation is the thing in WatchKit 1.0.

Making them manually is real pain though and there are already multiple ways to create them automatically, from Photoshop scripting to web pages using advanced CSS to some nice iOS hacking.

I feel most at home with iOS thus I did some quick coding few days ago and published WatchRingGenerator. It uses excellent M13ProgressSuite to actually draw the rings.

Thoughts on developing watch apps

I spent the last few weeks developing watch companion app for Run 5k. Looking back, I concluded I was surprisingly low-productive in that period. I have started from scratch multiple times, more than it ever happened to me, at any point in the past 5+ years doing iOS apps. This was surprising for such simple app, the kind of projects I usually excel in thus I took some time to think why.

Before iOS, I was a front-end web developer for 15 years. If you do the math, you will realize I started in HTML infancy, in the days of HTML 2.0 (or slightly before). It was the time when books that taught you how to do layout using infinite number of nested tables and spacer GIFs were all the rage.

Making watch layouts feels the same and as someone who hated nested tables to the core, this makes me very, very uneasy.

How to properly share / export GPX files on iOS

In upcoming version 4.1 of my Run 5k app, I’m adding support for exporting data out of the app. I strongly believe that data liberation should exist in all applications and services despite the fact it can require significant amount of time to do properly. In 4.1, you will be able to export complete GPX file for each run you did with Run 5k.

What is GPX

GPX is de-facto standard for exchanging GPS tracks, waypoints, and similar GPS related data between applications and services. It stands for GPS Exchange Format and was created by Topografix. Current version of the specification is 1.1.

Over time, companies like Garmin have added Extensions to the original specification – thus you can include things like heart rate to it. Which all later lead them to create an expanded format called TCX which allows you to transfer many fitness-related bits of information.