Hello and welcome back to episode 23 of the Brew and Byte show.
First up we’ll say hello to Tina. How are you today?
Melting. I’m melting. I’m not used to this whole heat thing. I can’t cope. I’m British. I need rain.
And we’ll also say hello to Martin. How are you today?
Hello. Hi, folks. Yeah, good, good, good. Yes, Tina, it is pretty hot.
Awesome. And tonight we’re very, very lucky to be joined by a very special guest.
And I’m sure you’ll recognise some of the apps that he’s developed. We’ll say hello to Simon. How are you?
Hello, everyone. Yeah, I’m good. It’s hot in Denmark as well.
So I’m also at the melting point, trying to cool myself down with all sorts of things.
But yeah, it’s getting way too hot for me here.
Would you recommend a local beer?
That’s going to be my first question.
I mean, there’s lots of good beers in Denmark.
I don’t know if there’s any in particular.
I have some breweries that I’m very fond of, but yeah, I’m also brewing my own beer.
So I guess I should recommend that, but it’s not that good yet, to be honest.
You definitely got the right podcast brewer and buy it.
Thanks for having me.
If you wouldn’t mind, could you just tell our listeners
a little bit about you and what you do as a day job?
So I’m Simon, and I’ve been doing development for iOS
for, I think, over 10 years now.
I’ve been doing my own side projects
that we might get back to–
I think we’ll get back to later.
But my day job is–
it actually sounds kind of boring,
because it’s at a bank.
I recently switched jobs to one of these Challenger
banks called Luna.
So it’s a bank that’s like five years old or so,
but it’s mobile first.
So we are putting a lot of energy into our mobile app,
both iOS, iPad and Android.
So that’s kind of my day job,
being a developer at a bank.
It’s quite new for me.
I’ve only been at it for a couple of months.
- Awesome. Well, we wish you luck.
I’m sure it’ll be fine with all your experience,
- Could I ask how you first got involved
with developing apps?
What was it that inspired you
to choose becoming a developer?
Yeah, sure. I mean, I was a developer long before I started developing apps.
So no one to take you through my whole life story.
But basically, my dad has been into computers ever since there was anything called a computer, basically.
So I was kind of born into the whole IT world.
And he taught me some basic development when I was a kid.
I was doing web development for several years before I started developing mobile apps.
I think like 10, 11 years ago, I got my first MacBook.
and a couple of months after that I got my first iPhone. It was the iPhone 3GS. So I guess that’s
around 10 years or so now maybe 11. Yeah and when I got it in my hands I just knew that I wanted to
develop something for this iPhone. The touch screen was so intriguing. I wanted to put
something on that screen that I could touch, something I had developed for myself. Just a
few months before I got my first iPhone I attended this music festival. It’s a small
music festival in Denmark. And I noticed that they didn’t have an app. They were using this
old paper program or schedule over the festival so you could see who was playing and where they
were playing, when they were playing and so on. And I thought it would be kind of natural to turn
that into an app. So I just have it on my iPhone. So I started developing this for the music festival
that showed the whole schedule for the festival. And when I felt like I was done, I just sent a
mail to the festival and say, “Hey, I just developed this. Do you want to do something?
Can we publish it somehow? I was leaning on their brand using all their data.
So I couldn’t just publish it without their permission. And luckily, they just contacted me.
We were just thinking about developing an app. Can we team up? And that’s how it started. Then
I’ve been developing apps. It was since then, I guess.
Oh, wow. That’s a great story. I’m going to ask in terms of development, how would you say
the changes or major update to iOS impacts the developer’s workflow?
I mean, it’s a good question.
I think when the major update to iOS hits, it’s always in June.
It’s at Apple’s Developer Conference, WWDC.
And every year it’s in June.
So developers know that it’s coming.
At least developers who’ve been doing it for a couple of years know that they have to prepare for this and that big changes are coming.
I mean, most people are prepared for that workflow to change it to some degree, at least.
And the way that I prepare is usually during May, I will make sure to wrap up some things
just so I have a clean slate in June. I’m kind of ready to just let all the new stuff sink in.
And then from there, I’ll reprioritize my backlog of things that I want to do.
So it does affect my workflow. I mean, it might affect which apps that I want to focus on for
the rest of the year. And actually this year, the introduction of shortcuts on Mac meant that I
wanted to shift my focus for the summer to one of my apps that I think will be great to have
on the Mac now. So when you develop an app, do you just develop your own app or do companies,
I’m like you’ve worked for this festival, do other festivals for instance come to you and say
that we’re going to do a festival, would you do an app for us or do you just do your own app?
Back when I was studying I would take in freelance tasks, for example from other festivals,
actually I wasn’t in contact with other festivals to do their app but also other things. I mean,
I made a small app for a restaurant back then when I was studying. And these days, it’s mostly my own
projects. And then of course, my day-to-day job where I’m also developing apps. But now and then,
I’ll get contacted by someone. And I guess many people who develop apps will be contacted by
someone who has a great idea for an app that they want your help with. And I mean, usually these
people think that it just takes a couple of days and then they have an app, but it usually requires
much more work than that. You mentioned shortcuts there and WWDC kind of timeframes. Is there anything
from iOS 15 that you was really excited about and that you would like to develop into something or
to add into your app? To some degree, I think this year was a bit, there wasn’t that much on iOS that
kind of piqued my interest, but there were a few key things. And I think like the major changes for
for developers this year will be the Safari web extensions that are coming to iOS.
Now we’ve had them on the Mac for a few years.
And last year, the API was updated to be this standardized API that also works
across other popular browsers.
And this year, Apple brought it to iOS.
So basically, Safari extensions that run on the Mac can also run on the iPhone
with some changes, but you don’t have to rewrite the whole thing.
I think that’s exciting both because it’s the first time we have Safari extensions or at least we have a lot of new opportunities on Safari on iOS now.
Yeah, I think so the Safari extensions, I think those are really interesting on iOS.
And the other thing that’s going to be like a major thing or might be a major thing this year is the FaceTime apps.
So, you know, you can share your screen or FaceTime call.
A classic example, I think, is the drawing app.
So if we want a FaceTime call now, we could kind of make a drawing on our phones.
So then we would kind of all participate, creating something in an app on our own devices, but through FaceTime.
So FaceTime all of a sudden has this new API where you can kind of send data over a FaceTime call and kind of update the state of an app using that.
I think that’s going to be interesting.
I mean, either this is going to take off and going to be huge or it’s going to be the new iMessage apps.
It’s always difficult to judge until we’ve had it in the wild for a few months.
But I guess for me, the biggest thing this year is actually what’s happening on the Mac.
Shortcuts on the Mac have me really excited.
I know, Craig, you’re also passionate about shortcuts, so also something you’re excited about.
The other guys can be witness to this too, is that I’ve been holding out,
buying an end product for ages, and then the developer preview dropped,
and there were so many things that the Intel machines didn’t do.
That was it. It was kind of that there’s a Mac M series coming somewhere to this household in whichever form.
On that topic, we’ll move nicely onto the news.
There was one exciting thing that Apple released this week, which was, can I describe it as the backpack?
So Apple introduced the MagSafe battery pack.
I don’t know. Did any of you take a look at this or have any thoughts?
I did have a look at it. It seemed it seems similar to their.
Do you remember the the pregnant looking one they had before for I had one for my iPhone 10 and it looked like it was
Pregnant or it had an alien inside it, but the new ones
They they slap onto the pack in the same way my core my sort of thoughts is is it needed I get a whole
Day’s use out of my iPhone 12 pretty much using it
You know all the different things I do during the day and I just plug it in stand into the charger at the end
Of the day, so do I need that additional power?
I’m not sure that obviously it gets charged up when I’m in the car when I’m using it for my maps and my driving
Instruction so I’m I’m debatable whether to get it
But the price point was it $99 or 99 pounds it almost justifies itself
I think the time that you’re gonna get really cool out and it’s not there to give you that extra
I think it yeah, it’s they’ve pitched the price point at a fairly good point to
Entice most people to look at it my phone lasts all day
So the only time I’m going to want a battery pack, and I can’t believe I’m about to say
this, but I’ll be camping at Clastonbury in August.
I’m just going to buy a cheap, cheap battery pack that I plug in overnight because actually
it lasts all day.
I’ll go to sleep.
I’ll get one of those cheap power bank things.
I don’t need something that’s going to be charging it as I use it.
So yeah, you know, 99 pounds is not a huge amount.
If you’re standing there, Tina, with your phone above your head, filming every bit of
music that you’re seeing here, you’re gonna need all that battery power.
I’m staying at Worthy Farm. I’m not going to Glastonbury because they’re not having
a festival this year, so we’re doing a family camping trip. There are people that presumably
they use their phones a lot. It’s neat, it’s discreet, you can be using it while it’s charging.
So I can see there’s a market, I’m just not it.
I suppose if you’re gonna use that, is it gonna be on the phone all the time? And therefore
does it make the phone more cumbersome and more awkward to use? The plug-in additional
battery packs are great if you’ve got the time and you’ve got a place to do that. In my case,
if I bought it, it would be on the back of the phone and it would stay there. I wouldn’t want
to be taking it on and off. So does it make the phone unwieldy then? It’s already, I’ve got an
iPhone 12 plus, which is quite a large piece of kit. Trying to shove that into the back pocket with
the pregnant bump on the back might be a bit beyond even my cargo pants.
It’s interesting you mentioned that it’s the iPhone Max that you have there because one note
that I read is that this battery cannot actually fully recharge the phone from zero. It will only
do up to about 60 or 70 percent and I think that was some of the criticism it got online and no
people have not got these physically in their hands yet but the milliamp was so low in comparison to
some of the others. I don’t know if anyone had any opinions of that. I was trying to delve into some
more info. That’s the point of use then is it going to be something that you have separately
charging up and if your phone starts to run down you slap it on the back to give yourself the extra
time or is it on the back of the phone all the time the two of them are fully charged up as you
charge whenever your cycle is so therefore does it drain from the backpack first before using the
phone’s battery power or vice versa. I think the last ones they had were quite intelligent in that
they would drain first saving the battery power until the backpack had run out and then it switched
to battery so you could discard it at that point take it off and for the rest of the
day just use your phone. But I suppose it depends on usage and I think I’m a fairly
high usage of the phone.
The one thing that intrigued me is did anybody realize that it’s actually the first Apple
MagSafe product other than the MagSafe charger and that it’s the only thing that can actually
charge the iPhone wirelessly at 15 watts. So it actually has a faster recharge rate
than any of the other third parties and that’s purely down to the design of MagSafe.
No, it’s a simple answer. No, I didn’t know that. That’s interesting. Will it also charge
things like, can you charge your AirPods from it, for example? Could it act as a charging
point for your AirPods or anything else?
The actual MagSafe can charge the AirPod Pro charger.
Didn’t they say it’s reversible as well? The phone can actually charge the MagSafe, can’t
It can. It is.
If you physically got the phone plugged in through a lightning cable, can it then reverse
charge and actually charge up the bank as well?
For example, if I’ve got a little holder in the car, so I can use it as my map guidance,
and that I can plug into the USB in the car.
So at that point, both would be charging, I presume.
I’m also very intrigued by this product, to the point that I’ll probably order one within
What it really comes down to is that I’m an iPhone mini or iPhone 12 mini user.
My phone doesn’t always last a whole day.
And I think I read somewhere and I don’t know if it’s true, but I read somewhere that it can actually charge the iPhone 12 mini to about 100%.
But that would give me one extra full charge, which I find quite intriguing for those days where I’m just out and taking a lot of photos or watching a video on my phone or whatever.
Because there are days where I can’t get by with the regular battery on the phone,
and I’ll have to find somewhere to charge it.
And I think this is quite intriguing for someone with the iPhone 12 mini,
who don’t want to carry around a regular battery pack and a cable.
And the dream would be that you can just snap this onto your iPhone
and put it in your pocket and it will stay there.
I think the convenience is really intriguing.
No, the one thing that I saw people moaning about was, “Oh no, it’s not a case.” But to be fair,
I’m pleased that it’s not a case because at the end of the day, you don’t want to end up spending
£100 on a case and then you go and upgrade your phone in the next few months and then it doesn’t
fit the case. I think this is kind of future-proofing where the battery power technology comes in,
is that it will be able to snap onto the back of any, hopefully, going forward iPhone design
that they come up with. And let’s be honest, at some stage, if you want a case that can
accommodate the battery pack, someone will make it. And that’s assuming that the battery life
is such that it lasts that long. How many cycles does it go? That’s the beauty of MagSafe. I
wouldn’t want a battery case. I think the beauty here is that you can swap it out for the leather
wallet or you can mount it in your car on a Belkin stain. And so I mean, to me, that’s the
beauty of this product and MagSafe in general. It’s like Lego for iPhones. You can just swap out
the components. Whoever thought we’d say that about Apple that they’ve become a Lego. Yeah,
but then you brought a dame to the show, right? One other interesting bit of news, which I’m sure
Tina will be very excited about is, did you know you can run Windows on an iPad? Shock horror.
You know, it’s interesting because there’s the thing where you can run 3.1, Windows 3.1. And
actually, to be fair, I’ve remembered one thing that I’d like. There was a green saver that used
to make me laugh a lot with 3.1, which is a bloke on a desert island. And it had lots
of different stories and you’d watch it and the stories would change. So that made me
laugh. But that’s the only reason. I’ve also read this thing about Windows 365. And there’s
lots of chatter about that. Lots of people go in, it’s not that exciting. You’re actually
having a doing it all in a webpage. And there are other solutions that do the same thing.
Microsoft have been a bit cheeky saying it really going to be new, new, new. It might
be slicker. I think the Microsoft 365 is going to be good for people that want someone to
hold their hand. You know, you pay for the service, you set it up, away you go. I probably
won’t do it. I might, you never know. It’s all about cost, isn’t it? If it’s four pounds
a month, say, or five pounds a month, that might be worth having a cheap virtual machine.
And I’d be interested to know how fast it is and what sort of internet connection you
I think therein lies the problem for Microsoft, Tina, that you’re still running software that’s
20 years old, you’re not upgrading every year that they need. You’re not helping them to
survive as the multi-million dollar billion company they used to be. If you’re not upgrading
every year, shame on you, honestly. What kind of PC use are you? Honestly, I’m shocked.
So I don’t understand why it’s cheaper for me to buy a yearly subscription from Amazon
It’s interesting that you said the price point there. I think that’s the thing that they
need to get right. If they got it right from the beginning, there is probably some legway
with this because I’ve used virtual access machines before and they sit in the realms
of around 25, 30 pounds a month to have a Mac mini somewhere based across overseas that
you can remote dial into. They’re not cheap. So I think if they could get it right with
price, I think they do stand a chance. I don’t know. What’s the developer’s opinion of this?
I’m intrigued by this. It’s been years since I’ve been running Windows and I don’t think
that will change just because I could do it through my iPad to be honest. I mean, I would
probably try it out, but I don’t really know what does Windows do these days that I need
that I can’t do on my Mac.
It’s quite strange. One of the things I heard is that the best machine still to run Windows
on is a Mac. They’re having real problems with the current version of Windows 11 now.
actually run on a Mac and not on even some of the most recent PCs.
I mean as long as you’re not running one of the M1 Macs, right?
I don’t think you can run Windows on those yet, right?
You can run Windows 10 back and you’ve got to do various things.
But I think if you’re in the parallels, you’ve got a beta that you can run Windows 10.
VMware have been upfront and they’ve said that although they’re going to try and get
Windows 10 working, that’s as far back as they’re prepared to go.
not going to go back to the older architecture. So if you, I mean, I have run Windows 7 for
many years in a virtual machine and I’ve sort of accepted that’s gone until I’m winning
myself off really.
Yeah, I think Windows days are actually numbered on Mac. I don’t see how they’re going to go
forward with that unless they come up with some completely different way of running a
virtual machine purely for Mac silicon. Is it worth their investment? I don’t know.
Yeah, I guess that there was some version of Windows running on ARM at one point, wasn’t there?
But I guess it got abandoned at some point.
I haven’t seen or haven’t heard anything about it lately, but that would be an option.
And I guess that would bring back Boot Camp on the Mac.
They’re never ever going to tell us this, but I’d like to know what percentage of Mac users actually have Boot Camp running.
How many people use it on a day to day basis?
I imagine it’s more companies.
I can think of a hotel chain that just buys Macs to put in their reception and then they just put Windows straight on them.
and they use them more of a decorative thing as when you come into the reception area.
That’s a lot of money to pay just to show an Apple Apple logo in a reception.
I mean, I guess also with with Microsoft’s own products getting better on the Mac,
the office suit and so on. I don’t know, last time I used it, it felt pretty good.
Or maybe I’m off. Craig, you look like one who doesn’t agree.
I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re reliable on Mac. Just say I bought a Windows machine purely
for the fact at the time it was the only one that you could run Photoshop and Illustrator on a
touchscreen and it lasted 14 days. It’s the only time I’ve ever took something back that was rather
expensive like that. It went straight back into the Samsung store saying this thing is horrible,
I’m never buying it ever again. I think at that point it was the only Samsung product or Samsung
tablet that run Windows professional 10, I think. It ran the full version of it but it literally took
10 minutes to boot into Photoshop. It was horrendous. Goodness knows why they even
advertised it could. I don’t know. I just know from colleagues who’ve been using Windows for a
long time and recently moved to Mac because that’s the device they get from the company,
right? That’s a MacBook. And they’re using Outlook on the Mac saying it just works way better than
any other mail client they could find. And that’s kind of what’s been holding them back.
Going to the Mac earlier has been the lack of a good mail client. And then they found that the new,
I guess Outlook was updated recently. I think I read that somewhere that the new Outlook is quite good on the Mac
I guess that’s where my impression of Microsoft’s own software getting better is coming from
But I don’t know if that’s like a general thing for their office suit. No Alistair
He’s not sadly not here with us today, but he said the same thing. I think it was it last week
We spoke he said that the new version of Outlook for Mac is far more secure than any of the other
the mail clients for Gmail. It’s known for being one of the best apps for security, which
is an interesting one considering it’s Microsoft on a Mac.
As we’re very lucky to be joined by Simon, I wonder if he would be happy to tell us a
little bit more about some of the apps that he’s developed. And I’m really pleased to
see that for the UK App Store that you’re actually in the top 10. You’re actually sitting
as number two as being the top development app, which is also a really good sign.
So first of all, shall we have a chat about Scriptable? If you want to tell our listeners
what Scriptable is and where and when they would use it.
Sure. Yeah. So Scriptable was probably one of the first apps I did when I kind of decided to
to start some indie development next to my day job.
And the idea kind of came from using workflow.
I mean, that was back when it was called workflow.
Today it’s shortcuts.
As you know, shortcuts uses this lock-based programming
for building your shortcuts.
And as a developer, I found that really interesting.
And as a user, I benefited great from shortcuts
and all of the new things that you could all of a sudden
do with your phone when it was released.
And again, that was back when it was called workflow.
But as a developer, I also kind of struggled with this block-based programming a bit.
It didn’t come as intuitively to me as traditional programming, where you just write a bunch of text and then run it.
Some things would just be easier for me if I could just type it out instead of dragging these blocks around.
So I started kind of building, toying around with the idea of building something a little like workflow, but not as powerful,
but which would still allow me to write a few small scripts that could do things that I could also do with shortcuts.
but it was just easier for me to do them in a script.
And that’s kind of how it came together.
and that had APIs to integrate with Apple’s APIs.
that integrated with the reminders
or with your calendar and so on.
And it could present small UIs.
Then I just started writing my own scripts
and that instead of building shortcuts.
And this was before shortcuts was launched.
What was that?
A few years ago.
So this was in the spring.
And then when Shortcuts got announced at dubdub back in was 2018, 2017, and they announced
this API to integrate with Shortcuts and build your own Shortcuts actions, kind of became
clear to me that this shouldn’t be a competitor to Shortcuts.
That’s not what I want to build.
I want to stand on the shoulder of Shortcuts and these two apps should work well together.
So I kind of pivoted my idea a bit to make it a Shortcuts utility where you could jump
So that kind of changed my direction a bit.
Would you say script-a-boys for a particular type person?
Yeah, so I think that the way that I started it was because I, as a developer,
wanted something that was a bit more developer-focused than shortcuts
and had this traditional, that used these traditional programming languages.
So I think the target audience is definitely people who know
least a little programming, the learning curve is steeper than it is with, for example, shortcuts.
So the audience would be developers, I guess. At some point, it could be interesting to broaden
it out and have a less steep learning curve and grow the target audience. But for now,
it’s more narrowly focused. That leads me on to, in terms of having a user community,
what’s been the most interesting thing you’ve found that someone uses your app for?
I mean, it’s always difficult to point out specific examples.
I think the most in general, it’s just really amazing to see that I spent some time building some APIs that people then build on top of.
And I might have some idea of what these APIs can be used for.
I mean, I haven’t come up with the ideas of the APIs in the beginning.
But then put these new APIs into the public now and then and just see what people are building.
People are coming up with things that I couldn’t even imagine you building with my app.
And that’s always extremely interesting.
I remember I saw someone a few months ago who made this script inscriptable,
where when you run it, it would ask you to select a screenshot from your photo library.
And that screenshot is supposed to be a screenshot of your home screen.
So like an empty home screen, you know, when you long press on your home screen,
it goes into jiggle mode.
You then slide to the last page and they basically have an empty home screen.
You take a screenshot of that.
you feed it into his script, and then it could cut out parts of the image
that would normally be a widget. So for example, you could select that it should cut out the
medium-sized widget, and then you would have a rectangle where the widget would be, and you
could use this to create these fake transparent widgets. So you would feed it into, it could be
scriptable if you build a widget with scriptable, or it could be a widget smith where you can also
provide your own images as a background, and then you kind of build transparent widgets.
I had never thought that would be possible with Scriptable.
So just seeing that someone built that was amazing.
I mean, there are lots of these cases where people have built things that are just quite impressive.
That’s really cool because what I personally liked about using the different apps that you develop
is the fact that yes, you’ve developed an app, but it then creates this whole community
or like creativity behind it that other people can add to it or put their own personal touches to it.
There’s certain things that I’ve done.
I have a script that goes away and finds TV programs out of a TV guide and then brings
back the info to tell me when they’re on.
But there’s so many different things that you can do with it.
Like you, I know you touched on the Lego comment earlier.
That is literally the fact behind some of this, that it’s just great that it’s not narrowly
doing one particular task.
It’s completely open in that regard.
Yeah, that’s the main reason I find so much joy in working on Scriptable is in some sense,
When I build Scriptable, I’m building nothing.
When my app gets on the App Store, it does nothing, basically.
It’s just a text editor, and then it’s up to the user to make it do something.
And then it’s just fun to see what people come up with.
And it’s just a great joy in building these tools for creative people.
It’s a whole other thing than building a specific tool, a calculator.
If I released a calculator on the App Store, I knew exactly what people would do with it, more or less.
not to take anything away from people who build great calculators.
I mean, it’s just two different kinds of apps, right?
One is more utility and the other is kind of blank slate for creative people.
And that’s just a lot of fun in building those kinds of apps.
Would you say there’s one particular thing that Scriptable does
that’s completely different to shortcuts?
It’s two different ways of approaching the same problem, right?
Letting users build something that they can then run that solves the task.
I mean, the ultimate goal of the two apps seems to be kind of the same, but the interfaces are completely different.
And then, I mean, of course, there are the feature set, the APIs, if you will, the features, the APIs in Scriptable differ from the building blocks in Shortcuts.
But I mean, there’s also a great overlap.
Scriptable has an API for working with reminders.
Shortcuts has building blocks for working with reminders.
Shortcuts has been on the market for more years.
It’s way further with their frameworks, the APIs that they support than I am.
But I’ve also seen traction in some other areas.
So one feature that sets Scriptable apart from shortcuts, at least for now,
is that you can use it to build your own widgets.
That’s something that came last autumn with the release of iOS 14.
I mean, yeah, that’s one of the major things that sets the two apart right now.
At least if I look at how people use it.
I mean, the last year or so, people have mostly been using Scriptable to write widgets.
Which I mean, that’s fine. That’s the new hot thing.
And that’s something that they can’t do with shortcuts.
I was reading up on that and now I’m intrigued to go and try it myself.
I’ve not done that yet.
I think they’re far more useful on an iPad rather than they are on a phone.
I need to delve more into this one, to be honest.
And they’re just a bit more fun on the iPad, I would say,
because you can place them in more ways.
At least it feels like that.
So you can kind of have a greater sense of personalization on your iPad.
All of a sudden, you just throw in a widget here and there.
and then small like yours.
It’s no longer just a grid of app icons.
We can kind of mix it up a bit.
And I like that.
You’ll see people have built them all sorts of really,
really cool home screens,
especially if you start combining it with,
you know, putting shortcuts on your home screen.
People are almost making it look like a Mac
with a folder that links directly into files and so on.
- Martin, do you have any widgets that you use a lot
or you’re a fan of widgets?
- I’ve started to become, yes.
Again, it’s separating out the various elements
of what I do in my life. So I have work, I have Elmarga’s, you know, we have the
photo show, we have personal stuff. So being able to pull together two or three
of the apps I need for each of those individual requirements, which are quite
different in some cases, having that laid out in a quick format in a widget,
I mean, don’t go straight there, open up the various apps that I need to do that
particular task I want to work on, that’s becoming increasingly useful. It’s a
The time saver, it’s a frustration saver trying to think, I don’t know how many apps I’ve
got on my iPad and my iPhone, hundreds.
So having to go through search to find the particular one you want or move them all around
on the screen all the time.
And then you buy something new or you get a new app and everything gets shuffled around
So the widget is becoming a useful time saver in that I can personalize it to the particular
tasks that I want to address.
The reason that they’ve kind of developed this or pushed it further is that we’re going
to finally see an always-on iPhone screen? Do you reckon that’s part of the reasoning behind it?
That’s an issue really to do with battery drain, isn’t it? The batteries are getting better,
so that yes, maybe we will be able to have an always-on. Whether I’d actually want it,
I don’t know. The fact that it turns off when I’m not using it, which can be for periods of time,
doesn’t bother me. The same thing with the always-on watch. That’s not something I’ve
really required. I look at the watch, bring it up when I need to know what the time is,
or check something, or do a Dick Tracy and answer a phone call. So that’s in that case. So no,
if it closely affected the life we were just talking about, I suppose it could tie in with
why they’re trying to flog a battery pack now that maybe the next iPhone 13 will have always
on display. So again, and if you had if you had adaptable widgets that you could program
for maybe different times of the day or different if you could geo-offense it, let’s say when
it knows for me when it knows I’m on site, then I need to see certain apps appear at
the front home screen. When I’m at home, that would be a different set. When I’m in the
office, that could be a different set. So if it could smart learn that and then bring
up those particular widgets or applications that I need, so that either based on a geofencing
or even on a time thing, when it knows I get home roughly in the evening, switch over to
a more personalized relaxed set of widgets. I don’t use widgets at all because I suppose
I don’t have a massive amount of apps that I use. So the ones that I use a lot, you know,
when you do swipe back, so you’ve got your home screen and then you’ve got the ones to the left,
that does for me because I put the things there that I need all the time. Whereas,
you’re always on the watch was a big deal for me. I think that’s one of the joys, I think,
of things that iPhones know, isn’t it? Your iPhone is your iPhone. It’s not, you know,
I know it comes with certain apps that I never use. You put the apps on it so that my phone is
actually probably unique to me and your phone is unique to you. I can’t see why I would always want
it on but then I don’t carry it in my hand. I’m sure there are loads of people who carry it in their
hand all the time so they’ll want all eyes on because they’re always looking at it and there
might be certain apps maybe you know I can see a time when you would want it always on but then
I’d always want that as an option to go yeah switch off and I could do that now I know because I could
go into my settings and go stay on regardless but I’m too lazy so maybe I do need widgets maybe I
I do need a shortcut using the LS. Always on.
I’m just trying to think about which widgets I use the most.
It’s probably travel related ones to tell me what the departure times are of things
and if there’s traffic.
The one I use the most is drafts or shortcuts
and then the activity monitor because I like walking miles.
But I’m going to explore more of these for sure.
So Simon, what’s Jason?
I’m interested in that.
And JSON is browser for JSON documents.
So it’s getting a little confusing because we’re saying JSON all the time.
That’s JSON, the app.
And then there’s JSON, the file format, JSON.
In case people don’t know, then JSON, the file format is for exchanging data between
Usually, if you’re using the web or if you’re using a mobile phone, it will be exchanging
JSON JSON all the time, basically, probably if you’re reading Twitter, I don’t know in
particular about Twitter, but your tweets could be coming in in JSON data and then display it on
in your app. So I built this app, it’s also called JSON, but spelled differently for browsing these
data sets. Jason’s not just an iOS app though, is it? There is actually a Mac version now as well.
Yeah, that’s also a Mac version. I don’t speak about it too often because it’s one of the very
early catalyst apps that I tried to get out with the launch and with all the building
early Mac catalyst apps were rough. So I’m working on an improved version of the Mac app.
That’ll hopefully be better. But yesterday, there’s a Mac version. There’s an iPad and iPhone version.
So I’m intrigued about, obviously, I know nothing about being a developer and creating applications
for the Mac. What is the process like of when you actually approach Apple and say, right, I’ve got
this new app, I’d like to get it on the store. Is that a good process? Is it a convoluted process?
Is it in the backside process?
It’s convoluted when you get started.
It’s uploading your first app to the App Store isn’t a pleasant experience.
At least it wasn’t back when I did it 10 years ago.
And honestly, I don’t think it has changed much since then.
I guess it has, especially this year where you can upload apps from your iPad,
but no one has tried that yet.
Supposedly that’s easier.
But otherwise, it requires you to create a developer account.
And back when I did that, you had to send Apple all sorts of documents.
I had to send a fax, I remember, and I didn’t have any way to send that.
So I had to go to my dad’s job and borrow a fax machine.
And then once you get your developer account, there are all sorts of things that you have
to set up, certificates that you have to upload and download all your profiles and so on.
So you can kind of sign your piece of software.
So Apple knows that it is coming from a trustworthy entity.
That’s a process that was very convoluted 10 years ago, and it still is.
But it’s also a process that Apple is continuously trying to make more pleasant.
And I’m curious to see how they will solve this when you upload apps from your iPad.
I mean, it has to be easier.
Otherwise, people can’t really do that.
But I mean, once you’ve done it once, once you’re set up, it’s actually quite simple.
You tell Xcode, which you use to build your apps in, to make a build that’s suitable for
For distribution, then you upload it to Apple.
It’s all signed at this point with these certificates and so on.
Part of this can be automated these days, part of it can’t.
And then you upload it to Apple and upload your screenshots.
You type in your release notes and you send it in for approval.
And you just hope that it’s going to get approved.
In terms of the approval process, on average,
how quickly is it from you uploading it to arriving in the stores?
It differs a lot, I would say.
It used to be like two weeks or so from you uploaded it
till it was approved and on the store.
But these days it can take anything from minutes to days.
So it’s really different.
I think a few years ago, Apple promised that it would lower
the maximum amount of time that it would take from upload till approval
to just a few days, I believe.
Maybe it was a week.
But these days it can be even better than that.
But now and then you also see your build just getting stuck somewhere
in the process, not getting reviewed for several days. And I’ve seen developers not getting
reviewed for several weeks. But I think that happens rarely these days. And what these
people often just do is take the build down, re-upload it, and then sometimes you’ll see
it. I mean, it’s all just a black box for developers, the whole approval process, unfortunately.
Is it really clear what you can and can’t do? Because obviously it’s in the news right
now, isn’t it? Because we’ve got all the stuff for Fortnite. I’m presuming every developer that
doesn’t have a clear idea of what’s allowed and what isn’t allowed.
I mean, Apple has their review guidelines, but it’s kind of in the name. These are guidelines.
These are not necessarily rules, but you’re not supposed to break these guidelines. But there are
gray areas where things aren’t clear what you can and what you can’t do, especially in the kind of
the time that we’re in now with Apple launching new technologies, we still have to see what can
and can’t be done. So in the past, we’ve seen examples of developers back when we saw the first
iteration of widgets, those that are now being replaced. So the first set of widgets were the
ones that were on your today view, which was left of your home screen. We saw developers
trying to do all sorts of interesting things out there. And in the first weeks, when was
these widgets introduced? Was it iOS 8 or something like that? Shortly after whatever iOS version
introduced these widgets was released and developers started submitting apps with widgets.
We saw that the rules weren’t really clear from the beginning or the guidelines weren’t clear
from the beginning because developers were getting rejected for doing things that wasn’t
really in the guidelines that you can’t do. It’s just super unfortunate for developers who have
spent quite some time developing all of these new great features for Apple’s platforms and really
trying to push the envelope on the platforms, getting rejected for seemingly no reason
sometimes. I mean, I’m sure there’s a reason, but again, it’s just a black box. You never get the
reason. You never get the real reason. You rarely do. In times like this, it’s really difficult to
see when iOS 15 is out, what can and can’t we do with the new APIs? How far can we take the
FaceTime integration? How far can we take the Safari extensions? Usually, developers only become
aware of this when you hear someone got rejected for doing something. So I guess the short answer
No, it’s not that clear what you can and can’t do.
Sometimes you just have to know or sometimes you just have to try and see.
I presume there’s some kind of developer forum that you all chat and talk together about these issues and help each other out with development processes.
There are developer forums.
Apple has their own developer forums and then there are Slack channels for developers, but there’s no one forum or one Slack channel where all the knowledge is shared.
But honestly, I think if you’re a new developer kind of wanting to get a grasp of all of these
things, then Twitter is really the best place to be.
I think that’s the closest we’ll come to a developer forum where all of this knowledge
You’ll see developers trying to push the envelope and possibly getting rejected or, as it also
often happens, get approved with their great new ideas.
I think as an iOS and Mac developer, that’s kind of the place to be to learn from others.
It’s interesting you say that.
I’m going to bring that nicely into your other app, which I’m actually a huge fan of and
spent many hours hanging out with data jar.
If you want to explain what data jar is.
Yeah, data jar is an app I developed.
I started developing shortly after I released the JSON data jar is a database that’s meant
to be used with the Apple shortcuts app.
That’s basically it.
So you can store whatever data and install that data from your shortcuts and you can
get it back from your shortcuts actions or from your shortcuts using data.
Just shortcuts actions.
And as I mentioned, it kind of came from developing Jason, because when I released
Jason, I heard from a lot of people in the shortcuts community that they were kind
of using it to browse their more databases that they had on disk.
So they store data from the shortcuts in the Jason file format.
And then all of a sudden they could use Jason to browse their files in like a
graphical way in the app.
And I was like, hold on.
You’re using Jason for your shortcuts database.
I think we can do better than that.
We should kind of have a utility that is your shortcuts database.
And then I started developing a developing data jar.
So it’s a kind of the idea is simple.
If you’re used to using dictionaries in shortcuts, then you’ll instantly feel familiar in data jar,
because in the end, it’s kind of a big dictionary stored in data jar that you can then access in all of your shortcuts.
And then kind of what sets data jar apart from just using a dictionary is one, you can use it in all of your shortcuts,
but also all of DataJar’s data,
all of the data that you store in DataJar
is synchronized between your devices.
I don’t know, you’ve probably come across this
and probably seen it as quite primitive on how I use it,
but there are a number of different ways that I use DataJar.
One thing that I really like is that when you’re using shortcuts
and you’re putting in certain bits of information
like dates and times, they’re very static.
You can only use them in that one shortcut.
DataJar allows you to use the similar or the same pieces of information in multiple different
So, one thing that I actually do is like when I send the show notes out to everyone, it’s
actually taking information that’s stored within DataJar.
So things like the date, the show number, and what it actually does is when you’ve run the
shortcut, it’s actually updating the information that’s stored in DataJar.
So the show number could be number 20, and then by the end of the shortcut, it’s then
gone and contacted data jars directory and added one to it.
So then it becomes episode 21.
Yeah, it’s just a very interactive way of dealing with different pieces of information.
I’ve not explored the photography side of it yet because my background is as a photographer
and this is something that I’m intrigued in using a lot more of.
Yeah, yeah. So in your podcast scenario, your shortcut for managing the show notes,
you’re kind of using it as a way to store global variables.
I don’t know, do you use this episode number across multiple shortcuts then?
So then it works sort of like a global variable.
I think that’s kind of one of the ways that people use data jar.
It’s for global variables.
And I think one of the other ways that people use it is like for storing historical data.
So I’ve seen people, you know, track the temperature over time to maybe plot it in a chart using other apps.
or I recently saw someone on Twitter sharing one of their shortcuts, or at least describing
the shortcuts, which was for tracking the migraines. And then every time that they had a migraine,
they would store a timestamp in data jar. And then they could later present this data in a
graphical way or in some somehow interpreted. And then every time they run the shortcut,
it would say like, okay, today you have had one or two migraines, and this is your number of five
migraine in July and so on. So that’s like for tracking data over time. I just thought that was
an interesting use case that I saw recently. I’m just thinking all the other ones that I use it for.
One example is that when we’re doing things in terms of hyperlinks or hyperlinks back to a picture,
so I’m a big fan of drafts and drafts doesn’t work well with images. See, it’s always linking back
to a live link somewhere on the internet or a database. So I actually store the URLs within
Data Jar and then that’s kind of fed in using an Apple shortcut to bring that information into a
template with all the different links. So like when I send a link out and it’s a YouTube video
or something that you can’t physically open within a particular app it’s just a kind of workaround
method as well. I think that’s really useful in that sense. Do you then pull out the the URLs from
Data Jar and put it in a document or like what happens at that point? It does. So an action within
drafts pulls out the information that’s been fed in via data jar so then it can be readable by
something else but that would be really good if you could integrate a way that you could share
a data jar directory to another user that would be a really fascinating information way of sharing
in that sense. Yeah that’s something I looked into at one point and I still have it somewhere
on my to-do to make like databases in data jar that you could share so you and I could have a
a shared database that we could both update and that we could both read from.
It is possible Apple has these APIs for building shared experiences using iCloud.
So all of data, just data, all of your data that’s stored in JDJAR is stored in iCloud.
And that’s how it’s synchronized between devices.
And Apple has APIs for synchronizing data between two devices that don’t belong to the
So that’s a shared database.
And I could integrate that with DataJar.
And I hope to do it one day.
There haven’t been that big of a demand for it yet, but maybe at some point.
Is there something in particular that you personally wanted to add or what’s next for
one of your apps?
Do you have a particular idea that you want to push forward?
The big thing for my apps right now, or at least one of the apps, and that is DataJar,
is bringing it to the Mac.
Once I saw that Shortcuts is coming to the Mac, I knew that I had to bring DataJar to
It makes great sense.
And also, I’ve kind of been promising it over the past year or so because people have occasionally
asked me, why isn’t DataJar on the Mac?
Can we get DataJar on the Mac?
My excuse all the time has been, well, Shortcuts isn’t on the Mac.
So I don’t think it makes that much sense.
Doesn’t provide much value.
I mean, I can see that for some people, it would be beneficial to have DataJar on the
even without shortcuts. But I’ve always been saying like, I can only really see the value for
that it provides enough value for enough people to spend time on it once shortcuts is on the Mac.
And it is now. So now’s the time to bring data down to the Mac. So I’ve been building yet another
catalyst app. In that case, I’ll be the first customer. I’ll happily be downloading that and
be using it straight away. Well, I’ll let you know once the once the beta is ready. It shouldn’t be
that that long. Please do that. We awesome. And I mean, besides that, I have I have plenty of ideas
for the apps, I’m working on a version two of JSON that will hopefully be much better on the Mac.
But kind of working on that, while also working on updates for Scriptable kind of brought me to
starting a whole new project. So I’m building a text editor. I mean, it sounds super boring,
but basically a text editor with syntax highlighting for different programming
languages. And the motivation for this is that I need a better text editor for Scriptable. So
I want that to be better and I want to own a bigger part of it.
So right now I’m using an open source component,
but I want to take control of that and deliver a better experience.
And at the same time, I want to use that text editor in JSON
for actually writing the text in the JSON file format.
But you know, working on those two updates for JSON and Scriptable
kind of spawned a whole new side project.
But there’s a lot of things cooking these days.
Martin, I shall hand over to you. It is the Did You Know section.
And this week for me, it wasn’t so much a tip or trick. Something I came across during
my reading was the fact that Steve Jobs’s widow apparently is now the richest female
in tech. She’s worth approximately 19 to 20 billion dollars now and she far out passes
almost any other lady in the tech industry and she’s quite high up the actual overall list if
you look at some of the boys in the game. But she also now runs a charitable foundation which
she pours quite a lot of money into. Though surprisingly she’s not known as one of the best
philanthropists. She still has a huge number of Apple shares and is still one of the biggest
individual shareholders in Disney. Very interesting young lady. For me, my one’s a little bit of a
random one and kind of a reminder is that when you’re in Control Center and you’ve got Wi-Fi,
Bluetooth, AirDrop, Do Not Disturb, you can actually pick and choose which ones of those
you want to display and you can go into System Preferences and actually untick which ones you
want to show up in that toolbar or if you do actually hover over some of them a little
right arrow then appears that you can click on that actually gives you lots more different
preferences especially ones like Bluetooth and it will list all of the Bluetooth devices much
quicker than going in and out of system preferences in the past but there are actually lots of changes
with this with Monterey. Monterey has some quite quirky things you can play with this you can
actually customize the layout completely but that’s yet to come and what is Simon’s choice? I’m intrigued.
I have something, it’s not really a feature, iOS or Mac OS, it’s an app.
Hope it’s okay to bring an app as a tip.
Yesterday, I was writing out on Twitter because I was frustrated that I featured that I wanted.
That Spotify didn’t have a particular feature that I wanted.
And that’s like for the way that I listen to music is often by, you know,
making a playlist with artists that I want to listen to.
So it can be one, two or three artists.
And then I just put them in a playlist and then I shovel it.
And that’s tedious. So that’s how I want to listen to music. Often, I just want to listen to a mix of artists.
And then either I have to create these playlists, I just have to find a single playlist with that artist that I can listen to.
If you use Spotify, then you’ll know that they have these like “This is Speely Eilish” or whatever playlists that are really good if you just want to listen to a particular artist.
That’s what I often end up doing. But that’s not what I want to do. I want to mix multiple artists.
So I wrote out on Twitter that I kind of like this feature.
And then some people agreed with me.
I even had friends writing to me, “Oh, I’ve also been wanting this for a long time.”
And then I was like, “Okay, maybe I can build it.
Maybe it’s possible to build this feature on top of Spotify’s APIs.”
But then there was one person on Twitter that replied to me like,
“Hey, do you know the Spotify Stations app?”
And I didn’t.
So I tried downloading the Spotify Stations app, and that’s exactly what it does.
It lets you create your own music stations by selecting, I think you can select playlists.
I’m not sure. What really matters to me is that I can select two, three, five artists,
and then I can have a generator station based on that. And it’s a bit different from the
radios that you can create in Spotify, in the main app, where you can kind of limit this to only
playing those artists. So by default, it will also kind of feed your station with similar artists.
So if I’ve selected Billie Eilish, it will suggest someone that’s similar to Billie Eilish when I listen to that station.
And that’s not what I want, but I can toggle that feature off and then it’ll only play music from the artists that I’ve selected.
You can also make it play other kinds of stations, like something based on your mood or if there’s a particular century that I want to hear music from or what do I know.
Really amazing to me that this feature wasn’t built into Spotify, this exact feature that I wanted.
But apparently two years ago they launched an app that did exactly this.
So maybe I’m late to the game or maybe this is just a really one of those
lesser known apps.
That’s awesome because one thing that frustrates me is with especially with
Apple Music, it can pick some completely random tracks or artists to play what it
thinks you like, which are completely off topic.
Having some control over that sounds good.
Thank you for that, Simon.
So what I would like to say is that all our listeners out there, tell us what
you know if there’s something that you’d like to throw into our do you know mix please send it in
uh we’ll be delighted to have a look at it here on the show and pass on to other listeners.
Brilliant thank you Martin.
And I think yet again we’ve come to the end of our episode and as always we will say thank you to
our guest first and foremost but we’d also like to know where can we find you hanging out on the
internet if people want to find out more that’s the important one. First and
foremost thanks for having me it’s been a it’s been a pleasure talking to you
talking with you and I guess if you want to find out more about me and the apps
that I work on the best place is on Twitter where I’m @simonbis and
bs is not for bullshit people tend to think that it’s not it’s it’s my
surname awesome that’s great and definitely check out all of Simon’s apps
on the App Store. They come highly recommended in downloading all of them and been using them for a
long time. And to be fair, you are also one of the really good developers in that you listen to
feedback and you do update your apps really quickly. So keep up the good work on that one.
I think that’s really nice to hear.
And thank you. And we’ll also say thank you to Tina this evening. Thank you very much.
As usual, it’s been great to listen to people and discover quite the depth of my ignorance. But hey,
There’s always got to be one person in the room that doesn’t know what they’re doing and it appears it’s me.
But I’m fine with that. I’m comfortable with that.
Yeah, so, you know, have a great weekend.
New weathers listening, stay safe and all that stuff.
As it does appear that levels are going up.
So let’s all be careful out there.
Sadly, yes, it is the case.
Fingers crossed. Thank you, Tina.
And we’ll also say thank you to Martin.
Thank you, Craig and Tina and Simon.
Thank you to all our listeners for coming along and enjoying our ramblings here.
ramblings here for the last hour or so on the Bruin Bike Show. I hope you all are staying
safe and just still take a modicum of care about how you carry on interacting with people
for the next few weeks until we hopefully get out of this horrible mess.
Yeah, definitely an act of caution from me and common sense, which is also really important.
And I’ll also say thank you from me. Until next time, we’ll see you soon.[MUSIC PLAYING]