The Conference Circus

I want to quote this entire article by Pedro Piñera, but I’ll just highlight my favorite part.

By tagging the elite as “experts” in different areas we put them under pressure. Pressure to keep that label and keep being active. I have to be at more conferences, I have to keep proposing more talks, I have to check Twitter or post that I opened a radar about a crash in the last Xcode version that is still beta. As you might guess some people can’t handle that and it leads them to burnout. I’ve heard it from a few developers. I had to stop attending conferences because I got burnout. Moreover, some can’t control the ego. Being part of the elite sets them levels above you. No matter how you approach them, the way they get back to you depends on the levels you are far from them. That’s very bad.

I spent a good chunk of 2010 to 2014 on the Conference Circuit accepting speaking gigs as exciting as a theatre in Australia to a Holiday Inn in the Chicago suburbs. I noticed pretty much the same things as Pedro. You had a pretty good mix of:

  1. Person who does nothing but conference talks year round. They talk about writing software more than actually writing software.
  2. Person who is incredibly unprepared and will just eat shit in front of their audience. This is the worst person of all.
  3. Person who is speaking for the first-ish time and has new and interesting ideas to share.

I’d much rather attend a conference with the third person than the first two. I want to learn from people in the trenches, not someone who makes their living collection frequent flyer miles going from conference to conference. When I stopped doing the conference circuit, I was worried I was spending way too much time becoming #1.

Now, I do one conference a year: 360iDev. Moreover, I will only do 360 if I have something new to share. I did three separate years worth of Auto Layout talks, each with a unique set of content for anyone that came annually. This last year I instead opted to do a talk on application architecture, because I had spent so much of the summer of 2016 digging into the guts of the application I work on most of the day and trying to imagine how to rearchitect it for its next 5 years of growth. Instead of just trying to sell more copies of the Auto Layout book by rehashing an old Auto Layout talk, I opted to take my newest learnings and share them with the audience. It takes me a week to prepare my presentation, but I hope everyone that leaves my room learns something and doesn’t feel like their time was wasted.

Fighting Back

Like most people in my bubble, the US Elections didn’t exactly go how I planned.

There’s been a lot of handwringing about how to best fight back against an administration that you and other like-minded folks are staunchly against. While I’m all for a good bit of slacktivism as much as the next guy, I’m trying to extend my anti-Trump rhetoric beyond just a safety pin and a few angry tweets.

Staying Informed

I admit that I have tuned out much of the news and politics over the last decade. As the right has gone farther right (and the left farther left), I have been left on an island in the center feeling unrepresented. Sticking my head in the sand and ignoring the issues hasn’t exactly worked out that well, so now I’m focused and paying attention.

Keeping up with the daily news of what happens in Washington, locally in Denver, and even globally is more important than ever.

The Affordable Care Act is flawed, but it’s also the only way I have been able to get healthcare in the last few years. I’ve long been rejected for individual coverage because I take anti-depressants. I’m otherwise a healthy, fit 34 year old. But my one $25 a month prescription was grounds for Anthem, United, or whomever to reject me. For all its flaws, Obamacare fixed that for me. If Donald Trump and his party want to repeal the ACA, they damn well better have a better solution. I’ll be paying attention and ready to judge that.

Supporting The Press

Beyond just paying attention to the news, I’m putting my money towards journalism more directly than just eyeballs through ads. I’ve subscribed to both the New York Times for my national news coverages and the Denver Post for local coverage.

The approximately $20 a month this costs me won’t pay anyones salary, but my hope is that if newspapers have a bit more money to work with, they can focus on keeping our leaders honest instead of just keeping their lights on.

Supporting Your Causes

I am not much for protesting, a bit too busy to work a phone bank, and way too socially awkward to run around trying to collect signatures or whatever people with outgoing personalities do. I am however able throw a little money at problems.

I have long been a financial supporter of the EFF, but my donations to other causes have either been nonexistent or one-off as I felt necessary. No more. I’m now a recurring supporter of the causes I care about and want to help protect.

You don’t have to support these, but if you are able, I’d recommend finding a group that you do align with, and supporting them however you can.

Netflix, iOS, tvOS, CenturyLink, and a Netgear Nighthawk, Oh My!

There is zero point to this post. I’m only writing it in case someone else runs into this issue. Hopefully they don’t have to spend as many hours as I did to debug this. Maybe someone can also explain why this was an issue in the first place.

For the last six months or so I have been unable to use Netflix on any iOS or tvOS device (version 10.x at the time of this writing). I could sometimes get my list of content to load, but any attempt at playback failed with generic Netflix errors. Even signing into my Netflix account would be a chore. If you search the Netflix support site they offer the basic unhelpful support information: have you tried restarting your device or router?

I have a CenturyLink Gigabit fiber line, so hearing that it might be an issue with my connection seemed wrong, especially when you consider that I use a variety of other streaming services without issue. The other questionable thing is that Netflix does work on any non-iOS device such as my Xbox One, TiVo Bolt, and (gasp) Android phone. Any device with a fruit logo, however, was a no-go.

My home network setup isn’t super complex, but it’s also not a stock setup either.

What I tried and What Actually Worked

My first thought was maybe it was some sort of Quality of Service (QoS) issue with the router. I checked and I didn’t have any QoS settings enabled. Just as an experiment I tried turning them on. Still no Netflix on iOS or tvOS.

My next experiment involved trying to put my tvOS devices as the DMZ host so they had a straight passthrough from the router to the open Internet. My hope was that maybe whatever is going on in the router that was filtering the Netflix connection would just be bypassed. Hopes dashed. Still nothing.

My last idea was based off a random guess, but turned out to actually work: I disabled IPv6 on the Nighthawk. Success!

I have no idea what issue is with the chemistry between Netflix, Apple’s network stack, my router, and IPv6. All I know is that I can now watch Black Mirror.

Update: Maybe it has something to do with IPv6 being blocked by Netflix’s war on VPNs?

Read more about. . .

Advanced iOS Application Architecture

I am mostly retired from the public speaking circuit. I do still make a point to try and do 360iDev in Denver each year, considering the proprietor is a friend and I can sleep in my bed every night of the conference. This year I did a talk that was a departure from my last few years of Auto Layout talks. Instead, I did a walkthrough of how I architect modern iOS apps. If you attended the conference and saw the talk, I hope you enjoyed it. If you didn’t attend, it’s already online and ready to watch.

Read more about. . .

What Old Is New Again in Auto Layout on iOS 10

The “What’s New in Auto Layout” talk seems to be becoming an annual tradition at WWDC. I didn’t attend in person this year, because I couldn’t get out of San Francisco fast enough on the Friday of the conference, but I recently sat down and watched the video and have been thinking about what Apple is offering this year.

This year’s session was surprising, to say the least. After spending the last three years preaching that autoresizing masks weren’t long for this world, Apple went ahead and made me eat a full serving of crow by “introducing” a new feature in Xcode 8 called “autoresizing masks.” For those new to Mac and iOS development, autoresizing masks is the “old” way of doing things before Auto Layout was introduced back with OS X Lion. Instead of explicitly setting relationships between your views, you set the springs and struts values to assign the resizing and pinning behavior of the view.

Even with Auto Layout, springs and struts never really went away. When the system unable to determine the layout of your application with your given set of constraints, it would plug in its own set of constraints implicitly, usually tied to springs and struts, to fill in the gaps. Any time you call translatesAutoresizingMaskIntoConstraints on a UIView you are opting out of letting the system create constraints for you based off autoresizing masks as well.

With the new incremental adoption policies in iOS 10 and above, Apple is now stepping back its hardline on Auto Layout adoption and instead realizing that in some scenarios, the old way can actually can be better. Specifically, if you just need to set up some basic resizing behavior opting into letting the system add its default constraints at compile time with a little help from your defined autoresizing masks is less work than manually creating constraints yourself. In a lot of ways it feels like a more pragmatic middle ground between the old way of doing things and the 100% pure Auto Layout approach.

Resizing masks are still not without their tradeoffs: if you are dealing with localization you’re going to want to opt into Auto Layout and all that is has to offer. I just localized an entire app and it would have been far more hellacious if I was sticking to autoresizing masks instead of Auto Layout. But, for things like fast prototypes or the most basic of views with minimal behavior requirements not having to set up constraints could definitely save you some development time.