Under the Radar

Under the Radar 48: Late Bloomers

 

  welcome to under the radar a show about

  independent iOS app development I'm

  Marco Arment and I'm David Smith under

  the radar is never longer than 30

  minutes so let's get started today we

  want to talk about a topic that is near

  and dear to me it is coming late to

  things being late bloomers to new

  technologies and new techniques or new

  abilities things like interface builder

  use things like you know if you

  controller containment you know they

  basically things that that I either

  didn't do early on or that I minimally

  used early on or just never even gave a

  shot and and that I later and more

  recently have come to come to realize oh

  this is actually useful or even maybe

  now it's useful you know maybe it wasn't

  that useful in 1.0 but maybe now it has

  become more useful over time as Apple

  has made these things better this

  happens to me all the time my default

  reaction to new technologies coming

  coming by is I probably don't need that

  because much of the time that's true but

  but that that attitude makes it hard to

  find those times when it's not true and

  it often makes me come late to things

  now the benefit of coming late to things

  any of the issues that 1.0 brought those

  have probably been worked out or you

  will have heard from a bunch of people

  like this this technology or this thing

  is not worth using but the ones that are

  worth using by the time you come late to

  them yeah you've missed some time of

  potential improvements and efficiencies

  and everything but when you get there

  it's really awesome and easy to use and

  the tools are better and everything's

  more stable

  so it isn't all bad being being a

  conservative curmudgeon like I am about

  new technologies are you that way at all

  yes so I I'm a very strange person in

  terms of I have like these two different

  mindsets when it comes to like new

  technology so you know wEDC

  Apple announces here's the whole new set

  of stuff that are nowadays now available

  for Apple developers and I get really

  excited and look into and very often

  start using like totally new

  technologies you know things that

  weren't possible before that are now

  possible and I'll be one of the first

  people in the world to run down that and

  try and use it and see we're all it's

  often it's you know kind of whore half

  broken and the beta period is really

  tricky but I like that part of the

  development cycle and enjoy it

  whenever Apple introduces something that

  is a a replacement or extension to

  something existing you know and so this

  is a pattern that I think Apple I've

  seen Apple do many times you know I

  started developing on iPhone OS 2.2 I

  think was the first OS version that I

  was building against Wow it was just way

  back in the day and you see what it took

  to build something then and now so much

  of the stuff that we would write custom

  you know custom frameworks for or have

  to do ourselves is now just like built

  into the system they're all these things

  that you know a problem that we had to

  solve manually or directly before and

  then Apple comes along and says you know

  enough people are doing this that we

  should probably create a system method

  for doing this that'll be more stable

  and almost certainly more better

  resilient against iOS changes you know

  cuz I you know like when iOS 9 goes to

  iOS 10 Apple's gonna make sure that you

  know collectionview still works

  correctly

  whereas if I've had my own custom

  collection view class suddenly I'm the

  one who has to go in and make all the

  changes to make sure that it works

  nicely on the new OS and so Apple is

  rightfully so extending and expanding

  the universe of things that we can do

  but I always struggle with the feeling

  of if I have an existing solution for

  something that kind of works and that

  I'm familiar with is a really a hard

  sell to kind of tear down everything

  that I built and then replace it with

  apples thing and especially like you

  said early on because in that early

  phase is when there's the most bugs and

  then you can have the really bad feeling

  of like regret where it's like oh I

  should just go back to doing it the way

  that I used to do it because I knew that

  I knew at least I knew where all the

  problems were if there was a bug I could

  fix it and that was the you know a

  mindset that's a very easy trap to get

  into but on the flip side I definitely

  look at some of these things and I

  wonder if I'm missing out and history

  maybe has shown them some ways I'm

  missing out in some ways I'm not you

  know obviously the best thing is when

  you see a technology fly by you don't

  embrace it and then it ends up dying

  you know like iCloud core data sync for

  example like as a technology that when

  it came out I was like

  that is interesting like I use core data

  and I sync data to a server I wonder if

  this would be cool and I kind of poked

  my veena poked around a little bit but

  never really went down their road

  because I had an existing infrastructure

  because it turns out that was a great

  situation right I think that was you

  know officially killed this last summer

  and if I had gone all gone all you know

  all in on that I would have been in a

  world of hurt but on the flip side here

  if I had seen cloud kit when it came out

  and went in on that that's the vastness

  a technology that seems to be ascendant

  that seems to be on its way up and so at

  this point this part it's like huh maybe

  I should be using that maybe that would

  be a wise thing for me to be using and

  having the benefit of time makes that

  choice a lot easier I think and so you

  there is certainly a benefit to if a

  technology is being replaced and/or

  improved upon that I think you can be

  more conservative than if it's something

  totally new

  you know then just go for it and try it

  and you know if it doesn't work well

  yeah what have you lost but that having

  being a bit more conservative when it's

  something that is just an extension for

  me in any way feels like the right

  approach it also it helps to you know as

  you mentioned like catching things when

  they're when they're ascendant that

  really helps with keeping up with Apple

  basically keeping up with the new

  devices that launch new OS capabilities

  Apple makes it easy on you if you kind

  of follow their guidelines if you if you

  kind of like take like the tracks they

  lay out for you like they pave out a way

  that they want you to do things whether

  it's the language choice in this case

  they do now its Swift whether it's

  things like using interface builder

  using storyboards you know using

  adaptive layouts like all these things

  like Apple makes things easy to do

  things their way and then generally

  speaking if you do things their way you

  will have less friction or things will

  be easier for you in the near future as

  they introduce new technologies new

  devices things like that and and you

  don't have to do things their way but if

  you don't you're generally setting

  yourself up for more work like for me

  one of the biggest things about that was

  was when they brought an adaptive

  for the iPad like that that changed a

  lot of things for a lot of people

  because like if you if you had first of

  all feel like a separate iPad app and an

  iPhone app that broke everything because

  all of a sudden Lee well now your iPad

  app kind of has a reason to have the

  entire iPhone app with it so that it can

  run in skinny mode on the sidebar and if

  you if you were doing things in a basic

  way with like a typical you know UI

  split view controller things like that

  like then things were easier for you but

  if you if you were you know away from

  the Apple way you had more work to do I

  think - it's an interesting point about

  how Apple tends to strongly sort of

  Telegraph where they're going yeah with

  their announcements that this has been a

  pattern that we've seen many times where

  Apple introduces a you know a they solve

  a problem or they make something easier

  that you know either you know end of

  that fall sometimes when it's yeah I

  remember when you know they first

  changed the size of the iPhone like that

  was the year that we got Auto layout if

  I remember right yep

  and like they do those kinds of moves

  where they can because obviously they

  know what their road map is for the next

  six months for the next year for the

  next two years and they can look forward

  to what that look what that's going to

  be and start preparing you know pairing

  the ground for what that's what's going

  to make development on that platform the

  best now and so there's definitely a

  wisdom in looking at what what in order

  these new technologies and extensions

  that they're adding to the to the

  frameworks that what is like asking

  yourself well what could this mean like

  they started adding the size classes and

  there's I always remember there was in

  the first size class WC session where

  there's like they have the quadrant of

  like the compact and wide and so they

  have like this one is this you know

  these devices fall in this category this

  these devices fall in this category

  these devices fall in this category and

  this to this category we don't actually

  have any devices that category yet and

  obviously like super visual you could

  say like huh you know that's just the

  way it fell out it's like no Apple is

  actually telling us that I think in that

  case it was the I believe it was the the

  6 plus and landscape which which has I

  believe it has the the normal which is

  like iPad size or

  chantal class and the compact vertical

  class yeah exactly like those types of

  things like Apple is telling you

  something there and so being aware of it

  even if you're not going to adopt the

  new technology it's probably a good

  thing to be kind of suspicious when they

  start changing things to see like what

  could this mean down the road cuz

  they're not gonna waste their time just

  adding you know adding stuff for no

  reason

  yeah I mean one of the things for me

  that so to get into some specific

  examples here one of the things for me

  in this area was viewcontroller

  containment or have having child view

  controllers basically and implementing

  your own parent view controllers and you

  know for I think for most iOS developers

  you've seen you know kind of view

  controller bloat disease it is so easy

  to have tons of code in view controllers

  because that's kind of just where

  everything falls and I know there's

  different models there's like mvvm and

  stuff I haven't like gotten some any of

  those yet so I can't really speak to

  them but every iOS developer has seen

  the the massive view controller syndrome

  and one of the things that helps that a

  lot is by making child view controller

  so like you know like an overcast you

  know I'll have like different panels and

  everything and rather than having like

  on the nap playing screen they're like

  the effects panel rather than having

  that be part of the now playing view

  controller that is its own view

  controller that can be presented or

  stuck in various places you know just

  using the stock stuff using things like

  popovers and split views and navigation

  of course you know all these things page

  view controllers using all those things

  can get you very very far but one of the

  biggest things I've done recently I

  started making my own parent view

  controllers also now one of the things I

  did was I I have replaced UI split view

  controller with my own custom version of

  something that does fairly similar

  things but does them kind of more my way

  because when I when I was looking at

  overcast code I have spent so much time

  and there were so much like hacky weird

  like configuration and exception code

  things like in you know intercepting

  traitcollection changes and weird things

  like that all to get UI split view

  controller to do what I wanted the

  amount of code I have to just bend this

  existing component to my will is so much

  and so fragile and and so hacky I can

  actually make my own split view

  equivalent controller that just does

  things the way I want them to want the

  way I want it to with actually far less

  code like buy it by a mile

  because the built-in components they

  have all these limitations in place that

  you know Apple thinks they should be

  designed this way but the reason one of

  the reasons necessary is because like

  they have all these different options

  and how you can configure them if they

  have to work in all the different ways

  they have they can't make as many

  assumptions as you can

  they can't rule out certain options that

  you won't use so in their

  implementations they're never going to

  accommodate everything but at the same

  time they have to be like so complex to

  accommodate all the things they do

  manage to to encompass when you make one

  for yourself you can do anything you

  want and only what you want and that's

  incredibly powerful and you know writing

  everything yourself is not always the

  best solution that's not always a good

  use of time but in cases like this like

  I've been fighting with UI splitview

  controller and and various like adaptive

  layout things for over a year now and

  it's just like this I I don't need to do

  this like why am I doing this when I

  could just write and so I took one day

  like let me see if I can write my own in

  one day and sure enough of course it was

  it was easier than I ever imagined

  because the the you know if you control

  containment stuff is very much here and

  how it's it's been a wrap for a while I

  think was ins Iowa it's like five or six

  it's it's kind of old right six I think

  yeah yeah so it's been out for a while

  so all the stuff was very very easy to

  do I also made a custom UI page view

  controller it basically didn't I want to

  do some some custom gesture and view

  handling that it just was not capable of

  doing without tons of hacks so I just

  made my own and my the one I made is not

  as good as theirs for general purpose

  use but for my use it's way better and

  it really is not that much code and it

  it's more it's more of like basically

  removing times where you have to really

  hack with UI kit because you like it's

  so complex there's so much there that it

  has to do and so much of my of my time

  designing interfaces in the past has

  been fighting UI kit to just try to

  customize something the way I want it

  and over time it's become easier but

  there's still places where you have to

  do it especially like around new

  technologies like adaptive UI and stuff

  like that when those things kind of come

  out and so to to hit yourself out of the

  business of hacking UI kit is so freeing

  and so so good for your overall code

  health and technical debt I highly

  recommend it and one of the biggest ways

  is view controller that you basically

  use and view controllers properly and

  not trying to hack the existing ones if

  they don't fit your needs

  yeah but I think what you're speaking

  there is such the strange tension that

  when you are looking at these new

  technologies because the base building

  blocks in iOS are overall I would say

  really really good like the number of

  things that you can build was just a

  scrollview

  his immense like I mean I was one of my

  favorite talks wotc I don't know if they

  did one this last year because I

  previously had always been like what's

  new in UI scrollview mmm and they would

  build these really sophisticated

  interactions that were just a scrollview

  at the end of the day and but it's that

  strange tension where if you use a page

  controller like it's like you can get

  that first thing working really quickly

  but you very cool you'll start to run

  out of runway and it's a question I

  suppose of how much control you want to

  have and how much you want to be

  responsible for all the weird edge cases

  all the strange issues that are gonna

  happen I suppose either way if you use

  UI page controller like there's just

  gonna be there's gonna be some issues

  that you just can't work around and

  you're just like oh well like it just

  doesn't work the way I like it to in

  this particular situation so then you're

  like okay let me just build my own and

  now of course you're like the important

  thing I think maybe is to say is when

  you do that you are it's good to be sort

  of cognizant and keep your eyes open for

  what you're taking on when you do that

  because you know apples engineering

  teams are know like they're not they're

  no slouches like they are really good at

  what they're doing and it takes a lot of

  engineering work to build the UI

  pagecontroller for example like that's

  not just a simple thing they threw

  together in a day and so if you're gonna

  replace it you probably need to be aware

  that you're it's gonna be a lot more

  work than you think and there's gonna be

  weird edges and problems that you're

  gonna have to run into you like I

  remember this with activity plus plus

  where it has this kind of custom

  animation where you starts off with the

  Rings and if you tap it like the Rings

  unfurl and turn into the bar graph which

  is this kind of cool animation that I

  thought of and I was like oh I really

  want to build this and I started to see

  if I could build this with UI view

  animation

  because I would far prefer to do it with

  some kind of built-in mechanism and in

  the end I couldn't because just it was

  just too complicated of a thing to get

  performant and to get to look right and

  so I ended up just building it myself

  using like raw core graphics that I you

  know I do the animation of each frame of

  that animation and draw its you know

  just like I'm just essentially just

  drawing that to a bit a bitmap and

  displaying it each frame which is great

  it looks just how I want it but it means

  there's all kinds of weird issues and

  performance problems and compatibility

  things between different platforms that

  if I was just using UI view animation

  just wouldn't happen and so really the

  trade-off was worth it like I couldn't

  do it at the other way but I kind of

  wish that I was able to use do so do it

  the other way and I think that's

  something when I don't think of these

  new technologies that Apple puts out

  like there's this I definitely always

  have that tugging sense of aw man I wish

  I could just use whatever it is I wish I

  could just use auto layout I wish I

  could just use size classes but then as

  soon as I hit that edge I have such this

  tension it's just saying like oh I'll

  just throw my hands up and walk away

  which is perhaps a bit childish well but

  you know it's you have to always be

  defensive of your time like when you're

  when you're trying out something new or

  when you're thinking about rewriting a

  system component for your own use like

  it's very easy to fall into a time hole

  here and just burn tons of time doing

  something that actually isn't productive

  part of the the judgement of when to do

  that and when not to just comes with

  doing it wrong for a number of years and

  eventually gaining that wisdom and part

  of it is kind of just luck you know a

  lot of times you can't really tell

  what's gonna be a good use of your time

  upfront but you know that's the risk you

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  sponsoring our show one other thing that

  I was thinking about with this topic

  though is it's something that I wrote

  that I you run into if you are behind

  the times like I'm very often behind the

  way you know like Apple has this new

  technology this new approach that

  they're recommending and I'm late in

  adopting it the thing that I always

  noticed too is that you'll run into that

  can be really annoying is suddenly all

  the documentation all the example code

  all the things that you see on Stack

  Overflow suddenly don't work for you

  anymore thank you that you have to not

  only not only have you built your own

  approach like you were even if it's not

  like you're just going down the road

  it's like doing something custom like if

  you just have old code then suddenly you

  have this new thing that Apple has put

  out there pushing and that's where all

  their focus is going suddenly that's

  where all the documentation is written

  for and the you know the example code

  they publish will use that new thing and

  so there's not a lot of great examples

  and it becomes harder and harder and

  like the biggest example is probably

  Swift like I remember sort of you had

  there was this transition period where

  all of a sudden all the answers on Stack

  Overflow for you know questions I had

  about the new technologies we're all all

  the example code was just written in

  Swift or you know people like snippets

  and that can become really awkward and

  it's probably a good reason to try and

  adopt some of these things with some

  urgency just to not be sort of fall

  behind to a degree that you just can't

  work out what to do or perhaps moreover

  you're wasting time like I remember

  sitting there wasting time like trying

  to translate the swift code into

  objective-c and then trying to work out

  how to then take that concept and apply

  it into my own app but I have to do this

  like level of indirection whereas if it

  my app wasn't Swift like you like oh I

  see what they're doing there I can build

  it you know for myself now and that's

  something that I think it takes a lot of

  experience to realize that you're not

  just running into technical issues

  you're running into like educational and

  learning issues as

  well oh yeah but you know that's just

  kind of par for the course and it has

  thing to move on and new things come in

  you know it's kind of like part of the

  cost of sticking with old stuff is that

  everyone else moves on it seems you know

  and that that isn't actually no it isn't

  everyone that's how it seems like when

  you're searching for help or

  documentation or or looking for where

  Apple's attention is going like once the

  new thing comes out all those people

  move on to it and if you are lagging

  behind or you string the old thing

  that's just again it's just part of the

  cost of doing business you know oh sure

  but it's it's a weird feeling when

  you're like it's some ways I love that I

  have some you know I've apps on the App

  Store that have been have existed for

  years and never see this is a it's I

  took a very classic issue in software

  engineering of what are you dealing with

  legacy code that you have things that

  work they should go back to and I mean

  it's a crazy feeling when you go back

  and look at code and run blame and get

  and you see you know this was code was

  written back in 2009 or 2010 what was I

  doing like why did I have this strange

  exception and so often you run into this

  situation where like you were coding

  around an iOS bug in iOS 5 that you no

  longer need to code around and at some

  point like you have this weird cycle

  where you're coding around to prop a bug

  that then gets resolved and then your

  code your fix starts to actually be the

  bug and caused the problem because

  you're doing stuff that isn't is sort of

  counter to what the modern approaches

  and that's probably why it's so hard to

  be a UI could engineer yeah no I

  definitely don't envy the you know and

  envy that team where they do this really

  cool amazing work but like the number of

  day having at work across all the

  different devices and all the different

  things and having an iOS because that

  another thing that's kind of crazy is

  the way they approach with binary

  compatibility and like you can still run

  an iOS 4 app on iOS 10 like it'll

  probably be a little bit broken and

  janky but like they do a lot of work to

  keep things forward which is perhaps

  another year like I was saying earlier

  but another reason why being like I keep

  telling myself to be less of a

  curmudgeon about the new stuff because

  I'm probably wasting a lot of

  that you know Apple is paying engineers

  to do this work and then I'm just like

  walking past them and saying nope nope

  I'll do it myself I'll take care of this

  myself where that's probably an

  inefficient use of my time yeah all

  right so let me give a few examples of

  some of the more recent things that I

  have that I've been working with in the

  last few weeks doing overcast 3.0 in the

  last few versions I've made extensive

  use of kvo key-value observing and this

  has been helped tremendously by the

  Facebook the FB kvo controller it is a

  fantastic open source component I highly

  recommend that anybody using kvo or

  curious about kbo do it with the FB kvo

  controller don't do worth of raw calls

  because they're full of bug potential

  and the Facebook one boys a lot of that

  is very nice to use generally this is

  you know this is in very short terms a

  way to have some code notified whenever

  a certain value of a different object

  changes so this is kind of and I think

  this is what reactive cocoa is all about

  mostly it's like basically and please

  forgive me if that's wrong but basically

  like kind of having having views and

  controls basically update themselves

  based on values that changed and also

  similar to what OS tended with bindings

  which have never never made its iOS but

  honestly having used them very briefly

  and they're kind of cool I know people I

  know there's potential issues but they

  can't be pretty cool where I've been

  moving basically is moving rather than

  having like a view controller that has a

  stock UI switch and having the view

  controller manage the state of that UI

  switch and be notified when the switch

  is toggled to go change the value to

  assign it the value when it's loaded or

  when the value changes moving all of

  that into a custom subclass of UI switch

  or whatever the control is and having

  the control manage itself and that takes

  tons of code out of the view controllers

  and makes way more reusable components

  way easier if you're in testing it's way

  easier to test these things also and it

  really eliminates tons of potential

  weirdness and bugs and edge cases like

  one of the screens that I just made

  uses a table view that has a couple of

  switches and buttons in it in the old

  way of me doing these things I'd either

  not monitor for underlying changes like

  if a change gets synced over that that

  would change one of those switches or

  buttons or

  I'd monitor from the viewcontroller and

  if any of those values change I just

  call table view reload ruler data and

  just reload the entire table and that

  sucks like if you can avoid doing that

  you should and I don't need to reload a

  whole table to change the value of one

  switch that there were like the

  underlying data to happen to change it

  during during that views presence on

  screen I can just subclass that switch

  and just have like rather than having

  like you know a whole bunch of playing

  UI switches in the table view the one

  that has the rotation setting that's now

  an OC rotation switch and now I can in

  my table view when I'm making the cell I

  can just say accessory view equals OC

  rotation switch and the switch itself in

  its code man it watches the value it

  adds itself as a target and has its own

  target implementation of like here's how

  I'm going to change this value now and

  you know and this is basically making

  these components self-contained and

  where this really shines not only

  cleaning up your view controllers and

  code reuse and testability and

  everything else where this really is

  awesome is another bad word that I I

  didn't use for a long time interface

  builder I recently started using

  interface builder to design some of my

  main screens as well as I started using

  IB designing and this is this is a thing

  where you can in a couple of methods and

  put a couple annotations on your file

  just look up IB design a ball you can

  basically make custom controls appear

  correctly interface builder so if you if

  you need to draw draw things custom on

  on a button or style in a certain way or

  whatever else you can do all that and

  have that show up interface builder

  rather than just having a big empty

  white view or like a none store

  something like that using that basically

  I'm trying to get as much as much code

  as possible out of view controllers

  because again it's that's kind of like a

  bad technical debt bug potential kind of

  written area so just try to make smaller

  view controllers and a big thing a big

  thing with that is using interface

  builder as much as possible and

  interface builder is not like a panacea

  but if you if you do my my approach of

  like having self-contained components

  that manage themselves and if you take

  advantage of things like I'd be

  desirable a lot of things become easier

  for instance portrait and landscape

  differences with Auto layout oh again

  I'm also using auto layout now interface

  builder

  that had really I know yeah that's like

  I thought I'd never do that but I one

  day I just kind of plaid to them like

  you know I mean I'm gonna learn how to

  do it and then I can decide whether I

  really need to use it or not and it

  turns out yeah it's not it's not easier

  intuitive but neither is anything else

  about interface builder and and once you

  figure out oh you have to like right

  drag from itself to itself like weird

  well these all the little weird things

  you have to do to make interface builder

  work correctly there most of us are

  totally undiscoverable once you figure

  those out Auto layout Internet face

  builder really isn't that bad it's not

  easy but it actually can be more

  productive in some case depending what

  you're doing it's what you know basic

  things like if you're gonna have a

  difference between a portrait and

  landscape layout it makes us so much

  easier to it in fact my one wish for it

  is that I wish that the size classes

  were more granular more like CSS like I

  would love to be able to say if the you

  know if the width of this view is less

  than 300 points then change this

  condition rather than just being like if

  this is horizontal or vertical compact

  you know the the size classes that we

  have now are very coarse and I would

  like things to be more powerful more

  like what CSS does with like media

  queries and stuff but other than that I

  I have had fantastic luck in in my

  recent redesign and and cleanup of this

  code basically using stuff that's new to

  me that is not new to anybody else in

  iOS development I'm still not using

  storyboards but not going crazy no no I

  I mean that's that would be crazy but I

  have found it really like these things

  make so many things easier like like the

  like as I mentioned where they're

  self-contained buttons and things that

  makes it easier implement custom themes

  because I have all the controls that

  have a theme Abul property I have them

  monitor for appearance changes in my

  appearance manager class and then they

  can just redraw themselves makes it

  easier to support dynamic text that way

  also because I had a little trick in my

  app where my my appearance did change

  notification I just mapped it to the

  system's

  text category size did change

  notification so basically all my

  handling like if you if if you switch

  into into or out of dark mode and

  overcast or if you go and change system

  font size and

  so all my labels can redraw themselves

  everything can resize itself I can do

  this without this kind of technique and

  without any ologies I for many years I

  have but it just makes it so much easier

  and more reliable to do it this way and

  it makes the code a lot more manageable

  and and it does make it easier to take

  advantage of new technologies that Apple

  introduced it's going forward and so

  that's that's I think where most of the

  value is here so you know I guess maybe

  I'll uh probably try Swift pretty soon

  but I don't maybe I don't go crazy there

  either we'll see not yet just you know

  one step at a time slowly slowly walk

  down this road yeah exactly

  all right well we're out of time this

  week thank you very much everybody for

  listening and we will talk to you next

  week bye