iPhone Unit? TDD?

Thank God for people like Dr Nic. I managed to test drive a simple calculator project on the iPhone using his screencast. Just a quick note if you don’t come from the Ruby camp, (you know, like you spend most of your time obsessing over the JVM and toy with Groovy on the weekends):

You’ll want to install rubigen to get his example to work.

sudo gem install rubigen

You’ll also find that since the project renaming iphoneruby doesn’t work. Instead “gem install rbiphonetest”. My only question is why doesn’t my calculator respond to the reset method after I completed the screencast walk through and added the reset method to the object?

assert_respond_to calc, :reset

fails for me! Must be another one of those iPhone/ObjC inconsistencies that I’ll learn along the way.

Fix Java Swing Apps on Compiz-Fusion

Or fix Swing apps on Beryl…

I’m keeping my eye on this trail:
I found it using this search:

Because I use Idea and because Idea uses Swing, and because I like eye candy, things just wont work 100% even on Debian/Mepis one of the most stable OSes around. If you use Mepis 7 out of the box then you’ll have a great experience. But if you’re like me then you’ll no doubt push the limits even a little and find your self looking at a blank screen when there should be a diff.

iPhony Development – Unit Testing?

I’ve been at it all weekend. Off and on, spawning threads, updating a dumb UI, now exploring Test Driven Design with Cocoa. Here’s an interesting tidbit that I turned up somewhere in the Apple docs last night. (It was past 12am when I read it, I was tired and now I can no longer find it so I might as well be lying to you but…) “Creating unit test targets is not supported for iPhone development…” or so the text read. Why is it that the mobile community thinks they’re so special? Why do they not need unit tests for their software? Am I missing something? I found an article demonstrating how to Test Drive a TicTacToe game in Cocoa and so far it’s been working pretty well. I’m still hitting my random stumbling blocks here and there. My latest blocker comes from the following test auxillary method:

- (void) assertWinnerIs: (int) expectedWinner withMoveInRow: (int) row andInColumn: (int) col {
	int actualWinner = [game makeAMoveInRow: row andInColumn: col];
	NSString *winner = ( (actualWinner == _X_) ? @"_X_" : (actualWinner == _O_ ? @"_O_" : "NONE") );
	STAssertEquals(expectedWinner, actualWinner,
				   @"Move made in row %d and column %d by player %@ should win but returned winner was %@", row, col, 
				   [game valueInRow:row andInColumn:col] == _X_ ? @"_X_" : @"_O_"winner);
	[winner release];

It’s complaining about a pointer type mismatch in my conditional expression. I think I’m being too clever here using ternary operators instead of breaking out the classic if/esle or switch statements. I’m just trying to print out exactly which player is reported as the winner in my test because I like fully descriptive assertion failure messages but at the same time I like more terse code. I hate breaking out verbose if/else blocks if I can avoid it.

On a side note, none of this will do me any good if I can’t run test suites in an iPhone project. Still I’m thinking that I could probably hack around the limitation somehow by creating a Cocoa library project just to get the core logic unit tested then somehow figuring out how to include that unit tested code in my iPhone project. I’m certain there’s a loophole somewhere and I’ll stumble across it shortly. I still wonder why it has to be such a challenge? C’mon, we’re in like, the 27th century or something like that! There’s no excuse for any moder frameworks to be created sans unit test support. I view this as completely unacceptable!

Titles, Strings, and Threads

I just got bit by a subtle Objective C bug. I’m writing a basic application that starts an asynchronous counter that updates an onscreen label. Common sense would suggest pseudo-code like this:

   if button title = "Start"
      set button title = "Stop"
      set button title = "Start"
end onButtonPress

The problem is this. The UIButton class in Cocoa has a read only currentTitle property. There’s no writing to this property however you can write to setTitleForState and pass a UIControlStateNormal enum. (Why do I hate enums?) So I’m thinking it’s enough to query the currentTitle property and then set the title for the normal state from “Start” to “Stop”, right? Wrong! Somehow the currentTitle property hangs onto the original value and instead I should be querying the titleForState: method instead! Can you tell I’m missing the JDK?

Stringing me along

Did you know that, when using Objective C over Cocoa, there is no trim method! I’m fooling with some really simple code that should take all of 2 minutes tops but because ObjC/Coca breaks things out completely different than Java I’m facing collisions left and right. Luckily I think I’m smart enough to figure out why:
NSString @someString = @”Start”;
@”Start” == someString;
is not a true statement. I’m relying on my Java background which states that == referrs to object identity not equality is you might hope/guess/pray. Now I’m pawing through the String Programming Guide that sends me off on a tangent. I’m looking at the compare method which returns an NSComparisonResultwhich is typdef’ed to some crazy enum with ordering values. I don’t use enums, not even in Java so now I gotta read up on that too? Where is .equals()? Oh wait… I just looked at the string docs again and there is an isEqualTo method… *phew*

It’s going to take some getting used to. I found the quick API lookup in XCode which is mandatory for writing anything more sophisticated than HelloWorld. There’s a lot of other niceties in XCode as well but, BUT I stand by my original word that XCode has nothing on IntelliJ Idea. There’s an idea! Why doesn’t Jetbrains create an iPhone IDE? That would be off the chains!

The Black Art of iPhone Development

Experimenting with some Cocoa Touch stuff over the iPhone SDK, just for kicks. I’m not comfortable, getting there, but not comfortable yet. I truly miss Idea/Java when using XCode/Obj C. Don’t get me wrong, Apple put a lot of nice features in XCode (a very pretty IDE) and Obj C blows away anything C/C++ related. I can’t see how I’d be comfortable using it for daily development. Too many things are left out. For example, where the HELL is local history? Why does refactoring involve a dialog??? I would think that Apple of all people would get this right on the 1st attempt. Die hard programmers love things like EMacs, hot keys, command lines, single command/action type systems. Anything that takes you out of that flow is a distraction.

Here’s the thing, I think XCode is beautiful. I can see Apple put their touch on it as they do everything else. I love the way the matching left bracket animates when you type a right bracket. Hands down the IDE is prettier than anything from Eclipse, Netbeans, or Idea. For mobile development it beats the pants off of the competition. Blackberry might as well call up their chief JDE architect, invite him out for beer, chat about the McCain/Obama campaign for a good twenty-thirty minutes, pretend to have car trouble late in the night when it’s time to go home, then quietly slip a choke-wire around his neck while he’s not looking and squeeze the living RAPC knowledge out of him slowly. If this were a competition on sexiness, XCode would be Jessica Alba, Eclipse would be Tyra Banks (sexy but fading), Idea would be America Ferrera (appealing ot a certain niche), and Net Beans would be Britney Spears (sexy to those who have no idea what sex appeal truly is).

Productivity is key to an IDE. If productivity were money you would be living like Warren Buffet with Idea, paid like Bill Gates with Eclipse, comfortable like Trump with Net Beans, and just making it like Michael Jackson with XCode. (On the surface you look rich but behind the scenes there’s all these issues.) I need to be able to refactor comfortably. I need to be able to depend on local history instead of some just the undo button. I’d like to be able to tag my project, or whatever file I’m working on so that I can introduce changes and roll back and forth to see the impact of those changes. I’d like to be able to shelve my changes when I get side-tracked, then pull them off the shelf later without missing a beat. Productivity! XCode lacks all of these features and these are the things that make development a breeze.

Productivity aside my biggest problem comes from the lack of simplistic code examples and full fledge easy to use documentation available for the iPhone SDK. There are downloadable sample projects but nothing that shows you, fo instance, “Hello world” over an HTTP request. I can’t even pin point conclusive text that explains whether the iPhone UI follows the same single thread event dispatch model as is present in every UI toolkit I’ve encountered. My common sense tells me that all things like network calls should be done on a background thread to free up the EDT but I can’t find a conclusive simple code example that says, “Hey Idiot, call the OperationQueue API to background your slow network call then batch your screen updates back onto the EDT thread using this other API!” Then Apple makes things worse with their non-disclosure act… not allowing those who know disclose what they know so those who don’t know can know, y’know? it’s like a big secret, learning iPhone dev stuff must be done exclusively using the Apple online docs and nothing else. If you know anything about the black art speak up so we can open a private channel. I really want to learn and Apple isn’t making it easy. Holla’ at’cha man…

CSS and IE6

I figured out the answer to the problem I was having during this post. The answer is IE6 was created by a Satan himself and for the low, low cost of one soul you too can guarantee that all of your CSS, Javascript, and angle-bracketed HTML hard-work will render as anticipated as it is delivered downstream to the hungry rendering engine created by Mr. Beezlebub. Simply deposit one soul into your USB port and click [send], or fill out a soul retrieval form and register for an authorized agent to pick up your soul at your local UPS store. All sales final. Tax, title, and tags are due at inception.

I don’t normally do front end weby stuff but eventually, working for a company like MapQuest, your gonna have ta’ do something that involves Internet Explorer. So today’s post is going to sound really stoopid to those of you who’ve dealt with the issues for the majority of your career, but for me… well I’m brand new so just be quiet, act like you never heard this stuff before and let me flow a minute. I’m working with CSS professionally for the first time now and I hit a snag with Internet Explorer. I’ve always heard horror stories about IE is so non-standard, Gecko, KHTML, Opera all follow the spec more closelier, yada-yada. When you do mostly rich client server Java stuff you get numb to the complainers. What whiners! Just use a layer of abstraction and interface or something and quit complaining will ya?

This past week I finally see why these babies cry so loudly. Trying to get some text to line up correctly in an already broken (well it looks broken to me but what do I know) layout has been such a chore. In recent findings I discovered the expression feature in Internet Explorer. You can, apparently, pass a Javascript expression in a stylesheet and have it evaluated as the page renders. I found this tip online and used it to address the missing support of min-width attributes in IE. It looks something like this:

p {
width:expression(document.body.clientWidth < 800? "800px": "auto" );

That sets a minimum width for a p tag. (Flip the alligator mouth the other way for max width.) I’m too stoopid to understand the ramifications of throwing Javascript into CSS (like what if the browser disables Javascript? Well the rest of our site kinda depends on it so I’m good there…) but experience will tell. If any of you gurus out there have styling experience give a bro. a shout, y’know? I can use a lot of help here.