Status update

A few people have been asking about progress with ADI Records and Routes, so here’s a wee status update.

The situation in a nutshell is that I’m extremely frustrated with everything that’s happening at the moment.

By now, ADI Records should have been updated to reflect the changes made to the driving test in November. However, I am still unable to update this app, and releasing an entirely new version as I did for Manoeuvres in not feasible in this case. I’m still going through the process of trying to resolve this issue with Apple. Assuming I can get past the current roadblock, there is very little I need to actually do to the app to complete the update and get it released. I just need Apple to help me resolve the issue that’s stopping me from getting an update out. I’ve been in contact with them again today and am awaiting a response.

Routes is in the middle of a re-write and that’s what I should be working on now, and should have been working on throughout January. Unfortunately, I’ve been encountering multiple hellish bugs in the implementation of diagonal reverse parking in the new Manoeuvres app. This is the most infuriating thing. I’ve laboured to get the diagonal parking animations to look right, and I’m so close to being able to release the update. I’ve been working on these bugs on and off throughout the last couple of weeks, and I still have one serious one that I just can’t get rid of. I’m not sure what I can do at the moment. It makes me feel hopeless when this happens. When a project is so close to completion it’s very hard to put it down and focus on something else. At the same time, I’m getting nowhere with it. I don’t know what my next move should be.

On top of all this, I have no fixed home of my own at the moment. Although this has been my situation for a good couple of years, I’m now (hopefully) getting close to the point at which I can have my own place again, and get myself properly settled. However, the process of finding and buying and moving into a new home is not without its stresses, and it’s not helping me to get my work done as quickly as I would like.

So that’s the status, folks. I’m struggling to get these updates done for you. It’s hard. It’s dispiriting. It feels hopeless sometimes. But I’m still working at it.

At the same time, I’m having to find time to do bits of freelance work in order to top up my income (so I can be sure I will be able to pay all the bills once I have my own home to live in), and I’m also trying to come up with some auspicious plans for the future of Robosoul, for the same reason.

Manoeuvres update progress

I'm still working on the update for my new Manoeuvres app. The update includes a fix for a typo in the briefing notes for the Pull Up on the Right Manoeuvre. I'm also hoping to add support for the iPad 2 with the update. Finally, diagonal reverse bay parking is finally coming, but it's taking a while as it's a real headache trying to work out all the kinks.

Why should I pay twice for an app?

My new Manoeuvres app is essentially an updated version of the old one. It looks the same and it behaves the same, but it has the two new manoeuvres which have been added to the driving test in 2017.

Many people would expect to receive these two new manoeuvres for free, and I wouldn’t blame them. We expect to get apps for free, and even though sometimes we have to pay for them, we at least expect the updates to be free. At the same time, the two new manoeuvres in the app did not create themselves. They are the result of actual work by somebody (namely me); frustrating, time-consuming, focused, hard work.

What do we ADIs say to people who expect us to work for free? I won’t print it here as this is a family-friendly website.

This issue has become a common theme in the app development community in recent years. In no sense am I the first developer to write a blog post explaining why I’m charging for a new version of an old app, and I certainly won’t be the last. Let me try to explain, as briefly as I can, why it is sometimes necessary to buy a new version of an app you already own…

First of all, why do we expect apps to be free? Simply because so many apps are free, including the apps you use the most. Anything by Apple, Google, or Facebook, for example, is going to be free. Those three companies probably account for quite a few of the apps you use on a daily basis. Why are their apps free? Because these are massive corporations, bringing in more money than it’s possible for ordinary folk like us to imagine. Apple makes a ton of money by selling you the device in the first place. Google and Facebook make their fortunes by invading your privacy, hoovering up as much of your personal information as they can get their paws on, then using it to target advertising at you. And that’s just what they publicly admit to. Who knows what else they’re doing with your data behind closed doors?

You can be sure, however, that the engineers who worked on those apps got well paid. Those mega-companies may be making out like bandits and dodging taxes all over the world, but their engineers do not work for free. Developing apps is skilled work, and good developers don’t grow on trees.

Another reason why so many apps are free is because there are still quite a few hobbyist developers. These are people who make a simple app just for the sake of it, for fun, or as a learning project. They will often give their work away for free because they are not running a business and that was never their intention. This is how I got started with app development originally.

The problem with a hobbyist’s apps is that they are not likely to stay current. Apps need updating regularly. Even if you are not adding anything new to your app, periodically Apple will do something that breaks it, and you will have to sit down and work on it for a few hours, or days, or weeks, in order to get it working again.

This is the reality of app development these days. In the beginning there was more room for hobbyists. Nowadays, if you are serious about making and maintaining apps, you need to have a business model. You need to be able to ensure that your wages are still getting paid while you’re hunched over your laptop, tearing your hair out, trying to resolve a bug from hell that Apple’s latest version of iOS has introduced into your app.

Facebook and Google can update their apps every other week if they want to. They can have a team of highly-skilled developers working round the clock, because they’re making so much money out of knowing the details of everything you search for online and everybody you communicate with.

I am not exploiting your private data, and I am no longer a hobbyist. I gave up working as a driving instructor, and the stable income that goes along with it, to write software full-time. I need a business model that ensures I get paid for the work that I do. Releasing apps that you pay for once and then get unlimited free updates for life is not a business model that works. This is one of the lessons that has been learned during the first ten years of the App Store, and this is why you see more and more companies trying to switch to a subscription model, or charging again for new versions of their apps.

I have personally paid again for several of the apps that I use. If it’s a good app, and the developer is keeping it well maintained so it continues to work well despite Apple’s best efforts to break it, I am happy to pay again every two to four years or so. I do not expect a developer to work for me for the rest of my life on the basis of a single purchase I made from them.

Here’s an example we should all be very familiar with. When we buy a car, we accept that it won’t stay current forever, it won’t keep working forever, and it won’t have a lifetime warranty. We need to understand that app purchases are no different. That car company is not going to be at your service for the rest of your life, with no additional charges, just because you bought one car from them. You know that there will be repairs, depreciation, and eventually a new car. You understand that cars do not design, build, maintain, and fix themselves, and that everyone involved at every step of that process needs to eat and pay bills and have a holiday once in a while.

It really is as simple as that. Just like cars, apps do not design, build, maintain, and fix themselves. It’s an ongoing process, with ongoing costs.

Considering they are the best quality teaching aids you can get as a driving instructor (I believe), I think my apps have always been reasonably priced. Each time you buy an app, after paying all taxes and expenses, including Apple’s sizeable cut, I eventually get just under half of what you paid. Even though £3.99 is very little to ask for a quality app that helps you to do a better job of teaching your pupils day in day out, in the end I receive less than £2 from you for my efforts. If that is too much to ask, the good news is that nobody is going to force you to spend that money. Your old app will continue to work until Apple breaks it, and then, just like when you car is finally ready for the scrap heap, you have the choice to shell out and replace it, or to just carry on without.

Personally, I love a good app that makes my life easier, so I will always shell out if I feel that app is doing a good job for me. This is especially so if the app is produced by a small, independent developer rather than a giant, tax-dodging company. But that’s just me.

Want to help support a tax-paying, independent app developer? Get the new Manoeuvres app here:


New Manoeuvres app FAQ

Two car lengths?

Since the release of the new version of Manoeuvres last week, there is one question that I’ve been asked a few times: why does the car reverse back more than two car lengths during the Pull Up on the Right manoeuvre?

The reason for this is fairly simple. I’ve made the assumption that all instructors will explain to their pupils that two car lengths is sufficient in most cases, and that all pupils will understand this instruction. Therefore, in designing the app I’ve focused on giving the blue car enough space to pull up on the right, and also enough space to move off again and join the left side of the road. The car therefore reverses a bit more than two car lengths in order to allow space for both these things to happen.

Typo?

Yes, there is a typo in the briefing notes for Pull Up on the Right. In the section on reversing, it says to select
first gear when it should, of course, say reverse gear. This error will be corrected in the next update.

Diagonal bay parking?

I’ve been wanting to bring diagonal bay parking to the app for a long time. With the new version coming out, a couple of people have reminded me that it’s still not in there. I’m working on that now. I’ve got the basic animations done, but some of the details are proving to be extremely complicated and it’s taking a while to get everything running smoothly. As always, I will release the update when it’s ready, and I hope that won’t be too long from now.

Where can I get it?

Here:

App_Store_Badge_small

How to get the Manoeuvres app

What do you get? You get the lot:

• Pull Up on the Right (and Reverse)
• Bay Parking Forward (and Reversing Out)
• Reverse Bay Parking
• Parallel Parking
• Turn in the Road
• Reverse Left
• Reverse Right

What does it cost?
Four quid!

Where do you get it? Here:

App_Store_Badge_small

New Manoeuvres are here!

This morning Apple approved the release of the new Manoeuvres app.

The app now features the new Pull Up on the Right manoeuvre on the initial screen. The second screen has the Parallel Park manoeuvre, which is unchanged from the previous version of the app. The third screen contains a revised Bay Park section, which allows the option to switch between reversing into the bay and driving out, or driving in and reversing out. When driving in, there is an additional option to swing out on the approach, making it easier to enter the bay.

The final three screens feature the Turn in the Road, Reverse Left and Reverse Right manoeuvres. These are unchanged from the previous version.

As many of you will already know, my original plan was to make these changes to the existing app and release a free update at least a month before December 4th. However, as is so often the case in the world of software development, things got ridiculously complicated in a completely unforeseen way. Not only was the update delayed by a couple of months, I also found myself unable to release any updates to any of my existing apps. I lost a fair bit of time trying to work through the issue with Apple before I realised the process was not going anywhere, and I would have to just get on and release a new app containing the changes instead of persisting with trying to update the old one.

This process, and the insane amount of time it took, has made me realise that I cannot go on indefinitely doing free updates to my apps. It was fine back in the days when I was just having to do the odd tweak and fix the odd bug, but now I find that I'm in a constant battle against Apple and their constantly evolving software ecosystem. I will not be able to continue to modernise my apps and keep them updated throughout Apple's incessant software revisions without sometimes asking customers to pay again.

Of course, nobody is ever forced to pay again. But if you want the latest and greatest versions of the software, that is not always going to come for free.

I aim to write a more detailed post soon about the evolution of pricing models within the world of mobile app development. It's not just me that is currently having to handle this dilemma. Most professional software developers are facing similar issues.

Manoeuvres latest

I have completed work on Manoeuvres. Unfortunately (and I pretty much knew this would happen), I have run into some technical issues when trying to submit the app to Apple for final review prior to release.

It's normal to have one or two issues at this stage of the process, and usually they are fairly routine and therefore resolved pretty quickly. In this case, it doesn't look routine. It looks like it's a continuation of the issues I've already been having.

I've contacted Apple about it, so I'll just have to hope they recognise the problem and can help me get through it quickly.

New Manoeuvres coming soon

A quick update to let you know that The new Manoeuvres app is progressing well and I hope to be able to make it available within the next couple of weeks. That estimate allows plenty of time for unforeseen complications, though it is possible that things will take even longer. It's also possible that it will take less time. With software development, you never can tell what's going to happen!

Progress!

Finally, I'm seeing some progress in the issues I've been having with my Apple developer account. I am now able to work on Manoeuvres again! I have lost the changes I made previously, and I have a ton of errors to fix due to the many changes in iOS since the last update to the app, but I am able to work on it and to test it on my iPad. I'm optimistic that I will also be able to realise it to the App Store in due course.

I am still not able to release updates to existing apps. I will focus my attention on getting the new version of Manoeuvres completed and released, then I will get back to the tortuous business of dealing with Apple's support process. I still think it's possible that I will be able to gain back the ability to update Records. I have lost the relevant security permissions to update any of my existing apps, and Apple will only grant access on a case by case basis. And they don't make it easy! So I'm not holding my breath, but if I can muster up enough persistence, it's a possibility.

Once all that is behind me, I can get back to learning the new programming language and trying to complete the new version of Routes.

Nothing new to report

I am still struggling to get any progress. I've given up with the section of Apple support that I've been dealing with so far, and have now contacted another department to see if they can help me move forward.

One of my apps, Standards Check, has received an automatic update from Apple. The description says the update is "signed with Apple's latest signing certificate". This sounds like it's related to the stuff I've been trying to resolve, but Apple has not offered any information about what's going on. I don't know why it is only this app so far, why no others have received the same treatment.

That's all the information I have at the moment. Still trying to get a resolution, but currently unable to either update existing apps or release new ones.

Things moving, but slowly

First of all, thank you all so much for your patience. I understand that this is annoying, I really do. Below is sort of an update and also a bit of a rant about why this stuff is happening and why it’s so annoying, from my point of view.

As documented in the previous couple of posts, I tried to start early and get all this taken care of in plenty of time, but it’s turning into an absolute nightmare. To cut a long story short, I’m currently locked out of my Apple developer account. I’m working with somebody at Apple to try to resolve the situation, but it is messy and they are not entirely sure of what needs to be done, so we’re having to feel our way towards the solution. It’s a lot of email back and forth, and fair bit of waiting in-between while they research their ridiculously complicated security system and try to figure out what’s up.

I’m now going to permit myself a bit of a rant about technology and how I feel it’s moving too quickly, how these massive American companies are trying so desperately to get ahead of each other, they are getting ahead of themselves, and undermining a lot of the fantastic advancement that’s taken place in the last ten years. My rant may not mean much to you, but it might help me to feel slightly better about the situation. Feel free to stop reading now if you’ve got other things you ought to be doing.

I love technology, when it works. Five years ago I had a lot of great technology in my life, and it felt like technology was making everything easier. Now it’s the opposite. I've become thoroughly reliant on technology, for my work, my leisure, and pretty much every aspect of organising my daily life. A lot of that technology doesn’t work very well. Things don’t sync. Bluetooth doesn’t connect. The wifi goes down. The heating doesn’t come on when it’s supposed to. My life now feels like a daily battle against technology.

One of my friends recently posted on Facebook that he’s popping off to The Canary Isles in January to live in a cave for a while, to spend his time carving things out of wood, cooking on an open fire, bathing in the river, doing yoga under the rising sun. I seriously thought about joining him.

Technology is supposed to help us run our lives and our businesses, it’s not supposed to take over them.

Sometimes I feel like I’m close to a breaking point with all this stuff. I recently dropped nearly £2000 on a new laptop to help me work better, yet at times I catch myself daydreaming about smashing the damn thing to pieces against a tree and then going to spend the rest of my life trying to save homeless dogs, tortured elephants or endangered tigers.

In a nutshell, I’m furious right now but I’m trying to control it. I’ve embraced technology so much in recent years. I’ve invited these companies into my life, handed them my money, trusted them. Now I’m paying the price.

When I’m not trying to fix my apps, fix my problems with Apple, I’m trying to fix some other shit that doesn’t work. My diary isn’t syncing, or some piece of artificial “intelligence” at my bank has decided to start sending snail mail to my old address. There’s always something that needs sorting out, that needs me to call up and argue with somebody who doesn’t give a damn about my problems, who works for company that doesn’t give a damn about my problems. At times it feels like it’s sucking the life out of me.

Anyway, I’m sorry that my apps have now becoming a problem for you. I’m sorry that my technology is moving too slowly. I’m trying. I’m one former driving instructor with a laptop trying to do the work that would normally be done by a team of professional software engineers in an office full of £2000 computers. I’m fighting a battle here and I’m trying to win.

I’ll keep you posted.

Update on how badly things are going

A week after my last update I’m afraid to say I have nothing new to report. I cannot explain how frustrating this is for me, and I know it must be frustrating for yourselves also.

I am still going through the process of trying to regain the lost security privileges in my Apple developer account. Working through this issue with them is slow. Apple does not officially offer support for the type of problem I am having. The security system for developers publishing on the App Store is so complex that they don’t actually have any support staff who are knowledgeable about it. It’s like you’ve lost the keys to your office, there is no way to break in, and nobody who knows how to make you a new key or change the lock.

Again, the frustration this is causing me is indescribable. I am at the point of stating to consider alternative careers. When your livelihood is so dependant on a giant American company, to whom you represent an insignificant amount of revenue, it leaves you feeling utterly powerless when things go wrong, utterly at their mercy.

I’m still trying to be optimistic for a resolution, and for it to come soon. That’s all I can say at the moment.

ADI Records and Manoeuvres - progress update

I know many of you are waiting for updates relating to the upcoming changes in the driving test, due to begin December 4th. I’m fielding an ever-increasing amount of email in relation to this, so I wanted to post an update so that everyone who wants to know can understand what’s happening.

The two apps most seriously affected by these changes are ADI Records and Manoeuvres. (There is also Mock Test, but I'm treating that as
a lower priority at the moment.)

First of all, these updates originally took a back seat to the re-write of my Routes app (
see here for more details on that). I had hoped to have Routes finished a lot quicker, thinking there would still be plenty of time to get Records and Manoeuvres done after that. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the Routes project has dragged on and on, and I’ve now had to leave that aside in order to crack on with these two. With December 4th approaching fast, I don’t have much choice.

Sadly, with the changes in Records all ready for final testing on my iPhone and iPad, I hit a major snag…

Recently, my development computer started acting up and needed to be replaced. To cut a long and complicated story short, I wasn’t able to transfer to the new computer certain security credentials that are necessary in order to be able to publish updates on the App Store. Apple is, of course, obsessive about security. Their App Store is generally a very safe and secure place, so much more so than the Google Play Store, so it’s hard to criticise them for it. However, this does make things incredibly complicated for developers. Whenever we have to deal with issues relating to security keys and certificates, we always get a strong sense of dread, because when you have a problem with these things it is always impossible to understand, and usually pretty hard to solve.

I am currently in touch with Apple’s very competent support staff, and I am hoping to have the issue resolved relatively quickly. However, there is no way for me to say exactly when.

I fully expect to have these apps updated before December 4th. I hoped that it would be well before, but obviously things are going to be a lot tighter than originally planned.

I’m really sorry for the delays. I know many of you rely on my apps to help with your everyday teaching needs. These updates are now much needed, so I’m doing everything I can to bring them to you as soon as I can.

If you want to be informed when the updates are ready, please
sign up to my email list here. There will be no spam, only genuine announcements about the progress of my apps for driving instructors.

Routes app - progress update

It feels like this is turning into the never-ending update.

Many of you have emailed me to say how much you love this app, and you like to use it on a daily basis.

Before iOS 11 was released, I knew there were issues with the app and I tried to fix them. After a fair bit of work, it became clear that I may never find the problem that was causing the app to crash, and that I would probably be better starting on a complete re-write. Having embarked on the re-write, it’s taking a while. Writing an entire app is never a quick process, not if it’s going to be a useful app that works well.

In this case I’m also writing it in a language which is completely new to me. Apple has made it clear that Objective-C, the programming language I’ve been using to date, is a thing of the past, and that Swift is the way forward. Like a lot of programmers, I found myself persisting with Objective-C because it’s what I know and it’s what my existing apps are written in. But it feels like the time has come for me to start making the transition to the new language, or risk being left behind. It’s not fun, and it’s certainly not easy.

Right now, Routes is having to go on the back burner while I turn my attention to my ADI Records and Manoeuvres app updates.

I will get back to Routes, though, and I will get it finished. When, I can’t say. What I can say is that it will be better than before, and with it’s all-new, fancy Swift code, it should be pretty easy to maintain and update when necessary.

I’m hoping I will also be able to update and modernise the code behind my other apps in due course, which should also help to keep them running smoothly for the foreseeable future.

App prices updated

I've just done a review of all iOS app prices since Apple has recently raised prices quite significantly in the wake of the Brexit vote and the subsequent drop in value of the Pound.

As a UK-based company selling primarily to UK customers, I don't feel this price rise is appropriate, so I have reviewed all prices and lowered them to better reflect how they were before Apple interfered. Some apps are even a little cheaper now than they were before.

Apple's price changes happened suddenly and I only found out about them when a customer emailed to ask why the prices on my website did not match those on the App Store. I have now updated all prices on the website as well, so the prices stated on this site should tally with what is payable on the App Store. However, as changes can take a while to filter through Apple's system, there may remain some discrepancies during the next day or two.

The prices shown on the website are what you should be asked for on the App Store. If the App Store is asking for more, please try again after 24 hours or so, and you should then see the correct price.

Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.

iPad buying guide (2015)

Once again, it's time for a quick run down of the latest options when buying an iPad. There's more choice than ever these days, so read on to find out what you need to know when trying to figure out which iPad is the best fit for you.

Also, take a look at Apple's own comparison page for pricing and more specific details.

Small, Medium or Large?
There was a time when the iPad was only available in one size, 9.7 inches measured diagonally across the screen. This is still the most popular size, but now we have two more options to choose from.

iPad mini
The small option. Some would say too small for driving lessons. Others swear by it. The iPad mini screen measures 7.9 inches diagonally. Smaller than a regular iPad, bigger than an iPhone 6 Plus.

There is an iPad mini, iPad mini 2, iPad mini 3, and iPad mini 4. Apple currently offers the iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 4. They are essentially very similar, although the 4 is more refined and more powerful. The 4 also has a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which the 2 does not have.

iPad Air
The medium option. Bigger than an iPad mini, smaller than an iPad Pro. Apple currently offers the iPad Air and the iPad Air 2. The Air 2 is newer and more refined. It has a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, the Air does not.

The original iPad (1st generation), the iPad 2, and the 3rd and 4th generation iPads also come under this 'medium' category, although Apple does not offer these for sale any longer.

iPad Pro
The newest incarnation of the iPad, and what a beast it appears to be. I've yet to get my hands on one of these monsters, but it looks like a stunner and I'm seriously looking forward to making its acquaintance. With 12.9 inches of screen, you probably don't need an iPad this large but I don't blame you if you want one!

The iPad Pro can be used with Apple's new 'Pencil' stylus, which is sold separately. Also sold separately is a folding keyboard cover which turns your iPad Pro into something resembling a laptop, great if you do a lot of typing.

If you want to know more, here's a pretty detailed review from Wired.

How much storage space?
iPads are sold with storage ranging from 16GB to 128GB. But how much do you actually need?

Realistically, this is something you can only guess. Here are some guidelines:

128GB of storage is a lot for an iPad. You're unlikely to need this much unless you are serious about carrying around a lot of video files or other space-hungry data such as detailed maps of the solar system.

64GB is also quite a lot for the average user. Worth considering, though, if you're a data-fiend.

32GB is more reasonable if you don't have a specific need to store a lot of data.

Many people get by just fine with the basic 16GB of storage. Things may become a little bit squeezed after you've been using your iPad for a couple of years and you've never, ever deleted anything from its memory. However, by that time you're probably already thinking about upgrading to a shinier, newer iPad, so it'll be time to think again on the tricky subject of whether to go for 32GB or muddle through with 16.

In a nutshell, if this is your first iPad and you're looking to use it mainly for driving lessons, email and surfing the web, you'll probably be just fine with the 16GB option.

(GB = Gigabytes)

Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + Cellular?
Perhaps rather unsurprisingly, a Wi-Fi only iPad connects to the internet via Wi-Fi only. This may be via your home network, or a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Each iPad comes with a Wi-Fi only option, or for an extra £100 you can have Wi-Fi and a cellular connection similar to your mobile phone. You need to pay to maintain the cellular connection, just as you do with your phone.

It’s a more expensive option, but many people find that it’s worth it for the “always on” internet connection wherever they roam. Even if you go for the cheaper option and plump for a Wi-Fi only iPad, you may be able to “tether” your iPad to your smartphone. Tethering allows your iPad to piggyback on your phone’s cellular connection, giving you mobile internet on your iPad without the additional costs.

One more thing to be aware of: some apps require a cellular connection and cannot be installed on a Wi-Fi only device. This is the case with my Routes app, although all my other apps can be installed and used on a Wi-Fi only model.

The big question
Gold, Silver or, um, Space Grey? It's up to you. Express yourself!

How do I get a cheap one?
If you’re in market for an iPad and determined to get a bargain, Apple's refurbished store is an excellent place to look. You can pick up all sorts of great deals on as-new or nearly-new iPads, all of which come with the same one-year warranty as the brand new versions. Supply is limited, though, so grab ‘em while you can!

Alternatively, if you’re confident buying second-hand, there are good deals to be had on reseller sites such as eBay. It’s important to note that buying this way offers much less protection than buying direct from Apple, or from another well known retailer. Make sure you know what you’re getting, and always carefully check the seller’s feedback before deciding whether to buy from them.

Important info for users of Mock Test app

A heads up for those of you using my Mock Test app...

iOS 9 is coming soon. Apple will announce the release date today, and that date will probably be in the next couple of weeks. As usual, the new version of iOS has caused a bit of havoc in some of my apps, Mock Test being one of them.

I've already released updates to address the serious issues in other apps, but Mock Test is being especially awkward. When I modify the app to run on iOS 9, it refuses to work with iOS 8. This isn't a big problem as I can release an update which requires iOS 9 or higher, so those with iOS 8 will continue to use their working version and those with iOS 9 can update to the repaired version.

The difficulty with this solution is that due to the way things work with app submissions and approvals, I may not be able to have the iOS 9 version of Mock Test available on day one of iOS 9 availability. In other words, if you update straight away to iOS 9 and try to use Mock Test before the updated version goes live, you might be disappointed.

My advice is usually not to jump on the latest iOS updates as they often caused unexpected issues. In this case, we have something that will almost certainly be an issue if you want to keep using that particular app.

As for the other apps, to ensure iOS 9 compatibility make sure you have the latest updates for Indy Drive, Emergency Stop, and KISS Fleet.

Road Board seems to have some minor aesthetic quirks under iOS 9, and these will be addressed in due course.

The current iPad range

Not a lot has changed since my last article on how to understand the slightly bewildering array of iPads that are currently available. If you’re thinking of buying an iPad and you’re not sure which one to get, you might want to read that article after looking at this one. There’s a lot of useful information there. The purpose of this article is to add a little extra information in order to keep things up to date.

Since the last article was written, Apple has released two new versions of the iPad. In the full-size range, the iPad Air 2 is the new top-of-the-range model, replacing the iPad Air. You can still buy the iPad Air, it’s still a great iPad, and it’s £80 cheaper now than it was when it was released. There’s also a new iPad mini in town, the iPad mini 3.

The iPad Air 2 is slightly lighter and thinner than the iPad Air, and features upgraded hardware. Most noticeably, Apple has added Touch ID, which enables the ability to securely unlock the device (and authorise purchases) using only your fingerprint.

The iPad mini 3 is basically the same as an iPad mini 2, but with the addition of Touch ID.

The “iPad With Retina Display” and the iPad 2 are no longer featured in the range of iPads offered by Apple.

You can still pick up an iPad 2 as a budget option, but bear in mind that this is now a four-year-old device. It’s getting pretty slow by today’s standards, and software updates will probably cease to be available for this model reasonably soon. The same goes for the 1st generation iPad mini.

To read the previous (more detailed) article on the iPad range, click here.

To go to Apple’s iPad comparison page, click here.

Get one from John Lewis and they’ll throw in a 3 year guarantee at no extra cost!

Progress update

Slow progress

It’s been a period of slow progress here at Robosoul. When I first started producing apps, I was able to release a new one roughly every 3 or 4 months. I was also regularly adding new features with updates to existing apps.

Very little has been released lately, so what’s happened?

Partly this is a sign that things are going well. I’ve already released pretty much all the apps that I wanted to make for myself as a driving instructor. These apps are reasonably stable: they work well and bugs are few and far between. There are a few enhancements I would like to make to some of the apps, but in general I’m pleased with what I’ve made available so far. A major focus now is to maintain these apps in good working order for those who have bought them.

Having said that, there is still much to do, and progress will continue at a very slow rate. I now have 17 iPad apps and 7 iPhone apps to maintain. This is a lot of maintenance for one person, especially when Apple has a habit of releasing major software updates once a year which can have a serious impact on an apps’s ability to work properly.

Some apps need more maintenance than others. A couple are in the process of being completely rewritten as the original code has become outdated and unmanageable, even though only 2 or 3 years old! That’s how quickly things are advancing in the world of mobile software.

With so many apps available and a growing customer base, I also have a fair amount of customer service and technical support to take care of. I recently changed the text on my contact form to suggest that people think carefully before getting in touch. This is not because I don’t want to hear from my customers, but simply because I don’t have time to respond to a lot of emails, not if I’m going to have time to work on the apps as well. Not only does writing emails take up valuable time, it’s very effective at breaking the intense concentration that’s required to work on software programming.

Bugs, bugs, bugs

Prior to the release of iOS 7, I thought bug fixing was a nuisance. I hadn’t seen nothing yet!

iOS 7 brought such major changes that I had to spend the best part of a year tracking down bugs and adjusting the code in my apps so they would continue to work seamlessly.

iOS 8 brought further changes to how things work “under the hood”. More debugging was required, but fortunately not as much as was required for iOS 7. We’ll have to wait and see what iOS 9 is going to bring.

The learning curve

Another thing I’ve been spending a lot of time doing is learning more about programming for iOS. Apple recently introduced a whole new programming language, Swift, which appears to represent the future of iOS programming. This comes alongside a range of other new technologies which affect the way apps are built, and are going to be built in the future.

I feel it’s important for me to stay up with these new developments, even though it is difficult and time-consuming to learn about the changes and how to work with them.

I’m constantly aware of the importance of improving my knowledge of the fundamentals of app design. Most of my early apps were not terribly well designed in terms of how the code was structured. Even though the apps worked well, the process of enhancing these apps and adding new features was hampered by the fact that my original designs - the “foundations” of those apps - were not laid down with future development in mind. This was the result of my inexperience as a programmer, and also the need to just get on and solve an immediate problem without having time to think about what further problems might arise in the future.

This is a major reason why progress in so slow on certain updates to existing apps. I’m held back by design elements which were baked into the original app structure, but which are not well suited to the changes I want to make going forward. It takes time to completely re-write these apps from the ground up, while also maintaining compatibility with the current version so that when the app is updated it does not cause problems for existing users.

This is a common problem in the world of programming, and it is a very difficult thing to get right. I’m taking my time and trying to learn as much as possible before proceeding with major changes to important apps, apps which have become essential teaching tools for many ADIs all over Britain.

Growing pains

I’m also trying to allow time for technology to mature. Apple has introduced a lot of new ideas into iOS recently. While it’s tempting to rush to incorporate some of these new features into my apps as soon as possible, the sensible thing to do is wait until the kinks have been ironed out (and we know there can be a lot of kinks when Apple brings out something new!)

iCloud is a good example. While it’s tempting to start integrating iCloud syncing into some of my apps, the truth is that iCloud is just not good enough at the moment. First and foremost, I am conscious that my apps are used by professional driving instructors who expect to be in control of their saved data. You did not take the plunge and make the move from paper records to digital ones, only to see your valuable data evaporate in an (i)cloud of smoke. When iCloud is good enough, and when I feel I have learned enough about how it works to be able to make it work well for driving instructors, I hope to start integrating it into some apps, where appropriate. Until that time, the waiting and learning goes on.

What’s next?

As usual, I’m afraid I can’t say. I’m working on various things at the moment, none of which are definitely going to see the light of day. I’m exploring some ideas which I think are interesting and which I believe can help drive forward the use of cutting edge technology to improve the way people learn to drive, and to make safer roads for all.

As usual, as soon as I have something concrete to share, you’ll know about it. In the meantime, I will continue to update my existing apps as and when I can to fix bugs, add new functionality, and generally enhance the user experience.

Road Pad 2.1

Road Pad for iPad has a brand new update hitting the App Store today. This is an exciting update because it sees the introduction of a feature I've been looking forward to for a long time. You can now add road users to the satellite images, resize them to fit, and use them to provide even better explanations and examples to your pupils.

Today's update also brings with it a number of other tweaks and enhancements, including:

• Thumbnail images for saved files
• The ability to save your drawings along with added road users on top of the satellite images
• Three finger swipe gesture to quickly switch between your saved files
• The ability to export your saved files via iTunes
• Some minor interface changes
• A spiffing new icon

If you haven't already got the app, you can use this button to snatch a copy from the App Store:

Road Pad - Neil Beaver