One of the things I really enjoy about the Christmas break, is how much it contributes to looking at things with perspective. It may be the copious amounts of food, the change in schedule, the time to think…
Whatever the reason, it really helps assessing how things have gone and where to go next. On this post I’ll be focusing on the former.
Looking back at the roadmap for 2020 I published last year, there were 3 major milestones I was planning for 2020. Here’s the end of the year summary:
NewsWaveonboarding redesign: improving the onboarding experience to make it seamless without loosing any user features.
In January, the 2020.1 update completely overhauled the onboarding user experience. It effectively made it frictionless through a combination of server-side and app changes.
NewsWave for Mac: releasing a fully featured Mac-native version of NewsWave.
After severalmonths of development, NewsWave for Mac was launched in May 26th. Since then, it has had multipleupdates to improve the experience and further refine it based on customer feedback.
Excelling: update its codebase to leverage newer technologies introduced since its launch.
Shortly after the release of the macOS version of NewsWave I decided against rewriting Excelling in SwiftUI & swift yet. The app is still performing correctly and I do not feel the improvements from a rewrite justify the opportunity costs.
In addition to the above, I started spending more time on non-apple technologies such as Python, LAMP Systems and ML. This will allow me to create better FullStack, multiOS applications and services in the future.
I’m quite pleased with the progress in 2020 and I’m really excited about all the 2021 possibilities. I’ll be focusing on that part on an upcoming post.
Today I submitted NewsWave for Mac 2020.3.1, a minor bug fix update.
I would typically wait a few more weeks to combine more enhancements & fixes but this update addresses a specially elusive and annoying bug.
If you opened NewsWave for Mac from scratch and immediately moved it to the background (i.e. doing something else while the app fetched new content), the app would -sometimes- not scroll correctly to the latest article you had read.
As with most complex bugs, this seemed to happen at random, making it very ‘fun’ to track down. On top of the conditions above, the bug would only trigger if the user had used another device -i.e. an iPhone- and read newer content.
In addition to the ‘fun’ bug, this release adds a couple other minor improvements for users that like the ‘Directly opens web page’ setting. Provided there’s no surprises with App Review it should be available in a day or two.
If you have any comments or feedback do reach me @MarcMasVi on Twitter or email@example.com
I’m happy to report that NewsWave 2020.3 for Mac has been submitted to the App Store.
This update improves the app based on the feedback received since launch. In addition to bug fixes and UX improvements I’ve also taken the opportunity to expand the amount of unit tests that verify each app change and I’ve tweaked the App Store name from ‘NewsWave Reader’ to ‘NewsWave – News Reader+’ to improve discoverability.
Provided all goes well with App Review it should become available for download in the next couple of days.
Key 2020.3 changes include:
-Fixed a bug that could result in the setting “Show images in Feed” being ignored. -Search text will now be correctly reset if user clicks on its sidebar icon. -When removing an article from the bookmarks section using the key shortcut, the next article now becomes selected. -Improved wording on helper messages explaining how to add more devices to the user subscription. -Fixed bug that would show an incorrect dark-mode background color when a search for feeds returned no results. -Fixed bug that could trigger a message suggesting to add feeds when the right conditions were not met. -The app may trigger a one-time rating request if the user has read all articles and has been using the app for quite some time. -Fixed bug that allowed selection of multiple cells if the spacebar was pressed.
Comments / questions? You can reach me @MarcMasVi on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope you enjoy the update, please let me know if you have any feedback. Until next time,
After a few weeks I have to say it’s a very interesting concept. I’ll keep my current setup for now, but I found it compelling enough to subscribe for one year. I will try using the address for all development engagement with my customers, their features will come quite handy.
Even if you’re not interested in switching, their approach is well worth a read. There’s also a video from the CEO where he walks through the features.
Comments / questions? You can reach me @MarcMasVi on Twitter or email@example.com
NewsWave Reader was the first app I developed that includes a server component, two years since release here are some of the learnings and experiences that can help if you’re planning to get into servers too.
Depending on the app/service you want to create, using a server comes with many benefits: easily syncing devices, managing payments, providing a searchable repository of information, offloading data tasks from the device to the server, running ML models, crawling the web…
Now, let me clarify something, if you do not need a server, do not use a server. They are overhead, they add another layer of complexity to take care of. Not only that but you’ll need to account for privacy (how much information should you store vs. not store), security (are you covering all the bases to avoid being hacked), scalability (how would your service handle exponential growth)… In addition to that, the more people use your app the more cost you’ll have, API call optimization is key.
But what if you need to use a server, what if your new awesome idea for an app/service requires it. If that’s the case, I have great news, it really is not that hard.
Before starting any discussion on setup I’d suggest you to think about your business model. As I just mentioned, servers have cost, and the more users you have the more cost you’ll have. Make sure you have a business model that’s sustainable, and that’s easier said that done these days. I don’t say that lightly, during the first year of NewsWave I lost money almost every single month, be sure to learn from my mistakes.
Once you have a solid business plan, what about the setup? As Marco suggested in his episode, if you’re an app developer you’re better off sticking with server-side ‘boring’ technologies: they are reliable, efficient and there’s plenty of documentation on the web. I could not be more thankful for his advice, my server stack is using what’s called LAMB: Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP/Python. Let’s touch on each quickly:
Linux: I use the most solid and stable option possible: Debian. And when choosing what Debian version to use I went with the latest Long Term Release (at the time Debian 9), which gives me years of security updates before I need to update to the next major release.
Apache: Old and trusted, it manages all my websites and web services. Plenty of documentation online, strengths and weaknesses are well known and very reliable. Also, it works easily with certbot for open source HTTPS free certification.
MySQL: Here I was doubting between PostgreSQL and MySQL, both are reliable, scalable and heavily used in the industry. In the end I went with MySQL for the simple reason there was more documentation available in Linode (my host provider, more on that in a minute).
PHP/Python/Pearl: I use a combination of PHP and Python: API’s are all PHP while internal server tasks and Machine Learning models are coded in Python. Again, plenty of documentation online, both languages widely used and not cutting edge.
So let’s say you’ve decided to give it a go, you want to start experimenting, what are the next steps? How do you get started?
First you’ll need a host provider, someone that will host the server in a datacenter. There’s many options out there, I’ve been using Linode and am very happy with it. If you’re just getting started they have what’s called a nano plan for $5/month.
Once you’ve signed up, you can easily create a new linode with the latest Debian 10 LTS and then…
…just follow this instructions to get your server setup & secured with LAMB. Trust me, you’ll be up and running in no time.
Once all is secured and installed, easily connect to it from your terminal and setup your SSH file editor of choice -I personally use terminal for mysql and all server maintenance and Visual Studio Code for Python & PHP development-.
And that’s it, you’re good to go. From here you can start adding websites, training models, creating web services, adding crawlers, sky is the limit… If you mess up, just drop the server and start fresh. Backups are one click away as well, for when things are more solid and the option to rebuild does not look as enticing 🙂
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Looking back I’m very happy to have gone this route, not only I could create NewsWave in the way I wanted but I’ve learned a ton. If you can I’d recommend listening to the Under the Radar episodes: into to servers and follow up questions.
If you don’t need a server don’t get one, but if it will allow you to bring your idea to life, go for it. It looks a lot more scary than it is.
Comments / questions? You can reach me @MarcMasVi on Twitter.
After shipping NewsWave for Mac, this last few weeks I’ve been playing around with two new NLP (natural language processing) projects. Each quite different from the other:
The first is targeted at the corporate world, its focus is in identifying new trends and winning themes based on RFP’s (requests for pricing) submitted by clients. This will be specially useful to help sales teams focus on the right requests & increase win rates.
The second one is about identifying sentiment & anger intensity in news / blog posts. This may translate into a NewsWave feature. Many outlets use anger to boost engagement, what if there’d be a way to keep that in check -while getting the content you need-?
I’m having a blast with both, you never know with these projects, but I’m aiming to complete them by the end of July. I’ll keep you posted as things evolve.
On another note, the release of NewsWave for Mac went well, I’m planning a longer post with more details about it.