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Google Home, Google I/O, and More

Posted by About Objects

 

Developers from About Objects attended the 2017 Google I/O event in Mountain View, CA last week. Leading up to the I/O event, they were invited to a special partner Google Home Developer Summit session where they spent two days working with the Google Home development team. Our developers were one of the first to get a hands-on preview of the upcoming Google Home Cast API release that was announced during I/O. The preview allowed our team to test the new APIs with our applications as well as provide early feedback to the Google Home team on what worked well (and what didn’t) before its released to the public. About Objects is proud to be partnering with the Google Home team for the last three years working on helping our clients be the first to integrate new updates & enhancements within the Home/Chromecast devices.

"OK, Google..."

In the run up to Google I/O, About Objects engineers got a sneak peek at how Google is integrating their ground breaking Google Assistant AI API’s into the Google Home/Chromecast ecosystem. Google Home is now a hands-free Chromecast device, and with Google Assistant users will enjoy a unique lean-back, voice-activated living room experience when surfing their favorite digital content.

Google I/O

At Google I/O, our developers spent three full days learning about all the Google updates around Android, Home, Actions, AI, AMP, and PWAs. At the conference, they were able to meet with the platform developers to ask questions, meet one-on-one, and further understand the vision from the Google team. With major announcements like first-party Kotlin support, security improvements in Android O, and new feature support in AMP for e-commerce and digital media, our developers were right there to gain invaluable knowledge and understanding of the upcoming updates and how they will benefit our clients.

Machine Learning at the Core

The common thread at I/O this year is how AI and machine learning are being infused throughout Google’s product lineup to help search, organize, and categorize the world around us. Powered by the insanely fast TensorFlow Google Cloud TPUs, we are beginning to see the realization of what these technologies can do how they will make a difference in our every-day lives.

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Educating Sales Engineers on iOS Development

Posted by About Objects

About Objects recently delivered a custom, three-day course for a team of sales engineers at a leading company in the mobile technology space. The class covered a broad range of iOS development-related topics, including everything from software engineering pitfalls and best practices, to mobile architecture and middleware integration.

Diving Into Swift

The first day of class began with a dive into Xcode, Cocoa touch, and the Swift programming language, wherein VP of Training Jonathan Lehr laid out a strong foundation for what it means to develop for iOS in 2017. Throughout the day, attendees worked to identify key differentiators of the iOS platform, including development tools such as the Simulator and Interface Builder, Adaptive Layout, Accessibility features, and Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines.

Q&A Captivates the Audience

The second day included a two-hour Q&A session with our VP of Engineering, Eric Caminiti and a representative from an About Objects enterprise client in the hospitality industry. Attendees gained insight on a variety of topics, including platform-specific toolsets, application security, engineering for multiple platforms, and how best to communicate the benefits of native iOS development to enterprise clients.

Mobile Toolsets Dominate the Conversation

The growing popularity of cross-platform tools surfaced as a major focus of discussion. The About Objects team helped clarify the benefits of native vs. cross-platform approaches, and elaborated many of the pitfalls of cross-platform development.

Middleware Rounds Out the Course

On the final day of the course, Chief Architect LeRoy Mattingly spoke about the significance of middleware and microservices architecture in modern development, where frictionless communication within and between apps is critical. Increasingly, communication between modern and legacy applications introduces new levels of complexity to enterprise systems.

LeRoy showed how microservices help reduce complexity by introducing decoupled, single-purpose services to streamline integration with existing systems. This approach enables rapid, iterative development and deployment on large systems that can otherwise be difficult to change.

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Transitioning to Swift Class Finds Receptive Audience Among Objective-C Developers

Posted by About Objects

We recently completed another onsite delivery of our 3-day Transitioning to Swift course for a major enterprise client in the D.C. Metro area. The course is targeted to Objective-C developers with solid experience on the iOS platform — a perfect fit for the customer's team, whose members had anywhere from 1-4 years of iOS experience.

Transitioning to Swift begins with a rapid, hands-on introduction to Swift, with a strong focus on the language features and usage patterns that tend to come up most commonly in everyday Cocoa development. After spending the first two days providing a solid grounding in language fundamentals, the course shifts focus to the study of a non-trivial example app that illustrates the use of Swift in the context of implementing a number of typical iOS app features. Some of the topics covered include: working with view controllers and data sources, accessing REST services, using Grand Central Dispatch to manage concurrency, and working with model objects (including data marshaling).

Attendees were excited about Swift's streamlined syntax and modern language features, including tuples, pattern matching, generics, and closures. After getting a solid, hands-on feel for Swift in the context of a realistic iOS code base, the group was eager to get rolling with Swift on their real-world projects. Overall feedback on the class was great. The team was particularly appreciative of the course's inclusion of coverage of a number of advanced iOS development techniques, some of which they hadn't previously encountered.

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Going Behind the Scenes with Capital One

Posted by About Objects

AO team members recently attended a MoDev DC event titled Go Behind the Scenes with Capital One Digital Engineering and the Hit Series Silicon Valley, hosted by Capital One at their Tysons Corner, VA office. The event brought together local developers and other industry professionals for tech talks on product management, iOS development, product engineering, and a special presentation by Carson Mell, screenwriter for HBO’s Silicon Valley.

After an introduction by Director of Engineering Louie de la Rosa, Zoey Rawlins led off with a vivid depiction of the incredible balancing act her role as Capital One's Digital Product Manager demands. Ray Wenderlich followed with an excellent demo of the Vapor open source framework for server-side development in Swift.

Next, Scott Totman, Capital One's Head of Mobile Technology, Payments and Innovation, spoke about his work with Amazon’s Alexa as a tool for banking, sharing his thoughts on the technical, legal, and security issues his team encountered in developing a banking tool for Alexa. The evening was capped off by Carson Mell, who shared thoughts about his experience writing for HBO’s Silicon Valley, in particular about the unique processes and challenges involved when working with large teams with mixed areas of expertise.

CocoaHeads DC 2016

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CocoaHeads DC 2016

Posted by About Objects

Jonathan Lehr spent the evening at a Washington Post office in Washington, D.C., giving a talk on Streamlining JSON Mapping to an audience of local developers. Like many great user group meetings, this one started with pizza and soda.

 
 

You can do what with the Core Data model editor?

The evening centered on Jonathan's exploration of the Modelmatic framework as a tool for mapping JSON dictionaries to model objects via an external data model. He demonstrated how developers can use Xcode's built-in Core Data Model Editor to define an abstract model that the Modelmatic framework can then use to encode and decode objects to/from JSON data.

Q&A

Many of the questions that arose during Q&A centered around Core Data. For example, would Modelmatic work with Core Data managed objects? (Answer: not yet, but support for managed objects is coming.) However, the proposed new feature that seemed to provoke the greatest interest was the possibility of inferring a data model from a provided JSON sample (also contemplated for an upcoming release).

CocoaHeads DC November Meetup

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CocoaHeads DC November Meetup

Posted by About Objects

About Objects Vice President of Training, Jonathan Lehr, is set to speak November 3 at a CocoaHeads DC meetup hosted by the Washington Post at their Franklin Square headquarters. The talk will cover advanced techniques for mapping JSON values in Swift 3.

iOS project teams, especially those working in Swift, have adopted a variety of approaches to handle mapping objects in their model layer to and from JSON values. Jonathan will explore a new approach that can reduce manual coding tasks by providing automated encoding and decoding of model objects, while offering a comprehensive, easy to visualize model of all mappings.

 
 

Event Information

Location
The Washington Post
1301 K Street NW
Washington, DC 20071

Date
Thursday, November 3, 2016
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Pizza, refreshments, and dessert will be provided courtesy of the Washington Post.

 

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Cerner DevCon 2016

Posted by About Objects

About Objects hosted a booth at Cerner’s DevCon in July. DevCon is an annual internal conference for all engineers and interaction design experts working across Cerner. Over 5,000 Cerner associates attended the event. The conference is an opportunity for Cerner associations to present their work and encourage other developers and engineers to connect and share their ideas.

Our booth at DevCon was a chance to meet with developers and designers from all areas of Cerner - not just the people and teams we have worked with over the last five years. We welcomed the opportunity to showcase our work by sector across all our key industries - Professional Sports, Hospitality, HealthCare, Airlines, Extreme Sports Media. We were excited to talk about our Consulting and Training practices across all areas of which we have worked.

We passed out a wooden puzzle that was the hit of the conference. People are still coming up to us and saying they finally figured it out. And Gianna Galli was our Grand Prize Winner of a Bose Soundlink Bluetooth Speaker. She couldn’t believe that she had actually won!

About Objects Participates in CocoaConf DC

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About Objects Participates in CocoaConf DC

Posted by About Objects

Several members of the About Objects team participated in this year's CocoaConf DC, held September 9–10 at the Crowne Plaza in Herndon, VA. Jonathan Lehr, our VP, Training, gave a talk entitled "Streamlining JSON Mapping" that covered the Modelmatic open source framework developed here at About Objects. Modelmatic makes it possible to use Xcode's Core Data Model Editor to model the mappings between JSON data and Swift model objects. The framework is then able to use the metadata captured in the model to automate encoding and decoding, eliminating the need to write hand-maintained mapping directives in Swift code.

Jonathan also taught a class entitled "Swift for Objective-C Developers," a rapid, hands-on introduction to Swift geared to developers with previous experience writing Cocoa apps in Objective-C. The class scored well on evaluation surveys, with one attendee writing in a score of '6' on a scale of 1–5 for 'Speaker Expertise.' Another participant concluded, "Thorough treatment of Swift language compared to Objective-C. Many obscure features made easy to understand. Excellent/comprehensive!"

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iOSDevCamp DC 2016

Posted by About Objects

Members of the About Objects recently attended an all day iOS developers conference at Capital One in McLean, Virginia. The event, whose ticket sales benefited Women Who Code DC, was about bringing local (and beyond) developers together to hear the latest on iOS development from a host of prominent dev-centric speakers. Whether it was Michele Titolo’s opening Multitasking the Hard Way, Tom Harrington’s Mastering UIStackView (a personal favorite), or Natasha Murashev’s Practical Protocols with Associated Types in Swift, developers at iOSDevCamp 2016 were presented with a feast of practical, modern iOS development tools and tips. And an actual feast, too.

UIStackView to the Rescue

Tom Harrington’s “Mastering UIStackView” stole the show, spawning a series of tweets and blog posts about the topic. It seems few were aware that UIStackView was such a versatile, functional class that could save developers a ton of time typically spent tweaking constraints until they’ve satisfied their Interface Builder warnings. As Tom explained and illustrated through the use of an emoji drop down menu, stack views provide the ability to hide and reveal items by setting the isHidden property rather than manually adjusting the height of the object. You can check out his blog post on the topic here.

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WWDC 2016

Posted by About Objects

About Objects engineers attended Apple's World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco to learn about the upcoming features in iOS 10 and Swift, and to reunite with colleagues from back in the good old NeXT days.

Security and Debugging Enhancements

Our main focus at WWDC was to assess the impact of new features and improvements in iOS for our clients. Sessions such as What’s New in Security and Visual Debugging with Xcode included new information that will have a direct impact on the work we do here. In the former presentation, Apple announced that App Transport Security (ATS) would not only be required but enforced as a requirement for acceptance into the App Store, with few exceptions. This encourages a more secure mobile ecosystem, and positively impacts the security of our clients’ apps.

On the debugging side, Apple introduced a new Runtime Issues navigator that elevates issues with threading, layout, and memory to the same level of importance as traditional build issues. This leads to not only a more visual debugging experience, but a more efficient one, and makes identifying and fixing certain sorts of bugs a much more fluid process.

HTTP Live Streaming

Another important change for us here at About Objects was outlined in What’s New in HTTP Live Streaming (HLS). HLS is Apple’s video streaming protocol for content via platforms like QuickTime, Safari, macOS, and iOS. You might have used it to stream Apple’s keynote or other live video content.

HLS works by breaking down a large stream into smaller downloads. Here, Apple has added support for MPEG-4 Fragments, or fMP4. The significant benefit for our developers is interoperability — we’re now able to make use of the same media library, with the same fMP4 format, across platforms. This saves the client on delivery and storage costs, while also benefiting app efficiency.

Swift 3

Since its introduction in 2014, Swift has been a big part of the discussion at WWDC. With Swift 3, Apple is showcasing the first set of changes to the Swift language since its release to the open source community, and it’s immediately apparent that the relationship between Apple and the broader developer community in this endeavor has paid dividends.

Swift 3 introduces many new features that improve the clarity of the language as well as the conciseness of translated Cocoa APIs. We’re looking forward to using Swift increasingly as it continues to evolve and stabilize.

As always, we thoroughly enjoyed WWDC this year. So many of the technologies discussed have a direct impact on the work we do for our clients, and we eagerly anticipate working with updates that bring new functionality to the tools we work with every day.

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Google I/O

Posted by About Objects

Several About Objects engineers attended the Google I/O developers conference in Mountain View, CA recently. Google I/O is an annual 3-day conference where developers from all over the world learn the latest on Android, Chrome, Search, Google Cloud Engine and other Google technologies.

The highlights of this year’s conference were Progressive Web Apps (PWA), Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), and new streamlined SDKs for Google Chromecast, Google Firebase, and Android N. Our team was particularly excited to see the mobile app booth displaying a demo of a web app their colleagues had just completed earlier in the week, in an impressively short timeframe.

Prior to the official start of the conference, the Google AMP team helped our engineers get up to speed on AMP. Our team also had the opportunity to get a hands-on preview of a prerelease version of the Google Cast SDK directly from the Google Cast team. Not only did that allow our engineers to provide early feedback, but the insights garnered helped them fine-tune their roadmap for upcoming work on a mobile Chromecast experience.