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Thoughts on mobile app development.

Spring Cleaning

I’m fortunate enough to live in a part of the world where summer is on it’s way, and if you believe what my mother says, that means it’s time for spring cleaning. If you’re anything like me, there’s probably some things in your working life which are mildly annoying – certainly not enough to stop your from doing your day to day job, but everytime they pop up, you think “I really should fix that sometime”. Well, whether it’s spring or not – now is the time. Here’s a few of the things you might want to take a look at.

Clean Up Your Source Control

I’ve had my own source control repository for around 6 years, which initially started off as just a personal store, and eventually grew into the main repository for all my independent company development projects. You probably know as well as I do that after several years of use, repositories get messy. Every time I created a new project, I found myself not really knowing the best place to put it. I’m using Subversion, but most types of source control can handle moving around folders just fine, so there’s really no good reason not to do it. I’ve restructured mine so that the top-level folders are the platform type (eg. iOS, Android, Mac, etc). Inside the platform folders is a folder for each relevant client I do work for, including one for Personal projects, and one for in-house projects. This is probably not the way you want it, so spend 10 minutes thinking about how you’d really like your repository structured before you go ahead – as they say, “plan twice, move once”. Or something like that.

Clean Up Your Local Storage

Got a whole bunch of projects named “test2″ and “deleteMe”? Still got some old Xcode betas installed? Everyone has junk lying around on their local system, and spring cleaning is a great time to remove it. For bonus points, restructure your local project storage so it’s in the same structure as your source control.

Start Using Xcode 4

It seems every week I read another blog post, or see another tweet, about someone who has tried Xcode 4 for a few hours, didn’t like it, and proclaimed “Xcode 3 or GTFO”. Well, good luck with that. Xcode 4 is the future, and you better get used to it. Personally, it probably took me nearly a week to really get back to being productive. Keyboard shortcuts have changed, your workflow is different, and let’s face it, early builds were buggy. Now that I’ve bothered to learn the environment though, I really feel that Xcode 4 is a huge leap forward. If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend you upgrade while you still have the choice, instead of being forced into it when Xcode 3 is discontinued and you’re in the middle of a big project.

Get Your Backups In Place (and test them)

How would you feel if you woke up one morning and your computer wouldn’t turn on? Heck, how would you feel if your computer caught on fire? Well, probably pretty bad, but hopefully that’s only because you don’t have a fire extinguisher, and not because you don’t have adequate backups in place. I basically have a 3-layer backup system:

  • A nightly clone of my entire drive using SuperDuper!, which I boot up from once per month to ensure it’s working (I have an event in iCal to remind me to test this).
  • All code stored in an off-site source control repository. When you finish coding for the day (or stop for lunch), check in your code.
  • Real-time backups of selected folders using CrashPlan, both local and off-site. CrashPlan is insanely good, and very cheap – $50 a year for unlimited, real-time, off-site backup. It’s free if you don’t want real-time backup and have your own storage space, too.

Overkill? Probably. But for a couple hundred dollars of initial outlay, and only $50 in annual costs, why not?

Try That Software You’ve Been Dreaming Of

For a long time I’ve been using Versions as my Subversion client, and there’s always been a few things that bug me about it. Still, they were just little annoyances, and I was able to get my work done – that’s all that really mattered, right? I finally got around to trying Cornerstone recently, and my only disappointment is that I didn’t switch a long time ago. If you suspect the tools you’re using aren’t the best they could be, it’s well worth giving some others a shot – your tools should step out of your way and let you do your job, not bug you every time you use them.

Tidy Up Your Desk

Yep, this one matters too. Put away all those files you have to push aside every morning, get rid of those dirty plates from last week, and go on, do a bit of dusting as well.

Hop To It!

Nobody likes cleaning, but the hardest part is getting started. Make a promise to yourself to spend one day this week not coding, but cleaning your digital life. Once you’re done, you’ll feel more productive, and more importantly, you’ll be more productive.

6 Comments

  1. I did the same thing last week. I used the update to Lion as an excuse to get rid of as much junk as I could, backup only the essential and then do a clean install from a USB drive. There are few things better than a recently set-up system :)

    Reply
  2. I’ve been doing a bit of spring cleaning myself lately (though more fall cleaning here) and this is a kind reminder of some of the things I might be forgetting.

    “Tidy Up Your Desk” – Oh man is this one ever true. I’ve been noticing lately how much more I feel in ‘work mode’ on a clear desk versus one with the bills, plates and trash scattered; it becomes this huge mental block.

    Reply
  3. I really need to work on cleaning up my file system. I have tons and tons of files in my “Downloads” folder that I’m either not using or I’ve already extracted.

    I need to look into a backup system too. Have you used Mozy at all?

    Reply
    • I used Mozy for a little while, and Backblaze, and Carbonite. I finally settled on CrashPlan for a few reasons, but mainly because I felt like the other companies were basically lying to me. For example, Carbonite advertises unlimited backups, but throttles your upload speed significantly once you go over a certain amount. By default, a lot of file types are also ignored, even if you’ve selected a folder to be backed up. I had similar misgivings about Mozy and Backblaze. CrashPlan just works, the interface is nice, it’s true unlimited, you have full control over your backups, and you can use it (for free) with your own storage if you want. If I sound like a fanboy, so be it – it’s awesome.

      Reply
  4. Thanks for the great / light hearted post! I’m not cleaning my desk – my mind is cluttered and so is my desk – that’s the way I like it :-).

    On a serious note, I’ve also recently jumped into xcode 4 – as iOS5 demands of us. I would love to see a reading list / tutorial list to ease the transition. Anyone?

    Reply
    • Sounds like a good topic for a blog post… :-) I think the main thing is to just stop avoiding it. Find a good time to start using it, and just make the switch. Uninstall Xcode 3 if you have to. If you find your favourite keyboard shortcut isn’t working, jump on Google and find out what the new shortcut is. Don’t like the workflow? Change it around in preferences, or get used to it. You’ll be surprised how quickly you become productive again (more productive I’d say) once you stop trying to fight it.

      Reply

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