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Installation

All the code running on your iPhone or iPod touch has to be signed (hacks notwithstanding). So as part of the process of signing up, you'll be instructed how to generate public and private keys for signing your application. I won't attempt to duplicate Apple's long instructions in this article, because this process is very sensitive to mistakes. I'll just say that you really, really need to read carefully and follow the instructions precisely, Because if you don't, you'll get something wrong (like I did) and you'll end up with cryptic errors and code that won't install (Figure 6).

Error installing to my iPod

Figure 6: Error installing to my iPod

For me, figuring out where I went wrong meant lots of documentation re-reading and Googling for information. From my searches, it appears as if this is a common problem. But I eventually found a good site that gave me the answer.

I had generated my keys properly, but had neglected to set up the "bundle identifier" in my Xcode environment so that it matched the information I filled out to get my keys. So be careful in this area, and if you run into trouble, check the site above and make sure your "bundle identifier", found in the info.plist property file, matches what you entered when you set up your account with Apple.

Once I was set up, I was able to load my own generic image-displaying OpenGL code into either the simulator or onto my iPod itself. And I had shown that I could scan the file system looking for images that my code could display. At this point, it seemed like there were no roadblocks if I could pull it off in the time allotted.

So now I was about four days into my two weeks, but these were long days spent picking up some Objective C, learning how to effectively use Xcode, working through my digital signature issues and picking back up on my rusty C. At the time, I was able to display a single photograph using OpenGL calls, but there was obviously a lot more to do.

So the next few days were spent working on the basic algorithms such as collecting a set of images from the filesystem, resizing images that were too big, handling corrupt images, rotating the display through the available images, adding randomization, handling the case where too many or no images at all were found, etc. All the corner cases had to be handled gracefully.

And of course, there was the math behind the basic image rotation. At first glance, the animation seemed simple, but there was really more to it. During the rotation, the center viewpoint needed to glide in and out. The rotation also varied in speed, getting faster around the 180 degree point.

Luckily for me my son, Mr. Perfect Math ACT, was home from college and whipped up some formulas that made the animation silky-smooth. As a bonus, he had just finished a course on OpenGL, so he was able to optimize my rendering code and generally help out with coding tasks. Now, around ten days in, iMesmerize was getting fairly functional as seen in Figure 7.

iMesmerize

Figure 7: iMesmerize

You can see in the screenshot that I also had display rotation working by this point. When the user rotates the display, the animation flips and keeps right on going. So things were coming along nicely, but there was still a lot to do to polish everything up. So over the next few days, I started in on the final features.

Since this is a touch-screen device, I had to add some touch features. I put in code so that a slow movement of the finger would be interpreted as pan and a quick move, as the initiation of a rotation. I also added code to set the rotation direction right, left, up or down based on the direction of the quick swipe. Users also expect zoom capabilities so I had to code pinch gestures to zoom in and out.

If you're going to add touch support to your application, the standard development environment has nice support for detecting the various touches and swipes. But the coder is still responsible for determining what constitutes a specified action and what should be done when an action is detected. Luckily there are many code examples to be found around the Internet that you can use as starting points.

To finally get iMesmerize ready for sale, I wrapped up a few more bugs, added a initial "Loading Images" screen, created a write-up for the iTunes store and got configured with Apple for new signing keys. This last step was, once again, a bit of a pain.

Submission

The process of signing an application for final distribution is detailed and susceptible to error if you don't follow the directions exactly. But this time, it went smoothly. Two weeks after I started, iMesmerize was written, debugged, digitally signed and submitted for approval to Apple. It was Sunday night after my two weeks off work and I was exhausted.

Two weeks start-to-finish. But of course, that's not all there is to it. I had heard that Apple could take up to six weeks to approve an application for sale, so I settled in for a wait. And the following week, I found and fixed a bug so I updated a new image. And when the weekend came, I just couldn't leave well enough alone, so I added a preference pane as seen in Figure 8.

 iMesmerize Preference pane

Figure 8: iMesmerize Preference pane

After only one week, I was surprised to get an email from Apple: Rejected. iMesmerize was rejected after it crashed during testing at Apple. Sigh. Apple sent me a log of the crash, but initially I was unable to duplicate it. But after going through my code line-by-line once again, I finally turned up a couple of bugs that might have been causing the problem.

First, I found an off-by-one memory allocation error (my bad) and then an area where, depending on how images were located, I could run off the end of an array. These errors were both due to my rusty C coding skills. When using C, you're fully capable of shooting yourself in the foot and I had done it.

So I fixed these errors and tested and re-tested. Then I tested some more. Big images, small images, lots of images, no images. And then I re-submitted and waited again. And then, less than a week later, iMesmerize was in. Even though I was in, I was a bit disappointed to find that iMesmerize didn't make the "New Apps" section in the store. Its first appearance in the store was several pages back in the Entertainment category, because it was listed using the date I submitted it rather than the date it was approved.

Closing Thoughts

So, looking back what had I learned? First even though I did it, two weeks was really too short. This was a relatively simple little program and it was still a large effort with many long days taken to get it out. Now that I have a little more experience, I could do it a bit faster (I already have a new idea!). But I really should have allocated more time.

My code is a pretty ugly mix of C and Objective C that should have been better arranged. And where I did use IB to build my menu, I didn't do it correcttly with the right components. I also have non-internationalized strings embedded in my code and I didn't use the right layout for my Settings menu. And of course there are additional features I could add, such as fetching images from somewhere like Flickr, loading images in the background so it starts up faster, etc.

But still, it was a fun, but exhausting effort that I'm glad I took on. And will iMesmerize succeed on the Store and make me the next iPhone Zillionare? There's little chance of that. But I know that if you have an idea and don't even try, you'll have no chance at all.

This article originally appeared on SmallNetBuilder.

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