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Past Episodes

NC #585 CodeCademy JavaScript Training, Together Instead of Evernote, Mac App Store Rant

In this week’s episode I’ll tell you about an awesome free training site called CodeCademy where I’m supplementing my JavaScript training for Programming By Stealth. Then I’ll tell you about Together, an app from Reinvented Software that might be the Evernote alternative you’ve been looking for. Then I’ll go on a bit of a rant about all the whining I’ve been hearing on other tech podcasts about the Mac App Store and its pricing model. Then Bart Busschots will join us with this week’s edition of Security Bits.


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Mac App Store Rant

App Store OS X logoI listen to a lot of tech podcasts and many of them have had discussions lately about what’s wrong with the Mac App Store. The level of rant against the Mac App Store has become so high that I feel compelled to voice my own opinions. I’m going to try very hard not to call out any people or products but keep this a generic discussion.

Point of View

First of all, the rants I’ve heard are all from the point of view of the developers. While the developer’s needs and concerns are valid, theirs is not the only point of view to consider. None of these discussions seem to take into account the needs and desires of the Mac user.

I can only speak for myself, but I love the Mac App Store. I love that I can buy an app, and get it on all of my devices. I love the fact that those on my Family Plan can also get access to any apps I buy through the Mac App Store. I love that I can do a nuke and pave and get all of my apps back by just clicking in the store, instead of navigating to each developer’s website and hunting down my license keys.

A couple of years ago I bought a $100 app directly from a developer for which I get high value and I enjoy using. When I bought my MacBook to supplement my MacBook Pro, I was furious to discover that the license agreement didn’t allow me to use this very expensive app on my second Mac. I know that 30% of the cost of an app goes to Apple, but when a new version came out, you can be sure that I switched to the Mac App Store version, even though I could have bought an upgrade for far less money directly from the developer.

I love that the Mac App Store isn’t the only way I can get apps for my Mac. Utilities like App Delete will never be allowed in the Mac App Store, but I can still go get it on my own. TextExpander is too far reaching for the Mac App Store also but it’s 100% worth it to get it directly from Smile. We have the flexibility to get the tricky cool tools directly from the developers and to get mainstream apps through the Mac App Store. Best of both worlds.

Is 30% Too Much?

Apple’s 30% cut has been a sore point for a long time and recently this was highlighted with Spotify complaining rather loudly about it. I’m not sure having the same recurring fee for a subscription service as for apps makes any sense at all so I think Spotify may have a point. And let’s not forget that Apple is now taking 15% off subscriptions in the second year a user keeps the subscription. I’d rather talk about the 30% in context of normal, non-subscription apps.

One developer complained about the 30% during a podcast recently with the statement, “I think the richest company in the world could afford to take a smaller cut.” That evoked so many thoughts for me.

First of all, how do you think Apple got to be the richest company in the world? It wasn’t by having razor-thin margins, was it? This conversation drove me nuts because the argument for why Apple should cut their margin was because Spotify had a razor-thin margin! Why is it Apple’s responsibility that they chose to be in a business with such low margins? I don’t get that argument at all.

I think it’s a valid comparison to look at what cut Amazon takes when you self-publish an eBook. According to Amazon’s Direct Publishing guidelines for Kindle books, the author gets to keep the grand sum of 35% of the selling price of their book. Seriously, Amazon keeps 65%. And they give you a range of what you can charge for the book. That’s the standard policy, but if the author agrees to some further restrictions, she can get a better deal, keeping 70%. But to get the Amazon Kindle deal to be as good as the Apple deal is for apps, the author has to agree to have the book exclusively on Kindle, and it has to be part of the Kindle all-access program (where you don’t get full price for your book). So…is Apple’s 30% cut a bad deal for apps?

When people look at the 30% cut and declare it outrageous, I believe they’re only thinking about the cost of servers and storage. They know that disk is cheap , they know that linux boxes are cheap and they know that bandwidth is cheap. Therefore, storing their app should be cheap so Apple shouldn’t charge them so much. But here’s a sampling of what people don’t take into account. Apple has to pay for:

  • Cost of physical footprint for the server
  • Cost of electricity to run the server
  • Cost of system administration time to keep the server running and patched
  • Cost of paying someone to architect the server farm
  • Cost of redundant servers, offsite backups, and disaster recovery plans
  • Cost of someone to create purchase orders to buy the servers
  • Cost of developers to design the database for the store
  • Cost of UI designers to create the look and feel of the store
  • Cost of architects to design the store
  • Cost of Research and Development
  • Cost of help desk to answer calls about the store
  • Cost of financial billing software and people to manage the purchases
  • Costs paid to credit card companies for purchases made in the store
  • Cost of managers of all of these people
  • Cost of marketing for the store

I could go on and on but do you see how many things are behind that simple word “server”?

My point is not that Apple is barely scraping by. They’re clearly raking in money hand over fist. With average gross profit margins (profit before tax) at around 40%, they aren’t hurting. We don’t know exactly what margins they make on apps but their services business appears to be in line with that average. My point is that they built this business to make money, they’re responsible to the shareholders for making that profit, and to say that they should lower their margins just because someone else chose to be in a low margin business is just plain silliness.

Some of the people who complain so much about the 30% cut don’t take into account how much better their exposure to customers is with the Mac App Store. I know it’s hard to get noticed, but I believe it’s easier in the store than it is to be found on your own website.

But It Could be Better

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I don’t think improvements could be made to the Mac App Store that would benefit both the developers and customers. For example, I think both sides would love to have the Mac App Store allow free trials. That benefits both sides. Just yesterday I spent 10 minutes pondering whether to part with the giant sum of $3 for an app just because I wasn’t sure it was going to do what I wanted it to do. You’ve been there, right?

I also think it would benefit both sides if developers had ways to contact their customers from the Mac App Store. Getting notifications of new versions, having a communications path for problems, being alerted to discount codes, all of these things would help the users and the developers.

But saying that the Mac App Store is a horrible disaster as some of these louder folks have said kind of makes my head explode.

Ok, I’m done with my rant, thanks for letting me get that off of my chest.

Together Might be the Evernote Alternative You’re Looking For

Together3 logoJust recently the makers of the beloved Evernote changed their pricing plans dramatically. If you’re an avid Evernote user, I’m sure you’ve read the many posts about this, including Evernote’s announcement. They changed the free tier so it only works on two devices, and both of the paid plans had price increases of more than 30%. I’m sure there are people for whom the price increase is still worth it, and for whom the restrictions are just fine. If you’re happy with Evernote even with these changes, then this article isn’t for you.

If you really like the functionality you get from Evernote but the fee changes and/or restrictions are more than you can bear, I might have an alternative for you. It’s called Together from Reinvented Software. Together doesn’t work exactly like Evernote, so we’ll go through the features and you can decide if it meets your needs. Read More

CCATP #448 Bart Busschots on How Tech Caused Fitness

Myfitnesspal logoBart Busschots joins us this week but not to talk about stealthy programming or the taming of any terminals or even security. This time he’s here to explain how technology has helped him to lose 40 pounds. He’ll explain how he worked through denial and then started exercising and finally to add dieting to change his bad habits, all with the use of technology. He’s written a blog post with links to all of the apps he uses at bartbusschots.ie/….


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CodeCademy + PBS to Learn JavaScript

Codecademy+pbsBart Busschots has been working on a series in Chit Chat Across the Pond entitled Programming By Stealth, and we just finished episode 18. These lessons started with HTML, then moved into CSS, and since episode 12 we’ve been learning JavaScript. Bart has written terrific tutorials with excellent explanations of the terminology, logic and process of coding in JavaScript. The foundation he is laying is adaptable to learning other languages as well.

A few lessons back I suggested an enhancement to the series. At the risk of being labeled as teacher’s pet, I asked him to assign homework to us, or as he likes to call them, challenges. He came up with the challenges, but they’ve been really hard for me. Read More

NC #584 1Writer, iOS Console, ProShot

The grandbaby isn’t here yet, but we’re on the edges of our seats around here. In the mean time I found an app called 1Writer from 1writerapp.com that might help me write in Markdown on the iPad. We’ll take a look at iOS Console, a Mac app from lemonjar.com/… that lets you see the diagnostics coming out of your iOS device. Finally we’ll check out an iOS, Android and Windows Phone camera app that will give you amazing control of your images called ProShot from riseupgames.com/….


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Get Better Image Control with ProShot for iOS, Android & Windows Phone

Proshot logoI was chatting with my daughter Lindsay the other night about a photo she took using Snapchat. She said she took the photo with Snapchat because it has a built-in low light mode that works much better than the built-in camera on the iPhone. You know I enjoy photography as a hobby with my mirrorless camera, and I like to use the more advanced features, so I thought it was time we took a look at one of the 3rd-party camera apps that brings advanced features to your iOS device.

The app I’d like to tell you about is called ProShot from riseupgames.com/…. It’s free with in-app purchase. The in-app purchase is really cool but I’m going to save it till the end. I should mention that ProShot is available for Android and Windows Phone as well as iOS. Read More

View iOS Logs with iOS Console from Lemonjar

Ios console logo 2While I was working on my review about 1Writer I noticed something very odd happening. Every time I tried to write the word starting with leading caps “The,” it would change instantly to all lower case. That meant I couldn’t start sentences with The or There. I had just enabled TextExpander so I thought maybe it was something in my snippets but I couldn’t find anything like that. Plus this was only happening on my iPad Pro and not on my Mac.

I contacted Smile, one of the greatest developers of all time, and makers of TextExpander. Within an hour or so, Jeff from Smile got back to me. He and I went back and forth a half a dozen times trying to diagnose the problem. I made him a video using ScreenFlow with my iPad connected to my Mac, I sent him screenshots, he sent me deinstall/reinstall/restart instructions and we flipped every switch we could find, but the problem persisted.

He then asked whether I would consider installing a diagnostic app on my Mac that would let him look at the system logs for the iPad. Would I??? You betcha, that sounds fun! The Mac app is called iOS Console from lemonjar.com.
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1Writer Might Convince Me to Write on an iPad (In Markdown!)

1writer logo sloganYou might have noticed that I write a lot. I write blog posts all week long (in theory publishing them during the week but they seem to pile up towards the end of the week). I also write a monthly column in Don McAllister’s ScreenCasts Online Magazine. Today I write all of my articles using either my MacBook Pro at my desk with the Apple Bluetooth keyboard that I love, or on my MacBook when I’m on the go with the less wonderful but still adequate keyboard.

For the blog I use an app called MarsEdit from red-sweater.com which has long been a favorite amongst bloggers. I write in HTML in MarsEdit and when I’m done I can whoosh the posts up to my blog and publish from there. One advantage of this workflow is that I can partially write a post on one device, whoosh it up as a Draft, and then refresh on MarsEdit on the other Mac and keep writing. I do have to remember to refresh each time to make sure I’m working on the same version but 90% of the time it works for me.

Problem to be solved

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CCATP #447 Mike Potter on How to Throw a Tech Conference

Macstock logoIn this week’s episode of Chit Chat Across the Pond we’re joined by Mike Potter of For Mac Eyes Only to talk about what goes into creating a tech conference. We talk about choosing a venue, creating speaker agreements, getting insurance, managing the catering and more. He knows what he’s talking about because he’s about to host the 2nd annual Macstock Conference and Expo outside of Chicago this weekend. Steve and I were supposed to go but since our grandson’s arrival is any day now, we’re going to miss it. However, Mike is going to bring me in on the big screen to do my presentation on why you should consider using Apple Photos. If you haven’t bought your tickets yet to Macstock, go check it out at macstockconferenceandexpo.com.


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