Eddie Lee

Thoughts, stories and ideas.

It's been a year - a retrospective

It’s the last day of the year - time for a look back.

In my opinion a lot of bad has happened this year, and in a lot of respects the world in general has taken several steps back. Along with this we've had celebrity and family deaths along the way. My year in contrast, along with many others, does not correlate with the wider picture. A new job, the birth of my daughter and a lot of fun times have given me a great year.

A year of apps

At the start of this year I set myself a challenge and declared this a year of apps. My aim was to complete and ship a new project every month. The logic behind this was to break myself out of the cycle of always coding, but never shipping.

Well, I did not ship 12 projects - it was closer to 2. This isn’t to say the concept was a failure. I did - as always - start many projects, and I did release more than I have in previous years. So although the goal was not met, I gained a lot from trying.

A flying start

In January I built and released an iOS game - Reaction Match. It was a simple concept that was easily finished within the month. I've continued working on Reaction Match since, shipping version 2 with a new game mode, and have version 3 in the works.

Reaction Match

Too ambitious

Being in high spirits after getting my first app on the App Store in January, I aimed high in February, in retrospect - too high. I attempted to create a game I codenamed "Bug Hunt". In the game, the user controls a spider who shoots webs at various insects who attempt to cross the screen. I enlisted the help of designer Paul Wallas who created some fantastic assets for the game.

Bug Hunt

Many issues arose during this project, not to do with coding, graphics or free time - but the concept itself. No matter how many iterations of the game were created, no matter what was tried, I could not gamify Bug Hunt. I could not make it fun. Because of this, after nearly 3 months of development I stopped working on the app. I had pledged to release everything I worked on in the year, but what use is a game that isn’t fun?

Fortunately; building, building and rebuilding the game time after time was a great opportunity to improve my understanding of Swift, Sprite Kit, and all of iOS.

Other projects

While I did not attempt any other major solo projects in the year, I did work on some with other people.

Parkr

After the false start which was Bug Hunt, the next project started was strictly MVP. A weekend of hacking led me to shipping Carpark Space Finder. Following this, I set out along with Paul Wallas on evolving this into Parkr, a full carpark space tracking service. While development fizzled out when I started my new job, we still hope to ship improvements to the MVP in the new year.

Parkr

Next Level Events

At the start of the year I set out along with Tanner and Weiran on building an events management system. We never released anything, but it was a fun project to work on. Working on a side project in .NET was great; being a Mac user everything I work on outside of work is often iOS or web based, so this was quite refreshing. Plus planning and setting out on any project is a lot of fun.

Next Level Events

A new job

In July I left my job of 5 years. I will really miss working on Care Partner and all the great people at FACE, but it was time to move on. In somewhat a departure from full stack .NET, I’m now a front-end engineer at Capital One and I’m really enjoying the new challenge.

A growing family

August brought the most important and exciting event of the year, the birth of my daughter; Aurora. She's a fantastic addition to our little family, and spending time with her, Ethan, Lauren, and the rest of my family is much more important than any app.

Aurora

Getting out there

Towards the end of the year I’ve tried to get myself known more in the local tech community. Along with Tweeting and blogging, I’ve given my first presentation at a meet up - in October I gave a talk on the future of JavaScript; ES2015 at dot net notts. It took a lot to get over the nerves, but in the end the talk went well, and from the feedback I had, came across great.

Books, books, books

At the start of this year I hadn’t finished a book (excluding a few text books) since the age of maybe 15. During my first few months at Capital One I got the opportunity to attend a 2 day “Personal Excellence” course; a lot of great ideas were shared, but the one which has stuck with me is reading. I’ve read 3 books in the last 3 months, something I’ve really enjoyed and will continue into next year.

It’s been a good year

So although we’ve had some odd political events, celebrity, and family deaths this year - my year overall has been pretty great. Here's looking forward to all that 2017 brings.

Metadata propaganda

There has been a lot of talk recently about Russia and potential interference with the US presidential election. I don’t know if this is true; I suspect it is, but it’s not my place to say. What I do know is I’ve started to see a lot of odd data reported by Google Analytics; mainly pro-Trump messages set as peoples browser languages…

Google Analytics Languages

Where does this traffic originate? Russia. I post nothing in Russian, I have no genuine Russian readers that I know of. But Google Analytics reports nearly all of this data from there.

Google Analytics Countries

No conclusions can really be drawn from this, but it’s interesting regardless.

Bear - a beautiful writing app

I've spent the last few days looking for a new note taking and general writing app after falling out with Apple’s Notes app.

The one I've settled on, and has massively exceeded my expectations of what to expect from an iOS writing app is Bear. In my last blog post I shortlisted several apps I was thinking of moving to, but had missed Bear. Luckily Weiran Zhang recommended it to me on Twitter.

Bear - a beautiful writing app

Bear has the best Markdown support of any app I’ve used, desktop or mobile - and this app works on both. Notes are easily categorised with hashtags. And so far, the sync between my iPhone and Mac has been flawless.

The app is free with payments of either £1.49/month or £13.99/year for Bear Pro which includes sync.

Picking a new notes app

Due to sync issues my faith in Apple's Notes app has been shaken. I'm aware I can most likely fix this by turning the iCloud toggle on and off on each platform, but I shouldn't have to. So I'm looking for a replacement.

My requirements are:

  • Simple
  • iPhone, iPad, and macOS
  • Plain text
  • Markdown
  • Flawless sync

Bonus

  • Code snippets
  • Inline images

So far I have shorted listed these...

If anyone has any other recommendations tweet me @eddielee6.

(Side note: I opened Notes on my MacBook while writing this to copy the shortlist I wrote on my iPhone - and it wasn't there...)

Notes Woes

I've always been a big fan of the iOS Notes app: lists, reminders, blog posts - anything I need to write goes in there. Over the last few years I've read articles and listened to many podcasts taking issue with the reliability of iCloud sync. Luckily I've never encountered any of them; until now.

Notes Sync Issues

A few weeks ago I started to notice I'd write something on one device then later pick up another and realise it wasn't there.

Comparing the Notes on my MacBook with those on my iPhone I've discovered I have two distinct sets. Checking with the source of truth, iCloud.com to see which device is at fault reveals no solutions, it matches neither device.

Being in the situation where I have three unique sets of notes, and not being totally sure how to get them back inline, it's safe to say my faith in the iCloud Notes platform has been broken.

Compounding this with the many other issues of the Notes app; such as horrendous markdown support - so bad that no support would be better. It appears to be time to find a replacement app. I need a simple, plain text notes app with good markdown support. Apps for iOS and macOS are a must.

If anyone has any suggestions tweet me @eddielee6.