The iPad case for explorers and adventurers

I'm pretty sure I never saw Indiana Jones use an iPad, but had he owned one he would certainly have kept it in a Vintcase. Just look at the thing, it radiates pure awesomeness.

When folded up, the wrap-around string keeps it snugly closed, ready to go explore the world.

The Vintcase is made in Spain from high quality cowhide leather. This card matching game is made in Sweden from the absolute highest quality digital bits.

There's no need to hold your iPad or prop it up against anything when watching a movie or using it for recreational gaming. The Vintcase can stand independently on any level surface.

The case was delivered lovingly wrapped with a note saying "I hope you like it" – that's how you make a good first impression! The whole thing just oozes class and I certainly do like it.

If you are interested in getting one of your own, take a look at Vintcase.com for more photos and information.

Full disclosure: I am not affiliated with Vintcase in any way except for being a satisfied customer.

Retro gaming on iPad, for iOS developers

 MADTV and Gabriel Knight running in dospad on the iPad

MADTV and Gabriel Knight running in dospad on the iPad

Sometimes it's good to take a break from coding, and what's more relaxing than running some retro games on your iPad?

Getting DOS onto iPad

Some time ago a DOS emulator called iDOS briefly made it into the App Store, but it was already long gone when I heard of it and tried to download it. As luck would have it the source code for the app is available under the name dospad from Google Code, so any registered iOS developer can build it using Xcode and run it on their iPad.

I believe iDOS or dospad is also available for jailbroken iPads, for those who are not registered developers but are OK with jailbreaking their device.

Installing games

With dospad you get a fully functional DOS system for your iPad. There is mouse support and sound support, making it brilliant for some retro gaming. If the games are mouse driven you can even go full screen for a very immersive experience.

Sierra's adventure game Gabriel Knight is one of my all time favorites, and since I no longer have a floppy disk drive on my computer I downloaded it from an abandonware site called The House of Games, where there's a large selection of old DOS games.

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With dospad installed on your iPad, you can drag files into it using iTunes. Just go to the iPad's Apps tab and select dospad under the File Sharing header.

Dospad comes with an unzip utility so once you have transferred the zip file with your game you can use the DOS command prompt to create a directory and unzip the file into it.

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For Sierra games you then run install.exe to select your sound options. I selected Soundblaster Pro which seems to work well.

Launch the game by running sierra.exe.

Mouse controls

Obviously, this being DOS, you don't use it like a standard touch screen. Instead you control a mouse cursor on screen in the same manner you would using the touchpad on your Macbook. Tapping the screen left clicks at the position the cursor points to.

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You can play either in portrait or landscape mode, as well as full screen.

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Happy retro gaming, and make sure to save your game often.

The evolution of an iPhone app interface

I recently released Starting 11, an iPhone app in which you can pick your own football team line up and share it via e-mail and Facebook.

From idea to app store submission took about 10 evenings of work. The lions share of that time was spent perfecting the user interface. Below are the design iterations from idea to App Store release, click the images for full versions.

Since I had the idea for this app just before the FIFA World Cup started, I quickly decided to use the Xcode template "Navigation-based Application" to simplify development, hoping to get it published before the World Cup had finished. By focusing on polishing the pitch view, which would be the view where the user spends most of his time, I figured I would get the most bang for my efforts.

Initial idea sketch

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Using the brilliant and free Adobe Ideas app on my iPad i quickly sketched the basic UI and zoomed the resulting image to match the size of my iPhone. This gave me a feel for the size of the UI components, allowing me to decide that it would be feasible to have a full football team on screen at once.

Grass and scoreboard

To generate the grass for the pitch I followed Andrew Houle's Photoshop tutorial, ending up with a huge image of grass texture. My brother graciously provided me with the chalk lines marking the pitch and with the scoreboard graphic which has a nice detailed mesh effect only visible with the extra resolution available on the iPhone 4.

Player kits

I had decided to represent the players on the pitch by having their jerseys show the number on the back, the name would appear beneath. My first effort used a combination of rectangular UIViews to create the illusion of the jersey. I was hoping this would allow me to save time, but it just didn't look good enough to match my vision for Starting 11.

I had to implement my own UIView subclass to handle drawing the player using vector graphics. This allowed me to create something that more closely resembled a jersey.

I also decided to add a dark background to the player names.

After using the app in this state for some time I decided that the shoulders needed to be more rounded, and that a black outline around the player added some needed contrast, especially important when using the application outdoors in the sun. For the same reason the color behind the player name was darkened.

I also added a small line to indicate the separation of the player's legs, without which it looked like the players were wearing skirts.

Finally the flags for all countries had some shine added to them, then the Share button was added and I decided that instead of having the team's name appear on screen twice the navigation bar should contain the application's title.

And there you have it, the UI of version 1.0 of Starting 11. What do you think? What would you change?

Looking forward

After the World Cup is done and we have a new world champion team, the next step will be to add the possibility for customers to add and modify teams. This will make the app useful for the club competitions that start up after summer.

Regarding the iPad I think Starting 11 would be a wonderful fit for the larger screen, so I plan to make it a universal app that supports both the iPhone and the iPad form-factors.

Until these steps are done the app will remain free. I will eventually start charging.

On the iPad App Store from day one

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I have just learned that my first iPad app has been approved by Apple and will be available from the App Store on opening day.

A Memory Game gives you the opportunity to practice your memory by trying to find and match pairs of cards together. The first version features the two card decks Flags and Symbols.

Once the store is online you will be able to download A Memory Game for free [iTunes link].

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