The flurry of starting a new company has finally paused long enough for me to start updating this blog again. And I wanted to start by answering some questions that I have been getting from friends and clients since my last post.
Q: Where Is Cheetah Software?
A: Milk Can LLC was originally formed under the name “Cheetah Software LLC”. We chose this name initially to continue using the name that I had been doing side projects under since I was in college in 2001/2002. We had everything registered correctly with the state and federal agencies and had finished our initial branding efforts. In late 2015, I received a letter from another Cheetah software company that gave us 10 days to Cease & Desist using the name as they felt it violated their “Cheetah” trademark that was filed in 2013 or so. Since we were new and fighting the dispute would cost us more money than we felt the branding was worth, we decided to change our name and now operate under Milk Can Dev and Design Studio.
Q: Why Milk Can?
A: When we sat down to rebrand ourselves and come up with a name that we could use going forward we had a couple of requirements:
As we were pouring over local history and imagery, we kept coming back to Houdini. Houdini had an amazing gift that has kept his name in the forefront of magician names since he first started to perform. He understood showmanship and giving customers what they wanted without having to resort to some elaborate set up. One of his more famous tricks was the milk can escape. He used a simple milk can filled with water and locked himself inside. He then amazed crowds just by getting back out. Simple, but elegant.
When we started the company, that was our goal as well. We knew there were other companies out there trying to provide “Mobile-Ready Websites” or “Mobile Apps” to clients. However when we looked at them, we found that an overwhelming number of them were usually poorly designed for the mobile experience and lacked a real understanding of what the client really needed. They were bland, they were mundane. In Houdini’s terms, they were all of the other magicians that are no longer remembered.
We settled on Milk Can after Houdini’s famous trick to constantly remind ourselves that our clients want to amaze their customers with simple and elegant solutions. We vowed we would help them “Escape the Mundane” and deliver mobile solutions that were on par with large design and marketing studios but with the understanding of budgets, time constraints and staffing that have kept so many of our clients out of the mobile realm so far.
Q: So Milk Can “JUST” builds mobile apps?
A: This is the trickiest question because it is both a yes and a no at the surface.
We have placed Milk Can to firmly focus on delivering clients mobile solutions. We are not building websites, we are not building desktop software. We are staying in the mobile application field.
However, we are not just build the mobile app. We are providing, or partnering with your company to provide the full mobile solution that is not only the mobile application but also the entire infrastructure that supports it. We are delivering our knowledge and expertise on how to leverage data, market your app, take advantage of the mobile experience and build solid platforms that can scale with your business. So while we are definitely focusing on just mobile, we are providing the full mobile solution to our clients.
A few last words…
Hopefully all of that information helps everyone to understand where Milk Can is going and how we can help businesses both nationally and locally.
Over the next few months I will be starting to give more regular updates on projects that we are working on as they are able to be publicly announced. We will be giving our website a much needed facelift to show off some of these projects and to complete our full online branding presence. I will also be starting to apply for session engagements at a few conferences (That Conference for sure), but will be sadly missing the Fox Valley Code Camp so that I can take my son camping with his cub scout group.
As always, feel free to contact me through email, milkcan.io or Twitter (@matt_ridley). Thanks.
I came to a decision a couple of weeks ago. I finally felt that I was ready for the next step in my career, to go out on my own. I cannot understate the great learning opportunities that my previous employers and side projects have given me. However, I decided (with a lot of support from family and friends) that I was ready to help people on my own build great websites and mobile applications.
The immediate support from everyone that I knew when I announced my decision was overwhelming. And to add to the excitement, that same day, I was informed that one of my session submissions for That Conference was accepted. It will be covering how to quickly build a multi-platform mobile application using the Ionic Framework. Even Ionic reached out to me to offer help with the talk and to let me know how to start the process of making my new company (along with another longtime friend) a trusted partner of Ionic. So overall, I cannot wait to get this going.
As things progress, I will try to keep this updated and maybe even formally include this blog on the page for others to find. For now, if you are interested, you can now find me (and ask for help) at Twitter @cheetahsoft and our website: http://cheetah-software.com
I have a lot of experience with using Cordova/PhoneGap, usually relying on a good text editor and the command line to do my bidding and a carefully crafted list of frameworks to get me to the environment that I am ready to develop in. Ionic and Mobile Angular UI are taking that a step further and bootstrapping my normal AngularJS libraries and set up right from the start.
I have also been able to try a major project on Xamarin as well as doing a variety of small learning exercises with it. And while I found the promise to be exciting… (I absolutely love the C# language even when I sometimes criticize the environment it lives in) … I found rely on my Android and iOS (Obj-C in this case) experience to get the last details and touches correct. Add to this the large licensing costs… I have not really revisited the platform since last Summer.
Yet even doing a lot of mobile projects the last few years… I still feel my skills and environmental knowledge slipping. So what to do?
Well there are times in your life when timing works out well and this month I was able to line up with my goal to retry some of the stacks that I had dismissed before, get better with the ones I enjoy (mostly Cordova and Native) and try out the new frameworks and bootstrapping (Ionic and React were at the top of my list).
It all started last month, when I was prepping with my co-worker Jason, a presentation to introduce Cordova at a local Code Camp (newcodecamp.com). One thing that Jason came up with (I wish it was my idea… though I was smart enough to realize how brilliant it was when he suggested it) was to get away from the normal introduction courses that tell us developers how to build the latest recipe book or RSS feed, and instead to take a real business problem we had been given and to build the presentation around developing that app (all within 45 minutes!).
What sparked from talking to our leader at work was to take this simple but useful app that really hit on a lot of small features crucial to the base of apps we develop was to take this app design and to repeat the exercise over the next few months (and future times if/when frameworks change and new frameworks come around) across all of the mobile stacks that we were interested in.
For those curious, our current list is:
We are targeting just the Android and iOS platforms right now, because that is what we traditionally are asked to develop for clients, but I can see others being introduced as well when possible.
So where am I at? I am right now about 90-95% of the way through the Cordova version, hoping to finish up soon as time allows. Then I will be hitting the next on the list.
I am hoping if you have come across this blog and you have any suggestions or ideas for other frameworks/packages to try, please let me know in the comments or via Twitter so I can add it to the list.
Can’t wait to keep coding… (which is where I am heading now) and help to pass on my experiences as I get further along.
I struggle as a parent many days. Usually it involves trying to find the right balance between encouraging and getting your kids to try new things and making sure you are not forcing them to do things they really do not want to do.
There are moments where that worrying ceases, and I had one this past week. I was doing some more coding on the Cub Scout website (I know… I need to catch you all up on where that is at soon) and my oldest son (almost 8) came over to me and asked me if I could teach him how to program sometime. I was blown away. I had offered at other times but it had been a while and he never seemed interested before. Maybe the games of Robot Turtle and his new found love for Mine Craft changed that, or maybe he just wanted to see what I do all day. Either way, I was excited. It was nearly bedtime, but I promised him that we would set aside some time the next day to dive in.
When my oldest had started to really get good at reading I had started to look into kid programming tools to see when might be a good time and good tool to use if I got a chance. I checked the site that I liked the most again (http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2011/05/5-tools-to-introduce-programming-to-kids/) to confirm and made sure I had everything I needed to try out Scratch with my kid the next day.
Scratch was developed by MIT and is designed to start introducing children to the basics of programming, from variables to loops and conditions. For those of you that have started to use more immersive web based IDEs to learn to code (like https://tour.golang.org or https://www.codeschool.com/), Scratch has a great series of tutorials that are easy for kids to follow to start building things right away (http://scratch.mit.edu/). Just click on the “Try It Out”. I recommend signing up as well quickly with your email address so that your child is able to save and share their programs.
We started the next day and quickly went through the first tutorial. My fears that it would be boring were quickly eased as he laughed and asked questions throughout the process. After mastering that, he wanted to know if there was a way to make an actual game. Two tutorials down was the tutorial for a pong/breakout style game. We tried it out and sure enough he was able to do that as well. That was when I could see he was hooked. He was already straying from the tutorial by picking his own sprites and values. We were also able to quickly experiment with different variables and to debug when things did not go the way he thought it would. When we were done just a short time later, I was amazed at what he had done and he could not wait to show his mom and siblings.
I definitely will recommend Scratch to anyone that has a kid interested in programming to bridge the gap from a MineCraft type building and a full fledge programming language. We are definitely going to hit up some more tutorials and maybe try to build onto some of the other examples that people have shared. From there, if the interest is still there… we might move to something else like MindStorms or Anduino. Maybe even Alice or Hackety Hack. Either way, I know it will be fun to learn together.
Podcasts, podcasts, podcasts.
I first got into podcasts nearly 7 years ago. I got my first iPod and had heard that there were podcasts I could listen to that had the guys from the old Screensavers. That podcast was This Week in Technology (TWiT). I listened and immediately was hooked that I could still get the great content I used to love on Tech TV.
Those podcasts were not enough and I started looking for recommendations on iTunes for more. The show that caught my attention was The Awful Show and after a few listens I was completely hooked. The guys had not only a great audio quality, but great content. It was funny, really, really funny. I even spent time going back and listening to all of the previous podcasts that I had missed (eventually I seem to do this for most podcasts that I really like, but this was the first).
Since then, I have grown and shrunk my listening list as my taste changed, new shows started, others ended, leaving me where I am today. Podcasts have become a very large part of my life and have helped boring days at work fly by, long drives seem great and tasks like dishes and mowing the lawn seem fun.
Here is my current list of what I am listening to actively now:
Chris Hardwick from all of the after shows of late and @Midnight interviews different guests. I always find that the interviews that Chris does that intrigues me about almost every guest. The casual style that seems closer to friends chatting than a Larry King style interview really keeps me tuning in to the 2-3 shows a week.
A great podcast about board games. And no… not Monopoly. Lots of humor, news and game reviews fill this great podcast.
One of the geekiest podcasts on this list. Part of the Dice Tower network, this podcast dives into game strategy and design. It focuses less on a single game and more on genres and broad strategy types. If you have ever wondered things like why we choose what we do during Paper-Rock-Scissors, how does play testing affect game design or why different games choose the mechanics they do… this podcast is for you.
What I liked about this podcast over the scores of other TWD podcasts is that it not only covers what is happening on the AMC show, but also compares/contrasts the show direction against the comics. Being a fan of both, it is fun for me to hear other perspectives and theories about what is going to happen next.
Originally called the Drunk Tank podcast, this is the weekly podcast from the Rooster Teeth group, the people that created Red vs. Blue, Achievement Hunter and RWBY. Lots of humor and pop culture references.
A show that is perfect for those of us that grew up in the 80s and early 90s. The group chooses a weekly topic and compares then vs. now. Topics include cartoons, tv shows, movies, breakfast cereals and more.
From the TWiT podcasting network (the guys that used to do Screensaves on Tech TV), this show is hosted by security guru Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte. It discusses the weekly computer security news, answers security related questions and deep-dives into the world of how computers and software works. (The series on how the internet works that explains even how the different protocols work was fantastic).
This podcast makes me fall back in love with programming each show. The host interviews people from around the computer industry and finds the details about their first computing experience, first programming language and first job. I love listening to how others got into the programming field and what drives them to keep doing it. Makes me appreciate what I love about it myself.
I found this show after the Awful Show ended. Joel from the Awful Show joined the show for a few years and I was hooked in the process. Fun topics from guys sitting around talking about what (some) guys talk about.
This show has had a few iterations, all of them great. However the latest few shows have reunited Mike, Joel and Nerraux from the Awful Show with the addition of South Philly Paul. News episodes cannot come fast enough now.
I found this show about the same time that I found the Awful Show, but it was not until the addition of Mike and Hope that I really became a regular listener of the show. Mike has since left, and Troy has joined the group full time. Listen to one of the oldest and best produced podcast out there.
Hosts Joel (from Awful Show and Obviously Oblivious as well as others) and Killa Wilba have a new co-host each week. They learn more about each other and their new co-host each episode. Fun listen.
Another fun podcast for people in the software industry. Episodes explore a variety of topics about nuances in the industry (and sometimes just the ‘geek’ culture) and includes thoughtful insights from the hosts and a variety of people that they interview.
This is the newest podcast added to my list. Part of the Nerdist podcast network. The hosts Cash Levy and T.J. Miller already have me hooked as they jump back and forth from insightful to ridiculous thoughts about the world around us.
For those that are interested, here are some that have ended or that I have not been able to keep up with recently but I have greatly enjoyed. I encourage you to check these out as well.
After deving on a Mac for a few weeks, I really started loving the cached credentials that were set to on by default in Bash. Especially when working with remote repositories like Bitbucket that I needed to log into. I did not want to hardcode my username/password in however… just wanted to be able to cache for an hour or so to make push/pull/merges less painful (because we are all using 500 character random passwords right ?!?).
I pieced this together over several StackOverflow posts to get the quickest and most efficient way to do this. (You will need to be using git version 1.8.1 or later)
git config –global credential.helper cache
git config –global credential.helper “cache –timeout=3600”
git config –global credential.helper wincred
Use those 3 commands and you will have your credentials cached for an hour after using them. NOTE: 3600 is time in seconds to cache… you can change that to whatever value you find works best for your situation
Before going any further… make sure that you are using a source code repository. Even if (and maybe especially) if it is just you. I cannot recommend git enough. I usually bitbucket for my business and personal use because I can do free private repos. Github is another option, especially good for open source projects. Whenever I am about to make major changes, I make a branch so that I can easily start over again if I mess up along the way and commit incrementally as I get things working. Trust me, this will save you hours and hours of work once you get used to it.
Okay… back to the main part of this post.
There are quite a few ways to get Angular JS into your app… but the easiest I found is to start with the Angular Seed base project. You can download that here: https://github.com/angular/angular-seed. However for some reason… this project, the download did not work well for me. I am not sure why, but I found myself with a lot of extra and misplaced files. I instead used the instructions in the ReadMe.md file. I cloned the repo and used NPM install. For now, I did this all in a temporary directory so that I had all of the files I needed identified.
Once this is done, I copied the files into the app folder. The files you already had in there for the GoApp should not be replaced and your base bootstrap site should still be working. Your directory should look something like below:
To allow Angular to work correctly with all of the right folders, we need to add some more routing to our app.yaml file.
Here is what mine looked like when I was done:
– url: /
– url: /asset/img
– url: /asset/pho
– url: /asset/vid
– url: /css
– url: /fonts
– url: /js
– url: /lib
– url: /partials
– url: /.*
I took my homepage and separated the content from the header/nav and footer. I put the content html into a partial file (this one called home.html. In the place of the content in the index.html file I put the code for the ng-view there:
<!– CONTENT GOES HERE –>
That is really all there is for the initial AngularJS changes needed for the application. Now you can follow most Angular examples on the web. This one I found the easiest to get the multiple pages loading on the single page app, if you are not able to follow along with the Angular Seed examples: http://fdietz.github.io/recipes-with-angular-js/urls-routing-and-partials/client-side-routing-with-hashbang-urls.html
Please let me know if you have any questions thus far. Currently I was able to get a few more “pages” added to my site and a simple “Coming Soon” placeholder for a default link for all of the pages not yet implemented.