MDevCon 2012

March 21st, 2012

On Saturday 10 March we went to Amsterdam to attend MDevCon. MDevCon – organized by Egeniq – is a conference for mobile developers. Many well-known speakers came to the Tuschinski theater in Amsterdam to talk about a wide range of mobile development topics, varying from  User eXperience (UX) to iOS debugging.

One of the biggest challenges in this area is to keep up with the latest technologies. To create responsive, fast and intuitive apps requires up-to-date knowledge of a wide range of subjects. So we were very pleased when we learned about the new conference. Christian and Robin attended the conference and look back to a very informative and enjoyable conference!

The day started with coffee and a short introductory by Egeniq. Next Mike Lee (our Appsterdam mayor) gave an inspiring talk about the  mobile community in Appsterdam. He told us about what we can learn from each other and why meeting other developers is a good thing.

After a talk about how to write clean and modular code, Matt Gamell (UX expert) came up stage and gave a funny but very 'to-the-point' overview about UX mistakes in everyday situations. He took us to all the classic examples of what you shouldn't do if you want happy end-users. By showing examples of over-complicated or misleading instructions on signs in everyday life, he made us aware that bad UX can be confusing and sometimes even insulting. His conclusion is that UX is not hard at all, you just have to think from the user's perspective. Not a very instructive talk but it was very enjoyable!

Nathan de Vries taught us the ins and outs of debugging on iOS. He listed various tools and techniques that make debugging easier. Worth mentioning are DCIntrospect and NSLogger. The former is a very useful framework that displays your view hierarchy and the latter is a more powerful NSLog that can even log images into an external application. Another lesson we learned  is not to debug with NSLog, but to use the very powerful GDB (or LLDB). A very informative talk!

The next two talks were about how to solve the Android fragmentation (a common problem caused by all the different devices that use the Android OS) and about GLKit. The main conclusion from the Android talk was that it is very difficult to make perfect apps for all those different devices. You always have to make concessions in your user interface if you want your app to support all Android devices. This insight was not new to us but it was interesting to see what kind of problems you can run into and how to solve them.

The talk about GLKit (by Jeff LaMarche, writer of the first iOS book I read) gave a very good overview about the basics of OpenGL (used for rendering 3D graphics in for example games) and GLKit (a new framework that Apple shipped with iOS 5). Because programming 3D graphics can be very difficult, Apple tried to make life for developers more easy with the objective-C based GLKit. It comes with simulating light, skies, camera objects and support for a lot of difficult mathematical operations. One can use all these features out-of-the-box and they do not require in-depth knowledge of OpenGL. This was never possible before and for us this can be very handy to use for example small 3D animations in our apps. We also learned that writing shaders (small pieces of code that can be executed on the GPU) will be much easier. Funny and easy to follow talk that explained some of the most complex technologies.

After a talk about voice controlled applications (using the same technology that Apple seems to use for Siri: Nuance) and an introduction to iCloud (storing and retrieving documents using the cloud) we neared the end of the day.

Completely unexpected  Graham Lee gave the final lecture about the chemistry behind semi-conductors, titled 'From sand to Hand'. How simple sand can be turned into a chip containing all the millions of transistors needed for the thousands of calculations our computers and mobile devices perform for us. Graham explained how the transistor works, how silicon crystals can be produced and how to turn them into silicon wafers. From the smallest quantum mechanical details to a bigger overview, he explained us all. It was very enlightening to see how this works.

It was a very interesting and inspiring conference. We have learned a lot and met lots of nice people. Many thanks to Egeniq for the organization of this successful conference. We will definitely be there next year again!

In case you are interested in all the topics and wants to see the slides, please take a look at http://www.mdevcon.com