Happy Apps Blog

Save on Next Year’s Taxes by Investing in Yourself and Your Business April 15th, 2009

I was chatting with a fellow Mac and iPhone Developer yesterday and we were talking about taxes. I was telling him that one nice feature in the tax code is that business expenses aren’t taxed. Now it is silly to just spend your hard earned money on random stuff just to save on taxes. You really only need so many pens.

A better way to save on your taxes if you have a business is to focus your spending on things that improve yourself and your business. Here are some ideas:

1. Conferences, online training, and books – if you’re a consultant, you’ll be able to sell your services with more confidence and for higher rates if you improve your skills and knowledge.

Personally, I’m planning to go to WWDC 2009 and C4 this year. I’m probably going to buy the Icon Resource tutorials. And I’ve got an overflowing bookshelf at the Pragmatic Programmer.

2. Hardware – if you’ve got an older computer or a small screen, then a new computer or a bigger screen could help make you more productive.

I’m personally waiting until WWDC to see what new hardware is coming out and I’m keeping an eye out for good deals on 30″ monitors. Right now I’ve got a 15″ MacBook Pro and a 20″ iMac with paired 20″ Dell monitor – good enough for now. I think more screen real estate would help when I’ve got Xcode, Interface Builder, Photoshop, the app I’m debugging and the documentation all open at the same time.

3. Software – developers are creating new apps that can improve your workflow all the time. I once got in trouble for automating a 2 day process down to 2 hours because it reduced the workload at a big corporation I once worked at, but the people that depended on that process were really grateful.

Of course, if I weren’t the creator of WebnoteHappy, I’d buy a license to help with my web research. A happy customer named Doug Hogg wrote in the other day and said “It is the best program that I have found for doing research on the internet.”

Personally, I’m going to be buying ScreenFlow to help produce some screencasts that I plan to do for the next version of Webnote. I’m also probably to buy Base.app to help with my iPhone development which relies on SQLite for persistence.

If you’re an employee, you could still follow this same strategy, but you’ll have to clear a 2% threshold – so if you make $50,000 a year, you won’t be able to deduct the first $1,000 of expenses.

Hopefully this helps people save some money in taxes next year and also improve their businesses, their skills and productivity. Oh and buy from independent businesses when you can!

WebnoteHappy works well with Safari 4 March 19th, 2009

Safari 4 is now in public beta and we have verified that WebnoteHappy works well with Safari 4. Specifically, the bookmarklet “Webnote It”, the shortcut key (by default Command-Shift-D) and Importing from Safari all work flawlessly with the Safari 4 beta.

WebnoteHappy 1.3.3 March 16th, 2009

I just released WebnoteHappy 1.3.3 in response to some difficulties that users have had with Delicious. For those of you who aren’t using Delicious, it is a web-based bookmark sharing service. It was formerly called del.icio.us but I think Yahoo, who operates the service, recognized that the name was a little hard to type. Was it deli.cio.us or de.liciou.s or … you get the point. In any case, we’ll be cleaning that up throughout the app and website.

As for the difficulties, WebnoteHappy will now detect service failures better and if it is running in the background doing its periodic sync then it will log the failure in Console.app and inform you via http://growl.info/ if you have that installed. Growl is nice (install it if you haven’t already) since it notifies you subtly in the background. Previously, it would show a dialog box that you would manually dismiss. So we’re trying to improve bit by bit on the user experience.

In other news, we’re working on another release of Webnote. So keep an eye out for that.

WebnoteHappy reviewed in MacApper February 6th, 2009

Joe Turner from MacApper reviewed WebnoteHappy. It got a B-. Not too bad, but we can do better. Look for more updates in the future. And if you are the beta testing type, please send an email to feedback@happyapps.com requesting a beta. As I noted in a comment on the review, we got caught in a long beta testing cycle which we’ll break out of soon enough.

I’ve been iPhone Consulting February 5th, 2009

It has been several months since I’ve blogged here. Sorry about that! I have been doing iPhone Consulting mainly since then. I’ll have to recount some of the lessons learned. I might also highlight some of the projects that I’ve done.

I’m glad to see that some of my previously blogged Mac and iPhone Tips have helped people. I’ll try to share more of those.

I’m steering Happy Apps towards a better blend of product development and consulting in 2009. So stay tuned!

Johnny Bunko for Indies July 31st, 2008

I read The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You’ll Ever Need yesterday. It was a lightning-quick and very entertaining read… especially since it is in Manga (which my family after looking over my shoulder means “comics for adults.”) I love self-improvement books anyways and I’ve enjoyed all of Daniel Pink‘s books.

It has six career lessons that are somewhat geared towards people working at companies. But what about for us Indies? Us freelancers or us free agents as Dan Pink would say; he did after all, write Free Agent Nation.

I think actually all of the six lessons apply. But let’s see how they apply to us Indies:

1. There is no plan. If you are an Indie, you’ve most likely studied, perhaps implemented but then ultimately ripped up whatever plans you, your parents, and other guidance/career counselors had for your adult working life. There’s all sorts of reasons not to go independent and stick with “the plan”: no steady paycheck, no benefits, etc.

But there is some help out there: Indie blogs, postmortems like Gus Mueller’s How to become an independent programmer in 1068 days, books by Nolo Press and others. Also, you’ll also be able to outsource a lot of things like setting up your company, writing contracts, and accounting to others. I like finding other independents whenever possible to do these things. I think it helps build a freelancer ecosystem.

2. Thinks strengths, not weaknesses. Hopefully you’ve gone independent or are going independent in something you’ve already become an expert at. If so, then you’ve already learned this lesson. Entrepreneurs though I think need to keep learning about business to help ensure success, even though those skills might be your weakest.

3. It’s not about you. You should always be serving your clients if your a consultant or your customers if you are selling products. I do both right now. I’ll be releasing a new version of Webnote shortly and handle customer support requests daily. I’m also building Mac and iPhone apps for clients. It can be easy however to forget when you’re building new products that there are people out there who have needs that your app will satisfy. Don’t keep them waiting any longer than needed.

4. Persistence trumps talent. You really need to be a self-starter to be independent. There’s no boss to tell you what to do and when to get it done by. I’ve found though that wearing a boss / client hat when developing your own products has been helpful.

5. Make excellent mistakes. Independents need to make a lot of mistakes and bigger ones. I’ve probably made too few myself. There’s lots of code that I haven’t released because it isn’t perfect. That’s just a fancy way of saying that I’m afraid of making mistakes. However I’ve learned / am learning that 1. most people are actually more forgiving than you think; 2. people are happy to try new stuff; 3. there are some people who just won’t like what you release even if it is perfect so you just have to deal with that. (I got the last insight from The War of Art… another book I need to review.)

6. Leave an imprint. You’ll have to answer this one for yourself. I do sincerely hope to make the lives of Mac users (and iPhone users) better and happier with my apps. I know I’ve already pleased many consulting clients as well.

Mac tip: How to clean your Mighty Mouse’s scroll ball July 30th, 2008

I really like my Mighty Mouse. It’s elegant yet functional. However, the scroll ball hasn’t been working too well lately. My hands are sorta oily and it probably doesn’t help that I eat in front of the computer sometimes. Specifically, the down scroll doesn’t work well – it just sort of slips.

You can’t disassemble a Mighty Mouse easily (I’ve tried that but I didn’t like the surgery that was required.) I’ve tried blowing it with compressed air. That didn’t help. I’ve tried cleaning it with alcohol like you can do with tape heads – that didn’t seem to do it. I’ve tried applying a wet paper towel to the ball and rolling that on top. That seemed to help a bit but not for long.

So I found myself on Amazon about to buy a new one for $49 when I read the comments for the top review. “Larkenfield” suggested rolling it around on a clean sheet of paper for a minute. So I unplugged my Mighty Mouse, got a new sheet of printer paper (I used 96 brightness 24 weight Advantage Premium Laser Jet paper made by Georgia Pacific but I assume any clean sheet of paper will do), turned over the Mighty Mouse so the scroll ball was resting on the paper, then rolled it around in all sorts of directions for a minute. You can tell when it gets clean when you start hearing it scroll with a sort of clicking sound. And there you go – your Mighty Mouse’s scroll ball is unstuck.

It’s been working very well all day so hopefully that will keep this Mighty Mouse in good shape for a little while longer. Too bad there’s no Reset Mighty Mouse… menu option. :)

Safari Tip: How to fix Safari when it gets sluggish July 28th, 2008

I started noticing that my MacBook Pro’s performance was getting sluggish compared to my iMac’s performance. I was wondering if I needed a reinstall but I narrowed it down to Safari. Firefox was still working well as were my other apps. Rebooting didn’t help it.

I further narrowed down the issue to Flash videos like those on YouTube skipping from around 7 seconds to 10 seconds. The rest of it played well. I tried removing Startup Items and Preference Panes but none of it did anything.

Then I tried the Reset Safari menu item, which is under the Safari menu, below Private Browsing and Empty Cache. Well it took a while, not as slow as an iPhone 2.0 upgrade, but definitely longer than you would expect.

However, the results were great. Its like I have a new Mac again. Its sort of amazing how much cruft can build up in your web browser and how dependent on it you are for day-to-day tasks.

So in summary: If your Safari is sluggish, try choosing the Safari > Reset Safari… menu item. I personally checked all the boxes, but you could try different settings. It is probably good to back up your Mac or at least your Keychain before clearing out the saved names and passwords. However, if you use 1Password like I do then they’ll be safe in 1Password’s database.

Bookmarking advice from How to Cheat at Organizing July 8th, 2008

I’m reading an organizing book called How to Cheat at Organizing by Jeff Bredenberg. He gives some good advice on bookmarking (the emphasis is mine):

Bookmark the best sites.

If you’re not in the habit of bookmarking your favorite Internet sites, start doing it, says Erika Salloux, the personal and business organizer. There are way too many useful web sites – you can only keep a handful of them in your head. Categorize your bookmarks using a folder system that mirrors the categories you use for e-mails and for hard-copy files. You’ll be able to find the site you need more intuitively that way. Some Internet browsers allow you to keep notes about why you bookmarked a particular site – an extremely handy feature.

I totally agree. That’s one of the main reasons why I made WebnoteHappy and WebnoteHappy Lite: so that you can easily take notes when you make a bookmark so you remember why you created it.

As far as categorization goes, WebnoteHappy is mainly tag-focused right now. I’m exploring options on making it easier to use folders/categories in the future.

How to reboot your iPhone June 3rd, 2008

The other day, my iPhone locked up and just displayed this dim screen with a wait cursor, an alert that I had missed a call and the regular background. I tried to get it to get out of that state using the regular means but it was stuck. It was really frozen! Fortunately, this was the first time it happened but unfortunately I didn’t know what to do. Then I remembered how rebooting an iPod works and tried to map it to the iPhone controls. Here’s what to do to reboot your iPhone:

1. Hold down the Home button (that’s the big button in the lower front) and the Sleep / Wake button (that’s the little button on the top right) down.

2. Keep holding until you see the screen go black and then the Apple logo appear.

3. Voila! Your iPhone has been rebooted. Resume your blissful life and forget that anything bad happened with your iPhone.