Archive for the ‘How To’ Category

Simulating a second finger during drag

You can drag and drop in the iOS simulator by clicking and holding an item. The item “pops” and you can then drag it to a destination. Today, an Apple engineer shared a neat way to free up a “second finger” during this process.

Pause and press the control key. This pins an item mid-drag, enabling you to use the Mac cursor as another touch. You can then retrieve your drag by grabbing the paused item and conclude your drop.

Grepping for parentheses

Just because I had to do this today and thought I’d share. Either use the -E option, for example,

grep -E "let \(" */*.swift

or use egrep directly:

egrep "let \(" */*.swift

Both egrep and grep -E use extended regular expressions, allowing you to use a simple backslash rather than trying to get your shell to cooperate with hyper-escaping. You can use the same approach with sed as well:

echo "(hi)" | sed -E "s/\(/[/"

I hope this helps someone.

How To: Finding your iTunes Connect Vendor ID number

Apple sent me an email:

Apple was recently notified that your bank account information has been manually corrected by the processing bank for iTunes payments to vendor [my personal vendor id number]. Unfortunately Apple cannot continue processing payments with the current banking details provided in iTunes Connect. To avoid unnecessary payment delays or returns, please log into iTunes Connect and provide the correct account information in Agreements, Tax, and Banking. For instructions on how to update banking, see ‘How do I add or edit a new bank account?’ in iTunes Connect Resources and Help. After the banking changes have been entered in our systems, payments will resume.

Oh shiny.

I pull out my latest statement and off I go to update my details. Here’s my problem. I don’t know which vendor account Apple is referring to. Like many developers, I use multiple iTC accounts. When I log into each one, I cannot find the vendor ID. Argh.

To save you lots of time, do this:

  • Log into any iTC account.
  • Manually navigate to
  • The vendor ID is listed next to your name. You should not have to re-authenticate when hopping from iTC to this page.

This helped me figure out which affected account was being referred to in the email and was able to update my info.

To update a direct deposit routing number, you need to hop into Agreements, Tax, and Banking. Click on the Bank Info > View button. You cannot edit the routing number in your existing Current Bank Account. Instead you need to Add Bank Account with the same details and the new routing number and then select that as your new account. Once you do it will take 24-48 hours for the change to go through and you will not be able to make further edits during that time.

MacBook Pros and External Displays

Today, I hooked a newly purchased display to my MBP. (Looks like they’re out of stock right now, but it was $80 for 24″ when I bought it last week.) This isn’t intended to be my display. It’s replacing an old 14″ monitor for a kid. I thought I’d just steal it now and then during the day. It’s extremely lightweight and easy to move between rooms.

What I didn’t expect was how awful the text looked on it. I hooked up the monitor to the MBP using my Apple TV HDMI cable. The text was unreadable. I use similar TV-style monitors for my main system and they display text just fine. However, I’m using normal display ports and cables for my mini. This is the first time I’ve gone HDMI direct.

So off to websearch I went. Sure enough this is a known longstanding problem that many people have dealt with before. The MBP sees the TV as a TV and not a monitor. It produces a YUV signal instead of the RGB signal that improves text crispness. Pictures look pretty, text looks bad.

All the searches lead to this ruby script. The script builds a display override file containing a vendor and product ID with 4:4:4 RGB color support. The trick lies in getting macOS to install, read, and use it properly. That’s because you can’t install the file directly to /System/Library/Displays/Contents/Resources/Overrides/ in modern macOS. Instead, you have to disable “rootless”.

I wasn’t really happy about going into recovery mode. Disabling system integrity protection feels like overkill for a simple display issue. But it  worked.  It really only took a few minutes to resolve once I convinced myself it was worth doing. If you have any warnings and cautions about installing custom display overrides, please let me know. It  feels like I did something morally wrong even if it did fix my problem.

My external display went from being unusable to merely imperfect. The text is still a bit blurry but you can read it without inducing a migraine. Not nearly as crisp as normal display ports (which looks fine when used with this monitor) but I don’t have to buy a new cable and I don’t plan to use this much.

If I were going to use this monitor regularly with the MBP, I’d definitely purchase a proper cable. As it is, I’m happy enough to have found a workable-ish solution. The monitor is quite nice especially in “shop mode”, and has so far worked well with Chromecast, AppleTV, and Wii.

Xcode Tricks: Adding Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the great things about Xcode is that you can add custom keyboard shortcuts for just about any command. Two favorites enable me to toggle playground markup on and off and to run a playground on demand.

Adding shortcuts lets me run these common tasks without lifting my hands from the keyboard and selecting items from a menu. It’s a big time saver.

You establish shortcuts using Xcode > Preferences > Key Bindings.  Search for the command-name using the field at the top-right, then double click in the key field and type the key (or key-chord) you want to use.

Click away from the field after entering your selection. Don’t press return or Xcode interprets that as your requested key entry.

A red exclamation point indicates binding conflicts:

Click the red icon to jump to the Conflicts tab, which lists all keybinding issues:

Red conflicts indicate unresolvable overlaps. Yellow conflicts mean that keyboard shortcuts established in System Preferences may override the built-in bindings.

Activate the edit field by double clicking. Either replace the key binding or click the small gray circle with a minus at the right to remove the assigned key. Once resolved, conflict items leave the list.

The Customized tab list all user-adjusted key bindings. This tab enables you to review your changes in one place.

This screenshot shows both the custom F8 binding for “Execute Playground” and the customization for “Step Out” on the debug menu, which normally uses F8. I removed that to resolve the overlap, preferring F8 for playgrounds.

To revert changes, select one or more items you’ve customized and click Delete. If you want to try this out, it’s safe. Deleting key binding customizations uses Xcode’s undo stack. You can undo your reversion to recover any customization you may have accidentally removed.

Swift Style vs ProseLint: The Smackdown

ProseLint is great. As I’m writing a book about style and linting, it’s natural to try to lint the book that lints your programming. In using this tool, I’ve encountered some amusing “lint fails” that I’d thought I’d share.

ProseLint vs Nil Coalescing: “hyperbolic.misc ‘`??`’ is hyperbolic.” Winner: Swift Style.

ProseLint vs discussion of Forced Unwwrapping: “leonard.exclamation.30ppm More than 30 ppm of exclamations. Keep them under control.” Winner: ProseLint. Any forced unwrapping, even in a discussion about forced unwrapping, is an obvious fail. Save the kittens, drop the !’s.

ProseLint vs Meaningful Variable Names: “typography.symbols.multiplication_symbol Use the multiplication symbol ×, not the letter x” Winner: Swift Style. As Freud said, sometimes an letter  “x”  is just a letter “x”. (Or was that Groucho Marx? I forget.)

ProseLint vs “Use American English Spelling” rule: “consistency.spelling Inconsistent spelling of ‘color’ (vs. ‘colour’)” Winner: Swift Style. When writing for a global audience, prefer “color” to “colour”. (See? I did it again. — B. Spears)

Winner? Forget the points. It’s ProseLint. This summary doesn’t include the great catches made and fixed, like excessive use of “very”, repeated word detection, etc. Great tool, check it out.

Apple TV, Home Sharing, and Missing Movies

I rented Hunt for the Wilderpeople last week, while it was the $0.99 featured rental. I’ve heard good things about this Kiwi movie (I’m a bit of a kiwiholic) and couldn’t wait to watch it.


So today, with a draft of Swift Style pushed up to Pragmatic, I thought I’d set it up for a nice family watch tonight. I opened the Computers > Rentals section on Apple TV and saw this:


I wasted about 20 minutes googling things like “why doesn’t my rental show up on my Apple TV” and checking my iTunes accounts and home sharing setup, when I suddenly remembered this had happened to me before.

With that spark of inspiration lingering in my mind, I went to iTunes on my computer (where I had rented it) and sure enough, it was still up in the cloud. I clicked the download button and got it down to my computer:


About 1.41 Gigabytes later (and several pause/resumes when the download speed got slow — seriously, at one point the ETA jumped from over 40 minutes to under 3), I returned to Apple TV and hopped into my home-sharing library.



So if you’re looking for a lost movie, or you can’t find your rental on Apple TV, make sure that if you rented it on your home computer, that you’ve downloaded it from the cloud before attempting to play it from ATV.

Programming Cozmo

Anki has been kind enough to let me play with their new Cozmo unit and explore their SDK. Cozmo is a wonderful device, developed by people who understand a lot of core principles about human interaction and engagement.

Cozmo is adorable. When it recognizes your face, it wriggles with happiness. It explores its environment. When it’s bored, it sets up a game to play with you. It can get “upset” and demand attention. It’s one of the most personable and delightful robots I’ve played with.

At its heart is a well-chosen collection of minimal elements. The unit can move around the room, with a 4-wheel/2-tread system. It includes an onboard forklift that can rise and fall, an OLED “face” that expresses emotion, and a camera system that ties into a computer vision system, which I believe is based on PIL, the Python Image Library. (Anki tells me that Cozmo’s vision system “does not use PIL or Python in any way, though the Python SDK interface uses PIL for decoding jpegs, drawing animations, etc.”)

Three lightweight blocks with easily-identified markings complete the Cozmo package, which Cozmo can tap, lift, stack, and roll.

Between its remarkable cuteness and its vision-based API, it’s a perfect system for introducing kids to programming. I was really excited to jump into the SDK and see how far I could push it.

Here is Anki’s “Hello World” code (more or less, I’ve tweaked it a little) from their first developer tutorial:

import sys
import cozmo

Hello Human
Make Cozmo say 'Hello Human' in this simple
Cozmo SDK example program.

def run(sdk_conn):
    robot = sdk_conn.wait_for_robot()
    robot.say_text("Hello Human").wait_for_completed()

if __name__ == '__main__':
    except cozmo.ConnectionError as err:
        sys.exit("Connection error 😬: %s" % err)

Although simple, this “Hello World” includes quite a lot of implementation details that can scare off young learners. For comparison, here’s the start of Apple’s tutorial on Swift “Learn to Code”:


There’s such a huge difference here. In Apple’s case, everything that Byte (the main character) does is limited to easy-to-understand, simple calls. The entire implementation is abstracted away, and all that’s left are instructions and very directed calls, which the student can put together, re-order, and explore with immediate feedback.

In Anki’s code, you’re presented with material that’s dealing with set-up, exceptions, asynchronous calls, and more. That is a huge amount of information to put in front of a learner, and to then say “ignore all of this”. Cozmo is underserved by this approach. Real life robots are always going to be a lot more fun to work with than on-screen animations. Cozmo deserved as simple a vocabulary as Byte. That difference set me on the road to create a proof of concept.

In this effort, I’ve tried to develop a more engaging system of interaction that better mirrors the way kids learn. By creating high level abstractions, I wanted to support the same kind of learning as “Learn to Code”. Learn to Code begins with procedural calls, and then conditional ones, and moving on to iteration and functional abstraction, and so forth.

My yardstick of success has been, “can my son use these building blocks to express goals and master basic procedural and conditional code?” (I haven’t gotten him up to iteration yet.) So far, so good, actually.  Here is what my updated “Hello World” looks like for Cozmo, after creating a more structured entry into robot control functionality:

from Cozmo import *

# run, cozmo, run
def actions(cozmoLink):
    '''Specify actions for cozmo to run.'''
    # Fetch robot
    coz = Cozmo.robot(cozmoLink)

    # Say something
    coz.say("Hello Human")


Not quite as clean as “Learn to Code” but I think it’s a vast improvement on the original. Calls now go through a central Cozmo class. I’ve chunked together common behavior and I’ve abstracted away most implementation details, which are not of immediate interest to a student learner.

Although I haven’t had the time to really take this as far as I want, my Cozmo system can now talk, drive, turn, and engage (a little) with light cubes. What follows is a slightly more involved example. Cozmo runs several actions in sequence, and then conditionally responds to an interaction:

from Cozmo import *
from Colors import *

# Run, Cozmo, run
def actions(cozmoLink):
    '''Specify actions for cozmo to run.'''
    # Fetch robot
    coz = Cozmo.robot(cozmoLink)

    # Say something

    # Drive a little = 3, direction = Direction.forward)
    # Turn
    coz.turn(degrees = 180)
    # Drive a little more = 3, direction = Direction.forward)

    # Light up a cube
    cube = coz.cube(0)
    # Tap it!
    coz.say("Tap it")    
    if cube.waitForTap():
        coz.say("You tapped it")
        coz.say("Why no tap?")


And here is a video showing Cozmo executing this code:

If you’d like to explore this a little further:

  • Here is a video showing the SDK feedback during that execution. You can see how the commands translate to base Cozmo directives.
  • I’ve left a bit of source code over at GitHub if you have a Cozmo or are just interested in my approach.

As you might expect, creating a usable student-focused learning system is time consuming and exhausting. On top of providing controlled functionality, what’s missing here is a lesson plan and a list of skills to master framed into “Let’s learn Python with Cozmo”. What’s here is just a sense of how that functionality might look when directed into more manageable chunks.

Given my time frame, I’ve focused more on “can this device be made student friendly” than producing an actual product. I believe my proof of concept shows that the right kind of engagement can support this kind of learning with this real-world robot.

The thing that appeals most to me about Cozmo from the start has been its rich computer vision capabilities. What I haven’t had a chance to really touch on yet is its high level features like “search for a cube”, “lift it and place it on another cube”, all of which are provided as building blocks in its existing API, and all of which are terrific touch points for a lesson plan.

I can easily see where I’d want to develop some new games with the robot, like lowering reaction time (it gets really hard under about three quarters of a second to tap that darn cube) and creating cube-to-cube sequences of light. I’d also love to discover whether I can extend detection to some leftovers my son brought home from our library’s 3D printer reject bin.

Cozmo does not offer a voice input SDK. It’s only real way to interact is through its cameras (and vision system) and through taps on its cubes. Even so, there’s a pretty rich basis to craft new ways to interact.

As for Anki’s built-ins, they’re quite rich. Cozmo can flip cubes, pull wheelies, and interact in a respectably rich range of physical and (via its face screen) emotional ways.

Even if you’re not programming the system, it’s a delightful toy. Add in the SDK though, and there’s a fantastic basis for learning.

Kid-fu: Pay for play

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 7.24.19 PMHow do you get your kid to try on all his shirts and pants before school starts? So you can sort them into trash, donate, wear, and “for playtime use only”? Answer: Playgrounds. Thank you playground team!

We used the “deal or no deal” rule. Two spins. You can “stick” or you can re-try, but no peeking at the next roll. Payment for each garment  after trying it on, taking it off and folding it. Coins placed into a cauldron (thank you Harry Potter camp) to be counted after we’re done. Any stained items treated with Oxyclean and thrown into the hamper.

For less than a couple of dollars, we got through his entire wardrobe with no complaints except “Don’t I have anything else that needs trying on?”

Source code follows: