Should He make an iPhone App?

A friend of mine wants to make an iPhone app for people in his field. He’s not a software developer so he needs some help. He works with the top people world-wide in his lucrative field, so he is in a good position to really find out what people want.

He asked me,

Have you had any experience with iphone apps? Do you think there is money to be made? Or is it a waste of time?

Here’s my answer:

Everything below is my opinion – ask another software guy and you’ll get another answer. However I am also a business guy…

Developing an iPhone app is a crap shoot. A few people hit it big. A few more earn enough for a good income. Some more people would have earned just as much money if they had spent their time waiting on tables instead of working on an iPhone app. And most people? If they account for their time they end up well behind. It’s like wanting to become a musician or an actor. A few people do exceedingly well, but chances are you’ll get very little income from it.

You need a good idea that fills a need in the market, you need to execute it well, you need to promote it well, and you need buckets of luck! Actually this applies to software in general.

Keeping the idea secret is a mistake. The idea itself is nothing. Anything you create for the iPhone can be easily copied by others. Whether they do that a few weeks after you release or in advance is immaterial.

The important thing is how you execute (keyword: iterate, key phrase: release early, release often) and how you market. In my opinion you should bounce this idea off anyone in your field who will listen. Then you can gauge the level of interest, get suggestions, make improvements on the idea. With your contacts and experience in your field, you have the opportunity to get killer feedback from your colleagues. Once you’ve got a unreleased beta version done, you can give it for free to everyone you know with an iPhone in your field to try it out and give you more feedback.

If you want to get started working on some ideas, I recommend using Balsamiq Mockups to sketch out how you might want the user interface to look and work. You can use it for free on the web (with nag screens that appear once every few minutes), and it has some good iPhone templates to work with. Work on some mockups, rework them, and then rework them a few times. Then after taking a break do some more rework.

My friend asked me not to disclose his idea, so I can’t tell you the field he works in.

Do any of you reading this have experience creating and selling iPhone apps? If so, do you have anything to add?

Cyberduck FTP and me

It seems I inadvertently contributed some source code to Cyberduck FTP browser for Mac OS X. I’ve never used it, but as my name is in the Cyberduck acknowledgements, I feel obliged through vanity to give it a plug. So try it. Tell me if it is good. It is open source and free.

I currently use Transmit for FTP, a product with which I am very happy. It is made by the excellent Mac software house, Panic. Unrelated: Did you see Panic’s blog article about the über-cool, totally stylish Panic status board?

Thanks, Joel

After 10 years of blogging, Joel Spolsky of Joel on Software fame has announced that his blogging days are, as of March 18th, over.

I learnt a great deal about software development and the software business from Joel’s blogging. I’ve also loved watching from the sidelines as Joel’s company, Fog Creek Software went from bootstrapped, faltering start-up to outstanding software development house. Thanks Joel, and good luck with whatever you do next.

Back when I ran an IT consulting firm in Melbourne, Australia, Joel’s book, User Interface Design for Programmers, was required reading. Although I suspect hardly anyone actually read it, and mostly the staff just mocked me behind my back for making them read books. But hey, that’s life as a boss in Australia, right?

Poker Copilot 2.34 Available

“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Some people were reporting that the HUD wasn’t updating properly on Poker Copilot 2.33, released yesterday.

I haughtily assumed that it was due to something unique to their combination of Mac, poker room, and version of OS X. Actually it was because of an error on my part. I didn’t catch it because I took shortcuts when running through my pre-release test procedure. My apologies.

Version 2.34 contains a bug fix which makes the HUD work properly again.

Update Instructions:

  1. Download version 2.34 here.
  2. Open the downloaded file.
  3. Drag the Poker Copilot icon to the Applications icon.
  4. If prompted to replace an existing version, confirm that you do want to replace.

Now you’re done and ready to hit the tables.

Is Poker Copilot’s Bankroll Chart Accurate?

Loyal Poker Copilot customer Jon noticed that his bankroll chart showed his winnings to be a couple of dollars less than they are, until he zoomed in.

Here’s my explanation:

The problem is caused by trying to plot, say, 100,000 data points (the number of hands played) onto a screen with a resolution of roughly 1000 horizontal pixels. Each actually charted point must represent roughly 100 data points (assuming no sub-pixel rendering). So the chart is plotted by sampling the data. Unfortunately this results in a loss of accuracy.

This is not just a problem for Poker Copilot, but for any charting software that must show more data points than the screen’s resolution can handle. The more volatility in the data, the greater the visual errors, until you zoom in. All the chart can do is show the general trend. In sampling, outlying points sometimes don’t get handled well.

As you continue to get more hands, you’ll find at certain times, the outliers will be shown, and at other times they won’t.

Knowing that many of my most supportive customers are also damn good at mathematics and statistics, I thought I would post this explanation publicly, in case there are any glaring errors in this explanation.

Poker Copilot 2.33 Available

Poker Copilot 2.33 is now available to download.

This release adds the ability to export your data and includes some bug fixes. It is not a critical update – so if you don’t want to update, you don’t need to!

What’s changed:

  • Added “Export…” to the File menu. This allows you to export your data either as hand history files or as tabular data in CSV format.
  • Added support for French-only Ongame Network tables.
  • Added support for (Poker Stars Italian version) step tournaments.
  • Made tournament buyin filter default to all, rather than unknown. This should prevent some support headaches!

What’s fixed:

  • Poker Copilot now correctly imports Full Tilt hand history files that are obtained by request from Full Tilt beta.
  • In the “Recent Hands” view, right-clicking and selecting “View Hand History Text” was sometimes bringing up the wrong hand history.

Update Instructions:

  1. Download version 2.33 here.
  2. Open the downloaded file.
  3. Drag the Poker Copilot icon to the Applications icon.
  4. If prompted to replace an existing version, confirm that you do want to replace.

Now you’re done and ready to hit the tables.

What’s next?

As I promised in early February, I’m currently working on an All-in EV chart. All things going well, it should be included in the next update.

The Poker Copilot full documentation is nearing completion (right, Derk? 🙂 ). There is some good stuff in it, including an excellent starting guide to using the HUD for improving your pre-flop and post-flop play.

Poker Copilot 25% Off for 1 Week

The friendly people at MacUpdate promo talked me into keeping Poker Copilot 2 on special for a week. If you missed the 50% discount yesterday, you can still buy Poker Copilot 2 at 25% off. That’s USD$44.96.

The offer is valid until the end of next Saturday (20th March, 2010). If you’ve been wanting to get some good poker tracking software for Mac but you are reluctant to pay full price, this is your chance.