Five Years LIVE near WWDC

As WWDC season rolls around once again, I did the math in my head, on paper, and finally counted on my fingers to convince myself that this year is the Fifth Annual James Dempsey and the Breakpoints LIVE near WWDC show.

This year, we’ve teamed up with WWDCGirls to combine their annual Happy Hour fundraising event with our concert to create an evening of mingling and music, all to benefit App Camp For Girls.

The show is at The Mezzanine again this year, one of the city’s finest venues for live music, plus close to Moscone West.

For full details please visit the event page.

The past five years have really flown by. In the midst of the rehearsals and preparations for this year’s show, I find myself taking a few moments looking back.

Starting in 2001, I wrote one song a year and performed it on stage during a WWDC session. Each song topic needed to fit in with the theme of the session in some way:

I set out from Apple soon after WWDC 2011. My final song performed at the conference was The Accessibility Song, encouraging developers to ‘share your app with the whole human race’. This song was particularly meaningful to me, since I worked on AppKit accessibility for a half a decade.

After all that time of playing an annual single-song gig, I wondered if folks might be interested in a longer show. We organized the first LIVE near WWDC show in 2012, put the word out, and hoped people would show up. We were thrilled to see the venue fill up with an enthusiastic audience that first year—we’ve been playing live near WWDC ever since.

James Dempsey and Darren Minifie standing in front of The Liki Song poster, outside of John Colins bar in San Francisco

James and Darren Minifie (guitar, bass) outside the first LIVE near WWDC show in 2012.

Thank You
I wanted to thank everyone that has made these shows possible through the years. A true debt of gratitude to the Breakpoints and Conditional Breakpoints who make the songs come alive with their amazing musicianship. A great appreciation of the amazing sponsors who make these events possible. And of course a thank you that goes beyond words to everyone who has come out and supported us as enthusiastic members of the audience.

Thanks to you all, and I hope to see you at the show on June 15th! •

James Dempsey and The Breakpoints, LIVE near WWDC
A WWDCGirls benefit for App Camp For Girls
presented by Capital One
Wednesday, June 15th, 7:00 – 11:00.
Event information and tickets

Can’t make the show but still want to support App Camp For Girls?
Click the Make A Donation button in the Buy Tickets section of the event page.

tvOS and watchOS Device Summary: April Edition

After updating the popular iOS Device Summary in March, it seemed the beginning of April would be a good time to introduce summaries for devices running the most recently introduced Apple operating systems: tvOS and watchOS.

I hope you find these as useful as I have. •

Chart depicting tvOS devices by screen size, processor and supported OS version

Chart depicting watchOS devices by screen size, processor and supported OS version

iOS Device Summary: March 2016 Updates

I’ve updated my iOS Device Summary with hardware announced at the Apple event on March 21, 2016.

Check out the iOS Device Summary page for more info about the idea behind the summary as well as PDF downloads—including optimized files for printing.

A few notes on the newly introduced hardware:

The introduction of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro means even more users will be putting the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard through its paces. Even if your app is not a drawing or text-centric, you might consider having at least one size of iPad Pro with these accessories for development and testing.

The iPhone SE brings paris a well-established iOS screen resolution with a faster processor. From a testing perspective, apps that perform well on previous 4-inch devices should perform even better on the new hardware.

Only the display of the 9.7-inch iPad Pro has the new True Tone feature.

The Night Shift feature introduced in iOS 9.3 is available to devices using at least an A7 chip—every device on the 64-bit side of the divide on the summary chart.

I hope you find this version of the chart helpful. •

Chart depicting iOS devices by screen size, processor and supported OS version


iOS Device Summary: Fall 2015 Updates

I’ve updated my iOS Device Summary with hardware announced at the Apple event on September 9, 2015. This edition drops iOS 5 and A4-based devices to make way for iOS 9 and the A9 and A9X.

(This update has taken a little while—I’ve been busy helping to build a new cloud computer at Upthere.  I’m excited to say that we launched yesterday. I encourage you to learn more and join the beta at

Check out the iOS Device Summary page for more info about the idea behind the summary as well as PDF downloads—including optimized files for printing.

The biggest news this fall is the iPad Pro, which introduces the largest iOS screen size ever, but also two new Apple accessories that may be important to test your app with: the Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard. On the other new devices, iPhone and iPad screen resolutions remain the same and get faster processors. From a testing perspective, things that perform well on last year’s models should perform even better on the new hardware.

It is also interesting to note that all of the devices that can run iOS 6 are on the 32-bit side of the processor divide.

I hope you find this version of the chart helpful. •

Chart depicting iOS devices by screen size, processor and supported OS version

Apple Home Page Tabs History—September 2015 Edition

The year 2015 has been a busy one in Apple Home Page Tab history.

It’s been over a decade since there have been this many changes to Apple home page tabs in a single year.

Image of Apple home page tabs

Click for full-sized image

The only other time Apple home page tabs changed three times in a calendar year was back in 2003.

All three of the home page tab changes that year revolved around the introduction of the iTunes Music Store. The Switch tab for the Mac Switcher ad campaign changed to Music with the introduction of iTMS in April 2003. This lasted five months when iTunes replaced Music. This lasted only a month when the tab became iPod + iTunes.

There were no visual style changes to the tabs in 2003, just repeated content changes to that single tab as Apple adjusted how it presented its new foray into digital music to the world.

The changes of 2003 came full circle this past June, when the iTunes and iPod tabs combined to become a Music tab with the introduction of the new Apple Music service—but even bigger changes were right around the corner.

August 2015: Store to Shopping Bag

In August 2015, a redesigned combined the shopping experience of with the product information found on the main Apple site.

With the online store no longer a standalone site, the venerable Store tab—a fixture in the Apple home page tab lineup since the very beginning—had outlived its usefulness.

The Apple home page Bag icon containing a blue dot to show it has contents

Shopping Bag is the first tab to show state.

For its entire tenure, the Store tab was the constant companion of the Apple tab, its steady commerce-oriented neighbor to the right.

The new Shopping Bag tab is the logical successor to the Store tab, but it is not its replacement in either location or behavior. 1

The Apple and Shopping Bag tabs are now the first and last items serving as bookends for the rest of the home page tabs.

In terms of behavior, clicking the Shopping Bag tab displays a menu of shopping-related choices, similar to the ‘shopping cart’ on most e-commerce sites.  It is the first Apple home page tab to indicate state, showing a blue dot if the user has items in their bag. 2

A New, Responsive Design

The updated also included visual and functional changes site-wide and to the tab bar in particular.

The tab bar became translucent black with underlying page content visible beneath, a refinement to the visual style introduced in September 2014. 3

The updated website design is also responsive, with the tab bar changing appearance based on page width. For a width 768 and above, the tab bar shows all of its tabs.

The Apple home page tab bar adjusted for narrow width shows a menu button to access other tabs, a centered Apple item, and the Bag item on the right.

The responsive design hides most tabs and adds a menu tab when viewed at narrow widths.

For narrower widths, only three items are visible. The Apple tab appears in the center. The Shopping Bag tab is on the right edge.  A new menu tab is on the left edge. All other tabs are presented as menu items displayed by clicking or tapping this new tab.

In the narrow layout there are other minor changes—the tab bar becomes slightly taller and the Apple and Shopping Bag icons slightly larger.

September 2015: TV no longer a hobby

In September 2015, Apple announced the fourth generation Apple TV with Siri Remote and a tvOS SDK for developers to create apps for the new device. Along with that announcement, a new TV tab was added.

This tab was a long time coming. Apple TV was first announced under its code name iTV nine years prior, in the fall of 2006. For many years, Apple referred to Apple TV as a ‘hobby’, indicating that it was not a core product such as Mac or iPhone. History indicates that hobbies do not warrant a tab on the Apple home page.

So, with the announcement of the new Apple TV and the addition of the TV tab, it seems TV is no longer a hobby for Apple. •

Since the last update, I’ve been cited as the ‘unofficial Apple home page tabs historian’ in articles at The Loop and Six Colors.  Here are a few past articles on this topic that you might enjoy:

The name Bag was the label Apple originally used in the tab’s web accessibility ‘aria-label’ tag. As of September 29, 2015, this appears to have changed to Shopping Bag

Some earlier tab bar designs would indicate selection state, darkening to indicate which section of the site you were visiting. The shopping bag is the first tab that carries state or status independent of selection.

The images used in the A Brief History of Apple Home Page Tabs graphic are screen captures of the tab bar over a white background


iOS Device Summary: A8 iPod Touch Update

I’ve updated my iOS Device Summary with the newly announced iPod touch.

You can check out the iOS Device Summary page for more info about the summary plus PDF downloads—including optimized files for printing.

For developers, the iPod touch has been a useful, relatively inexpensive compact device for testing. The previous model was released almost four years ago and sits at the very low end of devices that support iOS 8 and iOS 9.  The new sixth generation iPod touch is a welcome addition as a more affordable testing device with a recent 64-bit processor.  Like previous generations, the new iPod touch has a 4-inch display, so an iPhone is still needed for on-device testing of larger screen resolutions.

It is interesting to note that every iOS device that Apple currently sells, except the iPhone 5c, has a 64-bit processor.

This also means that if you need to acquire older models for testing iOS 8 and iOS 9, you will need to turn to refurbished or used devices.

I hope you find this version of the chart helpful. •

Chart depicting iOS devices by screen size, processor and supported OS version

iOS Device Summary: iOS 9 Update

I’ve updated my iOS Device Summary with the iOS 9 info Apple has publicly posted.

Check out the iOS Device Summary page for the rationale behind the summary plus PDF downloads—including optimized files for printing.

Some things to note from WWDC announcements and Apple product lineup changes:

All devices that support iOS 8 will also support iOS 9.

Apps are currently required to support both 32-bit and 64-bit processors. With iOS 9, the App Store will also accept apps that are 64-bit only. This allows developers to limit deployment of an app to more recent devices with faster CPUs and GPUs. The device summary now has a line showing where 32-bit ends and 64-bit begins.

Finally, devices for testing:

  • At $199, the 16 GB, 5th generation iPod touch is still the most affordable compact iOS 9 device
  • At $299, the 16 GB, WiFi iPad mini 2 is now the most affordable iOS 9 iPad
  • As of 6/19/15, the original iPad mini is discontinued—try used and refurbished devices for low-end iPad testing.

I hope you find this version of the chart helpful. •

Chart depicting iOS devices by screen size, processor and supported OS version

Apple Home Page Tabs History — June 2015 Edition

Last fall, I posted A Brief History of Apple Home Page Tabs which showed a visual history of each change in the tabs on the home page since they were introduced in January 2001. That post also called out some of the major changes and common themes in both interface style and products over the years.

On June 8th, 2015, about 9 months after the previous change, the Apple home page tabs have changed again.

Image of Apple Home Page Tabs

Click for the full-sized image.

With the introduction of the Apple Music service, the iPod and iTunes tabs have been replaced with a single Music tab.

The Apple home page has had iTunes and iPod in a tab for almost twelve years.  The iTunes tab first appeared in September 2003 with iPod being added for a combined iPod + iTunes tab the very next month in October 2003.

They shared a tab together for close to a decade before being broken out into separate tabs in March 2010, where they have remained until being combined into a single Music tab last week.

Music tab on the Apple home page is not entirely new, nor is the term Apple Music.  A Music tab first appeared at the introduction of the iTunes Music Store on April 28, 2003.*  In addition, posters commemorating the launch listed the site address

That tab lasted until September 2003, when it changed to an iTunes tab.  Time will tell if the Music tab and the Apple Music brand hang in there longer this time around. •

Poster of Gibson ES-335 electric guitar with in upper right corner of poster.

Poster of the original from 2003.

I used the Internet Wayback Machine to help track these changes down. If I’ve missed any changes, please feel free to let me know!

*The original post listed the addition of the original Music tab in May 2003, which is the earliest archive I found in the Internet Wayback Machine.  However, this change almost certainly went live on the day the iTunes Music Store was introduced on April 28th, 2003. 

Where I’ll be at WWDC 2015

I’ll be doing a few things next week at WWDC and wanted to pass along my schedule. Hope to see you at one or more of these happenings!

Monday: NeXTEVNT Fundraiser for the Cartoon Art Museum

I’ll be doing a short set of James Dempsey and the Breakpoints songs at this fundraising event at the Cartoon Art Museum.

This event has been a lot of fun each year, always with great speakers and plenty of time to meet and mingle with very interesting folks. If you are a fan of comics, cartoons, or animation — or have an interest in where the technology we use every day comes from — this is a great event for a great cause.

I highly encourage you to check out the details and come to the event.

NeXTEVNT Fundraiser for the Cartoon Art Museum
Monday, June 8th, 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Wednesday: LIVE near WWDC 2015 (aka The Big Show!)

Logo for James Dempsey and the Breakpoints, LIVE near WWDC 2015
Our LIVE near WWDC show is the biggest James Dempsey and the Breakpoints performance of the year — and this year’s show is our biggest ever.  Thanks to our fabulous sponsors, we’re at a bigger venue and the drinks are on us!

The event is free, but registration is required.  We are handling admission the way AltConf does.  Registration does not guarantee admission.  For general admission registrations, we will fill the venue on a first come, first admitted basis.

You can read all of the details and register for the event here.

James Dempsey and the Breakpoints, LIVE near WWDC presented by Capital One
Wednesday, June 10th, Doors open at 7:30 PM, show starts at 8:00 PM. Event goes until 10:30 PM

Friday: Closing session at AltConf 2015

AltConf Logo
I’ll be closing out the week at AltConf 2015 again this year with an easy-going look back at the announcements of WWDC 2015 and their possible implications in a session entitled So, That Just Happened.

This session is a talk about the week in review and not a set of James Dempsey and the Breakpoints songs.

However, there may also be a bit involving a ukulele.

AltConf 2015, June 8 – June 12, 2015
Closing Session, Friday, June 12th, 3:15 PM, Theater 15

A Busy WWDC 2015 Week

It will be a busy WWDC week as we walk around with our heads swimming trying to soak in all of the new announcements.

I hope you can make it out to one or more of these events!  And if you do, please say hello! •

NSConference 7: A Look Back

Last fall, I received an email that read, “I would like to invite you to be a speaker at NSConference 7”.

In the invitation email, conference organizer Steve ‘Scotty’ Scott (@macdevnet) described his intent for the conference:

“At NSConference I want the speakers to be with the attendees all the time. I want you to be at the sessions, I want you to be at the meals, I want you to be at the events. I want you to mix, eat, drink and chat with as many attendees as possible.”

“What I require most in an NSConference speaker is enthusiasm and a love of being with the OS X and iOS developer community. Right now I am not looking to pick talk topics, as it’s all about people first.”

I accepted the invitation immediately.

All About People First

In his opening remarks, Scotty expressed the same intent in a different fashion. He said that the speakers and topics were, of course, important, but the real heart of NSConf was creating an environment where members of the developer community could interact.

Leicester Athena

Leicester Athena
Photo by NotFromUtrecht via Wikimedia Commons

The format at NSConf was unlike other conferences I have attended. Each segment began with a 30-minute talk followed by two 10 or 15-minute blitz-talks, followed by a 30-minute break. This approach packed three topics plus plenty of time to talk with fellow attendees into a 90-minute block.

The venue was the Leicester Athena, a gorgeous 1930s art deco theater re-styled to host events. The seating was at round tables, giving folks a chance to talk with one another. There was a massive stage with great lighting and sound (and yes, a full bar on stage too). It is truly a beautiful venue, well-suited to Scotty’s goals for the event.

The days were filled with speakers giving talks, conversations with attendees and lots of coffee and tea. In the evenings, good food and more conversation. The first night was the banquet, each table set with a candelabra, with wine and a meal served at your table. The second night was the party, with a buffet meal and mingling.

It was after folks had a chance to be fed at the party that we launched into our Breakpoint Jam.

Breakpoint Jam: NSConf Edition

The idea behind a Breakpoint Jam is that the band is made up of whoever happens to be in town for a conference. Folks practice up some James Dempsey and the Breakpoints songs on their own before arriving, we do a quick rehearsal the day of the show, and then we perform.

I find the most stress-inducing shows are when all the musicians are new to the Breakpoint Jam — this was one of those performances.

It takes a leap of faith to get on a plane in San Francisco and fly over 5,000 miles to England, knowing you will be performing for a theater full of people with musicians you have never performed with, rehearsed with, or in some cases even met before.

Kevin Cupp on guitar, James Dempsey on vocals, Jonathan Fox on drums and S ‘Scotty’ Scott on bass at the Breakpoint Jam during NSConference 7

Kevin Cupp, James Dempsey, Jonathan Fox and Steve ‘Scotty’ Scott kick off the NSConf 7 Breakpoint Jam
Photo by Cathy Shive

That leap of faith was rewarded by musicians that pulled it all together amazingly well in the rehearsal time allotted.

Guitarist and iOS developer Kevin Cupp (@kevincupp) did perhaps the best walk-on guitar part in Breakpoint Jam history, having learned every nuance from the rehearsal tracks I had sent.

Longtime NeXT and Apple indie developer John Fox (@djembe) added a full drum kit to a Breakpoint Jam for the first time, skillfully playing the varying musical styles from the driving beat of Goto Fail to the Hawaiian breeze-inspired Liki Song.

Rounding out the core trio of Conditional Breakpoints for the evening was NSConf’s own Scotty on bass. (It is no coincidence that Scotty was positioned closest to the on-stage bar.)

For The Liki Song, backup singers arrived in the form of Laura Savino (@savinola) and Ruotger Deecke (@roddi) making their Breakpoint Jam debut, and Uli Kusterer (@uliwitness) whose bass voice is perfect for the ‘object alloc’ chant beneath the choruses.

And, on the ever-important slide-advance keyboard, the incomparable Daniel Steinberg (@dimsumthinking).

Kevin Cupp playing guitar, James Dempsey singing and playing ukulele, Jonathan Fox playing drums, Laura Savino, Ruotger Deecke and Uli Kusterer singing, Steve ‘Scotty’ Scott playing bass.

Left to Right: Kevin Cupp, James Dempsey, Jonathan Fox, Laura Savino, Ruotger Deecke, Uli Kusterer, Steve ‘Scotty’ Scott.
Image by Marius Ciocanel

It was tremendous fun to play on that big stage, in that beautiful theater, complete with lighting effects (and a fog machine, I think). The show was only possible because of all of those who joined in the jam—a big thank you to them for lending their talents to the show. And of course, a giant thank you to everyone the audience, it was a privilege to play for you all.

The Future: A Look Back

Scotty had stated that this year’s NSConference would be the last. When I looked at the schedule, I saw that Scotty had chosen my session The Future: A Look Back to be the last talk of the last day of the last NSConf.

The talk took a look back to the Apple/NeXT merger and the history of some of the technologies that we use today. After the talk, some old-timers told me that they enjoyed the walk down memory lane, while some more recent arrivals to iOS and OS X development commented they appreciated hearing some backstory on the technologies they are using today.

James Dempsey Presenting ‘The Future: A Look Back’ at NSConf 7

The Future: A Look Back at NSConf 7
Photo by Raphael Sebbe

Scotty had also announced that, although this was the final NSConf, he hoped to do another event in the future that took the best of NSConf, but proceeded in a different way — different enough that calling it ‘NSConf’ would be misnomer.

With that in mind, I closed my talk as follows:

“As we wind down to the last session of the last NSConf, I’d remind you that in this developer world of ours, nothing is ever truly gone. Specific implementations come and go, particular instances are created and released, but the underlying themes stick around. That’s true whether we are talking about technologies, or the community of people that use them to create magnificent things.”

Almost Like Being There

Being at NSConf was a fantastic experience — I learned a lot and had the chance to meet and get to know people I would likely not have met otherwise.

I’m very grateful to Scotty for inviting me and to the entire conference team for doing a fantastic job and for treating the attendees and speakers very well. NSConf had an easy-going feel, but everything hit its mark. It takes a great team to make it look that easy.

The next best thing to being there would be watching the amazing talks. And as of last week they are available to everyone on the NSConf 7 channel on Vimeo. I encourage you to check out all the talks, including my talk The Future: A Look Back, which I’ve included below. •

NSConference 7 was held March 16-18, 2015 in Leicester, UK.