Breakpoints Recap WWDC 2014

There was no WWDC ticket for me this year, but it was still a very enjoyable and busy week for James Dempsey and the Breakpoints. Here are some of the highlights from last week in San Francisco.

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NeXTEVNT Cartoon Art Museum Fundraiser

In its third year, this fundraiser celebrates the heritage and history of NeXT, featuring black hardware as well as OPENSTEP and NeXTSTEP running in virtual machines. Even more fascinating is meeting up with folks who lived and breathed this platform from its early days—building apps with the frameworks that would evolve into Cocoa and Cocoa Touch.

As part of the evening’s entertainment, we played a short set of songs in support of the Cartoon Art Museum. If you are a fan of any sort of comics, cartoons, animations and the like, check it out next time you are in San Francisco. If you couldn’t attend the event during WWDC, you can still donate or join as a member.

 

LIVE near WWDC 2014

We had a great time on Wednesday night at 50 Mason Social House. The house was packed as Breakpoints from six different cities in five different time zones across two continents took to the stage to perform a show chock-full of Cocoa-inspired songs.

The evening served up an acoustic guitar sampler with a flight of Breakpoint guitarists—Nathan Eror (@neror) of Martian Craft, Jonathan Penn (@jonathanpenn) of Cocoa Manifest, and Ben Scheirman (@subdigital) of NSScreencast.

The show marked the debut of The Breakpoint Horns with Sam Davies (@iwantmyrealname) of Shinobi Controls on trombone and Daniel Pasco (@dlpasco) of Black Pixel on trumpet playing on Modelin’ Man.

(Any tenor sax players out there for next year? Please let me know.)

The talented Mr. Pasco also played electric guitar on that modern tale of momentary loss and redemption, Almost Dropped My iPhone. Conditional Breakpoint Uli ‘Object Alloc’ Kusterer (@uliwitness) of Elgato joined in with The Liki Song chorus. And of course, slide-advance keyboard legend Victor Alexander (@victoralexander) was on hand to keep that space bar hoppin’.

Thank you to all of the Breakpoints and also a big thanks to: Luke Scholefield (@lukescholefield), Adam Tow (@atow) and Rae and for taking photos and video; Daniel Steinberg () for recording sound off the board; and James White (@thecolourfool) for running the merch table.

(For more fantastic photos of the show—check out Adam Tow’s photo journal.)

Finally, an enormous thanks to everyone who came out to the show — your support is what keeps this going.  We had a great time this year and hope you all did too!

 

A Look Back at Alt Conf

On Friday, I presented A Look Back—the closing session for Alt Conf 2014.  With the surprise announcement of Swift earlier in the week, the talk took a look back to the beginning of the Objective-C era at Apple, tracing how technologies of that time have evolved into the environment we use today.  To accompany this look back, the talk also featured the first public preview of tracks from the soon-to-be-released James Dempsey and the Breakpoints album.

James Dempsey at podium with blurred hands applauding

James wraps up AltConf 2014 with ‘A Look Back’
Photo by Daniel Doubrovkine (@dblockdotorg)

Thank You

The technology announcements of WWDC 2014 will have repercussions for us as iOS and Mac developers for many years to come.

Beyond learning about new technologies, the week gives us a chance to gather together and talk, to share ideas, some laughs and perhaps one too many drinks.

Thank you so very much to everyone who came out to see the talk and performances. Your support and feedback is greatly appreciated and means a lot to me—it was fantastic to meet so many folks this year.

With WWDC 2014 now in the past, it is time to turn my attention to finishing up the album and getting it out into the world.  Someone we are all familiar with said “Real artists ship” and that is my next order of business. •

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Close Enough To Taste It

This week I reached a milestone that means a great deal to me.

On Tuesday, I finished recording the final lead vocal for the long-awaited James Dempsey and the Breakpoints album.

There is still work to be done—some backing tracks to record, final mixing and mastering of each song—but all the lead vocal and core instrumental recording is now complete.

This album is the realization of a dream fourteen years in the making.

As you might imagine, all of this has me on a sort of euphoric emotional tilt, bouncing from joy to gratitude to relief to excitement and even fear.

Joy

There’s a real sense of joy towards the end of a long journey when the destination is finally in sight. An exuberant psychic “Land Ho!” rings out through your entire being.

This journey began with writing that very first song fourteen years ago.  I had always hoped to get the chance to record my material and record it well. It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to take the time to produce a fully realized version of each song.

Listening to the rough mixes, I am incredibly happy with the results!  I usually reserve my exclamation points for tweets and exhortations, but wow!  I am absolutely beaming! I can’t wait to get these tracks out into the world!

Gratitude

I am very grateful to everyone who lent their time and talents to the album. Having the privilege of working with some wildly talented musicians on this effort has been humbling—as has been witnessing them add their own magic to the songs I’ve written.

A dozen or so musicians have contributed to the album. Among them are three who perform on the lion’s share of the tracks: Gordie Freedman (@modenaboy) on guitar, Darren Minifie (@minofifa) on bass and our producer Russell Bond (@russell_bond) doing all sorts of percussion and drums.

Hearing the tracks, it’s often the little things that make me smile the most—a guitar riff from Gordie, a subtle bit of bass from Darren, a drum fill laid in by Russell.  For a sampling, you can check out their handiwork on our single, Almost Dropped My iPhone, but just wait until you hear what they’ve done on the rest of the album!

Relief

This milestone also brings with it a sigh of relief—there were a few times when it felt like this project might stop dead in its tracks.

When we first went into the studio back in early 2012, I was very excited to have found a great studio and a great recording engineer and producer: The Annex Studios and Russell Bond. Both already had a long and storied past with Apple and the Mac. (Read more about them here)

Big honkin’ console in Studio A at The Annex Studio

Big honkin’ console in Studio A at The Annex Studios
Photo by Adam Tow

Three months into recording, the studio building’s owner dealt a harsh blow.  The building was sold and The Annex Studios had thirty days to vacate the premises.  After a nearly 40-year history, the beautiful space where we were working on the album was suddenly no more.

Our first single, The Liki Song, was the last thing recorded at The Annex Studios before it was dismantled.

This derailed progress on the album, but much more disheartening was watching our friend Russell go through this major upheaval in business and life. And now, a big part of the relief I feel is knowing that he emerged from that tumultuous time with his well-being intact.

As for the album, after a hiatus, we resumed recording at HowlingPoint Studios, high up in the Santa Cruz mountains.  This is Russell’s in-home studio, a much more intimate space. Gone is the giant mixing console, but now Julius the studio cat keeps us company while we make our music.

I know that I won’t breath that last sigh of relief until the album is up on iTunes, but this week I’m feeling great.

Julius the Studio Cat, an orange tabby

Julius the studio cat, listening to the meow mix.

Excitement and Fear

It’s an understatement to say that this week I’ve been experiencing a lot of excitement and a healthy dose of fear.

This time of year always gets my adrenaline pumping—anticipating the barrage of WWDC announcements, prepping for the big show on Wednesday night (details here), looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.

And now, knowing how close we are getting to release throws all of that into overdrive.  I’m so excited by how it is progressing, it’s hard to contain myself!

But there’s also that fear.  Over the years I’ve written a bunch of code and now I’ve written and recorded a bunch of songs.  What I’ve never done before is promote an album.

My fear is that I will not succeed in getting the word out to the wide world of iOS and Mac developers who might enjoy the fun of this album.  I am very open to thoughts, suggestions or any opportunities to spread the message.  Feel free to tweet them at me or, better yet, email me at info@jamesdempsey.net.

And, of course, when the album is released, if you enjoy it, please don’t keep it to yourself. Let other developers in on the fun.

Almost a Wrap

If you’ve enjoyed these songs in the past, I ask that you please join our mailing list so we can let you know when we cross that finish line and the album is released. I’m really looking forward to getting these songs out into the world, and I think you’re going to enjoy how this all turns out. •

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March of the Breakpoints — ‘Goto Fail’, Chicago, DC

March was a busy month for James Dempsey and the Breakpoints, with a brand new song and video (ripped from the headlines!) and Breakpoint Jams at CocoaConf Chicago and Washington DC.

Goto Fail

Goto Fail is inspired by actual code, the code that caused a big security issue in iOS and OS X earlier this year.  Not that Apple has a monopoly on SSL issues in 2014 — The recent Heartbleed Bug only drives home the last verse in the song:

Don’t think your own code is some bug-free oasis,
It’s probably screwed up in a couple of places.

With Jonathan Penn (@jonathanpenn) of Rubber City Wizards on guitar, here’s the video of a live version of Goto Fail:


Chicago Breakpoint Jam

Chicago has been the home of a few firsts for James Dempsey and the Breakpoints — the inaugural Breakpoint Jam in 2013 and the debut of a new song “Goto Fail” in 2014.

Not since Murph and the Magictones has a Chicagoland Holiday Inn rocked so hard.

Joining in on the jam in Chicago were a number of familiar faces:


Washington DC Breakpoint Jam

The spring tour rolled on to Washington DC, where we played our set, managing to avoid the world-famous DC gridlock and partisan bickering.

Most of the Chicago crew was also in DC, with Jonathan Penn on guitar and Daniel Steinberg on slide-advance keyboard.

Keynote speaker Mark Dalrymple (@borkware) of Big Nerd Ranch sat in on Modelin’ Man, bringing a trombone solo to the blues tune for the very first time in its long history.


More to Come…

The next Breakpoint Jam will be at CocoaConf San Jose on April 25th.

Also save the date for ‘Live near WWDC 2104’ on Wednesday, June 4th, details to follow!

If you’re a fan, sign up to get email updates.  The next month or two will have some announcements you will not want to miss!

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Breakpoint Jam Atlanta—Virtual Fireworks and iPhone Slide Guitar

The fall tour of the Breakpoint Jam wrapped up at CocoaConf Atlanta with some memorable moments including some iPhone slide guitar and a newly-minted Breakpoint.

Amidst bursts of virtual fireworks, Daniel Steinberg (@dimsumthinking) of Dim Sum Thinking was formally inducted into the Breakpoints.

Daniel joins the fabled group after his stellar performances on slide-advance keyboard as a Conditional Breakpoint during jams across the country this past year.  Congratulations Daniel, thank you and welcome!

Brandon Alexander (@balexander) of Black Pixel brought along his electric guitar and his Mesa Boogie to amp up the jam more than the usual acoustic performance.

The ever-versatile Jonathan Penn (@jonathanpenn) of Rubber City Wizards played guitar, sang backing vocals and played percussion on the cajón—all in his trademark rockstar glasses.

Also sitting in was Conditional Breakpoint Rusty Zarse (@levous) of LeVous and the Atlanta iOS Developers group.  On The Liki Song, Rusty improvised a slide guitar, with his electric in his lap and the edge of his iPhone as the slide. Never have laser-chamfered edges sounded so good!

The performance in Atlanta was the final Breakpoint Jam for the year. We had a lot of fun and would like to thank everyone for the support.  The jams will continue in the new year—we hope to see you at one! •

We are planning Breakpoint Jams at CocoaConf in Chicago, Washington DC, San Jose and Raleigh. Come join the fun and check out the early-bird pricing.

In the meantime, sign up for our newsletter to find out about live shows and music releases. Or show your support with a download from iTunes.

A jar of Breakpoint Jam

Some Sweet Atlanta Jam

Breakpoint Jam Boston — Fall Tour Continues

On an October evening conveniently situated between World Series games, the fall Breakpoint Jam tour continued at CocoaConf Boston.

James Dempsey sings while Daniel Pasco, Ben Scheirman and Jonathan Penn play guitar for the Breakpoint Jam at CocoaConf Boston 2013

The Breakpoints were out in full force for this jam playing a set of James Dempsey and the Breakpoints songs for the crowd:

The evening was also a reunion of old friends with composer Tony Angeles dropping by to sing backing vocals as a Conditional Breakpoint. James and Tony sang together at Penn.

The fall tour rolls on to its last jam of the season this Friday night at CocoaConf Atlanta.

Thanks for all the support so far—we’ve been having fun and hope you have been too! •

In the meantime, sign up for our newsletter to find out about live shows and music releases. Or show your support with a download from iTunes.

A jar of Breakpoint Jam

A bit of Breakpoint Jam

Important Points for Developers from Fall Apple Events

Chart showing iPhone CPU performance—with a large delta between the new iPhone 5s and the still-supported iPhone 4.Some of the most important points for developers to consider from the recent iPhone and iPad launch events are circled on these charts.

The charts show that the new A7 chip provides a significant boost in CPU and GPU performance.

But the charts show something else—the widest range in performance across supported devices of any iOS release, ever.

Chart showing iPhone GPU performance—with a large delta between the new iPhone 5s and the still-supported iPhone 4.

That giant difference in performance means it is more important than ever to test on lower-end hardware, to ensure the performance of your app is acceptable on older devices.

For iPhone apps, that means testing on an iPhone 4.  Recent analytics data from Localytics pegs global iPhone 4 share at 20.2% of all iPhones—a significant number of active users. If you don’t already have one for testing, you can pick up a used iPhone 4 on eBay with prices in the $150 – $200 range.
Chart showing iPad CPU performance—with a large delta between the new iPad Air and the still-supported iPad 2.

For iPad apps, there are two varieties of low-end config— those with and without Retina displays.

The iPad 2 and original iPad mini both use the A5 chip and have non-Retina screen resolution. Both are also still part of the current iPad lineup, making it all the more important to make sure your app performs well on these devices.

The second variety is the iPad (3rd Generation). As the first iPad with a Retina display, this model provides the baseline of performance for Retina display iPads.

Localytics data from last year shows the 3rd Gen iPad with 31% share when it was discontinued. That equates to millions of units still in the hands of customers.   If you need one for testing, used models are currently available on eBay for about $300 – $400.

Chart showing iPad GPU performance—with a large delta between the new iPad Air and the still-supported iPad 2.With such a large spread in performance among devices that support iOS 7, testing on the lower end of the performance spectrum has never been more important. •

The iOS Device Summary organizes devices by processor, screen size and supported OS version.

The charts in this article are from Apple Special Events, September 2013 and October 2013.

Updated iOS Device Summary with iPad Air and new iPad mini

I’ve updated my iOS Device Summary to include the newly-announced iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display.

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

Chart depicting iOS devices by screen size, processor and supported OS version, including newly introduced iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina DisplayCheck out the iOS Device Summary page to learn more and download PDFs of the summary.

Breakpoint Jam Columbus — Fall Tour Begins

The fall Breakpoint Jam tour kicked off last week at CocoaConf Columbus.

A mix of full and conditional breakpoints joined in to play a set of James Dempsey and the Breakpoints songs for the crowd.

Jonathan Penn (@jonathanpenn) of Rubber City Wizards was inducted as a full Breakpoint following his stellar performance at the Live Near WWDC 2013 show in June.  In Columbus, he donned some shades and jammed on guitar and backing vocals.

The jam also included a few Conditional Breakpoints—folks who jam in the pickup band when they happen to be in town.

Nathan Sjoquist (@nathansjoquist) was on hand, taking a break from iOS development for some guitar and backing vocals.

And finally, on the all-important slide-advance keyboard was keynote speaker extraordinaire, Daniel Steinberg (@dimsumthinking) of Dim Sum Thinking.

The Breakpoint Jam fall tour rolls on to CocoaConf Boston later this month and then CocoaConf Atlanta in November.

Thanks for all the support in Columbus!  And if we’re coming to a town near you, I hope you can join us in Boston and Atlanta!

In the meantime, sign up for our newsletter to find out about live shows and music releases. Or show your support with a download from iTunes.

A jar of Breakpoint Jam

A bit of Breakpoint Jam

Updated iOS Device Summary with iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C

I’ve updated my iOS Device Summary to include the newly-announced iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C.

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

Chart depicting iOS devices by screen size, processor and supported OS version, including newly introduced iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C

Check out the iOS Device Summary page to learn more and download PDFs of the summary.

iOS Device Summary: iOS 7 Update

I’ve updated my iOS Device Summary for iOS 7 with the 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.

A few things to note:
  • The 4th generation iPod touch will not support iOS 7.  This is the first iOS device not to support at least one major OS version beyond the version installed when the device was sold
  • At $229, the newly introduced 16 GB, 5th generation iPod touch is now the most affordable device that supports iOS 7
  • All iPad models that supported iOS 6 will support iOS 7

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

Check out the iOS Device Summary page to learn more and download PDFs of the summary.