An Eclectic Breakpoint Jam in Columbus

The 2014 Fall Tour kicked off at CocoaConf Columbus with the most eclectic collection of instruments ever assembled for a Breakpoint Jam.

It was a night for newcomers to the Breakpoint Jam.

Every breakpoint in the house was conditional except for veteran Breakpoint Daniel Steinberg (@dimsumthinking) of Dim Sum Thinking. Daniel, fresh from the latest revision of his new book, A Swift Kickstart, delivered a fantastic keynote before working his slide-advance magic.

Eric Knapp (@ejknapp) of Madison College introduced the crowd to the Chapman Stick playing a solo song before giving familiar James Dempsey and the Breakpoints songs a new twist.

A jar of Breakpoint Jam

Have you tried the Breakpoint Jam?

CocoaConf mainstay Will LaFrance (@wjlafrance) made his debut as a Conditional Breakpoint on classical guitar.

Reprising his initial performance in Washington DC last March, Mark Dalrymple (@borkware) of Big Nerd Ranch showcased his talents on trombone on Modelin’ Man and vocals on The Liki Song.

Josh Smith (@kognate), co-author of the recently-released Build iOS Games with SpriteKit, arrived at the conference in the midst of transporting a xylophone across state lines, giving Josh a chance to join in the jam as well.

Thanks to everyone in Columbus, we had a great time and hope you did as well!

The Fall Tour continues in at CocoaConf Las Vegas in September, where James Dempsey and the Breakpoints will make their Vegas debut! •

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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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WWDC After Dark

When James Dempsey and the Breakpoints play live near WWDC, sometimes things progress beyond the sweet sounds of nerdy, nerdy music.

Last year, a new event appeared on the conference schedule—WWDC After Dark. A little investigation turned up some interesting results, which, judging from the audience response, the crowd thoroughly enjoyed.

As we get ready for this year’s big show on Wednesday night, June 4th (Full Show Details Here), here’s a little bit of fun from last year’s concert.

With announcer Victor Alexander (@victoralexander) and Daniel Pasco (@dlpasco) on guitar, please enjoy WWDC After Dark. •

Come out to Live near WWDC 2014 on Wed, June 4th at 7 PM!
Bring your friends, we’d love to see you!

View Full Show Details and Map Here

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James Dempsey and the Breakpoints, LIVE near WWDC 2014, Wed 6/4!

James Dempsey and the Breakpoints will be performing Live Near WWDC 2014 on Wednesday, June 4th at 7:00 PM.

The show is just a few blocks from Moscone West at 50 Mason Social House. Admission is free—no cover charge and no ticket required. We provide the music, you buy the drinks.

Join fellow iOS and Mac developers for an evening of humorous and informative songs including favorites such as Hold Me, Use Me, Release MeI Love View and Model View Controller.  And don’t miss the live performance of our latest song, ripped from the headlines, Goto Fail.
(View Full Show Details and Map Here)

Night Of A Thousand Breakpoints
(Well… at least four or five)

This year, the show features a lineup of Mac and iOS indie developer luminaries and maybe even a special guest or two. The Breakpoints include:

They will be joined by the incomparable Victor Alexander (@victoralexander) on slide-advance keyboard.

Stage and lounge at 50 Mason

The joint will be jumpin’ at 50 Mason

No WWDC Ticket Required

The show is open to all—no WWDC ticket required—making it a great event for all developers in town for the week.  There’s not even an NDA, so tell your friends and come on out to James Dempsey and the Breakpoints, Live Near WWDC 2014. •

View Full Show Details and Map Here

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Logo for 50 Mason Social House
50 Mason Social House
50 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 433-5050

Life Without WWDC

In some ways, the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) has not changed very much since the first one I attended in 1996.  The format is essentially the same. The conference kicks off with a keynote followed by a week of technical sessions, labs and evening events.

But the last few years have brought a major change that has caused me to reshape how I think about WWDC, and unfortunately, how to live without it.

James Dempsey with hands and face pressed up against door to Moscone West, unable to get into WWDC.Since the inception of WWDC, if you were a dedicated developer for Apple platforms, you were at the conference.  And, up until 2011, if you considered attending WWDC to be a must-have part of being an Apple developer, you had at least a week to get a ticket.  If you were reasonably vigilant, you were in.

But in recent years, with the demand for tickets far outstripping supply, you can’t think about WWDC as a must-have part of your life as an Apple developer.  By necessity, you have to think about going to WWDC as a nice-to-have. That is a big change.

Once something changes from being dependably available to rarely available, you begin to form alternate plans and take alternate paths.

Not whining—just reality

First, I want to be clear that this is not a complaint.  I think it’s fantastic that there is so much interest in the platforms that I enjoy using to build apps.  But a new reality has arrived and so I needed to adjust.

Last year, I spent WWDC week in San Francisco without a ticket. I had an enjoyable and productive time last year and so I’ll be up in the city again this time around as well.

So how has a long-time DubDub-er been dealing with being outside the building? Read on…

Beyond WWDC

One key was thinking about what WWDC provides and figure out how to meet those needs in some other way. For me, that boiled down to:

  • Sessions
  • Labs
  • Social Events / Networking

Sessions
I find sessions to be a very valuable part of WWDC.  Especially for a new technology or API, that session often provides not just technical information, but also some insight into the philosophy behind the technology, which does not always make its way into formal documentation.

Last year, Apple did an amazing job of posting session videos the same day of the presentation.  I hope this year to be the same.

In fact, watching session videos at home or in a hotel room is arguably a better experience than waiting in long lines and sitting in tightly-packed conference chairs.  Last year, for instance, instead of getting up early Monday morning and standing in a giant line for the keynote, I slept in and watched the keynote from my hotel room.

Plus, I didn’t feel guilty that I was somehow ‘wasting’ my ticket by not being in the building.

So, for sessions, I am completely at peace with not being at WWDC.  Apple has done a great job of making the technical information from the conference rapidly available.

Labs
Labs have always been one of the most valuable aspects of WWDC.  They provide developers with sit-down consultations with Apple employees. There are three types of labs: Technology Labs, the User Interface Design Lab, and the App Store Lab.

In the Technology Labs, you can bring your code and talk one-on-one to Apple engineers (often the very engineers working on the technology you are asking about).

Unlike session presentations, labs do not scale well.  There are only so many engineers and most of the year they are doing engineering, not manning labs.

As a substitute for Technology Labs, consider using Tech Support Incidents.  You receive two as part of the yearly $99 developer program fee—additional incidents are available for about $50 each.

With a Tech Support Incident, you can ask a code-level question that is answered by a Developer Technical Support (DTS) engineer.  I’ve talked with folks who have used the service and they report good results overall.  One caveat is to not expect an immediate answer, researching and replying to your issue can take a few days.

Using DTS is not an exact substitute for sitting down face-to-face with an Apple engineer, but it is a reasonable and more scalable substitute.  (You also don’t have to wait until WWDC to ask your question.)

As far as I can tell, however, there is currently no substitute for the User Interface Design Lab or the App Store Lab. These resources seem to be exclusive to WWDC.

In my first year as an independent developer, sitting down with someone at the App Store Lab clarified a number of things for me. I found that brief interaction to be very valuable.

It might help developers to have the ability to get these sorts of consultations done outside of the scope of WWDC.  I would be willing to pay for support in a manner similar to DTS to get these additional services during the year.  At present, though, you need to make do without these two labs.

Social Events / Networking
Apple sponsors its own WWDC events such as Stump the Experts, the Apple Design Awards and the Bash—but there have always been a myriad of outside parties and events during the week.  With so many developers converging on San Francisco without a WWDC ticket, it seems that number has grown in the past few years.

Last year, I found that there were plenty of events and parties that did not require a WWDC ticket, and this year seems to be shaping up the same way.

During the day, AltConf is a free conference with speakers all week, right near WWDC itself.  Last year it was a great place to see some live sessions, meet up with folks and hang out in their lab.  In past years, some local developers have also opened their offices up as gathering places during the week.

The evenings are filled with enough events and parties that there is at least one app and one website for tracking them.

My personal favorite event during the week is, of course, the James Dempsey and the Breakpoints show.  For the last two years, we’ve had a lot of fun playing a free, full concert of iOS and Mac development tunes to packed houses.

PLUG: This year, on Wednesday night during the conference, James Dempsey and the Breakpoints will be Live near WWDC 2014.  Sign up for email updates for forthcoming details about the show, new songs and recordings.

From a social perspective, there is a lot going on WWDC week that does not require a ticket.  Last year, I definitely felt my need to network and talk with others was very fully met.

Wrap up

Being prepared for life without WWDC is the new reality.  Both Apple and the development community have provided resources to make a WWDC week an enjoyable and productive time to be in San Francisco, even without a ticket.

I’m looking forward to being up in the city for the week. If you come to town with or without a ticket, please say hello if you see me and come on out to the show! •

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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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