Final Fantasy VII on the AppleTV (kinda)

With the recent increase in the maximum size for tvOS apps, I have new hope that Square Enix will bring their iOS port of Final Fantasy VII to tvOS. While I wait for it, there is a not so horrible way to play the greatest video game of all time on your AppleTV right now.

The iOS app supports MFi game controllers, so if you connect a good wireless controller1 and hide the on-screen controls2 you end up with a setup that is pretty similar to the original PlayStation version of the game running on your iPad. From there, simply mirror your iPad’s3 screen to the AppleTV and you are back in 1997, albeit with a much larger TV.


While this method ends up working pretty good, it is still fiddly enough to make me want a native version on the AppleTV. In the meantime, I can just play the re-release4 on the PlayStation 4.

  1. I use and recommend the SteelSeries Nimbus↩︎

  2. Unfortunately there are some new system controls in the iOS version of the game that enable cheat modes that you can’t get rid of. ↩︎

  3. This method works with an iPhone too, but it is much better on an iPad. The iPad has the same aspect ratio as the original game, so when you mirror it to a widescreen TV, there are just black bars on the side.

    An iPhone has a wider screen than the iPad, so the game fills in some ugly banners on the sides of the game content that get mirrored to the TV. Yuck. ↩︎

  4. Not to be confused with the remake↩︎


tvOS app binary size raised to 4 GB

Apple Developer Relations:

The size limit of a tvOS app bundle has increased from 200 MB to 4 GB, so you can include more media in your submission and provide a complete, rich user experience upon installation. Also, tvOS apps can use On-Demand Resources to host up to 20 GB of additional content on the App Store.

This could be a big deal for games on the AppleTV. Developers had to really work to get games working at the old 200 MB limit; and since the AppleTV gaming market was so small, most simply didn’t bother.

With this change, some of the more in-depth1 iOS games can be brought over to the AppleTV much more easily, so I hope this serves as a catalyst to get more good iOS games ported to tvOS. I am really hoping for Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX.

Also, having up to 20 GB of On-Demand Resources almost puts tvOS games in the same playing field as AAA games on PS4 and Xbox One (in terms of size). This should lead to better games.

However, I am a little worried that this will end up being too little, too late. When tvOS launched, gaming was held back mainly by two policy decisions: the 200 MB binary limit and the inability by developers to require a game controller for a game2. Both of those policies have been fixed, but I’m not sure that it will matter at this point.

The best case scenario that I can think of would be for Apple to release new AppleTV hardware with an A10 chip this March at the supposed iPad event and to release an Apple-branded game controller with it. Bonus points if the game controller is included in the purchase.

Apple turned iOS into a large gaming ecosystem seemingly by accident. That same success won’t happen on tvOS: it will require investment from Apple. In the last six months, they have removed some hurdles and roadblocks. I hope that signals more to come soon.


I don’t think that there is anything to this, but it is interesting that this news dropped on the same night as the Nintendo Switch keynote.

  1. i.e. large. ↩︎

  2. They could support game controllers, but the games also had to work with the standard tvOS remote. The tvOS remote leaves a lot to be desired as a game controller. ↩︎


'Why would Apple release a 10.5" iPad?'

Dan Provost for Studio Neat:

The resolution of the 12.9” iPad Pro, but the form factor of the 9.7” iPad Pro.

This is my dream iPad. Scratch that; this is my dream computer.

Also, can it have 3D Touch?


'How we mapped the world’s weirdest streets'

The Transit team:

With millions of commuters relying on our app to improve their trips, it’s our job to get access to the highest quality transit data available.

Up until now, we’ve had a pretty standard operating procedure whenever we launch a new city:

First, partner with a local transit agency. Second, acquire their open data. Third, compress the hell out of that data. Fourth, adapt the design of the app to that specific market. And finally, we release it—relaying all that info to users in the fastest, most intuitive way possible.

Local transit agencies are our best friends. By opening their data, agencies empower us to create a better rider experience in almost one hundred cities.

But what do you do in a city where there isn’t an agency to work with? What do you do when there’s no data to access?

How do you optimize a transit system when it doesn’t technically exist?

Transit is an app that maps and schedules public transit data, typically from a regulated and structured data source like local transit agencies.

The story of how they are using that same approach to provide transit data to the Kenyan city of Nairobi (where no centralized/regulars transit system exists) is fascinating from a social, technical, and human level.

It is cool seeing how smart people are building apps to tackle real (and difficult) problems in the world.


The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence

Tim Urban for Wait But Why:

I was poking through and cleaning out my Safari Reading List and came across an article that had been sitting in the backlog for a over a year. It turned out to be most of the most fascinating things I have ever read.

It is a two-part article that covers the road to achieving real (i.e. human level) artificial intelligence and what happens when (not if, if the article is to believed) we get there.

There are parts of the article that are worth quoting, but I will limit myself to one1:

What we do know is that humans’ utter dominance on this Earth suggests a clear rule: with intelligence comes power. Which means an ASI2, when we create it, will be the most powerful being in the history of life on Earth, and all living things, including humans, will be entirely at its whim—and this might happen in the next few decades.

If our meager brains were able to invent wifi, then something 100 or 1,000 or 1 billion times smarter than we are should have no problem controlling the positioning of each and every atom in the world in any way it likes, at any time—everything we consider magic, every power we imagine a supreme God to have will be as mundane an activity for the ASI as flipping on a light switch is for us. Creating the technology to reverse human aging, curing disease and hunger and even mortality, reprogramming the weather to protect the future of life on Earth—all suddenly possible. Also possible is the immediate end of all life on Earth. As far as we’re concerned, if an ASI comes to being, there is now an omnipotent God on Earth—and the all-important question for us is:

Will it be a nice God?


If you enjoy that article, Wait But Why has another one about the Fermi Paradox that is an interesting read as well. I think this is a site that I am going to keep a closer eye on.

  1. Calling it an “omnipotent God on Earth” is a bit over the top for my tastes, but the point is interesting nonetheless. ↩︎

  2. Artificial Super Intelligence. ↩︎


An Open Letter To The American Church

Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot):

Oh American church — I am you. The son of a pastor: born on the west coast, raised on the east. I wrestle with the faith of my fathers — MLK, Bonhoeffer, Kierkegaard, St. Paul, Abraham. We are born from a history of glory and shame. From the cross to the inquisition, from slavery to civil rights. Yes, this church of triumph and failure is my family: awkward, beautiful, and fatally flawed. I have no stones to throw — after all, I’m only human, and I get it wrong more than most.

So let me start with a confession: I have sinned and fallen short. I confess I am prone to failure. My heart is inherently pulled by the base desires of pride, lust, violence, and greed. I confess that the gospel I’ve inherited does not belong to me or to America. But rather we — we the people, we human souls — we belong to this gospel of peace.

I confess that we have grown cold. That we have lost sight of our True Love. And together we have forgotten the cross: the self-sacrificial love of the One who calls us to go and do likewise. Oh, American Church! I am you and you are me. And together we have grown judgmental, folding our hands and closing our doors. Have we forgotten that we were once the ones on the outside looking in? Have we forgotten that our salvation is a gift given to us, that we are but jolly beggars at the door of the Gift-Giver himself?

Via Chase Kovach.


Disneyland for Ish’s Family

My friend Ish’s wife was recently diagnosed with cancer. Some great people set up a GoFundMe to send them and their three kids to Disneyland. They had already surpassed the original $2000 goal needed to send them on the trip by the time I even saw the fund. All of the money past what is needed for the Disney trip is going to be used to support the family as his wife goes through her treatment.

I donated to help them tonight. You should too.


In addition to donating, other ways to support him is to buy a copy of his iMessage sticker app Stamp Pack (or its companion iOS app). It is one of my favorite sticker packs.


Apple Death Star Wallpaper

I felt the itch to get a new Desktop background on my Mac, so I was looking around the default images that come in macOS and saw the really nice image of the Earth and Moon from space.

Star Wars was on my mind, so I was thinking how cool that picture would look with the Death Star instead of the moon. Five minutes later, Stdrovia delivered.


Full resolution versions are available for download below. The iOS versions should look good in the still or perspective mode1.

Download Links: Mac, iPhone, iPad.

Enjoy!

  1. The iOS versions are way bigger than they have to be. This serves two purposes: it works better for perspective mode and future-proofs them a bit. ↩︎


StickerBook 1.0.2

StickerBook 1.0.2 is out on the App Store today.

New Features

  • You can now add Stickers from the system clipboard (copy and paste).
  • You can now rotate the image on the Add Sticker page.

Enhancements

  • You have more control when placing the image inside a Sticker on the Add Sticker page.
  • The Add Sticker page now has a reset button to reposition the image back to its initial placement.

Bug Fixes

  • Fixed a bug where the wrong sticker could be deleted when deleting multiple stickers in a row (sorry about that!).
  • The StickerBook Action Extension now only shows up in the Action Sheet of others apps when an image is available.
  • The StickerBook Action Extension cancel button is always visible.

Tiny Wings

If you hang around my corner of the internet, there is no doubt that you have already seen the news that Tiny Wings was updated for the first time in over two years today. As Tiny Wings is my second favorite iOS game of all time1, I could not let this update pass by without mentioning it.

The update added support for the larger resolution of the 4.7” and 5.5” iPhones and added some new levels.

However, the big thing that the developer Andreas Illiger released was an Apple TV version. The game looks beautiful at 65”. The simple controls are perfect for the Apple TV remote2.

All three version of the game (iPhone, iPad, & Apple TV) stay in sync using iCloud, so you can jump back and forth from device to device and pick up where you left off.

It is available on the App Store now (iPhone, iPad, & Apple TV3). Just try to not waste as many hours playing it as I have.

  1. Carcassonne holds the top spot for me. The comparison is not completely fair since Carcassonne is a board game, but it is what it is. If the list only consisted of iOS originals, then Tiny Wings would easily be #1. ↩︎

  2. Curiously, the game was listed as requiring an external game controller for me (i.e. not the Apple TV remote), but the remote worked fine. ↩︎

  3. Linking to Apple TV apps still is horrible. Just search for it on the Apple TV App Store. ↩︎


The Weekly Review

Chris Bowler recently returned from a break to continue writing his weekly newsletter, The Weekly Review.

He describes it on his sign up page better than I can:

What’s in this digital ball of goodness? It features at least one full length article from yours truly, along with various choice links to content I’ve enjoyed, my fave tweets of the week, plus a review or two (software, books, beer & coffee). Witty commentary included. It’s a value added newsletter, see?

What do I read and write about? Things that I hope will make me a better person, better at what I do with my time. Creativity, faith, and making the most of the gifts I’ve been given. How to be disciplined, how to grow in Christ. If those types of things are of interest to you, I think we’ll get on just fine!

His newsletter has been my favorite thing to read on the internet each week since I subscribed a year ago. He recently took a few weeks off to refocus, and it has been even better since the break.

The weekly article used to mainly focus on work productivity, but he now shares ways to grow more into a deeper relationship with Christ in today’s new digital world.

Most of my online reading centers around people complaining about Apple, so having a weekly break to read about something that actually matters on the internet is both helpful and refreshing.


In addition to the main article, the links and (especially) the tweets that he shares are always worth a read.

The last section that is included every week is a review of something. More times than not, this is a review of either coffee or craft beer. Since he is in Canada, the drinks he talks about are usually not available to me here in Oklahoma; as someone who enjoys good coffee and beer a bit too much, I do enjoy reading about someone else’s experience with them.

The topics that Chris covers in The Weekly Review align closely with my interests, but it is the quality of his writing that keeps me reading every week. You should go sign up here and give it a shot. I don’t think you will be disappointed.


'The new MacBook Pro is kind of great for hackers'

Adam Geitgey:

But in some ways, the new MacBook Pro is the most techy and expandable laptop Apple has ever made. They are trusting their pro users to wade into murky USB-C waters in search of the holy grail of a universal, open standard for moving data and power between devices.

I’m not here to change your mind about the MacBook Pro. Yes, it’s probably too expensive and more RAM is better than less RAM. But everyone posting complaints without actually using a MBP for a few weeks is missing out on all the clever things you can do because it is built on USB-C. Over the past week or two with a new MacBook Pro (15in, 2.9ghz, TouchBar), I’ve been constantly surprised with how USB-C makes new things possible. It’s a kind of a hacker’s dream.

This argument about the future of the Mac being all USB-C1 is really compelling to me, but there is still an elephant in the corner of the room: iOS and its proprietary Lightning port.

The idea of having a single port that all of my peripherals can use to connect to my computer loses a bit of luster when I have to have either carry another cable or an adaptor to attach those same peripherals to my iPhone or iPad2.

John Gruber a few months ago on the possibility of iPhones switching from Lightning to USB-C:

Second, even if Apple wanted to switch to a standard port, they wouldn’t switch to USB-C — it’s significantly thicker than Lightning. Josh Flowers made some excellent renderings in March showing just how much thicker USB-C is than Lightning. That’s the end of the story, right there, if you assume that Apple wants to keep making iPhones thinner and thinner. (And if you don’t assume that, you are wrong.)

Unfortunately, I think that Gruber is right here. I am generally on board with Apple doing whatever is needed to keep making their devices thinner, but this time I don’t think it is worth the price.

USB-C on the MacBook Pro is going to be great, but every time I use it I will be reminded how much better my USB-C experience would be if I used a Google Pixel instead of an iPhone.

  1. Er, Thunderbolt 3↩︎

  2. Having USB-C on the iOS devices would make the price of all those dongles you have to buy a little easier to swallow. ↩︎


StickerBook 1.0.1

StickerBook 1.0.1 is out today.

New Features

  • You can now rearrange and delete stickers from the iMessage app.

Enhancements

  • The app display name is now StickerBook (was previously Sticker Book).
  • The Help page now has sharing links and release notes (accessed through the iOS app).

Bug Fixes

  • Fixed a crash in the iMessage app when collapsing to the compact view.

Pick it up on the App Store.


'Who Can Be A Dancer?'

Tiffany Arment:

How do I responsibly raise a young white boy in today’s world of dangerously heightened white supremacy? How do I teach him to be self-confident and empowered by his choices, but still show him he isn’t the center of the universe, without creating a core of self-doubt?

I want him to learn equality, not entitlement; understanding, not overconfidence.

This is something I have been thinking about a lot recently in regards to raising my son. I may be crazy for thinking this, but I am really excited about that part of parenting.

Teaching a young boy who does not have any prior prejudices about the equality of all people seems like a lot of fun to me.

My favorite part of her post was that she said it has to start with her and husband. They can teach him by simply modeling that belief if their daily lives.


Introducing StickerBook

StickerBook is an iMessage sticker app that turns any image from your iPhone or iPad into a sticker. You can add images from your camera, photo library, document provider, and share extension. After selecting an image, you can crop it and fit it to one of many shapes included in the app.

You should go take a look at the product page or buy it from the App Store.


In no particular order, here are a few tidbits of information and technical details about the app.

  • Unlike most Sticker apps, StickerBook also includes a standard iOS app1. The main reason that I included the main app was so that I could also include a share extension to easily turn photos from other apps into stickers.

    Another benefit to having an app was that I was able to link to a tutorial video covering how to use stickers put together by MacRumors. Right after iOS 10 came out, many sticker apps were getting back reviews because people would buy them from the App Store but then not be able to find them because they did not show up on the main Springboard. I’m not sure this is too much of a problem at this point, but having a regular app will help alleviate the problem if it is.

    The only negative to including a normal app is that an app cannot be in the App Store Stickers category unless it only includes an iMessage app.

    After weighting the costs and benefits, the tutorial and share extension seemed more beneficial long term than simply being in the Stickers category. This way, I also have the flexibility to add in more extensions later.

  • The entire thing is written in Swift 3.0.12. The only third party dependency in the app is MMWormhole, which is used to keep the sticker list in the main app and the iMessage app in sync if both are open. MMWormhole is added to the project using Carthage.

  • I got to use my favorite picture of Oliver in the icon. This is probably my favorite thing about StickerBook.

  • Both the app and the iMessage app use the new design language that Apple introduced in Music, News, and Home in iOS 10. Since them, it has also been used in their new TV app due next month.

    I expanded on their design by adding some color instead of the flat white that Apple typically uses3.

    My favorite little detail of this design is the main header on the sticker list page4. If you scroll down past the top on the scroll view, the header stays in place at the top of the screen. If you scroll up, the header slides off the top with the rest of the content while a blur view fades in to made sure the status bar is not obscured by the content under it. This is all implemented using a custom UICollectionViewFlowLayout.


If you do pick up StickerBook, please let me know what you think.

  1. Most sticker apps only include the iMessage app. ↩︎

  2. Because it is 2016. ↩︎

  3. The Home app uses this style with a photo in the background, so even Apple has broke away from just using white in this design. ↩︎

  4. The behavior here is inspired by the header in the iOS 10 version of Apple News. ↩︎