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DEVELOPMENT BLOG
(most recent listed first)

September 23rd, 2010 - by Chad
After a long wait, the actual review from Apple went smooth and quick. Caught me by surprise on a busy day, so the new website wasn't all put together. A few quick notes: The pencil is gone, replaced by our new "ring tool", which allows you to grab it from any direction and never blocks out the drawing beneath it. I've been using it for several months and it is much better than the pencil, you can turn your iPhone in any direction to draw at just the angle you want. I sometimes miss the quick flip to the eraser, so there is a chance the pencil/eraser behavior will return as an option in the future.

Also, I watched a lot of people accidentally tap on the pencil or the image, so single taps are gone (for now). Double tapping on the ring tool brings up the tool options (pen size and color), while double tapping on the image/page will cause a zoom. If you are not zoomed to 1:1 (1 pixel in the image is being shown by 1 pixel on the screen), double tapping will take you to this native scale. If you are at the native 1:1 scale, double tapping will zoom in to 3:1 (1 pixel in the image is being shown as 3x3 pixels on the screen). Much more info coming tomorrow!


September 1st, 2010 - by Chad
It is almost frightening how close we are to submitting this upgrade to Apple. I've been using it for so long now that I have to keep reminding myself that all of our users are still drawing in black and white, always on the same sized canvas and that they can't import images or photos! All of that will hopefully change at some point in the next week. We did drop a handful of smaller features at the last minute because it felt like it would balloon into another month of work. These dropped features are all essentially cosmetic and do not affect what you can do or draw; things like: zoom bouncing (when you zoom all the way out), zooming back out to the thumbnail when closing, better sliders for luminosity and transparency (the current ones work, but are not clear enough when you reach the maximum or minimum values). The two very useful features that got dropped are the color history palette and the expanded undos/redos; these are both part of the new drawing engine but we just didn't get the user interface done and it was getting a little complex. These features will all get fixed in the next upgrade which will not take anywhere near as long. The 1.5 upgrade will focus on supporting the iPad and Retina Display screen resolutions without many other major features. I want to get it out in November (probably along with Apple's release of iOS 4.2).


August 10th, 2010 - by Chad
The fates are against us! We were unfortunately forced to move our office on short notice a couple months ago, which gave us a lot of extra work and a lot of distractions. Releasing this upgrade has turned into some kind of epic quest! There are only two main items to fix now. Since we built our own scrolling engine (Apple's either used too much memory or was too lazy about loading content), we still have to add the "bouncing" behavior when scrolling to the edge of the image and also to zooming when the image fills the screen. I'm working on it full time and hope to have it working by tomorrow, and finish debugging by the end of the week. I guess we're also missing scroll indicators (those gray bars that show where you are on the page), but I might let that go until the next upgrade (Apple's Photos app doesn't show them, so we might get away with it for a bit).


March 2nd, 2010 - by Chad
We've frozen the feature list for the 1.4 upgrade. We've got about a week (hopefully) to finish up coding and then about another week of testing and creating new sample images, documentation and doing general clean up. I haven't made the final call yet on doing an open beta test; I'm leaning toward a private test just to keep it fast (an open beta is a little slower and a lot more work, but more thorough). Although this upgrade doesn't yet support the iPad directly, we've kept it in mind during every stage of this re-write and we plan to turn around the iPad upgrade (version 1.5) very quickly once we have actual hardware to test on. May not be many other new features in 1.5 aside from iPad support.


January 29th, 2010 - by Chad
The iPhone runs a version of OS X and has many many similarities to the OS X that runs a MacBook or an iMac or a MacPro. But there are some differences. A big difference is the way memory is handled. On a Mac, when you open a huge file (like an HD movie) it may slow the computer down, but the computer finds a way to handle it. The iPhone just can't handle files over a certain size (an app would have to figure out a way to only open one little piece of the file at a time). More memory has been made available on the latest devices (like the iPhone 3gs), but we don't want to turn our backs on users of the original iPhone just yet!

Moving from a black & white image to a color image instantly triples (or quadruples) the memory needed to hold the image. As we've tried to add color and support for different image/page sizes, we've hit memory problems again and again. Most other drawing apps on the iPhone are either path based (they only save the path of your finger, not the actual pixels) or they are only using images the same size as the screen. No.2 is intended to be a real paint program that will let you do detailed retouching of photos as well as freehand sketching and drawing. We don't want to limit you to working on screen sized photos only, we want you to be able to load hi-res photos from the web or other cameras and edit at the pixel level. The precision and ease of scrolling/zooming are what make No.2 unique and we want to offer that for all image editing.

So, it is almost a year late. That is absolutely ridiculous and embarrassing. It is the most I've ever missed a release date in ten years of software development (if you exclude projects that were cancelled and never finished!). I spoke with some Apple engineers late last year about the memory issues and got several possible solutions which I've been experimenting with and testing. It has been a slow process of finding ways to avoid multiple copies of images (to handle undo, zooming, etc.), and ways to load smaller portions of the image efficiently. Just doing it isn't hard, but doing it fast so that the app remains responsive and smooth is a bit more difficult.

I held off this past month to see how the iPad would effect the development process, and now that is known and the color upgrade can race ahead. My personal goal is to get 1.4 (with color) RELEASED before the iPad ships (in about 2 months). Hopefully more new features will follow shortly after.

If you want to read my thoughts about the new iPad, head over to the miniMusic Blog.


March 29th, 2009 - by Chad
Whew! The 1.3 upgrade for No.2 has finally made it onto the App Store after submitting it to Apple in February. This hopefully marks the end of the Dark Ages for Lint Labs and we can move forward (the Renaissance came after the dark ages, right?).

During our great wait for the bug fixes in No.2, Apple introduced some of the features coming in the iPhone 3.0 upgrade. While we can't tell you about any features that haven't been announced publicly, I can comment on some of the features they showed off at the intro event. One of the big ones was copy and paste. This is probably the most significant new capability for No.2 as you will suddenly be able to move graphics and drawings into and out of No.2 much more easily. How will this work in No.2? First, the camera button (which now exports to the Photos app) will be replaced with an action button; when you tap it a list of actions will pop-up including "copy drawing". We have yet to see how well this works for large files in terms of memory usage, but we will look at some options if there is a problem (like auto trimming white space).

The other way to do copy and paste will be a new "knife" tool that can replace the pencil tool. Just as easily and accurately as you can draw in No.2 you will be able to make an arbitrary selection to cut or copy. The "cut" section will then float above the drawing for placement. This knife tool is on our master plan for version 1.5 or 1.6 hopefully due shortly after the iPhone 3.0 launch this Summer.

Another cool new feature shown for 3.0 was "in app email". This means instead of exporting to the Photos app, quitting No.2, launching Photos, finding the drawing, and finally exporting it to the Email app as an attachmnet (yikes!) you will soon be able to send a drawing in an email directly from No.2. This will also be in that new action menu, as described above. As you can see, we have a number of features planned out as part of our original design for No.2 that just haven't been possible yet. The 3.0 upgrade will open some cool doors!


February 16th, 2009 - by Chad
It has been a rough few months. We've been tracking a bug for a while now where No.2 would quit unexpectedly after a short bit of use. Since we could not recreate the error on any of our test devices, it was very difficult to determine the cause. We finally saw the error ourselves and noticed some odd things about it: it seemed to happen after about 20 seconds from launching No.2; it happened even if the user didn't touch the screen at all (launch No.2 and do nothing); and it seemed to ignore what drawing you are in when you quit. This narrowed down the possible causes quite a bit, and we have now isolated the error as corrupt preferences (where No.2 stores info about current book and drawing). This was especially tricky since users cannot directly observe preference files for the iPhone, a big thanks to iPhone Backup Extractor for helping us follow the trail of crumbs.

It turns out that the iPhone/iPod stores changes to the application preferences in a cache and about every 20 seconds it tries to save the cache to the preferences file. It does this by creating a new temporary file which is then swapped with the old preferences file. In our case, the temp files were empty, and they were not being deleted, so the ~/Library/Preferences/ directory was becoming filled with empty files. At some point (maybe around 512 files?) the system didn't find it funny anymore and forced the application to shut down. We've built a version with all the preference code stripped out, which fixes the problem. That code will be re-written, carefully, from scratch over the next couple of days and that will hopefully be the end of it. We will also look for a way to clear out the preferences directory so users won't have to delete No.2 before upgrading.


October 29th, 2008 - by Chad
Very sorry about the long delay and silence. Unfortunately, due to a family emergency, we had to shut down development for all of September. The good news is that we got to spend some time with some folks from Apple last week and have some answers to some long standing questions. The 1.3 upgrade with support for color is being worked on now and will hopefully be pushed out to customers in early November. Our plan is to get the 1.4 upgrade out before the end of the year (focused on importing photos for editing/retouching).


August 9th, 2008 - by Chad
As mentioned on our support page, we think a couple users are seeing No.2 quit due to low memory conditions. We're going to try to reduce memory usage further, and possibly disable "undo" when memory is low (for undo to work quickly, we keep a whole copy of your drawing off screen). We will try to push out a 1.2 upgrade focused on memory management in a couple days.


August 8th, 2008 - by Chad
Apple has posted the 1.1 upgrade, so go get your free download. I've started working on the 1.3 upgrade, primarily on color tools and importing photos/drawings. We'll try to get that out sometime in September. Also working on a new application to release under our miniMusic brand; that should be out soon.


August 5th, 2008 - by Chad
The 1.1 upgrade was submitted to Apple yesterday (Monday). I'm not sure how long it will take Apple to push it out to users, but I would guess 1-2 weeks, conservatively. We were able to get the frame rate all the way up to a 35 frames per second peak (up from 12-13fps peak in the 1.0 version). The average is probably more like 31fps (compared to 11fps), but we still almost tripled it.

The other big feature: cropping to the screen when you export a drawing to the Photos App. It retains the native resolution of the drawing (not the screen); if you zoom out and export the full drawing it will be at 640 x 960 pixels, not the screen resolution. Likewise, if you zoom in you can crop it to 160 x 240 for a smaller file. We also put a border around the page and enabled "zoom bouncing" which makes it a lot easier to move the page around and know where you are on it. There are also a handful of bug fixes, like restarting in the list of books if that's where you quit and some improvements to memory management.


August 2nd, 2008 - by Chad
We'll be cleaning up and testing the upgrade over the weekend, and submit on Monday to the App Store (we don't know how long it will take Apple to push the upgrade to users yet). We've more than doubled the frame rate while drawing, from an average 12fps up to 26fps (the number of times your finger position is sampled each second). We will continue to look for ways to improve performance further, of course, but will now start to focus on new features.


July 30, 2008 - by Chad
We are about to submit the first free upgrade for No.2 to Apple. We have been waiting over a month to hear back from Apple about a couple performance bugs that would help us improve frame rate while drawing, but there are a couple things we can do without the feedback so we're moving ahead with that. After this upgrade we will start working on a few major new features, especially importing images/photos (to make it easier to collaborate), and new tools to change line weight and color. You will double tap on the pencil to change to these other tools. These new features should be in an early September upgrade.


July 17, 2008 - by Chad
Thanks to everyone who has written in or left reviews for No.2 on the App Store. Right now our focus is on improving performance while drawing. Currently, when the pencil is drawing we get less than 20 frames per second, so if you move the pencil quickly you may see some sharp corners and straight lines instead of smooth curved lines. We are hoping to at least double the frame rate for much smoother drawing. Apple has not provided us with a clear way to do this, but we are experimenting with several alternate drawing methods that might help. We should have a minor update out in the next week or two.

We've had a couple customers complain of the application refusing to launch; we believe this to be an issue with Apple's copy protection (you can read more here and here and here). Restarting your phone/iPod should fix the issue, or deleting and re-installing No.2 from iTunes. Let us know if you experience a similar problem.


July 12, 2008 - by Chad
So I wanted to list some drawing tips that aren't in the included documentation pages. You can tap once on a drawing (not on the pencil) to hide/show the toolbar. Drawings are twice as wide and tall as the screen: 640x960 pixels. Undo will undo everything since you touched the pencil, so it may include many lines (as you lift and lower the tip); so after drawing a good line you might want to release the pencil to start a new undo-able stroke. Since we can't crop yet, if you are creating an e-mail attachment try to use the whole page (you might want to zoom out when you first open the drawing); when you use a photo for a contact or wall paper you are given an opportunity to crop and position the image.

As you get close to the edge (especially the right edge for right handers) it gets harder to tap with a 2nd finger. I either switch to my middle finger on the pencil (instead of the usual index) or pivot my hand or the iPhone to help reach the screen with my 2nd finger. Of course you can usually just scroll the page so you can keep your drawing near the center of the screen.

That's it for today. We'd love to hear from anyone using No.2. Send us any questions, recommendations or your first drawing (click on "Support" for our email address).


July 10, 2008 - by Chad
Thanks for checking out No.2! I wasn't able to blog much during early development, because of the NDA with Apple, but will start covering progress here on upcoming features and any problems that turn up. I'll also fill in some history from time to time. No.2 actually got it's start on the Palm Platform a good 6 or 7 years ago, but never went public. It was called "Skitch" back then (for making small sketches), but someone else beat us to market with that name. I'll dig up some screen shots when things settle down and tell that whole story.

For now we're just relieved that we got it into the App Store for the official launch. The final version got submitted to Apple Monday night at about 10:30pm and I was worried that Apple might be swamped! A few quirks with with the "unofficial" 2.0 upgrade (no reported problems with No.2 yet), but hopefully everything will go well tomorrow! Maybe I'll drop by the line at the Apple store in SF...