Commuter Pal for Apple Watch

iOS Simulator Screen Shot - Apple Watch 24 Dec 2014 13.34.07

As I’m home for Christmas, I like to curl up in front of the fire and do some learning. I’ve spend the last two days playing around with my iOS app Commuter Pal. More exactly Commuter Pal on the Apple Watch.

The idea behind CommuterPal is that rather than have a one size fits all Tube app (showing every line etc.), you get an app focused on just your daily journey and nothing else. I think this helps filter out some of the noise and gives you just what you need to know.

When Apple announced the Watch, I felt that the CommuterPal approach should translate very well to the Apple Watch concept.

It’s early days, but I think it’s coming along nicely. Ignore some of the UI elements as a graphic designer, I am not!

iOS Simulator Screen Shot 24 Dec 2014 13.34.07iOS Simulator Screen Shot - Apple Watch 24 Dec 2014 13.34.07

There have been a few challenges. I had to learn about App Groups so I can share the CoreData database. The WatchKit UI is very limited at this time too. And XCode 6.2 Beta is a bit buggy.

I hope to connect up some basic notifications next so you’ll get departures times and status information as you approach the station. You can decide whether to pick up the pace or take your time :)

Merry Christmas.


UPDATE After some feedback, I was advised to try and keep the interface black, both for consistency and power consumption!

iOS Simulator Screen Shot - Apple Watch 27 Dec 2014 15.45.32

why Android, why?!?

Came up against a nasty issue with the stock Android browser. For some reason that escapes me, it’s unable to download a simple file.


I’m returning a small file using ASP.Net’s MVC FileContentResult class. Works fine for everything else, but the stock Android browser is failing. Has anyone ever seen this before?

CALENDARING in the 21st century – a shambles!

I received an meeting appointment email today that had an ICS file attached. It was from an Australian client, so getting the meeting into my calendar with the correct time is very important. If the meeting is scheduled for 6pm, Sydney time, it needs to go into my calendar in British Summer Time. Seems pretty simple.

Sadly, it’s not. I’m using Windows 8.1 Update 1 at present. In my Mail app, I can see the appointment very clearly. As I use a single calendar for my appointments, hitting the “Accept” button would just add it to the wrong calendar, so instead I click on the invite.ics file.


And this is what pops up! WTF?


A quick search of my machine shows I don’t even have Outlook installed!!!


I would, at the very least, have expected this to open in the Metro Calendar app. Sadly, this app doesn’t seem to support this file. What a joke.

To add insult to injury, the Windows OS is actually bested by iOS, which supports ICS files without issue. Typical.

processing saas invoices automatically

As I continue to work on my Chrome Extension for importing invoices to FreeAgent, I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can parse the invoice, extracting the necessary information automatically.


It’s now just a matter of clicking the “Add to Bills” button beside the invoice you want to add and the extension (with some Azure backend support) parses the invoice, extracting the relevant information.


You can also select the contact that this bill has come from and I’ll be adding the FreeAgent category support very soon.

At present, Github is the only invoice I can parse, so once I’ve got that working well, I’ll expand the scope of the parser to handle Azure and other major SaaS providers.

I’m looking for beta testers at the moment, so if you’re interested, please let me know.

Adding invoices from saas apps to freeagent

I’m a very happy FreeAgent user. I’ve been using it for just over one year now and can’t complain too much. Okay, so I’d love to be able to set the currency of bills, but that’s not a deal breaker for me right now.

I’m a freelance developer, so I’m responsible for my own accounts. Keeping your accounts up-to-date is important, but can be time consuming. One of the things that I find most annoying is that for each SaaS or advertising platform I use, I have to manually import the invoices and create a bill. It takes a few steps, so individually it’s not very complicated. The drawback is that I have to do it on four or five different sites. Find the invoice, export the PDF, return to FreeAgent, create the bill, import the PDF and set a few other details. Like I said, it’s not hard, but it’s repetitive.

As a developer, I know that anything repetitive can be automated.

My first instinct was to create a simple web application that would left me connect to FreeAgent and then import the invoices by using HTML scraping from the various pages. This, however, was going to be impossible since I use two-factor authentication on almost every site and NONE of the providers I want invoices for offer an API for that sort of thing.

My next idea was a local Windows8 application, but that suffered from the same limitations as the web app, thought it would have been possible using WebViews to get past the authentication steps.

After a little time reflecting, I was reminded of the Buffer App Chrome extensions that lets you buffer images etc. inline. This seemed like it might be adaptable. A quick bit of reading and 2 hours of experimentation and I had this working in GitHub!


The button Add to Bills is automatically inserted by my extension. It can read the row, pick up the date, download the PDF invoice automatically and upload it to my FreeAgent account. Things like the Currency still need to be manually modified, but the bulk of the work is done.

Another thirty minutes and I had Azure billing support to!


There is a lot of work to do before this Extension can be released to the Chrome Store and I’d like to add support for more accounting platforms (extending beyond FreeAgent) and billing sources, but I’m happy with this as a starting point.

If you’re a FreeAgent user who suffers from invoice importing fatigue, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Somewhere Quiet is now available to download from the App Store

My latest app, Somewhere Quiet, has been approved by Apple in just under 5 days.

It’s my hope that this app will help developers, writers and other coffee shop entrepreneurs, find quiet places to work if they are out and about.

If you fit this category, download my app for free and start rating your favourites!

Download now

New app coming soon – Somewhere quiet

Last Friday I submitted my latest iOS app to Apple for approval. It’s called Somewhere Quiet.

Powered by Foursquare, Somewhere Quiet lets you find and rate coffee shops based on how noisy they are, how likely you are to get a table, how good the WiFi is and whether or not you’ll get a socket to charge your laptop. The information is crowd sourced, so the value of the app will grow over time.

iOS Simulator Screen shot 19 Jun 2014 15.49.59


The grid of squares will serve as a visual reference of how good or bad the various factors are. This is what my local Costa Coffee looks like, based on my ratings.


It’s quiet, hard to get a seat, 3G signal is OK and there are one or two power sockets.

When you click on a coffee shop, you’ll get a map, and a break down of the ratings. Tapping on a rating allows you to provide your own, helping to populate the database. With noise level, the app will actually use your microphone to measure the average ambient noise. I think this particular feature will need to be refined as I learn more about decibels.

iOS Simulator Screen shot 19 Jun 2014 15.50.04

The app will be in the app store in the next 5 to 10 days, hopefully. If you’re a freelance developer or writer or just want to meet a friend for a coffee, somewhere quiet, you’ll find this app useful.