How to Write an App Using Google

Do you have 1) a great idea for an app and 2) minimal coding experience?

Step 1 — Google Broadly

Start by Googling a basic description of what you’re trying to do, something like “how to use a scrolling picker in Swift.” Chances are, you’ll find a rather simple solution — and by simple I mean that it will have only a few steps. However, those steps will likely use terminology you’ve never even heard before, things like “view controller” and “app delegate.” For an experienced coder, these are simple steps. For you, not so much (and that’s OK!). Which brings us to Step 2…

Step 2 — Google Specifically

Dive deeper into what you’re trying to learn by Googling any terms you don’t understand. Turns out you place UI elements inside a view controller, but what the heck are constraints? Google that too! This takes time and effort to effectively learn and piece together information. But it does work, and it does pay off in the end.

Except when you can’t find what you’re looking for. Which brings us to step 3…

Step 3 — Ask!

Stack Overflow is a wonderful resource to find other people who’ve had the same problem as you and who have already found a solution. I used to be hesitant to post my own questions to Stack Overflow. To be perfectly honest, I was too lazy and too impatient, thinking an answer would take days.

If you think so too, you’re completely wrong. The few times I’ve posted to Stack Overflow, I’ve gotten an educated response within an hour. It’s an amazing community.

Now, make sure you do your homework. First, be sure the question hasn’t been asked before on Stack Overflow. If something similar has been asked, make sure you cite that question in your post, and explain what makes your situation different. Second, be specific. Include large blocks of your own code. This is the only way anyone will be able to understand what you’re trying to accomplish and, more importantly, what you’re doing wrong.

Conclusion

I recently published my first app. Before starting the project, I had some basic experience with coding, minimal experience with iOS programming, and lots of experience with Google. But enough about me, this is about you! With a little determination and a lot of patience, it is possible to Google your way through almost any programming problem. Happy hacking!

 

The ABC’s of Google

Last Monday, Google made a surprise announcement.  They’re going to be doing a bit of restructuring, changing things around on a corporate organization level.  What this means is that Google isn’t the head of everything done by Sergey Brin and Larry Page Co. anymore.  A new company, called Alphabet, is.

What is Alphabet?  Basically it’s a new company that now owns Google.  Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are this new company’s CEO and President, respectively.  This seems a little odd at first; Google’s doing so well these days.  Why change things around?  But when you look a little closer, it makes a lot of sense.

Google does a lot of things under the Google name – things like Google Maps, Gmail, and Google search.  However, Google also owns a lot of other companies, like the smart thermostat company Nest.  These companies don’t really make a lot of sense under the Google name.  Now I’m not saying Google shouldn’t have bought them.  On the contrary, Google has always had the mentality that it’s better to try something even if it fails, because eventually you’ll try something that succeeds.  This is where Alphabet comes in.

Alphabet is the parent company.  Under that is a newer, slightly smaller Google.  According to USA Today, this includes Google services like Maps, as well as things like YouTube.  Android and Chrome also remain under the official Google banner.  Now a part of Alphabet, and on an even plane with Google itself, are companies like Nest, as well as projects like Google Fiber.  I think this makes a lot of sense.  This way, Google can focus on what it does best (providing web services), while the people in charge of Google can focus on what they do best (taking crazy risks and innovating).  It’s a win-win.

And the people at Google seem to think so too.  In the official blog post on abc.xyz (Alphabet’s clever URL), Larry Page says, “Alphabet is about businesses prospering through strong leaders and independence. In general, our model is to have a strong CEO who runs each business, with Sergey and me in service to them as needed.”  This allows Brin and Page to let go of some of the day-to-day business activities of all Google entities, and instead focus more on the big picture.  And I say that’s a smart move.  ••

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A very helpful organization chart of Alphabet and Google, from this video on USA Today.

The Dream of Gigabit Internet

I don’t think anyone would deny that faster internet is better.  Our world is moving to the internet at an increasingly rapid rate, and the faster your connection, the more you can participate.  Unfortunately, the average internet speed in the U.S. is just 10 megabits/second.  10 Mbps isn’t bad, but it’s not great either.  I’d say there’s plenty of room for improvement, and it turns out that Google agrees with me.

But first, some baselines.  Using the free Ookla Speedtest.net app, I clocked the internet speeds at my house.  Up in my bedroom, I got an average download speed of 30.03 Mbps.  Not bad!  (Especially considering we’re technically paying for 25 Mbps!)  We actually just put in a new router to get better signal, and I’d say it’s paid off big time.  Now on to cellular.  Using T-Mobile’s 4G LTE on my iPhone 5s, I got an average download speed of 35.66 Mbps.  I actually hadn’t tested T-Mobile’s speeds until I wrote this article, and I was blown away.  Both of those numbers are well within a comfortable speed range for now.  But what about the future?

Years ago, I’m sure someone with a blog tested out his internet speeds and marveled at how fast they’d gotten.  I’m also sure that his numbers were a lot lower than mine.  My numbers might be great now, but what about in 5 years?  20 years?  Obviously, we’ve got to keep advancing.

Enter Google Fiber.  Google Fiber is a project designed to bring super fast internet access, via fiber optic cables, to the U.S.  I knew Google was working on this in a few cities, but it was brought to my attention the other day by an article in USA Today.  Google is extending their program to Atlanta!  Now I live in the suburbs of Atlanta, so I’m not sure whether I’m within range of the program, but I’m still excited.  Google Fiber is promising gigabit speeds, or a whopping 1000 Mbps.

Of course, we’ve neglected the golden question: How much does this cost?  Google Fiber has three pricing tiers.  The basic level gives you gigabit internet for $70/month (the USA Today article says $80, but I saw two other articles that said $70).  Considering that my family is paying $67/month for 25 Mbps, Google Fiber is a steal.  But it gets even juicier.  There’s another plan that gives you gigabit speeds plus TV service for $120/month.  Considering cable can cost up to $100, this is an unbelievable deal.

But didn’t I say three pricing tiers?  I did, and the third one might be the strangest.  For $0/month, you can get 5 Mbps, guaranteed for seven years.  All you have to do is pay a $300 installation fee.  I’m not going to lie, this one puzzles me.  It’s so unconventional, yet so intriguing.  Google could offer this as a starter package, and then maybe people will upgrade to gigabit later.  This could also be a way to get internet to the (relatively few) people who currently don’t have it at all.  Even if these people aren’t paying Google for their internet, odds are they’ll start using Google’s services online (and, by extension, start seeing their ads).  Makes me wonder if Google is on to something here after all.  ••