Hello from the Big Nerd Ranch

IMG_0996-768x1024Howdy partner!

It was a long day of driving but we are here! We left around 9 am and drove straight from Cincinnati to the south-west side of Atlanta only stopping for gas and a short lunch at Fazolis.

The last several miles were just 2 lane roads which seemed to take forever but we had a nice marathon session of audiobooks and NSBrief podcasts to listen to.

After driving deeper into the middle of nowhere we ended up at the red dot on the iPhone GPS – Historic Bannning Mills. When we got here, we weren’t sure we were in the right place. There were a bunch of cabins in the woods and zip-line tree stands all over the place. It looked like a fun place – really not what you’d expect from typical training – though we are not expecting typical training – this is an Advanced iOS bootcamp after all!

IMG_0998-768x1024At the bottom of a hill was the main lodge building which I’ve got to say is really cool inside. I love lodge-style architecture and this one has the essential heavy exposed wood beams, large stone fireplace, cool spiral wood and wrought iron stair case, and the quintessential nice assortment of stuffed animals. Some nice soft bluegrass music is playing here as I type this.

My cabin is pretty nice too! I don’t like cold so I was very pleased to see that I have my own gas fireplace. Actually it looks more like an old wood IMG_0971-1024x768burning stove but it can generate heat! The corner of the room has a big whirlpool tub which I really doubt I will have time to use but it makes the room look nice. The balcony in back has a great view of the stream in the valley below complete with the nice subtle roar of the small waterfalls. If it was warmer, I would leave the door open!

IMG_0987-768x1024Before dinner I took about 15 minutes to quickly explore the nearby trails. From the map, it looks like there are trails everywhere. I love hiking and exploring so this is really cool! There are ruins of old buildings and an old dam.

All kidding aside, this looks like a great place to focus and learn isolated from the hustle of the nearby city. I doubt I am going to have any time for ziplining or much time to hike though I will try to get out for a few minutes if we have breaks!


The syllabus looks broad and intense. It covers a lot of things that I am really looking forward to hearing more about. Class begins tomorrow at 9am sharp!

I am still here!

Hey everyone! It has been a while since I have written anything yet I have been hearing nice comments from many of you regularly for several days. Thanks EVERYONE for stopping by. How you find this site is a serious mystery but somehow you find it. The number of visits and diversity of locations from which you are from is very cool! It is really meaningful to see things have started to take off.

So what have I been doing? I have been working a LOT of hours lately both with my day job and some other side projects. Also my wife had knee surgery so I have been quite busy helping out around the house. Consequently my writing time has been lacking. It hasn’t been bad though. The work has been a lot of fun! I have been learning a lot about core animation and listening to the Stanford University Advanced iPhone classes during my daily commute. These are a great FREE resource if you are interested in learning more about iOS. Apple development is a blast and the tools and API really give us developers a lot of power.

I did take a break a couple weeks ago from the development activities to meet again with the band. We hadn’t practiced in months but wanted to meet and record some demo material in case we do try to play out later this spring. The recording sessions went quite well overall and my buddy and bandmate Steve has been mixing the songs all week. We recorded seven and of those he thinks 3 or 4 sound really good so I am anxious to hear the final mixes and figure out how to share some of them with you.

So what’s coming up? I started writing an article on “A day in the life of my iPhone” that I hope some of you will enjoy. It is close to being done and I am anxious to share it and hear back from you. I am also packing up to head out to the Big Nerd Ranch near Atlanta next week for their Advanced iOS Boot Camp and really can’t wait. I have been looking forward to this class ever since it was announced!

Danger Will Robinson – iMessage isn’t always free!

Note to all my friends that have iPhones. You may be getting charged for iMessages that you thought were free. I just got my statement from AT&T and saw charges I didn’t expect for messages between my wife and I.  This amounted to nearly $10 in extra charges just this month.

Remember in your message app that if your message bubbles are blue, the iPhone is using iMessage and not traditional text/sms messages. This is only available on iOS 5 and later and only when txt’ing with another iPhone user who has iMessage working.  If you have an iPhone 4S you will be good!  Older iPhones should be upgraded. However, you also need to make sure it is turned on for your phone.  How will you know?  If your message bubbles are green you are not using iMessage.

The following picture shows what it looks like when you are not using iMessage and thus being charged.   Green bubbles means that you are definitely paying for text messages:



This next picture shows what it should look like with iMessage.  In this case you shouldn’t be paying for text messages (but may if it falls back to SMS-read full article for details):



iMessages are free because they are sent over your data plan. They can save you a ton of money. While researching these charges, I discovered that by default your iPhone will fall back to SMS if you are in an area where your data signal is restricted.  Judging by the number of charges on my bill last month, this happens more than you might think!  This can be quite misleading as you may see the familiar blue bubbles but still have a charge for it.  I don’t know if this is a glitch as I would expect that the messaging app should turn those bubbles green in this case but it didn’t for me.  In order to turn this fall-back behavior off, you will need to go into the settings app and turn it off.  Once in settings, scroll down to messages and then you will see the following screen.  Turn off the “Send as SMS” option.  Note that if you don’t care about saving money and always want your messages to be delivered regardless of how good your data signal is, go ahead and leave it on.


Once I figured out what was going on, I called AT&T and experienced the best customer support I have ever had with them. They suggested that I might want to turn on “Messaging Block” to completely avoid any further charges like this. It is free to turn this on and it will block all further text messages on your phone. I immediately did this for all of the phones on our plan. She also offered to wave all fees that had been charged.  Yippee!!

So in summary:

  1. Check your bills and know what you are paying for
  2. Make sure you are using iMessage (blue bubbles)
  3. Make sure your friends are using iMessage (if they don’t have an iPhone or don’t have it turned on) you won’t be able to use it with them and you will see green bubbles.
  4. Be cautious of hidden charges if you leave the SMS fallback on
  5. Never pay for a text message when they should be free!. If you want to make sure you aren’t paying for ridiculously overpriced text messages, block them! I use iMessage for my iPhone friends and Google Voice for my friends with other phones.

For my non-iPhone friends, just use Google Voice for everything.

Warning – Understand the risks – Make the educated choice as to whether you really want to turn off the SMS fallback option.  If you want to guarantee that your messages are received (like for an emergency) you probably want to leave it on.  The reliability of messages sent over iMessage with the SMS fallback off is totally dependent on your data connection.  If you OR your messaging buddy get into a dead zone where data is unavailable, messages could get lost.  Ideally, it will queue these messages until you reach an area where data is available again.

I would recommend a conversational approach to using iMessage.  For example:

  • Me – “Hey are you there?”
  • You – “Yes”
  • Me – “Dinner is at 6”

There is an option to send receipts if the message is received too.  You can always turn this on for all of your family members and that will also help.  Happy messaging!