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I program a lot, and I've built some iPhone/iPad apps a while back when you could still use ActionScript 3.0 with a special Flash interfaces for iPhones and iPads. However, that went the way of the Dodo bird, and I've been pretty dormant in the Apple Developer community for a while, and so when I started this book, I took it as a fresh start. I've kept my Xcode up to date, and while I chafe under the rigamarole that Apple puts its developers through with certificates and other stuff that is part of their "system," I'm willing to put up with it because developing mobile apps on iPhone and iPads is important to my work.
In reviewing this book, separating the frustrating system Apple has for iOS developers and this book's contents is vital. With a chip on my shoulder about all of the hoops I need to jump through for getting and using the Xcode IDE and Apple Developer status, I was extra careful not to blame it on the book. However, since the book purports to guide one through the app development process they needed to get it right, especially jumping in. Up to a point they did....about the first 8 pages.
I'm a big fan of the Head First series; Java Design Patterns being my absolute favorite. While learning design patterns will test any programmer's mettle, the HF Design Patterns did guide the reader not only through the "doing" of design patterns but the reasons behind each design pattern used. A generation of programmers are grateful to both the HF series and the Freemans for their wonderful book. In other books in the series, I've had similar success, but I've noticed that some of the books are lacking in both programming quality and use of the HF "system." When "DOS for Dummies" first appeared, a different generation of DOS users were forever grateful, and as it became a series for everything from getting a date to conquering quantum physics, the series has attempted to apply the same formula to everything, but it doesn't always work. Neither does the HF series model. It can end up with what the British refer to as "too clever by half." It gets tangled up in its own cuteness.
I would imagine that a lot of programmers were ready to give up on this book and developing apps in the first chapter. With a promising kick off leading the reader to and through the Xcode SDK and to GiHub for the book's programs, everything worked great. Then when I opened the page for the 'InstaTwit' sample program, it did not look like the one on Page 9. Then at the bottom of Page 9, a little "Relax" note tells me (after the fact) that the page won't look like that. Minor frustration. On page 10, there's a 3-step test drive. In Step 1, a note indicates "Confirm that the schema listed is "InstaTwit" iPhone Retina (4-inch). What was the 'schema' ? I pulled out my handy magnifying glass so that I could better see the little page fragment that was supposed to reflect the IDE with the right settings, and my settings were identical, but neither the book's nor my "schema" showed anything about the iPhone Retina (4-inch). As a result I was taken on Mr. Toads wild ride through Apple's Certification update and an hour later was able to get everything set up to work with my iPhone. However, once I did that, I found that my iPhone was locked and could not store my sample "Twitter App." Grrrrrrr. Finally, I found the "schema", a little drop down menu beneath the name of the iPhone. So instead of showing "Tracy's iPhone" in the book as it does, it should have shown "iPhone Retina (4-inch)." This was definitely the book's fault; not Apple's. However, that took a very long time to unscramble.
Finally, I get it set up with the iPhone simulator, ran the program, and it tells me it was successful. However.....there is this little niggling warning triangle. I click it, and a dialog box appears and tells me, "InstaTwit uses OCUnit for unit testing, which is deprecated." Oh, snap! They got me again! This is just in the first 10 pages of a 300+ page book.
What's going on? Is this just a stumbling beginning to test the reader's resolve to learn how to build apps using Objective C or is this book going to be full of "gotchas" throughout? The next few pages look promising. It shows how classes are set up in .h (header) and .m (implementation) files, and most classes implement the public interfaces in the .h files. So, this doesn't use the "class" and "interface" keywords like Java and C#. Not a problem and good to know up front. However, the book then jumps (all in Chapter 1, mind you) to an array in the middle of the application. (They'll talk about arrays in Objective C, later....) And we learn how to change the array values. Not too difficult, but why here at the beginning? At the bottom of page 17 there's another "Relax" note that indicates, "It's OK if the Objective-C looks a little weird..." A little? Then they end the chapter with how to change the app's icon. Why at this point?
To say that this book is disjointed is an understatement. It looks like the four authors (3 Pilones and a McLaughlin) each did something to contribute to the book--like wrote a series of apps--and then strung it together using the Head First style. I have no doubt that the authors know how to code Objective-C and make swell apps. The problem lies in explaining to others how to do this is a way that is helpful. Unfortunately, I don't think they have.