iCPAN 2.0.0 now Available in the App Store

I'm happy to announce that iCPAN 2.0.0 is now in the app store. If you're not familiar with it, iCPAN is a free iOS app which allows you to browse CPAN Pod on your iPhone/iPod/iPad. The previous version of iCPAN was released in November of 2010, so this has been a long time in coming.

If only CPAN had a web service...

Originally, my hope was to release frequent iCPAN updates with new Pod, bug fixes and improvements. However, I was running into a lot of problems with getting good coverage of CPAN modules. There was (not yet) a web service which you could query to find out what is currently indexed in CPAN or where you can find all the Pod in an arbitrary distribution. I had been rolling my own solution with the help of some CPAN modules, but my coverage was only around 60,000 documents, which was poor. After discussing this with some friends at PerlMongers in Toronto, I started hacking on an API to provide the Pod as well as some metadata. The API soon had a name: MetaCPAN. Working on MetaCPAN was so much fun and so productive that consequently most of my open source efforts were directed toward this project. This all took place around the time of the last iCPAN update, but I still had hopes to keep iCPAN reasonably up to date. After all, it only took about 6 weeks of evenings and weekends to get a proof of concept up and running for MetaCPAN. I would have plenty of time to keep iCPAN running as well.

How did this break?

Things may have stayed reasonably on track, but an iOS update broke iCPAN along the way. After many hours of debugging, I was just not able to find the root of the issue, so I decided to rewrite iCPAN as a Universal app (one with a native iPhone and iPad UI). I started working on the iPad, but my personal resources were dwindling. The number of developers working on iCPAN had been cut in half (from 2 to 1) and the number of kids in our family had doubled (from 1 to 2). Now with a newborn in the home, I didn't have the time or energy to finish off the app. Any spare time I did have available was generally spent making some small contributions to MetaCPAN where I could.

Any day now...

By July of 2011 things had settled a bit and I was back at it, spending a lot of late nights finishing up the iPad UI. I was optimistic that I'd be able to release iCPAN soon. However, as I soon discovered, the consistent late nights were quite productive in the short term, but the sleep deficit over the long term made me generally unproductive during the day. I eventually had to concede that my brain doesn't function well on little sleep, so I gave up a lot of the late nights and put iCPAN on the shelf. It was nice to have my brain back.

A few months ago, I got the bug to finish things up. It had really been bothering me that I had been telling people "this thing is almost done" for so many months. I also saw the excellent CPAN Sidekick in the Android app store and I was starting to feel a bit embarrassed about not having iCPAN working. Bad (but fair) reviews for iCPAN were piling up. I buckled down and spent any available free time on getting this done. It turned out to be vastly more work than I had anticipated or budgeted, but I did get the app to a releasable state about 1 week ago when I submitted it to the app store.

The Post-Mortem

I've learned a lot along the way. I've learned Objective-C, XCode, Interface Builder and iTunes Connect. I've learned about managing certs for releasing apps, how
to distribute an app via an Ad Hoc Distribution (TestFlightApp in my case) and how to keep the iPhone and iPad UI in the same app while making sure that the logic
uses shared classes. It has also made me appreciate Perl all that much, in particular CPAN, Moose, DBIx::Class, built-in regex support and the ability to express
so much in Perl with very little code. I've learned Apple's Core Data. I know how to optimize an SQLite database with 80K rows in a table so that it runs smoothly on a phone. (I could write an entire post on that topic alone).

iCPAN 2.0.0 has just over 80,000 documents available, which is a huge improvement over the previous version. It has been downloaded over 1,300 times in the last 1.5 years. If you do like it, please take a moment to review it in the app store or watch it on Github. If you don't like it, please contact me or, even better, send me a pull request. :)

1 Comment

interesting! ;)

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About Olaf Alders

user-pic I hack on MetaCPAN, CPAN modules and other fun stuff.