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MacTech Conference

by veladg on December 13th, 2011

Although I wasn’t originally planning to attend this year’s MacTech Conference in November, the speakers and sessions intrigued me enough to make a last minute trip from the Bay Area to Los Angeles. The three day conference offered a range of iOS and Mac developer sessions including a keynote by Guy Kawasaki and a special nighttime tour of Universal Studios. Of particular interest to me was that MacTech did not focus purely on technical discussion: there were also  sessions on how to grow a business with a limited budget, techniques for dealing with the press, and even one that covered the “difficulty of balancing pleasing Apple with pleasing our end-user customers.” In addition to the Developer Track, a full IT Track was also offered. Sessions like these are not offered at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference and that in itself makes MacTech the perfect complement to WWDC.

What follows is an overview of the Developer Track and various activities of the 2011 MacTech Conference. It is not meant to be a thorough review of all the sessions.

Day One There were over a hundred people milling about enjoying coffee and snacks while waiting to register and collect their badges. I was pleasantly surprised to run into my friend Florian Albrecht from Boinx Software – visiting all the way from Germany! The two of us wandered over to greet Guy Kawasaki – chief evangelist at Apple in the mid-1980s and respected author – who sat near a stack of his latest work Enchantment. It was fun to witness Daniel Jalkut, author of the famous blog editing software MarsEdit, give Guy immediate on site tech support. After they solved the issue, Guy signed my book and let me pose with him for a photo. Midmorning Guy Kawasaki was scheduled to speak about his book Enchantment, but in light of Steve Jobs recent and untimely death, he instead spoke about what he had learned while working at Apple. Guy’s talk was an expanded version of his blog post that lists the top 12 lessons he learned from Steve Jobs. (Aptly titled, “What I learned from Steve Jobs“) My personal favorites are, 5) Design counts and 7) Changing your mind is a sign of intelligence. Kawasaki was very open with us and seemed genuinely happy to be in a room of Mac folks. For a summary of Guy’s keynote please visit Kelly Guimont’s (of TUAW) blog post.

The next session was Chris Rojas speaking about Physical Computing/Making Robots. Chris’ talk wasn’t what I expected to hear at a Mac conference, but it was definitely worthwhile and interesting. He spoke about his iPhone controlled Solar Powered Arduino Tank along with many other projects.

After lunch, there were four technical sessions: Beyond the Gradient with James Wilson, Accelerate Your Code! with Jeff Biggus, Internationalizating iOS and Mac Applications with Brenden Clavin, and Going Mobile with Aaron Hillegass. I was most interested in Jeff Biggus’ talk. He explained how using the accelerate framework can make one’s code faster, use less battery life, and be more elegant and debuggable.

In the evening, we went on a fascinating private group tour of Universal Studios followed by a behind the scenes technology talk.

Day Two Day two consisted of a a full day of sessions: 9:00am to 6:30pm. Exceptionally useful technical session topics included Core Animation, Core Data, Xcode Instruments, Recognizing Bugs in Cocoa and Flexible JSON Importing. In particular, I found Nathan Eror’s talk on Core Animation and Marcus Zarra’s talk on JSON to Core Data Importing, to be most relevant to my own development. There were two sessions that focused on business (as opposed to technology): “How to grow your business with limited budget” by Jacob Gorban and “The Press, And How To Humor Them” by Andy Ihnatko. These sessions covered critical aspects of running a software business and definitely warrant a closer look with a more focused blog post.

Dinner was in the Starview Room on the top floor of the Sheraton Universal Hotel. It was a high quality buffet with sweeping views of the Hollywood Hills and the surrounding area. Day Three The last day of the conference included these sessions: Macintosh Security for Corporations with Jan P. Monsch, Google Switzerland, Serving Two Masters with Daniel Jalkut, Red Sweater Software, and Managing Multiple Data Formats in the iCloud with Rich Warren. Daniel Jalkut’s covered his solution for automatically allowing Mac App Store (MAS) users to run self-sold editions of his software. This topic is especially important for developers that sell and support their Mac software in both Apple’s Mac App Store and a separate e-commerce solution (such as eSellerate). Daniel expanded upon his This App Is Your App blog post to a standing room only crowd. Overall, I felt that attendance at the MacTech conference was both worthwhile and a good value. All meals were included in the cost of the conference and the food was excellent (full buffet breakfasts and lunches and salmon, steak or pasta for dinners). Also included were the Universal Studios Tour and an evening at Jillian’s which added a vacation element to the conference. Because of the relatively small number of attendees, it was easy to meet people and to converse with the speakers. I enjoyed talking with IT people as well as developers and I particularly appreciated that – while the majority of the sessions for the Developer Track were relevant to current Mac and iOS technologies – there were also several sessions aimed at running and improving software businesses. MacTech is an excellent conference that complements, but doesn’t replace, WWDC. I recommend the MacTech conference.

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