Oct 05

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first six months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out okay. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned Coke bottles for the 5-cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky–I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation–the Macintosh–a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30, I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down–that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the Valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me–I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, “Toy Story,” and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up, so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying, because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma–which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called “The Whole Earth Catalog,” which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: It was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of “The Whole Earth Catalog,” and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

Watch the video here. Try to ignore the impolite, bored looking Stanford graduates. They may not understand what a truly extraordinary man Steve Jobs was.

Steve – Thank you for creating and leading our tribe.

written by Nick

Aug 18

We need to submit our app to the store before it closes for the weekend—what time does the app store close on Friday nights?

I found that quote on the very funny site ClientsFromHell.net. Reportedly it’s an actual quote from a real client.

Of course the App Store is not shut down for customers during weekends. But we have recently found out that the app review team no longer works on weekends. Back in the days when it seemed like the app reviewers were constantly having trouble keeping up with the ever increasing flood of app submissions, you would see apps get approved at all hours of the day and on weekends. No longer.

In a previous life when I was building large scale web sites and server systems we learned to never deploy new code on a Friday, unless you wanted to work on weekends to fix bugs or deal with launch jitters.

The same thing applies to iOS apps now. Don’t set the release date of an app to fall on a Friday. Should there be a problem with the new version of the app and you want to push through an emergency update, then nobody will act on your request until the following Monday.

But, you don’t have control over when an app will be approved, you say. That is true, but you can set the date when the app will be released. And you should always, always use this feature.

Look at the current App Store Review Status and add some margin to allow for delays. For example, today the status says that 99% of all new app submissions and 99% of all app updates are reviewed within 7 days. I would set the release date to around 2 weeks for an app update. Make sure that the date is not a Friday, and that it’s a day when you’re available and ready to handle new customer support issues.

For a new app submission I would set the release date even further into the future to allow your marketing campaign to ramp up and steam forward towards a known date. But that’s a different topic.

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Aug 01

The TSA has come up with one useful rule: you are allowed to pass through the security checkpoint without removing your iPad from your bag. (Brilliant move by Apple marketing, BTW.)

As a self-respecting geek and iOS developer I of course travel with plenty of electronics. On a recent trip I happened to have two iPads in my backpack while going through security. That was however too much for the TSA to swallow. (“Is that two iPads in your backpack??”) The iPads had to be separated and take another trip through the x-ray machine.

I honestly don’t know if the “iPad exception rule” is a general free pass for all tablets. I doubt it. The iPad is relatively easy to identify, but how would a TSA drone distinguish between the plethora of devices that get marketed as tablets these days. But that’s irrelevant for this story, since I can’t imagine anyone actually owning two Android tablets?

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Apr 01

In honor of Apple’s founding on April 1, 1976 I usually try to come up with an April Fools joke here on the site. However, the past couple of months I’ve been heads down working on a very large project, so no time for pranks this year. 🙁

So instead I’ll just link to some of the better collections of April Fools jokes this year:

And of course there’s Scoopertino – funny year round.

I hope to be able to announce the big project real soon now, and get back to more regular blogging.

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Jan 07

Where is it?

At first I was a bit perplexed because I could not find the Mac App Store. I looked in iTunes, then I updated iTunes, but still no Mac App Store. A little bit later when the Software Update reminder told me there was an update available to OS X, then the lightbulb when on. Obviously a new OS update would be required to do the install and update magic that is part of the Mac App Store. (A least that makes sense to a developer.) It seems that I was not the only one who was confused. Now Apple has added a tutorial on how to get the Mac App Store to their website.


I’m happy to see that the general price level in the Mac App Store is significantly higher than in the iOS App Store. Here’s a detailed analysis of the titles available on opening day.

This is mainly because of existing software titles from Apple and indy developers anchoring the price spectrum with unchanged prices from their other distribution channels. It is probably also reflection of the economics of selling to a smaller market.

Let’s hope that the Mac App Store does not fall into the price-race-to-the-bottom trap, so that it can become a viable channel for indy developers.

UI Design

Apple has been pretty strict in enforcing the HIG for iOS apps, so it’s a bit surprising that they have lowered the bar for the Mac App Store. Hopefully this is just a temporary lapse “justified” by the need to have a nice round number of 1,000 apps available on opening day.

This is especially sad since Mac developers have generally prided themselves in creating beautiful software with excellent interface design. One designer’s head exploded when he saw some of the apps in the Mac App Store, and he created this blog to showcase the worst.


It looks like some developers did not read the memo about protecting their apps. Check out Alex Curylo’s ValidateStoreReceipt code if you need it.


One of the benefits of the Mac App Store is that installed applications can be updated with one click, just like you update your installed iOS apps. One difference between iOS and Mac is that Mac applications can be installed from several sources. If you have already purchased an application directly from a developer and now it’s available in the Mac App Store, it’s likely that the Mac App Store will recognize that it has already been installed. Where the purchase button usually is you instead see “INSTALLED”. This is good because it will make it more difficult to purchase software that you already own. But the downside is that you are led to believe that you will receive updates to that title through the Mac App Store, which is not the case.

The best explanation that I’ve read on this says that the Mac App Store looks for a matching bundle identifier and version number. So it might be a good idea to change one or the other to avoid a lot of support headaches. Or you can just send your customers to this easy-to-remember URL: IfIBoughtYourAppAlreadyCanIUpdateItThroughTheMacAppStore.com

Another related question is how developers will deal with upgrade pricing. The lifeblood of many indy developers is the upgrade fees existing customers pay when a new major version is released. But in the iOS world customers have been trained to expect free updates for life for apps that they purchase. The reason this can work is the incredible volume of apps that you can sell to iOS customers, combined with the rapid growth of the platform. It will be interesting to see how this will play out on the Mac side.


If you are an iOS developer I think it can be a good business opportunity to port some of your apps to the Mac. Obviously this won’t work for all types of apps, for example if the primary use case depends on mobility or some device capabilities of the iPhone. Sadly I did not have any apps in the Mac App Store on opening day. But there is at least one title planned for the near future.

written by Nick

Jan 01

2010 was a fantastic year!

The Blog

This blog has grown to almost four thousand regular readers. For this I am humbled and very grateful. It gives me great joy to provide iOS programming advice, and I hope that you have learned something new in this past year.

I typically write about challenges, bugs, tips and tricks that I encounter myself as an iOS developer. It’s also a great repository of solutions for myself. I smile each time I search for a problem in Google, and on the first page of search results is a blog post that I wrote (hopefully) quite some time ago…

That said, I do welcome your input on topics, tutorials, difficulty level, mix between technical posts, business items and general ramblings.

One of my few New Years resolutions is to post more regularly.


In my day job as CTO of Pervasent, I’ve had the privilege to deliver many cool iPhone and iPad apps, work on worthwhile and engaging projects, and consult for enterprise class clients.

The limiting factor for our growth is to find more great iOS developers. (That’s why you’ve seen several open job posts on the blog.) Fortunately we’re now in the situation where top notch developers are contacting us, wanting to join our team. Working with great colleagues on a project is a lot more fun than working by yourself.

Here’s a funny anecdote from a recent job interview: One of the opening questions I like to ask is how long have you been programming in Objective-C. Most iPhone developers will answer somewhere in the range 1-3 years. Imagine my surprise when this individual answered 21 years! (He worked at both Next and Apple.) That rendered several of my followup questions moot…

What’s in store for 2011? More enterprise consulting work. But we’re also working on our own product in the document management space. More about that when we’re ready to release it.


I’m not going to do any predictions for this year. When it comes to Apple’s mobile products their release schedule is now well established and we all know that there will be incremental updates to most products on this schedule. As for brand new categories of products, they’re just impossible to predict.

The general mobile device market is definitely exciting, but the macro trends are pretty obvious:

  • Apple will continue their curated, vertically integrated, high-margin business.
  • Android will become the device volume leader.
  • iOS will continue to command the most developer attention.
  • The App Store will remain the only financially viable marketplace for selling apps.
  • The other platforms (Windows Phone 7, RIM, Palm, Nokia) will continue to fall further behind.

I wish you a Happy and Prosperous 2011. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Update: Here are some predictions for 2011 that I found interesting, although I don’t necessarily agree with all of them.

written by Nick

Dec 24

Since April when I received my iPad, I have not purchased a single magazine or book in dead tree form. This was not a conscious decision or strategy, but merely a consequence of the convenience of iBooks and Zinio Magazine Reader.

Two eBooks that I recently read and enjoyed very much are Daemon and Freedom (TM) by Daniel Suarez. The story is about an MMOG that takes over the world. It’s extremely well written and the author is a programmer, so the technical details are believable.

Be sure to get both books. The first one — Daemon — ends without a satisfying conclusion, and Freedom will not make much sense without first reading the Daemon.

Since the iBookstore is not visible in iTunes and there’s no gifting option in iBooks, one way to give these books as a gift is to purchase a regular iTunes Gift Card or Gift Certificate. You may also find specific iBooks gift cards in some stores.

The iBookstore lives a somewhat schizophrenic life. You can’t search or browse books on the web or in iTunes, like you can with apps and music. But yet it is part of the iTunes payment infrastructure. The only way I’ve found to create links to specific books, like the ones above, is to use the Tell a Friend feature in iBooks.

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Dec 06

Out of the blue we were contacted by Apple; they wanted to meet with us. It took us about two microseconds to say yes. 😀 So today we’re at the famous One Infinite Loop for a secret meeting. Regardless of the outcome of the meeting, we’re honored to have our work recognized and to have been invited.

As good fanboys we’ll have to visit the Apple Company Store on campus after the meeting to pick up “I visited the Mothership.” T-shirts and other swag that’s only sold there.

written by Nick

Sep 20

Conference season is upon us again.


This new conference took place in San Francisco last week. It was more business oriented and not a developers conference. A couple of our clients attended and said it provided great networking opportunities and they even managed to get the press to write about their app.

JV Alert Live – Denver – September 24-26

This is not an iPhone developers conference either, but it’s a chance to see me on stage. I will be participating in panel discussions, providing a perspective on mobile business opportunities. This is a really good conference for networking.

iPhone/iPad DevCon 2010 – San Diego – September 27-29

Bills themselves as “the first major developer conference after the release of Apple’s iPhone 4 hardware and iOS 4”. A lot of good workshops and technical classes on the schedule.

Voices That Matter: iPhone Developers Conference – Philadelphia – October 16-17

VTM is back again with a great lineup of speakers. This time it’s on the east coast.

360|iDev – Austin, TX – November 7-10

One of my favorite conferences is 360|iDev. I will not be speaking this time, but at least one of my colleagues will be attending.

360|MacDev – Denver – December 10-11

The good folks at 360 Conferences are launching a new conference geared towards Mac Desktop developers. Picking up the torch after C4 ended.

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Sep 09

One of the most popular pages on this blog is App Store Rejection Reasons. Since Apple refused to tell us what the “real” rules for the App Store approval process were, I shared my experiences in the hope that other developers could avoid making the same mistakes. The page ends with call to Apple to release all the hidden rules. Today Apple finally listened. 🙂

Here are finally the App Store Review Guidelines. The language of the guidelines is surprisingly informal; definitely not a product of Apple’s legal department. This makes it all the more believable that this is the actual internal checklist that reviewers use.

Daring Fireball has a nice collection of extracts from the guidelines that are funny, frank or puzzling.

I hope that Apple will start referring to these guidelines in their rejection emails, instead of the more diffuse paragraphs of the Developer Program License Agreement. This would also force them to add to the list as soon as apps are rejected and there’s no matching guideline to point to.

Apple also instituted an App Review Board where you appeal any app rejections. Obviously this is not an independent third party board, so don’t set your hopes too high. But instituting a formal review board is a great move by Apple. Hopefully the result will be less randomness in the approvals and rejections.

In another good move today, Apple also updated the iOS Developer Program License Agreement. Many of the egregious paragraphs that were added this spring with the apparent intent to stifle competition, have been removed. Bravo!

Now let’s hope that the HIG rules will still keep most of the bad Flash apps at bay…

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