Archive for May 26th, 2016

One of the things I’ve always liked about Apple is the way they revisit and revise their tools. Although there is comfort in logging on to any *nix system and knowing that ed or vi or gcc will be there, I believe that the lack of investment in standard tools hurts more than knowing that anyone who has written code since 1980 will still be at home. This is the technical equivalent of having a rotary gang switch to change channels on your flat-screen TV because that’s what your grandparents were used to and they still need to use the TV. You know what, they managed to adapt to there being a wireless remote and 500 channels.

Swift is probably the most visible of today’s Apple tool changes. As we fast approach the release of Swift 3.0, it’s good to check in and see what the future of software development of Apple products is going to be like. This is one of those growth and pain stories.

From the language standpoint, Swift 3.0 brings a greater level of consistency in terms of behavior and style. Compared to other languages, new developers will have fewer exceptions to keep track of. For those following the latest Stanford iOS class on iTunesU (CS193P) thinking that when they’re done that they’ve learned Swift, well, sorry, but in a few months you’ll need to update all your code.

One of the biggest changes in Swift 3.0 is the way that the Apple OS-specific libraries are handled. In the same way that C++ and Python aren’t bound to a particular operating system, neither is Swift. You don’t need to be on MacOS or iOS to use Swift. The problem is that most applications that interact with people need to be bound to some kind of operating environment. On Windows that’s typically done by using .Net. With Java, you’ve got a laundry list of environments (EE, SE, ME). For Swift, you’re binding to Apple’s plenitude of support libraries. All of which have, for the past decade or so, been based on Objective-C. The great thing about new languages is that they incorporate lessons learned. The devil of them is that vast body of existing code they need to interface to.

In the case of MacOS and iOS, the libraries make a lot of sense if you’re writing code in 2004. We’ve learned a lot about languages and frameworks and operating systems since then. But, as with all things, there are only so many hours in the day. Inevitably, you build a core around the language and, if you’re nice, create bridges (shims) to the external bits. If you’re Apple, you’re usually particularly nice and create toll-free bridges (ones built for you). If you’re Microsoft, you have the joy of multiple layers of conversions to look forward to. Eventually as the language evolves, you get to the point where the rules you gave people as to how the bridging worked do align with the language. That’s where we are today with Swift 3.0.

So, by now, you’re saying to yourself that this must be really bad to merit such a long preamble. Sort of. I came across a nifty article on what’s new in Swift 3.0 and decided to download the May 9th Swift trunk [see update below] and see for myself. There’s a nifty video from the same person. He does a good job of covering the changes. Remember my earlier reference to the Stanford class? I’ve been following it myself. I thought, “let’s see how what’s being taught tracks.” For my first attempt I chose a small app that uses gestures to tinker with a face drawn to the screen. Now as those of you familiar with iOS will be aware, there are two ways of implementing UI binding to code. You can either write it in code or use Interface Builder. The thing about using IB is that it handles a bunch of tedious details for you. It also hides stuff and is the source of weird errors if you screw things up.

In implementing this app, I of course used IB. And you know what, I crashed and burned. After installing the new tool chain and restarting Xcode, my modest app showed a variety of error stemming from the changes in Swift 3.0, all of which were easily corrected thanks to the very clear error messages and suggested remediation provided. The app launched and drew the baseline image, but any gesture failed miserably. Maybe it was the project. I created a new project with nothing but a raw view and added a tap recognizer in IB and wired it up to the view with a print diagnostic. It happily built, but also crashed on tap.

2016-05-26 15:16:31.150 f2[21677:736529] -[f2.ViewController tap:]:
  unrecognized selector sent to instance 0x7ffe59d31eb0
2016-05-26 15:16:31.156 f2[21677:736529] *** Terminating app due to
  uncaught exception 'NSInvalidArgumentException', reason:
  '-[f2.ViewController tap:]: unrecognized selector sent to instance

Creating the action in code worked. To be fair, this tool chain is coming from the Swift site and not Apple. I then checked to see what happened if I tossed in a vanilla button. Same problem. That wouldn’t do. The answer turned out to be held in the AppDelegate. As it happens the new tool chain generated a warning for each of the standard boiler functions.

  AppDelegate.swift:17:10: Instance method
  'application(application:didFinishLaunchingWithOptions:)' nearly matches
  optional requirement 'application(_:didFinishLaunchingWithOptions:)' of
  protocol 'UIApplicationDelegate'

The provided code reads:

func application(_ application: UIApplication,
  didFinishLaunchingWithOptions launchOptions: [NSObject: AnyObject]?)
  -> Bool

It seems that the functions need additional decoration. The warning notes that the function nearly matches. Allowing FixIt to do its thing yeilded:

  func application(_ application: UIApplication,
  didFinishLaunchingWithOptions launchOptions: [NSObject: AnyObject]?)
  -> Bool

Apparently, additional decoration is required to bridge properly. So I went back to the standard IB added recognizer. Here’s the action.

@IBAction private func tap(sender: UITapGestureRecognizer)

Once the objc decoration is added, all is well.

@IBAction @objc(tap:) private func tap(sender: UITapGestureRecognizer)

Not a big deal to make the correction once you realize what’s required. Hopefully, others will take this as a heads up and not be bogged down as they update their code.

Overall, I have a high degree of confidence in Swift 3.0, the changes make the language better. So, go get it yourself and see the future of Apple software development.

2016-06-05 Update

I pulled the May 31 Swift trunk with the same results. I’d imagine that Apple will clean this up really soon as WWDC is just around the corner.

2016-06-09 Update

I pulled the June 6 Swift trunk and got the same results. Cutting it close for WWDC.

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