Vincent Ritter

Writing

All my blog posts for your viewing pleasure.

Major core update to Gluon. Easier future. Multiple accounts.

I’m happy to announce that I rewrote a fairly big chunk of the underlying code for Gluon.

The past few weeks have given me doubt on the maintainability of the, now huge, codebase. So I decided it was time to tackle it.

The major upgrades have to do with storage handling and how your data is stored on the device. Before this update there were too many steps involved and it was a nightmare to implement certain things with ease. For example switching to the correct feeds depending on your account (yep, account switching).

With that I also took time to store any Discover posts separate to your main account, as these are accessible even without an account. Again, this removes loading steps for the app.

I’m really happy with the way it works now and it gives me great confidence to implement features I have in mind.

The first of these features was to re-introduce multiple accounts with easy account switching. Not only that, you’ll be able to register for push notifications (iOS only for now) on both accounts and receive them on the same device. Pretty handy if you have several accounts. Note that it won’t switch accounts yet when you tap a notification… working on it!

Before I go further I must warn everyone using it… whilst I did my best to avoid headaches (I had many different problems already), please expect this to be one of those updates that breaks the app - I’m confident it won’t crash, but just bear that in mind. If for some reason you can’t get it to start, delete the app (OMG!!) and grab it again. If it doesn’t crash it will ask you to log in again… which I’m hoping it will do.

Anyway, now that’s out the way, here is a screenshot of the really simple account screen found in “More/Settings” and also when you long press on your profile image:

You can add as many as you want. Once you press the “Add +” button you’ll get the login screen, just like you should be used to with this update 😅. Once logged in you’ll be switched to that account automatically - you’ll see that by the “Active” text.

Switching accounts is as easy as selecting whichever account you want. It should be relatively fast, depending on your feed.

If you find yourself on your timeline, or elsewhere, just long press your profile image and you’ll open up the same screen where you can quickly jump between accounts. It will also automatically close the screen once it’s switched here.

Anyway, I’m happy with the way that works now. Hope some of you will find it useful.

There are some other changes especially to the Discover sections. It’s mainly a tidy up of the screens, so they don’t feel so cluttered, and also a few things in search so the keyboard doesn’t always get in your way when you already did a search previously.

This update is being pushed out now for iOS. It all works for Android too, but I want to re-visit some “profile” stuff here, as I don’t want to confuse you what account you’re in. So Android support for this is coming soon also.

More to come and happy testing.

Guest on the Micro Monday Podcast

I’m really thrilled that Jean (@macgenie on Micro.blog) invited me for the Micro Monday podcast. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I’m deeply thankful for having had the opportunity.

This was my first podcast… ever... and I was super nervous, but Jean was absolutely great and made my worries go away.

We talk about my app Gluon, that I’m creating for Micro.blog, and also a little bit about my past on the journey to becoming a developer.

You can listen to it here:

https://monday.micro.blog/2019/12/08/vincent-aka-vincent.html

Link for Apple Podcasts.

This has given me some confidence to try and record something more regularly on the day and day stuff that I do. Practice makes perfect I guess…?

Thank you Jean 😊

Micro.blog outage - Gluon affected [Updated]

UPDATE: Micro.blog is back in action! All systems go 🥳

Looks like there are a few errors on Micro.blog today. This means that Gluon will have problems grabbing the latests feeds. Also affected is replying and posting and others. Not affected are hosted sites, as far as I can tell.

For now, this is what currently works:

  • Sign in with a known token - if you know it you can get in, but nothing else.
  • Get yours and others user profile
  • Get your favourites

I’ll post an update as soon as I notice it being back up.

I’m thinking of implementing some sort of status check in Gluon to handle these very rare circumstances… at the moment there is nothing and it silently fails. Room for improvement!

Gluon, for Android, now available as a public beta

I’m happy to announce that Gluon is available as a public beta for Android. It was about time to get it out without having to email me for an invite. The Android version, as it stands, has feature parity with the iOS version (except push). Considering the iOS version is available via TestFlight it’s only fair to go ahead and do the same for Android.

Saying that, it’s far from finished, but I’m in really no rush to ship - it’s just how I work and I rather not rush things.

For the moment Android still lacks push notifications, this is a limitation with Micro.blog at this moment and something I hope will be addressed soon.

Anyway, here is the link:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.vincentritter.gluon.android

If there is anything just give me a shout and I’m happy to look at it for you.

Whilst Android is a much smaller target market, I really really appreciate all the great feedback from you all! It just shows me what a great community we have at Micro.blog!

Introducing Project Picard, my next code challenge aimed at developers that run their own servers.

Every month I spend more money just to manage my servers and apps than actually running them. Having multiple providers to manage different projects and frameworks isn't great. I want a solution that is fair, doesn't have limits - like the amount of servers - and ticks a few essential boxes with flexibility.

If you’re a freelancer or a small time dev, running your own servers, and using multiple frameworks you know that you usually have to jump through hoops to get everything up and running. Not to mention using different providers for your specific use case or framework.

This is my exact problem right now, in fact it has been like this for years! I run PHP projects (namely CMS’s), Ruby based projects (Rails) and an army of static websites from basic HTML to one-page JS apps built with Jekyll, React and others.

At best you can combine several providers to get the job done for you. I’m a visual person and also like things to be easy, so having a web app that can manage my servers is an absolute life saver. As a freelancer I don’t want to mess around with server configuration.

However, here is the rub… these services usually cost a hefty amount each month, they oppose limits to how many servers you can run on a price plan and, in most cases, limit what you can run on the servers without having to actually SSH into your server.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good that a tool exists for a specific toolset and I’m very grateful that they exist today and make it easier to run my day to day operations with ease.

I’m looking at combining the best of all worlds in one service, to satisfy my own needs right now. Not only that, I also want to learn much more about server set up. I already have a good understanding of it all, however I really want to dig into the bare metal of it all to truly appreciate it. Not only that, I also want to learn how to take this knowledge and combine it with a web app.

Life is busy as it is, so if I can work on something that replaces two or even three providers with one then that’s good in my book. Not only that, technically, I’ll be reducing my own monthly outgoings for managing the servers to zero. I totally understand that I need to run the infrastructure for this, but I could in theory spin up 10 basic Linode boxes ($5/month) and still come in way under what I spend now on other server management services.

So this is project Picard - a server provisioning service for Ruby on Rails, Laravel and static based projects, with zero downtime deployments. Which, of course, will include your usual mix of common PHP CMS platforms like Craft CMS or Wordpress.

A blogging series and perhaps a podcast

Like with my other challenges, I’ll be regularly blogging about the build and will also be opening up on what exact features I have in mind as time goes. I don’t want to spill the beans straight away.

I’m thinking of also doing a small micro-cast as I go for a few things. It’s a bit different for me, but I’d love to try at least. Get my voice out there. Always weird to see someone write but not know what they sound like.

Pre-register

So, getting to it… I have created a pre-registration page where you can sign up to be notified when it’s ready to launch. I took great care to make sure your data is encrypted. I can’t be PCI compliant, as I’m only one person, but I’ll try and stick to this as close as possible. Everything will be encrypted and I take security and privacy seriously. During sign up, you can also let me know if you’re interested in general updates that I will email out. You don’t have to if you don’t want to. I’m building my very own mailer for this, so no third party reliance here.

When I’m ready, I’ll be inviting a few people to help me test (if you’re interested of course).

I’ll share the link at the end of the post, however first you get to see a nice screenshot of the holding page:

OMG… THIS LOOKS LIKE A KID MADE IT! So what? I think most web apps and service try to be way too serious these days! I want to bring back a bit of fun and character. Just like most cars today… they look totally mean like they’re going to beat you up. So, I want to have a bit of fun and inject a bit of life and colour into it… whilst being extremely useful at the same time.

BUT WHAT ABOUT SERVERLESS?

Good question. It’s cool stuff, but there are still many people that just want to run a simple server and get their stuff running the tried and tested way. I totally recognise this need for serverless, but deep down I think it’s another way to put off new-comers into the world of development. So here I am trying to find a balance of usefulness and ease of use without breaking your and my head. If I ever go that route I will probably explore that.

Timelines

This project has just started and will be a rough 3 month project for me. Well, I’m giving myself 3 months for a basic, but feature rich, web application.

I already have pre-registration finished and am currently working on implementing a backend to help me manage mailing and other tools like inviting a batch of people for testing. It’s not at the top of my priority list, but it will play a good role later on in the project.

Next thing after that I’ll work on registration and login and promoting pre-registered users to a full account.

I always like to work from outside to in. So I work on it step by step like a normal person would use it.

Instead of writing the frontend first in a separate app, I’m actually going to be building the frontend straight into the app, so I don’t have to copy anything across at a later stage… because things always change as you write the actual code. This should make it a bit faster for me.

Of course, as I said, I’ll be blogging about pretty much everything again - so that’s gonna be fun for me.

Make it so!

Here is the website you can pre-register on: picard.sh.

If there are any problems, just let me know straight away. You’ll have to confirm your email in order to receive an invite email once it’s ready and the occasional update. If you don’t then I won’t email anything, just to avoid fake sign ups (it happens people!).

Anyway, I’m SUPER happy I took time to write this and announce it. I’ll be announcing specific features and pricing as we get closer, but feel free to send suggestions if you think this will be of use to you (S3 backups out the box, Python and node projects… just to give you some totally random ideas here).

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