iPhone App 2.0

For the last few months I’ve been picking away at a new Broadsheet app for the iPhone.  It’s finally been released to world so it’s time to talk about it and some of the changes.

Raison D’être

The original version of the app was released in January 2011 and bar some minor bug fixes released in March 2011, it has gotten little attention since then.  While the app has been well received, there’s various bugs with commenting, sharing, post rendering and loading new posts.

The app also looks very tired and old compared to its peers so a bit of a more modern look wouldn’t go astray never mind the fact that none of the image assets were updated for retina displays.

What’s New



IMG_1719Straight off, for those on an iPhone 5, the app is no longer letterboxed.

There’s a new layout which disposes of the need for a tab bar by moving the information and tip tabs into the nav bar and eliminating of the gallery and video tabs.  The purpose gallery tab has disappeared as Broadsheet now posts galleries as images inline rather than using a javascript gallery.

The post archive is now searchable via a search bar which is hidden at the top of the post list.  While the search is powered by the not-great standard WordPress search, it does open up more content to the user.

Down on the bottom right there’s a fullscreen button.  This hides the status and navigation bars giving you an extra 64 pixels of space to gaze lovingly on the content.  When in fullscreen mode, there’s a little back arrow at the bottom left to help you navigate between screens.

Tapping an image in a post now brings you to that image in a gallery of all images associated with the post.  You can now easily zoom the image and swipe between the other images associated with the post.


There’s no need to return to the post list screen to navigate between posts.  Dragging the screen down will load the next post while dragging up will load the previous.  This turns into an infinite scroll for posts as long as there are more posts to view.  The post list screen will also be updated with the extra posts.

The comment view is now threaded as well as rendering people’s avatars (which are generated from Gravatar) properly. Now all we have to do is get people to sign up for their own avatar.  Comments can also be replied to directly as well as creating new posts.

Touch me

A big change from the original app is the use of gestures through out for navigation.  Swiping left and right brings you between the post list, a post and the post comments.  This allows for quick and easy navigation.

Swiping left on a comment allows you to reply directly to it, providing a secondary access method to the reply button.

IMG_1710 IMG_1711
On a post screen, the available controls are revealed with a long touch, putting the buttons just above your finger tip. These allow you to view comments, make a comment and share the post.

A Bit of Help


Gestures and hidden navigation is all well and good but it can be hard for users to discover.  This is easily solved with a couple of help screens which appear the first time you hit the post screen or go full screen.  These very quickly show you what you can do using some great gesture icons from Mobile Tuxedo.

Down The Line

There has been a consistent call for an iPad version of the app.  I have started on making the app universal (i.e. works on both iPhone and iPad from the same download) but for the initial release I decided that getting the iPhone version right was more important.  Hopefully I’ll complete the iPad changes over the next few months and release that as an update.

Other Platforms

An Android and Windows Mobile version of the app are in development and should be released soon.

You can download the app from the Apple App Store and if you have the previous app already installed you should be able to update.

Property Valuation Estimator

The property tax is a bit of a mess. First it was to be self-assessment but now Revenue is going to send you an estimate of their own which you can then dispute.

Ronan Lyons has come up with a nice way of estimating the value of your house based on work he’s been doing on property prices.


A table and some tapping of numbers is all well and good, but we know you’re lazy so we’ve whipped up a simple form to do all the calculating for you!

Obviously there’s caveats, so back to Ronan to explain them:

Clearly, this is by no means meant to capture every last factor affecting property values. (One simple extension is number of bathrooms – roughly speaking, every additional bathroom is associated with a 10% higher price.) This model captures just under two-thirds of variation in house prices in Ireland, which – given the small number of factors included – is pretty good. But there’s still a third out there to explain. (Including effects for areas within counties would explain a significant chunk of the remaining variation, as it happens.) On average this will be right, and it will for the vast majority of cases be close but of course there are always properties that have unobserved factors that dwarf what matters for most homes. The method underpinning the figures above explicitly excludes outliers, so as to better improve the estimates for the vast majority of homes.
The table above is based on 60,000 listings on over the year 2012, and allows for the fact that prices varied throughout the year. “Aha”, a sceptic might say, “these are only asking prices and sure we all know they are ”. As it happens, some pretty detailed research comparing asking and transaction prices shows they move together remarkably tightly, once controls for location and size are included (as they are here). Properties that sell typically sell for about 10% less than their asking price, so for that reason the starting point of €108,000 is actually 90% of the figure returned by the model. The key thing about the model is what it tells us about relativities (prices between counties), not necessarily levels.
Lastly, lest there be any confusion, I offer this table as a public service but can’t offer it as any more than what it is – one academic economist’s analysis of the market.

[A version of this post also appeared on]

A Broadsheet New Year

It’s that time of year where you look back and see how things went.  So without further ado, here’s how did in the last year.

The Big Numbers

Year-on-year there has been:

  • 110% increase in visits to just under 12.5 million
  • 95% increase in unique visitors to a smidgin over 3 million
  • 127% increase in pageviews to 29.1 million

Where Are Your People From?

The lion’s share of visits (72%) were from Ireland as you’d expect.  After that it drops off very quickly with the UK (10%), USA (5%), Australia (1%) and Germany (1%) rounding out the top 5.

Within Ireland, Dublin accounts for 57% of traffic and Cork 3% so we can be excused for a slight bias towards the capital.

Mucky Minds All Round

It will come as no surprise that the top three posts of the year were all mucky and not safe for work (even possibly life).

How They’re Finding Us

Apart from the usual crowd that put in some form of ‘Broadsheet’ as the search term, the top five search terms just re-enforces the idea that the readers have dirty minds with Rosanna Davison appearing twice.

  • rosanna davison
  • niamh horan
  • rosanna davison playboy
  • katie taylor
  • mario balotelli

Mario appears there because whenever he does something mad on the pitch or the news, people find the ‘Mario Balotelli: What A Legend‘ post.

The Window You Look At The Internet Through

Chrome dominates with 33% of users (up 7%), with the increase taking a chunk out of Firefox (21%) and Internet Explorer (17%).

Microsoft is slowly losing the OS battle with it slipping 4% to 61% of traffic while OS X (20%) and Linux (1.1%) both changed by under .5% each

About 16% of traffic comes from mobile devices and iOS is the big winner there accounting for 11%.

Have an Appy New Year

The much neglected iPhone App had 9,249 downloads last year.  For something that was thrown together over a couple of days Christmas two years ago, it does okay for itself.

An update is in the works at the moment which has some interesting things in it.

That’s all for now – there’ll be the usual Broadsheet birthday post later in July with more stat porn.


Broadsheet – Entering the Terrible Twos
A year in the Broadsheet


There have been several tragic deaths in the last few months that have been attributed to “cyberbullying”, the most recent involving Shane McEntee.

Since then TDs have been complaining that people have been venting their anger over the recent budget cuts via social media and fear a larger campaign next year due the inevitable abortion debate.

Now rather than figuring out why people are angry or using the existing channels on the various services to report abuse, the calls for regulation has begun.

Daragh O’Brien has written an excellent post (spurred on by a tweet about a report on Six One news) on why this is typical knee-jerk nonsense from people who want to seen doing something but haven’t actually thought it through.

He breaks down why such calls for regulation is a bad idea into three broad reasons. To start with is a philosophical question:

Bad Idea Reason #1 – What is Identity?

Requiring people to post comments, write blogs, or tweet under their own identity creates a clear and public link between the public persona and the private individual. The supporters of any such proposal will argue that this is a deterrent to people making harsh or abusive comments. However, in a fair society that respects fundamental rights, it is important to think through who else might be impacted by a “real names” policy.

In Ireland, people who would be affected by a “real names” policy in social comment would include:

  • Public servants who cannot comment publicly on government policy but may be affected by it
  • Survivors of abuse
  • People with mental health concerns or problems
  • Whistleblowers
  • Celebrities.

A real names policy would require that every time Bono tweets or blogs about Ireland, Irishness, or Irish Government policies he would have to do it under the name Paul David Hewson.

Add to that the massive technical headache that real names cause software developers leads us on to the next problem:

Bad Idea Reason #2 – How will it work exactly?

If verifiable identities are required for comment, then how exactly would a small personal blog that is used to exercise my mental muscles outside of my work persona (domestic use) be expected to handle the overhead of verifying the identity of commenters in a verifiable way.

Would I be expected to get people to register with the blog and provide evidence of ID? Would I be able to get a grant to help implement secure processes to obtain and process copies of passports and drivers’ licenses? Or will the State just require that I shut up… shop? Would the State indemnify me if this blog was compromised and data held on it about the identity of others was stolen?

It’s always easy to make a wild statement about something being built (like a real names database), but when someone with a bit of technical know how comes along it falls like a house of cards.  Concerns about the data being stolen are often ignored until it actually happens, as it did with South Korea’s “real name” database.

Finally, we have issue of laws hanging around beyond their sell by date

Bad Idea Reason #3 – The logical principle must be technology neutral

Blogging, tweeting, social media… these are all technologies for self-expression and social interaction that barely existed five years ago and where unheard in the mainstream of a decade ago. Therefore any regulation that requires identification of commenters must be framed in such a way as to anticipate new technologies or new applications of existing technology or risk near instant obsolescence. Therefore the regulation would need to be technology neutral. Which means that, in order to avoid it being discriminatory and to ensure it has the fullest possible effect, it would need to be applicable to other forms of technology.

Laws continue to exist until they are actively repealed (as evidenced by the recent highlighting of Section 58 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861).  Our TDs are not technical gurus (as they are displaying in spades here) and would not be expected to have enough vision to see what’s coming next year never mind 5 or 10 years down the line.  If there was to be regulation it would need to be worded very carefully or it becomes a barrier to newer, innocent developments.

That’s all well and good, but the wails of “THINK OF THE CHILDREN” could possibly drown it all out. Daragh gives a chilling example from a talk by security researcher Mikko H. Hypponen that we can draw direct parallels with:

In the 1980s in the communist Eastern Germany, if you owned a typewriter, you had to register it with the government. You had to register a sample sheet of text out of the typewriter. And this was done so the government could track where text was coming from. If they found a paper which had the wrong kind of thought, they could track down who created that thought. And we in the West couldn’t understand how anybody could do this, how much this would restrict freedom of speech. We would never do that in our own countries.

If a direct line can be drawn from something the Stasi would do to a law that is being discussed, you’re doing something badly wrong.

The Stasi are long gone and it might be dismissed as fear mongering and not comparing like to like.  International best practice would be to compare potential laws with those existing in other countries.  South Korea’s law (brought in for similar reasons) has been struck down by their constitutional court as it was prior censorship and “violated citizens’ privacy, was technically difficult to enforce and was ineffective at stopping online criticism”.  On the other hand, China has just introduced their version to crack down on dissent online about corruption in the government.  In Germany, the right to have an anonymous account in enshrined in law (German Telemedia Act) and a German data commissioner is taking Facebook to task over its real name policy which forbids pseudonyms.

So what to do about bullying online?  Well, Daragh points out lawmakers don’t have to do much as there’s already laws such as the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997 (for instance section 10 covers harassment) that can be used.  The laws may need a small bit of tweaking to bring them fully up-to-date but that is preferable to a raft of new, badly thought out legislation.

Broadsheet has its own problems with anonymous posters but we would fight to the death for your right to be able to post anonymously (but break the law you’ll be hung out to dry).

But really, this is all beautifully summed up in a tweet:


Calling The Tweet Police

2012: the year the political and media classes turned on internet users (via @tjmcintyre)

Oireachtas committee to examine social media role

No need for legislation to curb harassment from social media trolls

RTE probe after ‘deplorable’ tweet attack on senator

Legislation is not the answer to abuse on social media

Yet Another Searchable Property Price Register

Last Sunday, the Residential Property Price Register was launched.  Since I’m keeping an eye out for something to buy, I was fascinated by the details it contained.  But the search options were limited and there was no map.  However, the data was downloadable as a trio of CSV files.  So Yet Another Searchable Property Price Register was born.

I dumped all three files into a MySQL db, slapped a PHP script in front of it for searching and another to geocode the addresses and used Twitter bootstrap to give it a bit of spit and polish.  All in all it was a few hours work and another few hours to get the data geocoded.  It really leads me to ask what problems were encountered that resulted in it taking two years for the data to appear online.

If you want to have a look at the code or raw data, you can visit the repo on GitHub.  You’ll see a friend of mine, Mike McHugh has already helped make my rough version all the better.  I’ve included the database so people can submit improvements to the data.

Of course, it was such a good idea other people had it as well. They all put their own search interface onto the data and some did a few more interesting things.  The ones I’ve found so far are:

The head of the Property Services Regulatory Authority, Tom Lynch is quoted in an article in the Sunday Times (Home Truths, page 10 on 7/10/2012 – behind a paywall so I’m not bothering to link) as saying the don’t have additional information like square footage, number of bedrooms and other details that would truly make the information useful.  Yet’s version does just that using the data they have on hand.  Surely an interface could have been built for registering the houses that asked for these details (as well as actually validating the data and avoiding clangers like ‘Gawlay‘) when submitting for stamp duty.

It also seems odd that the official version didn’t consider mapping the data.  Even if they didn’t ask for the location when gather the data, services like Google’s Geocoding API (which I used) are available.  While not perfect,  it gives reasonable results most of the time.

It’s great to have the data, but there’s a lot more information that would give context and enhance what’s there.  Hopefully the criticisms  and improvements made by 3rd parties will be taken on board and a much improved version will appear in the near future.

Hopefully someone will find this useful and I’ll be updating the database as more data becomes available.

Monday Morning Doom and Gloom

With the return of the Dáil this week the annual sabre rattling over this year’s budget beings in earnest. But over the summer, some battle lines were drawn and there is already a vague shape to what will be announced in yet another austerity laden budget. So to drag everyone down on a Monday morning, I’ve released a preliminary calculator for Budget 2013

Joan Burton has been making noises all summer about changing (read: increasing) employee and employer PRSI rates. An increase from the current rate of 4% to 5% would result in an extra €293.96 on the tax bill of someone on the average industrial wage.

Another proposal from the Minister is that a parent earning over €100,000 would have their child benefit taxed.  At that level of earnings though it makes minimal difference with just €688.80 a year for a single child clawed back. Given that successive governments have failed to implement this it may not be worth while for the return.

Another big change in the budget is the full implementation of the property tax.  The rate has yet to be announced, but 0.5% of the property’s value has been mooted by the IMF.  You can be hopelessly optimistic and set the rate at a low of 0.05% (paying €50 per €100K of value) to an eye-watering high of 1% (paying €1,000 per €100K).

As more rumours surface, the inevitable misery will be added to the calculator (just in case there was any spark of hope forming).

Budget 2013 Calculator

[A version of this post also appeared on]

Bugger The Banks, We’re Going to Mars

With the successful landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars, the inevitable comparison with what has been poured into the banking system was made in the letters page of the Irish Times (and more amazingly without painful puns):

As a final aside, we could have had an Irish space programme and a viable base on the moon with all the associated financial, technological and investment spin-offs for the money that, with a stroke of a minister’s pen, we “invested” in bailing out our failed banks. – Yours, etc,

For a change though, someone has crunched the numbers. WorldbyStorm from The Cedar Lounge Revolution did some quick calculations on what’s been wasted on propping up failed banks (of course you could also add the money that’s flowing into Quinn Insurance because of the black hole there but that only covers 2/3rds of a Curiosity):

The EU bailout saw €17.5 bn from the NPRF. Then there’s the ‘loans’ from the EU, IMF and UK/Denmark and Sweden which would account for €67.5 bn. Sundry other costs can be thrown in. So let’s say we had €100bn.

That’s a lot of cash, but Apple currently has approximately that in cash reserves right now so it’s not an impossible number to reach especially over a number of years. So what would that get you?

There’s a web page here which suggests that it cost $100bn at 1994 rates to land on the Moon. But even accounting for inflation we wouldn’t necessarily have to follow all the steps. For a start we could double up some of the missions and vehicles, perhaps by moving straight to a three or more person capsule and eschewing either the Mercury or Gemini elements of the program.

Now here’s the thing – Space X has developed, built and launched a reusable spacecraft that docked with the ISS for the paltry sum of $800 million. There’s already plans to build a version that could make it Mars. So a chunk of the R&D has already been done. Their model of providing resupply services to the ISS would also be a source of income to plough back into the program.

That’s all well and good but what about some of the other practicalities of skilled people to actually run such a program or even build anything. As it happens, Ireland is already involved with the ESA since 1975 and has an active (if small) space industry. It’d need to scale up, but that would provide jobs and direct investment that paying off bondholders doesn’t.

Just think. For less than the bailout, we could gather up all the architects of our current situation and bundle them into a capsule bound for Mars and still come out ahead. We could even televise their one way trip for even more money.  All in the name of science.

An Irish Space Programme and an Irish Base on the Moon! What do you mean we spent the money already?

A version of this post also appeared on

Invalid IPA: The keychain-access-group in the embedded.mobileprovision and your binary don’t match.

Update 2014/03/12 This QuickLook plugin is a great way of seeing what’s in your provisioning profiles:

Provisioning profiles are such a delight.  My latest battle with them involved getting the following error:

Invalid IPA: The keychain-access-group in the embedded.mobileprovision and your binary don’t match.

The background to the situation is this: I’d run out of devices on one of my Apple Developer accounts and needed to send out a test build to some new users. So I created a new bundle ID in my second account, re-archived the app and sent it out. The tester came back with the above error when they tried to install it.

The problem lay with me not changing the application-identifier and keychain-access-groups values in the entitlements file. These need to match the new provisioning profile values. The values for these changed because I was using a different developer account. keychain-access-groups is easy to miss as it’s folded when you open the entitlements file in Xcode.

You’ll find the correct values in your provisioning profile as well as in the App IDs page in the iOS Provisioning Portal.

Another error I hit with my second dev account was:

entitlement ‘application-identifier’ has value not permitted by a provisioning profile

This turns out to be caused by signing the IPA with the wrong identity. How did I manage that you ask? I was using my auto archive script and I’d forgotten to change what identity to use when signing. There’s two hours sleep I’ll never get back.

Previously: The executable was signed with invalid entitlements. (0xE8008016)

Broadsheet – Entering the Terrible Twos

Broadsheet is two today so it’s time for my yearly round up*.   All the stats have been pulled from Google Analytics so should be pretty reasonable.  You can read my post about last year’s stats if you want some extra context.

Broad strokes 

First off, some year on year details:

  • Visits up 234% (10,378,376 vs. 3,105,424), with an increase of 142% in unique visitors (2,693,084 vs. 1,112,596)
  • Served up 253% more pages (23,128,367 vs. 6,544,165)
  • 75% of our visitors are repeat viewers

It’s been a year of tremendous (and consistent) growth. The addition of Cloudflare to the server setup has really taken the brunt of the increased traffic. There’s still intermittent issues, but certainly not as common as they were in the previous year.

Traffic is still growing so hopefully next year I’ll be commenting on similar growth – something I wouldn’t have expected last year.

Number One With A Bullet

I love lists (the ‘Top 100 x’ shows Channel 4 used to do were complete catnip for me), so of course I’m going to do a couple of Top Tens.

Top Ten Posts

The Garda/horse pictorial was a thing of absolute beauty. The pictures were submitted by a reader, thrown up and within hours had spread all over the internet. It may be crude and gutter humour but people are a sucker for the humiliation of others – especially when a figure of authority is involved.

The flip side of that though is the interest shown in the tragic story of Kate Fitzgerald. While it would be easy to put it down to morbid curiosity, I do think people were genuinely moved by it and annoyed with how the Irish Times handled the situation.

Recycle, Reduce, Reuse

The reason for all our traffic has been the 11,936 posts with 154,748 comments. In the last year, there’s been a few recycled post titles.

Top Ten Search Terms

Once again, Google is the only search engine worth talking about as Yahoo and Bing only accounted for 2% of visits from search terms.

When it comes to the phrases used, the actual top ten is dominated by people lazily typing in ‘broadsheet’ (or some variant thereof – it’s 7 of the top 10) into a search box so I’ve excluded them to get at the more interesting terms.

  • tallafornia
  • kate fitzgerald
  • niamh horan
  • mario balotelli
  • crackbird
  • yootube
  • jean byrne
  • balotelli
  • axl rose
  • eoin mckeogh

Jean Byrne is the only term from last year, so the list is a reasonable approximation of what people’s obsessions were in the last year.

During the Dundrum Shopping Centre flooding last October, there was a huge spike of incoming searches (jumping from about 6K to 15K). While the number of visits have been building we’ve still to beat this with an average of about 11K visits a day at the moment.

Facebook > Twitter > Reddit > Google+

Facebook continues to be the single biggest referrer outside of searches, maintaining the healthy lead on Twitter with more than twice incoming visits (~2.3 million vs. ~1 million).

Twitter on a rare occasion will send more traffic but that’s usually down to someone like Dara O’Brian retweeting a story (a recent case was the prank call to the TV3 psychic).  What’s nice these days is that the extra traffic tends not to cause the site to lock up.

After the two sharing behemoths, the social referrals drop off very quickly.  Reddit comes in a distant third, providing about 80K visits.

Google+ does practically nothing for the site in comparison to the other social networks – so much so the button was removed to save on the extra Javascript it needs.  It barely even scrapes into the top ten social sources. You can understand why it has been called a network for Google employees and Amazon employees who want to Google employees when you see how little traffic it generates.

The top five referrers were:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Google

Browser Battle Royale

Google are claiming Chrome is the most popular browser and it certainly king of the hill for Broadsheet jumping from 3rd to 1st accounting for 30% of visits.  Firefox dropped 6% to 23%, Internet Explorer is down to 19% and Safari stays at 15%. I point blank refuse to talk about Opera.

The IE 6 death match nears the end with only 0.7% of visits from the decrepit browser.  This drop off was helped by the fact that the version of WordPress used doesn’t support it.

Beauty and the Beast

Microsoft might be losing the Browser Wars, it still is the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to what people are running on their machines with 62% of devices running some sort of flavor of Windows. There’s still people using Windows 98! Apple comes in with 20% of devices using some version of OS X.

On the mobile side, iDevices still rule the roost with 11.5% of visitors compared to Android’s 3.7%. I keep on hearing about Android’s supposed dominance of the smart phone market but any time I’ve seen website stats it’s been trailing. Maybe next year but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

One minor thing to note is that the Windows devices include the Windows mobile numbers (albeit in tiny numbers) while the Apple’s doesn’t. I can only assume if there’s a big uptake of Windows Mobile 7 and 8 in the coming year they’ll be separated out.

An oddity that surprised me is that there are the people out there still using OS/2 and SunOS.  I can only assume they’re self-flagellants (or just messing with the user agent field to mess with my head).

And We’re Done

That’s all I’ve to say for another year.  If you’ve any comments or questions, let me know and I’ll try and answer them.


Since people have been asking about a geographical break down, the top 10 visitor locations (with number of visits) are:

  • Ireland (7,551,080)
  • United Kingdom (1,117,594)
  • United States (519,110)
  • (not set) (120,021)
  • Australia (118,150)
  • Germany (101,340)
  • Canada (93,057)
  • France (72,971)
  • Netherlands (72,412)
  • Belgium (65,618)

*If you saw this post a month ago it’s because I can’t tell the difference between a 6 and a 7 in a date…

A Sunday Afternoon Project: KMMapList

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing another version of the Pint of Plain app and one of the things I want to change is list of bars you first see when you open the app. During the week I ended up on Dribble and saw a screenshot from an app called Chow Now.
What I liked about this is that the extra detail about the restaurants is present at the bottom where’s there’s more room to breath.  It’s a nice combination of the now traditional map and list views.  I’m guessing that tapping a pin will make the scroll view move and swiping the scroll view highlights the pin.  The details at the bottom are far more detailed than a normal call out and there’s enough room to have the phone number tapable as well as leading to a more detailed view.

Now I’m sure this will be easy to build with [REDACTED] in iOS 6, but I want something I can use now as other wise it’s an idea that would lie rotting in my brain.  I also wanted to play with reusable UIViews built with Interface Builder as a test for a couple of future app ideas.

I’ve a first pass of my code in a repo on GitHub  and I’ll probably be poking at it a bit more over the next few weeks.  For something that I kicked about for a couple of hours today the core of it is there and I’m happy enough with the result.  It’s not as pretty as the example from Dribble, but that was never going to happen with my cack handed design chops.

Functionally there but just not pretty

There’s probably quite a few improvements that could be done to the current code (apart from the obvious hard coding of the data points).  It’d probably be better if the off screen views were generated just in time rather than all at once and I’ve still to figure out how it’ll handle a large number of annotations.  Still, it’s a good proof of concept and worth moving along.  We’ll see how it goes over the next little while.