An increasing number of companies, such as Australia's Collect3, are dedicated to iPhone development. Not all developers have the resources of a whole company behind them, however. Many toil away at iPhone apps as a hobby outside of work hours, using little more than their home computer and iPhone. This doesn't mean that their apps are poor quality, however: some of the best iPhone apps have come from solo developers who have a good idea.
One such developer is Nick Maher: by day a financial solutions programmer and by night the mind behind TripView, a public transport schedule and route planning app for Sydney iPhone users. We have a chat to Nick about his company, Grofsoft, TripView and how he juggles iPhone development with daily life.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and what got you into programming for the iPhone?
I work as a programmer in the finance industry, mainly on applications related to real-time market data. I've also spent some time working in the games industry, and I like programming just for fun — I started off on a Commodore 64 back in the early 80s, and I've kind of been addicted to it ever since.
I bought an iPhone last August mainly to write software for it. I was really impressed by what Apple had done with the App Store, and it looked like it was going to be an exciting platform to develop for. I had an existing mobile application (TrainView), and thought that I'd have a go at porting it to the iPhone.
What is the inspiration behind the Grofsoft name?
There wasn't much inspiration behind it to be honest — I'm hopeless at coming up with names! I needed to register a domain name back in 2003, and was stuck for ideas, so I ended up naming it after one of my characters in EverQuest, an online game I was playing at the time.
Grofsoft and iPhone app development isn't your full-time job and yet you are able to update and provide support for your apps. How do you cope with juggling both commitments and how has this affected your development schedule?
I don't have as much time to work on TripView as I'd like, but I try to do a little bit each day just to keep it going. A lot of it is actually written on the train. I travel 45 minutes on the train morning and afternoon, and I've found it's a pretty good development environment. There are not too many distractions: I don't have Internet access on my laptop, and there's nothing else to do, so I can usually just put on some earphones, zone out, and get some work done. Also I have an awesome wife who puts up with me spending too much time coding at home.