Wednesday, February 17, 2010

iAutoCalc iPhone App Update - 1.1.0

Today I submitted version 1.1.0 of iAutoCalc to the app store.  This version fixes a few bugs and adds a small new feature.  To those who have already purchased the app, you should get this update for free once it's approved by Apple.

First the bug fixes:
  • On the Lease View, if the price was adjusted by using the + or - button it was not saved properly when the app was closed and re-open.  This has been fixed.
  • Some of the entry boxes were not validating input (allowing characters when only numbers should be allowed), they all should be validating correctly now.
  • On the Lease View, updated the Term Length label to include what type of value it expects.  In this case months.
  • On the Settings View, the Percentage Adjustment was not dismissing the soft keyboard properly.  This has been fixed.
  • Also on the Settings View, the Percentage Adjustment was not full visible while the soft keyboard was on the screen.  This has been fixed by moving the fields around.
  • Adjusted the field locations on the buy and lease screens so they match up.  This makes the transitions between screens smoother.
  • Other general behind the scenes code clean up
New features:
  • Added a 'Link Prices' setting.  When turned on, this feature cause the starting prices on the buy and lease screens to move in tandem.  For example, if you change the price on the buy screen it will also change the price on the lease screen and vice versa.  I think this will make it easier to negotiate a price and decide between a buy or a lease at the same time.
  • Added an about view that shows the app version and links back to this website.
More information about iAutoCalc can be found here in the version 1.0.0 release notes.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

iAutoCalc iPhone App!

It's time to introduce the iPhone app I mentioned in this post.  I have submitted iAutoCalc to the app store for review and am now waiting for a response.  So what exactly is iAutoCalc?

My idea with iAutoCalc was to provide a tool that someone could use during the real-time, in the dealership negotiation process of buying or leasing a car.  I looked at other loan calculators that were already on the app store and while they did fine job at calculating a loan or lease, they did not make it as easy as I would like to tinker with the numbers and be able to quickly negotiate a price.  Dealers tend to talk fast and loose with numbers and I wanted an app that could work just as fast to keep them honest.

There are two main screens in iAutoCalc.  The first is the buy screen:

At first glance this appears to be a standard car loan calculation screen, but there are some differences that make it a better fit during a real-time negotiation.  Instead of forcing a user to pick a length of the loan, the analysis screen shows the four common loan lengths so the user can see at a glance the difference in terms.  Also, the user will notice + and - buttons next to each of the input fields.  These buttons allow the user to change the input fields by a configurable amount so the user can quickly play with numbers during a real time negotiation.  The price, down payment, and interest rate are all individually configurable.  They can be configured as dollar amounts (+/- $1000 for example) or as percentages.

The second screen is the lease calculator:

Leases are often hidden behind a lot of magic numbers that the dealer tries to keep secret.  For example, the money factor is a number that is used to calculate monthly interest on a lease.  No matter what the lease terms are an interest rate can generally be found by multiplying the money factor by 2400.  The lease calculator screen does this calculation for the user, and also breaks down the parts of a lease payment to give the user the information needed to make an informed choice.  Like the buy screen the user can quickly adjust price and residual value and immediately see how it changes the lease cost.

The Tips views lists some useful car buying negotiation tips that I have learned while buying cars.  If anyone has other tips they want to share I will add them to app in the next update.

I want to credit app-bits for their free icon set where I found the calculator and gear icons.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How To Start AND Finish

I came across this on 43 Folders. Anytime I'm lacking motivation I always pick some random article from the site. I was procrastinating tonight and came across this talk about starting something AND finishing it.

Like most people I have lots of ideas that I think are great. I've started many of them, but never finished any of them (outside of work of course) - basically I'm suffering from brain crack. Starting is generally easy for me, but finishing is hard. I have come up with all kinds of excuses in the past.
  • I'm too busy
  • The idea sucks
  • Technology is too hard
  • I not smart enough
  • I don't have time to learn it
What's interesting is that I write software at work all day and these excuses never get in way. I start and finish project after project. So, I've decided to start and finish two personal projects before starting any others. It doesn't matter if they suck or if I find the ideas have already been done (more excuses). The point here is to take these two projects to completion before moving on.

Why two projects? Well sometimes I really do need something else to do. I solve a lot of software problems while I'm in the gym, taking a shower, or simply working on something else. I think that having two projects will help me stay focused instead of running into a problem and getting sucked into the internet vortex.

Project 1 is an iPhone application. It's a pretty simple utility app, but I think it is genuinely useful. As I get closer to completing it I'll give a full description of what it is and how I think it can help people. I have already learned a lot about iPhone development and objective-c in general. I have a few posts planned that should be up soon.

Project 2 is a small website developed using RoR. I've played around with RoR in the past, but never took a project to a releasable state. I'll explain more about the idea later, because it's currently taking a backseat to project 1.

Finally, the main reason I put this out here is because telling people I'm going to do something is a motivating thing. Doing something in secret means I can quit and no one will ever know. When I start telling every person I see that I'm working on something it creates an expectation that the next time I see that person I want to have an update for them.