One weird trick to build multiple Phonegap Apps for Free

- by Chip - the alien

Everyone knows I like anything that's green or gold, but what you might not know is that I never have any of it to give - on account of being an all-consuming alien. When I touch something, I absorb it and so I can only give away free advice and free Apps.

Since there are other starving startups out there, I thought I would share this 100% legal and 100% free way to make multiple private Apps using Phonegap. At least I think it's free and legal - especially for aliens like me... (See for yourself)

Option 1:
You can install Phonegap locally and run it from the Command Line Interface (CLI).

The super Adobe people made it really easy to download - and there are tons of FAQs and Docs online. You can develop in XCode or your favorite text editor. You can edit image, music and other files anywhere too - and then use the CLI to compile the final App. As a programmer, I like this option, but the rest of the team
loves the simplicity of Phonegap Build... Wait, that was the point of this post wasn't it? Whoops!

The whole reason for this trick is to avoid paying a subscription fee, but you might want to know why there's a fee in the first place. PGB lets you use the cloud to build one private App and multiple public Apps for free. The public Apps thing might work for you, but we didn't want our Apps (or source code) out there until they're ready for prime time.

But wait! Adobe has another plan where you can maintain multiple private Apps in one account, but you have to pay a monthly fee. That might make sense if you have 10-25 Apps, but what if you only have 3? There are probably strong benefits to maintaining the Apps in Phonegap Build, but if you already store them elsewhere, then what's the point? Seriously. I actually don't know. I suppose you could maintain multiple accounts, but then you might go crazy as the App count increases.

Option 2:
Moxxy stumbled across this little trick when pressing buttons on the Phonegap Build site. Since you upload a complete zip file for each App anyway, all you have to do is upload it within your existing private App. Sure it changes the name, icon and everything, but who cares - since your code is already maintained somewhere else... remember?

Ok, here's the tricky part: make sure to select separate provisioning files for your different Apps - otherwise they will overwrite each other when installed on the device! You only have to upload them once - and then select the right ones when you're ready to build. Grace had this neat idea: name each signing key based on the App and deployment type (ex: 1Gif-Prod). That way you can easily select the right one later.

Giving Back:
I'm not sure how long this trick will last, especially now that everyone will be using it :) but I really hope Adobe keeps it open. It's just a little marketing expense - and as a result it turns out to be a really smart move - by a great company! I mean, if it wasn't for the sweet tools they've given us and the platforms they support, we might not be here tonight, doing the same thing we do every night: try to take over the world! (btw: that big headed mouse was one of us :) So, I hope that after you get to 5+ Apps and/or begin to make real money, that you pay for a subscription to give back to the community. And while you're at it, do like that Clynton guy and buy other stuff from Mozilla, Apple, Google and Amazon too!

One more thing:
Sam wanted me to mention that our little team of aliens (plus an imaginary Earth friend) is working hard to bring you fun and amazing (free!) Apps. They are available on iOS, Android, Kindle and Firefox (for now) - thanks in large part to Phonegap. You can really help us out by downloading, enjoying and sharing these Apps with friends.

Thanks and keep on C0D1NG!
Chip - the alien.

tl;dr; Upload your zip files to a single private App, then play TicTacToe-Ai or use 1Gif while you wait for the build.
Important: If your Apps overwrite each other when installed, read the full article above for the weird trick that fixes it.

A Kickoff Rule to Consider this Off-Season

What's one rule-change in football that could increase player safety, reduce penalties and make a mundane procedure more interesting?

Here's a hint: not too long ago, the line where the ball is placed on the kickoff was moved up. The result was more touchbacks, fewer bone-crushing collisions, fewer game-winning run-backs, and more grumbling in the broadcast booth (and nobody needs more of that). I used to like hearing Collinsworth say 'Whatever they do, they better not kick it to that guy... Oh boy, here we go... Why would you kick a line drive to that guy?'

Ask yourself this. If a 5-yard penalty when assessed on the kickoff means an almost certain touchback, can a 15-yard personal foul be considered a penalty? I would call it more of a benefit - especially for teams that struggle with kickoff returns.

So, my one tiny suggestion is to award 1 point for every ball kicked through the uprights on the kickoff. That will nearly eliminate the automatic touchback that's become so common. And those watching at home will likely race back for the kick, giving advertisers one more crack at them :(

This is something that's already being done (on the point-after-try) and awarding the same number of points. It puts some bite into "the penalty will be assessed on the kickoff" - forcing players to think twice before doing stuff that cause injuries (and might cost them the game). Plus, it gives commentators one more scenario that could break a tie in a few seconds before a game goes to overtime...

So everyone's happy! Right?

4 Startup Lessons from Sim City

As an engineer, sometimes it's hard to know what I bring to entrepreneurship - versus what lessons I picked up from PC and video games. One thing I know is that iterating through games gave me preliminary insights into challenges I would face as a startup founder (and even as a full-time employee). Here are some of the big ones that just might convince you to feed Sim City to your kids - instead of plain ol' TV.

1. Just get started. An essential insight Maxis had for what really is a complex game is the need for a simple starting point. You fill in a couple fields (like city name) and then wham! Your city is growing and the papers are publishing all sorts of consumer sentiment. In a startup, you never know all the answers - and sometimes you miss gaping holes. After 20 Sim-years for example, I realized that my city needed utility lines and water pumps - but it wasn't too late to correct the mistakes and build a great first city. Having thousands of residents at that point also taught me that when your filling a need, your product can be missing complementary features, but could still attract loyal "customers."

2. You can't please everyone. Let's say crime is extremely low and there aren't any fires. Your Sim-izens will clamor for low taxes - and some will leave because of it. Yet, when you close the stations, and riots or fires break out, they'll beg for higher taxes - and many will leave for safer ground. When it comes to "selling" in business, I've heard that good sales people are eager to accept a NO and move on to the next prospect, because its the fastest way to a YES. Believe it or not, it's a hard concept for engineers - and for me, it took building many cities for it to make any sense. Now, I embrace any feedback from people who love/hate my Apps. It will help me make improvements faster!

3. Startups fail - so get up and try again. There is no amount of RTFM that can tell you everything that's needed to build a thriving city. You just have to try different things (all costing money!) to hopefully keep your citizens happy. Sometimes you get run out of town due to slow growth or runaway debt. It happens - and it doesn't matter how careful you are. After a few of those experiences, you learn that good things can happen, but the more likely outcome is failure. In Sim City as in life, it's thankfully never the end of the world. If you're still breathing, you can always start over. That lesson has helped me more than once in just the past decade - whether I was full-time employed or running a startup.

4. Anyone can do this. You would be amazed at how many people I've met with a rags to (middle-class) story. Each one provides a reason to be humble, while at the same time reminding me to stay focused. But even before getting started, it was Sim City that showed me that success was possible... eventually. As I kept building, learning and improving, I was rewarded with bigger and better structures - and eventually even my very own statue! That was cool, Maxis! In real life, I might never get the call from @Arrington I've been waiting for, but surely @Jason is keeping an eye on me - and one day, if I keep at it, they'll both be fighting to lead my A round.

If you've got a little one who needs a break from homework, I urge you to turn them onto Sim City. They will pick up relevant lessons that will outperform the few jokes they might miss from TV.