Apple Makes Life Unpleasant for a Bernal Heights App Developer

Apple's Death Star Looms over Bernal Heights

Neighbors Jon and Liz aren’t the only Bernalese who have been making a splash on Ellsworth Street. Neighbor Greg Gardner is a software developer who also lives on Ellsworth, just a block north of Jon and Liz. He writes to tell us about his recent high-profile tangle with Apple:

In addition to my two neighbors here on Ellsworth St who were published in the New York Times Magazine, I also had an interesting weekend, although not as positive as theirs.

Last year I quit my job as a software developer to work for myself making iPhone and iPad apps. My first app went out earlier this year and didn’t do so well. So I started working on my second app, called Launcher, and released it a week and half ago, on the day that iOS 8 came out.

This second app was doing really well and I was planning on sending you a little note to let you know that one of your Bernal neighbors had built something that was being enjoyed by people all over the world.

Then Apple decided on Friday to take my app off of the App Store with little explanation. I think they did it on Friday evening in order to try to avoid it getting press coverage, but luckily it is getting picked up. Here’s what TechCrunch says about it:

Launcher’s creator, Greg Gardner, tells us that his new app had ranked highly on the list of the top 20 highest grossing productivity apps in the U.S. shortly after its App Store debut, and it made it into the top 10 highest grossing productivity apps in 43 different countries.

Nearly 300,000 users over the course of nine days downloaded Launcher, he says – good numbers for a brand-new app of any kind which hasn’t yet begun to do serious marketing or paid user acquisition.

Gardner explains in more detail via a post on his website, that Apple said that launcher apps like his were a “misuse of widgets,” and made the decision to pull the app down even though there are no written rules that state launcher apps cannot exist. He also says he attempted submitting a fix which would redirect users who tap on the Launcher widget first to the Launcher app itself, then to the target app. Apple rejected the fix within an hour on Friday, and then pulled Launcher from the App Store.

9 to 5 Mac covered the situation, and Business Insider headlined their article A Developer Created A Brilliantly Innovative New Way To Use The iPhone’s Widgets, But Apple Killed It.

I published my official take on the situation here, and an online petition has been set up. The petition is gaining traction as well.

So now, instead of quietly making a living for myself and my family building apps, I find myself thrust into a struggle against the company with the largest market capitalization in the world — all from my little house on Ellsworth. Obviously, my struggle pales in comparison to the ones many of our neighbors have had to fight to keep their houses and whatnot — but still, it’s an issue that affects my future livelihood.

Yuck. This isn’t the first time Apple has made life unpleasant for a Bernal resident, and it should come as a surprise to no one that Apple can be, uh, rather controlling. Still, it sucks when Apple acts arbitrarily and autocratically, and it sucks even more when that behavior impacts the livelihood of a Bernal neighbor.

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: Telstar Logistics

Air Combat: Precita Park and the Civic Politics of Drones

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Well, since we already live in the future, this was probably inevitable…

While Bernal neighbors conduct an ongoing conversation about the social norms associated with the presence of dogs in Precita Park, Neighbor Ruby reports that some Bernal residents are also trying to sort out the social norms associated with the presence of drones in Precita Park:

Thought you might be interested in an event that transpired [on June 25].

My partner Mary was at home when she heard an infernal noise emanating from Precita Park. We live on the park, so so threw on a jacket and raced outside.

There were two middle-aged guys there flying a drone!

She scolded them furiously and announced, “We don’t’ allow drones in our parks!”

They argued with her but she didn’t back down and finally they left, drone in hand. She said the drone made such an infernal noise and was so threateningly military-esque that all the dogs in the park were cowering.

Now, on a purely factual basis, there is no posted prohibition on the use of drones in Precita Park. (Yet.) There is, however, is a sign saying that dogs must be on leashes — which is generally disregarded. All of which may indicate that Bernalese prefer governance by implicit codes of personal responsibility and good neighborliness, rather than by explicit rules or legal regulations.

Or maybe not.

Regardless of who’s right or less-right in this scenario, the incident is an innnnnteresting harbinger of a civic conversation we are likely to have sooner rather than later — as neighbors, as a city, and as a nation.

Will we take a liberal attitude toward the technologies of future? Or will we establish drone equivalents to the Locomotive Acts of the 1800s, “which required all road locomotives, which included automobiles, to travel at a maximum of 4 mph in the country and 2 mph in the city – as well as requiring a man carrying a red flag to walk in front of road vehicles hauling multiple wagons”?

Either way, if you’ve enjoyed the discussion about canine leash policies, enforcement, tolerance, responsibility, shared space, and dog poop in Precita Park, you may also enjoy having a forward-looking conversation here about the politics of using remotely controlled flying machines in Precita Park as well.

Or maybe not.

UPDATE (promoted from the comments):  Neighbor Mat, the pilot of the drone involved in the incident above, describes a different version of encounter:

Well there certainly is two sides to every story. I’m one of the “middle aged men” who was flying the drone that day.

Before even touching the obviously spicy debate of whether I should or shouldn’t be able to fly a drone in a park by my house, I’d like to point out how ridiculously overblown her explanation of the situation is. The Funny thing is that I have the entire thing on video from the drone.

First of all, the conversation lasted all of 30 seconds (actually exactly 23 seconds) and I immediately said, ok, thats fine I’m your neighbor and I don’t want trouble. I did take the time to tell her that no this is not a military device, and no I can not remotely come close to seeing in her window.

Secondly this comment on the dogs “cowering” is just ridiculous. There was not a single dog remotely close to us. And in fact here is a screen shot from our footage that clearly shows that. I’m a Bernal dog owner myself, and if I thought that I was remotely disturbing somebodies pup I would immediately shut it down. http://s28.postimg.org/gqf2ibvh9/park.png

I’m not going to spend my entire day arguing with people on whether drones should or shouldn’t be allowed in Precita park, but I just wanted to point out that the original message really makes the situation out to be a lot different than it was.

The woman that confronted us completely had her mind made up that this was some sort of military device and that we were the enemy. The fact is that we are two of her neighbors using our day off to do something creative with ourselves and capture some cool and interesting footage of our neighborhood. If she is afraid of her privacy or neighborhood being violated, I think there are bigger battles to fight than two long haired guys sipping coffees and taking selfies with a go-pro on drone.

As for the topic of the noise, yes the drone makes a sound. The model that we were using maxes out at 82db and of course dissipates as it flies away. A gas powered lawn mower is about 100db. There is no question that the noise levels of a multiple bouncy castles full of children or Cesar Chavez at any time of time are much louder.

PHOTO: Image of Precita Park captured by Neighbor Mat’s drone, at the time of the incident described in this post.

New, High-Tech Solar Streetlight May Deter Illegal Dumpers. Maybe.

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The north entrance to Bernal Heights Park has been the site of many illegal dumping attacks, over the years, all done under the cover of darkness. But a new high-tech solar-powered streetlight should make the parking area a bit less attractive to debris-dumping hooligans.

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It’s “Off-Grid,” and it’s self-contained, complete with internal batteries. I only noticed it this week, but I almost walked by it without seeing it, so I wonder when it was actually installed. Neighbors?

But here’s the most important thing. It works! It really lights up!

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The extra photons will come in handy since the anti-dumping Eye of Sautrito has been largely repurposed for Burrito Railgun defense.

Smile! Look Happy! Google Street View Car Surveys Bernal

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Hopefully you brushed your sidewalks and flossed your expansion joints recently, because several neighbors spotted the Google Street View car in Bernal Heights over the weekend, presumably to update our visual data to reflect our look in late 2013.

Fortunately, Neighbor Mark did his part to ensure we present a clean, well-groomed appearance to cyber-tourists and future historians:

PHOTO: Street View car on Alabama at Precita on Saturday, by Don Derheim.

Hurry! Go See “First” by Bernal Playwright Evy Pine Before Nov. 10

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Neighbor Laurie urges one and all to see the Bernal-born play that’s currently on stage at Stagewerx, depicting a day in the life of Bill Gates (before he was BILL GATES):

We went yesterday to see “First” at Stagewerx theater on Valencia Street to see Bernal resident Evelyn Jean Pine’s new play about the young Bill Gates and the dawn of the personal computer revolution.

Evy teaches writing at SF State and has been workshopping plays at different theaters for a few years, but this is her first fully-staged production. It’s an excellent production, with professional actors (Jeremy Kahn who plays Bill Gates is especially good) and a interesting lens for looking at the soul of the computer industry.

The run has been extended several times, but it is scheduled to end on November 10, so there’s still time for people to see it. Get your tickets right here.

CNET writes:

Anyone interested in events leading up to the PC revolution will likely enjoy reliving the era of leisure suits, punch cards, 27K memory, and software shared via computer tape. “First” is a lively and nostalgic step back in time, though a number of references, to software royalties and video game addiction (in this case the apocryphal title Thrill Hill), feel surprisingly current.

And then there was this item in Leah Garchik’s SF Chronicle column:

Leo Maselli was at a Stage Werx performance of “First,” which is about young Bill Gates, when he heard a man say to his companion, “I just tweeted Gates and told him to buy the screen rights to this play ASAP.”

Again, the play runs until Sunday, November 10, so get your tickets ASAP.

PHOTO: Jeremy Kahn as Bill Gates, via Stagewerx

Drone Video Filmed Over Bernal Hill Lets You Experience the View Like Local Avian Wildlife

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Nathan Shipley just earned his wings with the Bernalwood Air Force.

Specificially, Nathan just established his credentials to lead the BAF’s Division of Drone Cinematography and Surveillance (BAFDoDCaS), and he did so in fashionable style by sharing some amazing footage he filmed over Bernal Hill while piloting a radio-controlled camera-copter:

Thought I’d share a quick video I shot over Bernal last week with my quadcopter drone. I was out shooting again this morning for the Bernal Heights Outdoor Cinema intro credits, and someone I met suggested I get in touch.

We’re glad he did, because this footage is gorgeous. Now we know what it feels like to be one of those red-tailed hawks we jealously admire gliding overhead:

How To iPlayDate: Bernal Neighbor Creates App to Connect Local Families with Kids

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The Citizens of Bernalwood should be proud of our locavore technologists. They build many amazing things, many of which are inspired by local conditions. The newest piece of amazing locavore software is an iPhone/iPad app called KangaDo, which is a kind of hyperlocal personal organizer/social network  for parents. It was created by Neighbor Sara, who says:

I am a NW Bernal resident (Winfield Street since 1999), tech professional, and mom of 2 active boys (8 & 11). Now I’m also the co-founder of a mobile startup. Over the years I’ve tried pretty much all the different variations of working from home, part time, taking time off for the baby, working full time at the office, etc.… and I’ve concluded that the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” rings true. We love our Bernal village on the hill.

I’m excited to share our free, newly released iOS app: KangaDo. It’s designed to help busy parents connect with their  “village” of  friends and family in local communities. KangaDo makes it easy for busy parents and  trusted friends to instantly organize  kids’ activities – without the endless email trails and text messages.

Here’s how it works:

  • Find and connect with local parents/friends you trust.
  • Instantly set up playdates, childcare, carpools, or whatever you need. Offer your help if you can (eg. “Anybody need milk? I’m at the Good Life store..”)
  • Friends are notified via the app when friends send them messages or requests, and they are reminded of events or requests they have accepted. KangaDo with your iPhone’s calendar.
  • Share requests by email with friends outside the app.
  • Free texting, photo & location sharing.

Download it from the App Store.

Clever! Impressive! Very cool! Plus, it’s fun to imagine how we’d describe KangaDo at a pitch meeting for Bernal Heights venture capitalists:

“See, it’s kind of like Twitter goes to a yoga class with TripIt then bumps into Uber and the BernalHeightsParents mailing in the playground behind the Bernal library.”

There you go. Done deal.