Find the iOS Simulator Document Directory

I really enjoy working with Xcode 6, but it has been quite annoying that the iOS Simulator changes the name of the directory it uses as data container each time you start it. There are a few manual method to find and get to the document container I had been using. I will describe them here. Because my apps tends to use a lot of files in data that I need to check while debugging, I also created a little tool that wraps the manual methods into a very useful (at least to me) and easy workflow. you can download the app here.

Manual logging

The easiest way is to add logging of the directory location on startup. I typically make it conditional to being in the simulator as to no clutter the log in a device. Here is what I typically add to the applicationDidFinishLaunching function.

I then copy from the output of the console the directory and paste it into finder, terminal, emacs or your tool of choice

Simple. Efficient. Tedious

Needle in a haystack

A different approach would be to save a small file in the document directory on start up which then allows you to find that simulator without having to start the app and refer to the console. It would look something like this:

If as above you save a file with the app identifier in the name as above, you can then later generically find that directory using a find command and then wrap that into your favourite scripting language

LastLaunchServicesMap.plist

You can also find a file in the Library of the device directory of a simulator that contains the path of the last container. That file is under the path Library/MobileInstallation/LastLaunchServicesMap.plist. You can then print it using plutil -p LastLaunchServicesMap.plist, the key User contains information about each application in the simulator. Somehow it still seems to be missing some apps, but contains most of them.

Simulator Data Finder

To make my life easier, I built this app that leverages the last two methods to make it easy for you to find your simulators and files. The app can present you with a list of simulators and app as below. It then has a easy access button to finder, copy to clipboard or terminal for the path. It will try to find the directory using the LastLaunchServicesMap.plist file and if it still doesn’t find it, you can download this header file and add the following macro call in your applicationDidFinishLaunching,

You can download the app here. You can read here why I was unable to publish this app in the apple App Store which would have been more convenient.

One added bonus to the app is that it organises for easy access container you’d have downloaded from a device for a given app. It matches them by bundle identifier and currently looks for them in the download directory.

The path to rejection in the apple App Store

I have been developing apps on iOS for quite a while now as a side hobby. The latest Xcode has an ever changing directory for the Xcode simulator, which has been a bit painful to work around, despite a few tricks. So I decided it was a good opportunity for me to get into OS X application development and build a little tool that would let me organise and access files on the simulator for each app work on. I had been always writing my user interfaces fully programmatically so I also decided I would take this opportunity to explore interface builder and storyboard.

The first impression of OS X was that it’s actually not that different, some classes have different names and APIs but it’s remarkably similar. I felt right at home using NSTable. I got the basic of the app working very quickly and it instantaneously proved quite useful to my app development workflow. So much so that decided to share it on the AppStore as a free utility for other developers.

So on I go, paid my $99 to apple to become a Mac registered developer, as until know I only was an ios developer.

Sandboxing

First hurdle was that I had to sandbox the application. This meant that access to the terminal via AppleScript stopped working, but most significantly it wasn’t possible to access the simulator directory as it was outside the sandbox. I used the terminal as I wanted the app to let you pop up a finder window or a terminal window on the directory of a selected app.

Not to worry, according to the sandbox guideline you can access any directory as long as the user grant access by showing intent: all I had to do was to bring up a open dialog window on the directory where the simulator reside and once the user pressed ok, the app had access.

For the terminal, once you figure the syntax you could explicitly ask for access to terminal in the entitlement file. Et voila, all the functionality was working again in a sandboxed app.

There was though one major issue. Every time you pop up the open dialog, it would pop up a new duplicate window. It was really annoying and drove me nuts for a while. Without sandboxing it was all working fine, as soon as you turned on sandboxing that duplicate window kept coming up. I searched in the development forums, documentation, etc. I didn’t find any solution or mention of that problem. So I filed a bug report (easy to reproduce the problem with a very simple project) and used one of my support tickets (you get two as a registered developer) to ask an apple engineer for help.

Almost two weeks later I got the answer from apple. It is a bug on apple side, to solve it I should not use storyboard… Great. So I refactored all my code to use an xib file instead of storyboard and now it worked!

First Submission

Feeling all set to go, I purchased an icon on shutterstock, quickly added some help and documentation to the app and submitted it to the Apple Store for review. One week later, I got my first rejection. I so far never received a rejection for my iOS app, so it was quite disappointing. The feedback was that I used entitlement that I shouldnt.

I figured this must have been the access to terminal. Even though it seemed to use the standard method to request entitlement, I had always been a bit worried in the back of my mind that accessing terminal could be a security issue because it would let you execute potentially damaging commands.

It made sense and I removed that functionality and resubmitted the app. One week later another rejection with the same reason. You can’t be serious! Actually it was: silly me I had resubmitted the app without selecting the new binary, so they reviewed the same app I had submitted the first time. Another week wasted.

Final Rejection

I carefully selected the updated binary and resubmitted the app.

Almost two weeks later the app goes into review. There are typically two stages in a review: waiting for review, that in my previous experience takes a few days to a week, then it becomes in review, which takes a few hours to a day or two. Nice, I felt hopefully it will go through soon…

Not so fast. A few days pass. Then a week. Still in review. I almost forgot about it when after over three weeks, I start to wonder. Did something happen? I did some research on the Internet, app review times gives some average days to review of 8 or 9 days. I am way beyond… After a month of being in review I write to apple asking if there is any information they need from me to review the app. The answer comes quickly: no information needed, they are still reviewing the app and just had to be patient.

After more than once month I just received the final rejection. The app is rejected because “I am modifying user file in a way that is not publicly documented”. I am not modifying any file in the app! But it then hits me: apple just does not want me to write this app.

I write a last appeal to the reviewer: I do not modifying any file in my app, only bring up a finder window on a directory after the user has granted access and showed intent by clicking Authorize on an open dialog box. The final answer from the reviewer: we just don’t want app to access simulator files.

Here we go. Hard to not feel a bit of frustration and disappointment, almost three months after starting the app. I still believe this app is really useful and became an important part of my debugging workflow. So I put a bit of wrap around and made it available to download via this website and hope others will find it useful as well.

Garmin Connect New Policy Impact on ConnectStats and 3rd party apps

First I want to be clear that I have been a huge fan of Garmin’s for years. I own 6 devices and think they are extremely well done. I have also encouraged a lot of friends, colleagues and family to purchase Garmin devices over the years.

Monday March 2nd, Garmin announced they would stop making their API freely accessible and that 3rd party would have to pay $5,000 to access the data in Garmin connect.

I understand their infrastructure is costly to maintain but I feel such a steep fee risk killing the independent 3rd party applications which I believe adds value to Garmin customers and therefore Garmin as well.

I would propose a multi-tier system where 3rd party apps register and get a first limit of daily access for free, say 50,000 access per day. Heavy user breaching this limit would have to pay the 5,000$ fee.

I believe this system would be to both Garmin’s and its users benefit.

The Policy Change

On wednesday February 19th, Garmin updated its website which resulted in the approach used by most apps and website to access garmin connect data via an API to fail. The api used to have a license saying the following


This is the license file for GarminDeveloper.com. You are free
to access our API as long as you agree to create great things.

The link to that license has now been disabled http://connect.garmin.com/proxy/activity-search-service-1.2/downloads.html#License

On monday March 2nd, Garmin has notified developers that they are changing their policy and will charge $5,000 dollar fee for access to the API. Here is an extract of the message about the new policy.

Garmin has instituted a new policy regarding the accessibility of our developer programs. The previous strategy of freely available APIs quickly became unsustainable due to increasingly high demand. In response, we have established a new pathway for our Connect API. Firstly, there is a vetting process. We are strategically limiting the scope of this program to specific developers that will enhance the user experience. Secondly, those who are approved for inclusion will be charged one-time $5,000 administrative fee to cover the extensive engineering and server support required for the Connect program.

Consequence of the decision

This decision will likely force the eco system of independently developed 3rd party app to partially or completely disappear. This is a consequence which will affect customers. A lot of innovation can come from independent developers. Niche functionality can make its way to customers. It is likely not worth Garmin’s engineers’ time to cater to all customers software needs or custom data analysis needs. Enabling third party to provide for them helps make the Garmin devices more attractive. The size of the fee will dissuade a lot of experimentation for small players. The cost of entry is too high.

Most disturbingly it means it prevents people to use their own data in more creative ways than just using the data from the website. ConnectStats started as purely a tool for myself to look and slice my own data. I decided to share it as it could be useful to others, but right now it means I would not be able to use my own data in my code without paying $5,000, even if I pull the app from the store. This sounds wrong to me. Savvy users wanting to use a script to import their data efficiently for processing won’t be able to do that either.

In a world where the fitness market is exploding, I feel it would be to Garmin’s and its customers’ interest not to exclude this source of innovation for functionality.

My choices

I have the following choices for ConnectStats:

  1. kill the app. It would really pain me as part of the initial motivation was to provide a service for myself I couldn’t otherwise get: a more advanced viewer for my data on iPhone and iPad that what Garmin offers.
  2. swallow the cost. It’s a lot of money. I intentionally kept the purchase price at the minimum as to cover development cost and devices (money going back to Garmin by the way…) but my key motivation beyond my own use was sharing the app and not really generating large profits.
  3. increase the sell price of the app and hope people will continue to buy it. It somehow feels wrong to charge the users more just for the sake of them accessing the data they should own already. Right now if I increase the price from $.99 to $2.99 for ConnectStats, I am hoping to recover the Garmin fee over time. People pay several hundred dollars for their device. I hope they will accept the few extra dollars to pay Garmin for the right to access their data.
  4. switch ConnectStats to rely on another service. I am already working on that to use strava as primary download service and hope strava will pay the fee to get the data from garmin. This has some downside as some data won’t be available and Strava does not support swimming and skiing which I personally rely on.

Comparison to others services

I also wanted to comment on the fee structure proposed. A fee of $5000 is a lot of money by any standard. Niche independent Apps do not generate much revenue, mostly cover the costs. Here are some other services I use as comparison.

  • Apple charges $99 a year plus 30% of every sale to access their development tools and app distribution infrastructure. And this infrastructure and marketing power is of extremely high quality and adds a lot of value to independent developers like myself and to its customer. It wouldn’t occur to me to complain about this cost.
  • Strava provide an access to its data for free up to a certain rate limit once you are registered. Their API is extremely well documented, modern and their support and help to my questions have been great. I applaud Strava would provide a sophisticated website and API for free when their business model does not include revenue from any hardware.
  • Garmin support and documentation was so far inexistent. There are no or little documentation. I have never received an answer to any of my inquiries. Everything had to be reverse engineered. It doesn’t bother me at all given it was free but for $5,000 it’s a different issue.

I have been inquiring with Garmin about what exactly is provided when I pay the fee. What exactly do I get for that money: same API? Do I need to adapt my code to a new API? Do I get more documentation? Better support? Some marketing/promotion of the app as Apple provides?

Proposal

I believe the independent and small 3rd party partners add a lot of value to Garmin and the ability for users to access freely their own data is important. I understand the potential infrastructure cost and need to control usage for Garmin.

I suggest they offer a tiered system. Any user of the API would have to register and get some basic number of API access per day, say 50,000. Users above that limit would be required to pay the $5,000 fee to use the service. This would allow them to recoup some infrastructure cost from heavy user but still allow their customers to benefit from 3rd party functionality and access to their data.

What I plan to do for ConnectStats

I am doing 2 things:

  1. I have written to Garmin to explain why I feel a tier system would be better for all parties involved. I hope they will agree.
  2. ConnectStats is somewhat successful, receives good reviews and regular download. I hope by raising the price by an additional $2 this should help sponsor and recover the fee from Garmin. I have applied to be part of the program. Assuming Garmin approves my application, I plan to pay the fee myself and hope people will continue buying the app at the higher price to recover the money over time

Thanks for reading.