Nearest you'll ever get to a blog

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Blip Interactive
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Joined: 04/05/2010

I'm not really a blogging type. I mean, the word blog wasn't in any dictionary when I grew up so there's reason to (I don't carry a mobile phone and don't do Facebook for the same reason). However, with this project edging ever closer to completion it seems like a good opportunity to look back a little and answer some of the questions I've been asked many times by family and friends (virtual internet friends such as yourselves and actual moving biological friends I can see with my eyes) and some questions I've never been asked but I'm going to pretend I've been asked because it suits my purposes.


Why are you making NS2?

- To improve on NS1 without being limited by NS1's codebase, original design choices and issues with backwards compatibility
- Because I didn't have any better ideas
- Because this work is my sole income and NS1 stopped becoming profitable (updates help keep the app current and competitive but they are free and have diminishing returns for developers)


Why has it it taken so long?

I ask myself this one too. I don't have all the answers but there are a number of reasons (or excuses if you will):

- NS1 only took around 14 months to develop from scratch, but I spent at least the next 3 years working on it full time with updates and new features. Therefore, in its current state it really represents a 4 year project. So already you could maybe assume that if NS2 is twice as complex as NS1 then it's going to take 8 years. However, on the other hand I've been able to re-use some code and I have more experience, so you possibly guess I can work at twice the rate and drop that back down to 4 years.

- I took shortcuts with NS1 where I could and chose methods which would give the biggest 'bang for buck' for the amount of work involved. Examples of these compromises were things such as limits on the number of events in parts, tracks, FX, and history steps, a sync oscillator which aliases like crap, a cheap and nasty (but easy to write) reverb etc.

With NS2 I've taken the opposite approach and tried to do everything 'properly' where possible. Examples of this are:

- Oscillators (including sync) with negligible aliasing (4 months vs 2 weeks for NS1)
- Optimised convolution reverb (4 months vs. 1 week for NS1's reverb)
- Lookahead limiter (2 months, didn't exist in NS1)
- Audio graph with arbitrary signal connections and latency compensation (at least 3 months, didn't exist in NS1)
- Multisampled drum kit content (a week or two of editing vs. getting a few samples from a mate with some drums)

... it goes on.

An additional factor is that I've been chasing a moving target - Ableton Link, iOS 11 files and AUv3 all didn't exist when I started this.

The last one's simply that sometimes I've simply got pissed off with it all because I've had enough of working on the same thing all the time. Sometimes I've taken a rest, but normally I end up working at an unenthusiastic rate. A good fix when this happens is to swap to a different task for a while - but I know I'm going to have to return to the thing which was giving me hell at some point in the future. And of course, while I'm working on one thing, none of the other things happen.


Why didn't you hire someone to help?

I was 50/50 on this when I started NS2. I knew it would help and would speed things up. I but I also knew it would be just about possible with one person. Given that it would be probably just two of us, it would have to be the right person. I used to know a lot of coders when I lived in Brighton, but none around where I live now. I didn't really want to go through the recruitment process, I liked my home office setup (which wouldn't be suitable for more than one) and I didn't want to take the financial risk. I'd still probably make that same choice today, but it would still be close to 50/50.


Would you do a project of this size again?

I seriously doubt it. But I have tried to engineer this app so all the really difficult bits have either been done (or provided for) so I won't have to delve in and make scary changes in future. I will continue to work on it for some years to come, but my ultimate goal is to turn my tasks into more manageable and varied mini projects. So you can probably expect new effects, synths and content in future, but not a full rewrite of the sequencer to implement the magical floating unicorns which are coming in iOS 14 and will be dropped in iOS 15 for magical semi-floating fairies.


Does NS2 have a post-release roadmap?

Main things to address will be:

- Bug fixes and simple missing feature additions
- iPhone support
- Audio track IAP

Mixed in with that could be:

- More IAP content (patches, samples, kits etc.)

Later on:

- More effects and features

Once the app's development has slowed and stabilized:

- Probably an Android version

* - ALL SUBJECT TO CHANGE


Why aren't you updating NS1 for 64 bit?

It's now 8 years old and I just have to move on. NS1's DSP used a lot of 32 bit assembler code to wring the best performance out of the hardware of its day, and that's a pain to convert. I wanted to put that time into something new, rather than something which doesn't sell much any more. In theory I could have potentially used the C++ equivalents (which the desktop version uses) but I never bothered seriously optimising them as desktop machines run so much faster. Additionally, app store submission requirements have changed and it would have needed modernizing in several areas (eg. compulsory support for IPv6).


Why did you reduce the price of NS1 to £1.99?

Easy - I wanted to make a cynical fast buck from fools who would buy it and then update to iOS 11 to find it no longer works.

Is the wrong answer.

The way I see it is: there are still millions of older devices out there which can't be updated to iOS 11 and will be handed down to peoples' kids, or used by those on a tight budget. NS1 is not a new app, so its current price reflects this and will hopefully still be of use to people with older devices. For example, I can tell you for a fact by looking at the sales figures that there were 24 people such as that last week :)


Why are your time estimates so rubbish?

Probably because they're hopes rather than estimates. I've written software professionally for 26 years now (and unprofessionally for 37) but large projects still seem to be impossible for me to estimate accurately. I think they go quantum, where any attempt one makes to measure it ends up affecting it.


Why haven't you answered some other questions I asked?

Probably because the answer's no and I can't think of a way of expressing it positively.


OK, see you in 2028 when I do my next blog update and learn what emojis are!

Slam-Cut
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Joined: 09/07/2011

Nice update. A LOT of us will enthusiastically support your effort via IAPs. We are heavily invested (nowhere as much as you of course) in Nanostudio having spent countless hours using the app and many fruitless hours using other apps and when the frustration mounts we return to Nanostudio. We need Blip Interactive to be successful so that we can continue to count on using Nanostudio2, so please don’t hesitate to let us know how we can help. I’ll get all IAPs without a second thought. Presets, samples, FX, synths (awesome!), etc. - all sound really good and I’m glad to hear about these smaller projects.

syrupcore
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Joined: 09/26/2010

syrupcore
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Joined: 09/26/2010

Also, your mom would be quite proud of this, I'm sure. "If you can't think of anything nice to say..."

Why haven't you answered some other questions I asked?

Probably because the answer's no and I can't think of a way of expressing it positively.

tom_tm
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Joined: 06/29/2011

"a sync oscillator which aliases like crap"

Actually I found this 'feature' a wonderful thing, not a bad one. It gave my sounds a unique character unavailable with any other synth I knew of, bar the Waldorf Blofeld... And I can't think of higher praise than that.

tom_tm
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Joined: 06/29/2011

"The way I see it is: there are still millions of older devices out there which can't be updated to iOS 11 and will be handed down to peoples' kids, or used by those on a tight budget"

And you were absolutely right. My daughter loves NS1! So impressed with it, she's taken it to show off at school- all on an iPad Mini v1. And it still works great on an iPad v1 too. Genius. Pure genius!

jwmmakerofmusic
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Joined: 01/12/2012

Coding unprofessionally for 37 years?! :O For some reason, I thought you were around my age (mid 30s). So you’re in your 40s, or 50s?

It’s a good thing that you made this comprehensive FAQ. It helps demystify many things. Before Nanostudio, what kinds of things did you program? Anything on PC (besides the PC version of NS1)?

Also protip: I would avoid the Android operating system like the plague. You think adapting the NS2 GUI to a various sizes of iPad screens and then various sizes of the iPhone is gonna be a pain in the arse, Android is the literal stuff of nightmares! There’s a reason Korg never bothered to port Gadget to Android tablets mind you. (While another reason is the infamous Android latency issues as well.) I mean, it’s up to you ultimately, but I’m just chiming in here Matt.

Slam-Cut
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Joined: 09/07/2011

Matt coding for 37 years = Matt is 37 years old

Blip Interactive
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Joined: 04/05/2010

Yes, I look young for my age in text-only forum posts. I turned 47 a couple of days back. My first experience was with a Sinclair ZX81, but I think I probably got that in '82 so that's only 35 years.

See, I can't even do that basic time estimate properly!

As a slight aside, I read that Rick Dickinson, the product designer for the early 80's Sinclair computers (marketed as Timex in the US) died last week. I didn't know much about him, but geeks of a certain age will remember the evocative feel, smell and touch of those little black plastic devices and the potential they contained and they really did kickstart a whole generation of coders in the UK. Thank you Rick, and the rest of the genius team who created those little machines!

https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/apr/27/rick-dickinson-designer-si...

tom_tm
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Joined: 06/29/2011

The wrong side of 50 here. Thank the good lord for text-only. :-/

Cinebient
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Joined: 11/08/2017

Thank you guys.....for feeling young again :)
Indeed, nice insight into Blip Interactive.
And now post some sound demos of Obsidian (i don´t know why but i always write Oblivion first).

Slam-Cut
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Joined: 09/07/2011

I had one high school class on Basic in 1980. I wasn’t impressed, based upon my Star Wars expectations, and haven’t done any sort of coding since. There are times when I sorely wish I had more coding/computer trouble shooting skills. :-/

syrupcore
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Joined: 09/26/2010

My buddy had a Sinclair 1000. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timex_Sinclair_1000 I don't think I ever saw a US equivalent of the Spectrum though. Commodore had basically taken over by then.

Looks like Dickinson never stopped. He created and posted concepts for new Sinclair devices on Flickr.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/9574086@N02/albums/72157685519763101
https://www.flickr.com/photos/9574086@N02/albums/72157647988482003
https://www.flickr.com/photos/9574086@N02/albums/72157648728584289

Sharivari
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Joined: 12/10/2017

Thanks for the post Matt and for all the screenshots! First and foremost thank you for NS1!
In regards to NS2 Everything looks beyond expectations and I am totally going bananas over this.

What I actually wanted to say is that I'm one of those sleepers cells out there, the ones who don't visit the forum or if we do we don't bother to log in or write comments, and I guess you have quite a few of us oin your user base. You also have the obvious hard core users, the handfew ultra geeks (sorry guys but you are haha) keeping this forum alive.

I'm one of the silent ones who got NS1 many many years back (when it still looked fresh;) and have been using it for thousands of hours. On trains commuting, in bed next to newborn babies, in bars all alone, in restrooms at work, in hammocks on tropical beaches, on airplanes and boats. In any given situation for almost the last ten years NS1 has been a constant and reliable (yet aging) companion.

In a sense an era of my life goes to an end when NS2 will be released. I can't wait to dive into the new one, which looks million times more complex and fulfilled from our contemporary expectations. No matter how good NS2 will be and how great its impact will be on my everyday life and the lives of others I find it hard to believe that it will be greater than NS1. NS2 may very well be groundbreaking but NS1 was unique in the sense that it completely pushed the boundaries of what was posible on mobile devices. It was simply done in the ambitious and well executed combination (and in some times simplicity) between technological quality and innovation and well designed UX, something which should be considered a benchmark in all product categories.

I didn't know it was your sole income. On egoistic terms I'm grateful for the risk you have taken, for the hardship you might have put your family through in the process of doing this and for your dedication. Hopefully the release of NS2 will not only be fantastic for us users but financially for you, but also, and maybe more importantly, it will give you some peace of mind. You sure as hell deserve it!

Slam-Cut
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Joined: 09/07/2011

What Sharivari said.

...and I often wish I was an ‘ultra geek’ so I wouldn’t have difficulties with the more technical things.

Sharivari
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Joined: 12/10/2017

Oh dear, you're one of them Slam-Cut, no doubt about it :)

Slam-Cut
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Joined: 09/07/2011

HA! I’m ‘comfortable’ with NS1, but that’s about it - certainly not an expert. I spent the month of November just trying to get Audio & MIDI in/out of either my laptop or iPad. Fail. Was so frustrated I wanted to chuck the laptop & iPad and just use my hardware. But that’s not super convienient for me. So I felt like a complete newbie, not an Ultra Nerd. I really could have used some Ultra Nerd super powers. Still could! I haven’t gotten back to handling that problem, but I will need to once NS2 comes out. Wish me luck.

Jeppan74
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Joined: 03/01/2012

If you "took short cuts" and "most bang for the fewest bucks" on NS1 (which is the sole reason I even started to make music), and it still stands out as the best DAW on iOS eight years later, I can´t imagine how good NS2 will be!!
Talk about a "magnum opus"! (No pressure Matt ;)

antrabbit
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Joined: 06/15/2011

Thanks for all your hard work. Looking forward to creating music with NS2.

syrupcore
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Joined: 09/26/2010

Creating music? pfft. The whole point of NS2 is to give us something new to talk about on the forum, isn't it?

Slam-Cut
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Joined: 09/07/2011

What syrupcore said.

I still need a button.

dendy
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Joined: 07/28/2010

@syrupcore: Deep, profound truth !

tom_tm
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Joined: 06/29/2011

"Thanks for all your hard work. Looking forward to creating music with NS2."

Coding is bit like wine. The longer you leave it, the better it becomes.... Unless it's corked!

I'll get my coat....