Posts tagged australia
SnapTas: winner of the Go South Awards 2014
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SnapTas is a fun little app that we made earlier this month as part of the Go South Awards  competition, which is an app development competition down here that's run by the Tasmanian Government. We're pleased to announce that SnapTas won the business category of the competition! Congratulations also to Bappy Golder, who won the individual category in the competition!

If you were a VC we were pitching to, here's how we'd describe it: "Instagram, but for Tasmania, with retro travel post cards."

We made SnapTas because it's harder than it should be to find great examples of people sharing photos and content that shows off what makes Tasmania such a great place to live. Tasmania is world famous for its scenic environment and its high quality of life, and has hundreds of thousands of interstate and international visitors every year. Right now, though, the best way to find pictures that people have shared is to try searching for hashtags on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Every visitor has a different perspective on our beautiful island, and they enjoy sharing them with the world. SnapTas makes it easy to share and discover photos of Tasmania by creating a dedicated social network for both tourists and locals: when you're in Tasmania, take a photo or pick one from your camera roll, and SnapTas makes it look like a delightfully retro 1950's postcard. It's then shared with your Facebook friends, and you can also choose to make your photo available to everyone via the web.

For tourists, SnapTas is a way to share your trip to Tasmania. For locals, it’s a way to share your unique perspective on your home. SnapTas serves as a showcase of the best of Tasmania, and a single point to show potential visitors, or those want to move to our lovely island.

SnapTas also helps you share photos to Twitter and Facebook. The more people seeing Tasmania, the more people coming to visit and sharing their experience on SnapTas!

We used Parse for the backend of SnapTas, which handles user sign-up, data storage, push notifications, and all of the sharing, commenting and liking features. All of the images get rendered on the iPhone before being uploaded. 

SnapTas will be available to the public soon.


Go South Awards

Yesterday the Go South Awards were announced in Hobart. The Go South Awards is a competition to design and develop an amazing new app, of any kind, for Tasmania.

The competition has some really solid prize money, and looks like an excellent opportunity for app developers and students hoping to make their mark! Check out the Go South Awards website (built by our friends at Ionata and onetonne) for more information.

We're really thrilled to see an event like this pop up in Tasmania, and commend our friends in the Tasmanian Government, TasICT, and the ACS for collaborating on it. 


iOS Developer Training in Hobart
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We're really excited to announce an intensive 2-day iOS developer workshop in our hometown, Hobart. The workshop is organised in conjunction with ACS Tasmania.

You can learn all about it on our training page, or over at the ACS website. There is a discount for ACS members.

The workshop is designed for existing programmers (of any sort) who want to learn iOS development, or iOS programmers who want to get up to speed with the latest techniques for building iPhone and iPad apps. It teaches the very latest public iOS developer tools and features.

Brisbane and Melbourne iOS developer training is also currently open for registration.


Secret Lab are finalists in the 20th AIMIA Awards
Secret Lab built the Play School Play Time app for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Secret Lab built the Play School Play Time app for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

We're really excited that Play School Play Time for iPad, an app we built for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, is a finalist in two categories of the 20th AIMIA Awards!

Play School Play Time is a finalist in "Best of Tablet – Entertainment" and "Best of Tablet – Learning and Education". 

If you haven't checked out the app, if you're in Australia you can grab it from the App Store here, for free, or here, if you're elsewhere!

We're thrilled that Secret Lab is in such good company again this year! Previously, in the 19th AIMIA Awards, Play School Art Maker for iPad, also built by Secret Lab for the ABC was a finalists in "Effectiveness", "Best Application for a Tablet", and "Best Children's", and in the 18th AIMIA Awards, Foodi for iPad was a finalist in "Best Cultural or Lifestyle", and Play School Art Maker for iPad was a finalist in "Best Application on a Tablet or Mobile".

Recently, we were also thrilled to win a Tasmanian ICT Industry Award for 2013, for our work on innovative apps for kids! 


Our business and the NBN
Secret Lab

Recently the Secret Lab was connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN). For our overseas readers, or those not following along in Australia, the NBN is an Australia-wide project to upgrade our telecommunications infrastructure. The NBN originally planned to offer fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) to the majority of Australians, and fixed wireless and satellite connections to rural areas; when the federal government changed in September, as part of the new government policy a review into the possibility of changing from FTTP to fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) and other technologies commenced. That review is still ongoing. Either way, our office is now connected to FTTP, at the speeds of 100 Mbit/s down, and 40 Mbit/s up – a big step up from our previous ADSL2 connection, which maxed out at 23 Mbit/s down, and 0.9 Mbit/s up (we had basically the best ADSL2 connection you could get in Australia). NBN is one of the most transformative, impactful things that could have happened to us. Here's why.

We're, primarily, a game development studio, and we also teach iOS development. We build games for iPads, iPhones, Androids, Macs, and PCs. Games require lots, and lots, and lots of large asset files, sound files, music files, and the like. Most of the games we build are for clients. We also write training material, and create large instructional videos. This means, on a daily basis, we have to upload and download a lot of data around just to get anything done – often we need to upload between 3 GB and 30 GB in a day; this was impossible with ADSL2.

What did we do? We sent hard drives, or USB flash drives, through the postal service, or we left uploads running overnight in the faint hope that they'd successfully complete while we slept; worse still, and most deleterious to a small business – we resorted to expensive Telstra 4G LTE, which can upload between 5 Mbit/s and 10 Mbit/s at a cost of ~$50 AUD per 4 GB or so, so our upload went up relatively quickly but cost a fortune in doing so.

This was not sustainable. We can't run a game development studio for very long like that, as it's simply too stressful/expensive/time consuming/unproductive. Until the NBN came along, our only other options for a useful connection – primarily for uploading – were expensive HFC cables (if it was even available where our office is, which is debatable), expensive high-latency satellite options, or expensive and complicated bonded solutions (routing multiple connections together into a single connection). If we wanted to remain competitive, keep our working capital healthy, and keep our internal IT maintenance administrative requirements low (our IT requirements consist of one of us rebooting the router as needed!), then none of these options were suitable.

The NBN gives us a speedy 100 Mbit/s down, and an absolutely vital 40 Mbit/s up, and it gives it to us at a price equivalent to what we'd pay for a copper-based and all-but-useless for uploading ADSL2 connection. We can upload amounts of data that would have previously taken overnight, if we could do it at all, or required us to spend ridiculous amounts of money using 4G LTE technology, instead of resorting to the postal service and hard disk drive. We can move faster than we could before, since when one of us is using Skype to talk to a client we don't have to pause all our downloads and uploads, and stop checking code into source control since – thanks to having a 100/40 connection at our disposal – Skype no longer breaks down if something else is happening on the network. We don't have to raise our prices, since our broadband connection is both usable and cost friendly to a small business, and we no longer have to pay for extras such as hard drives to post, or Telstra 4G. Best of all, we no longer have to even consider leaving Tasmania – a beautiful place to live and work – solely because we couldn't get the connectivity we would have needed to make our business more effective, sustainable, and better equipped to make new games and software.


PyCon Australia 2012

PyCon AustraliaThis month we were lucky enough to sponsor and attend PyCon Australia, hosted (for the first time) in our hometown of Hobart! PyCon Australia is the national conference for users of the Python programming language. This was the third year that PyCon Australia has run since being founded in Sydney. We greatly enjoyed meeting members of the Australian and international Python communities, hearing their stories, tips and interests. All the sessions we attended were fabulous, but amongst the many highlights were:

  • CodeWars – entertaining programming-as-a-spectator-sport problem solving to kick the conference off. Hosted and designed by our talented friends Tony and Josh, respectively. A great place to spot some amazing nerd gear!
  • What to build. How to build it. – the first keynote, presented by Mark Ramm, took us on an entertaining romp through the idea of applying experimental methodologies to product design. Great stuff!
  • Virtual robotic car racing with Python and TORCS – Python and virtual robot cars! What's not to like?
  • Python for Humans – the second keynote, presented by Kenneth Reitz, was a thorough and useful discussion of making Python more user (programmer) friendly. Exactly the sort of stuff that should be a keynote!
  • Lightning Talks – we always love lightning talks, and these were no exception. Lots of quick talks, mostly useful, and highly entertaining!

PyCon Australia Coffee –– blended and served by Ritual Coffee Tasmania, sponsored by Secret LabWe also thoroughly enjoyed the dinner (a cruise to Peppermint Bay, followed by a fabulous meal and cruise back to Hobart!) as well as the coffee (which was a tasty blend called "African Swallow", designed specifically for PyCon Australia by Ritual Coffee). The coffee for all attendees was sponsored by Secret Lab, and we were proud to have our logo on every cup. The attendees all really seemed to enjoy the coffee, and we're very proud to have been involved in a small way in the running of such an excellent conference in Tasmania. PyCon Australia returns to Hobart next year as part of their 2-year cycle. We can't wait!

Secret Lab's coffee sponsorship of PyCon Australia 2012

You can find the rest of our photos from PyCon Australia 2012 on Flickr and the videos from PyCon on YouTube. Congratulations to our friend, and frequent collaborator, Chris on the meticulous organisation he and his team undertook to bring us PyCon Australia!