241: Solving Problems with Tyler Hall

This week’s guest is Tyler Hall, a prolific Mac and iOS Developer, and father of two. He joins Brett to discuss developing apps that scratch your own itch, and making a profit doing it.

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Transcript

Soundtrack

[00:00:00]Soundtrack: [00:00:00] Hello, I’m Brett Terpstra and you’re listening to systematic.

[00:00:04]Brett: [00:00:04] This week’s guest is Tyler Hall, a Mac and iOS developer, and a father. And I’ve been looking forward to talking to him because he’s on about the same level of a geek frequency as me. How’s it going, Tyler?

[00:00:17]Tyler: [00:00:17] Great. How are you doing Brett?

[00:00:18] Brett: [00:00:18] I am. Uh, I woke up in with neck pain. So if you hear me wincing, if that comes through the microphone, that’s just from sitting in a chair.

[00:00:29] So you’re, uh, the reason I know you and know of you, it, well, it actually goes back to one of your apps. Uh, virtual host x. Which I’ve used for like a decade now. Um, but yeah, you, you, you’re just, you’re a prolific developer around the time that NBL came out, you had a, an app called Nottingham that was another kind of notational velocity type of application.

[00:00:56] Uh, you build a lot of apps. Is that, is that kind of [00:01:00] primarily what you do these days?

[00:01:01]Tyler: [00:01:01] Yeah, I mean, I did web development, you know, from college on, through like 2008 or nine. And you know, that whole time I’m building web dev, you know, I’m running on a Mac. So I started learning how to do, you know, McCoist development around 2003. And then I just kind of, you know, split my time and made the transition to full time Mac and iOS around 2010.

[00:01:21] And that’s what I’ve been doing for the past decade.

[00:01:24] Brett: [00:01:24] And what kind of, what kind of Mac apps would you say you right.

[00:01:29]Tyler: [00:01:29] they all start out almost a hundred percent solving problems that I have myself, every app that I’ve tried to build that I thought. Would it be a good app or I thought I saw a market for, but I wasn’t necessarily a fan of myself have failed miserably. So I’ve stopped trying to make things that I think will sell.

[00:01:50] And instead I do stuff for myself first and foremost,

[00:01:53] Brett: [00:01:53] I, I, I think that’s a laudable. I think there are people out there who do manage to make [00:02:00] apps they know will sell and aren’t necessarily things they need. But in the indie developer community, I think the fix fix your own problem. Uh, kind of scenario does end up working out well for people

[00:02:15]Tyler: [00:02:15] and that’s exactly where virtual host X came from was at the time I was a full time web dev and I needed that, you know, to do my nine to five job. And so that’s where the inspiration for it came.

[00:02:26] Brett: [00:02:26] Oh, well, give us a quick explanation. Uh, four, four O a wide, an audience that might not be into web development, kind of, kind of give an explanation of what that app does.

[00:02:36]Tyler: [00:02:36] Yeah. So if you’re building websites, it’s a lot faster and easier to test them locally on your Mac than dealing with, you know, a web server in a data center somewhere. But the crux of that is, is by default, the way the web server is set up, you can only use one website at a time, which is fine for some people.

[00:02:53] But like for me back then, I was doing lots and lots of client work for web agencies. And so I’d have, you know, [00:03:00] 10 projects going on at once. And so VHX really quickly let’s use, spin up and use. Multiple websites running on the same Mac at the same time. And that was the kind of the initial core of the idea.

[00:03:11] And since then, it’s grown to encompass more and more features that are kind of, you know, 10 gentle to that type of workflow.

[00:03:18] Brett: [00:03:18] Yeah. And, uh, and recently macOS, by default disabled, their internal web server. Does it even exist anymore?

[00:03:27]Tyler: [00:03:27] Uh, Apache is still. Buried in the, you know, the guts of Mac iOS, but if you download or I guess, purchase Mac iOS server from the app store, um, no, it’s completely gone now. There are no more settings to enable it, to configure it in any way.

[00:03:41] Brett: [00:03:41] so, uh, so virtual hoops, that’s had to make some, uh, some alterations to, uh, to accommodate that.

[00:03:48] Tyler: [00:03:48] Yeah. I’d actually kind of jumped ship from that earlier. About a year and a half prior and move from using the native web server on the Mac to doing everything through a virtual machine with virtual box, because [00:04:00] Mac had tightened down the restrictions and, uh, complaint was anytime somebody would, you know, update their OSTP from Apple, even just a small updates, it would blow away their web server settings.

[00:04:11] But then by moving, VHX over to isolate and own the whole system itself, I can prevent that and have more control of myself.

[00:04:18] Brett: [00:04:18] well, it has become quite a powerful application. I am, uh, after that, that major, upgrade this switch to the virtual box. Uh, I was. Kind of blown away by the, uh, level of detail that you, you took with the, uh, all the options and the capabilities of it. Nice work.

[00:04:36] Tyler: [00:04:36] Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate that.

[00:04:38] Brett: [00:04:38] Um, in addition to that, uh, commercially you have several other applications available.

[00:04:44] Um, but you also, I am aware you, you write a lot of apps that probably never see the light of day. Uh, you, you, you, you have a problem. And you create an app to fix it. And [00:05:00] that that’s kind of amazing. Uh, you had a, uh, one that, uh, I don’t know if you ever published it as a commercial app. Uh, but the, the one that, um, watched your web history, so you could search, do full tech search.

[00:05:17]Tyler: [00:05:17] Yes. I started building that this past January. It actually dates back to an idea from 2011. I had, I wrote a browser extension back then called elephants. Cause you know, elephants have this great memory. And every time I would visit a website, it would just simply send the URL to a web server in the cloud and to store in a database.

[00:05:39] And that’s about, as far as I got with the idea, this idea of like a unified history of what you viewed we’re on the internet. And back then, I kind of gave up the idea because the tech just wasn’t there to sync it and to do it right. And then I started revisiting the idea early this year and it’s come pretty far and I use it day to day.

[00:05:57] I haven’t quite figured out. [00:06:00] The full direction. I’m still experimenting. So maybe it’ll come out one day.

[00:06:04] Brett: [00:06:04] Yeah, that’d be cool. Um, let’s see. What are your other commercial apps? You have host buddy, which is if I’m not mistaken, kind of a, a bare bones version of virtual host stacks that just works on the, does he, does it work now?

[00:06:18]Tyler: [00:06:18] yeah, it still does. I kind of feel bad. Like it’s such a simple app. It’s basically a text editor for one file. Like you open the app and all you can do is edit one file. And that’s just the host file on your Mac. Um, it’s got a couple more smarts to it. So where you can create groups of these web servers, you want it to on and off with one click so you can kind of organize them, but by and large people buy it because they themselves aren’t.

[00:06:44] Comfortable enough, you know, opening up the command line, you know, doing something with admin privileges. It just it’s quick, easy. And it works

[00:06:52] Brett: [00:06:52] so it’s geared towards web developers without a lot of command line experience.

[00:06:57]Tyler: [00:06:57] yeah. I’m talking to [00:07:00] customers. I think the biggest audience are, um, less technical web developers. So like kind of the designers who know a bit of Java script and just want to spin up WordPress and play around with it. Yeah.

[00:07:11] Brett: [00:07:11] I forget about designers. Alright. I think you and I, you and I both did web development in an era where you kind of had to be all in one. And the idea of like specializing, which is coming back around now, I feel like the full stack developers are a thing again, but, um, the idea of being able to create a website without knowing how to SSH into a server was kind of crazy, but, um,

[00:07:40] Tyler: [00:07:40] And I, I think it’s healthy to have both sides of that equation, the developer and the designer. You don’t have to be an expert at both, but if you’re a dev who can pick colors or pick fonts correctly, you can get a long way and vice versa on the design side.

[00:07:54] Brett: [00:07:54] well, and also you can communicate if you’re in a, if you’re in a team where you are [00:08:00] fo you’re focused on one side or the other, or even a server side, um, you need to be able to communicate with the other side designers.

[00:08:13] Tyler: [00:08:13] that shared language and you need to know the industry standard terms of how to talk to one another.

[00:08:18] Brett: [00:08:18] I worked on a team where the designers were truly graphic designers and had no real concept of user interface or web in general.

[00:08:29] And they would give us ideas that would be nearly impossible to implement and to go back and forth with them was an exercise in frustration.

[00:08:39] Tyler: [00:08:39] Yeah, I’ve, I’m fighting that battle every day in my nine to five job right now.

[00:08:43]Brett: [00:08:43] All right, you have one other commercial app. I want to mention called rebudget. And, uh, that is an another take. There, there are plenty of apps in this sphere, but tell us about rate budget.

[00:08:55]Tyler: [00:08:55] so it came again out of a need I had, which was, [00:09:00] um, you know, we’re trying to plan our family budget money got tight for a while, and we’re trying to dig our way out of some medical debt. So. I just had this awful, you know, kind of Excel spreadsheet. I was using that full Calca app for Mac and iOS. That kind of lets you do math in a text editor to kind of do it your own way.

[00:09:20] And I was just basically forecasting our family budget. Like we had our recurring bills that, you know, come in monthly. We had bills that came in every other week or weekly for like daycare expenses. And then of course, you know, large purchases and one off things. And forecasting that, you know, a dynamic kind of amount of money going out, but with money coming in, you know, I had my freelance income, which fluctuates and then my wife’s paycheck was on a different schedule than my paycheck.

[00:09:49] So it was kind of like this rising and falling balance over time. And I want it to be able to see that kind of insight, the future, not like years, but just literally months into the [00:10:00] future or week by week. And so I had this combination of Excel files. I would try and do it for me. And then at one point I wrote a script in PHP to do it faster.

[00:10:11] And then I thought, well, crap, I’ll just I’ll use Swift. But before I got really far doing the Swiffers and I thought I’ll just make the Mac out myself and do it. And, and so from like last August through November, I was running it myself just in a bare bones form and I showed it to a friend and they liked the idea.

[00:10:31] So I thought, well, let’s try it. And then I released it new year’s day, this year.

[00:10:37] Brett: [00:10:37] and how did it do

[00:10:38]Tyler: [00:10:38] Uh, pretty awful actually. Um, I’m getting tons and tons of downloads and trials, but there’s very few conversions. So I don’t know if. I think the price is probably too high, but I also don’t know if I have the limitations, you know, the, um, of what you can do in the free version versus the paid version set correctly.

[00:10:59] So there’s still some [00:11:00] experimentation to do.

[00:11:01] Brett: [00:11:01] Pricing is my least favorite. Developing is fun. Uh, selling is fun coming up with the. A price point. That’s going to maximize sales is a mystic art that I have never mastered.

[00:11:17]Tyler: [00:11:17] So with VHX, which was my first, in 2007, I started out selling it for a flat $7 and looking back, that seems insane, but I mean, I had no appeal. I didn’t have my app at the time. I didn’t think anybody would buy it to begin with. And I actually sold one copy the first day. It was on my website, which is blew my mind, but starting at $7, I started raising the price and every time I up the price.

[00:11:45] My revenue went up and that happened consistently all the way up until I tried $59 and then sales tanked. So I rolled it back to 49 and that’s been the sweet spot for like the past five years.

[00:11:59] Brett: [00:11:59] Four 49 [00:12:00] is kind of that, uh, it’s the premium at price. It’s what you’d pay for something like a, um, affinity publisher, or you would pay for OmniFocus. So it puts you right in that a premium app. Sweet spot. I started

[00:12:15] Tyler: [00:12:15] this, isn’t a tool that, yeah. It’s not a tool that you screw around with in your personal time. Like most people are doing this for their job to make money. So a lot of times it’s a business expense.

[00:12:24] Brett: [00:12:24] Right. I started marked out, which is my longest running commercial app. Uh, I started out at two 99 and these days I charged 15 for it, which seems to, I, I settled on that as I don’t have a high opinion of my own apps either. Like it, I don’t know what it would take for me to consider, uh, an app. Good.

[00:12:48] But as far as I’m concerned, I haven’t made that app yet. Um, but it does, it sells and at, at 15 bucks it does a pretty good job. So yeah, I’ve settled on [00:13:00] that. Now I’m trying to price, uh, my new envy ultra. Uh, the successor to NVL, I’m trying to figure out pricing on that and we’re getting into the whole, like, we want to offer it through the Mac app store.

[00:13:14] We want to have free trials and we want to have paid upgrades. And the only way to accomplish those three things is with subscription.

[00:13:22]Tyler: [00:13:22] Yeah.

[00:13:23] Brett: [00:13:23] and as much as, uh, as Fletcher and I are both opposed to the idea of subscription, like w we just both shy away from it. Um,

[00:13:32] Tyler: [00:13:32] doesn’t it just make you feel dirty as a

[00:13:34] Brett: [00:13:34] does. It really

[00:13:35] Tyler: [00:13:35] Oh God.

[00:13:36] Brett: [00:13:36] Like if, if we, we could do no, I really, I think free trials are really the way to go with this app because we need people to be able to right. Using NBO alt or any text-based note system, it’s an easy sell, uh, It’s it’s basically your favorite note, text editor with a full multi [00:14:00] markdown editor built into it. But for people taking notes in other systems that could benefit from plain text, you have to show them how they have to be able to experience it before they’re going to drop money on it.

[00:14:14] So I really feel like we need a, a free trial. Anyway,

[00:14:18] Tyler: [00:14:18] Well, I am. Oh God.

[00:14:20]Brett: [00:14:20] I’m sorry. How, how overall you, you, you maintain a full time job and you develop, have you ever gotten to a point where you thought you could, uh, switch to just being an independent developer?

[00:14:33]Tyler: [00:14:33] I did for a few years. Um, like I said, when I launched that first app for $7, we had just bought our first tiny little. 80 year old college cottage house in Nashville. I mean, it was like 800 square feet and the hardwood floors were just awful. And so when I launched this app, my longterm biggest goal in mind was to earn like five grand over the lifetime of the app.

[00:14:59] So we [00:15:00] could not replace, but actually just refinish the floors in his house. That was my, you know, end of life goal for this app. And. It just completely exceeded my expectations. I mean, it didn’t take off like a rocket, but over time it built. And by 2012, at which point I had VHX and Nottingham and I had tried a few other things by 2012, I just made the leap and it did become my full time job.

[00:15:26] And so my wife had hers and I just had my indie apps and we did that. And then we had our first kid in 2014. And so she quit her job so she could stay at home and, you know, as he’s an infant and everything. And then I went back to work dev full time while still doing the indie stuff on the side. And then for our guests, the next four years.

[00:15:47]It was enough income. And we were fortunate enough that she could stay home and take care of the kids while they’re young. And I kept doing both jobs full time. And then in 2018, sorry, L’s just had [00:16:00] reached a level where it w it wasn’t sustainable anymore. I think part of that was. The web industry had changed.

[00:16:07] So my sales of my web apps had fallen. I think the app store kind of had some issues as there was transitioning from paid up front to subscriptions. And so she went back to work. I kept my full time job, and now we kind of have this low level, third job that brings in very helpful income, but it’s not enough to survive full time on

[00:16:27]Brett: [00:16:27] Yeah. So w so when I went into, I was making a six figure salary and my daytime job, and I was bringing in almost that much again, on my India apps. And so I figured I could live on half of that. And then everything fell out from underneath the app sales for, I think a lot of the same reasons you’re talking about. And, uh, yeah, things have been, I kind [00:17:00] of wish I’d never left my full time job, but I’m also super happy. So there’s that trade off. If I had kids, I definitely would be way happier, not having a full time job. Of course,

[00:17:13] Tyler: [00:17:13] I agree with.

[00:17:14] Brett: [00:17:14] too, maybe.

[00:17:16] Tyler: [00:17:16] Yeah, that’s true. Yeah. But in the back of my mind, like even, even if my revenue goes up, which I hope it does and I’m trying to make happen, even if it reaches the magical number, we need it frightens the hell out of me. Like. Not to have a safety net of an employer. I mean, you know, when we were, when we were just my wife and I with no kids, it felt fine.

[00:17:37] Like we could at the drop of a hat move or do whatever we needed to do, or we could cut expenses. But with kids, there’s the space level you have to have. It feels like, and it’s frightening.

[00:17:47] Brett: [00:17:47] right. Well, yeah. And, uh, uncertainty is, is fine for single and usually younger people, but you hit a point in life where, uh, that safety [00:18:00] net really is, is part of peace of mind. If you’re gonna, if you’re going to live a happy life, you want a safety net? I would no, not having one myself. Um, so out of all the apps you’ve written, uh, excluding commercial apps, what’s your favorite?

[00:18:17] What’s the one that you get the most delight out of?

[00:18:22]Tyler: [00:18:22] Oh, that’s a good question. Um,

[00:18:24] Brett: [00:18:24] I want to hear the nerdiest thing, cause

[00:18:27] Tyler: [00:18:27] the nerdiest

[00:18:28] Brett: [00:18:28] I assume that the nurse okay. If you’re like me. The nerdiest, the one that’s so nerdy that you didn’t think anyone would ever care about, but it suited your needs super well. I’d be curious to know what that one is.

[00:18:40]Tyler: [00:18:40] Okay right now, the top of mind is the one you mentioned earlier, the, the browser history one, which I’ve been calling amnesia because my, my, my temporary tagline is get amnesia and you’ll never forget. thank thank you. Yeah, I’ll be here all night. Um, so I’m Nisha is a Mac [00:19:00] app that. Ideally runs in the background of your Mac.

[00:19:04] And then there are browser extensions for all the major, major browsers that communicate back to it. And every time you go to a webpage, it sends it over to amnesia. And like I said, it starts out just by sending the literal URL you visit, but then it also captures the full text contents of the page you’re visiting as well.

[00:19:24]And then it can optionally also take a snapshot of the webpage. So in addition to having the full text, which you can then search and find your history of, you can see either a PDF or a JPEG or, you know, an Apple web archive of the page as you visited at that moment. And it’s all stored locally on your Mac or sync through iCloud to the companion iOS app.

[00:19:49]And so you have this ultimate limited memory that you can search and reference and filter of what you’ve seen on the internet. And my use [00:20:00] case is it has this notion of sessions where like, when I’m working on a bug or a product feature that I’m researching how to solve, I’ll start a session and then do all my stack overflow research or read dirty blogs or whatever.

[00:20:13] And then when I’m done that session is saved and grouped. And then I can go back in time, months later and revisit and see exactly what I was searching for. Like my research notes, basically. Yeah.

[00:20:23] Brett: [00:20:23] Yeah. That would be super helpful to not only build the, find a page, but find kind of the, uh, the family of pages that you were, you were immersed and at the time that’s cool. Um, it should be mentioned at this point that there’s an app from st. Claire software called history hound. That I remember you telling me you, you had avoided looking at because you were developing, uh, uh, an isolate in, uh, you want, you didn’t want to be influenced by its features.

[00:20:51] Did you ever take a look at history home?

[00:20:53] Tyler: [00:20:53] Yeah, I had used history hound, maybe three or four years ago, so I was familiar with it. But by the time I [00:21:00] kind of got this kind of larger vision for what amnesia could do for me. I hadn’t seen it in a while. And so that’s when I decided I don’t want to take a look. I don’t want to like spoil my idea or inadvertently rip them off in some awful way. So I still haven’t looked so I hope I might completely duplicating their efforts.

[00:21:18] Brett: [00:21:18] Yeah, well, I haven’t used it for a while myself, so I, uh, I couldn’t do a comparison for you, but I’m going to assume based on my use of it in the past that it doesn’t do this, this, uh, what’d you call it a session.

[00:21:34]Tyler: [00:21:34] Yeah.

[00:21:36] Brett: [00:21:36] which, which I think is a great idea. So is amnesia available for people to try or is it still private?

[00:21:43]Tyler: [00:21:43] If somebody wants to email me, I’ll give them a beta version to try it. I’ve got maybe 10 users out there who have done that so far and just really kind of quiet, just kind of seeing what comes out of it.

[00:21:55] Brett: [00:21:55] All right. Um, so you, you mentioned that you were [00:22:00] switching from PHP and you’ve tried doing it in Swift and ended up making a Mac app, which is something I’ve experienced. Um, I tend to start in Ruby. This is where bunch came from. Bunch started as a bunch of my back’s launcher that works on textiles. Um, but it started as a complex Ruby script that eventually I decided.

[00:22:22] Uh, would just be easier to make a, uh, an app for, um, but it’s the Swift, the Swiss step that I’m curious about, uh, w you’re doing, uh, not app development specifically, but also scripting in Swift. And I want to know more about that. Cause I I’ve, I’ve used Swift command line apps, but I’ve never tried it as a scripting language.

[00:22:50] Tyler: [00:22:50] It’s so refreshing, certainly easy. I don’t know how easy it was like in the early days of Swift, but now it’s just a delight to use because I fire up X code. [00:23:00] I import the Swift teams. Awesome. Command line argument, parser Swift package. And then you just get, you know, uh, you know, a main file, like main dot M or whatever, start to see.

[00:23:12] And just top to bottom, you build your script and then you can import other files and, you know, do the usual object oriented Swift stuff, or however you want. All, all the frameworks are there and foundation, all the tools of Swift are there and you just get the nice editing environment of X code with break points and syntax checking and type safety.

[00:23:32] Okay. And it just a delight to use with the full power. And not that you can’t do that with like what I was doing with PHP before, but it’s just easier and it feels faster to build it and is what I’ve noticed. And so I’ve kind of gone from doing it. Yeah. Everything and PHP or bash to, to Swift by default.

[00:23:50] Brett: [00:23:50] If I have 'em resisted Swift up until this point. Uh, how hard do you think it would be for someone with a good background in objective C as [00:24:00] well as in languages like Python or Ruby to finally get into Swift.

[00:24:05]Tyler: [00:24:05] Uh, I th I think it was pretty easy to pick up. Like I kinda got in trouble from some people one time on Twitter when I made a snarky comment that the best decision of my career was avoiding Swift the first two or three years. Like I was so excited about the language, but I also know I want to get work done.

[00:24:23] It feels very influx, which it was. And so for the folks that are able to jump in during, and that kind of extended beta phase, you know, that was awesome. I’m glad they helped steer the language, but once it hits Swift three and then four, I went in full time and it was just a delight to use at that point.

[00:24:40] And it was. Apple has this vision for it as kind of this beginner language with like the playgrounds that anybody can get into. And I don’t think that’s the case at all. I find it very high level optionals and closures everywhere. I would say your younger people towards Python, that seems easier to get into, but if you’re experienced, I [00:25:00] think it’s pretty quick to pick up.

[00:25:01] Brett: [00:25:01] I, uh, yeah, Python’s never been my strong point, but when people come to me and say, I want to get into coding. And I have like zero background, zero experience. Where should I start? I do generally point them to Python.

[00:25:14]Tyler: [00:25:14] and like, I may make a fool of myself by saying this, cause I’m not a Python expert at all, but like, even when you’re doing Swift. You still have to know the whole retain release stance and how that works under the hood. You still have to know about pointers. I mean, you can ignore it, but you’re going to get yourself in trouble if he’s tried doing anything complicated.

[00:25:32] Brett: [00:25:32] I ignored that for my first decade, like I taught my, I taught myself Apple script is how I, well, I, VB script is how I started back on PC, but then I learned Apple script. I learned how to make an objective C wrapper for Apple script using the bridge, and then started to learn objective C from there. But I had no real computer science history and, uh, was very prone to, um, Changing [00:26:00] lines until it worked, but never understanding why, which will get you in trouble. And it took me five years of relearning things to get good.

[00:26:10]Tyler: [00:26:10] Yeah. I was a visual basic coder, you know, as a kid and in middle school and high school in the nineties and then started doing web dev. But then I was lucky enough that when I went to college and did computer science, not only did they teach me the foundations of everything, but at that time, They still teaching CNC plus, plus they hadn’t switched to Java yet.

[00:26:31] And now they’re actually onto Python. I think. So I got that low level C education that I don’t know if I would have attempted on my own. And so when I went to doing Mac stuff, well, objective C is just a layer on top of C. So that was very easy to pick up. And so that kind of inadvertently set me up for my entire career.

[00:26:48]Brett: [00:26:48] Yeah. I could have used that. I started, um, a computer science degree at the university of Minnesota. Uh, flunked or I took a w in calc two. [00:27:00] Uh, I don’t know if I’m bad at math. I think I was in a class of 365 people. And, uh, I like to sit in the back, which is great in a class of 365 people. And then we had our little breakout sessions with, uh, a teacher.

[00:27:16] I couldn’t understand, uh, his accent at all. And so I think I just gave up and decided I was bad at math at that point and went to art school instead. Um, these days I think, I think if I were to take calc again, I would find it a lot more fascinating, but it was the reason I flunked out of, uh, computer science to begin with.

[00:27:39]Tyler: [00:27:39] calc was actually my favorite of all the maths I took. Like it, it, it fit my brain. I never use it day to day ever, but I loved it.

[00:27:46] Brett: [00:27:46] And I really think it fits my brain too. The more I kind of like. Uh, dabble in understanding with no formal education in it. Uh, it kind of dabble and understanding the more like my curiosity is peaked in a way [00:28:00] that it never was back then. I think I’m not actually bad at math. And I think, yeah, calculus, uh, works with the way that I want to solve problems.

[00:28:11] I just, I gave up on it too soon.

[00:28:13]Tyler: [00:28:13] For like in the real world, in my job, the math I use 100% the most is just geometry, just all the time. And so like revisiting what I was learning in eighth and ninth, 10th grade has just helped me so much later in my career, as I’m just manipulating things on screen. It just makes it so much easier to having that foundation there.

[00:28:34] Brett: [00:28:34] Yeah. Um, do you there’s these, there are these calculations where I try to figure out. Uh, ratios of like scroll rates. I can’t, yeah. Think of the exact time that this an exact example of this, but. There’s a S and I think it might be geometry that I’m trying to wrap my head around in these cases, but I’m figuring out what is the [00:29:00] equation that will give me, I guess I’m basically doing algebra, but I’m trying to figure out what w what is the equation where this movement on screen would correlate to this movement onscreen.

[00:29:12] And it’s never as simple as I think it should be. And I ended up just punching in numbers and didn’t knew me. Until I get until, until I’ve solved for X. And then I look at how I got there. Um, yeah. Bad math education.

[00:29:26]Tyler: [00:29:26] The one that screws me up and I will literally have to write it out on a piece of paper. Every time is when I need to. Like resize an image and get the appropriate width and height for the new size. Like you have to do like width over height equals with over height of the other one with like one number missing.

[00:29:43] Like, I can’t do that in my head anymore.

[00:29:44] Brett: [00:29:44] Oh, that’s the one.

[00:29:46] Tyler: [00:29:46] I can not now.

[00:29:47]Brett: [00:29:47] Oh, well, uh, I will stop showcasing how bad I had, how bad my math education is here. Um, this does bring us around to the top three picks and, uh, I would be very curious [00:30:00] to hear what yours are.

[00:30:01]Tyler: [00:30:01] Yeah. So this was an interesting question. You posed the three pics and I started going through the things that I’ve been using most frequently that have surprised me with how much I’m using them. So the first one is Grammarly, I guess, grammarly.com. The grammar checking service I have had there. IOS keyboard installed on my phone, I guess, since iOS eight, whenever those things became a thing.

[00:30:29] And I think I’ve used it exactly one time. Like I had it there and I liked the idea of it, but the thought in my head of everything, I was typing, being sent to some service, just freaked me out. And so I’d never used it, but then maybe nine months ago, I don’t know how I came across it again. Or the idea popped into my head and I thought.

[00:30:50] I really would like to see how good they are, but I was still uncomfortable all with like that data going to them, but then something clicked and I thought maybe if [00:31:00] I’m a paying customer, I feel better versus just being on the free tier and Holy crap, they’re expensive. So I was like weighing like the monthly cost is like 30 bucks a month.

[00:31:10] And look, which is fine, I guess, if your employer pays for it. So I ended up going for like $50 for like a three month quarter just to try it out. And it’s just the most amazingly wonderful service I’ve used in a long time. Like all my blog posts, all my JIRA comments, my emails, anything that’s going to more than one person that I don’t want to look like a fool in front of.

[00:31:33] I just throw in a Grammarly really quickly. And of course it does spell checking it, it finds comma splices or screw ups, but then it’s like, Hey, you’re using passive voice here. You should correct that. Or this sentence sounds confusing and it will actually reword and rewrite your sentence. To be more direct and make more sense.

[00:31:53] And it catches things in my writing that I never knew I was doing. And I’m like, that’s such an improvement and I just [00:32:00] love it. And every week, and every month they send you a little email report of your writing score, what you’ve written. And I did not know how much I was writing until I started using them.

[00:32:11] I think last month of what I had them check for me was like just North of 65,000 words. And it just blew me away.

[00:32:20] Brett: [00:32:20] that’s a lot of words. Um, I do you get into note at all?

[00:32:25]Tyler: [00:32:25] I’ve dabbled with it. Uh, VHX used to have, uh, an old web service that used it. Yeah.

[00:32:30] Brett: [00:32:30] There are dozens of node packages. Each one’s doing specifically like one aspect of what something like Grammarly does. And I’ve always toyed with building my own, like home brew service for that kind of thing. But I have experimented with Grammarly and there are some things that it. Uh, catches and rewrites that I don’t know how they did it.

[00:32:54] Like, I, I aye. You can’t, uh, uh, aside from [00:33:00] having human interaction or huge, vast dictionaries, which they probably do, um, it’s kinda, it’s kind of amazing the stuff they do with just basic machine learning and, uh,

[00:33:11]Tyler: [00:33:11] And like some of the advanced features they offer, you can’t even try on their free tier. Like it’s either sign up and use it or you don’t get to try it at all. And so that’s why I think I was hesitant like the, the sentence rewriting, like. Uh, the other, the blog post I published a day or two ago, it took a sentence and basically reverse the order of the subject and now, and, and the phrasing and move like I, a small section between commas around and like, Oh my goodness, that’s such a better way to phrase it.

[00:33:42] And I don’t know how they do it.

[00:33:44]Brett: [00:33:44] Yeah, so, so basically it’s a, it’s a really good, it’s like having a really good editor, which you would pay probably more for. Uh, and if you’re writing enough, if you’re writing 65,000 words, then yeah. I could [00:34:00] see that being worth the, uh, the price of admission there.

[00:34:02]Tyler: [00:34:02] Yeah,

[00:34:04] Brett: [00:34:04] All right. What’s your second pick?

[00:34:06]Tyler: [00:34:06] this one goes out for all the, any developers out there running their own little business. Um, I guess everybody, and I think you do to use MailChimp for your mailing lists.

[00:34:15] Brett: [00:34:15] I have, yes.

[00:34:16] Tyler: [00:34:16] Okay. Um, I used them forever. Me too. Yeah. And that’s this, this is the reason for this pig, which is I don’t want to spend my customers.

[00:34:26] So I would only send out two, three, maybe four newsletters a year. And with my subscriber count, every time I would send out a blast with MailChimp, it was like $200. And so I basically stopped sending, cause I never thought my message was worth. Dropping $200 just to send. And then three, four years ago, I got a newsletter from Gus Mueller over at flying meats.

[00:34:51] And I noticed that one of the links in the email was, you know, it was like a click tracker and it was to this [00:35:00] domain, Cindy dot, flying, meet.com his domain. I like, what is Cindy? So I went there and looked it up and I think it’s like, The product is cindy.co.co. And they are newsletter software that you run and host yourself.

[00:35:13] It just PHP base. It’s not open source, but you can view the source once you buy it. So you host it on your web server or wherever, and they send emails through, um, Amazon’s SES email service. So the, for the price of sending the MailChimp, which was $200 per newsletter. It’s like maybe 50 cents and I’ve had the same delivery rates.

[00:35:36] I have no problem with spam filtering. It does click tracking if you want it. It does reports open tracking. It’s phenomenal. And now I don’t feel this barrier whenever I want to send an email out to my customers.

[00:35:49] Brett: [00:35:49] Yeah that. So I have a, I have a MailChimp list with 11,000 people on it and I have 200 credits. [00:36:00] In MailChimp that are about to expire in November, which is not enough to send an email to everybody on the list. And I don’t have any reason to send it to part of the email list. So basically I’m going to lose a couple hundred dollars worth of MailChimp credits, which is very far why would those expire?

[00:36:17] I P O w anyway, have you heard of swoosh?

[00:36:22]Tyler: [00:36:22] no. Wait, is that the Mac app?

[00:36:25]Brett: [00:36:25] It’s a Mac app that also it uses Amazon SES to, uh, to send out for pennies a piece, um, or

[00:36:34] Tyler: [00:36:34] Would they be able to get the open tracking them?

[00:36:37] Brett: [00:36:37] I don’t know. I don’t know, might be worth looking into, but developing emails, like the beauty of MailChimp is the templates. And these ready to go.

[00:36:49] Good-looking emails that you know, are going to work across different email readers, which is the hardest part of, of sending HTML newsletters, emails.

[00:37:00] [00:37:00] Tyler: [00:37:00] well, I’ll tell you my solution to that problem, which was, I don’t have a solution with Cindy, so I just send plain text

[00:37:06]Brett: [00:37:06] I suppose that works,

[00:37:09] Tyler: [00:37:09] and I know it doesn’t get the open rates, but I can’t bring myself to do HTML email templates. I just, I don’t have the, the skills to do that correctly.

[00:37:18] Brett: [00:37:18] have to go all the way back to doing like table based layouts. It’s horrifying.

[00:37:22] Tyler: [00:37:22] the attributes. Yes, it’s awful.

[00:37:24] Brett: [00:37:24] Yeah. Inline attributes and table based layouts. It’s it’s ugly. Real ugly. Um, yeah. I, I would consider, I guess most email clients make plain text emails look pretty enough that it wouldn’t be like sending monospace Moto Monotype fonts to people. Um, all right, so Cindy, cindy.co.

[00:37:48] Tyler: [00:37:48] Yeah,

[00:37:49] Brett: [00:37:49] All right. Number three.

[00:37:52]Tyler: [00:37:52] number three is not something you really pay for, but I do hope you go support them. I’m living here in Nashville, which I guess is [00:38:00] music city. Uh, live music is a huge, huge thing. And my wife and I used to go to concerts all the time before covert arrived. And then now it’s shut down. Uh, my favorite live band to see here, they’re located in Nashville, but they used to tour nationally is the wood brothers.

[00:38:16] Uh, they’ve been around for, I guess, 15 years now. And they’re kind of this rootsy Americana with a little bit of blues and the performances live are just outstanding. And, but what really gets me is the song writing hits me harder than really any other artists I’ve ever listened to. There’s a couple songs where Oliver, one of the brothers.

[00:38:37] Writes about his own kids. And it just echoes perfectly what I felt in my life and gone through that. There’s these two or three songs that will really make me tear up and cry if I don’t catch myself and with live music being gone in Nashville, I know all these musicians are really hurting. So look up the wood brothers stream on Spotify, Apple music, [00:39:00] buy an album.

[00:39:00] If you’re that way, just give them a try. They’re wonderful.

[00:39:04]Brett: [00:39:04] Um, do you have a favorite song? I should list.

[00:39:07]Tyler: [00:39:07] Uh, the, the two that affect me the most are, um, there’s one called the muse, what she talks about, um, his wife and then the trouble they had in their marriage. And then leading up to the first birth, the birth of his first kid. And there’s another one called two places which talks about the yearning you feel for.

[00:39:31] Being with your family, but also having to give up, you know, you’re your own individual freedom to make that work and balancing that act, those two sides of yourself, but then for just a good time fun song to listen, to dance, to, um, there’s one called shoofly pie, which is just, you know, a heck of a good timeline, I guess

[00:39:51] Brett: [00:39:51] Alright, um, living in Nashville as you do, do you have a favorite genre of music?

[00:39:57]Tyler: [00:39:57] Uh, ironically anything except [00:40:00] country, which is weird because, you know, American, I kind of falls into country. Wouldn’t bluegrass and bluegrass is great too, but no top

[00:40:08] Brett: [00:40:08] I know I no longer directly, so like Nashville has become such a center of good music that I no longer associated just with country.

[00:40:18]Tyler: [00:40:18] Yeah. I mean it, I mean, Every, every artist makes Nashville their second home, whether they’re based in LA or New York, they all have either live here or they have property here and they come and visit here and record here. So it’s way beyond just that country music pigeon that it was years and years ago.

[00:40:34]Brett: [00:40:34] um, where’s the grand old Opry. Is that Nashville?

[00:40:39] Tyler: [00:40:39] Yeah, it is. Yeah.

[00:40:40] Brett: [00:40:40] Yeah. I went there as a kid. I went there with my, my grandma and. The one thing we always shared was a, was a love of Johnny Cash. I was like the only music that my mom, my grandma and me always agreed on. Um, very, very little else in common, but we went to a grand old Opry and, uh, [00:41:00] there’s like a hotel there.

[00:41:01] We stayed at, it was fun. It was fun,

[00:41:03] Tyler: [00:41:03] yeah, the opera hotel. Yeah.

[00:41:05] Brett: [00:41:05] yeah, that was my last real impression of Nashville until I was. In my twenties and it had become a very different city in that a 20 year span.

[00:41:17]Tyler: [00:41:17] the opera was nearly destroyed in 2010 when we had the floods, um, like the whole, the hotel of opera, all of it was, you know, not literally underwater, but flooded and they had to redo and rebuild. It’s like so much of the city did, but it’s back.

[00:41:33]Brett: [00:41:33] Well, cool. All right. We have a couple extra minutes. Uh, do, do you want to highlight any of your other work? Anything you want to talk about?

[00:41:43]Tyler: [00:41:43] That’s a good question. Um, I would just say, I ha I had this tweet maybe early January or something snarky, like. Uh, if I die, everybody’s going to find all these unfinished get repos of code I’ve written just for myself. And [00:42:00] that kind of lit a spark under being, I thought, well, why, why not make it available?

[00:42:04] And so that’s kind of in the theme of my blog website, whatever you want to call it this year, which is I’m trying to do something at least once a week and put something out there that people can play with her try. And so I would just say, go there and. Take advantage of, or try or throw shade at me for the stuff I’m writing, the little apps and utilities I’m building.

[00:42:24] I love feedback. I love just sharing what works for me and hopefully works for other people or what I’m building

[00:42:30] Brett: [00:42:30] And where would people find that?

[00:42:32] Tyler: [00:42:32] tyler.io.

[00:42:34]Brett: [00:42:34] All right. Um, I did want to ask you, you had an app, I think back in 2010 called Minyon. Is that still function?

[00:42:43]Tyler: [00:42:43] It was from 2014 and it came an idea from a good friend of mine who writes Mac apps in the video editing space. And he’s like, we need an app that does this. And it was one of those acts that, like I said, I didn’t have a use for, but I [00:43:00] thought it was a brilliant idea. So I built it and I wasn’t very good.

[00:43:03] No, I ended up selling it to another developer a few years later, who I think is out of business now. So I think it’s gone.

[00:43:10]Brett: [00:43:10] um, I that’s too bad because reading about it, it does something that I I’ve needed many times. And I’ve used a basic like file system Watchers to try to, to replicate, but to have a graphic interface that did exactly that. Um, I can understand why it might not have been commercially successful, but.

[00:43:30]Tyler: [00:43:30] Describing that idea to potential customers. I was way beyond my meager marketing skills. Like I couldn’t communicate. The use cases well enough on the website for it to do well.

[00:43:40]Brett: [00:43:40] Basically any. So if for any anyone listening, what it does is it uses a bunch of different methods to basically anytime you have a long running task, a rendering, a video, or. Uh, building, uh, a huge static site or anything. That’s going to take more than a couple of [00:44:00] minutes and you want to walk away from a, it had ways of monitoring, uh, different aspects of that.

[00:44:07] So it would know when it was complete and then could notify you away from your computer,

[00:44:11]Tyler: [00:44:11] Yeah. What you said about the long video renders. That was exactly my friend’s use case. That’s what it was initially built to solve

[00:44:19]Brett: [00:44:19] Yeah. Or even just long uploads. I wonder if. Anyway. Yeah, no, they’re definitely times.

[00:44:26]Tyler: [00:44:26] You had an option to watch the color of a pixel on screen. So like, if you start an upload, you put your mouse over like the progress bar. And when it goes from like blue to gray and it’s done, it’ll notify you.

[00:44:40]Brett: [00:44:40] And that’s brilliant. Cause every time, every time that I’ve needed something like that, it’s been a different criteria that I would watch for. It’s never just like always watch this file and let me know when it’s done. Like it’s never the same thing twice. Anyway. Brilliant idea. Sorry to [00:45:00] hear it doesn’t exist anymore, but all right.

[00:45:03] Well tell people where all they can find you a Twitter websites. Give, give us a rundown.

[00:45:10] Tyler: [00:45:10] yeah. On Twitter. It’s just my name, Tyler Hall, uh, LinkedIn and get hub the same username. And then. My company website with my commercial apps is click on tyler.com. And of course my little blog@tyler.io.

[00:45:25]Brett: [00:45:25] All right, I’ve got it. I’ve got it all in the show notes. So people can find you in all of these, uh, all of these apps that you do publish and, uh, hopefully. Hopefully it’ll pique, people’s interest in all of this stuff that you, uh, you may be mentioned on your blog, but never turn into commercial applications.

[00:45:44] I think there’s a, there’s a lot that you do that could help a lot of people. Alright, well, thank you for, uh, for your time today.

[00:45:50] Tyler: [00:45:50] yeah, thanks. I enjoyed it.

[00:45:52] Soundtrack: [00:45:52] Hey, thanks for tuning into systematic. Check out more episodes@systematicpod.com and subscribe on Apple podcasts, [00:46:00] Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. Find me as TD scuff on all social platforms and follow systematic is. S Y S T M C a S T on Twitter. Thanks for listening.