I normally write a little summary before the interview to give the article a little more meat and to summarize that the developer said, but here William did such a fantastic job of writing his story in his own words that I don’t think I could add anything. One thing I can mention is that this is a slightly old interview that I actually spaced on publishing here for various reasons and since then he’s started working on a new tweak called Return. It’s a very lightweight tweak that essentualy just puts a row of your recently used apps above the Control Center. I’ll be previewing it really soon so stay tuned! Lastly, he also just released an app on the App Store called Shade so go check that out!
Question 1: Can you tell the story of how you got into developing?
Like many jailbreak developers I started out programming in high school (2005) on my TI-83 programmable calculator. The language, BASIC, was far from what I program in today but it laid the foundation for my passion for programming. I would use it program basic functions like solving the quadratic equation to more advanced programs with specialized “User Interfaces”. It paved the way for me and my interest in programming. When I graduated high school in 2009, I went to St. John’s University in Queens, New York where my major was in Pharmacy and then later to become Toxicology. Neither of these fields of study had anything to do with programming, but it was a still an interest of mine.
By this time I had been jailbreaking my iDevices for about 5 years but I didn’t really do much other than install and make themes and what not. I was not the avid jailbreaker I am today. My career in programming for the Jailbreak Community started early 2010 when a friend of mine was messing around on his laptop with a fake windows error popup generator. I thought that was a nifty little novelty but I wanted it to actually BE a popup and not just an image. I wanted it to popup when you clicked on internet explorer and have it say “You meant Chrome right?”.
So I did some research and found out these error messages could be easily programmed with a Windows script type called Visual Basic or vbs. I learned that a VBS script could be compiled as an executable file and then disguised as internet explorer. When I finally did that it intrigued me. I spent the next coming months learning visual basic and programming a variety of things. I actually developed a web browser code-named Napalm but it never came to fruition, it was more of a learning project for me. Visual Basic was nice but I was starting to gain interest in the jailbreak tweak section of Cydia.
I noticed all of these tweaks coming out, they were nice, but none of them were “exactly” what I wanted. I always installed the standard tweaks: Activator, SBSettings (remember this in the days before control center?) and Winterboard. I wanted more with my device and I wanted to be the one to control exactly what my device looks like and how it functions. This is how my endeavor into jailbreak developing began. I knew I needed a Mac to start work on learning this Objective-C programming language but I didn’t have the money to buy one, so I did the next best thing.
I had an old laptop and I installed OS X on it, at the time I think it was at 10.6. Now that I had OS X I could begin programming. I decided to take on a project that was very ambitious. I wanted to add an SBSettings type style control to the Media Controller on the lock screen of the device. I knew exactly ZERO about Objective-C and Theos but I took on the project anyway. To me it wasn’t too steep of a learning curve as Visual Basic has similar method calls to Objective-C but don’t get me wrong it was still days and even months of learning and fiddling before I got anything functional. Finally, after all my hard work I released my first Cydia tweak with ModMyI under the glorious not so specific name at all: Media Controller Brightness, here is the 1.0 release.
It worked and people liked it, in fact the 1.0 version has 2227 downloads and in total the tweak has 40,503 installs. This was impressive to me. Seeing this response really got me motivated to creating more and more the community. I went on to creating many more tweaks, such as:
- Remove Slide Show Button (removes slideshow button from iPad, 27,065)
- SMSConfirmation (tells you if your SMS has sent or failed to send, 114,924)
- InstaURL (my first paid tweak $0.99, browse the internet from anywhere with an activator gesture)
- QuickGesture (Paid $0.99, using activator you can quickly disable multitasking gestures)
- Go2Now (free, launch a predefined URL using and activator gesture, 12,406)
- QuickHide (free, hides the display when something is in close proximity to the device, 23,801)
- Boxy/Boxy 2 (my very first “flagship” tweak. $1.99, rearrange icons on homescreen using presets or user configurations)
- Sticky ($0.99, another “flagship” tweak, adds a sticky note to the lock screen)
- Tabless (free, first ever iOS 7 tweak, removes the tabs from the lockscreen, 257,990)
My development skills still continue to improve to this day and I don’t think I will every stop contributing the jailbreak community. I love the thrill of a new release and I love to see people using my tweaks. I put a lot of work into them and respond to every email I get regarding my tweaks. I am extremely happy to have gotten into developing as it has become my passion.
Question 2: What inspired you to make Shade?
I couldn’t sleep one night and I was looking at the wall next to my bed and I thought to myself, “I wonder what color that is? There should be an app that tells me that”. I was already aware of the Benjamin Moore paint identifier app but I wanted an app that provided more information. I figured others would too.
Question 3: How long did you work on it?
Shade did not take me too long to get the core functionality. After 20 minutes of research I realized my idea was possible and I developed the core functionality in 3 hours in between my classes. It took 2 more weeks of beta testing and designing to get the UI exactly right.
With so much material to cover, we’ve decided to split this developer spotlight into two parts. So be sure to stay on the look out for part two coming later this week. In the mean time, be sure to follow William on Twitter for updates about his tweaks.