X-Plane Story: Working 16-Hour Days At Apple Headquarters

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Sep 20, 2008.

  1. dmr727 macrumors G3


    Dec 29, 2007
    Yeah, you're right. I just think his ego is one reason why he doesn't hire someone to properly promote his product. I bet that word of mouth drives most X-Plane sales - imagine what could be if he hired a web designer and someone that could put a little marketing muscle into it.
  2. dakmary macrumors newbie

    Jun 16, 2008
    16 hours..!!
    I used to think this is a lot of time...
    this is my average working hours after I joined JPMorgan as an Investment Banker... :(
  3. sushi Moderator emeritus


    Jul 19, 2002
    Good point.

    However, word of mouth does seem to be working! :)
  4. steveh macrumors 6502

    Sep 12, 2002
    So you're saying that you haven't actually used the application, right?

    At the bottom of the screen, there is a GPS compass that always points toward the (only) airport.

    Sort of like an actual aircraft with GPS and a heads-up display.

    Patience, the developer says that other locales and aircraft are in development for the near future.
  5. steveh macrumors 6502

    Sep 12, 2002
    It's not a sweatshop if you're doing it because you want to, rather than because you're forced to do it.

    There's something to be said for child-like enthusiasm, especially when it gets things done.

    Those suffering from terminal ennui miss out on the fun, but then they wouldn't understand it anyway.

    Their loss.
  6. T-Will macrumors 6502a


    Sep 8, 2008
    Am I blind? Where's the full article? The link goes to an X-Plane page with Q&A's...
  7. vjl323 macrumors regular

    Sep 7, 2005
    Western North Carolina
    Apple must have made him pull it. I have it saved as PDF at home, and I'll post a link to the PDF in this thread when I get home tonight [EDT]. I had a feeling they would pull it so, I saved it into Together as a PDF.

    Glad I did!

  8. alexlr macrumors newbie

    Aug 25, 2008
    Full Article Text (saved by Google Cache)

    A number of people have asked me about the story of X-Plane for iPhone: Why and how was it done?

    Well, it is a somewhat interesting story.

    Around September 1 or so, I was sitting on a park bench in Central Park, New York, enjoying a WONDERFUL fall Saturday afternoon, typing away on my Mac laptop, when my tech support guy, Randy Witt, called me and suggested that we do X-Plane for iPhone. Of course, I thought this idea was IMPOSSIBLE, because how could a PHONE have enough POWER to run X-PLANE? And how would you CONTROL the planes? Nevertheless, I called Apple to ask them whether it would be possible to get X-Plane running on the iPhone, and whether Apple would have any interest in seeing it done. The answer was a bit surprising: Not only is the iPhone just powerful enough to RUN a specialized version of X-Plane, but Apple would LOVE to see it done NOW. Apple had a Keynote presentation coming up, and would love to have a couple of exciting new games ready to consider showing off at the presentation. My response: "Well, I live in South Carolina, I am currently in New York, it's Saturday afternoon... I could be in Cupertino (Apple's headquarters) maybe some time late Monday, and we could start work on, say, Tuesday or so? My contact at Apple gave me my absolute favorite reply ever: "Umm.. How about we see you Monday morning at 9 AM sharp instead?"

    Man. THAT is my kind of reply. We have so little time on this Earth, and things move so fast, the time to act is NOW.

    With 842X just finishing the final repairs from the hangar-collapse, it was off to Expedia.com to make a few quick airline reservations to get from a park bench in Central Park, New York, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon to the lobby of Apple headquarters in Cupertino, CA, Monday at 9 AM. Ben Supnik (my principal sub-contract-coder) arrived at the same time from Washinton, DC, and there we sat in the lobby of the coolest building I have ever been in, that makes the coolest software that there is. (I include a picture of the entrance to Apple from an earlier trip below).

    Within 2 minutes, our contact at Apple came down the lobby to get us and bring us to the office that would be our home for the next 7 days as we cranked out the iPhone version of X-Plane on an absurdly tight schedule. Here is the deal: Apple had a Keynote coming up in about 10 days, and wanted to have X-Plane ready to present there, and neither Ben nor I had ever tried to program anything for an iPhone before. Could we get X-Plane into an iPhone in only 10 days? Steve Jobs himself, Leader of Apple, wanted to have a suite of programs ready in only 7 days to present at the keynote, and we had NO PROOF AT ALL that the job even COULD be done... in ANY time-frame! The next 7 days were, to say the least, 'interesting'. Ben and I had an office right in the middle the 'hive-mind', right alongside all the engineers at Apple. Any time we asked "How does the SOUND work?" or "How do we initialize OpenGL?" or (and this one is new) "What should X-Plane do if the PHONE RINGS?" an Apple engineer would show up at our office with all the answers. When it comes to handling phone-calls in-flight, MY ideas was to put up an alert saying "DON'T YOU KNOW YOU AREN'T SUPPOSED TO USE THE PHONE ON THE AIRPLANE?" but Ben and Apple did not think that was the best course of action. ;-) Development was interesting: We wound up making a COPY of X-Plane in a special iPhone development environment and then pulling OUT the 90% of the code that gives only that last 10% of the results. This lets us have 90% of the fun of X-Plane on the iPhone... for only 10% of the RAM and CPU. THAT is the compromise that we need to make to run on the iPhone.

    Now, an interesting thing about Apple is that they are riding high with the best phone, music source, and personal computer on the planet, and they aim to do EVEN BETTER moving forwards. Being at Apple is almost like what I imagine it would be like to be inside of Boeing during World-War 2: Everything is running at 100% throttle, with knowledge that we are running at 100% of our abilities, and that is enough to guarantee the best product, and guarantee success in the final outcome, but nothing less than a 100% delivery is acceptable. Apple is fighting a War against Microsoft, with a clearly FAR superior product, but with the very clear knowledge that it is a FUN war to fight, that they are clearly WINNING, but that they can NOT slip up even the slightest bit if they want to have ultimate success. The halls are just about ALIVE with the cracking energy of excited phone calls over how cool the latest product is, and how desperate the timeline is to have it ready for an eager public right NOW. Sitting in our office at Apple cranking away madly on X-Plane for about 12 hours a day, we would constantly hear the engineers talking on the phones in their offices, or to each other in the hallway, and the conversations that we would hear would almost ALWAYS run the same way: "That is SOOOOOOOOO cool! When will they have it ready?" "That is SUCH an amazing technology... we need it by Friday. Can that Happen?" "That is the COOLEST product.. What do we have to do to get it to market NOW?" As well, some conversations could NOT be overheard... we would only hear energetic, excited WHISPERING as programmers discussed the next plan in the halls while guarding secrecy around the interlopers from Laminar Research. (When hearing the frantic whispering of the next new plans for Apple, I admit I left our office door open and cocked my ear, but to no avail! ;-) I suggested that the next 'killer-app' for iPhone might be a covert surveillance device, where the microphone on the phone can be aimed at any conversation, and then hugely amplified and filtered into the headset, allowing me to eavesdrop on the Apple engineers as they discussed their next Big Idea.

    The Apple Campus itself is an amazing place, with the huge building surrounding a central Quad with grass and sidewalks and the amazing cafeteria: You get trays and silverware just exactly like in College, and go pick from a large handful of sushi, mexican, make-your-own sandwich or salad, or countless other options, then check out at a register before sitting down inside or in their little Outdoor Cafe in the Quad. Even the food is running at 100% throttle, with the Cafeteria crowded and bustling, and even the Chefs dressed perfectly and clean-white smocks with black Apple hats on, doing their part to keep everyone fueled and running their war at 100% efficiency. Everyone is working harder, faster, and with more urgency than I have ever seen at any company. Cessna is 100% SOLID AND DEPENDABLE. Apple is 100% ENERGETIC AND CREATIVE. In BOTH, each employee knows what he has to do, and what the others have to do, and all are working together to get the job done. I have been inside of plenty of companies that I won't name, and none of them come close to touching these two companies.

    Security at Apple is stunningly tight... We signed in and out, with badges, every day, and were CONTINUOUSLY escorted EVERYWHERE we went outside of our office. NO outsider shall wander un-escorted through these halls! Ben and I wondered what would happen if we left the office and wandered the halls alone, and came to the conclusion that it would be exactly like Janeway and crew wandering around a Borg ship from Star Trek. At first, we would be able to walk down the halls, even right past the drones, without being noticed, but then, when we least expect it, someone would detach from his office and come after us like a Borg: "What are YOU doing un-escorted?! The hive-mind has been notified!"

    When we need a bigger monitor to do the ARTWORK for the iPhone version of X-Plane (for example), all we would do is say the word and huge cases full of Quad-Core desktops and 30-inch monitors were rolled into our office. Why the huge cases to hold this stuff? As it turns out, we were given the SAME computers that are shipped off to Hollywood to appear in movies! Apple has a reserve of the latest and coolest hardware to appear in movies, and they lent THOSE computers to us to do the X-Plane for iPhone development.

    From time to time, our contacts at Apple would drop by the office and ask whether the X-Plane was ready to show to one executive or another, I would throw the latest version onto my iPodTouch, and the Apple engineer would whisk it away to show to Phil Schiller or Steve Jobs or whatever executive wanted to evaluate the App for possible display at the Keynote. Sometimes I would ask WHICH executive wanted to see the app this time, and would be told "A very high level of executive" (Phil Schiller) or "The HIGHEST level of Executive" (Steve Jobs himself). When I would get my iPod back from being presented, it would have 'X-Plane' written on it on hi-grip stick-tape attached to the iPod, clearly done by Apple to keep my iPod separate from the others that were being used to give other demos to the top Execs. Much like having Enzo Ferrari SIGN your car when you take it into the shop to be worked on, it is safe to say I will NOT be pulling the 'X-Plane' marker off my iPod!

    ANYWAY, after about 5 days of the most time-pressured, intensive, focused work I have ever done, Ben went home for the weekend and I remained in the hotel, continuing my 16-hour workdays, but by myself in the hotel room over the weekend. Late Sunday night, Ben was back from Washington DC with some hard drives with tons of X-Plane scenery-building tools, and we were right back to work charging into the next week with 10-hour days at Apple, and another 6 hours back at the hotel each night. As the end of the week approached, and X-Plane for iPhone began to solidify, X-Plane finally went to Steve Jobs for his final approval or rejection for the Keynote. The Verdict: "No-Go". The sim is fine, and Steve likes it, but it is not FAST-PACED enough for a keynote demo. Bummer! BUT, really, NOT a major problem... we still got the sim developed in only 14 days, and it is selling like hotcakes now at the AppStore, walking right over SPORE and saber-dueling with StarWars for the #4 position of all paid apps as I write this. Not bad for 14 days with only barely-minimal food and sleep! (And another 7 days of the same (16-hour work-days) when I got back home to tune, test, and tweak, and then about 3 more days of the same for 9.01, which runs a good bit nicer).
  9. moz5835 macrumors newbie

    Sep 5, 2007

    I'm a big flight sim fan, but this iPhone app simply isn't doing it for me. Great proof of concept. Yay - it can be technically achieved. However, it's a bit pointless beyond that.


    My $10 says that Mr Jobs & co. made Austin pull his story. Too many minor crinkles about Apple contained in it.
  10. ibanana macrumors 6502

    Aug 23, 2007
    why has it been removed? It gave a good insight of an Apple's work life, no criticism or whatsoever? If this comes from Apple this is really stupid/paranoid.
  11. eastcoastsurfer macrumors 6502a

    Feb 15, 2007
    It talked about iPhone development, which per the NDA is a no-no. Another dumb thing Apple is doing...
  12. Mindflux macrumors 68000


    Oct 20, 2007

    So, blogspam?
  13. macbookairman macrumors 6502a

    Jan 15, 2008
    hmm...the story seems to be back up on the x-plane.com/iPhone website.

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