Introducing Get Schwifty!

Each year Apple organizes a conference for their third party platform developers. The conference is called WWDC (world wide developers conference) and takes place in California, USA. Although the tickets are extremly expensive (1,599$ each) it is almost impossible to get the chance to buy one due to the mass of people who try their luck.

The conference is all about the software; Apple uses the opening keynote to introduce the new major versions of their platform operating systems, iOS and macOS. The rest of the week there are a ton of talks given by Apple employees plus labs where you can talk one to one to the developers who build the SDKs and tools you use every day.

Attending WWDC is propably every iOS/macOS developer’s dream and so it is mine. Fortunately, Apple has a special treatment for pupils, students and members of STEM organizations. Last year I send an application for a scholarship which would have allowed me to visit the conference for free. Unfortunately, I did not win the scholarship but my friend Kilian did which made me happy as well.

Instead of visiting WWDC I had the great opportunity to attend AltConf which was taking place in San Francisco during the time of WWDC last year. I am incredible happy about the chance I got. Being in San Francisco during a time where thousands of people around you who love the same things as you do is awesome. I collected a ton of invaluable experiences and met a lot of very interesting people. Some of them I am very proud to call my friends.

Although AltConf was really interesting and definitely worth the visit it was kind of sad to see all the people with badges go into the toward building each morning.

Later in October last year I started my master studies which means I am still a student and able to apply for a scholarship again. Having my experiences from last year in mind it was clear that I needed to try my luck. The only problems I had were the financial load of buying a plane ticket to the most expensive place in the world and staying there for the week. This is still a problem but it is one which I try to figure out if I get the chance to.

And that brings me to the original intend of this blog post: I am extremely proud to present you the project I built as an application for this year’s WWDC scholarship. The task was to build some visually interactive scene using Swift Playgrounds, a part of Xcode and seperate app on iPad. There are literally infinite possibilities which makes it really hard to get the right idea. When Swift was firstly announced Chris Lattner (the inventor of Swift) built a SpriteKit scene in Playgrounds. That was very impressive and so my first thought was to build a graphical scene as well. But it turns out that graphical three dimensional scenes are not my biggest strength.

If you started reading this blog from the beginning you may know that I like to overthink complex problems and learn new things. You may also have read that I wanted to build my own compiler for a new programming language, lbd. Having this in mind I came to the conclusion that the Playground itself is the best interactive scene I know. So I started implementing my own.

Due to security reasons it is not possible to write, compile and run binaries inside iOS apps. But it is possible to evaluate Javascript using a framework called JavaScriptCore! That is it!

I built a lexer, parser, abstract syntax tree and a Javascript generator plus some user interface and a small wrapper around JavaScriptCore. The result is pretty impressive (especially for 2-3 days of work) and I am very proud about it. Today I would like to open source the repository to be open for contributions and the possibility for others to learn.

I do not think that this project will stay as a weekend hackathon project but will grow in the future. The potential is literally endless because it is not possible for me to implement all features that a team of professionals at Apple creates. And that it is totally okay! The app is not meant to replace something; it is just an addition to try out the language on the go.

If you would like to pre-alpha test the app send me a direct message on Twitter. Feel also free to check out the repository on Github! Thanks for reading this blog post, I am really thrilled about the future! Wish me luck for the scholarship lottery, announcement is on April 21.

PS: The name is inspired by this great episode of Rick and Morty:

Benjamin Herzog

iOS developer, master degree student in computer science

Dresden, Germany