The Thresher Shark Research & Conservation Project

Posted Posted in Diving

In 2011 I’ll be returning to The Thresher Shark Research & Conservation Project for a six month stint as Science Officer. Helping out on an important scientific and community project with some of the greatest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet and work with.

I spent the best three months of my life there in 2009. Diving every day, researching sharks and mantas, and helping a small island community—through the research and its application to conservation and within the local dive tourism industry, but also directly within the community, where the project provides jobs, helped construct housing and where TSRCP volunteers teach marine biology and conservation at the local school.

Life on the island was confronting at first. About 2 km square consisting of a couple of small villages and a few dive resorts (largely foreign owned, but where the island community gets 80% of its income), there is no permanent electricity and no fresh water. The island is powered by petrol generators prone to breakdown and drinking water is imported daily. A simple, largely subsistence lifestyle. I grew to love the island and its people.


TSRCP was started in 2005 by research scientists Simon P. Oliver and Alison J. Beckett to create a baseline of Monad Shoal in the Philippines—primarily concerned with Pelagic Thresher Shark (Alopias pelagicus) cleaning activity as well as the shoal’s coral coverage and general health.

Monad Shoal is about 8 km east of the southern beach of Malapascua Island in the Visayan Sea—an open water seamount with a relatively square dive profile around 21–24m that plunges to 250m, presenting a unique opportunity to observe and record these rarely studied oceanic sharks.

Both threshers and Manta Rays (Manta birostris) frequent the site, as well as a myriad of other pelagic and reef fish. Particularly the various species of cleaner fish that draw the oceanic wildlife to the shoal.

TSRCP is a significant source of environmental, ecological and behavioural research for Pelagic Thresher Sharks, providing research, education and conservation locally, regionally and internationally.

GUE Relationship

Through volunteer divers (including myself) TSRCP became aware of Global Underwater Explorers, a non-profit diver training agency focussed on research, conservation and exploration, whose training methods and techniques are uniquely suited to scientific research diving. In 2009 TSRCP became a GUE affiliated project and now provides all volunteer divers with basic training aimed at perfecting the buoyancy, trim and propulsion techniques necessary for a successful research diver.

Join Us

I encourage any divers out there to volunteer with the The Thresher Shark Research & Conservation Project. My three months there were amazing—peaceful, eye opening and life changing. The most fulfilling ‘work’ I’ve ever done. I can’t wait to be back in 2011.

Air Depth Crash Bug

Posted Posted in Development

UPDATE: Air Depth is no longer available. Check out Gas Manager on the App Store.

UPDATE: Air Depth 1.3.1 is available. No more crashing on iOS3.x. Thanks for your patience.

Version 1.3 of Air Depth contained a crash bug related to an iOS4 framework. I’ve already submitted 1.3.1 to fix the issue. 1.3 was approved in 12 hours, so I hope 1.3.1 is approved within a similar time frame.

The issue manifests on iOS versions less than 4. iOS 4 is released on 21 July. However, 1.3.1 will fix the issue for all prior iOS versions if you don’t intend upgrading to iOS 4.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

Followup on App Store Pricing and Developer Payments

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Development

I received a message from Apple today, in response to an earlier post. I’ve reproduced it bellow:


Your assumptions on UK VAT are correct; the iTunes Store sales prices in the United Kingdom are VAT (Value Added Tax) inclusive, as are any other goods sold in the UK. This is required by law, not by Apple policy. You can refer to the government tax website for an understanding of VAT laws. Every customer in the UK expects that VAT is included in their price, so this is not unusual for them.

To the contrary, USA customers are used to seeing sales taxes added at the time of checkout, and not included in the sales price of an item. This is how the iTunes Store reflects taxes—the same way customers are accustomed to seeing it as they would in any other store in the USA.

This is address in the FAQs on iTunes Connect, as well as explained in detail to anyone who emails

Kind regards,
iTunes Royalty Accounting

Autotest Your Rails Apps

Posted Posted in Development

UPDATE: I’ve noticed that autotest seems to require complete restarts for similar reasons to the rails server. If you don’t restart it, it will report a slew of false errors.

Do this:

$ sudo gem install ZenTest autotest-rails autotest-fsevent
    autotest-growl redgreen

Edit ~/.autotest (create it if it doesn’t exist) and add the following:

require 'autotest/fsevent'
require 'autotest/growl'
require 'redgreen/autotest'

If you want autotest to skip certain paths, you can add something like the following to ~/.autotest as well (thanks to Bitcetera):

Autotest.add_hook :initialize do |autotest|
  %w{.git .svn .hg .DS_Store ._* vendor}.each do |exception|

Then run autotest for your rails app:

$ cd myrailsapp
$ autotest

Tar2RubyScript, RubyScript2Exe and wxRuby

Posted Posted in Development

Recently, I needed to write a quick proof of concept Windows app. Not wanting to install Windows on my Mac or work on the POS Windows box over there (points to shitty box), I went in search of a way to write Windows apps on OS X.

I found Tar2RubyScript, RubyScript2Exe and wxRuby which let me use Ruby, any gems I needed and creates an app with native widgets. As a final step you can ‘compile’ on the Windows machine and it creates a (rather large) Windows executable file. Once the app is bundled, it can be distributed to any machine without the need for Ruby to be installed.

There was a hitch, however. Tar2RubyScript and RubyScript2Exe no longer worked and hadn’t been updated for a few years.

Well, now they work:


On App Store Pricing and Developer Payments

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Development

UPDATE: A reply from Apple

I had a rather long and messy discussion with Garret Murray on twitter today, after he expressed some concerns regarding apparent discrepancies in App Store developer payments. I think the confusion can be put down to two issues:

  1. Apple is less than transparent
  2. There is a minor misunderstanding with regard to sales taxes

On Transparency

The only official word is that developers receive 70% of App Store profits. Without any further details, many developers make the reasonable assumption that this equates to 70% of sales. After all, Apple made a big deal of covering all the costs for us. Unfortunately, a quick look at your monthly financial statements scuttles this idea.

Tier 2 pricing is $1.99 USD in the US, and £1.19 in the UK. So, we might expect the following payments in our financial statements:

$1.99 * 0.7 = $1.40
£1.19 * 0.7 = £0.83

What we find is a UK payment of only £0.72. Bastards.

On Sales Taxes

Sales taxes are applied to the price of goods and services. They are collected by the seller and remitted directly to the government, having no relationship with the seller’s income tax obligations.

There are two ways to apply sales taxes. They can be included in the list price or applied at the register. For example, Europe and Australia include the tax, but some states in the US apply it at the point of sale. However applied, when considering profit margins and pricing the seller only cares about the base price. That is, the price not including sales taxes. How the final sale price is displayed is a semantic issue and the result of local laws.

So What Happened?

My educated guess is that Apple withheld sales tax (VAT of 15%) from the UK payment. A quick calculation confirms this as a definite possibility, assuming tier prices already include any applicable sales taxes. That is, the tier price in this case is 115% of the base price.

Base Price  = Price * 100/115
            = £1.19 * 100/115
            = £1.03
£1.03 * 0.7 = £0.72

This satisfied me. However, Garrett wondered if Apple is reducing the price in other regions to absorb the sales taxes. I doubt it, but we really don’t know and that’s the biggest issue. There doesn’t appear to be any information available on exactly how tier prices were converted from USD.

My guess? When the tiers were priced, Apple used the current exchange rate to convert $USD to £ then added 15%. Of course, without word from the mother ship, we have absolutely no way of verifying this. If Garrett’s right, the tiered pricing model is fundamentally broken; charging different relative prices in each region.

Clear as mud

Personally, I think Apple should release details of the pricing model and include a specific break down of developer payments in our monthly financial statements. However, I don’t expect to find a story dissimilar to what I’ve described above.

Busy Bee

Posted Posted in Development

Things are busy here at the moment. Firstly, I have a new scuba diving app in progress for iPhone OS. With the back end work done and wrapped in a nice set of unit tests, I’m finishing off the interface, which requires a lot more thought than either Air Depth or Depth Gauge.

Secondly, I’m working on a large rails app for a friend’s business, which is keeping me busy and hopefully fed for a while.

On a marginally related note, if anyone has a line on some research or film related diving work, paid or volunteer, let me know. I’d like to do some grunt work underwater for someone.