I am the technical lead for the Web Services group at the University of Iowa. I am also a husband to a beautiful wife and father of two wonderful boys.



Mark Ahrens

Technology resolutions for 2015 - The Sweet Setup

You probably don't need to do everything on this list, but it is worth a check on some of them.

Mark Ahrens

2014 Top Eleven Albums

1 min read

I feel like I didn't listen to as much new music this year, but what I did listen to was pretty damn good. Here is my top ten for the year:

  1. No Coast - Braid
  2. Our Love - Caribou
  3. Morning Phase - Beck
  4. Syro - Aphex Twin
  5. Atlas - Real Estate
  6. Lost in the Dream - The War on Drugs
  7. Close to the Glass - The Notwist
  8. Afropolitan Dreams - Blitz the Ambassador
  9. Rave Tapes - Mogwai
  10. Reality Testing - Lone
  11. You're Dead! - Flying Lotus

Mark Ahrens

On Mobile Development & Design

3 min read

At the University, we don't have a dedicated mobile team so we have had to think creatively to develop mobile apps for iOS and Android. To accomplish this, we have used a tool called Appcelerator Titanium for a few years now, starting when it was called Titanium Desktop. The product has matured quite a bit in that time, but I think it, and other products like it, are at a bit of a crossroads.

For the earlier part of both iOS and Android, building a basic app consisted of a table view of rows that you would navigate down to get more information. Because of this common design practice, a tool like Titanium that allowed you to create a single code-base and compile to each platform made a lot of sense. Having to know a single programming language to write to both platforms helped us cut development time, especially since that language was Javascript, one we were familiar with already.

As both iOS and Android mature, we have noticed that Titanium is having a trickier time keeping up. Sure, it can still make the tables of rows that drill down, but apps that limited are not what users are looking for anymore. The design patterns for iOS and Android are dramatically different now. Each platform has it's own personality now so trying to build a single interface is at best going to look uncomfortable on each platform and at worst, just not work at all. Oh, and let's not forget that iOS and Android are not going to be limited to phones anymore, so there are whole product categories that the Titanium development methodology just won't work for.

So where do we go?

It seems there are two routes. The first would be diving into the native languages for each platform, Swift for iOS and Java for Android. There is a decent amount of work to get up to speed for each platform, but once that is done, our team would be in a position to take advantage of all features on the systems and build something that feels like it belongs there.

The second option would be a tool like Phonegap that just shows a web interface. We would need to build an interface that is unique from the standard one on each platform, but still works on mobile without feeling a performance hit. Instead of the technical challenge of learning new languages, this one is developing a user interface that is good enough to provide a rationale for not using native tools.

I am not sure which of these options is going to be easier or make sense for our users, but I will say, I am interested to start heading down the road and see where it gets us.

Mark Ahrens

Towards a more perfect link underline | acusti.ca

I seriously have spent too much staring at the underline in iOS8 and Yosemite. Every time I notice it, it makes me smile, even if it isn't perfect.

Mark Ahrens

Hobbit Office - Saturday Night Live - YouTube

Gets the tone of The Office perfect

Mark Ahrens

USMNT legend DaMarcus Beasley announces retirement from international soccer | MLSsoccer.com

The word "legend" gets through around a lot, but Beasley truly was a legend for US Soccer.

Mark Ahrens

BBC's The Game Does for Brutalism What Mad Men Did for Mid-Century Design - CityLab

All I can do is think of Lindquist Center when people bring up Brutalist architecture.

Mark Ahrens

Aaron Draplin Takes On a Logo Design Challenge on Vimeo

Aaron Draplin is one of those folks on the internet that just makes it better.