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The MacTech Spotlight: Andy Lee

Volume Number: 24 (2008)
Issue Number: 08
Column Tag: MacTech Spotlight

The MacTech Spotlight: Andy Lee

What do you do?

I'm a Java programmer for Pando Networks in New York City. Pando is a peer-to-peer platform for commercial video streaming. We also have a consumer app for easy file sharing. You might guess that I work on our Mac application, but actually I don't; I work on back-end business logic and some database stuff. I do Cocoa programming in my spare time, often at a coffee shop or restaurant while waiting for my laundry.

How long have you been doing what you do?

I've been a programmer since 1978, when my uncle got me my first job, as a summer hire at Exxon R&D in New Jersey. I was a junior in high school. They challenged me to find a way to manipulate a cursor in two dimensions on the screen of an Apple II. I managed to write a primitive diagram editor, using two game paddles to move crosshairs. I wasn't smart enough to invent scrolling; I used the keyboard to paginate. And at the time I didn't understand what a file was, so I had no way to save documents.

What was your first computer:

My first computer was a Compaq portable, back when they had 9-inch monochrome screens and 5 1/4" floppies, and weighed thirty pounds. I think my first Mac was a Mac Plus, or maybe one of the 512 models. My first Cocoa development machine was a NeXT cube.

What is the advice you'd give to someone trying to get into this line of work today?

Assuming you've already got a technical background, I'd say read everything you can find by Joel Spolsky. Then read everything he tells you to read.

What's the coolest tech thing you've done using OS X?

That would be AppKiDo. Not because there's any rocket science in it. In fact, frankly, there's some dumb stuff in there. One thing I'm proud of is that it was the first app of its kind that was designed to navigate the APIs conceptually - for example, with a class browser, and with "quicklists" of logically related classes - instead of merely following the directory structure of the documentation. The most gratifying thing is when someone tells me my app helped them learn Cocoa, because I had beginners as well as experts squarely in mind when I designed it.

As proud as I am, I know the app is overdue for some improvements. I'm working on it.

Where can we see a sample of your work?

The binary and source for AppKiDo are at

The next way I'm going to impact IT/OS X/the Mac universe is:

First I have to add the iPhone docs to AppKiDo. There's a whole new generation of beginners to help! Beyond that, my contributions to the Mac universe will come in the form of scratching my personal itches. I have ideas for the Mac equivalent of the Great American Novel, and a couple of Great American Short Stories. I haven't blogged about Cocoa per se, but there are a couple of topics I'd like to offer my take on, like retain-based memory management and the way it is typically explained. I'd like to be more helpful to the NYC CocoaHeads group; I always feel personally responsible when it takes us forever to figure out where we're going for burgers and beer.

I'd like to thank Hoshi Takanori for writing Cocoa Browser, which was tremendously useful to me in the early days, and I'd like to say that the Apple documentation team does a ton of great work that is often underappreciated.

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