The week of 4-7-2014

The Idea

I'm staring to think I need to post about what I'm working on both to inform users about the work I do, but also to keep a record for my own review in the future. So, seeing as this is my first post I'm not sure what future posts will include, but I figure weekly-ish log of my activity could be helpful. 

So Far...

The Database

The foundation of the app (at least in it's current incarnation) is the database that will back the athlete table-view and the athlete detail-view. I considered building the database using sqlite and the Gus Mueller's highly recommended FMDB and Marco Arment's accompanying FCModel, but after considering my dearth of SQL and iOS knowledge I thought it best to let Apple's documentation and templates lead the way. So, I decided to use Apple's Core Data to build the athlete and points database. 

Inside the Core Data model I have two entities, Athlete and PointsList, with a to-many relationship between Athletes and PointsLists. The attributes associated with each entity are meant to mirror the columns included in the downloadable .csv files published by FIS.  For the time being I have elected to keep all the available information the CoreData database for completeness, plus I'm not currently concerned about the size of the database since additions are relatively infrequent. If size does become an issue I can always migrate to a new database that excludes less-important information such as an athlete's National ID, Club and World Rankings, but for the time being I think those will be useful. 

I haven't completely decided how I want to get the updated FIS data into the app, but following the suggestions on Importing Large Data Sets I currently plan on including a seed database in the app bundle and updating it via a web server. To create the Core Data seed database I wrote a command-line tool, similar to's Core Data importer, that reads from the various FIS .csv files to create the Athletes and PointsList SQLite databases using the app's Core Data model. This import utility should also be useful for creating updated SQLite databases on the web server. 

What I haven't decided on yet is how I want to store user generated collections of athletes. At first, I thought I would just add a UserList entity with a to-many relationship for Athletes, but if I plan on replacing that entire database for updates I need to come up with an alternative method. I'm currently thinking that a .plist that holds the names of lists and then the FIS IDs of the athletes included each list should do the trick. An alternative method would be to setup a second Core Data stack for holding just user generated list data. 

The App

The basics of the app seem solid. I started by reading up on Core Data using Tim Isted and Tom Harrington's Core Data for iOS and then built on top of Apple's iOS template 'Master-Detail Application' and so far so good. The template came preconfigured with a table-view and a detail-view that cover the basics of what I need for views and implementing search with fetch requests and fetched results controllers was relatively straight forward. 

I've done some minimal customization of the table-view cells and the detail view at this point, but I think that will be a major focus in the upcoming weeks. I want to provide coaches, athletes and parents with an in-depth detail view that shows not only the current details on an athlete, but also a synopsis of their points history with a graph or trend line. 

Today's Challenges

Today I've been looking into two challenges: where to store database state information (I'm thinking a .plist, but I don't currently know anything about them) and how to create plots for the detail view (I'm thinking of using ios-linechart that's part of CocoaPods).