1970’s technology, Apple Development and Y Combinator

A month or so ago, I decided that it was time to really get cracking on my Mac development plan. I’ve had a few ideas floating around in my head for a Mac app and a few iOS apps. They were nothing too fancy, just small utilities that I thought would be useful. If there was a demand, I would sell them in the Mac App Store, but that wasn’t the intent.

When I went to sign up for the Apple Developer Connection program, I had two options open to me. The first was the free account. This enables the user to download Xcode (Apple’s Integrated Development Environment), the iOS Source Development Kit and a number of other development applications. The second option was to pay $100 and be given access to unreleased software, such as Xcode 4 (and now Max OS X Lion).

Naturally, being a college student, I decide to go the free route. However, it soon becomes clear that I have no idea what I am doing. I opened up Xcode and was immediately in over my head. At first glance, Xcode makes no sense, nor does Objective-C or Cocoa. I have experience with Java, ActionScript, Python, Ruby and HTML/CSS. But Objective-C is beyond my grasp.

Undaunted, I forged ahead. Buy a few books, browse some forums, cold-email developers for advice. After a few weeks, I had a basic grasp of how developing for an Apple platform works.

By this point, I’ve learned about what goes on behind the curtain of Apple’s paid development program. Xcode 4 is far superior to Xcode 3, and is simpler to use. I save up for the paid program, and purchase the package.

Purchasing the package was easy enough. It shows up as an item in a normal Apple Online Store shopping cart. Apple: simple and easy.

Or so I thought.

You see, the Apple Developer Connection (ADC from now on, because that takes too long to type) involves identity verification. This is because you have to sign an NDA, and that wouldn’t do much good if Apple couldn’t figure out who was signing the contract. So they go a few steps beyond just clicking a link in your email.

At the time of the purchase, I didn’t know this, but I soon found out.

I received the obligatory link-to-activate in my email within a few minutes. Then I received another email later that night. It game me an activation code to completely activate my account. I click on the link, and it brings me to a page that says the link isn’t valid. Sorry, what?

To remedy this situation, it asks me to do something I never expected. Fax them a notarized form with a copy of a government-issued ID. Apple: confusing and outdated.

Ignoring the part about a notary (where would I even find a notary?), my reaction was shock. Fax? Yes. Fax. As in, the medium of communication that was invented in the 70’s that no one uses anymore. Except apparently Apple (and as I found out later, financial institutions like PayPal and ETrade).

I don’t own a fax machine. I’ve used them, but I definitely don’t own one. Heck, I don’t even have a land line that I could plug one into. Eventually though, I talked Apple into just believing my that I was who I said I was. All good.

Earlier this week, I discovered a way that could have made this whole situation much easier. HelloFax, a YCombinator funded startup launched this week. Its goal is to make faxing a document much simpler (the irony doesn’t escape me) and not require plugins. They have developed a service that works entirely inside of the browser. On top of this, they have enabled basic editing tools that include signing documents and filling out forms. The first 20 are free, and all without ads.

Altogether, this could make dealing with institutions like PayPal, banks, and (unexpectedly) Apple much easier.

Who knew you could bring a fax machine, Apple and YCombinator together all in one narrative?

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