Food Network’s In The Kitchen App Validates Cook With Me Features

Just last week, I was looking at the recent updates on our iPad 2, when I found the most intriguing update. The update is for Food Network’s In The Kitchen App. Here’s a screenshot of the Food Network’s app update outlined, and Cook With Me’s description in the app store:

The update description.

Cook With Me app description

As you can clearly see, Food Network’s app uses the same “Cook With Me” tagline as the Cook With Me app, proving that it is a good tagline. This tagline also serves as Cook With Me’s name. Also, Food Network In The Kitchen has a feature that prevents the device from locking, validating the “no sleep mode” feature we offer in Cook With Me app. Furthermore, they now have organized their recipes into collections, which, is a feature that Cook With Me had since it’s release on December 15, 2014. Here are some screenshots of the Food Network In The Kitchen’s new features, and a comparison to Cook With Me. Please note our cooking step does include ingredients required for that specific step and heat if required for the step.

Food Network’s In The Kitchen iOS app validates our theories about clean, simple, and easy to use design.

A Cook With Me step with step specific heat, time, and ingredients.

This screenshot shows the new collections in the In The Kitchen app.

A Cook With Me collection

The Cook With Me collection switcher.

The new Cook With Me recipe collection, with the new simple, easy to follow format.

Strange similarities. Well, that is all for today. Happy cooking!

Cooking Method That Survived Thousands Of Years

Yes, I’m talking about cooking rice. Though this is a grain we’ve been cooking for thousands of years, how we cook it hasn’t changed much.

There are two ways to do it. The first is to steam the rice, where you would keep the rice with water in a pot with the lid on. When the water evaporates your rice is ready. The boiling method is done simply by rinsing the rice and bringing it to a boil. The rice will be very soft when ready, and then strain and serve.

Mrunal will share how she cooks the rice for her recipes included in the Cook With Me iOS app.

“I use the absorption method. To do this rinse the rice with water to wash out excess starch. Next add water, which measures twice the amount of rice. Put the water and rice in a pot on the stove on medium or low heat. Make sure to put the lid on. Once the rice has absorbed all the water, it is cooked. Let the rice sit for five minutes. After that, you can use it for whatever recipe you want.”

Thank you Mrunal. And to our Cook With Me customers, happy cooking!

Thank You European Customers

In the past two months Mrunal, cook of the recipes you are enjoying, and sales tracker has noticed app store views going up from hundreds to thousands. She also noticed increased sales in the European region. We really appreciate all the users who spent some time to view and then buy Cook With Me from the app store.

It all started in February 2016, selling 102 units in a day. For the rest of the month customers like you bought 6 units per day.

In March, Cook With Me sales went up even further. Customers in Sweden and Denmark placed our app at the top of the paid Food&Drink category on the iPhone and iPad app store. As of writing this blog post, Cook With Me app is still in the top 5 in many countries on both the iPhone and iPad app stores. Thank you. We hope you are enjoying our app.

CookWithMe ranking in Apple app store- Sweden

CookWithMe Sweden Ranking

 

Apple app store ranking for CookWithMe in Belgium

CookWithMe Belgium Ranking

Apple app store ranking for CookWithMe in Bulgaria

CookWithMe Bulgaria ranking

 

PS: We are diligently working on an update. New things include tweaks to the UI, new recipes, fast loading time, and more. Our promise is still the same, tried and tested recipes by Mrunal in a clear and simple, easy to read format. Enjoy cooking!

Lot of us are willing to buy an app for ad-free browsing

It is clear that there many people do not like ads on the web pages we browse on our iOS devices. Apps which provides ad-free browsing experience are always in top 10 paid app list.  The iOS9 release included “Content Blocker API” made it possible to create such apps.

iPhone top 10

As you can see, “Crystal” and “Purify Blocker” apps are still in the list.  Marco Arment though decided to pull his app Peace from the store.  For 36 hours, “Peace” was at the  number 1 position in the top paid app category.

Is this just a fad? Or is there a clear message for content creators who depend on ad revenue to figure out another model? What you think?

iPad top 10

Watermelon: anger on the inside contained by joy on the outside

We watched the movie Inside Out with Manas this summer.  After watching the movie emotions were high in our day-to-day conversations with Manas.  Last Sunday as we were having breakfast, Manas was making a weird sound, which for no good reason irritated me.  I told him that I was getting angry and on our anger scale I had reached “Pineapple” anger.

Anger Scale

As you can see, our anger scale is based on fruits.  We have used this scale since Manas was in preschool.  In our experience, it helps him (and us) calm down by talking about how you feel at the moment.  Anyway, Manas continued making the weird sound, ignoring my anger scale warning.  Finally I said “I am at Watermelon level now”, which means am going to burst.

That’s when suddenly he stopped me and said, I want to share an analogy with you.  Watermelon’s green shell keeps juicy red pulp which is anger, inside.  In Inside Out green Joy keeps red Anger inside, rather than anger showing up outside all the time.

Inside Out – Joy

“Wow, that was deep”, I thought to myself.

How can I keep my anger after that wonderful analogy? We talked again some more about emotions over the breakfast.  Kids never stop surprising you.

How do you know quality of software in a car?

When did you purchase your car? In last 5-7 years? How would you describe your car purchase? A car with some advanced software or advanced software with a car?

Car manufacturer’s of hybrid and electric cars are the leaders in using software to provide more functionality and value to the customer. For that matter Tesla and other electric cars can be aptly described as a computer with wheels, steering, electric motor, and a giant battery.

So how much of the car we buy today is software? I could not get a list of Electronic Control Unit (ECU – microprocessor unit which runs software) and the function of each unit from car manufacturer’s web site. However I noticed a nice IEEE Spectrum article which has a table for functionality delivered by software. Also there is a list of ECU’s shared on Priuschat forum. Take a look at the table below which is based on information from these two resources. It is clear that not just hybrid and electric cars, almost all cars today have more software controls than ever.

Car ECU

If software is everything in a car then how do you and I know quality of the software? How can I compare software from Toyota with say software from Honda?

Consumer Reports reports on 17 trouble spots and J. D. Power study looks at 177 specific problem symptoms grouped into eight major vehicle categories. See table below to know these trouble spots and problem categories.

ConsumerReport & J.D.Power

Both survey depends on users like you and I to report the problems. As you will notice there is no category called “software”. May be because software is everywhere hence cannot be a category on its own or may be because when we report on say transmission issue car manufacturer knows it is actually a software issue.

What about publications like “Car and Drivers” where they conduct various tests and publish comparison report? See below list of parameters on which cars are compared against each other.

  • Power train
  • Chassis
  • Acceleration
  • Driving experience

Here also there is no mention of software as one of the parameter for comparing cars.

Should we as a consumer start demanding software specifications and test results? Do we care enough to ask for better quality software? Considering various recalls recently due to software issues for Prius, Ford Fiesta and Focus, Honda Acura MDX/RLXHyundai Santa Fe, GM Cadillac XTS and Impala I just don’t see how we can ignore the problem. I think acknowledging and understanding complexity will be the first step in the right direction.


PS:
1. Yes I am aware that crashes attributed to vehicle issues are tiny (~2%) compare to crashes due to driver error (~94%) according to NHTSA crash stats and data referred in wikipedia article. Per NHTSA crash stats that translates to ~44’000 crashes out of ~2 million estimated crashes for the period 3 July 2005 through 31 December 2007.
2. I am sure you have heard about several software issues with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and just two weeks before Airbus A400M military transport aircraft crashed probably due to a software glitch killing four crew members on board. Issue is certainly not unique to cars alone.

Recipes written in simple steps

Today is Sunday.  It is raining outside, well I should say more like torrential downpours like most monsoon days in Kota Rajasthan north of India.  I am visiting a friend, Sandeep from my college after almost six years.

A nice hot tea made with ginger tastes so good on such day, and that’s exactly what my friend offers when I reach his apartment.  We quickly go back in memory lane and talk about our college days over a hot cup of tea.  Few hours later, hunger strikes.  With such heavy rain outside, Sandeep suggests we should simply cook at home.  His plan is to make a mix vegetables with curry and chapati, Indian bread.  I am impressed that Sandeep has learned cooking.

I help with what I can, cut the vegetables.  Cauliflower, green bell paper, potato, onion, tomato, green beans, and green chilies.  Sandeep then asks to grate ginger and garlic.  So far so good, we are making progress.  Sandeep is on to kneading the dough for the bread.  In just few minutes he is done, I am impressed already.  Sandeep starts making chapati and on another stove I help with sautéing vegetables.  In less than hour and half we are ready to eat.

We devour on freshly made chapati and mix vegetables.  Sandeep prepared an excellent meal for us, very tasty.  Now you should know that I know nothing about cooking.  This food is an inspiration to start cooking.  I am thinking when I go home I should be able to cook something like this.  I ask for recipe and Sandeep suggests I should write recipe based what I have seen in the kitchen and he will help with any edits as necessary.  Sure I will send my notes shortly, I said.  Rain is slowing down now and with awakening of reality to go to work next day, we both decided to call it a day.

To write down recipe in small steps, turned out to be lot harder than I thought.  I did my best to write recipe that included ingredients, measure, steps, cooking time, and heat.  Sandeep has to correct a lot of what I wrote.  In the end, we created a winner recipe which I used lot many times in years to follow.

After almost twelve years, in 2012 when we decided to work on Cook With Me, we decided to write recipes in steps.  Remembering my experience with writing such recipe, I thought this is going to be more difficult than it appears.  In spite of work involved, I knew that such efforts are well worth the efforts.

Mrunal started writing recipes in steps and on countless occasions I argued with her about some difficult steps.  Striking a balance between too simple and too complex is difficult.  We understand that there is no one answer and what we created in our first release of the app is just a starting point.  Based on my own experience, I can surely say that simple format helps with cooking and encourages you to write recipes which your family and friend may actually put to use.  We look forward to adding ability to create and share your recipes in our simple format, soon.  Till then enjoy Mrunal’s recipes we offer in Cook With Me, hope you like the recipes and simplicity of the format.

App preview video we did not submit

Towards the release date we were occupied with fine tuning recipe pictures and tweaking recipe steps for flow, proper structure, etc.  Also we chose to wait for final build before taking screen captures we needed for app store submission.  With universal app comes the responsibility of having screens captures for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.  It took a while to arrange all of that.  App preview feature which allows you to include a video for your app in the app store got neglected by us in this rush.  Now that app is approved, we cannot add video for the app.

If you have a lightening cable to connect iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to your desktop or laptop running Mavericks, it is super easy to make app preview video.  You need Quicktime to capture video from iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch and bit of editing in iMovie will create an app preview video for you.  As a  matter of fact Manas and I was able to create one within two hours.  See below the video I have uploaded on YouTube.  With the next update of the app we sure will make best of this feature.

Cook With Me : Fine tuning recipe pictures

Our experiments with taking recipe picture resulted in really good pictures, specially the food looked great on the plate.  Having said that we were still left with some pictures with bluish tint to it.  So after taking all those 2400 pictures and carefully selecting the best pictures truly representing the recipes in Cook With Me, at the time of app release our experiment to remove bluish tint started.

One other issue we needed to tackle was size of the picture.  All along the app development we knew that initial download of the app is taking long time (~minute and half) due to the large size (~3 MB per recipe picture) of recipe pictures embedded in the app.

My first thought was to use some tools like “Preview” on OS X or “Gimp” to select background using color and change the selected color to transparency which will remove the bluish tint.  I tried several times only to distort picture rather than improving the same.  What made selecting color complex was color of the plate and food.  Some of our recipe pictures were with white plate and others with brown plate.  Brown plates were bit easy to deal with while white plates posed more challenge.  Of course colorful food on the plate made selecting solely on the color more complex.  Selecting food using rectangle or oval selection did not work either due to how food was placed on the plate and angle at which picture was taken.

This is where in house talent came in handy, thanks to Georgia our designX6 team member.  Georgia has vast experience in working with pictures to make them look good on websites, brochures, and ad-campaigns she designs.  With Georgia’s magic touch, we got pictures justifying the amazing recipes included in Cook With Me.  Georgia used PainShop to work with pictures.  After Georgia done working with her magic, bluish tint was gone.  We made another key decision about background color of the recipe picture, rather than transparency we opted for same color as background color of the app.  Now we were free to use JPG format than PNG to help reduce file size in the process.  Using Preview app, I then reduced the file size further.  After all these edits we were left with ~300 KB per picture compared to ~3 MB original picture.  All these edits were done ensuring we do not distort plate and most importantly food on the plate.  Our editing efforts resulted in better looking app and fast download speed from ~ one and half minute to ~ 18 seconds improving overall app experience from install to everyday use.

Mexican rice salad: Original with bluish tint

Mexican rice salad: Edited to remove bluish tint

Mexican rice salad: Final with app background