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Vashon man creates program to put ferry schedule on an iPhone
One Islander and iPhone owner, fed up with scrounging around for a ferry schedule or just showing up at the ferry terminal, decided to take matters into his own hands.
He developed an iPhone program that puts Washington State Ferry schedules, system alerts and realtime ferry location maps all at his fingertips.
Richard Joffray, a longtime Islander and motorcycle commuter to Seattle, made the WSF Schedule application for iPhones available in the iTunes store six weeks ago.
It has been downloaded by about 50 people every day since then, he said.
In fact, it’s almost as popular as the Seattle Metro schedule and more popular than an English-Spanish phrasebook in the iTunes store’s travel applications section.
Joffray developed the virtual schedule, he said, “out of need.”
“The best inventions are created because you need it yourself,” he said.
Joffray, a dynamic Web site designer and database programmer, had to “learn another language” to create the WSF Schedule application, he said — the Objective-C programming language.
“I like simple applications that provide answers and do not create problems,” he said.
Once downloaded, the simple application can be accessed in the iPhone menu and can be used with or without Internet access.
Some features, such as the realtime ferry maps, aren’t available if the phone is offline, but schedules are stored in the phone itself and are available even on an airplane, Joffray said.
All the system data comes directly from the Washington State Ferries Web site, he added.
The application’s currently available free, but Joffray plans to release its 2.0 version, which will have a few improved features, in a month.
He’ll likely charge $3 for WSF Schedule 2.0, he said, because he’s put so many hours into it.
The application prompts users to download the newest schedule when it’s time, so it always has accurate data, Joffray said.
Because Apple tests every application in the iTunes store vigorously, Joffray’s confident WSF Schedule works smoothly.
Now an Apple developer, he also teaches at the Art Institute of Seattle, where he leads a “design for mobile devices” course — giving others the capability to create programs for iPhones, Blackberries or other handheld devices.
“I love learning, and when you’re a teacher, that’s why you teach,” he said. “It’s interesting because the only way you can teach is to become involved in what you’re teaching. The fringe benefit is that you get to create an application.”
The iPhone, which was released in the United States on June 29, 2007, has sold more than 13 million units, according to Apple.
Since the iPhone’s introduction, hundreds of independent software designers have created applications for it, each of which goes through numerous tests by Apple before it can be sold in the iTunes store.
Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, the Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia and traffic cameras and updates from around the world have all been turned into iPhone applications.