What deliverables you should expect from a mobile developer

I’m not going to be talking about nice to have things like documentation, user stories, etc. Let’s talk about absolutely essential, nonnegotiable things.

Source code

I had clients who didn’t even know what source code was and why they needed to have it. Let me explain what it is. If you know it already, just skip this part of the article.

Basically, source code is the text of the program that a programmer writes. Usually it comes in the form of a folder with a bunch of subfolders and text files. Not txt files, but you can open them as text files and read the code. From time to time while working on your project your developer would make a build and send it to you for testing. A build is just a binary file. Binary means that the file contains just zeros and ones and you can’t read it as you would a text file. For Android app it is an APK file, for iOS it is an IPA file (although for iOS they would probably send you a download link, so you wouldn’t even see the actual file).

Those files are just builds, they are not source code. You can run them on your phone, but you cannot publish them. And if your current developer quits on you, you can’t just take the build file to another developer and ask him to continue the work on your project. You’d need to have source code for that.

One of my clients didn’t know about it or rather didn’t think it was important. A freelance developer did some work on his app, published the app and then didn’t provide the source code. After some time when my client needed to do some more work on his project he found out that the freelancer wouldn’t respond. So, he had to hire another developer, but since their was no source code for the previous part of the work, he had to send the new developer the older version of the source code and pay him to basically do everything that has already been done by the previous developer.

Keys for app-signing

The troubles of my client didn’t end with having to do the same work two times and pay double price for it. When the job was done for the second time the new developer started asking for some “key”, because he couldn’t upload the app to the Google Play store. Obviously this developer was not very experienced because he didn’t propose any solutions but just kept on asking for the key. So my client had to ask me for help.

Turned out that the previous developer generated an upload key and didn’t provide it to the client. What is the key? Basically, every time you upload a version of your app to the Google Play store you need to sign it. There are two ways you can do it. You can sign it yourself with your app signing key (not recommended) or you can enrol in app signing by Google (recommended). In the latter case you still need a key, but instead of an app signing key you need an upload key. 

If you signed your app manually with an app signing key, published it and then lost your key, you wouldn’t be able to update your app in the Google Play store. You’d have to publish an update as a separate app.

In our case my client’s app was enrolled in app signing with Google. So we only needed an upload key. Fortunately, it is possible to register a new upload key if you loose or compromise your current key. That’s why it is recommended to use app signing by Google. So, I just generated a new upload key, then wrote to the Google support asking to register the new key. They did it the next day, but said that the new key will be active 1 or 2 days later (I don’t remember exactly, but activation wasn’t immediate). The problem was solved, but my client had to actually pay me some money for my help. This could have been avoided it he knew about app signing beforehand and asked his previous developer to provide the key.

You only need one upload key for your account. Then you can use it to upload any number of apps and app updates. So if you hire a developer to do your first android app, make sure they give you your upload key. What you need to get from your developer is a keystore – a file with jks extension, and two passwords: keystore password and key password. Alternatively, if you know how, you can generate this key yourself and then send it to your developer, so they can publish your app. 

For the iOS app you need to get a distribution certificate with a private key. Your developer should send it to you in the form of a p12 file. Check that the private key is actually there. Double click the file and it should be imported into your Keychain (make sure you are using a Mac computer). You should see the private key there. Again, as with android you can generate this key beforehand if you know how, and then send it to your developer. 

With iOS apps it is not that important to actually get that key from your developer, because you can revoke the certificate and create a new one anytime you want. You don’t need to contact Apple’s support for that.

There is one caveat though, but it most likely doesn’t concern you. If you have an enterprise Apple developer account and you have an in-house app (an app published on your server and not on the App Store), then you should be careful with your distribution certificates and keys. If you revoke a certificate with which your in-house app has been signed that will kill the app. You’d have to republish it.

Ideal situation

If you want to be an Appreneur and publish a lot of small apps, you’d be better off if you learned a few things first.

Learn how to use git. Use GitHub or Bitbucket. That will allow you to have your own code repositories. So instead of receiving archived source code from your developers and then dealing with multiple archives you’d be able to invite developers to your repository. They will push the changes to your repository as they work on your project.

Another useful skill would be the ability to build code from sources. That will allow you to check that the code actually works. You should be able to pull the code from your repository to your computer and then run it on your simulator or an actual device.

And also learn to publish your apps yourself. You can invite developers to your Google Play console and let them publish your app for you, but Apple doesn’t provide such option unless you have an enterprise account ($299 a year). If you have an individual account ($99 per year) you’d have to give your developer login and password from your account. Do you want to entrust your account to some random freelancers? What if they go crazy and delete all your apps?

I had a client who was an appreneur. He had a lot of small apps. And he had a system in place. I just did the coding and pushed the code to his repository. I didn’t have to create builds for testing because he would build from the source himself, and I never had to publish his apps, because he was doing it himself.


From iOS development to full stack development

It looks like I haven’t been posting for almost two years! Here is a short post on what I’ve been doing all this time.

I quit my iOS development (remote) job in the end of February 2018. Since then I’ve been freelancing on Upwork. The first 6 months were dedicated to building up my profile. 

Then I realised something. The jobs I was getting even after I had enough reviews on my profile were small and not very interesting. Mostly bug fixes. The only way to make decent money was to join some existing team. But I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t quit my job just to find me another job with managers, time tracking and all the other ‘goodies’. So, I though, maybe if I create a team myself, I’ll be able to get large and interesting projects. Because after all clients who have those big projects usually want all at once: iOS app, Android app, and server. 

So I started hiring freelancers. Actually the first project that I did this way, was a fake project. It was an app for an imaginary company, that helps managers and employees communicate with each other. I wasn’t sure how easy it would be for me to find decent freelancers, so I didn’t want to start with a real project and a real client, and risk a big failure. So I just made up the task and hired freelancers for design work, backend development and android development. iOS app I developed myself.

After the fake project I did a couple of real projects with my newly created team. What I found out is that with my hourly rate that I had at the time, and the rates of my freelancers, I only made money when I was coding myself (I was still doing iOS development myself). All the management work was basically a downtime for me, when I made no money at all. And managing took a lot of my time. There were days after days, when I simply didn’t have time for coding because I was communicating with my team and clients all the time. 

All in all this team building endeavour took me another 6 months, after which I finally realised that this business model was not sustainable. So from May 2019 I started learning cross-platform development using React Native. It took me one month to learn it enough to get my first paid React Native project. It was a simple serverless app (coin catalogue). I ended up making two similar apps with minor differences.

While I was working on those apps I also started learning back end development with Node.js, Express and MongoDB. In August I got a big project on which I’m working right now. Basically it’s a social network that will theoretically serve millions of people. So I have to learn a lot about scaling mobile apps. 

My goals for 2020 are:

  • Build and publish a few apps all by myself (with help only from a designer).  
  • Raise my rate to at least $30/hour.
  • Market my services outside of Upwork (social networks, blogging)
  • Figure out a way to accept money directly from clients. I have all the processes set up for receiving money through Upwork. But to legally receive money in other ways, I’d need to develop new processes (like creating a template contract in such a way that my bank accepts it). 
  • Create materials for teaching other people front end development with React Native.

Why do I need the last one? By the end of 2020 I’d like to start creating my own mobile development company, with an office and full-time employees. I’d need to somehow teach people to code, because I won’t be able to find experienced developers where I live. Also it’s much cheaper to teach a newbie as opposed to hiring a senior developer. 

So these are all the news I have right now.


Too many app downloads from China. What is going on?

Recently I had quite a few downloads from China. As I later found out, those downloads were fake. I decided to write this post to share my experience with you. And if someone have already had the same experience maybe they’ll share their knowledge with me about what is going on and how to deal with it.

How it all started

First of all let me show you what my app downloads normally look like. This is my stats for the month of April 2017. As you can see, I normally have around 10 downloads per day.

Lets see what happened the next month

In May 2017 it was the same until the end of month when the number of downloads rose from 10 downloads per day to 50-60 downloads per day. I learned that the extra downloads were from China. OK – I thought – Chinese people have discovered my apps at last. And there are a lot of Chinese people out there so nothing surprising. By the way, the app that was downloaded the most at that time was 3Do.

Third month

The number of daily downloads was about the same for the next month. But in the very end of June I experienced a surge of downloads. One day it was 568 downloads total. The next day it was 6,54K. The day after – 7,50K. Now it was my other app – Stream Journal – that was downloaded the most. And all these downloads were once again from China.   

This time I decided to check my stats in Google Analytics, since I have implemented Google Analytics in Stream Journal but haven’t done it in 3Do yet. What I found out is that with all those downloads there was not a single app launch from China.

The possible explanation

I tried to find the explanation to this fake downloads mystery on the internet. But all I could find was other people complaining about having similar experiences with app downloads from China and other asian countries. It all reminded me of a video I once saw on Youtube about Chinese like farms. A like farm or click farm looks something like this.

You just pay for your fake Facebook likes and they give you your likes. But as the video explained they can’t just like only the stuff they were paid for, because in that case they would be easily found out. So they also like some other random stuff.

So, my hypothesis is that exactly the same thing has happened with my app downloads. It may be that one of those click farms found out my apps and used them to make their statistics look unsuspicious to Apple.

Here is the said video, by the way:

What I did about it

At first I put a price of $1 on my Stream Journal app just for one day to see what happens. What happened is that nobody bought my app that day. I made it free the next day. And there was about 100 downloads. Eventually I decided to make all my free apps unavailable in China. Sorry, Chinese people, I just don’t want your click farms to mess up my stats.

Now I enjoy the usual 10 app downloads per day. 


What happened?

I stopped blogging once again. For almost a month. This is just a quick post to tell you what’s going on.

In a couple of weeks I will go to Moscow for several days. I need to make a presentation at the main office of the company I currently work for. When I learned that I was to give this presentation, it sort of messed up all my plans, which resulted in two things. First, I stopped working on my app – ImpApp.

Second, for the last several weeks I couldn’t find time for blogging, because I was preparing for the presentation.

But I totally plan to resume both of these activities soon.

Also, now I have an email list. Leave your email to get updates from this blog. And when I release ImpApp you’ll be among the first people to download it.


Creating my new app – ImpApp

I’m going to build a new app. Actually I’m already working on it. I just thought why not document the process of its creation here on the blog. It turns out I have already started documenting the process. My previous post was about incorporating ads into an app. Guess what. That post came as a result of me working on my new app.

What’s the idea

Have you seen Memento movie? It’s about a man who can’t form new memories as a result of past trauma. He is searching for people who attacked him and killed his wife. But he keeps forgetting everything he learns during his investigation. So he has to use a system of Polaroid photos, notes, and tattoos to track information he can’t remember.

When I was watching this movie I kept thinking to myself that the movie wasn’t just portraying some curious condition of a traumatised mind. It also kept reminding me of the fact that we (by we I mean all humans) have a universal tendency to forget things.

There were moments in this movie which reminded my of some moments in my own life. Like when the main character found out that the girl who he thought was helping him, was actually using him, taking advantage of his condition (she told him about it herself laughing at his face, knowing that in a couple of minutes he will forget about it). And the guy was frantically looking for his notes to write down this new information.

There were moments in my life when I knew if I didn’t write down that genius idea at the very moment I had it, I would forget about it forever. Sometimes I would get out of bed in the middle of the night just to write something down.

Tattoos as reminders

This is Casey Neistat. He has a tattoo saying “Do more” to remind himself to do more, obviously. When I saw this tattoo I thought that it was actually  a good idea to use tattoos to remind yourself of something important. Also it reminded me of Memento movie. And that’s how the idea for my new app was born. Me, personally, I have a bunch of things I want to be reminded of every day. Only I don’t want to have tattoos. So I thought to myself, can an app substitute a tattoo?

By now you have figured out the idea of my new app: it’s going to be an app that you use instead of a tattoo to remind yourself of important things (thoughts, ideas, quotes) every day. I couldn’t think of a good name for it, so I decided to call it ImpApp. Imp – means important, because the app is all about remembering the important things. 

Basically it will look like a list. But it’s not enough to just write things down. You actually need to read them every day. That’s the main problem with most productivity apps, like diaries and journals: you don’t read your own notes very often. So, my app will remind you to open it every day via local notifications.

You might be wondering how this app is going to be different from Apple’s Reminders. Actually it won’t be very different. In fact when I first had the idea for this app many months ago, I created a list in Reminders called “Always remember” and set an alarm for 9:03 PM every day named “Read Always remember”. Here is what this list looks like.

And I’ve already been using this list for months. So, if you want to benefit from this idea you don’t actually need to wait for me to release my app. Just use Reminders and set an alarm.

Problem with Reminders

But there is (or will be) one downside to using Reminders instead of my future app. With time your list grows. And although all the things in the list are important to you they are not all equally important. Basically your list gets cluttered with less important stuff, making it hard to pay attention to the more important stuff.

So I thought it would be nice to have let’s say three lists. In the first one you can store up to 5 items. In the second one you store 20 items. And the third list is limitless. This arrangement will force you to sort your items according to their importance to you. Theoretically you could still do this in Reminders using multiple lists, only it is a little complicated.

What the app will look like

Here is what I came up with in terms of design.

Mind you that it is not finished. I will work on the design some more. The dark green area at the bottom of the screen will be occupied by a banner ad.

Monetisation of the app

I think that if a person starts using this app he or she will continue to use it. And the reason is not the fact that I will use notifications to remind users to open the app (many apps do the same thing). The real reason is that the notification will remind users to read the list of things that they believe are important. They won’t mind the notification. They won’t be annoyed by it. So, I predict high retention rate for this app.

People will be using it every day (hopefully). An that means that it makes sense to monetise the app through ads. I will be using just a little banner at the bottom of the screen to avoid annoying people too much. I think it is not the kind of app where people will tolerate full screen ads.

Also there will be an option to remove ads with one small payment. I think this is the kind of app where you should have such option. There are other apps where it is not as important. Like a cooking timer. When I use a cooking timer app I just set a couple of timers and then go on with my cooking. I don’t look at the screen. So I don’t care if the ads are showing. And I would never buy a paid version to remove the ads in this case. But when you read a list of very important things, and do it every day, you should have an option to remove the ads. It’s just humane to provide such an option.

When the app will be released

I already incorporated ads and figured out how to use local notifications. Right now I’m in the process of implementing in-app purchases. I guess I’ll finish them tomorrow. Then I will need one or two days to work some more on the design. After that I will start actually building the app. It shouldn’t take too long. The app itself should be easy to build. Also a lot will depend on my day job. Recently I had to put a lot of extra hours into it. It definitely slows me down.

I would say that the app will be ready in 2 weeks to 1 month. If you want to be notified when it is released write me an email. If you have a suggestion about my new app, leave a comment below.


Incorporating ads into your iOS app (using AdMob)

In the previous post I told you that I have a good idea for my next app. I still don’t want to tell you everything about it. But I know that I will need to use a bunch of technologies which I don’t use very frequently:

  1. In-app purchases.
  2. In-app ads.
  3. Local notifications

In fact, up until now I used each of these technologies only once.

In this post we will talk about incorporating ads into your app. Since the last time I used ads in my app things changed. Apple shut down their ads network, called iAd.

That’s not a big problem, though. You just have to use a third party ad network nowadays. I decided to use Google’s AdMob.

How to use AdMob

What you will need:

  1. First of all you need to have an AdMob account.
  2. Register your app in AdMob.
  3. Install AdMob SDK.

By the way, to use AdMob you will also need to download Firebase SDK. Just add these two lines into your Podfile (you need to know how to use CocoaPods):

pod ‘Firebase/Core’
pod ‘Firebase/AdMob’

After the pods are installed, add these lines into your application:didFinishLaunchingWithOptions: method of AppDelegate

You will find your ApplicationID in your AdMob account page.

To add a banner you do something like this in the viewDidLoad method of your view controller:

bannerView’s  class is GADBannerView, which is a subclass of UIView. You can draw your view in the Storyboard and then select this custom subclass for it. Then you connect the view to your view controller through a property bannerView. Also don’t forget to import GoogleMobileAds

You can keep the adUnitID you see above while debugging. You will see a test banner with no real ads on it. But before releasing your app to the App Store you should add real ad unit id. To get it you register your banner in your AdMob account.

When you see real ads in your banner, don’t touch the banner! It’s against the rules.

Basically all you need to know to start using AdMob you can find here:  https://firebase.google.com/docs/admob/ios/quick-start


Hardships of an iOS developer slash blogger

This post was supposed to be a technical one. It was going to be about creating and using an iOS static library. But instead I guess I will whine a little about how hard it is to blog nowadays.

As you may know I have a plan of how I write blog posts. Every Monday I must choose a topic for the next article, and then work on the article throughout the week. The first week after I made a decision to stick to that plan I sort of did it. What helped me a lot was the fact that the article was written for the most part long before that week even started.

This week I didn’t have that advantage. I just did nothing. I procrastinated. Well, I did something, like reading on the topic and going through a tutorial. But I didn’t write anything. Also I had couple things on my mind that distracted me from blogging.

Major distraction

Since I returned to Stavropol from Moscow (September 2016) I was living at my parents’ house. I planned to move out in a couple of weeks but for various reasons I stayed there for several months. Now, just the last weekend I finally found an apartment to rent. And so, the last week was full of preparations for the move. I finally moved into my new apartment just yesterday.

When I signed the papers a week ago I didn’t have all the necessary money on me, so a day later I had to dedicate a couple of hours to just delivering the rest of the money to the landlady.

Also, the other day I had to spend several hours setting up the internet connection in my new place. I didn’t do anything but I had to be in my apartment to let the cable men in, wait for them to finish their work and then sign the papers.

These little distractions quickly add up into a total inability to blog, let me tell you.

Another distraction

International Women’s day. Here in Russia we have this strange holiday on the 8th of March, when you congratulate the women you know (and sometimes the women you don’t even know) and buy them gifts. So, that also distracted me from blogging.

And another one

Several days ago I came up with an idea for an app. I’m not going to reveal anything right now, but the idea is genius. The app will be very easy to develop and hopefully it will have a very high retention rate, and that means I might make some money through ads in this app. I just couldn’t help thinking all the time about this app. I even started to work on the design for it.

Also, right now I’m reading a book on design, called The Non-Designers Design Book. And as I learn the concepts from this book I try to implement them right away in the design of my new app. I’m not rushing the design. I will finish it only after I finish reading the book. I don’t want any regrets about design mistakes later.


It’s hard to blog. On the other hand I see how blogging can be easy. If only I could write about something I want to write about.

You know how they say that you should find your niche and stick to it. Especially when you are just starting out as a blogger. So I have picked my niche which is iOS development.

But I find that it’s incredibly hard to stick to it. What if I’m interested in design right now? Do I have to force myself to stop learning design and learn some programming tips and tricks instead? The question that I keep asking myself is: why can’t I write about design? Maybe this is the way? What if I’m some kind of a unicorn developer in the making? Maybe that is my real niche?

Maybe blogging is not about following a bunch of rules? Maybe it’s about being authentic and writing about something that you want to write about? What do you think?


The work desk of iOS developer

All through my life I have never been a particularly organised person. If you looked at my work desk you’d see it cluttered with stuff. Mostly with papers. Piles of papers and folders. It was at the time when I worked as a civil engineer. I had to deal with a lot of paper drawings. But still, if you compared my desk to the desks of my coworkers you’d see a drastic difference. At times I had stacks of folders on my desk that were taller then the monitor of my computer.

Then when I switched to programming, things got better. I didn’t have that much stuff on my work desk any more. But I still had some. Again mostly papers. Many of these papers were not even mine. If somebody put something on my desk it would stay there forever. I did cleanups from time to time but it didn’t help. The good news was that now my desk was not the most disorganised desk in the office. All my coworkers had pretty much the same situation going on on their desks. Not huge piles of papers but still messy workplaces.

Going paperless

One day I saw a YouTube video where a guy was talking about how he ‘went paperless’. For couple of minutes into his talk I couldn’t quite figure out what he was talking about. Going paperless? Why would anyone do it. Why should anyone even think of such a thing. Before I watched that video I didn’t even view paper as a problem. But as the guy explained how his life changed after he went paperless it dawned on me that ‘going paperless’ is exactly what I needed.

At that time I was getting ready to start working remotely. I was still working at the office in Moscow. But I was to go to my home city of Stavropol in few weeks to work remotely in the same position for the same company. And I decided that at my home office I would go paperless.

Digitising journals

I started throwing away my paper journals while I was still in Moscow. At my apartment in Moscow I had all sorts of paper notebooks. I had a dream journal, a goals journal, a journal for my workouts, a journal for my daily to-dos, a journal for my ideas and maybe couple of other journals. I spent several evenings digitising all that journals. I would type  important information like logins and passwords into a password protected text file. I took photos of other useful stuff from my journals and stored them on my computer. After that I destroyed all my physical journals. It was a relief to know that I was dependant no more on some physical objects like paper journals to store important information. 

Now I store all the important documents in three places: on my computer, on my external hard drive and in the cloud.

Keeping some paper

I kept only one paper notebook. It’s just a blank notebook with tear-off sheets. The reason I kept it is simple. There are certain activities which are done more conveniently on paper than on the computer. Sometimes I need to draw something quickly that will help me to solve a problem at hand. Also, when the problem is really hard, I like to think on paper. I just write down my thoughts so I don’t loose my train of thought. Sometimes I need to derive a formula. In all those cases paper is irreplaceable.

So I only have one paper notebook left now. And I decided that I will never use it as a storage of information. When I use up a number of sheets in it I just tear those sheets off and throw them away. That way I always have a clean notebook. If I ever need to keep something from this notebook for later I would just take a photo of that thing, be it a formula, a drawing or something else. Up until now I never had to.

The secret to tidiness

Going through this process of decluttering my workspace I found out the reason I was so disorganised up until that point. It turns out I was some kind of a hoarder. I just had too much stuff. And the secret to being organised is to have as little stuff as possible.

Just take a look at my desk:

How are you going to make a mess on your table if you don’t have a lot of stuff in the first place? No matter how lazy or disorganised you are, you will always have a tidy desk.

And this is the biggest mess I can ever have on my work desk nowadays:

Also take a look into my top drawer:

This is all the stuff I have there. So, whenever I need a pen and a notebook, for example, I don’t have to look for them.


For many years I was very disorganised. I even took pride at it. I thought that the fact that my workplace is a mess somehow indicates that I’m a creative person. I thought that to have a tidy work desk you need a lot of discipline that would enable you to clean your desk regularly. And I just didn’t have that discipline, because, you know, I’m so creative. I didn’t have time for boring stuff like cleaning my desk.

Now I know it’s all BS. The mess on your desk indicates only your lack of priorities. Have only the things that you need, and don’t have the things that you don’t need. It’s as simple as that.


Blogging strategy for an iOS developer

For some reason I stopped blogging recently. Almost a month passed by without a new post. That bothers me a lot, and I need to change it. So in this article I’m going to describe my plan for blogging consistently from now on.

The reason I stopped blogging

Actually, I don’t have a good reason. Yes, I was busy doing other things. Like, for instance, I was learning the basics of Android development. Also, I was reading a lot about freelancing because I’m thinking of becoming a freelancer one day. I was doing some stuff, that I considered important, and I stopped prioritising blogging. So, I just stopped. I lost momentum.

Fighting YouTube addiction

And then I started watching YouTube. At first I was watching important stuff. Then I started watching less important stuff. Then I transitioned to watching just plain stupid entertaining videos. I even subscribed to PewDiePie. Each day I spent several hours on YouTube and went to bed very late.

I did it until I no longer remembered what my goals in life were. I stopped learning, I stopped programming my own apps. And I stopped blogging.

Couple of days ago I decided to end this madness and stopped watching YouTube altogether. And that sums up the YouTube cycle I go through over and over again throughout my life:

  1. I don’t watch YouTube at all and am being super productive
  2. I decide to watch it a little bit, just to get some useful information
  3. I start watching stupid entertaining videos and my productivity drops to zero
  4. I stop watching YouTube and become super productive again

So, right now I’m back in the productive stage of the cycle, and that’s good.

My old content strategy

When I started this blog I didn’t have a content strategy at all. I just wrote a bunch of posts about myself, how I became an iOS developer, what technique I used to be productive, how I make money on the AppStore. I also wrote about the stuff I was learning at that time. And then I ran out of ideas and almost stopped blogging.

Luckily, I noticed that when I need to do some task that I have already figured out how to do in the past, it’s nice to have a blog post about it. That way you don’t need to Google the same stuff over and over again. So, I decided instead of quitting blogging to blog for myself. I even wrote a post about this decision.

The decision to write small articles just for my own use allowed me to blog more or less consistently for months. This decision had its pros, but it also had its cons.


  1. You don’t quit blogging because of lack of ideas. As long as you learn something you can write about it.
  2. You don’t spend much time blogging. Sometimes it only takes several minutes to create a post (from idea to publishing). Most of the time you just copy and paste someone else’s code without much thinking.
  3. Your blog is your learning journal. Even if nobody reads it, it is useful at least for one person, which is you.


  1. Your blog becomes a collection of code snippets and is not very useful for other people. 
  2. You don’t develop your writing skills because you don’t spend enough time writing, and when you do write, most of the time it’s just a copy-paste, not real writing.
  3. You don’t learn as effectively as you could have. You learn best when you try to teach others, what you’ve just learned. That way you immediately start to see the gaps in your own knowledge. Teaching forces you to do a more thorough research and fill those gaps. But when you just copy and paste someone else’s code on your blog, it’s not teaching. It’s just a copy-paste. And by doing it you miss out on real learning. 

My new content strategy

First of all, I’m not giving up on writing short posts. They are still useful for me and they don’t take much time to write. I will continue to post some code snippets in an irregular fashion. But on top of that I must do some real blogging, meaning I will be writing some big and well researched posts, that will hopefully be useful not just for me, but also for other people.

Committing to a schedule

What I lacked up until now is a blogging schedule. Now I decided to have one. For starters I will create a ‘real’ blog post once a week. I will be posting every Monday. Later I may change the schedule so I will post more frequently. For now let’s see if I’m able to post at least once a week. 

Let’s go into the details of my schedule.

Monday. I pick a topic for my next blog post. If I don’t have ideas, I will just sit and generate dozens of ideas in one go. 

Tuesday – Wednesday. I start doing my research and begin to make the first draft of my blog post.

Thursday – Friday. I do the actual writing.

Saturday. I pick pictures for my blog post.

Sunday. I reread my post, and check that everything is OK.

Monday. I publish my post, and pick the topic for my next post.

Creating blog posts in advance

I plan to have 2-3 blog posts ready for publishing at any time. To have this 2-3 blog posts I will need to work harder on my blog for some period of time. I don’t even plan to do it right of the bat. At first I’ll just try to stick to my schedule of releasing one post a week. Then, when I get used to my new schedule, I will try to work on two blog posts during one week. That way I will do the same work on the same days of the week, and I will not have to change the schedule itself. For 2-3 weeks I will produce 2 blog posts per week, and that’s how I will accumulate the necessary number of posts ready for publishing.

Using pictures in my blog posts

Up until now, I have been using images from Google search. It’s not a good practice, though. And I’m not even concerned with possible copy rights issues. I just don’t want my blog to look unprofessional. So, I started buying stock photos. You can see couple of them in this post. With time I will also replace the photos on my older posts. 

Writing tutorials

I want to gradually turn my blog from my personal learning journal into something that will be of use to other people. For that reason at some point I will start writing tutorials. Right now I don’t even know what those tutorials are going to be about. I guess I’ll have to sit and generate some ideas.


This post was designed to be a reminder for me. I will come back to it from time to time to see if I’m doing everything I planned to be doing. I also hope this post was of some use to you too.


How to install Tomcat 8.5 on remote CentOS 7 server

In the previous post I told you how I installed Java on my production server. Now it’s time to install Tomcat. There are different ways you can do it. I must warn you that the way I did it might not be the best way, because I skipped all the security related steps. So, what you are about to read is not a definitive guide to Tomcat installation (if you are looking for that kind of guide check out this article). But I think this post can be a good starting point for a complete noob who doesn’t what to overwhelm himself with too much detail right from the start. Here we’ll just focus on installing Tomcat and making it work somehow.

My first attempt

At first I tried to just

sudo yum install tomcat

But this command installed Tomcat 7, while I wanted to install the latest stable version, which is currently Tomcat 8.5.9. So I had to remove Tomcat 7 with

sudo yum remove tomcat

(Note that I am logged to my remote server as sudo user by the name of karen)

By the way, if you install Tomcat 7 this way and then don’t see the default Tomcat page in browser, you need to install some additional stuff:

sudo yum install tomcat-admin-webapps.noarch tomcat-docs-webapp.noarch tomcat-javadoc.noarch tomcat-systemv.noarch tomcat-webapps.noarch

Also don’t forget to configure your ports. More on this later.

Before making my second attempt to install Tomcat I found a video tutorial, and went through it step by step. We will go through this tutorial later in this post, but before installing Tomcat we will need to setup FTP server. I’m sure there are other ways to transmit installation file to the remote server, but we will still need the FTP server later on for uploading our apps. So why not start with FTP server?

Setting up FTP server

I used this tutorial and I installed vsftpd like this:   

sudo yum install vsftpd

sudo yum install ftp

I’m not sure if the second line was necessary, because I didn’t quite understand the tutorial. Did I need to install ftp on my local machine or was it needed on the remote server? I just thought it wouldn’t hurt to install it also, so that’s what I did.

On my local computer I have FileZilla, which I installed a long time ago, so I used it to connect to the server.

At this point you’re not going to be able to connect to the FTP server. You need to open the port 21 in the server’s firewall:

sudo firewall-cmd –permanent –add-port=21/tcp

sudo firewall-cmd –reload

Now you can open FileZilla, specify url of your server, your name and password, and try to connect. It is going to connect, but it will throw an error soon after. The reason is that the actual data is transferred through a range of ports which are all closed in your firewall. The port 21 is just for the commands. For all the data you need to open some other several hundred ports. Also you need to tell the FTP server which ports it should use.

To understand why you need to go through all these steps you can read these articles:





Lets first configure the FTP server. Open the configuration file:

sudo vi /etc/vsftpd/vsftpd.conf

Now paste these three lines:




What we did here is we enabled the passive mode (read about it in the articles above) and set the range of ports that FTP server will use for transmitting the data. We need at least several hundred ports.

After saving and exiting the file don’t forget to restart your FTP server:

sudo /bin/systemctl restart  vsftpd.service

Now we need to open the port range in the server firewall:

sudo firewall-cmd –permanent –zone=public –add-port=10100-10900/tcp

sudo firewall-cmd –reload

Finally installing Tomcat

This is how I did it. I went to the official site of Tomcat and downloaded this file: apache-tomcat-8.5.9.zip

Then, using FileZilla, I uploaded it to my server. Now the file was in my home folder on the server.

I logged in to the server and moved the file to the new folder:

sudo mkdir /opt/tomcat

sudo mv apache-tomcat-8.5.9.zip /opt/tomcat

Then I checked the md5 sum:

cd /opt/tomcat

md5sum apache-tomcat-8.5.9.zip

Then I unzipped the file:

sudo unzip apache-tomcat-8.5.9.zip

Actually I couldn’t unzip it at first, because I didn’t have the necessary program, so I installed it:

sudo yum install zip unzip -y

The reason I used specifically zip file instead of tag.gz is that that’s what was used in the video tutorial. I decided to not change anything. I think tag.gz would do just as well. 

Now I set right permissions:

cd apache-tomcat-8.5.9/bin

sudo chmod 700 *.sh

It means I can execute *.sh files.

And the last step is to create a couple of links:

sudo ln -s /opt/tomcat/apache-tomcat-8.5.9/bin/startup.sh /usr/bin/tomcatup

sudo ln -s /opt/tomcat/apache-tomcat-8.5.9/bin/shutdown.sh /usr/bin/tomcatdown

Now I can start Tomcat like this:

sudo tomcatup

And stop it like this:

sudo tomcatdown

If you followed all the steps and started Tomcat, now you can point your browser to your_server_ip:8080. You should see the default page of Tomcat: