Sorry for the very long delay in posts. I’ve been doing most of my posting at www.overpass.co.uk.
But I saw this video today. It is very good and it’s nice to see my home in such beautiful pictures.
On Saturday, we released our newest app on Android. It’s called TimeGoal. It is a home screen countdown widget which allows you to count down days to an event (70 Days to Christmas) or from an event (10 Days since my diet started).
There are other “Days Left” widgets on the market, but this one has a few unique features:
1. You can use your own images (from the camera or the gallery) as the background for your countdown. So, if you have 5 days before you see a relative, you could use of photo of them to remind you. You can rotate and crop the images you use.
2. There are a few pre-made background images you could use. These are festive (like Christmas Tree, a Jack-o’-lantern) and meaningful. We will add more soon.
3. You can add as many widgets to your desktop as you want.
For the first release, we only have 1×1 widgets. But the developers are working on some very cool new features with larger widgets. There’s lot of room to scale this up and I have loads of ideas. I couldn’t wait any longer and want to get this version out there.
TimeGoal in on the Google Play Store here. It is free (add supported), but we will bring in either a pro version, or more functionality via in app purchases soon.
Ear Spy has been doing fantastically well. Every day for the first month, the amount of daily installs was growing exponentially. Eventually, we were getting over 1,000 installs a day for the free app.
Google Play has some really good statistics pages with charts and graphs about how well your app is doing, where it’s being downloaded, which types of phone are they using, etc. But there is no way (that I can see) to tell how people are finding your app. So, I couldn’t tell how they were finding it—but more and more people were downloading it every day.
After 30 days, the app was no longer considered “new” and dropped from the “Top New Free” apps list. Then the daily downloads went from 1000+ to about 350 a day.
Still, I’m pleased with this number. I couldn’t believe it when I found out 300 people a day were installing it almost a month ago. But I kind of got used to the 1000 installs.
This is a learning experience. So, the lesson I learned here is . . . make the most of the first 30 days! Don’t be complacent. Push the pro versions and try to convert as many free users to paying users in that first month.
Other interesting things from the stats:
1. USA is the biggest downloader of the app (over 50% every day). Egypt is always second and India is always third.
2. There are a small amount of crashes compared to the amount of downloads (Google will give you a crash report). But those few people who it crashes on are more likely to give you a one star rating. I would too.
3. Some phones have problems, but there are hundreds (if not thousands) to test. So, we try to make it as flexible as possible and remove the phones we know are crashing.
4. Some people will give you a one star rating even if the phone works most of the time. One person says “It works on one phone, but not the other” and gave me a one star. I would think I’d get at least a three. But I would be annoyed too.
5 . Only a tiny amount of people leave ratings. Ear Spy has 76 ratings but has been installed by 17,656 people.
Well, we are implementing some very cool new features for Ear Spy Pro very soon. We also released Ear Assist, which is a less-creepy version of Ear Spy to assist people who just want to hear better.
This iPhone version is days away. It will be interesting to see how that compares.
Still having a blast with this.
For the past few months, so much has been going. “I should write about this on the blog,” I constantly seem to be saying to myself. But, my early (pre-contract) hours are full. There is only so much you can do between 4:30 and 6:30.
Probably the biggest new thing I’ve gotten into is App development. I’ve been very interested in it for a long time now, but finding the time to work on stuff has been difficult. So, I hired some developers.
I had a strange idea for an Android app. I sit is offices all the time—with headphones on if they don’t have a problem with it—and people are always murmuring to each other in gossipy ways. If only, I thought, I could amplify my laptop mic straight into my headphones—maybe I could hear them better. Sad, yes.
So, I had an app idea to create a phone app that would allow you to look like you are listening to music, but you are listening to the world around you. If you had an equalizer, maybe you could fine-tune it better. Creepy? Very. But I would use it. I sat on this idea for months—occasionally writing some code for it.
In a lunchtime conversation with some friends, I mentioned the idea. My friend Matt, who runs a site called Budding Marketer, encouraged me on and came up with a cool name: “Ear Spy”. I drew up a spec, designed a logo, and hired a very talented developer.
We released the app to the Google Market two weeks ago. It has been installed 3,086 times so far. It is currently ranked #12 in Top New Free apps in the Communication category.
We released two versions—a free version and a pro version. The pro version is ad-free and gives you the ability to record to MP3. Yesterday, released it with support for Chinese Mandarin and Hindi.
My goal is to experiment. I change the price of pro and see how that reacts. I write some stuff on Twitter, and see if that has an affect. I watch the Google Market each day to see the numbers get updated. An iPhone version is in development. I will see how that performs and how different that is.
The biggest problem with Android has been the multiple devices. It pains me to see that someone has had trouble with it or a crash on some device I never heard of. I’m taking the one star ratings too personal too. However, we’ve got quite a few 5 stars.
Anyway. I’ve got 4 dedicated developers working on the next apps, so things are busy. It’s very exciting, but very fun. We should be up to 10,000 installs in a few weeks. It is making money, but a very small amount.
Here is the link to the Ear Spy on the Google Play store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.microphone.earspy
Last year, I started looking into learning Android development. I’m a C# developer who spends most of his time in Visual Studio, so I had some trouble getting accustomed to it. I’ve looked at a lot of ways to ease the transition into Android. Here are some of my thoughts:
After struggling with Eclipse, I started looking into Mono for Android. I’m a C# developer, and I have to say that I felt a lot more at home in Visual Studio. I’ve also done very little Java development over the years. I took a week-long course in 1999—but mostly don’t use it.
I found Mono For Android to be decent, but it’s not easy. You still have to have learn how to use intents and activities and use the xml layouts that are expected. I found myself trying to learn the Android architecture and how the Mono libraries work with it.
Here are my problems with Mono for Android:
1. There is far less documentation than you would need. If you get in a bind, not many people would be able to help you.
2. It’s like learning VB.Net instead of C#. At some point, you have to take the hit and relearn a few things. Almost all of the example code you look at will be in Java.
3. I can’t be 100% that it will perform well enough on the device. There could be a performance hit. And you need to include the mono runtime, so it would bloat the size of your apk.
4. It costs $400. This is fine if I’m asked to create an app by the end of the week by an employer. But when learning for fun, it’s too high a price to pay. Besides, compared to “free”, it’s too expensive.
So, I prefer to native.
So, I struggled with Eclipse. Even things like autocomplete were throwing me because I was hitting TAB instead of ENTER to accept the autocomplete suggestions. It was messing me up. When I went back to Visual Studio, it was messing that up too. I hate having my flow upset like that.
The majority of tutorials for Android development are using Eclipse. All of the Android tools are well integrated into it.
However, JetBrains has a Java IDE called IntelliJ Idea which is soooo much better for a Visual Studio user than Eclipse is. Jetbrains also develop Resharper, so their shortcuts are very similar. There is a community edition (free) available here. I highly recommend it for Visual Studio developers moving to Android.
The only downside I see with IntelliJ Idea is that some tools like DDMS viewer are not integrated into the IDE. To use them, you have to go to the tools folder of your Android sdk folder and start them manually. But everything is there.
I did some WP7 work last year. It’s a nice platform and I loved writing code for it. But the market share is too small. I know one person who has a Windows phone. I upgraded my phone this weekend, I looked at the Lumia—but went with the Galaxy S3. Maybe one day Microsoft will advance in the phone arena, but I have sincere doubts.
So I woke up this morning t to see the Microsoft announced its Surface tablet. Since I was burned by Vista a few years ago, I decided I wasn’t going to be an early adopter of Windows 8. But the tablet looks interesting.
But I still think they will drop the ball.
What bothered me the most was the pictures from the announcement. Steve Ballmer standing in front of a cheering crowd in smart casual clothing showing off what the “kids” would love. This is how you do things these days—you try to be the rock star. That’s how Apple does it, so that’s how everyone does it. But Microsoft isn’t Apple. Everything Apple does is not great.
I would like Microsoft to do what they do best—take an existing idea (copy) and make it available to everyone. They copied Windows, but they made it available to everyone. They made it easier for software developers to code on, so millions of apps were built. They put it in people’s offices. They let manufacturers build new specs of hardware. They made the special things about Apple boring and mainstream.
I looked at the Microsoft Surface “About” page on Microsoft.com and see things like “Now you can chat with friends and respond to emails comfortably”. I love it when their marketing people try to sell it by making assumptions about what the mindless masses would do with it. I don’t want to see any pictures of people on skateboards or young people with perfect teeth excitedly pointing at a tablet. I don’t like the assumption that all anyone does these days is chat with friends and update Facebook. Windows succeeds because people use what they make as a tool—and not as a toy.
I use Windows because I like it better than I like the Mac. I stopped using an iPhone because I liked the freedom you get from Android.
The Surface marketing looks like the marketing for the Zune.
I don’t want Microsoft to try to join the cool kids table. I want them to make something I can use. They could really hit this one out of the park. But they have to stop trying to be Apple.
I hope they don’t blow it.
Despite my frustration with the San Diego Padres at the end of each season (there have been a few—far few—exceptions), I eagerly await the start of the baseball season in April. It’s usually a new team. Usually a young, inexperienced, team. There is hope in the air.
I eagerly watch games all through April and May. By June, I watch fewer games. It’s difficult to watch west coast games from England, and the effort is usually wasted considering how often my Padres lose.
At the All Star break (in early July), I try to re-join—but it doesn’t last long.
I’ll watch a few games in September because there is some ridiculous goal like “not finishing in last place” that they can still achieve.
By the time the playoffs start, if the Padres are not in it (most of the time), I swear that next year that I won’t bother with baseball. I won’t plop down the money for the MLB.com season. It’s too difficult to be a Padres fan overseas—and it’s not like they deserve it. I’m through with baseball, I declare. Maybe I should learn how the hell cricket is played.
I’m a Padres fan. I’m not even a fan of mediocrity. I’m just a fan of bad.
Then the cycle starts again the next year.
The Padres have 21 wins and 41 losses so far this year. They are last in the NL West. At the moment, they are the worst team in baseball. It’s all pretty much on schedule.
I feel like I’m the only person in the world who does not like the look of Metro style apps from Windows Phone and Windows 8. I don’t like the simplistic large font with basic colours. I prefer something with more depth. But, the economic beast has to feed itself and we can’t keep the same stuff all the time, so we are moving to Metro.
Apple unveiled its Mountain Lion OS yesterday. I didn’t watch the keynote, but I did see a lot of people talking about it on Twitter. Apple fans were gushing all over the new OS—no criticisms. When you’re a fan, I guess, you can’t criticise. People on the other side—on the Windows side—are gushing over Windows 8 and Metro too.
There’s something very strange about the world we live in where the economy has to be growing or it is failing. If we are not selling, then we are stagnating. Of course, when we have all we need, there is no reason to buy. So, the economy needs Metro. But we don’t need Metro. They need to convince us that it is necessary.
I know it makes me sound old, but I think about the big TV we had when I was growing up. It wasn’t just a TV—it was a piece of furniture. It was huge with a rotary channel changer—but it was a big investment. We had it for at least 10 years that I can remember. If it broke, we could get it repaired.
Now, we needed to go for the flat screen TVs when they came out (they were far better than the old TV Set of the past). Then we needed digital tv. Then we needed to get rid of that piece of junk and get HD. Now, they need to push 3D. We already have a TV—but with that attitude this recession will go on forever.
Was it always this way? I know we never needed economic growth to be this strong before. Or is it exponential? Has it snowballed so much that there is no way we can keep it up. We need this recession. We need the economy to slow down so we can regulate our buying habits.
Because I don’t want Windows 8 with Metro.
I realised ages ago that I’m susceptible to following fads. If something new comes along that looks interesting, I’ll give it a go. Why I haven’t joined a cult yet, I have no idea.
A few years ago, I was gung-ho on vegetarianism. That lasted a few weeks.
I started going to the gym regularly. That lasted a few months.
I still meditate, but not as regularly as I did at the beginning.
When I read about node.js, I became a huge fan and learned all I could about it. But, that waned too. The bills are paid by Microsoft work.
My family are aware of my tendency for jump on bandwagons. So, when I say something like “I’m going on a low-carb diet” (my decision last night) because of something I’ve read, everyone rolls their eyes and puts up with me.
If you want to really annoy or embarrass me, just mention one of the things I haven’t followed through on.
For all my starts though, I’ve had some success. I’ve run marathons, started contracts in new technologies, and I still wake earlier than most people for self-development time. If something works, it works. If it doesn’t, I stop.
So, I’m silly in this way. I start new fads all the time. If I can keep from telling others about it, I will. But when I can’t get around my strange behaviour anymore (“I can’t eat that because I’m vegetarian now”), I’ll fess up.
I haven’t tried everything I’ve thought about. Like, for the longest time, I’ve wanted to try polyphasic sleeping, but it would disrupt family life too much. One day . . .
But, what is the alternative? What would I gain by being steadfast and set in my habits? Where would I be if I never experimented? When I adopt a language like “I’m going to try to . . . “ instead of “I’m going to . . . “, I have less likelihood of success, so there’s no sense in starting with a flimsy word like “try”.
So, when you hear me tell you I’m going to start a new habit, or become a new person, or whatever. Go ahead and roll your eyes. I understand. It may work out for me, or it may not. That’s for future me to decide. Present me just has to decide to try it.
When I was kid, the subject I hated most in school was PE. Even in the seventh grade, it seemed like a barbarous hour in the middle of the school day where they forced us to put on sweaty clothes and compete in team sports. Some kids were so competitive that it made the whole exercise unbearable.
The competitiveness was encouraged by the teachers (we called them coach—even though they taught History too).
I didn’t mind PE when it involved a non-competitive sports. I liked running and solo exercises. But, I was an exception. Everyone else wanted to play a team sport, so that’s mostly what we did. I went to 3 different junior highs and 3 high schools. All of them were the same. We played basketball, softball, and soccer mostly. Occasionally, we would play tennis.
Here’s a typical PE class. Everyone gets dressed and heads out to the blacktop (tarmac) to form up (very Army like). We do a few stretches. Then, the coach announces that we will be playing basketball today. He chooses the two best basketball players as captains. They each take turns choosing the rest of the class for their team. The good players go first. I was frequently last. In fact, there was another kid who was sometimes chosen after me, but not all the time.
Then, we’d play an awkward game of basketball. I say awkward because I would never actually want the ball. It’s not easy running around the court trying to look like you are involved and helping the team, but constantly putting yourself behind the person guarding you so you would never get the ball. I run around and wait to be called in to shower.
Showering in junior high was weird too. No one wanted to do it, but it was a requirement. They used to have a shower monitor who would give you a rubber band at the showers when you proved you were wet enough. You couldn’t leave the locker room unless you had one. So, we all did this thing where we would get undressed, wrap a towel around our waists, stand next to a running shower and cup our hands to splash ourselves with water. I’ve never seen anyone actually get into the shower or remove the towel. No one ever got clean—that wasn’t the goal. We did this to get the rubber band and get out of their and back to our normal school day.
It’s not that I don’t like exercise. In the Army, we did physical training nearly every day. But we never did team sports.
I have this inexplicable ability to get hit in the face with any ball I play with. I’ve had basketballs bounced off my face. I have been hit in the face with baseballs. I even once hit a tennis ball with the corner of my racket and had it fly into my face. I’m glad we never had bowling at school.
These accidents wouldn’t be so bad if I just laughed them off like other kids would, but I was an awkward teenager. I never laughed anything off. While others laughed at me, I just kept going like nothing had happened.
PE probably wouldn’t have been so bad if there were only boys in our class. I embarrassed myself in front of everyone, but I started to get interested in girls at this age. I would have liked it more if I could have humiliated myself only in front of the boys.
I can remember playing softball in PE. I always went to my normal position from Little League – right field. No one ever hits the ball there, and if they did, so one expected a super-human catch like you see in the major leagues. So, you were mostly safe. Once, the ball was hit straight to me. I couldn’t even move to get it. I was a slow fly ball that was destined for the exact spot I was standing in. I put up my glove and the ball landed in it. Now, this wasn’t my glove— it was a borrowed glove form the PE department, and the webbing was gone between the thumb and fingers. So, the ball fell from my glove to the ground. I quickly picked it up and threw it into the infield (anywhere in the infield—-just away from me!). I looked over at a girl who I fancied—-her name as Jackie. She looked at me with disgust and said “You ass!” This was the longest conversation I ever had with her. I looked at the ground and pretended I didn’t hear. It was a better tactic than thinking about how a normal person would respond.
In school, the kids who were good at team sports were the most popular, even with the teachers. It’s amazing to think about how much better they were treated than the kids who were good at academics (I wasn’t one of these either). High School was worse than junior high, because the everyone was interested in how the school football team was doing. To be on the football team meant you were one of the leaders. You were like a member of congress. You could leave the school on a bus to some other school in North County for a game and no one would care that you missed class.
All through school, the teachers and parents make it a point of telling you that you need to attend school to get ready for the real world. I’m having this own conversation with my kids now. Well, I’m in the real world now, and there is no way I would ever go back there.