CBS Chicago article about Chicago App contest

CBS Chicago mentions two of CyberWalkAbout.com applications in the finals of Chicago App contest.




http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/12/28/city-announces-winners-of-local-interest-smartphone-app-contest/

Lack of Android updates

More and more people are feeling short-changed after spending hundreds of dollars on device when there are no updates available after few months of their purchase.

In short that is simply a bad (existing) customer service on part of companies like Samsung, HTC, or Motorola and it will have to change in the near future as market will revolt against their products. 

I use my DROID2 with Android 2.3.x on it and I did not feel that Ice Cream Sandwich is a must have for me at this time. All my app are written for backwards compatibility and after testing them positively on the newest Galaxy Nexus I decided not to buy it.

If Manufacturers start upgrading their devices I might start thinking about writing for the new features.

~ Uki

Android Iris is the answer to..

.. nothing, absolutely nothing. I have read the article "Android Iris: Google's Answer to Apple Siri!" and gave Iris a try.

Me: "Harley Davidson"
Iris writes: "Harley Davidson"
Iris thinks and answers: "What color are my eyes?"


I have been using voice recognition successfully in the past, most of the time to set up my task reminders while driving and I can see some value in doing so.

Very often the text was right on if I used common words but good luck asking e.g. "What is XL1200S?" Which being a model of Harley-Davidson produced, um, forever, I would expect to recognize it.

In the past, I have used COPY, PASTE, CUT, SAVE, UNDO, BUILD voice recognized commands while coding and that works well if YOU ARE ALONE in the room. It can really save you a lot of wrist strain if you do a lot of it, since these particular commands require 2 finger key presses.    

I don't see myself using voice commands around humans until the computer can really pick up MY OWN voice out of regular conversation e.g. "Iris, what is my 3PM looking like?"

For all of you ladies named Iris out there, well I would not be afraid you what to change your names.. yet.

Apple is to use Samsung to produce A5 mobile CPU.

Relationships between corporations are difficult to understand and very unlike these between individuals.


Apple has lawsuits against Samsung that prevents selling Galaxy line devices in Europe yet they are building a $3.6 billion factory in Texas to produce Apple's flagship mobile processor A5.

Samsung is also a leader in cutting-edge mobile display manufacturing and almost all other aspects of technology which begs the question: if they really wanted they could always have a better Android mobile devices out before Apples iPhone and iPad updates. Of course they would have to put some originality in their design and not just copy Apple as they did with Galaxy Tab.

Overall the $8 billion dealings between these to giants remind me of fast forwarded clash between tectonics plates with a lot of tremors, I just don't know on which side the beautiful mountains will raise. I think it is up to Samsumg's product team, they need to infuse some creativity and sense of design in them. Looking at the latest and greatest Galaxy Nexus I was very disappointed and I would actually consider Motorola Bionic instead.
 
This reminds me of Apple and Microsoft love-hate relationship that allowed Microsoft to get of the ground, then dominate the world and then to give up the title of biggest and most profitable corporation to Apple in recent years.

~ Uki

Apps For Metro Chicago

The votes are in for "Apps For Metro Chicago" final challenge of over 70 entries and CyberWalkAbout team scores in top 5 with it's "Chicago Local Guide" and wins award for "Taxi Share Chicago" app! #A4MC #CyberWalkAbout 




Daniel Fedor (far left), our partner, has represented "Taxi Share" team and Natalia Cantemir (far right, in red) represented "Chciago Local Guide". Congratulations the whole CyberWalkAbout team!



Natalia is saluting to our development team for a great job they did and to fellow participants, especially @SpotHero who won a 1st place!


Daniel and Natalia with their awards, double score for CyberWalkAbout.com!

It is worth mentioning that Taxi Share Chicago was Public Vote Winner leading to the final challenge.










Here is a complete listing of the winners:

1st SpotHero- $10,000
  • Spothero efficiently connects parking demand and parking supply.  We allow parking spot owners to earn income by renting their spot when it's unoccupied
2nd TrailBlaze- $5,000
  • TrailBlaze Chicago records and anonymously reports your bicycle tracks, allowing you to vote for new paths simply by carrying your phone while you bike.
3rd OwtSee $3,500
  • OwtSee is an Android based and a web based application that presents information about the Chicago parks and community events in one convenient place.
4th Chicago Local Guide $2,000
  • Chicago Local Guide is an android app is meant to help local people as well as tourists find:  interesting places and points-of-interest near them; locate specials and promotions from local businesses; updates on cultural, social, and technology events around Chicago; and breaking local news.
5th Mi Parque $1,500
  • Mi Parque is a bilingual participatory placemaking web and smartphone application that helps residents of the community contribute and share their vision for the future of Little Village's new parks.
6th FasPark $500
  • FasPark helps drivers find street parking in real time.
7th allSchedules $500
  • AllSchedules gives you access to a huge collection of transit schedules, for different transport modes (bus, metro, train, tram ferry, etc.), in multiple cities around the world.
8th OkCopay $500
  • OkCopay is comparison search engine for medical care that allows users to search for the procedure they need, compare local providers, and view their actual prices.
9th IfindIt $500
  • IFindit Chicago is an android app that is designed to help low income and homeless residents connect with critical resources such as medical clinics, food pantries, shelters etc.
10th Taxi Share $500
  • Taxi Share is an application designed to increase efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions and cut down on already congested streets and highways.  The app allows users to find each other and share a cab to popular destinations around the city and to the major airports.


New era of powerful single purpose machines?

Android is shown running on x86 dual core 64 bit 1.2GHz Via EITX3002 board.




New era of powerful graphical  & computational machines running Android is starting.


Let me know what application you think will be running on this in the future? I think a huge interactive displays that will process a lot of external data and user's large screen touch-displays.


- Think retail stores.
- Think architectural studios.
- Think education.



Cost of buying hardware that is expensive because it is small will be less of an issue, the storage sizes could be in Tera bytes and graphical cards could be liquid cooled if you really need to run such single purpose systems.

DailyDealMedia - Dec 14, 2011

Thank you Kara Kamenec from DailyDealMedia for taking time to give us coverage, we appreciate it!


Crain's Chicago Business Dec 13, 2011

"Local app-development firm CyberWalkAbout.com announced last week it received an undisclosed amount of funding from an angel fund owned by Scott Kluth, founder and CEO of CouponCabin.com"





Jay Yearly ChicagoNow.com Dec. 11, 2011




Daniel Fedor


"When I first met with Uki to tell him about my app idea he could not have been more supportive and full of energy to see it come to life.  His creative input and the graphic design work of Natalia were amazing!  Uki's most valuable insight to me was his philosophy not to wait, but to get the app into the market place as soon as possible and then improve upon it based upon actual user experience and feedback.  To date, the app has been the subject of multiple radio, television and internet news stories and continues to grow new users every day!  It has been wonderful to meet and work with the team at CyberWalkAbout!"

~ Daniel Fedor, Taxi Share co-founder,  December 12, 2011

WebOS will become open source

HP has announced that they will "open source" WebOS to let the community of developers continue improving it. This is the only sensible thing that the company could have done after failing to market and stopping the production of tablets earlier this year. HP said they will continue investment in this open source project. However, without a strong leadership, vision and centralized user interface design, as it is case with almost all open source products, I am not expecting miracles.

In the future, if WebOS can avoid legal complications, because of its open source nature and therefore free price tag, it could become the OS for masses, especially I see it as OS for EDUCATION, something that Android might be able to achieve if Microsoft and Apple will not raise the cost too far by litigation and fees per unit sold.

I think a new, celebrity-backed venture might be able able to pick up WebOS and do miracles if they:
1) are small and nimble with a strong visionary at the helm
2) have a brilliant graphical user design person leading the way
3) develop relationships with major educational text-book publishers
4) have relationship with at least one manufacturer to develop 7 inch tablet for education industry.

The tablet would have to be bullet proof and inexpensive very much like Amazon Fire and Barnes or Noble Nook Tablet. I have been using two 7 inch tablets for a year now and I am convinced that it is the best form factor. Motorola is making such tablet for retail and medical industries, I have seen a pre-production prototype, but it felt a little too bulky to imagine students liking it. The tablet could be limited to WiFi only and skip on GPS and gyroscope, however it would have to feature gorilla glass and very solid casing not unlike Moto Android Razr or iPhone 4. The 7 inch screen with 1024x600 resolution would be plenty. I also believe that bluetooth for HID keyboard and other periferials would be a must. On software side in addition to great textbook reading and "margin" note-taking and quick highlighter marking applications I believe the apps should be residing on the device so the need for WiFi would be necessary only at the beginning of the semester and to submit the papers. The could be solved with as little as one hot spot per school. The security of student-server-teacher exchanges and DRM of materials would have to be considered as it is a case with any test-taking solution today, I have been part of such Houghton Mifflin project in the past.

While I am not quite there rounding up celebrities, investors, manufacturers and textbook publishers, I am however sure that  the tablet revolution is coming to the educational institution near you.

Please post, or send me your comments.

Uki@CyberWalkAbout.com

Apps For Metro Chicago finalists!

Chicago Local Guide made it to the finals as one of the TOP 5 Community Winners.


Overwhelmed with events in your city?

If you are living in Chicago, San Francisco / Silicon Valley or any major city there is a good chance that there are multiple events happening every nigh and you have no good way to keep track of them all.

Here is an actual screenshot from my own event calendar.


At CyberWalkAbout we are making a great effort to keep track of all that is happening in major cities and provide it to you in easy to consume way, allow you to make your favorites, share with friends, see what people tweet about and get notifications when is time to go.




MacOX: Bring back the color icons to Finder sidebar

The latest versions of the Finder side bar lost a lot from usability by removing the colored icons. Hopefully Apple will realize the mistake and fix it. Meanwhile here is a solution of how to bring color back:


1. Download and install SIMBL for OS version Snow Leopard and Leopard or Tiger
2. Download the ColorfulSidebar SIMBL plugin and mount the DMG file
3.  Move the ColorfulSidebar.bundle into the following SIMBL plugin folder:
~/Library/Application Support/SIMBL/Plugins/

4. Restart the computer
5. Kill the Finder through the Terminal: killall Finder






UPDATE: Interestingly, on two different Macs the tip applies differently. On the BookPro it works perfectly, on my Air I have to repeat the  killall Finder
   every time I restart the laptop to get colored icons back.

Privacy Policy

CyberWalkAbout.com does not gather, nor distribute anyone's private information.

Mobile Development Company CyberWalkAbout.com Receives Investment from CouponCabin.com

CHICAGO, IL., December 6, 2011 - CyberWalkAbout, Inc., mobile design and strategy agency and the creator of dozens of popular mobile applications such as "Children TV," "Yachts & Tall Ships" and "Chicago Local Guide," has closed on an investment from an angel fund owned by Scott Kluth, Founder and CEO of CouponCabin.com.

The investment will allow CyberWalkAbout.com to expand and improve its already impressive portfolio of applications and mobile services. Services will include mobile design, development and subscription-based services developed by the company. The investment is designed to give CyberWalkAbout.com a competitive edge and runway for at least one year.
As a part of the deal Uki D. Lucas will step up to chief executive position to utilize his extensive experience in start-up management, social marketing, design and technology architecture. Lucas is coming from Sears Corporation where he served as mobile architect. Prior to that he served four years as principal at Revere Group, NTT corporation and three years as director of technology at ADEXS, Inc., as well as in multiple other ventures.
CyberWalkAbout applications have achieved their current state of beautiful design and quality under the leadership of Natalia Cantemir (president and art director) and her team composed entirely from hand-picked European designers and developers. Cantemir, a designer with more than eight years of experience will step up to the position on the board of directors and remain a major share holder.
CouponCabin.com, founded in 2003 by Scott Kluth will become CyberWalkAbout's major client. CouponCabin.com is a leader in online coupons, boasting more than 100,000 coupons and deals for more than 3,500 retailers.

“We are excited to partner with such a nimble agency to help us create and grow the CouponCabin.com mobile platform,” said Kluth. “As technology improves, mobile shopping has increased in popularity and we are thrilled to offer our users an additional way to save money while also creating a new revenue stream.”

About CyberWalkAbout, Inc.
CyberWalkAbout.com is a mobile strategy, design and development studio based in Chicago, specializing in state-of-the art user experience and design for Android, Mobile Windows and Apple iOS mobile devices. We are proud owners and creators of over dozen application spanning multiple platforms as well as many white-label projects. We are working very closely with development community by organizing and sponsoring local GTUG (Google Technology User Group) and Chicago Android events. We are also authors of the "Roadmap for Mobile Business", an ebook available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Currently, one of our applications, "Chicago Local Guide" is the finalist in Apps 4 Metro Chicago contest http://www.appsformetrochicago.com/ please support us by voting which starts on December 6, 2011.
For more information please contact:

720AM WGN The Voice Of Chicago covers Taxi Share


'With three touches to your phone, you'll get to where you need to be with fellow passengers.' 

Taxi Share Chicago App


Steve and Johnnie visit with Dan Foder, one of the co-creators of the Taxi Share Chicago app which allows you to meet / communicate / coordinate with other folks looking to share a cab.



http://www.wgnradio.com/shows/stevejohnnie/wgnam-sj-taxi-share-chicago,0,2436828.mp3file

Google Maps - Converting coordinates

We found that when converting the coordinates from Java double to Java int the notation makes all the difference:

When we used 1000000 instead of 1E6 the coordinates were rounded off and therefore up to one degree (110 km) off from the true location.


int lon = (int) item.getStatus().getGeo().mLongitude * 1000000
// rounded off coordinate lat :42000000 lon :-87000000

int lat = (int) (item.getStatus().getGeo().mLatitude * 1E6); 
// correct lat :42239902 lon :-87971504


Log.e("Map", "lat :" + lat + " lon :" + lon);
mPoints.put(item.getProfileImageUrl(), new GeoPoint(lat, lon));



Creating Google Maps Development Key


In Terminal execute below to get your MD5 fingerprint:

~ uki$ keytool -list -alias androiddebugkey  -keystore ~/.android/debug.keystore -storepass android -keypass android
androiddebugkey, Jun 29, 2011, PrivateKeyEntry,

Certificate fingerprint (MD5): 65:4D:21:AA...

Go to the site:

http://code.google.com/android/maps-api-signup.html

Copy the fingerprint: 65:4D:21:AA...


Your key is:
0wbj...
This key is good for all apps signed with your certificate whose fingerprint is:
65:4D:21:AA...
Here is an example xml layout to get you started on your way to mapping glory:
              <com.google.android.maps.MapView
                 android:layout_width="fill_parent"
                 android:layout_height="fill_parent"
                 android:apiKey="0wbj..."
                 />


FoodTrucks on Chicago Local Guide - Twitter Geo-location

You can now help us locate your favorite food truck by tweeting from where they are at with GEO-location enabled. Your tweet will show on the map as a semi-transparent circle. The tweets from the food trucks will show as icons, but only for short time and when geo-location is on.


To turn on the geo-location when tweeting, find the toggle switch (upper left in Plume)...



... or in preferences for Twitter app.



So that is how it looks for real!





You can write your Twitter posts from the app, too.






Don't forget to ask your friends to download the app by scanning this QR code:


Programming for UI designers: Android Options Menu

Ins and outs of Android Options Menu

The standard Android Menu is one of the most common elements of an Android application, and provides users a familiar way to perform actions. It contains a collection of primary options and functionality which shows up when the user touches the MENU button on the device. 



In this article we will explore how to make this simple item of Android user experience perfect.


Step 1.  Create a menu icon
  • open Photoshop, create a file with canvas size 72x72 (Notice: always start from the larger size)
  • create your shape using Pen tool (P), or if you have it ready in some vector format paste it as a shape into your document. For the sake of sharpness it is important to use the shape tool and to adjust it, by moving its nods so that the margins fit to the pixel grid.
  • scale it to 48x48 and center it. Keep this size for more square icons but make them a little bigger in case you have a custom shape icon so they will appear visually approximately the same size
  • apply the following layer styles 




  • save it as *.png
  • scale and save the icon for  mdpi (48x38) and ldpi (36x36).
Note: The menu icons are not the case to improvise. The better we follow the guidelines the better and crisper they will look. I advise you to download the Icon Templates Pack - where you can find the PSD template for every screen size. Create your shape in Illustrator, paste it  in the PSD template, copy the layer styles from the template layer and paste it to yours. Voila, you got the icon.

Step 2. Copy the icon to an existing project
Import (Checkout) an existing project in Eclipse IDE (see Software Installation and set up for Android Development). If one is absent you might want to download an open source application.

In the project explorer take a look at the resources folder (/res/). Its content is of the most interest to us, designers.


Notice that we have a lot of drawable folders in which reside all our graphical assets as well as elements/shapes drawn in xml which we will explore another time.
When an application is downloaded on the device, the app performs a check of the screen size and density and runs using the graphics from the appropriate folder. If graphics for a given device is not found, or it deals with an element shared with all the screen sizes, then the app is looking for it in the default folder .../drawable/. 

To import the icons in the project just drag and drop them in the specific folders.

Note: The icon should have exactly the same file name for all the screen densities. After importing you should get the following structure:

  • /drawable-hdpi/ic_help.png
  • /drawable-mdpi/ic_help.png
  • /drawable-ldpi/ic_help.png

For the menu icons we will not consider screen sizes, only screen densities.


Step 3. Menu layout
Unfold the ../res/menu and ... /res/values:



In the menu.xml and events.xml, if we read attentively, even without knowing any programming its clear that we have a <menu> which contains <items>.


android:id="@+id/about_us" - is the name of the activity/functionality that will be started when we tap, until you do not get very comfortable with the programming part its better not to make changes here.

android:icon="@drawable/ic_help"  - notice that even if the icon is placed in different folders, we do refer to the "/drawable", this is why it is so important to keep the same filename for all the desnsities.

android:title="@string/home_about" - in the image of the folders above, in the values folder there is a strings.xml file. This file stores all the strings (titles, notification messages, etc.) we might need including the title of the menu elements. Notice that in the <menu> we refer to string title and not to its content. Knowing this you can change the content or correct spelling yourself. 


Note: Having an existing project with at least one menu item you should be able to add as many of them as you need to test. Just make copies of the <item> inside the <menu> in the xml menu file, and make sure to copy and create strings for the item title as well. As for android:id, you can copy the same value in all of them as our goal is to test the look of the icons and we do not care about the activity that follows, just be careful not to commit your experiments. If you want to temporally remove an item from the menu you can comment it out by selecting it in xml file and pressing command+shift+C.

Step 5. Run and test the application 
  • right click on the project and choose Refresh
  • connect the device to the computer or set up your emulator
  • right click on the project, select Run and choose as Android Project
Sucess!

Programming for UI designers: Software Installation and set up for Android Development

How many times the designs did not look exactly as your Photoshop files?
Let me guess - MOST OF THE TIME.

In this new series of articles I will try to share my experience on how to improve and adjust your UI designs for Android mobile apps. We will learn how to change colors, adjust margins, add shadows and at a higher level - how to create beautiful and flexible layouts for different screen sizes. So let's get started.

For the start let's make sure we have everything we need for our little journey into programming.

Software Installation and set up for Android Development
(find step by step instructions on http://chicago-gtug.com supported by ChicagoAndroid.com)
  • Install a development environment. On the Android platform most of the native apps are developed in Eclipse IDE for Java EE Developers.
  • In order to be able to import projects from the team's repository and to be able to share your changes in the code you need to install Install SVN plugin - Subclipse. (video by Uki D. Lucas http://youtu.be/pVBXfjc7QV4)
  • install Android SDK.
  • Android SDK and AVD Manager - updates - as for updates, you will see plenty, you will never go wrong by installing all of them
  • Create a virtual device - AVD - the virtual devices are very annoying and they load forever but they are very useful especially for testing your designs on various screen sizes.
The installation process might take you a few hours and cause you a lot of trouble. Ask the developers from your team for help if needed.


Consumerism vs. Classics

Ever popular, cute cats that sing, zombie booths, mindless attention grabbers, full of glitter -- there is a constant flow of products designed to amuse you, to make you want to get them now, instant gratification candies. They don't serve any particular need, more or less like glass beads in colonization era, they offer a cheap thrill for few minutes, maybe weeks if you are a rare person on inflicted with ADD, than they are left unused for what they really are, rubbish.

Whole industries work hard to create a products that are meant to be replaced as soon as the next wave of fad arrives.

On the other side of the spectrum are the products that are beautifully designed, fulfilling their purpose for a need that is long lasting and deeply entrenched in our psychology. These are like classic cars with are as pleasing today as they were in their heyday, there are like beautiful houses, scuptures and master crasftsmen furniture, or small items like a pocket knife, or a fountain pen. Things you cherish and use, and keep on using for generations.

Sometimes, it is important for us, designers of modern products to go back and think - do I provide a lasting value?
 

Tablet developer: allow full Website access, or do your homework.

There is nothing more frustraiting to people spending $500 to $800 on a new shiny tablet to find out that your app tries to "enhance" your user experience by providing 3 inch phone functionality.
The full-size, mobile safe, site would work quite nice on the tablet, especially with ability to pinch and pan to get to the particular section.
Going a step further, which is actually not that much extra work, is to provide the comfortable experience taking advantage of the vaste real estate of the tablet.
The other day I was comparing Android Gmail applications between 4, 7, and 10 inch screens. The 10 inch was done in nice 2 column layout with small fonts which made easy to view my email content. The 7 inch was nothing, but blown up small phone app, with huge fonts as if Google was assuming all Galaxy Tab 7 users were vision impaired.
The small screen Gmail app wasted a lot of screen with big buttons in editing mode, buttons that should have been in menu with better, more beautiful iconography, I am sure users would learn to press menu really quickly.
Even the Blogger app I am using now has several buttons that take screen space. I assume that Blogger app is used very frequently, so it should be designed for frequent users, too.

Search button & Voice Commands

The search button is gone, so much for idea of everyone using "voice commands".

I tried voice commands for a while but honestly I never liked the idea --  it annoys people around you, and it is as difficult as selecting by hand while driving - which of course I never do.

 More and more manufactures are not including the physical SEARCH button, and it looks like Google gave up on the idea in apps like Market where the search magnifying-glass icon is prominently on top. Also, the Android 3+ tablets are missing all the physical buttons, which I personally miss a lot. Samsung Galaxy 7 tablet has all 4 buttons, but Galaxy 10.1 already does not have any.

I think as the voice recognition improves the button may come back, but for now only simple commands work and Google Voice mailbox is sometimes comical, everyone call me and says "Hello Auntie!"


Factors that can influence downloads of the mobile apps

Taking as a fact that you have a great app, a "shouting", cutting-edge presence on the app markets, good rating and good promotion, what else could influence the number of your app downloads?

Having over a dozen apps out on the market, we noticed that every time we release an update, we have a spike in downloads. The reason is that, when publishing an update, the app market gives you a bust of ranking so you get more often in the search results and may be listed on the first page of rating within the category in which your app belongs to. In addition, surprising users with improvements (hopefully), either its some new features or a holiday re-skining of the UI, works as a gentle reminder and can increase the number of active users which is very important..

Another observation, more obvious this time, is that people tend to download and explore new apps on weekends.

Here is an example of the downloads statistics on ChildrenTV, on the right side you see the number of downloads on the left I showed the weekend days.




Another advise would be - Know your users.

Try to analyze and put yourself in your user's shoes. Imagine his life cycle and try to understand at what point you (your app) can be useful. When is your user more willing to use your product.

Here is an example from the same app, Children TV. Take a guess which is the reason of a massive increase in downloads on this statistics.




If you pay attention to the dates you will see that on vacation the downloads are considerably higher, parents are happy to get their kids busy, kids are happy to watch their favorite cartoons. Boom, mission accomplished.

I will keep updating this article as I notice new external factors influencing downloads, full moon for example :).


AT&T Android system update pleasantly surprises with a lot of improvements

When I got my Motorolla Atrix, I loved the phone and hated the Operating System. Today I was pleasantly surprised by the 4.5.91 system update from AT&T by the quantity of improvements on different levels.

First of all UI is much more sharp and pleasant. In the old version we had 2 buttons doubling themselves like call and contacts which were opening the same functionality,  just different tabs:



The last OS update has a much better UX, where the "Apps" is mandatory, and you can add another 3 apps on your choice, either its a call button or your favorite mobile games.

Another nice touch is that  you can set and choose profiles, so for the week days you set all you need for work like calendars, TODO apps, sticky notes etc., whereas on weekends you can set home profile or create a Sunday one and choose your sailing, hiking restaurants apps on the home screen.

On the Application screen, the new system displays the market icon and provides a wide range of options on the long press like: add to home, add to group, share, uninstall. Another big improvement concerning app management is that now you can check to allow installation of non-market applications, a restriction that created a lot of trouble for mobile developers before, for me as well.

As minor minuses I would list for now a less recognizable and less attractive icons for browser, camera, voice commands and the worse one - text messaging

I keep discovering my new phone OS and I love it. Now I really feel that I am the OWNER of this phone and not the carrier.





Collaboration Website

Over the years we have learned that keeping a private, project collaboration site is essential. I have used several solutions from SharePoint, through Wikis and BaseCamp, but one of the simplest to use and most practical is Google sites.


On the collaboration site you post screenshots of the newest versions and graphical assets for the next iterations of the product. Also, you include the documentation, use cases and problem descriptions.

The site, when well organized is an excellent tool to update customer on work in progress: "Can you look at page 3.a - product details?"

We try to create a page for each piece of functionality.

It is important to put most recent screenshots on top of the page, and it is easy to see pervious versions as you scroll down. Other, non visual files can be attached.

Another trick is to set page layout in two columns, which Google sites allow you to do easily. Left column is for developers to post the current state and the right column for artists to show the vision of what it should be.

A great site saves a ton of confusion and delays. We literally prohibit our people from sending Word Docs, images, Spreadsheets, etc. via email, or Skype. All useful documentation should be posted for sharing with update alerts and revision history available.


Google Java Technology: Still comparing iPhone to Android?

Google Java Technology: Still comparing iPhone to Android?: "Disclaimer: I ALWAYS have BOTH iPhone and Android on me, I use both. I had 3 iPhones and several Android models including tablets of both OS..."

eBook Reader vs Paper Book

eBook readers like Nook from Barnes&Nobles and Kindle from Amazon are becoming more and more popular. I was bought on the idea of tablet readers from the first experience.

Here are some major advantages:
  • you can store hundreds of books. You can read more books at a time and don't have to carry a back-pack for this
  • you can make notes, selections and share the best quotes with friends.
  • you can look up for unknown words in the dictionary or internet if available. 
  • you can read as well as write book reviews
  • you can load and read *.pdf files.
  • you can adjust the reader to different light conditions
  • you can become your own author, as publishing yours thought, poetry or even recipe book is relatively simple
  • by choosing eBook reader over paper book you contribute improving or at least sparing our ecology as publishing industry is very polluting. 
Disadvantages:
  • considering that this technology is relatively new, not all the books have been converted to eBooks yet, especially old editions.
  • even if you can read for weeks on a battery charge you still have to take care to charge your eBook reader (an often issue for me).
After reading over ten books on the Nook, I had to come back to a paper book only because the edition was not republished since 1967. The reading experience is not very pleasant, though the book is worth it.
First of all, because of the yellowish aged paper the contrast is bad and the font size pretty small and plenty of crooked letters.
Secondly, if you take your sight away or get distracted, because of the small font, it takes quite a while to get back to the place where you stopped reading.
And third, while reading on the train its very difficult to take notes and put your thoughts down.
I am very happy to see that the eBook readers become very affordable. Barnes&Noble Nook with touchscreen is only $99.


Importance of pair-programming.

The idea of pair-programming makes sense for several reasons, first of all almost always when the developer "bounces" ideas against someone else, they end up thinking through the problem more carefully than a single person who would implement the first idea that comes to mind.
Secondly, the pair, when indoctrinated well cuts much less corners and the product quality increases.
Thirdly, when you loose a developer, and it is not always by "got hit by a bus" but sometimes a happy "got married and went for a honeymoon", then the other developer understands nuances of the project and can continue.
Finally, when you have a nice team, it is simply more fun to get together and solve the problems.
I have build very smart and effective teams in the past composed of senior and very junior members that did great work, enjoyed coming to work and did tours on local microbreweries together -- now, that is priceless.
Not all people like to work in pairs, my answer to that is, try to build teams composed of people who do. You will not regret loosing one loner mad scientist whose work might worked brilliantly, but whose code had to be re-writen anyway once he left.
Talking from experience. Good programers like to share and have fun while doing an awesome job.

Do Events Influence App Success?

Not really, sponsoring of the events does not affect the app success.
We have organized over 40 events and at most we could see a daily spike in downloads, but a couple of days after the event metrics were coming back to normal growth.




Break the Organizational Walls

When you hire different people to do a project for you, make sure they literally work together. Throwing the work over-the-fence always results in a mediocre product. Let me exlain.

You hire the best design team and they indeed do a stellar work. You are happy so you give the designs to some brilliant development team. They start working with the design and realize that you are missing the crucial data to fillout parts of the design, now the product is not as good. To make things worse you start testing the app and learn that the customer interaction flows are slightly different then envisioned which is always the case as customers are not able to tell you what the like and dislike before they see and touch it. Your development team is pressed by the timeline, no desinger around, so they photo-chop the original desing to fit the new needs. The monster is born with the intention of fixing it later. Fixing it later never happens.

Get design and technology people in the same room from beginning to the end of the development, or fail.  

Uki's Google Java Technology blog