Skipping Feb OGAM

I’m skipping the February OGAM due to a house move and illness. Luckily I have a design in mind and it’s one I want to work on a bit longer term so I expect to release something, just not to the deadline!

 

Goal achieved?

I set myself a couple of goals over Christmas to get some Android development done and migrate this blog onto a new host. So, how did I do? The answer is: better than I expected. Migration done, some code written up (no new release though as I want to put a bit more in).
I’ve also set up a new blog that I’ll be writing about once it’s ready for public consumption. This blog is for a friend of mine who is running from John o’Groats to Lands End this year to raise money for the Royal British Legion (a charity for those who are serving and have served). That’s over 30 marathons in a row! This chap is insane, but insane with a big heart.
Anyhow, am currently in a taxi to the airport as am of skiing for a week so will provide an update on my return.

 

Migration

I’m currently in the process of migrating hosts to the wonderful people at Arvixe.  I’ve been very impressed with their pre-sales and initial tech support so far so let’s hope it continues!  Right, back to sorting out my e-mail ….

 

A brief update

Q4 of 2011 has been somewhat hectic for me and so I’ve put no time into any Android development.  Little drabs of time are getting thrown into forums & comments here and there, but nothing productive.  I’ve also totally screwed the images on this site so am in the process of sorting that out.  As there’s a three day weekend coming up (and allowing for a massive 1st January hangover), I’m going to dedicate a few hours on Saturday and Monday to:

– Updating Flip! with some feedback received over at the Making Money With Android forums

– Getting some code written up for some of my parked ideas

– Sorting out this blog

I’d give myself a 75% chance of actually getting round to this!

 

.onResume()

This has been a hell of a busy month for me at work and socially, leaving me little time to do any writing or development. I’m now on two weeks of holiday so hopefully will get some useful things done.  About to fly off to Malta for 5 days so have camera charged, Kindle filled and macbook ready to go!

 

Google Real Names and the Validation Fail

I read this article a few days ago and felt the need to throw it up onto Google+.  Unfortunately, in the process of sharing it I got a bit ranty and ended up with a rather long post so have decided to reproduce that content here.

I’d apologise in advance about the strong language in this article but a) I have a different view on the offensiveness of that word and b) the author is Australian.
Anyway, worth a read as another interesting case with Google and the Names Policy. This situation worries me (translated as “pisses me off”) on two fronts.

The first, and greatest, concern has been the Google approach to suspensions and appeals. Maybe this has always been the case and I’ve just noticed it more with Google+, but they seem very quick off the mark to suspend accounts with no warning. The follow up appeals then seem to be dismissed off-hand with a stock reply, even when the facts of the matter are quite clearly in the favour of a user. Now, this is not a problem unique to Google – customer services the world over have adopted this model of brainless reaction and it causes no end of customer dissatisfaction. I’ve recently had a run-in with a company who I will be reporting to the ICO partly because they responded with a stock response that was clearly not relevant to the original query, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, I expect better from Google. Some will defend this by saying that these are free services, but that doesn’t work. The threat of suspension claims to affect multiple Google services, including Picasa. I pay for increased storage so that I can throw more things into Picasa, so a suspension would indeed impact a paid for service. Bear in mind that we’ve seen suspensions of accounts that are NOT in violation of the terms of service, but have clearly suffered from the ignorance of those implementing the policy. Google needs to jump on this customer service issue quickly – warnings and a more detailed appeal process are the minimum requirements here.

My second concern is a more general one, and touched upon briefly by Stilgherrian in his post – I am always disappointed when developers implement validation / limited options for personal identification based on their own very limited world experiences. In Stilgherrian’s case this has come in the form of Google expecting all names to be of the minimum form FirstName LastName. My personal experience of encountering this massive pain is when I am given a limited set of options for password recovery questions.

I have a pension with Standard Life, and a few months back I was unable to log into their website. Was this down to a technical fault? No, this was down to their fuckwittery. They had recently implemented a need to have password recovery questions, so upon logging in you would be presented with a choice of say 15 from which you had to select 5. It was impossible to continue without selecting these questions. Now, ignoring the general flaws that come with these sorts of questions when they offer such obvious social engineering solutions, we would expect that they are offered such that the user can remember them without having to write down an answer somewhere. They are a fact of identity that you should always be able to recall, right?

Wrong. I was presented with a selection of questions where I could at most guarantee an answer to 2. From 15. The rest were either not applicable to the way I was brought up, or so obscure that it would take me as long to find the answer as any external party! I by no means have had an unusual upbringing, but as an army brat I spent a lot of my youth shifting around the world. That’s not a problem unique to children of those in the services. Unfortunately, this means I didn’t fit into Standard Life’s world view. As far as I could tell, they expect everyone to have grown up in once place, know all of their family, have vivid memories of the street they first lived in and, by golly, you better have had a house that had a number rather than a name otherwise you’ll be in trouble.

Some might say that you could just find a question that’s close enough to something you could answer, but are you really going to remember that 5 months down the line when it’s needed? Or maybe you could write it do …. no, wait, that’s just dumb. So please, if you have to implement such a system in anything you build, spare a thought for the poor bastards who have to use it and, above all, do some real testing. With real users. Find your most exotic friend to run it by. Even better, run it by a cynic. They will point out what could go wrong with your system – it may be an extreme view, but why not be prepared? You can and you should.

 

Damn it man, I’m an engineer, not an artist

I’ve really just thrown this site together using the first WordPress theme that caught my eye (Suffusion in case it wasn’t obvious from the footer).  As I navigate it myself a bit more, I’ve realised I need to put some effort in to the layout and the look.  I should be able to achieve this through the theme settings, but it’s also going to need a bit more visual taste than I possess.  This really could pose a problem when it comes to game art as well … ho hum.

 

What’s in a name?

I’ve owned this  domain for a few years now without actively using it beyond the occasional bit of hacking around.  My intention has always been to use it to manage data about projects I’m working on in my own time, or even to become a project in its own right.  The name floor4 goes back to my digs in my first year of uni.  The staircase I lived in was affectionately known as the ghetto, and I was on the top (4th) floor.  I lucked out and had a really decent bunch of people on the floor, most of whom I’ve managed to stay good friends with since then.  That time has left me with some excellent memories, and so I’ve always wanted to develop any personal work under that name.  What I’m not really sure of yet is whether it should be floor4, floor 4, Floor4, FloorFour, etc. … I think that decision will come with time when I get round to designing a first logo, although I lean towards floor4 as it’ll cope with any case sensitivity or need for alphanumeric characters.

And now a quick progress update.  As I anticipated, it’s not easy for me to find time to work on this project.  Work is keeping me pretty busy, and when I do get home I want nothing more than to sleep!  To get myself kicked off I’ve been reading Beginning Android Games by Mario Zechner of Badlogic Games.  Starting to wish I’d bought it as an eBook so I could read it on the tube on my Kindle, but everything’s obvious with hindsight.  The books seems good so far for getting me into the mindset of creating a framework for Android game development, which is exactly what I wanted.  When I’m done with it I’ll try to get a quick review up.  I’ve also been delving into the standard dev guide which is also proving to be an excellent resource.  So, with a couple of designs knocking around in my head, development should be starting soon on some of the simpler ones.  Other than that, I’ve got a few blog posts on my backlog, but some of those are going to take some research before they’re complete (I want to look into the tax implications of publishing Android apps).

 

The Mission

I should really start by explaining what I’m trying to do here and why.  This will partly serve as information for anyone unfortunate enough to be wasting precious minutes reading this blog. More importantly it’ll act as a reminder to myself and encourage me not to leave this project by the wayside.

First some background.  I first started working with software a little over 11 years ago, before I went to uni (I’m discounting time spent before that playing with BASIC on old ZXs and BBCs). I studied Engineering and Computing Science for the next four years, but my plans to do something useful over that time were tempered by copious amounts of alcohol.  When I left university I got an IT job in London working for a bank.  The job primarily involved application development for various in house systems.  Different projects gave me a chance to knock around with different business logic, programming languages and technologies.  I’ve since moved into project management so don’t get to do development any more, unless you count the occasional times I feel the need to write some VBA.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my job.  I get to work with some great people and, as a problem space, the financial industry is fascinating.  I don’t, however, feel like I’m involved with proper development.  Actually, that’s a rather unfair assesment.  I work with a lot of great developers and it is proper development.  I guess what I’m getting at is that it’s a very restrictive environment, on top of which I personally don’t get my hands dirty in code any more.

So that gives a lead in to the “why” part of this post.  I want to get back to some development, and the Android platform seems perfect for that.  On top of this, I wouldn’t mind seeing if I can monetise that effort which will help motivate me to keep going.  I’m going to be doing this in my spare time, which I don’t normally see a lot of as it is, so I need a goal.  While that goal is still fairly vague, the overall framework is there: create apps, make some cash out of them.

With a loose target like that, the “what” is a bit harder.  Android apps?  Check.  Android apps I can monetise somehow?  Hmmmm.  The actual form these apps will take?  Not a clue at this stage!  My first steps are going to be playing with the Android SDK to see what’s possible, off the back of which I’ll hopefully start coming up with some design concepts.  After that it’s just a matter of working out how make them work for me, whether through ad driven revenue or single app purchases.  Come on, if those monkeys on The Apprentice can do it then surely I stand a chance!

 

Hello World!

Well, time to finally get my arse in gear and start some Android development.  I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but procrastination is just so damn easy!  Anyway, I’ll be logging my progress and thoughts in this blog as I go.  App designs are still a bit early to write about, but I’ll start off soon with a post about my development environment.  Not that you care.