Get off my lawn.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Android Paid App Support is here

After a long wait, the Android Market is now taking applications that cost money.

I've been waiting for this event with some interest. The Android platform has a lot of powerful features. Coupled with a phone equipped like the T-Mobile G1, it's a pretty good combination. The phone has more in the way of sensors and communication options than the average laptop. Together, they make a great platform for innovation.

Up to now, the main limitation for Android (at least in my opinion) has been the lack of support for paid applications. Most developers with great ideas aren't going to just release their applications into the world for free. The satisfaction of writing great software is nice and all, but being rewarded financially for your efforts as a developer is nice too. I think it's crucial, actually. I can't think of any other industry where anything good has been built and just given away for free.

So anyway, I was waiting for this with some anticipation. I was curious as to what I would see once paid-app support was added. Universal Translators? Apps that turn your phone into a neck massager? Something to attract and destroy mosquitoes while you're out camping? There are a lot of possibilities. I was thinking a whole raft of ground-breaking applications would appear along with paid-app support.

Boy, was I ever right! Browsing through the Entertainment section of the Android Market just now, I found no less than 12 different apps to play fart sounds. There's "Pull My Finger", "FartTools", "iFart", "PhartDroid", the list goes on and on. It's a veritable gold mine of digitized flatulence. Also, there are some apps that make gun sounds, one that swears, another that lets you develop your own "yo mama" jokes, and one that goes "waaaaaa."

If you ever doubted the potential of the mobile-computing movement, or the power of the Android platform, doubt no further. If Captain James T. Kirk happened upon an alien planet where this kind of technology existed, he would crap his pants. Actually, he would probably do a sensor sweep of the planet, determine that everyone had some kind of horrible stomach disorder, and lob a couple of photon torpedoes at the surface to put the population out of their misery.

Oh, also: I put a paid version of Ring Control out. It's called "RingControl (Full Version)", which I think has a nice ring to it. It does the same thing Ring Control the elder did, except it also lets you specify certain numbers to always ring the phone whether the phone is on vibrate/silent, and also has an option to keep the phone screen on during a call. The screen is dimmed, and you can shake the phone to wake it up to full brightness. I'm thinking of adding a feature to make farting sounds when you plug something into the USB port, just to keep it cutting-edge.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Greed: Another update

Another update just went up for Greed, and it contains several updates and fixes.

The updates are as follows:

UI update for feed list and folder list:

There wasn't really much point in those big radio buttons on the feed and folder lists, which is Android's default "single-select list" look and feel. They probably do that since it would look lame if there was nothing on a list item besides text. So I updated the feed and folder list items so they have little icons depicting their status, and they display in bold if there are unread items.

Also, both lists have headers now so you can click to show all feeds (or labels), or only those with unread items.

Hmmm, actually, that's it for the updates. The rest were bug fixes:

Force-close errors when returning from the browser:

This should actually be called "force-close errors in low-memory scenarios", since that's what was causing the problem. Greed now handles this situation the right way, and doesn't blow up when you return from a big fat browsing session.

Empty "Updated Feeds" list:

When you got a notification from Greed about new news items, you'd click on the notification to be presented with an empty list. Sometimes. It was annoying, and should be fixed now.

No notifications:

Because of the way Greed was handling "unread counts" updates, it was failing to notify when a feed was updated, until it had more than one unread item.

Anyway, have fun.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Greed quick mid-week update

I just put a new version of Greed out.

The main thing in this release is that Greed clears the WebView's cache when you're done reading a feed item. This keeps Greed's size down to around 760K, whereas before it was showing up as large as 7MB!

Also in this update:

  • Mark all items as read within a folder (not just in a feed).
  • Mark all items in all feeds as read.
  • Mark all items in all labels as read.
  • Fix crash when selecting "mark all as read" in the article list, then immediately exiting.
  • Update notification: Next time there's a new version of Greed available, you'll be notified.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Greed Update: Notifications

I just put out another update to Greed, and this one supports a few items that people have been asking for.


Aside from the ability to mark all items in a feed as read, this was the most-requested feature. You can set Greed to notify you when any feed is updated, or only for specific feeds.

If you want to be notified whenever any feed is updated, go into the settings from the main screen and make sure that "Notify on any feed" is selected.

If you only want to be notified when specific feeds are updated, make sure the above setting is turned off. Then, go into the Feed list (main screen->Feeds), and long-touch a feed item. A context menu will appear with an item labeled "Notify on updates". To turn updates for a given feed off, long-touch an item in the Feed list, and select "Stop notifying."

You can set Greed to start checking for new feed items when the phone boots, by selecting "Start on Boot" in the settings. The "Poll Interval" option controls how often Greed checks for new feed items. As with anything like this, more conservative settings are easier on the battery. If you set it to check for updates every minute, it will work your device harder and use more battery power. Unless you're a real hound for news updates, I would suggest an interval of at least 30 minutes (the default).

Mark all as read:

This feature has been in Greed for a while, but people didn't seem to notice it due to its location in the UI. You can long-touch a feed in the Feed list and select "mark feed as read" from the context menu. As of this update, you can also select the "Mark all as read" item from the options menu from within the article list.

At this point, I'm not sure it's possible to mark all of the items in a folder as read. If it is possible, I'll add that feature in the next update.

Caching almost made it into this update. The feature is actually there, but it's turned off for now. Once I stabilize it, an update will appear with the ability to cache feeds and read them offline. If nothing else, I'll make it an option you can set in the preferences.

Other updates:

  • The Folders list now displays a count of unread items for each Folder.
  • A few efficiency improvements.

In Greed's "About" box, you'll notice some information about donating. I'm experimenting with this idea to see if it's a viable way to of supporting Greed's (and other apps') future development.

I like this approach more than just making applications you have to pay for in order to use. The reason is mainly because in order to make a paid application, you can't just put a price tag on it and expect people to pay for it. You usually have to spend a couple of weeks making modifications to an app to create a "free version" and a "paid version". This usually takes the form of limiting features, and building nag screens or other enticements into the free version to incite people to pay you for the app. It complicates the application, and results in one version that's annoying to use, and another one you have to pay for. Then, you have to think about "piracy" and other BS.

I'd rather just build an app the way I want, and keep improving it if I can tell it's worth the effort to do so.