Archive for February, 2008

Donating for freeware

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

If I’ve ever talked to you about Windows Mobile, the chances are I’ve probably mentioned my wiki note-taking app. Of all of the bits of mobile code hacking that I’ve done, it is the one that (a) I dont seem to shut up about, and (b) has been one of my most popular*.

The app has been around for over a year now, and gets downloaded from about 1000 – 1700 unique IP addresses each month (Plus a few thousand more from mirrors on freeware sites).

The forum set up for users to report bugs and request features has over sixty active users.

And I generally get emails from 20 or 30 other people with requests each month who don’t want to use the forum for whatever reason.

I’ve even had emails from people using the app far more than I ever envisaged: people who are using the wiki as a work intranet wiki, installing a copy for each of their staff; people who use the wiki to maintain and develop websites; and more.

It would seem that there is an audience and a demand for this app.

Nearly a year ago, I decided to try a little experiment to see how this demand would translate into people prepared to pay for it.


Writing a mobile password manager

Thursday, February 7th, 2008

I miss developing mobile apps. With the exception of the never-ending tweaks and revisions to my mobile wiki app, I’ve not done any mobile development in weeks. (Is it very sad that I missed it? 😉 )

Until tonight. Hurrah – back to playing with fun stuff.

One of the things I typically want to use on my phone is a mobile password manager – particularly as I do more web browsing on my phone, and mobile browsers like Pocket Internet Explorer and Opera Mobile don’t remember passwords.

I’ve tried several existing password managers – I’ve even paid for a couple, like eWallet (love the way it shows credit card details to look like a pretend credit card) and SplashID (always loved the desktop version). But I never found one that I really liked. At the moment, I’m back to storing passwords in a text file, and using mobile Notepad to access it.

There were problems with all of them…

One-handed or stylus-free navigation is bad – Teeny-tiny controls. Drop-down lists that you need to not only touch the screen to open, but then scroll up and down in. Basically, take a look at a design doc like this and do the opposite of pretty much everything 🙂

Too many clicks/presses to get to a password – SplashID for example: to get a website password, you touch the screen to open the category drop-down list, touch the screen to scroll to the “Web Logins” category, scroll through the list to the website you want, touch the screen to select it, press the “Tools” button, then press “Unmask Fields”. Too much.

No clipboard access – Unforgivable, this one. I like to use randomly generated passwords where possible. Once you’ve used the fiddly controls, and gone through all the steps, you can see the password on the screen – hurrah! Can you copy it to the clipboard for pasting into a web form? Nope. Even Ctrl-C / Ctrl-X / Ctrl-V don’t work – and most apps at least leave that basic Windows clipboard support in. So you have to remember your password after reading it. And with my passwords, that’s a pain. I used to find a scrap of paper, and write it down to make it quicker to type back in. So secure(!)

Actually, to be honest, even after all that, the final straw that stopped me using SplashID was the fact that it’s sync plugin consistently hosed my ActiveSync. Not only would it not sync, but it’d crash ActiveSync and stop everything else from syncing too. The day I uninstalled SplashID, my phone became a million times more useful from that alone!

This was all enough of an excuse to try throwing together my own password manager.


Me & U

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

I don’t often blog about work that we do in Solent Youth Action. Not sure why. Perhaps because the best stuff we achieve isn’t normally something tangible I can pick up and show people.

But today it is – because today I got a proof copy of a booklet that we’ve produced that I wanted to share.

Me & U (“My Emotions Understood”) is a project we’ve been running with the Brookvale Youth Mental Health Team. The idea was to work with young people who have experienced mental health illnesses and support them to write a book of thoughts and poetry that could raise awareness of mental health issues. Through the production of the booklet, we supported the young people to try and explain the emotional experience of a young person with mental health issues.

They’ve managed to produce a stunning booklet that is as moving as it is informative. It’s an amazing achievement and, I think, very unique.

When I try and explain what “Solent Youth Action” does, people sometimes find that it isn’t what they might have first expected from a youth volunteering charity. I’ve blogged before that “volunteering” can take many forms, and this is another fantastic example.


Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

the "matter" box arrivesI signed up to matter a little while ago. It’s a service where you sign up to be sent promotional stuff.

If you look at their website or their blog, they don’t really describe themselves like that. They talk about it as a “communications channel” between consumers and advertisers, and they talk about the “brand experience”. In fact, they say pretty much everything except “we’ll give you free stuff”.

even before it's opened, she likes it :-)In the lead up to today, they’ve talked a lot about the care they’ve been taking to select interesting things that “you’ll want to keep”. Even so, my hopes weren’t very high. This is all free, so I was a little sceptical how good the stuff would be. Today, the pilot matter box arrived.