follow.trail on iOS

Today my buddy Greg released his first iOS game follow.trail. It’s a puzzle game where you attempt to clear the game board of all the black and white tiles before reaching the end tile. If you succeed then you move onto the next level, and if you fail you restart. The levels start out easy and then get more and more difficult (natch). 

I was lucky enough to be a part of his beta test and am the current follow.trail world record holder at level 69.

The game is $3.49 Canadian (I think, since I bought it I can’t check the price), $2.99 US, and worth every penny. No in-app purchase, ads, or anything like that just a straight-ahead puzzle game.  There may be some promo codes still available in a Touch arcade thread if you want to grab the game for free. 

So if you have an iPhone check out follow.trail and support your local indie dev. 

Oh and there is no Android version (or rain).

Friday Evening Tech Thoughts

It’s Friday night and I find myself watching playoff hockey, on my own, for the first time in what must be over a decade. 

In between periods the commentators come on and begin to discuss the game so far. The sound is off because we had been putting the kids to bed so I have no idea what the men in suits are saying. What I do notice, however, is the sponsor: Hauwei. 

My how times have changed. A global Chinese tech brand, mostly known for smartphones in the west, is sponsoring NHL hockey on the Canadian Public Broadcasting network. Tech, smartphones in particular are mainstream. I remember a few years ago, maybe 5, when people in the tech community still struggled to pronounce Hauwei…

This, and a conversation I had with my podcast cohost Ben Rogers, got me thinking, after what seemed like dull Google I/O and Microsoft Build events about the current state tech:

  • It feels like we are in the tech hangover after the smartphone high.
  • We are desperately searching for another reason to party but nothing seems to be lighting things up yet.
  • Bots, smart watches promised a lot and delivered very little.
  • Virtual Reality, people were so convinced that it was the future but like smart watches consumers don’t seem to be buying.
  • Artificial intelligence, machine learning? Is this the new electricity or another iteration in the long history of AI promises and failures? (I do think AI has legs this time due to hardware increases)
  • Augmented reality? More VR? Where are the consumers aside from the initial Pokémon Go hysteria?
  • Ambient computing? Of all of the tech listed here this seems like it has the greatest chance in the short term, but for all the hype the Alexa has still sold less than 10 million units. 
  • I am writing this on an iPhone. 

Just some thoughts after a long stressful week at work. 

Also the Senators lost to Pittsburgh…

Mega Man

For some reason I’ve been playing a lot of retro video games lately instead of writing about, or podcasting about, technology. I still think about technology a lot, and work in the industry during the day, but I just haven’t found the time to work on it in the evenings .

One of my favourite games to revisit has been the original Mega Man series. Anyone that played on the original NES will remember Mega Man, probably Mega Man 2.

Just today I beat the original Mega Man for the first time. In lieu of a lengthy post extolling the virtues of Mega Man, here are some screen shots from my victory. I’m going to be working on setting up a live stream of my game play once I get some time.














I find myself alone on a Saturday morning programming

As the title says, I find myself with a precious few hours alone on a Saturday morning and I spend them eating in front of my old PC adding text alignment options to two of my Android apps: MemeToad and illuminate.

The good news is that it works:


The bad news is that I seem to have a programming problem.

Thoughts on the week of march 30th 2014

This last week as was a busy one, both professionally and personally. Lots of stuff going on.

Android in China

Lots of my brain power was spent thinking about Android in China again. I started off the week reading a blog post from December 2013 on the Intel Developer Zone site: Android in China: An Undiscovered App Market?

The blog cites some interesting numbers:

There are now over 270 million active daily Android users in China

It is the largest smartphone market on the planet.

  • Most Android device sales (52%) come from users upgrading to new Android phones; 48% are users purchasing a smartphone for the very first time
  • A large part of Android growth (45%) is focused in rural areas and small cities

Seems like a lot of the growth coming from first time users is coming from rural areas of China. The theory would be that many of these first time Android purchasers are actually buying their first computer every and going online for the first time using that Android device. This means Android is their primary (as in the the one that they learn on) platform.

The post also links to an article on ReadWriteWeb: 7 Things App Developers Don’t Know About the China Mobile Market (But Should) which has some interesting information especially in the income and payment department.

Xiaomi continues to do well

This comes from a post on Tech in Asia: Two Xiaomi phones crack top 10 rankings for global smartphone sales in February: report. This surprised me, I knew that Xiaomi was doing well, had expanded into Singapore and was looking to expand into India, but I didn’t think that any of it’s phones would crack the top ten.

Given that they seem to like flash sales and selling out all of their inventory I didn’t expect them to rank that high. I thought you’d see other Chinese companies like Huawei or ZTE up there instead, and maybe those manufactures sell more in terms of overall numbers, but those sales are spread out across many different devices, whereas Xiaomi sells fewer models. Xiaomi also tends to sell their devices at a low cost and make their money back with their services.

Note that there are only three companies in the top ten: Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi.

Microsoft’s Build Conference

Microsoft held their developer conference build last week and there were a few interesting things that came up during the keynotes. One was Microsoft’s desire to appeal to it’s .Net developer base, a base that has felt ignored by Microsoft over the last couple of years.

As a former MFC programmer I know what it’s like to feel left out in the cold as another newer technology (in my case .Net) is pushed forward. Since most of the .Net developers didn’t jump into Metro development (written in HTML5 I believe), keeping them happy makes sense. The thing about developers is that once they leave you behind, it takes a heck of a lot to win them back. Again I speak from experience here, we left MFC and have basically left Microsoft technologies behind.

There was also the demonstration of Windows 8.1 Update (Microsoft really has the worst names) and the next release code named Threshold. They showed an upcoming version of the once-dead Start Menu and the ability to run metro apps on the desktop in these weird floaty things called..umm….windows.

Paul Thurrott has some interesting thoughts on these changes: Updates to Windows 8.1 are a Step Forward, Not a Retreat but I remain puzzled by Windows 8 and the changes they are making. As I hinted at above aren’t these changes just the things that we have been using since Windows 3.1 or Windows 95? Why should we be impressed that there is Start Menu or that we have the ability to run certain apps as Windows? Especially windows…I get those in all desktop operating systems that I use. Strange.

It’s important to note that I have only used Windows 8 a handful of times on a desktop without a touchscreen so I’m just basing this on what I’ve read. It’s also important to note that I have almost no desire to use Windows 8, nothing there makes me want to upgrade anything.

Some thoughts on Mobile

If you are reading this then you probably know me, in which case you probably know that I am a computer programmer and that I spend my days doing android stuff for Andromo. Most of my job has been writing code that ends up in the apps that people build using Andromo, I’ve also written large parts of the builder code, and recently learnt some Ruby and helped out with the website redesign.

Another part of my job that I have really started focusing on since late last year was trying to help promote Andromo to a wider audience. The theory being that a larger audience for the product means more subscribers, which means higher revenue for us. A simple equation but I’ve found getting attention for Andromo to be more difficult then I originally thought.

I thought that this post was about mobile?

I’m getting there. One of the areas I targeted to help grown Andromo’s business was the non-English speaking world, specifically China to start and broadening my targets over time. Because of the population of China, and the dynamics (Google Play and many of Google’s services are not allowed in China) I thought that the Chinese market would be very interested in the apps that could be created with Andromo.

I was also interested by charts like these:

Photo by: charlesarthur
Photo by: charlesarthur

What I found, exploring the Chinese market, really surprised me. I found a mature ecosystem that had developed independently of Google Play and Google’s influence. Instead of one app store I found hundreds of app stores and companies like XiaomiWandoujia, and Tencent doing things in very western-startup sort of a way (especially Xiaomi <Looking to future growth, Xiaomi will build its own campus> and Wandoujia<Wandoujia, One Of China’s Leading App Stores, Lands $120M In New Funding Led By SoftBank>). Of course I had heard of these companies before having put a concerted effort into following the mobile tech world since we launched Andromo in 2011, but this was the first time I really looked at Huawei and ZTE and the rest.

Of course my interest and focus is late, people have been talking about China and smartphones for years. I’m focusing on it as the growth is actually going to be slowing down, only a 30% (I cannot remember when I read that) growth projected for 2014. But still look at the above graph and compare the yellow bar for China (or India) with that of my home country of Canada, we’re still taking about massive growth and massive potential. But how can we tap into that potential with a product like Andromo? I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Working on this at work has taught me a lot about the different markets around the world, but I still haven’t been very successful at getting things to happen. I’m not sure why exactly, it could be a language issue (our website is not translated into languages other than English neither are portions of the resulting app), it could be my approach, our product, or some combination of all three. I have managed to have some interesting email conversations with some of these companies, as well as the odd Skype meeting (which has been very interesting) but nothing concrete as of yet.

I close with a tweet that I think is great and sums up much of my feelings on the matter:

The astute among you will recognize both the chart and the tweet from a blog post I wrote a few weeks ago at work.


Back to Blogging

I’ve decided to restart the old blog. Took me all day with a sick kid to get wordpress installed, setup, and themed. Not done but it’s a start.