User feedback

I often hear other app developers mention how if they want to get depressed they just need to read some of their app reviews. Well I just wanted to share some of the lovely sentiments I often get from my ToDo List Widget app. I knocked up a little python script to scrape the reviews for my app and generate a list of words which can be easily converted into a tag cloud using

Thanks all!

Open sourcing the ToDo List Widget

I have recently taken the step to open source my ToDo List Widget app which is something I'd been thinking about doing for a while now. My interest in furthering development has lessoned now that the app has obtained a reasonable number of features. Several users have also expressed an interest in modifying the code themselves. Finally as I'm in the android game partly due to the underlying Open Source philosophy, I thought rather then hold the code back, I should jump on the open source train and give others the opportunity to play around with it.

I investigated several different licensing options. I want people to be able to modify and extend the code as they wish, as long as I get proper attribution. I also don't want people making money off my hard work; the app is free to Android users and I'd like the software to stay that way. In the end I've gone with the most widely used GPL (version 3) license. As an added incentive the Android source code is released under the Apache 2.0 license which is itself compatible with GPL v3.0.

The code and all resource files can be found on my GitHub account.

Feel free to fork the code if you wish and push back any changes you make.

Happy coding!

Installing Ubuntu on a Macbook Air from a USB stick

I've been trying to install Ubuntu 10.04.1 (Lucid Lynx) on my first generation Macbook Air (MacBookAir1,1). Without a superdrive I needed to install the OS from a USB stick. It turned out to be a reasonably difficult thing to do so I though I'd document my steps here. The nice thing with this method is that it lets you run Ubuntu on your laptop first without having to install it and potentially damaging anything (try-before-you-buy).

Top Open Source Software

At work we occasionally get together and do a show-n-tell of some of the websites & software we use everyday. I thought it would be a good idea to spread the word on this site as well. Here is a list of the tools that I use almost everyday and, more importantly, they are all completely free and open source!

Behind every great Android app...

 ... is an even better website (and behind all of my apps is Drupal)!

As a long time programmer I have dabbled in quite a few web frameworks over the years (and written more then enough sites from scratch). In the last couple of years I've become quite an advocate of the Drupal CMS. When it came to developing my Android apps I needed a website to support them. Users need a place to go to find out more then can be said in the 325 characters allowed on the Android market. In addition to letting me provide more descriptions, images, videos etc, I also wanted to better manage my apps. I needed a vehicle to help me keep track of app version numbers and change logs. I wanted something that would allow users to contact me, let me host a simple blog and help me publicise my work.

I chose Drupal for it's flexibility. Not only does it allow me to do all the above, but I can also integrate my apps with the website in the following ways:

  • Crash reports from my apps are posted automatically to my website (and from there emailed to me) allowing me to quickly and easily fix bugs - although finally Android 2.2 has go round to offering the same support automatically via the developer console
  • Having a separate changelog page for each release of an app lets the app query the website and find out if there is a newer version available (again a feature that has been superseded by the latest versions of android).
  • When an app is updated, the next time it runs, it pulls the changelog from the website and shows it to the user - this means I only need to record the changes for a given app in a single place.

There are many more possibilities to having a flexible website to back your application. For instance I could quite easily enable a feature-request/user voting forum along the same lines as UserVoice, or maybe even surface content from within Drupal directly into the App itself.

I think most developers find that the Android market just isn't enough. To remain engaged with, and fully inform your user community requires the services of more then just the market. For me at least, Drupal + Android is the perfect combination.

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