App Seminar (Pekay’s Little Author & Many More)

SquareSquareFirst up we have Square, a mobile payment solution that includes a credit card reader & an app. Hey it's a smart solution, it uses the sound jack. If I got it correctly from the presentation, the device translate the magnetic strip data into sound first before decoding it back into ones and zeroes. For this itself this app deserves a "star". Here's a promo video for Square.

The team mentioned that someone managed to crack the app in BlackHat. I wonder how did they do it? Did they build they own card reader? The team also mentioned that they did try to sniff the packets by using wireshark. But somehow it doesn't work because Square uses RAW sockets (whatever that is, it's supposed to be secure).

Square charges 2.75% as commission for each swipe. Hey, they even have a promo video for this flat rate feature.

However according to their analysis, it might be cheaper to use Square for the initial $4500, but conventional POS services is more cost-effective afterwards. I think this analysis only applies to particular situation where a vendor can actually support a POS setup. Mobile vendors, house-call doctors, artists etc wouldn't have the luxury of setting up a POS on-the-go, therefore, I still think Square is really revolutionary.

InClassInClassThis is supposed to be an app for you to take notes while you're in class. The first thing the team mentioned is that the app has a non-intuitive UI/UX. I have not personally used the app but according to my classmate Ajay, he downloaded and deleted the app in 15minutes. Come on, text cursor on the right? It doesn't help when it crashes very often too.

Other than fixing the UI/UX and crash bugs, the app could go a long way if it collaborated with educational institutions and integrates with online books stores. IMHO, it's good to have many integrated features. But I guess that has to be shelve for the far future. The app needs to iron out the kinks and garner a strong user base first. If not it'll end up like many feature-bloated Microsoft products.

During the Q&A, Blackboard was mentioned. I took a glimpse of Blackboard Learn and it looks like a generic version of NUS IVLE.

Oh ya, I quite like the presentation style. Not many words, simple and straight-to-the-point pictures.
PulseNewsPulse NewsI'm sold. After just 2 mins into the presentation, I've downloaded the app on my GSII and started using it. And it actually integrates with Read it Later, Instapaper etc. I'm sold. I like the intuitive UI and mosaic layout. The best part is it integrates well with Google Reader and Facebook. Sadly it doesn't really recognize Google Reader "labels" thus I can't really insert the whole CS3216-2011 RSS as a source.

The team mentioned about the inability to customize the layout. IMHO, I think it's very much a design decision, inspired by Apple iOS perhaps? Another drawback the team mentioned is that the search is not optimized. One day into using the app, I realized that I didn't even touch the search function, their recommended list is sufficient for me. Maybe I'll grumble in the future when I need to use the search feature.

Some of the possible further implementation mentioned include
  • Text-to-speech
  • "Donate Now" button. Actually I will donate if the premium features adds value to my life.
  • Braille version. Now I think this is really pushing it too far. It's not even sure how a capacitive touch screen device can implement braille. But if the app really does manage to do it, it'll be a big hit.

  • As of now, it is not possible to customize the layout. Now I think this is very much a design decision. The unique selling point of this app is the mosaic layout. Personally I think the dark theme is also intentional. Dark surrounding gives focus to the subject content.

  • Search is not optimize. This one is true. It just gives me one whole chunk of unfiltered information. I guess with good recommendation subscriptions, search become less of a priority feature.

Possible implementation mentioned by the team:
  • Text-to-speech. Not too sure how popular this will be as I have never really used those text-to-speech features in apps. Reading is faster.

  • Ask for donatation button. Prof. Ben mentioned that it is not that good a model. But actually if the app is real good, adds value to my life, and it's free, I would donate to support a fellow developer.

  • Braille version. Are you serious? How is Braille gonna work on a touchscreen?

Presentation: 7/10 (i want to give more since i'm sold at the idea of the app (android support), but the team tried a bit too hard at the beginning by trying to suan Ben & Nescafe (dry humour?))

FlipboardFlipboardPersonalize social magazine. After the seminar I've started using Flipboard. By far I think this is the best looking news reading app out there. Too bad it doesn't support Android.

  • Curate your own list. Is it something like labels? I can think of its potential, especially if the nature of your work involves research and reading a lot of online articles. It'll be great if you can collate them as an archive.

  • The team mentioned that the feedback system is good. But from the looks of it it's a getsatisfaction integration. I've seen many sites using getsatisfaction including major brands. But I don't think it's inherently the app's feature.

  • No Cache clearing function. The team mentioned that it accumulate up to 5GB on the iPad after just one month of usage. For a 16GB model, that is like 30%, quite a lot.

  • This is from me. No android support!!!
Doodle BuddyDoodle BuddyMy group did the presentation on Doodle Buddy. In my opinion, It is precisely this type of app that even a 2 years old knows can operate what makes iPad so revolutionary successful. Otherwise it's just a bigger screen iPhone, another luxury device for geeks.

Night StandNight Stand HDMusic Alarm? My experience with my new SGS2 is that the battery life is seriously low and the alarm didn't rang because the battery went dead. Not too sure about iPad's battery life.

  • Multi-app integration - Twitter, Facebook, etc. Ok this sounds attractive, but with Flipboard, PulseNews and all, why would I want to use this?

The team mentioned that stability is something the app can improve upon. IMO, if it's gonna be an alarm clock, better make sure stability is at the top of the priority list.

Commercial Potential
  • 18 million likes on FB. This is no small feat. Maybe there's a market out there for multi-app integration?

  • $1.99

  • In-app purchase

Presentation: 6/10 (didn't prepare enough? Manage to answer the questions well though)
The Sims SocialThe Sims Social (Beta)It's quite awesome that the group actually decide on this app. I remember I jumped on it and straight away started playing when I saw "The Sims". I remember playing Sim City on DOS, tried to play SimCity 3000 on my computer although it lags a lot. I remember my computer cannot support The Sims.

In any case, I think social interaction for simulation games is the future. I've blogged about it briefly in my City of Wonder post. But I think The Sims Social manage to integrate the social interaction pretty well, although there are still a long way to go until it is truly real-time. Then it will very much be like Second Life. I remember trying Second Life, not sure why I didn't continue. Maybe too open ended?

What's worth mentioning is that due to the unnatural growth 20million players in 3 weeks. I happen to be one of the unlucky ones to NOT being able to play the game for 5 days straight. Interestingly the game has so much attraction that I went to stalk the forums for hope to resume playing the game. Finally the engineers fixed the bugs and I got to play again. They even award me 150 Sims Cash as a compensation to my lost game time. Hooray!
Evernote Peek Evernote PeekWe had a quite interesting debate about whether there are any real use cases with the whole smart cover peeking feature. Then somehow we went on to discuss about physical book vs e-book.

Ben mention that ebooks will be the dominant reading format, and physical books will be cannibalized. Somehow I think so too, I believe that the familiarity of physical books is very much a learned habit rather than a fixed constant. It is very much an emotional attachment to books, that happened to be around ever since.... Gutenberg? Or was it since the Chinese invented paper?

In any case, as Ben mentioned, kids nowadays are already growing up surrounded by digital contents. Chances are kids might be more accustomed to e-books than real books.

Then Ben brought up last year's Chewy Chong's talk about "People are not like you". For some reason or another, I didn't seem to blog about the session. But thanks to Google Reader, these are some of the blogpost from my CS3216 (2010) classmates if you're interested.

  • Microsoft guy speaks up! (and makes us think)

  • Something to Chew Over

  • Marketing to Crack Whores and Kids
  • Pekay's Little Author Pekay's Little AuthorOk, last but not least, this is my assigned app for the seminar critique. For some reason, Murphy likes to be my friend. Of all the apps that I could have been assigned, it has to be "Pekay's Little Author". That is the only app that I did not have any notes taken down.

    Nevertheless, here an attempt to dig out subconscious memories of the said presentation.

    Ok, this is another app for children. It empower children to create storybooks by using template cartoon figures and pictures. It has a Facebook app and an iPad app. Interestingly the iPad app was fresh out of the oven somewhere at the end of August.

    Here's an official demo video.

    Let's start with the Facebook app, on first glance the UI is really atrocious for a children-targeted app. The buttons are splatter across the screen and the tabs doesn't draw attention. Furthermore, you have to actually click on the "My Page" tab, then "New Storybook" to create a new storybook. And eh, ugly IFrame scrollbars, go away! Talk about UX, ugh.

    From my experience trying out the app, this app is only usable if a parent is guiding the child while using the app. The storybook maker is quite powerful, you can even control the limbs of the cartoon characters. In addition, it seems you only have a limited set of template characters & stamps for the free version.

    The team mentioned that the developers should add sound, animation, rating system for storyboard. IMHO, I think they should spend more time cleaning up the UI/UX if they are serious about the children market.

    Pekay's Little Author (Facebook version) Screenshot

    One interesting note is that Facebook is for >13 years old. Of course no one can stop you from faking your age to register an account. But interestingly Pekay seem to have noticed that and thus they provide an Adobe AIR version for those <13 years old. Oh well, or you can purchase the iPad app for $5.99 instead.

    All in all, I can see what this app is trying to do and it's big potential and value-addedness for children. But seriously they should really invest more time cleaning up their UI/UX, a complete overhaul will be good.
    The order of presentation:
    1. Square
    2. InClass
    3. PulseNews
    4. Flipboard
    5. Doodle Buddy
    6. night stand
    7. VNC Viewer
    8. Sims Social
    9. Pekay’s Little Author
    10. Evernote Peek
    11. PDF Expert

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    Digital Preservation #digipres. IT guy at @AFA_Archive Asian Film Archive. Malaysian news. PC games.

    2 thoughts on “App Seminar (Pekay’s Little Author & Many More)”

    1. Sidenote: raw sockets basically means the app is crafting it’s own packets to send to the network, and not relying on the OS to encapsulate the data (eg. TCP, IP, Ethernet). Curious thing is I can’t quite see how this makes it more secure…

    What do you think?