Dynamics of the Play Store

The first time I saw an Android Phone was in 2008 during the OSDC Conference in Sydney where one of the presenter from Google had a development phone with him that he showed to some of us. I remember people saying “sure Google making a mobile phone, dont waste my time…”. Guess I don’t need to tell the rest of the story almost 10 years later.

Soon after the conference in early 2009 the HTC Dream (or called G1 in some countries) was launched to public as first developer phone, I ordered one from Google because I was excited about a platform that you could develop for without buying in into a commercial platform. At that time the coding was possible with Netbeans or some Eclipse plugins and some manual tinkering and configuration, in 2010 I created the first application for the so-called Android Market to play with the physics of the release process.

I still have the HTC Dream, unfortunately not in a working condition anymore,  I bought the next developer phone in 2010, the Google Nexus One which was running Android Eclaire.

2017-11-26 16_50_05-T-Mobile_G1_launch_event_2.jpg (JPEG Image, 1346 × 1082 pixels)

Android HTC Dream 2009

The Android Market was still in its infancy, a mix of hello-world, irrelevant apps and spam all over the place. The whole platform was dominated by individual developers and not by major players. Below a 3 day statistics screenshot I made in 2010, you can see the numbers did not change significantly, in 1 day 40 apps where added, now it around 2000 to 4000 new apps a day. My app did show up in the “new app” section, something impossible to achieve today.

2017-11-26 17_02_27-statistics.ods - Excel

Android Market 2010

Anyway, it was and it continues to be an interesting experience, though I find it a pity it is so hard to get an independent created app get noticed.

Bck to today, I did some experiments with a new app that I just released. Getting my hands dirty with NFC development, I released a simple app, it it supposed to read NFC tags, the early version does nothing but checking if the hardware supports NFC, that’s a Java/Android no-brainer, a one method call. I invented an app name that did not exist in Google Search, I call it “NFCheckR” for the sake of finding out how fast it appears in the market and in Search. The first release is public within 2 hours on the Google Play, a day later it can be searched in both Google Play and Google Search. The search rank no. 1 is a link to the Google Play followed by dozens of links to dodgy third party sites offering the apps for download, obviously mirroring the Google Play site. Some of them offering weird descriptions as well. It claims it got 90 votes and 5 ratings, despite having only a single (1) download so far (which is no wonder, there are at least a 100 NFC tools).

2017-11-26 17_47_15-Clipboard

Google Search

 

The sites claim the app would run on Windows, Mac and other platforms. I recommend NOT to download from any of these sites !

2017-11-26 17_45_43-Download NFCheckR For PC Windows and Mac APK 0.1 - Free Tools Apps for Android

NFCheckR at third party website


History Lane

One of the first emails from Android Market:

2017-11-27 15_56_40-Clipboard

Android Market 2009

 

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Read My Boarding Pass App

In the previous blog post I discussed the underlying standards of the BCBP (Bar Coded Boarding Pass) following IATA Reso 792. Today I will built an Android mobile app that scans the PDF417 barcode and shows the raw content as well the decoded fields.

The are 3 main challenges for building the app, scanning/reading the barcode and decoding the text to individual attributes and as last, not to use any internet connection (to assure the user the users privacy and avoid any potential identity theft discussions)

As we build a native Android app we can rely on third party libraries to scan and decode barcodes. There is a number of commercial libraries in the market, but as I build a free app I will use the zxing-android-embedded library, which is a port of the ZXing (“Zebra Crossing”) barcode scanning library for Android with added embedding features, ZXing only provides the decoding logic. Both are licensed under Apache 2.0, ZXing can decode all the common types, such as EAN-8, EAN-13, UPC, ITF, PDF417, QRCode, Aztec, Data Matrix and a few more.

Integration Barcode Library ZXing

With the library the integration becomes as simple as adding a few lines of code only.

Add the dependency to the build gradle file

dependencies {
    compile fileTree(dir: 'libs', include: ['*.jar'])
    androidTestCompile('com.android.support.test.espresso:espresso-core:2.2.2', {
        exclude group: 'com.android.support', module: 'support-annotations'
    })
    compile 'com.android.support:appcompat-v7:25.3.1'
    compile 'com.android.support.constraint:constraint-layout:1.0.2'
    testCompile 'junit:junit:4.12'

    compile 'com.journeyapps:zxing-android-embedded:3.5.0'
}

Trigger the scan and read the result

public void scanCode(View view){
        new IntentIntegrator(this).initiateScan();
    }

    @Override
    protected void onActivityResult(int requestCode, int resultCode, Intent data) {
        IntentResult result = IntentIntegrator.parseActivityResult(requestCode, resultCode, data);
        if(result != null) {
            if(result.getContents() == null) {
                System.out.println("Scan failed or cancelled.");
            } else {
                System.out.println(result.getContents());
            }
        } else {
            super.onActivityResult(requestCode, resultCode, data);
        }
    }

For now, the app (“ReadMyBoP – Read My Boarding Pass”) does nothing but scan the barcode, identify if it is a valid boarding pass barcode, display the raw content and makes the content more human-readable. You can download from Google Playstore. It works with Android 4.1 and above.
There is one extra feature for now, it decodes the IATA fare codes (First, business, economy classes and the various discounted codes, it follows IATA Reso 728 if you want to look for the complete codeset.

Decoding the Raw Text

Given the fact, this is a fixed-length field text, it is no big deal to split the relevant info by substring’ing it using the decoding table that we started in the previous post. As basic validation we can use the mandatory “M” on position 1 and a length of not less than 59 characters (mandatory fields).

# Element Mandatory Size Sample Remark
1 Format Code M 1 M Always “M”
2 Number of legs encoded M 1
3 Passenger Name M 20
4 Electronic Ticket Indicator M 2 E
5 Operating carrier PNR Code M 7
6 Origin IATA Code M 3 FRA Airport Code
7 Destination IATA Code M 3 SIN Airport Code
8 Operating carrier IATA Code M 3 LH Airline
9 Flight Number M 5 3456
10 Date of Flight M 3 280 Julian Date
11 Compartment Code M 1 B First, Business, Economy
12 Seat Number M 4 25A
13 Check-in Sequence Number M 5 0012
14 Passenger Status M 1 00
15 Size of optional Block M 2 5D hexadecimal
16 Start Version Number 1 > Always “>”
17 Version Number 1 5
18 Field Size of follow ing structured message 2
19 Passenger Description 1
20 Source of check-in 1
21 Source of Boarding Pass Issuance 1
22 Date of Issue of Boarding Pass (Julian Date) 4
23 Document Type 1
24 Airline Designator of boarding pass issuer 3
25 Baggage Tag Licence Plate Number 1 13
26 Baggage Tag Licence Plate Number 2 13
27 Baggage Tag Licence Plate Number 3 13
28 Field Size of follow ing structured message 2
29 Airline Numeric Code 3
30 Document Form/Serial Number 10

Is there a roadmap ? For sure, if I find the time I will add the optional fields, an airline and airport code dictionary (must check the size of a local sqllite db if we want to stay offline). Maybe add baggage tag reader feature and local barcode image storage for boarding. Stay tuned !

readmybop1.2

Application Disclaimer: The application is for educational and research purpose. It is provided as-is, no warranty included. It does not transmit data over the internet and does not store any data upon exiting the app.

Singapore JUG Update

Last monday we met for the third time. 15 people showed up following in a relaxed 2 hours on these topics:

  • Servlet 3.0 (part of EE6) by Chuk
  • JVM based languages Clojure, Scala bu Chuk (guess more to come soon once the he add the other languages)
  • Pomodoro Time Management by me
  • Netbeans, Cobertura, Hudson hands-on by me

You want to join ? Next meetup not yet scheduled. Drop by ww.meetup.com/JUG-Singapore

News: Android, ZK, Motorola

  • Android SDK 1.5r3
    Without big announcements the third release of the SDK is available for download at android.com (link)
  • Motorola goes Android
    Despite (or maybe because of) its declining mobile business Motorola starts a new platform for Android support coming with tools (still in beta), marketplace and more. The tool are available only for Windows and Mac OSX. Find more infos at MOTODEV (link).
  • Singapore Android usergroup
    A dedicated group with regular meetups and own website (link)
  • ZK 5
    We are getting closer to major release 5 by Potix. You can find some general info at zkss.org (link). A preview version is also available for download (link).

Jazoon 2009: Day 1

The opening session of day 1 of this years Jazoon conference (which seems to be no.2 in size following Javapolis, now called Devoxx) was opened with a keynote by James Gosling (wiki link), the famous brain behind or father of Java. An impressive person and it is an unique experience to hear him talking live, even I am sure he is used to this publicity fuzz, treated like a rockstar (take note of the book Secrets of Rockstar Programmers by Ed Burns that also covers James Gosling).

Further tracks I attended:

  • Dierk Koenig (author of Groovy in Action) on Usage Patterns for Groovy (link). Who is not looking yet at Groovy should be doing so soon.
  • Design Pattern in Dynamic Languages by Neal Ford (blog).
  • Hand Dockter about the build-system Gradle (link). The build system without stable release yet, tries to find its place somewhere in the ANT and MAVEN landscape offering some more dynamic features.
  • Next generation Builds for Enterprise Systems with Maven, Hudson, Nexus and more by Jason van Zyl (bit too complex and too many features for me)
  • Java Rule Engines. ILog versus Drools. A short overview.

Keynote by Neal Ford on how to stay up-to-date with technology and predict upcoming hits and flops. This is my third time I joins his sessions on various topics. He is definetly very experienced and entertaining presenter. Followed by Ivar Jacobson (one of the 3 amigos, link) on agile and smart methodology/strategies.

More info on Jazoon 2009 at jazoon.com.

Virtualization

There is a couple of virtualization products out there. Besides Virtualbox fron SUN (link), we have VMWare (link) that offers the Player and the Server edition for free. These are great tools to run separate OS or separate “virtual” machines as server or clean environments. If you run several of them concurrent a 64bit version of Windows and more memory makes sense.

I also recommend to drop by..
a) the virtual appliances marketplace with tons of pre-build servers and OS (link)
b) JumpBox (link) with a variety of pre-build applications (like BugZilla in a box)

You can save quite some time if you either want to evaluate a product without installing or use without worrying too much about the installation process.

I have a openSolaris, Fedora9 and Windows2003 Server always on standby for testing, as well running a wiki, bugtracking,.. on it.