I’m probably one of the best kinds of customers. For starters I worked in retail for over 6 years so I know what I can do to make the process easier for everyone involved. More importantly though I usually spend an inordinate amount of time researching what product I want before heading out to the store or placing an order, meaning the sales/support people spend a whole lot less time with me, nabbing a sale without any kind of work whatsoever. Bearing all this in mind I don’t have a high tolerance for getting the bum steer when it comes to shopping online or in person but I’ll usually just take my business elsewhere instead of making a big deal about it.
Today however, I feel like making a fuss.
So there I was this morning, browsing my feed reader looking for inspiration as I usually do when I come across this post saying that Peggle, one of PopCap’s crack-like casual games, was free on the Amazon Android store for today only. Considering I shelled out for Plants vs Zombies on the iPhone and thoroughly enjoyed it I figured that whatever hoops Amazon made me jump through to get it would be worth it and would be a good candidate to test out my new Samsung Galaxy S II (review coming shortly!). So I hit up the web store and signed in using my Amazon account, downloaded the application, opened it up and hit the install button on Peggle. That’s when I received this lovely error:”The Amazon Appstore for Android is not yet available in your region”.
So after dicking around with Amazon’s unoptimized web interface (yeah they have an app but their website doesn’t seem to recognize Android devices), side loading their market app and inevitably handing over some personal information I’m not allowed to get the free application I sought after? Whilst I’m not an Android developer I’m pretty sure its easy to tell if a user is in a region where the app store is available before you make them download your application. In fact I’m so sure of this that I reckon it’s been done deliberately, forcing me to install their app store before telling me just so I don’t drop them completely once I found out that their free app du jour isn’t available to me. That’s what we call a bait and switch and that’s a real quick way for me to get the fuck out of there and never return.
I’ve bought stuff from Amazon in the past and had a good experience with them but this Android app store shenanigans has turned me off the idea of getting any application from them completely. If before I downloaded the application (which I did on my phone) they warned me that “You appear to be in Australia which we can’t currently service, press OK to continue to install the Amazon App Store” I would’ve been fine with that, since then it would just be me trying to skirt around their restrictions. Instead they let you sign up and only at the very last second, after you’ve given them your email and access to some personal data on your phone, do they tell you that it’s not currently available. For this the app has been uninstalled and it will take a metric shit ton of good will from them for me to install it again.
Sure this is a relatively minor quibble but like I said I’ve got little tolerance for this kind of crap, especially when there’s no technical limitation behind it. Not once yet have I had any problems with the regular Android market and it looks like it will be in my best interests to stick around on there, especially when Amazon has shown that they’re not interested in having my business. Maybe one day we’ll get over this whole idea of “regions” and we won’t have to put up with these kind of ludicrous restrictions, but until then I’ll just be taking my business elsewhere and Amazon can just fucking deal with it.
So as those who have been following me on Twitter may have known I’ve spent the last 2 weeks schooling myself in the world of Silverlight and Microsoft Rich Internet Application (RIA) services. Now I’m no stranger to the idea of n-tier application development but Microsoft’s implementation appears woefully complicated when you first get into it (thanks to the lack of clear tutorials and documentation on it) but becomes quite simple once you get past that first hurdle. Many things you think you’ll have to code up substantial amounts of logic for, say saving changed objects to the database, are handled for you by some black magic hidden in the background. I’m not complaining though as whilst I believe that an understanding of what is happening behind the scenes is vital for writing good code actually implementing that every time you want to do something could be quite a chore.
It actually reminds me of another project I started a long time ago called Yurai (it’s a desktop application so you probably won’t ever get to see it in The Lab). Back when I was working as a help desk monkey and finishing off my last year of my degree the whole n-tier design pattern was firmly lodged in my head and I got the idea that the software we were using (called Infra, now owned by VMware of all companies) was far too bloated and I could make a substitute myself. Coincidentally a friend of mine had just started his own business in home IT service and was using a paper pad to track their jobs. I took it upon myself to code him up an application and my first foray into the world of being a real developer began.
The application itself never got past the initial design phase. Whilst I did manage to (manually) create all 3 tiers with their associated logic and what not the system itself only allowed a small subsection of the functionality they would require. With my university commitments ramping up I never got time to finish the project and it now sits in a backup folder on one of my many hard drives. Still thinking back to those days I can see how far Microsoft have come in making it so easy for an average-skilled developer like myself to develop these applications in a rather timely fashion. The same amount of time invested back then yielded about 10% of the results meaning less time is spent coding the rudimentary parts of the system and more time focusing on what’s critical to your application.
So the last 2 weeks of work have culminated in this: a working user authentication system for Geon. Not only that if you click the link (might be a bit obscured on monitors less than 1680 pixels wide, I’ll fix that this afternoon) at the top you can sign up for an account to use with Geon. What that account will let you do is save your feeds so that next time you login you don’t have to go clicking around again to set it all up, just make sure to hit the Logout button to do so (need to implement the logout function on window close, haven’t done so yet!). An account is not required to use Geon but in the future I’ll be adding a lot more things to it that will require an user account, and who knows I might give you something special for beta testing my stuff out 😉 Your account will need to be approved by me before you’ll be able to use it however, and that’s just to make sure I don’t get a flood of people signing up before I’m ready to let the user auth system go live.
But don’t let that stop you from signing up. Go on you know you want to.
Hopefully with that part out of the way the core functionality of Geon will come along soon. What I’m referring to is the idea that I originally had was to be able to ask anyone in a certain area a question and have them respond back with text/image/video/whatever. This of course relies on people actually running my application and with it currently restrained to the browser that makes the potential audience somewhat limited but it can still work as a test bed for the handset applications. There’s going to be a lot of messing about to get that all harangued in (I’ll have to undo some of the black magic that Microsoft has done for me thus far to make sure its secure) but that’s all part of the fun, well that’s what I’m telling myself anyway.
Additionally I’ll have a tutorial up somewhere on this blog (I’ll update this post with a link) on how to get started using Geon as I’ve had a few people tell me that it doesn’t work only to find out that they’ve been clicking in ways I didn’t expect. That’s partly my fault for changing the UI on them and not making it clear that it didn’t work the way it used to, but if I take a leaf out of Google’s book that’s what users are for, trying out your beta code so you don’t have to do as much testing yourself 😉
So as always hit up Geon and let me know what you think by posting a comment below, tweeting me or sending me an email at [email protected].
EDIT: As promised I’ve created a new page with a quick rundown (with pictures!) of how to get going with Geon.