News

Website update

General

A lot of work has gone into improving the overall appearance of the site:

  • There is a new colour scheme, to match the logo.
  • The size of the header text has been reduced.
  • The thick black lines have been removed or made thinner.
  • The meta info for posts has been moved.
  • The tables have all been spruced up.

Scripts and Strings

The server scripts and text strings have been tidied up:

  • The documentation is more detailed, and is now in PDF format.
  • The ASP.Net scripts only ship with the .Net assembly, and the VB.Net source code for reference purposes. The rest of the solution has been removed.
  • The Android text strings have been updated.

Sidebar

  • The links have been tidied up. Some have been removed, and others added.
  • By popular request, there is a new category for the Simpsons quotes.

Footer

  • In one of the sections at the bottom, an HTML menu has been added. This reproduces the top level links in the header, in plain text form.
  • In the other section, I have added a Simpsons quote.
  • There is a new social media menu for email, Twitter and RSS.

New priorities

With my new development laptop, I will be able to resume work on the Android and iOS clients. My immediate objectives are:

  1. Test the new iCloud features for the iOS app. iCloud now appears to be working, but my app does not.
  2. Remove camera scanning from the Android app. This has been holding up progress on the new user manual.

Mobile apps refreshed

The mobile apps have both been refreshed, with versions produced on my new development laptop. The Android one has already hit Google Play, and the iOS one is in review. In either case, there should be no functional change.

HP ProBook 6570b

My new laptop is a second hand HP ProBook 6570b, which I bought cheap on eBay. It is the business version of the otherwise identical  HP EliteBook 8570p. It comes in various configurations, and I went for 8 GB of RAM and a 250 GB SSD drive, which I would recommend for developers.

My first impression was just how heavy the laptop was. It is luggable rather than portable, and was definitely not designed for mobile use. On the plus side, it has lots of ports, and a modular design. It is very easy to swap components, and I intend to replace the optical drive with a hard one.

The SSD drive has made development a lot faster. My files only take up 100 GB, and I will be adding a 1 TB hard drive, as soon as the bracket arrives. The only down side was that it suffered from the notorious battery not charging problem,  which I eventually managed to fix.

I would recommend this model to anyone who wants a laptop that functions as a desktop. If you just want to plonk it down somewhere and use it, it will suit you just fine. But if you want to carry it about with you, you will end up with very tired arms.

Camera scanning

Camera scanning is where the camera of a mobile phone is used to scan barcodes. Typically it is used to scan 2D barcodes, called QR codes. It can also be used to scan 1D barcodes, of the type used to identify products. It can be done, but not very well. With practice, it can be done reliably, but slowly. But the main problem is with the workflow. The user is distracted, by having to focus on the barcode that is being scanned.

In practice, users always opt for Bluetooth scanning. I see the camera scanning of 1D barcodes as nothing more than a neat party trick, and I intend to remove it from future releases of the Android app. It was withdrawn from the iOS app some time ago, due to lack of support for the corresponding library.