Download Pro Calculator 1.2

The Download Pro Calculator is an iPhone application designed for software professionals and power users looking to estimate the transfer time and the storage media required for large file downloads or transfers.

Version 1.2 is now available for download on Apple’s iTunes App Store.

This release includes the following enhancements and bug fixes:
  • Fixed the vertical scrolling bug for the Connection Speed and Storage Media list.
  • Fixed screen layout bug (on iPad running  iOS 5) when the iAd banner is hidden.
  • Extended maximum value to 1024 for new Connection Speed and Storage Media.
  • Updated the default Connection Speed and Storage Media list for new installations.
  • Added cross promotion screen on startup to promote other applications.
  • Conducted full regression testing on iOS 5 devices.

For more information, check out the Download Pro Calculator product page.

Download Pro Calculator 1.1

The Download Pro Calculator (DL Pro Calc) is an iPhone application designed for software professionals and download power users looking to estimate the download time and the storage media required for any given download.

Version 1.1 is now available for download on Apple’s iTunes App Store.

With this release, DL Pro Calc is now iOS 4 certified and iAd supported.  The Connection Speed and the Storage Media list can now be customized.  In addition, the Fishkisses iPhone blog is now accessible via the About button on the Preferences screen.

iAd Supported

To help offset development cost, DL Pro Calc is now iAd supported.  When ads are available, the ad banner is displayed at the top of the application.  To view and interact with the ad, tap on the ad banner.  To return to the application, simply tap the “X” in the upper left corner to close the ad.  When no ads are available, the ad banner is hidden.

Customized Connection Speed / Storage Media List

The Connection Speed and the Storage Media list can now be customized.  To delete from the default list, make a selection (e.g. “56.6 Kbps”) and then tap on the “” button on the lower left corner.  Confirm by tapping on the Delete button when prompted.

To add a new entry to the list, tap on the “+” button on the lower left corner.  After the new entry has been customized, tap on the Save button in the upper right corner to save it.  The new entry is added to the top of the list or above the current selection.

Fishkisses News

To get updates on the next DL Pro Calc release and other iPhone related news from Fishkisses Design, checkout the Fishkisses iPhone blog.  It is now accessible via the About button on the Preferences screen.

My 1st iPhone App – DL Pro Calc

My first iPhone application, the Download Pro Calculator, was released on iTunes and the iPhone App Store today.  I developed it with the software professionals and download power users in mind, but implemented a calculator design that I believe is intuitive to all users.  If you own an iPhone, iPod Touch or an iPad, you will want to download this app now.  Besides, this inaugural release is FREE.  It will come in handy whenever you need to estimate the download time and/or the storage media (CDs, DVDs, etc) required for any given download, especially large software or movie files.

If you do download this app and find it useful, I would appreciate your customer rating and review on iTunes.  I decided to write this iPhone app as a way of enriching my professional skills.  Since making a career path change 5 years, I have been itching to get back into application development.  As a former Java developer, I have had to learn Object-C and the Cocoa Framework which was different; not to my liking.  But I must say, it’s quite exciting to be able to develop an application that has the potential to serve so many iPhone users.  Apple’s development tools and developer program definitely made it much easier.

In the meantime, I’m gearing up to start on my second iPhone project, in my spare time of course.  I will continue to enhance the Download Pro Calculator base on your feedback, so please email FishkissesDesign@gmail.com with your request for enhancements, or if you have an idea for my next iPhone project.

Learnings from the Advanced Download Widget

Recently, we released a new feature to the download platform that powers the Sun Download Center.  Internally, we refer to it as the Advanced Download Widget (ADW).  Essentially, it’s a Web component that can be deployed on any Sun-branded Website, to deliver an integrated and streamlined download experience.  Working with Lifecycle Marketing, we have also integrated the ability to present the user with a free offer (e.g. whitepapers, training, etc.) that complements the download.  It’s completely optional, but to receive the free offer, the user will need to login with a Sun Online Account or create a new one.  To see it in action, checkout the Java ME SDK 3.0 download page.  Although the project was generally successful, there were some lessons learned (in terms of went well and what can be improved from my own personal perspective) that I would like to share via this blog for future reference.

When developing new Web functionality that relies heavily on Web browser technology, it’s important to understand your users.  Do they largely run on a single Web browser / platform combination (Intranet apps), or do they span the gamut in browsers and platforms used?  The answer may greatly affect your project plan and testing strategy, so find out before you start on your project.  Sites such as Wikipedia publish aggregated Web browser usage stats for the Internet, but it is better to take your own measurements if possible.  Our sampling of a very popular Java download yielded slightly different distribution with 48.6% running Internet Explorer and 40.8% running Firefox.  The data helped shape our testing strategy.

Given the constant evolution of the Web browsers, it’s not always practical to maintain backward compatibility to outdated Web browsers; however, forward compatibility for new releases should definitely be a priority.  Internally, you want to establish guidelines on the Web browser makes and versions, as well as the browser platforms that you can support.  This way, you can provide Engineering and QA with clear expectations on the testing scope and staffing needs.   It’s also good to have designated personnel who keep tracks of the product roadmap for key Web browsers.  During the development phase for the ADW, new version of Firefox (3.5) and Safari (4.0) were released, but they were not on our radar.  We later uncovered some minor incompatibilities with these Web browsers during the testing phase that prompted additional round of testing and contributed to some avoidable schedule delays.

One key aspect of project management is accurate planning of the time and resource it takes to complete the project.  While the Development and QA phase are largely determined by Engineering’s estimates, the business generally drives User Acceptance Testing (UAT) and therefore estimate the resources and duration required for UAT.  Because the project scope varies from release to release, successful UAT planning requires a good blend of gut feel (art) and common sense (science).  By applying past experience and intimate knowledge of the system to the bug fixes and enhancements in scope, you can devise a rough approach to the UAT test plan and test cases.  From the estimated time for completing each test case and the availability of UAT testers, you can then derive the duration required to complete 1 round of user testing.  When testing new features that relies heavily on Web browser technology, be sure to add extra time and/or testers for targeted cross browser/platform testing.  Finally, allow time for bug fixes and at least a second round of user testing to make UAT a success.

Finally, while the project life cycle ends when the release goes live, the product life cycle continues on.  By product, I’m referring to the system or the download platform in this case.  Although it’s possible to roll out new features that meet the user’s needs on day 1, quite often the road to nirvana involve a couple design iterations.  To avoid the design-in-a-vacuum pitfalls, it’s essential that you have ways to collect feedback and gain insights into the user’s real world interactions with your system.  In our case, we chose to conduct a usability study to gather feedback from a diverse group of users whose experience with Sun ranges from none to developers and Sun customers who are quite familiar with our Websites.  Although the usability study was insightful, we plan to integrate Omniture into future releases so we can measure and assess the usability of the ADW across the entire user base.  Meanwhile, we have other ways (see my blog on The Voice of the Customer) to collect and act on customer feedback as well.

The Voice of the Customer (VOC)

One way to develop a better understanding of the customer’s needs is to simply ask for their feedback.  Through out sun.com, you will notice a floating [+] icon in the lower right corner of your Web browser window.  When you click on this icon, an OpinionLab scorecard pops up allowing to you provide input on your Web experience as it relates to the content, design and usability of the current page.  Below is a screen snapshot of a sample scorecoard:

Recently, we added the OpinionLab icon to the Web pages for the download application that powers the Sun Download Center.  In the month of April alone, we received 481 ratings through the OpinionLab scorecard.  90 people chose to provide additional feedback through the Comments field. The overall rating was 3.5 out of 5.  It was a bit lower than I expected.  Again, this is why we’re asking for your input, so you as the customer can help drive further improvements base on your needs.

I would like to thank you if you took the time to provide us with your feedback on the Sun Download Center.  While I cannot share the specifics of the feedback that we received through the Comments field, I can say that most of the comments were fair.  I’m still flattered by the number of people who are fans of Sun, our products or the Sun Download Center.  Regarding the constructive feedback related to the download experience, if it’s actionable, we will definitely include the enhancement in one of our upcoming releases.

Embargoed Countries & Software Downloads

Recently, there has been lots of news coverage on the Russian warships visiting Cuba.  The event has renewed memories of the Cuba Missile Crisis and the Cold War, which led the U.S. to impose a permanent economic sanction and trade embargo on Cuba.  While the original embargo was oriented towards import and export of certain goods between US and Cuba, over time the scope of the ban has been extended to cover most products and services including technology products such a computer software.  Similarly, the US government has mandated embargo treatments for several other countries as well.

If you work in the software space and you deliver or receive your software electronically, you may have unknowingly been subjected to these embargoed country checks.  U.S. based companies and their international subsidiaries are required by U.S. laws and regulations to take appropriate measures to comply, by restricting software delivery to non-embargoed end users.  Depending on your business model, targeted markets, business volume and risk tolerance, the compliance mechanism can span the spectrum from manual verification for low volume offline channels, to fully integrated solutions for high volume electronic software delivery.  If you are a Sun customer, partner or employee, please be aware of Sun’s policy on this matter.  By the way, this is my personal Blog and it does not necessarily reflect Sun’s official views.

Unfortunately, the embargo country check applies to even “free” software delivery, where no actual commerce is conducted.  Since most of these software downloads tends to be anonymous transactions,  the end user’s country is generally determined base on the end user’s IP Address.  Vendors such as Digital Envoy and Quova offers IP geo location services that fulfill such business needs with high degree of accuracy.  Most CDN providers (e.g. Akamai) also bundles IP geo location into their download services.  But because the Internet is constantly growing and evolving, false positive matches do occur, denying legitimate end users access.  For these rare events, it’s important that a closed loop process is in place to address the end users’ needs in a timely manner and to minimize the business impact.

While I understand the government’s intention in imposing trade embargoes and economic sanctions on selective countries, I question the actual value when it start to impede on the freedom and the inclusiveness of the Internet.  Try to visualize the Internet experience from the perspective of the children in these embargoed countries.  Educational and children Web sites like Disney.com and Nick.com depend heavily on software such as Java and Adobe Flash to provide an enriching and interactive experience. Yet, it seems quite silly that these children would be banned from downloading these commonly distributed software.  That would be like watching TV in black and white, while the rest of world enjoy the vividness of high definition (HD) TV.

I’m not a lawyer, nor do I fully understand these government policies in detail.  Perhaps I’m under-appreciative of the potential risks that companies subject themselves to, by not complying to the letter of these laws.  However, it just seems like the affected parties are not necessarily the intended parties.  After all, there are ways to circumvent or spoof the embargoed country check mechanisms.  My point is that while compliance is important, companies operating on the Web should strike an appropriate balance between compliance to government laws and regulations, and the voice of the under-represented user communities.

Do you have any thoughts on this subject?  Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments field below.

Download Du Jour – FireFox 3.0

First of all, congratulations to the FireFox Community on establishing the Guinness World Record for the most software downloads in one day.  As one of the 8,002,530 people who successfully downloaded FireFox 3.0 on June 17th, I feel privileged to be displaying the FireFox 3 Download Day certificate on my Blog.  After all, I simply downloaded the latest version of the Web browser (for my Macbook Pro) that I already use daily for all my Web activities.

Well, it has been 2 1/2 weeks and I have not encountered a single crash.  Performance has been great and all my existing add-ons upgraded without a hitch.  Thanks to FireFox 3 I’m enjoying my Web surfing experience even more so.  Kudos to the developers who work on the Mozilla projects.

There are so many new features in FireFox 3 that I simply haven’t had the time to test drive them all.  Among the new features, my favorite include the Password Manager, Instant Web Site ID, and the New Location Bar with One Click Bookmarking.  I’m also a big fan of the FireFox 3 Download Map (Cool page, not a feature.) which provide an at-a-glance view of the latest FireFox 3 download stats across the globe in a very visually engaging manner.  I hope we can provide similar reporting UI for the software downloads at Sun.

Speaking of Sun, I was disappointed to not find FireFox 3 for Solaris readily accessible on the FireFox home page.  As it has been with prior releases, the download links to the Solaris port of FireFox 3 is buried in the Release Notes under Contributed Builds.  You really need to dig for it.  Well if you have been looking to download FireFox 3 for Solaris 10 or OpenSolaris, today is your lucky day.  I have conveniently provided the download links here on my Blog.

Download FireFox 3 for Solaris here:

Platform / Format
Download Link
Checksum README
Solaris 10, SPARC (Tarball) firefox-3.0-en-US-solaris-10-fcs-sparc.tar.bz2 cksum readme.txt
Solaris 10, SPARC (Pkgadd)
firefox-3.0-en-US-solaris-10-fcs-sparc-pkg.bz2 cksum readme.txt
Solaris 10, x86 (Tarball)
firefox-3.0-en-US-solaris-10-fcs-i386.tar.bz2 cksum readme.txt
Solaris 10, x86 (pkgadd)
firefox-3.0-en-US-solaris-10-fcs-i386-pkg.bz2 cksum readme.txt
OpenSolaris, SPARC (Tarball) firefox-3.0.en-US.opensolaris-sparc.tar.bz2 cksum readme.txt
OpenSolaris, SPARC (Pkgadd)
firefox-3.0.en-US.opensolaris-sparc-pkg.bz2 cksum readme.txt
OpenSolaris, x86 (Tarball) firefox-3.0.en-US.opensolaris-i386.tar.bz2 cksum readme.txt
OpenSolaris, x86 (Pkgadd)
firefox-3.0.en-US.opensolaris-i386-pkg.bz2 cksum readme.txt

To download FireFox 3 for all other supported platforms (Mac OS X, Windows, Linux), checkout the FireFox Home Page:

Download FireFox Now!