Wednesday, 25 July 2012

But I HAVE Already Upgraded!

A common problem when upgrading from the free version of WiFi File Explorer to the paid PRO version is that users try to use one of the features in the PRO version but they are told they still need to upgrade. Typically, this involves trying to perform an upload after upgrading (which is only available in the PRO version) and the user again receives a message saying they need to upgrade to use this functionality.

"But I HAVE Already Upgraded!"

Yes, you have, and you haven't been conned out of money or tricked into paying for something that doesn't exist, or any of the other nonsense I have been accused of over the years. The truth is that if you see this message then you are most likely still using the free version by accident. The other explanation is that your order failed on the Google Play Store (or other app store) and you haven't yet upgraded to the PRO version, so always check that as the first thing.

So assuming that your order was successful and you have paid for the PRO version and you are suffering from this problem, the first thing to do is to uninstall the free version. Like I mentioned earlier, you are most likely still running the free version and that's probably my fault for calling it an "upgrade"; that can imply that you are just adding something to the free version, but it's actually a separate app you are upgrading to. So, as you don't need the free version any more, uninstall it from your Android device (the free version has a white WiFi symbol on the icon and the PRO version has an orange WiFi symbol on the icon with the word "PRO" at the end of the app name) and then you know for certain that when you do run the app it is definitely 100% the PRO version you are running.

And just to make doubly sure that everything is working, close your web browser if you already had WiFi File Explorer open in it while suffering from this problem. It may be that the web page currently in the web browser was one that was served while you were running the free version, so just to make sure it isn't left in there or the cache, close it down and start it up again ready to use with the PRO version.

So very simply:

1) Check your order was successful and you have upgraded to the PRO version;
2) Uninstall the free version;
3) Close your web browser;
4) Start the PRO version (and as you uninstalled the free version, you know you are definitely launching the PRO version);
5) Start your web browser again and enter the address given to you by the app... and enjoy the PRO version!

As always, any questions or if it still isn't working, please contact me at

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Aaaaannnnnd... That's 100,000 Applications Sold!

Over the weekend I managed to pass another massive milestone on the Android development odyssey on which I embarked almost 3 years ago now... as the title and picture imply, I have now managed to sell paid apps (i.e., people actually parting with money!) to the tune of 100,000 units.  And that's just on the Google Play Store - my apps have sold thousands of copies on the Amazon Appstore, SlideME, AndroidPIT, GetJar and even on BlackBerry App World!

I'm extremely proud of that figure and it was certainly not a goal I even dreamed to set myself when I started.  I was surprised when I got to 10,000 and even more surprised when I got to 50,000, so 100,000 apps sold is something I never even imagined I would achieve when I started.

Not quite sure how I got to this landmark and I feel very lucky.  Actually, I do know how I got here, and it wasn't just dumb luck; spending hours of my free time coding away and answering support email after support email at every hour of the day... basically, blood, sweat and tears.  But it's not all bad of course, I've had lots of fun along the way and had the chance to meet some fantastic people who have really helped me out... and a lot of the time they do it for absolutely free.

So what now then?  Press on to chase the next 100,000 sales?  Errr, no thanks!!  As fun and rewarding as it is, the stresses and the pressure of dealing with so many users is not something I really want to have on my shoulders - this is all in my spare time still and I have a full time job and parenting responsibilities to consider.  Checking comments and reviews everyday, looking at my sales statistics, dealing with users that have no right to own a "smart" phone... I am trying to share some of those responsibilities, but still, these are all things that have taken over my life and my free time, and I quite frankly would like my life and my free time back.

And I have already started distancing myself from it for the last few months.  If you have one of my apps, then you have probably noticed that rather than an update every couple of weeks, it's now more like every couple of months.  I also don't (or rarely) obsessively check the comments and reviews for my apps any more - although the majority of them are good, the needlessly abusive ones are just not worth even looking at.  I also have no idea where my apps sit in the charts now, whereas before I would check it pretty much daily.

So I haven't exactly quit - I still support the apps and I have just released a load of cool new features (with some more to come in a couple of weeks)  - but I am certainly sitting back and letting the hard work I have already put in propel it all from now on as it starts to tail off.  I have achieved and experienced more than I had hoped for already, so put it this way, I wouldn't be (too) upset if it all stopped tomorrow...

... but it won't, and this Android stuff can be dangerously addictive.  I hope to receive the new Nexus 7 in a couple of days and I may end up getting a whole new wave of motivation when I get that in my hands.  I am also working on a couple of genuine business opportunities based on the technology in my apps that is away from the model of selling them on app stores, and this is certainly where I have a greater interest now and is where I will focus my energy.  They may fizzle out to nothing, and I get contacted all the time about possibly using something I have written in some fantastic new Android-based product, but the projects I am working on at the moment seem to have real potential... and even if they do fizzle out, it's actually pleasant to be doing some work which isn't rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars for once!

There's also a project coming up in my full time job where I will need to develop a fairly complex Android app, so it all seems to have been beneficial and worthwhile learning how to develop Android apps in the first place.  So although I am winding down my activity with selling Android apps for a handful of pennies on various app stores, it certainly looks like green robots are going to be entwined with my professional and personal life for a good while longer, be it playing with my new Nexus 7 or writing apps in my real job.

And all this because I decided one lunchtime, in an unusual rush of motivation, that I should stop wasting time reading gadget websites and actually try doing something for myself.  Who'd have thought it, eh!?

Monday, 16 July 2012

Dropbox Support in SECuRET SpyCam

SECuRET SpyCam has recently been updated to provide Dropbox support so that you can automatically upload your captures to your Dropbox account.   For those that aren’t aware, Dropbox is a service that is free to use and allows you to store you files in the cloud so they can be accessible anywhere on a variety of devices, both mobile and desktop.

The exciting thing is, this applies to all captures; photos and videos at all resolutions!  Now, that may not seem that exciting to you at first, but to users who used older versions of SECuRET SpyCam, the only option to automatically send your captures somewhere other than the SD card was to either email or Tweet them... and due to restrictions in both mechanisms, this was limited to only lower resolution photos.

So with this new Dropbox support allowing you to upload photos and videos at all resolutions, this will be a really useful addition for anyone that wants to view their captures remotely.  As the main use case for SECuRET SpyCam is to hide or position your Android device running the app somewhere where you are not able to directly use it, this ability to view all types of captures without having to wait until you recover your device from its hiding place will prove invaluable.

For example, you can position your device somewhere you want to monitor something valuable, like the amazing triple-decker sandwich you just made.  Set SECuRET SpyCam up to record videos on motion detection and enable the Dropbox support to automatically upload your files, and then wait.  You’ll now be able to sit and watch for a video to appear in your Dropbox account of that pesky housemate who keeps stealing your food tucking into your sandwich as they are doing it – caught in the act!  Obviously you would eat the delicious sandwich yourself before anyone else had the chance in this scenario, but I am sure you can think up your own scenarios, depending on what you are spying on!

How do you set it up then?  Easy - just go to General settings in the app and scroll down to the bottom.  Make sure you have Save Captures ticked so that your captures are saved to the device storage, and then click on Dropbox.  Here you can enable the automatic uploads and link your Dropbox account, and if you don’t have a Dropbox account already there is a handy link to sign up from within the app.  Now when you start the app and any motion triggered captures occur, they will upload to your Dropbox account into the SECuRETSpyCam directory which is in the Apps directory.  If you have Dropbox installed on your PC then you can see these new captures appear moments after they have occurred (depending on your network speed of course).

I think this is a really great addition and helps cement SECuRET SpyCam’s position as the ultimate security camera for Android.  I hope you find some interesting ways to use it and I am always keen to hear from users how they are using the app and if they managed to catch any criminals with it, so please contact me if you do.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

WiFi File Explorer for Beginners

I sometimes forget that even though many people praise WiFi File Explorer for its simplicity and ease of use, it can actually be pretty confusing and daunting for some people to understand.  Things are only easy when you know how, so let me explain the basics behind the app so users of all abilities can make use of WiFi File Explorer.

Usually, to manage the files on your Android device (like copying photos you've taken to your PC or transferring some MP3s to your phone), you would dig out your cable and plug it into your PC.  In essence, WiFi File Explorer lets you accomplish this but without the cable!

You start by ensuring that your Android device and the PC you want to transfer files to/from are both on the same WiFi network, for example your home WiFi network.  Once they are, simply start the WiFi File Explorer app on your Android device and assuming you are connected to a WiFi network it will popup a message that gives you a web address to enter into a web browser.  At this point, go to your PC on the same WiFi network and enter that web address into your web browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, etc).  Make sure you enter this address exactly as the app tells you and ensure you enter it into the address bar, not into a search box.

Once you have done this, you are presented with a web page (like the one in the screenshot above) that lists all the files and directories on your Android device.  It is a pretty familiar concept to the one you are used to in other file managers such as Explorer on Windows, so it should be fairly intuitive how to use it.  As it is a web page, to transfer files from the Android device to the PC the term ‘download’ is used, and this can be achieved by either clicking the arrow to the left of the file name you want to transfer to your PC or by clicking several check boxes of files you want to transfer and then hitting the Download button.  Files are then downloaded to your PC just like when you download a file from any other web page and they are stored in the downloads directory of your PC or wherever your web browser usually saves downloads.  Conversely, to transfer a file from your PC to your Android device the term ‘upload’ is used, and this can be achieved by using the upload box to the right of the web page.  Simply select some files to upload from your PC and hit the Upload button to transfer those files to the current directory of the Android device you are viewing on the web page.

So once you have got to grips with this basic method of transferring files it should be fairly easy to work out how to do other things, like deleting files, creating new directories, moving groups of files around.  Then you can dig into more advanced features, such as setting music files as ringtones, viewing a slideshow of pictures, installing app files and setting your Android device’s wallpaper.

Finally, just to explain how the app technically works if you are interested... It actually works by setting up a small web server directly on your Android device.  This web server is confined to only the WiFi network you are on and can only be accessed by people that know the web address it is using; so don’t worry – it is NOT a publicly accessible web site.  You can also go into the app settings and set up a password to make it even more secure.  So when WiFi File Explorer gives you a web address to enter, that web address is actually made up of the IP address and port number of your Android device on your WiFi network.  And then when you connect to that web address via your PC web browser, you are connecting directly to the small web server running on your Android device (no external servers used at all and all the data is local, so you don’t get charged for any data usage).  This is presented as a set of web pages that allow you to manage your files, which is WiFi File Explorer!

I hope that helps people get into WiFi File Explorer and to understand a little about how it works so they can safely and efficiently use the app to manage their files without the need of a cable.  And please do not hesitate to email me with any further questions about the basics (or advanced features) of WiFi File Explorer.

WiFi File Explorer & the Toshiba Thrive

Some WiFi File Explorer users are finding that they experience some unexpected errors when using the app on the Toshiba Thrive Android tablet, particularly when uploading a file to the external SD card they receive a “Server I/O error” and the upload fails.  This also applies to some other devices as well, such as the WiFi US Motorola Xoom and hopefully I can use this post to explain why...

Update: I have been informed this post also applies to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7.

Many Android devices today have both internal flash memory for data storage and also an external SD card to extend that amount of storage.  Most of the time, both these areas of storage have full read and write access and so using WiFi File Explorer to upload and manage your files is no problem at all.  However, in the case of the Toshiba Thrive and WiFi US Motorola Xoom, the SD card is actually read-only when it is mounted in the device.  This means that apps can read from the SD card quite happily, but whenever an app tries to write to the SD card it will cause an error.  Fear not though, as the internal flash memory is still writeable, so you can fully utilise WiFi File Explorer with this area of storage.

So because of this, it means features in WiFi File Explorer like uploading, copying and moving files (basically anything that requires that the SD card be written to) will not work when attempting to do so on the external SD card.  In the case of the Toshiba Thrive there is one exception to this in that only the file manager app that comes pre-installed on the device will actually grant write access to the external SD card.  So there is a workaround in that you can upload a file to the internal flash memory using WiFi File Explorer and then use the pre-installed file manager app to move the file to the external SD card – a bit or a pain, but it works!

At the time of writing, I don’t know any other devices that suffer from this problem, but please leave a comment below if you discover any to inform other users.  I believe that by default in Android this is how Google have engineered it (hence why the WiFi US Motorola Xoom suffers from the problem as it is a Google Experience Device) because they have always envisaged Android devices only needing one area of main storage that needs to be written to by apps, but obviously other device manufacturers have had different ideas.  It may change in the future via an OS update (surely Toshiba will address this with the Thrive as I have seen lots of complaints about this in various forums), but for now this is how it is.