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Impossible to recover a discontinued iOS app

March 25, 2017 Leave a comment

You may have seen me enthusing previously about “Clips” by Fly Labs, a simple and fluid video editing app which was perfection itself. I wasn’t the only one who thought so, as Google aquihired the company, and shut down the app, removing it from the App Store. 

I had it on my phone, so was happy… and then my phone had serious corruption issues, and hence I was forced to restore it from backup… only to find the app was gone.

So – how do you restore a discontinued app you once had?

You can’t. At all. There are many suggestions on the web, but they relate to older versions of iOS and iTunes. As of last year, every avenue of doing so has been  shut down by Apple:

  • You can’t download the app from the App Store if it’s no longer there. Even if you previously owned it
  • If you backed up your phone to iCloud, you also won’t get the app back. iCloud only backs up your data, and then instructs your phone to restore the apps from… the App Store.
  • If you have another device with the app (such as a family member’s phone), you’re not getting it from them either, even if you share an Apple ID. Apple has removed iOS functionality that once allowed you to copy purchased apps from your phone to iTunes as a .IPA file
  • If you backed up your phone to iTunes in its entirety…. you MIGHT find the app restored. This is something I’ve yet to try

So – for those apps you haven’t yet backed up, it’s too late. Here’s what to do for those you can still download, in case they’re discontinued in the future:

  • In Mac/Windows iTunes, show your purchased apps in the App Store, and click to download them to your PC: that’s still possible. They’ll be downloaded to your iTunes music/data directory
  • Back them up, for good. I use CrashPlan cloud, since it allows me to back up an entire history of my files for as far back as I’ve been using it, with no risk of deleting older backups.

I am naturally going to complain like hell to Apple, and they are naturally going to do nothing about it.

Categories: Uncategorized

Certify Expenses Review – driving me nuts

February 11, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve just googled Certify reviews, to see if I’m the only one finding this a nightmare… and it seems like I am!

I’m not sure why; maybe the reviewers have been using paper-based systems until now? My personal use of expenses has been most recently with Expensify, our corporate SAP-based system, and before that, Excel sheets. And Certify is just a huge blocker to my productivity.

Let’s look at some gripes:

  • It doesn’t work offline: although there’s this concept of ‘wallet’ which is local to the phone, you can’t open the app without network connectivity, as the first screen is a login screen.
  • You have to log in every time you open the app, although it saves your password. WHY? WHAT APP EVER DOES THIS, EVER?! Surely much of the utility of using a phone-based app is that you authenticate partly by the fact you have the phone, which is something you have, often behind a lockscreen, something you are/know. Thus, the app itself has a session cookie which keeps you logged in.
  • You can’t edit expense data on the web app. Believe me, I’ve tried. Is it hidden?
  • They don’t auto-populate emailed receipts – the OCR app is embedded in the phone, so anything that doesn’t come through the phone camera has to be edited manually… BUT you can only do that in the phone, after syncing the receipts on their servers back into your phone by explicitly pressing the “Sync” button in the phone app.
    • Still with me? Good!
  • The OCR of photographed receipts is flaky – they seem to find an amount, but rarely anything else. Expensify seemed to use “mechanical turks” (ie. people doing manual data entry in a low-wage country), which is, well, far more accurate!
  • Adding a receipt is a simple 16-click process:
    • Open the app
    • Log in
    • Press “Add Receipt”
    • Select your resolution (WTF?! Shouldn’t they know?)
    • Snap the photo
    • Click “Use Photo”
    • Press “Autofill”
    • (These steps may vary according to your company category selection):
      • Select your Department
      • Select your Category
      • Confirm the amount OCR’d was correct
      • Type Vendor (it has autocomplete once you start typing)
      • Type Location (same)
      • Type Reason
      • Select Reimburseable/Billable if appropriate
    • Save
    • Hit Sync again to sync (only needed when reporting)
  • Compare this to a force-press on the Expensify app, and simply snapping the receipt, to cover steps 1-7

 

Seriously! Why?!?!? Surely any UI/UX designer on the team, or even a developer, would see this app has a horrible experience against so many other apps, even outside the realm of expenses software.

On the upside, I suspect possible the business back-office processes and dashboards are great, beacuse they often are on an app that is this user-unfriendly.

 

And yes; I’m a company employee, writing this blog post about software that’s supposed to make my life easier and make me more productive on my primary role. Because it just so doesn’t!

 

Categories: Uncategorized

Certify Expenses iOS app review

January 6, 2017 Leave a comment


I used Expensify at my old company before changing job and being given Certify at my new.
Certify’s app is horrible. If you value your employees, or at least value their opinion, don’t use it.

Expensify is a native app that works offline, syncs intelligently, and offers automatic receipt transcription.

Certify just fills me with hate. It looks and feels like a web app packaged as an application. For example – it appears to offer caching receipt photos locally with a sync to the server, so that must mean it works offline, right? No. You are required to log in EVERY TIME you open the app, although it does auto-enter your password, and if you aren’t online – you can’t log on.


It does dynamically change fields based on the type of expense; good for all sorts of back end statistics, I’m sure, but bad for actually entering them.

I’m serious: the ability to simply snap a photo as you get out of the cab / step away from the counter, makes expenses truly frictionless, and removes an annoying admin burden from people who want to do their job. But that’s Expensify, or other similar products – it’s definitely not Certify.

Categories: Uncategorized

Amazon Echo can’t discover Hive Home devices

January 1, 2017 Leave a comment

I’m having a really annoying problem with Amazon Echo.

I’ve just bought some Hive Home smart devices, including Thermostat, Hub, and light bulbs, but for some reason I can’t get the Echo to discover them.

A fair amount of googling has shown that no-one else seems to have this problem. The problem appears to stem from some issue with the Hive skill itself. When I search for it in the Amazon store, it doesn’t come up, although it should definitely be there.

Stranger still, if I search for “Hive” as a skill, Amazon reports three hits, but only shows one – a bee quiz game. While the Hivehome skills must be there, they are for some reason hidden.

 

I phoned Amazon and they gave me a URL that takes me directly to the skill. However, when I enable it, although it shows as enabled, it is not listed under my list of available skills in the Alexa app

So – it seems the skill is there, but it’s hidden from me. It feels like a country restriction, but I have my account, and Echo, set to English (UK), and Hive is primarily a UK product.

Hive is also a ‘strange’ skill – it’s a Smarthome skill, but not in the Smarthome skill list. It’s treated as a standard skill, but it isn’t one. I’m not sure if this contributes too. I’ve tried using Discover Devices under Smarthome, which is the recommended way of discovering Hive devices, but nothing shows up. This is also if putting the Hive Hub in discover mode (turning off and on again!).

I’ve spoken to Amazon, and have also created a new account from scratch, but the problem remains. Other skills seem to work fine!

I’ve emailed Amazon, and will see if they come up with any other suggestions.

Categories: Uncategorized

January 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Categories: Uncategorized

Made.com Edelweiss Chairs

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

Again, not the best build quality.


We bought two pairs of these to go with our table, and of the four chairs, one could not be assembled as the bolt would not get purchase in the fixing. We complained, and they immediately sent out a second pair zero charge, with a really great customer service.

However, I sent heavily on one of the new chairs today, and again one of the screws popped out. Given we have them less than a week, this is pretty shocking build quality – a 33% failure rate.


Asked us to send the faulty chair back with the same courier, which was completely impractical given it would take 10 minutes to package it in the replacement box while he waited. We simply didn’t send it back, and so far they haven’t said anything.

Categories: Uncategorized

Made.com Edelweiss Dining table

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

[EDIT: I wrote this with inline photos when I was off-line, but then deleted the photos from my camera roll later. Therefore the photos were deleted before I could post this and no longer available, leaving just the text.]

I just had my first experience of made.com, having arrived back in the UK after 6 years away, and so thought I’d share as a newcomer to the brand.

We ordered an Edelweiss Ash&White dining table, that looks strikingly stylish at a very good price of around £320 for the extending version. The middle panel has to be stored separately rather than be concealed under the table, but, for the price, can’t complain!

What I can complain about, however, is the engineering. Assembly involves bolting the legs on, and then fitting the clasps that lock the extension pieces together. You’re supplied the clasps and self-tapping screws, and there are pre-drilled marker holes.

The trouble is, those marker holes are very shallow – only half a mm. And the wood is very hard. In short, it’s impossible for the screw to actually get deep enough into the wood to self-tap and screw in. You have to drill a deeper hole first – since I didn’t have a drill, I used a very thin torx bit for my electric screwdriver.

The clasps themselves are even worse. The holes are too far apart by 2-3mm, such that the clasps can’t actually close fully. But, if you put a bit of effort into it and force them closed, they will close – by pulling and bending (actually un-bending) the metal hook of the clasp!

The hook before
Doesn’t close…
Push real hard

Now it’s closed – but look at the hook now!
The thing is – if you do this, it does work! It’s horrible, but it works, making me wonder if it was deliberate.

Still, the table is sturdy and big enough for our young family, so for the price, I guess we can’t complain too much. (don’t get me started on the chairs!)

Categories: Uncategorized