App "upgrade" = Ransomware ?

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I've been a user of SplashID password manager on my iPhone, iPad and Windows machine for a couple of years and found it pretty good. I paid $10 to use wifi sync which seemed reasonable value at the time.

Now, the developer has created an "upgraded" version which requires a $20 annual fee to use wifi sync. Of course they can offer this service and maybe some people will buy it, but I'm happy with my version thanks.

BUT - the version on my iDevices is linked to the App Store, and will automatically update if I enable this option or if I ever click the "Update All" button; there's no easy way to stop this, and thus at some point my paid for functionality will inevitably be deleted by the developer.

In my view this is ransomware (or possibly theft). The developer almost certainly doesn't intend it this way, but as a consumer I don't care what their theory is, I care what I can use and what it costs me. When I buy something I don't expect free upgrades, although they are often included, but I do expect it to not be remotely disabled and an additional fee demanded.

Of course there is a very simple solution - leave the application on the App Store and create a new one explicitely as "Version X". If the old one breaks with an iOS update then fair enough, I didn't buy perpetual support, but in the meantime don't steal my functionality.

Posts on the SplashData forum received suggestions to use their permanent upgrade offer - so basically ransomware in email form rather than as an in-app purchase.

I also raised this with Apple but haven't heard back yet.

iPhone 6

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So I now have an iPhone 6 - after sticking with my old iPhone 4S for three years the new 6 offered enough difference to be worth the upgrade.

The migration was trivial and took less than one hour, with all the apps still apparently working and nothing more than a few logins to reset.

For the phone, the highlight is obviously the bigger screen. I didn't really think the 4S was small, but wow the 6 is just so much better in that department, with even more clarity and so much more text visible. Reading news or looking at photos is a vastly improved experience, and I didn't even feel it was a problem before.

In terms of the hardware, it feels solid, and the (optional) leather case is very nice to hold. Camera is significantly more responsive, and the fingerprint ID works pretty well. The size is OK, obviously a lot bigger but not so much it feels inappropriate for a phone.

The only thing I've noticed is that quite a lot of apps are obviously not yet adjusted for the new resolution, so the graphics feel blown up and a bit bold. It's a bit like using the 2x view of an iPhone app on the iPad but not as bad.

Update 17 Oct

The Belkin Charge+Sync Dock works with the iPhone 6 with the leather case on. I think without the case the phone would be too thin and lean back uncomfortably far.

British English??

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I just upgraded my iPad to iOS7, and have mixed views on the changes overall. The new functionality seems in general to be useful, but the flat design seems to be less clear than the old one and in particular some of the icons are really not intuitive or clear to me.

I've found one thing which particularly annoys me in the Mail application though:


My iPad is set to use British English, and Trash is not a British term! It's also inconsistent when there's a perfectly good wastebin icon on the email screen itself.

This started a train of thought about a similar icon/term which has always bothered me:


Why is is called a Recycle Bin ?

Stuff I put in our physical recycle bin gets taken away, cut up, washed / melted, and reworked into a range of new items, which I don't personally get back. If I expected to put in a Word document and get back an Excel with numbers from a bunch of other people maybe the analogy would be more accurate.

To be fair there are some similarities:

  • I always forget to empty both the electronic and real form of the bins until we run out of space.

  • A file is always needed just after emptying, and newspaper is always needed for surface protection the day after it is recycled.

I wonder what the correct term for this electronic store would be? Options I've thought of:

Attic - much better metaphore, but can't really picture the icon for this.

Celler - not very common in British English.

Garage - having a car on the icon would clearly cause confusion!

Shortcuts for Google Translating a page in IE

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Google Chrome has some nice features, one in particular being the automatic translation. Unfortunately the performance on my home machine was awful, with long pauses before loading pages despite the usual attemps to cleanup, reinstall etc etc.

In a fit of frustration I tried IE, and was pleasantly surprised to find it very fast and very usable, with the exception of the translation part. Bing isn't very well integrated, and simply doesn't do very good translations.

I don't like the Google Toolbar, but needed a button to do one-stop translation of the page, and found two solutions.

1. Use a Javascript bookmark in the Favourites bar

The following bookmark will take the current URL and open in it Google Translate:''+encodeURIComponent(location.href))

To install this in IE

  1. Bookmark the normal Google Translate page

  2. Edit the properties of the new bookmark to set the URL to the javascript above.

You can change the target and interface language by modifying the tl=en and hl=en parts respectively.

2. Set up Google Translate as a search provider

By setting up Google Translate as a search provider, you can send the current address bar content in two clicks.

  1. Use the tool at the following page to create the search provider:

    The URL you need to use is:

  2. To do the translation, click the little down arrow by the search button in the IE address bar, and click the Google Translate button twice.

Change Request = Risk Premium

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Fixed price work is all the rage with IT finance departments and senior managers, even in this age of moving towards Agile methodologies and incremental delivery.

There's definitely a big dichotomy between agile and fixed price, with the former based on flexible scope, frequent delivery and frequent business led prioritisation, and the later fixed scope, large delivery milestones and fixed priorities.

What I've found in a number of projects that attempted to be fixed price but flexible is that it leads to a large number of change requests. In itself this isn't necessarily a bad thing - it's surely better to have a change request than deliver the incorrect or out-of-date functionality. However, I've also observed that the cost of the change requests tends to increase, and frequently make the project overall uncompetitive compared to a regular non-fixed delivery.

I believe the reason for this is that the quotes for change requests build in an increasing risk premium. The logic for this is fairly simple:

  1. Project is priced based on assumed perfect knowledge of the requirements, with a contingency.

  2. Change request comes along, so the confidence about the overall requirements falls and a risk premium is added to cover assumed increased contingency requirements.

  3. Another change request comes along, so the confidence falls further and the risk premium increases further.

  4. etc etc

You can't really blame the delivery team for this - it may be a bit naive to assume the requirements are clear/perfect at the start, but you have to work on some assumptions. Change requests typically mean that either the business are moving the requirements, or worse for existing systems that difficult parts of code/functionality are being uncovered; denying this increases the risk and the cost would be foolish.

I'm not sure there's a good solution to this, but there are a couple of things I've seen.

Have a limit on change requests, either numeric or in percentage of cost terms.

This has a number of implications. For the delivery team, it means they have confidence the scope won't keep changing, so the risk premium is lower. For the business, it means they have to think very clearly about changes and prioritise them properly.

Encourage a larger contingency, but allow use of it for small changes.

This means that a small amount of change is accepted and accounted for, so giving both sides more flexibility in how to manage it.

Overall I don't believe fixed price is typically the right approach except for items which can be very clearly packaged (e.g. upgrades, migrations, modules linked by defined API), in most cases Agile will deliver a better solution more reliably. However, if you are using fixed price, perhaps the idea of a risk premium is useful.