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Posts Tagged ‘app

I need to install and run the Wireless@SGx app in order to get a software profile to access this country-wide wifi network. However, I found out the hard way that the creators of this app have not kept up with the times.

Recently I replaced my aging Intel-based Macbook Pro with an M1 (Apple Silicon) Macbook Air. This model was released in 2020 and apps that are not updated for Silicon activate Rosetta 2 so that they emulate an Intel machine. 

Despite it being April 2022, the Wireless@SGx app has not been updated to Silicon or Universal (runs in either mode). It is still Intel-only but is not Rosetta-friendly. How do I know? Personal experience and the experience of others.

Currently there are 108 ratings of the WirelessSGx app at the Apple App Store (for desktop/laptop). It has an average rating of 1.9 out of 5 stars. Thirty-seven (37) of those ratings are one-star. I also weighed in and am among the disgruntled 37.

I read all the one-star reviews and discovered that 11 of them were about the app crashing. A few more recent reviews (like mine) wrote about a blank white window where the app interface used to be.

I might understand how the app might not be ready immediately after the M1 Macbook Air launched in November 2020. But it has been 15 months since its release and developers have longer than that because of Apple’s Developer Conferences [example].

There are already reliable rumours of an M2 Macbook Air [example] and current tech articles and YouTube videos touting the power and popularity of the current M1 Air. These point to the shift in the user base towards Apple Silicon.

Why have the creators of the Wireless@SGx app dragged their feet on updating their app? Do they have data that counters public perception? Even if I gave them the benefit of this doubt, they are supposed to be public-serving group that is tasked to provide access, not maintain barriers, to the Internet.

So I resort to tethering my M1 Macbook Air to a phone. I am doing this now as I draft this blog entry on Sunday for release on Monday. All this in a public library that has Wireless@SGx access points that I cannot access.

Update: There is a workaround.

It was just over a month ago when I first read about Singapore’s new e-waste recycling bins.

My first reaction was: Finally! My next was to collect all the old electronic gadgets that I had not been able to sell or donate. Yes, some organisations have the luxury of refusing to take gently used electronics.

I downloaded the ALBA Step Up app to get token points for my efforts. Note: I have not been asked to promote this app or the Step Up program. It is just the right thing to do.

Video source

I have made three deposits and have 1) contributed to the initial 34 tonnes collected (see video above), and 2) learnt to recycle strategically.

I found out that I get the same number of points each time no matter how much or what I deposit. In my first attempt, I gave three old recharging battery packs and three tablets. In my next drop, I recycled an old PC laptop. Each deposit gave me 1000 points regardless of product.

Each time I recycle, I need to use the ALBA app to scan a QR code on the outside of the bin. This activates the camera and a prompt to photograph the donation before I drop in into the bin. I do not think that the app has AI sophisticated enough to tell the items apart, so each donation seems to be worth a default 1000 points.

The current version of the app says that I can only scan and snap once a day for points. This policy was probably implemented to prevent abuse. I will recycle my cache over the next few weeks and months and reward myself with points for the effort.

After I updated my iPhone to iOS 14, I discovered that my Notes app slowed down.

How slow? I could try to type a short sentence, but the words would only start to appear when I was done with that sentence. At times it got so bad that I had to wait a few seconds before each tap resulted in a character appearing on screen.

I had not experienced this on my phone before, but I had noticed slowdowns on my iPad mini on a much earlier version of iOS and occasionally in a few notes on my MacBook Pro. The slowdowns were not too bad then, so I ignored them.

Slow Notes.

But since I record quick thoughts in my phone all the time, I wanted a solution to the problem. I did a quick search for the issue and discovered that others had the same issue since 2016!

Thankfully one of the suggestions in the user forums worked for me: Create a brand new note and copy the content of the old note into the new one. The solution was easy enough and my notes are as speedy as can be. But no one seems to know for sure why there are random slowdowns in the first place.

Every iOS update creates new problems as it solves old ones.

The latest one, iOS 13.5, helps you get to the keypad faster if a mask prevents Face ID authentication. But it also creates this error in the App Store.

iOS 13.5 error: This app is no longer shared with you.

I found out that when I updated some apps (e.g., WhatsApp), this error message would pop up and I could not start those apps at all. This did not happen with other apps (e.g., Google Sheets).

I found a workaround thanks to this site:

  1. Go to the Settings app -> General -> iPhone/iPad Storage
  2. Scroll down the list to the affected app and select it
  3. Tap on the Offload App button (the app will be uninstalled but iOS will retain its data)
  4. Reinstall the app (the same button will provide that option or you can visit the App Store)
  5. Tap on the app icon once it has reinstalled

I like being able to stream media from a home server to mobile receivers and players. One app that I rely on is Infuse.

Disclaimer: I have not been asked to promote the app nor am I compensated in any way to write this. I am sharing my thoughts just in case anyone else has the same needs or faces the same issues I had with the app.

With Infuse, I can stream media stored on a server or an external drive to my iPad. However, when I updated macOS to Catalina, I could no longer access my shared folders and drives. I discovered that I was not the only one.

Fortunately, someone discovered a workaround.

Unfortunately, it was imprecise, particularly about how to give Apple Samba, smbd, full disk access in Catalina. So I outline what worked for me.

  1. Use Finder’s “Go to folder” and type “/usr/sbin“ (without quotation marks).
  2. Once in that folder, look for the file “smbd”.
  3. Create an alias (shortcut) for smbd by right-clicking on it.
  4. The alias should be copied to the Desktop. (If not, move the alias to the Desktop.)
  5. Open the System Preferences application, go to Security and Privacy, and select the Privacy section.
  6. Unlock this section with your system password and Allow Full Disk Access to smbd by clicking on the “+” sign and adding the smbd alias.
  7. Ensure that smbd is also listed/added in the Files and Folders section.
  8. Launch Infuse on an iOS device and regain access to previously shared folders.

I have not had to buy or borrow a dead-tree book for a long time.

I have been given courtesy copies of books I contributed to. Late last year I received a hardcover copy of a textbook for the Masters course I facilitate because no one asked for the e-version.

About a week ago, I discovered Naked Statistics at a cafe. I thought I found the e-book at our national library, but discovered that it was only a summary. Thankfully the book, in hardcover no less, was available at my local library.

E-book summary of Naked Statistics.

The last time I borrowed an actual library book was almost ten years ago; I only borrow e-books if I need to.

I was aware that I could use an app to borrow actual books without joining the queue at a self-checkout kiosk. So I downloaded the app, logged in to my library account, and scanned the barcode to borrow the book. Eager to devour the book, I read the first two chapters before leaving the library.

NLB mobile app in Apple App Store.

I had to pass through a series of scanners on my way out of the library. The first one beeped like I had kidnapped a member of the royal family. There seemed to be a delayed response between borrowing the book via the app and registering that it was actually borrowed.

The app has a low rating in the app store. None of the reviews that I read mentioned the lag between borrowing and registering. Most mentioned app lagginess and legacy issues.

I asked a librarian if I should be concerned about alarms going off as I made my way through more scanners. She brushed off the issue by saying that the scanners were too sensitive. Did I hurt their feelings by not borrowing enough paper-based books?

Two more questions. Might the lagginess might lie in how the app communicates with a central database? Could the legacy issue be old mindsets on how libraries operate?

I cannot decide if the development of an app for consent forms illustrates what working in a silo or operating in parallel looks like.

Were the developers not aware that other apps that do the same (and more) already exist? Or were they trying to beat the competition?

In either case, it seems to be backed officially by the MOE, so it is likely to see widespread among parents of Primary school children.

In either case, this is also not my idea of a good schooling app — it serves an administrative use and is in the hands of adults. It is not one for learning and nor is it in the hands of the students.

If there is a silver lining to the dark cloud I have painted it is this: We seem to have gone past the stage where people complain about not having access to mobile phones to use such apps.

Samantha Bee is a comedienne and talkshow host. In the video below, she was interviewed by another talkshow host, Seth Meyers, on various topics.

The topic that pricked my ears was Bee’s app for promoting the midterm elections in the USA.

Video source

After watching the video, I had to ask: Does it take a comedian to plainly state the goal of gamification? Here is the segment where she made this point.

Bee conflated games with gamification — after all, she is not an expert in the field — but she also made a point that designers, developers, and users sometimes do not openly admit.

Gamification relies largely on extrinsic motivation to trick the user into doing things. This principle is also often applied in gamified teaching. The questions that instructional designers, teachers, and learners need to ask themselves might include: Is this good in the long run? How does this distract from nurturing independent and critical learners?

Here is some background information:

I received a surprise email from MyRepublic on 16 May 2018 that it was offering mobile plans as Singapore’s latest telco. I put in my order for the Uno plan on ($8 per month) on 19 May.

I received the SIM card by courier on 6 June. That was a two-week wait from order to receipt. It is not a good sign for a new entry to be so slow to respond to demand.

Delivery notes
However, I experienced the best courier service I have encountered so far. I received SMS notification a few hours before delivery. The URL in the message provided a wealth of information, e.g., what the courier’s name was, what he looked like, how to contact him, and his progress. The courier called when he was in the neighbourhood and was polite throughout.

Courier for MyRepublic SIM card.

MyRepublic does not have a brick-and-motar store for its mobile offerings, so its only human face is its choice of courier. It made a great choice.

I have actually stopped supporting a few electronic and mobile accessory brands because the couriers were so rude or impatient. I know that they are not the product company, but I believe you are also a function of the company you keep.

Setting up the SIM
The physical installation was straightforward — pop out the old SIM and insert the new one.

MyRepublic provided TWO printed copies of the same instructions. One was a fold out that was with the usual credit card-sized SIM package. The other was a postcard-sized card with exactly the same information.

MyRepublic SIM card APN instructions.

Perhaps they were thinking of users with failing eyesight. But they were also wasting resources. The clientele they are targetting are likely savvy enough to just need APN information and online instructions. Speaking of which…

A few minutes after inserting the new SIM, I received two SMS: One was to a website to set up a phone profile while connected to wifi and the other was just plain text on how to set the APN.

MyRepublic SMS for set up new SIM card.

Neither was ideal.

If I was not already on an active Internet connection, I could not use the website to automate the process. Both also did not inform me that I needed to remove the previous telco’s profile and replace it with the new profile.

The SMS and printed instructions were essentially the same, the exception being the case of the letters used — MyRepublic vs myrepublic. This was disconcerting given how the case matters in some services.

I actually followed the printed instructions first because there was a delay in the SMS. After setting the APN, restarting my phone, and switching off wifi access, I tested the 4G connection.

I saw full bars on screen, but was unable to access a simple website. I launched Pokémon Go and it could not log in and start.

The SMS arrived just as I was about to get frustrated and the new profile did the trick. However, I noticed that my choice of VPN could not work. I restarted the phone one more time and this time I could get the VPN to automatically connect.

MyRepublic app
I had installed the MyRepublic app on the phone before I received the SIM. Once I had a data connection, I launched the app.

However, I got stuck at the very first screen because I had no “log in” information. I was not required to create an account at the point of signing up nor did the system have my records.

I checked my confirmation email and my password manager to be sure that I did not have an account. Assuming that the account was tied to the email I provided MyRepublic, I tapped on the link to retrieve a password, but got this error message instead.

MyRepublic App makes no sense.

My order was complete. I asked for a new SIM and it was delivered. Must the first month elapse and payment happen before an order is complete?

When I tried to create a new account to use the app, I was redirected to the mobile sign up site to get a new SIM plan, not to get an online account to use the app.

I resorted to using a desktop browser, Chrome, to try to get a MyRepublic account. The closest thing to creating this account was to “sign up for MyRepublic Support”. I got stuck in a loop of providing details, clicking on the sign up button, getting a blank page, and refreshing the page only to be invited to sign up again.

All this simply meant that I could not use the app to check the details of my account or monitor data use.

This was disappointing given my experience using Maxis Hotlink in Malaysia two years ago. The installation, set up, and app use were practically flawless. The SIM was recognised immediately and the app account was tied to the phone number. I did not have to wait unnecessarily or jump through hoops.

Some thoughts
The gap between order and delivery for a SIM is too long when you consider how you can walk into a store at peak traffic and walk out an hour or two later with a new SIM.

The technical setting up, while not complicated, is not as smooth as could be. The Malaysian telco I mentioned could get users to do this easily and seamlessly in 2016, so what is holding us back?

All this reminds me of how many organisations tend to repeat the mistakes already made by others instead of learning from them, avoiding those mistakes, and making good and new mistakes. The old and unnecessary mistakes burden would-be customers and this creates mistrust.

One key approach to avoiding such mistakes and problems is user-centredness: What would a user need and do? How might you facilitate that and get out of the way? It is not just about efficiency; it is also about effectiveness. It is not just about reeling people in with low-cost; it is also about creating a relationship with your users.

My anecdote illustrates how this is not a good start for Singapore’s latest telco. But this was just Day 1. I will need to test the robustness of the data access as well as MyRepublic’s promise to keep the data flowing even past one’s allotted plan.

Update (13 Jun 2018)
Almost a week later, I received an email with my username and password for the MyRepublic app.

MyRepublic app account information.

Yesterday my wife and i sat through a series of cinema ads that screened before the latest Hollywood blockbuster. One ad made our stomachs turn and churn.

The ad was from a regional publishing and edtech company. It claimed to have a cool new app that gamified math. Their solution was a problem: It combined slick-looking graphics of a town and data “analytics” with conventional worksheets.

I have described this type of “gamification” as chocolate-covered broccoli. It is an attempt to get kids to consume something good for them (broccoli/math) by disguising it with something they would actually eat (chocolate/game).

Doing this spoils the taste of good chocolate and healthy broccoli. It also sends the wrong message and expectation that games are for incentivising the unpleasant work that is math.

Consider another way to picture the app in the hands of a young learner. Imagine sending a child on a mission to collect recyclables from her apartment block. Every time the door opens at each household, she is given a math worksheet to complete. As she walks up each floor, the math gets more difficult and she receives stickers for each completed worksheet. Oh, and chocolate to fuel her climb.

Was the point of the exercise the collection of recyclables or the completion of math worksheets?

The point of math is logical thinking and problem-solving. There are aspects that need memorisation and even drilling, e.g., multiplication tables. But math should not be extrinsically driven by game mechanics.

Case in point — consider the approach of Eddie Woo, a math teacher who was a finalist in the Global Teacher Prize 2018 and winner of Australia’s Local Hero award.

Video source

Woo leverages not on games or gamification but on the wonder, utility, and authenticity of math.

To the developers of gaming or gamified math apps that say “it just works”, I ask WHY.

You cannot be a-theoretical with your answer. If you are, you have not done your research. If your answer is that it works in the short-term, consider what it does in the longer-term with learners who rely on incentivisation over actualisation.


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