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Micro:bit – Official Android mobile application maturity and future
Jan 31st, 2019 by miki

The support request replicated below was posted as ticket #20427 on Micro:bit support on 2019-01-31 22:19 CET spawned by discussion in F-Droid RFP #662 about inclusion of the official Micro:bit Android Companion application in the free software application store F-Droid.

Hi at Micro:bit Educational Foundation.

We are wondering a bit in the F-Droid free software community (https://gitlab.com/fdroid/rfp/issues/662) whether it is worthwhile for us to try to loosen the official Android companion application (https://microbit.org/guide/mobile/#og-app) from its non-free dependencies to make it available in the free software application store F-Droid (https://f-droid.org/).

This leads to a couple of questions you can hopefully help answering;

1) Do you regard the application as alive and supported?

The latest release of the application was v2.0 2017-01-17 (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.samsung.microbit) and the publicly available code base (https://github.com/Samsung/microbit/) seems to have been completely abandoned. Only two commits were ever made by Samsung and no involvement with the community has been seen at all.

2) How come the big difference in maturity between the iOS and Android mobile applications?

It seems like the iOS application has received some more attention seeing regular updates through to v3.0.2 released 2018-11-01 (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/micro-bit/id1092687276?mt=8). Also it appears to have a much wider fetaureset (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.samsung.microbit&reviewId=gp%3AAOqpTOGpgo4CF2qrry4qWqLXyj0TZaEEJcrTB-yZ61o4nJbqhq-2mBojlYQJP7BzdkAzseGaLD1sVO9fBv1R3sY) developed along the way by Insight Resources (http://www.insightresources.co.uk/microbit/index.html).

The Android application appears to have been more of a one-off project from Samsung having all sorts of issues especially with Bluetooth that has never been attended to (http://www.suppertime.co.uk/blogmywiki/2016/04/mobile-microbit/, https://support.microbit.org/support/solutions/articles/19000041104-diagnosing-bluetooth-problems-android).

3) Is there a plan to bring the application in better shape?

Some activity can be seen in repository forks and branches from the original Samsung committer ailrohit (https://github.com/Samsung/microbit/compare/master…ailrohit:school_project) and microbit-sam (https://github.com/Samsung/microbit/compare/master…microbit-sam:partial-flash) identifying as being from the foundation but none of this work seem to be included in releases yet.

4) If a freed fork is made for inclusion in F-Droid would you be willing and able to integrate the changes into the official sources?

F-Droid prefers an upstream source which can be directly built without non-free dependencies using an appropriate set of build options. This greatly simplifies maintenance and build efforts. A forked repository is already in place at the foundation’s Github organization (https://github.com/microbit-foundation/microbit-android) but is at the moment even with the stale Samsung repository.

Thanks for any clarifications you can provide.

Regards,
Mikkel

Google Play; no interaction with policy breaking app provider
Aug 8th, 2012 by miki

When dealing with policy enforcement for products that you distribute from business partners and whose sales your organization directly profits from, you’d think that you’d want to engage in some kind of communication with your peers before making drastic moves like shutting down distribution of these products. Especially when your peer is a national lottery organization partly owned by a European state, who is strictly professional about their business and which probably has a non-significant turnover facilitated by the product.

Well, if your are Google and runs the Google Play software distribution system for the Android platform, you apparently couldn’t care less. At least that is what a move today by Google implies, when banning an Android gaming app by Danske Spil, the national Danish lottery, who has a governement enforced monopoly on lottery in Denmark. This was done without any interaction with Danske Spil which of course was taken by surprise when realizing this, as reported (GTrans) by Danish tech magazine Version2.

Admittedly, as it stands now from an objective point of view, the app clearly breaks the content policy of Google Play which states that “We don’t allow content or services that facilitate online gambling”. So the real question, apart from the peculiar  behaviour of Google towards this app provider for Google Play, is for Danske Spil; “How on earth did you think you could distribute an app through Google Play which so blatantly is in direct violation of the content policy?”.

Maybe the endorsement by the Danish legislation has risen to their heads, making them think their monoploy in Denmark made them so special that they could ignore Google’s standard policies? The current response from Danske Spil is that the app had been previously “approved” by Google, whatever that means because to my knowledge there is no verification procedure as such for content on Google Play (that’s a point for further investigation when time permits) .

At the moment not only the app itself, but also the provider page for Danske Spil A/S is inaccessible at Google Play, even though marketing from Danske Spil still tries to lure new users to the lotteries provided by the app, both from the web, TV and electronic billboards.

If your business model relies on outside partners (and which doesn’t?), this might be a good occasion to take the time for a second thought about what dependencies it has. And especially who is in the power to pull the carpet below it without interacting with you.

If I had a business with parts, components or services not under my in complete control, I’d prefer a partner which had a fellow human representing him, with which I could meet and look into his eyes. That way a social bond is created, which hopefully increases the probability that I will know if anything is about to happen that affects my business.

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© 2019 Mikkel Kirkgard Nielsen, contents CC BY-SA 4.0