Job Tracker beta testing

It’s been a week since my little brother, AKA beta tester prime, started using my Job Tracker app on his Android phone.

He’s an electrician and travels around doing work at a mixture of sites, commercial and residential, so an app that let’s him record accurate details of the work he has done could be very helpful. I delivered a build of the app to him using Google’s Alpha delivery mechanism, which is very simple I must say.

As with all apps, there were plenty of head scratching issues to work out. This proved to be very challenging, since my brother is in Ireland and I’m in England. I had two main issues, both beacon related.

It wasn’t detecting the beacons.

Since the app is build around the concept of iBeacon monitoring, this was quite a big one! I posted an Estimote beacon to my brother for the purposes of this beta testing. He basically placed it in a room and walked in and out of the room. The broadcast radius of the beacon was very low, so I was puzzled as to why it wasn’t recording the stops. There was no way to get an insight into the app (to read the logs) so I was diagnosing the issue blind.

They possible causes:

  1. The beacon monitoring wasn’t working at all.
  2. The location detection was generating an error and being swallowed.
  3. The call to my API was failing.

I ruled out number 1 by adding lots of Toasts to the Background Service. This allowed my brother to determine that it was detecting the beacons.

Number 2 was an act of faith. I had to assume that since the permissions were requested and the location services were switched on, that this was working okay.

In the end, it was a silly omission on my behalf. I had just updated the backend and added authentication. I was missing the Authorization header on one of the requests, so the app couldn’t successfully function. D’oh!

Sometimes it would fail to record an entry or exit

This issue proved to be more subtle. During the day, the app would work perfectly, or not at all. In some cases it would stop detecting the end or exit events. There were two possibilities. Either my code was crashing or Android was killing the Background service and not restarting it. I added lots more exception handling to the Background service and included an alert dialog so my brother would know if the service crashed. After a day’s use, this dialog never appeared, so I ruled out developer negligence. I switched the service over to a Foreground one. This eliminated the issue, but left me with a permanent dialog. I’ll revisit this once the app’s functionality has been improved.

There were, of course, other bugs in my code. Most very simple to squash.

This week should bring a full 5 days of uninterrupted testing and help me determine if the app is useful, annoying, pointless or somewhere in-between. I just completed an iOS version too and that’s being deployed to another brother. He’s a mobile mechanic, so this app is suitable for him too. I’ve got a beacon sitting in a Jiffy bag ready to post to him!

I’ve had an idea for a home-delivery beacon platform too 🙂

Tom

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