BeamAir 2.0 – turns iPhone or iPad into a powerful presentation tool

Your iOS device - the ultimate presentation tool

Your iPad – the ultimate presentation device

Finally, the new BeamAir has arrived in the App Store. From the first version, we shifted focus a bit more towards presentations as there are plenty of photo sharing Apps anyway, but presentations are still a topic that has not been addressed too much. Still, we think the approach of BeamAir is somewhat unique also for sharing of images, but also really great for doing presentations.
Our vision is to make BeamAir the mobile presentation device for the mobile age, enabling users to quickly share documents, slides or images with anyone, anywhere. So basically, we aim to turn the iPhone or iPad (Android version might come at some point in the future as well) into a mobile projector.

Using BeamAir is straightforward and can be explained in two sentences: Start a the app session, select an image or a presentation and tell all viewers to enter the session ID displayed by BeamAir at http://www.beamair.com (or just go to http://www.beamair.com/sessionid). As you flick through the images or slides in the app, viewers see exactly the images and slides that your select – live and in real time.

BeamAir also shows a very Snapchat-ish behavior: Once you end a BeamAir session, all images and slides that were shown are not available anymore online and deleted from our servers.

All that was already working pretty well in BeamAir 1.1 – but for 2.0 we added quite a bunch of very useful features to fix some shortcomings of the first version and make using BeamAir more efficient, useful and fun

  •  Slide in Menu and iOS7 Design: first and foremost, we added a menu to BeamAir, to make the load of new options selectable. Also, we tried to stick to iOS7 design in order to make it more stylish (BeamAir is now only available for iOS7 as well)

    Show where you skied down with the paint mode in Beam Air

    Show where you skied down with the paint mode in Beam Air

  • Paint mode: We think this is the coolest and most „magic“ feature of the new version – go into the paint mode and paint in your images and slides, and your audience sees what you are painting – in real time!  This is great for highlighting important facts at presentations, show the tactics of the next game to your football teamor just painting a moustache an image of your your mother-in-laws – possibilities are limitless. Of course, your masterpiece can also be shared as an image in social networks or just be saved in your image library.
  • Instantly take images: Instead of choosing an image from the gallery, it is also possible now to instantly take a picture and publish it via BeamAir – imagine you going to a party, a day trip or a concert and tell your friends the BeamAir session in order to follow your latest snapshot from you having a lot of fun and envy you. Or show live taken shots of people in the audience on a big screen in a bar or club. And when the session is closed, no image remains online🙂
  • Phone Conferences: As people frequently discuss their BeamAir session on the phone, we included a possiblity to exchange a phone conference number via a BeamAir session in an easy way – by tapping on the phone button and selecting a conference session number every viewer of the session gets a notification that a phone conference room is available in order to talk about the BeamAir session. The default conference call number is worldwide available conference room, available 24 hours, 365 days a year, provided by mobilkom Liechtenstein. It should be considerably cheap to use all over the world, but of course phone fees may be apply. Of course, a custom conference call number can also be established in the settings.
  • Presentation timer: Who ever did a time boxed presentation or pitch will find this feature very useful – while presenting with BeamAir, you immediately see how much time you have used and left before the bell is ringing.
  • Presentation Library and Dropbox Support: in BeamAir 1.1, the only way to add a presentation was by selecting „Open with“ in Mail or Browser App and select the BeamAir App. If you wanted to show the same presentation many times, this had to be done over and over again – find the mail or URL, download the PDF, open in BeamAir – not very comfortable, so now, once opened,  PDFs can be saved directly in BeamAir. We also integrated Dropbox, to get PDFs into BeamAir directly from the Dropbox Account (the Dropbox app needs to be installed for that though)

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    Schedule your BeamAir sessions in advance

  • Scheduled Sessions: When planning a presentation in advance, it does make sense to tell people in advance under which URL and at which time they can follow the presentation. This was not feasible with the old version of BeamAir, as the Session ID was generated randomly and only at start of session. We are trying to address this with scheduled sessions, where a pre-reserved session ID is used. Every scheduled session creates a calendar entry on the iOS device that can also be used to invite participants.
  • Settings: last but not least, we added quite a few settings to BeamAir – now you can control image upload quality in order to adjust BeamAir to the bandwidth available. The delay after an image or slide should be automatically uploaded can be set – or, to get even more control, do not upload automatically, but upload only manually on tap on the image. PDF Annotations/Comments can be optionally shown in a presentation – only visible in the app and not to the viewers of course, very useful for presentation notes to prevent you from losing your lines. There are also various settings for phone conference like using a custom number and the number of digits for a random generated conference room.

Well, we already have some features for future BeamAir versions in mind, as well as considering an Android version in case the iOS version is doing well. We are looking forward to questions, comments and suggestions from our users.

We hope that we can make the way presentations are done easier, more spontaneous and more interactive with BeamAir – for a sales pitch as well as for a lecture or your private photo show from the last vacation.

So, get BeamAir from the App store, try it out and let us know what you think about it:-)

Rank Master – Country Ranking Quiz released for iOS and Android

iTunesArtwork_512For Trivia games there are two kind of players: those who love to play them, and those that rather like to spend their time building their own farm, viking or mafia clan or flying birds through the air.


With Rank Master, we have built a game for the fist group, for all trivia and statistic geeks: Rank for or five countries by certain criterias like Population, Energy Consumption, GDP and many more. The more countries you have ranked correct, the more points you get. Simple gameplay, but it can be quite challenging to master the levels.

If Rank Master is your kind of game, you will be addicted after playing the first few rounds: Well, is pretty obvious that Brazil is larger than Ireland and that Switzerland has higher mountains than the Netherlands – But do you know, if Canada or China is larger? If India or Germany has more Internet Users? And where the heck are Vanuatu and Tonga after all?

 

Who's got the biggest paved road network?

Who’s got the biggest paved road network?

From a technical point of view it is our first major app done with Cocos2d-X and we are pretty happy with the result – and having almost the same codebases for all major platform is well worth the bit of additional effort. As Rank Master is out now for the two major Platforms iOS and Android, Windows Phone and also Blackberry might also get a Rank Master release in not too distant future.

We extracted the Data for RankMaster from the CIA World Factbook (if anybody is interested in a parser that extracts data from there, just let us know, we have one ) and are keeping it up to date with updates of the app – and obviously, countries are not the only category that could be ranked with the Rank Master App – think of cars, airplanes, cities or even people – stay tuned for future updates!

Probably for her, Rank Master would also have helped – well, at least she knew Hung(a)ry is a country, but Turkey?? That’s too much …

But somehow I think that it might not quite be her kind of game😉

Rank Master can be downloaded in iOS App Store and Google Play

BeamAir – Preview Video for Next Version

The last months have been pretty busy – we added online play functionality to our iOS App of Schnopsn, have a new game called „Rank Master“ almost finished (more about it soon) and – most importantly: We are developing a major update for BeamAir

We want to shift the focus of BeamAir – apart from photo sharing – to turning BeamAir into the ultimate mobile presentation software, redefining the way presentations are done and making ad-hoc presentations possible anywhere, anytime to anyone with only seconds of setup – basically, just telling the viewers to enter the session at http://www.beamair.com and start presenting.

Our mantra / tagline will be „Mobile presenting“ – that should sum up what BeamAir is all about.

We believe it is very useful in a business and also educational environment – it will also be feasible to schedule presentations with a pre-reserved session ID and invite participants to this presenation in advance. Moreover, a telephone conference can be attached to any BeamAir session. We also integrate Dropbox in order to get documents from there and make it possible to save pdf documents and presentations directly in BeamAir. This should make it a lot easier to access your presentation material. We have to admit, the „Open with“ option to get PDFs into BeamAir 1.1. is not very comfortable at the moment.

But the (as we think) coolest feature will be the live whiteboard drawing – to add another level of interaction to your presentation.

We also made it to the final round of an Austrian startup contest, but unfotuately did not win against the – also really great – ideas of the other startups. However, we felt honored to be invited with our app in the first place- it shows that people consider BeamAir a good idea and this encouraged us to further pursue the development and marketing of BeamAir.

And, we also made a video for the contest (as good as we could at least), it is a preview for the next version and here it is:

The final version of BeamAir 1.5. which will be released in November might look a bit different, as apparently we are also optimizing its look and feel for iOS7. And we have quite a lot of ideas for Version 1.6. – and if 1.5. goes well, we will also consider doing an Android Version of BeamAir.

BeamAir released for iOS

Finally, after a few months of development, we are happy to release our latest App, called „BeamAir“ for the iOS App Store. It is the first (and for sure not the last) non-gaming App by DonkeyCat.
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The principle of BeamAir is simple: you select photos on your iPhone or iPad using the BeamAir app, while your viewers can watch your slideshow live as you are flicking through those images. It works on any internet connected device having a web browser – including desktops, laptops, tablets, projectors or even Smart TVs.

Beam Air is like the slide projector of the mobile age, that is available anywhere, anytime. It is easy and simple to set up –  no configuration, no registration, no login, no network setup, no manual pairing or bumping. All that is neeed to watch your stream is internet connectivity and an auto-generated session code which your viewers enter at http://www.beamair.com.

Of course, many users will love to use BeamAir to share private images taken with their devices with family and friends in real time. But we believe, it is also very useful in a business and educational environment.

Because one pretty cool thing about BeamAir is also, that it is not limited to images, you can also show PDF documents – this in particular useful for presentations in PDF format.

First, you select a PDF on your device – typically from an eMail, or like here, from dropbox and choose open with BeamAir.

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In BeamAir, the slideshow is opened and a channel ID is generated.

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Now, your viewers just enter the channel ID at http://www.beamair.com or just go to the URL directly – and the presentation can start.
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After you end your session, all images and slides are deleted permanently and are not accessible any more, so no traces of your slideshow remain on the internet.

app-store

Schnopsn: Card Shuffling Algorithm

Randomness is something that is often counter-intuitive and individual perception of random series, for example a deck of cards, might sometimes give the impression that there is some kind of „intelligence“ or plan behind it.

After various user requests, on how the card shuffling for Schnopsn works, and if it is really random we decided to publish our simple, but effective shuffling algorithm here … and yes, the card distribution is totally random, we do not interfere with it in any case.

Our algorithm is based on the following pseudocode, suggested in this article: http://www.cigital.com/papers/download/developer_gambling.php


START WITH FRESH DECK
GET RANDOM SEED
FOR CT = 1, WHILE CT <= 52, DO
X = RANDOM NUMBER BETWEEN CT AND 52 INCLUSIVE
SWAP DECK[CT] WITH DECK[X]

And here is our Java Implemenation of the code as it is 1:1 used on the server side of Schnopsn Online as well as in the Singleplayer mode of the Android App. We are aware that we use the current millisecond as random seed, but that should be perfectly fine for our purpose.

	//	START WITH FRESH DECK
	ArrayList cards = getFullDeck();

        //	GET RANDOM SEED
	Random randomGenerator = new Random(); // here, the seed is the current millisecond

        //	FOR CT = 1, WHILE CT <= size, DO
	int size = cards.size();
	for (int ct = 0; ct < size; ct++) {

		//X = RANDOM NUMBER BETWEEN CT AND size INCLUSIVE
		int x = (randomGenerator.nextInt(size - ct)) + ct; // number between ct and size-1

		//	SWAP DECK[CT] WITH DECK[X]
		if (x != ct) {
			Card tempCard = cards.get(ct);
			cards.set(ct, cards.get(x));
			cards.set(x, tempCard);
		}
	}

So, if you have any educated comments or suggestions on how this simple algorithm can be improved or if you see shortcomings, just let us know by posting here or contacting us via support@schnopsn.com

Schnopsn Online

We built to a free-to-play beta online version of Schnopsn end of February and since then we have been working on improving it, partially based on our ideas, partially based on user feedback (thanks for the great feedback by the way). Users can play against others online right away, without any annoying registration or logins as we consider the device as your identification. Schnopsers are ranked based on an ELO system like in chess – the best players by ability should be ranked first.

Currrently, despite the beta and the fact that we did virtually no marketing so far, around 10.000 „Bummerls“ each day are played on our server, and we have over 50.000 active device installs.
At the moment, online play is only available for Android, but once we are „feature complete“ on client and server side we will also introduce the online version on iOS and later also on the web and probably other platforms like Windows Phone or Blackberry.

Why did we do it on Android first? It is not because of a certain preference for one system or another, we love and hate all of them, it is simply because we can roll out new version in order to improve and try out new things whenever we want, within two hours instead of a two-weeks-approval phase, so iterative develpment, rollout and immediate user feedback is feasible. We did about a new version each week since beginning of March.

At that point we have to say sorry for the frequent updates, still it is a small app with around 10-15 MB in size, but as with iOS Gaming Apps with sizes up to around 1GB are a common sight, many Android users tend to be concerned about 10 MB Traffic for an Update🙂 Its not a stereotype, Android and iOS users are in fact pretty different audiences in many ways, with quite a different mentality, both having their good and bad sides from our point of view.

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But beta phase is going to end soon and the app will be more and more stable so update frequency will certainly go down.
When stabilizing, we a learned lot about the tweaks of Android native app development (did we like it? Well, let’s put it that way: we’ll seriously give Cocos2dx a try as key technology for future gaming projects). Android is not only fragmented by different device types, but also by different API versions, an example where it gets tricky is display and memory management for bitmaps / images but finally we got it working.

We also experimented with certain Ad networks – mobile advertising is truly a science on its own. However traditional banner apps or even interstitials only pay off with huge numbers of users, the income from ads is no serious alternative to paid content, but still it is better than nothing, pays at least part of out server running costs. We may try other forms of advertising like video or push messsages in the future, but when beta phase is over we have come up with an appropriate way of monetizing the online playing user base in order to keep the Schnopsn Online going.

Top Ranks for DonkeyCat Card Games

A little more than one week ago we released our latest card game called „Hosn Obe -31“. Our primary goal to create graphically appealing and easy to use card games seems to pay off. Today „Hosn Obe“ is listed #1 at the App-Store Cardgame-Category followed by SchnopsnHD on second place. Schnopsn Lite claims the third place at the free-apps section. It’s a cool thing to have three of our games at the first App-Store page!🙂

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Some more news:

New Versions of Schnopsn HD and Schnopsn Lite are now available at the Apple App-Store. We have implemented completely refreshed HD card decks which look a lot more vibrant and sharper – especially on Retina  iPads. On Schnopsn HD you can now enable „Free Sort“ which allows you to sort cards on your hand the way you like – this also disables the automatic indicator for 20 and 40 and hereby makes the game even more realistic.

Schnopsn Lite now shows an Ad-Banner at the start page (only at the start page!) – as a „compensation“ it received many updates and features from it „bigger brother“.

Coming Soon: „Hosn Obe – 31“ for iOS

We are happy to announce our next app which is submitted to the App Store today after many months of development and testing  – it’s a card game and will be available within the next one or two weeks in the store: It’s called „Hosn obe“  – which is Austrian German and means something like „Pants down“. This is a very popular variation – especially in the German Speaking part of Europe – of the card game Thirty-One. In Germany the game also commonly known as Schwimmen or also Knack, Schnauz, Wutz, Bull and many other names.

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Of course, like in Schnopsn, players can choose if they would like to play with a German or French card deck and there are three AI strengths, of which the highest is – as we think – pretty challenging. Furthermore, it can be chosen how many players should be in the game (from 2-4)

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As there are loads of regional and individual rule variations, we chose to include  three small rule variations to be selected for the first release, and we are waiting for user feedback which are the most popular rule variations to be included in future updates.

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A multiplayer option for up to four players has been included, where players can user their iPhone and iPads to setup a local game via bluetooth or WLAN. One of the four acts as the game host / server while the other just join in – it is also possible to mix human and AI players in a multiplayer game.

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If Hosn Obe manages to get enough users, online play is also considered to be added in one of the future updates, and with it some rankings and statistics … and maybe some more nice features

 

DonkeyCat goes South Korea

Crowds at GStar in Busan

Between 3rd and 11th of November, DonkeyCat gaming department went for a market research trip, organized by Advantage Austria, to South Korea. A number of other Austrian gaming companies – ranging from small startups to pretty large established players – were also participating.

We gained a lot of information and met very interesting people while visiting major gaming, technology and publishing organizations in Seoul including LG, Neowiz, NHN, Gamevil, Com2Us, Incross and the Hoseo University.
We also spent three exciting days on one of worlds largest gaming fairs, the G-Star in Busan.

Besides that, it was also loads of fun and we enjoyed our introduction into Korean lifestyle and culture including, of course, Korean food and drinks.

For Donkeycat, here are the most important facts that we found out about the Korean gaming market:

  • almost everybody is focusing on the rapidly growing mobile games market, but still online games have by far the largest market share and revenues. Future plans and strategies, however, are based mainly on mobile.
  • in terms of monetization, the focus is clearly on free to play, premium or subscription based models are considered as a niche segment in decline, this is the case in almost all Asian countries. A strong tendency into that direction can also be seen in US and European App Stores, but there premium is still much more popular than in Asia.
  • the major platforms in South Korea – as everywhere else – are Android and iOS. But in Korea Android is (probably due to Samsungs focus on Android) a lot more dominant than iOS and also the most profitable platform
  • the unusual high profitability of the Android platform can be explained by the preference of Koreans of free-to-play over premium. Google Play is not the biggest Android store, domestic providers have their own large App-Stores like the T-Store. However, Google Play is reported to steadily increase its share.
  • Windows Phone and Blackberry have no relevance in the domestic market (only some large publishers have ported their most successful titles on those platforms, mainly for the U.S. market), but developers and publishers are keeping an eye on how the new Windows 8 is doing
  • Electronics companies like LG and Samsung are also doing their own Stores for Smart TV games and are also experimenting with various input devices (for example Wii-Stlye remote controls). This is a pretty new and still developing market and many factors will determine if this will becomes a success. However, considering that there is at least one TV set in every household, this market may become very relevant very quick.
  • the social messenger Kakao Talk seems to have taken Korea by storm, and replaces Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Skype and even SMS for practically every Korean. It is considered to having changed the rules for whole mobile gaming industry in Korea overnight. Kakao Talk is now by far the most important platform for promoting games and is also venturing into other businesses like fashion or music.
  • social component of games – like playing  against friends, inviting friends, sharing scores with friends and so is is considered as very important. Koreans love to contact and make friends online (see Kakao Talk) and compete against them when playing games. This helps to increase number of players by viral word-of-mouth marketing and offers additional possibilities for monetization.
  • Cross-Platform development tools are a critical issue in terms of development costs. Here Unity 3D is clearly the first choice for developers, not only for 3D, also for many 2D games.
  • South Korea has some very strict laws on game rating and protection of juvenile players – but for foreign companies offering their mobile games in the big app stores (Apple Store, Google Play) the have – at least so far – not really any practical relevance.

The Austrian Delegation at Hoseo University

Many thanks to the Austrian Embassy Commercial Section / Advantage Austria, especially to Matthias Grabner (who was not only the project manager in charge but also our local guide and interpreter) and to the Austrian Trade Commissioner for Korea, Michael Otter and his team who did a great job in organizing everything and supporting the Austrian companies in getting the most out of the trip AND having a good time.

DonkeyCat is of course also planning to join the Korean trip next year as well – in the meantime our gaming department will use the new insights to develop some games which might also become Hits on the Korean Market.

iTunes: Transferring the ownership of an app to another company

So for everybody who wants to transfer their apps from one business account to another (because they sold their app or – as we did – founded a subsidiary which focuses on app development) and wonders if this is possible, here’s the story. Unfortunately without an happy end😉

As the founding of DonkeyCat was finished we wanted to transfer our apps (Schnopsn HD and Schnopsn Lite) from our mother company hs2n to the newly founded subsidiary DonkeyCat by changing the company behind our App Store Accounts. For Google Play, this was done within a few minutes, for Apples App store, however, we already suspected that it would not be that easy.

So we created a request to change the developer accounts company data in iTunes connect. Very soon (Apple developer support is – despite its reputation – in our experience very responsive) we got an e-Mail with questions and we provided them with answers and documents (like the legal registration) of the new company. Among those questions were the three crucial:

 Has the original company been dissolved, or is the original company still in business?
Has the new company bought or acquired the original company as a whole business?
Is the original company the same legal entity as the new company and is only undergoing a company name change?

None of them was the case, so we answered „no“ and sent the documents. Next day I got a phone call from Apple support stating, that if the new business is another legal entity and the old business still exists, the change is by no means possible. Only we could provide legal documentation, that the old company has been dissolved or acquired as a whole, then it would be possible.

For our case, the „solution“ would be to create a new account for DonkeyCat and then remove the apps from the old account and re-submit them for the new account.

The only thing that Apple can more or less guarantee is that you can keep the app name, other than that it is the same as submitting a completely new app so you would lose:

  • the update path to all existing, already installed versions of your app – will for sure disappoint your user base quite a bit, especially if you have a paid app
  • all ratings and reviews – for some apps, might be not a bad thing though, but our apps received very good reviews
  • all store rankings and therefore crucial discoverability in the App Store – so most of the marketing would have to start all over again

Furthermore you will have to go through the apple review process again, and even if this process may be quicker than initial submission, the app will be out of sale at least for a few days.

So, in short words: Transferring an App from one business account to another – or changing the legal entity of an existing business account – is simply not possible. 

Sorry, but the „solution“ apple offers is nowhere near an acceptable solution, I would not even call this a „workaround“.

This blog entry offers some very good information about the backgrounds – there is some speculation, that apple used the Tax-ID as some kind of key and therefore changing that Tax-ID is technically not possible – may be the case, but why is it then possible to change from individual to business?

At least, changing the bank account to the new company is possible without any problem, but this is also not really a clean solution.

OK, this is also somehow stated – not very easily discoverable though – in iTunes connect documentation so we should have known what we were up to … But as a developers we have to say that Apple should put some emphasis on solving this shortcoming … sure, Apple at them moment provides by far the best best platform – at least from a commercial point of view – for developing and selling apps. As competition – namely Google and Microsoft – is still quite a bit behind in store revenue, they are catching up and in the end of the day the success of a platform is determined by the acceptance of developers that provide high quality apps – so every company, even Apple, is well advised to listen and react to their problems and demands, and we (and pretty sure many other developers) would like to have this solved.

We are realistic enough not expecting to have this solved too soon, and as we are software developers ourselves, we know that a seemingly simple problem seen from user perspective might be a huge issue when looking at it being in the shoes of the people who build the system.

So we will have think of some new strategies for the Schnopsn product line … and who knows, every problem also opens up new opportunities🙂