December 21, 2014

Is aTrackDog a Flawed App?

There’s an app that’s been around in the Android Market that is designed to check your installed apps and inform you if there’s a new version.  While most applications check themselves for updates either automatically or manually, it is nice to have one singular place to look.

There is a very interesting way of how the app works; It checks everybody else and their handsets to see if someone has a newer version and then it tells you.  Oh, all of this goes through their servers.  On paper this all sounds very good, but in practice it opens itself up to all kinds of potential problems.

The first issue that arises is that if anyone out there happens to be a beta user, they throw a wrench into the whole thing.  Let’s say you are part of a development team and want to test some new features out on your personal handset.  Well, if you have aTrackDog installed on your phone, you just goofed the system up.  Everybody else is going to be told that a newer release is available. Then the emails and questions start coming in. It won’t be just the developers that get these emails, but A0Soft could be on the receiving end of these questions, with users wanting to know what’s going on.

The makers of ShopSavvy are one of the companies that have seen their share of emails and issues with this. Currently, they have a public beta version of 3.0.4 available, in addition to the current 3.0 that most have.  Yet people are now being told that 3.0.5 is out. The problem is it’s an internal alpha release being tested.

When Rylan contacted A0Soft, they advised that ShopSavvy’s beta users need to check a box to not track what version they are using. Imagine having to tell your users that they need to go into another application and check a box because it messes things up for everyone else. And if just one person doesn’t check that box… well, you know what happens.

Rylan exchanged several emails with ‘Gasolin’ at the company who makes aTrackDog who suggested that we need ask our beta users to click ‘Not Track this version’ in the aTrackDog settings.  Rylan tried to explain that we have no control over what our beta users do or do not do.  If a single beta user fails to select ‘Not Track this version’ in the aTrackDog settings ALL aTrackDog users will get a notice that they are missing an update and the emails will start again.

Another problem could come once there are thousands of Android apps out there.  Are the servers that
A0Soft Inc. has going to be strong enough to handle the burden?  What happens when there are hundreds of beta and private versions being tested?  Is A0Soft Inc. prepared to handle all of the emails coming from users and developers with questions and complaints?

It’s highly possible that this app might be mining information. How many people have installed App “X” or are using version 3.2? There’s nothing quite as valuable as knowing numbers and usage of your own apps as well as the competitors.

Almost all of the apps we’ve installed so far on our G1 have the option to check for updates. Over half of the stuff we run automatically notifies us of new versions upon loading. At one point, a few of us had aTrackDog installed on our handset, yet removed it once we realized that it was somewhat useless.

We can’t say whether or not the makers of aTrackDog are malicious in their intent.  We’d like to think that they have their best intentions in mind.  Maybe their app wasn’t though out fully for the long term.  As an app that showed up in the early days of the Android Market, it’s fine to keep people up to date with the ever changing app landscape.



  • Paranoid-Android

    Posting this here since http://www.biggu.com/blog/ didn’t post my comment.

    In the case of ShopSavvy and some others, aTrackDog gives the user a CHOICE of downloading from the Market or a developer web site. The Market option will not allow you to install the “newer” version because there isn’t one posted to the market. If they opt for the web site then they’re on their own.

    DiskUsage currently shows version 1.0 in the Market but aTrackDog shows 1.3.1 available. If you go to the developer web site you’ll find 1.0. I shrug it off as an error and move on. If it’s not in the Market I don’t download it. And I sure as hell am not going to post my mobile number to download 3.0.5 beta of ShopSavvy. I say no to marketing calls and e-mail spam.

    Seems like users do not know how to make their own informed decisions. Maybe they shouldn’t be playing with software because they may hurt themselves.

    Now where exactly is the update button in ShopSavvy? Of the 77 applications I’ve downloaded from the Market maybe five have some update “feature” and most of it was telling me to go to the Market to get the latest update. Why should I go to 77 individual apps and try to find updates? I can try and go to the Market and sort all apps by date and wade through until the last time I think I had an update.

    aTrackDog serves a real purpose because the lack of an “official” Market version tracker. Either the Market needs to implement one or require every application maker to include one if they are going to distribute software via Market.

    aTrackDog is doing a service to G1 users out there. There have been only two apps that had “problems” with versions and I made my choice by ignoring them. Now if ShopSavvy could give me accurate and up-to-date pricing for on-line and local products, and include lots more products instead of getting the dreaded product not found that many often get… Maybe the folks at ShopSavvy should take their advice to aTrackDog and verify all their database pricing prior to presenting it to G1 users.

    I like ShopSavvy and use it with it’s limitations. Just glad it’s free because it’s not something I’d pay for. The reason for my reply is because of the tone of aTrackDog: Good or Bad Idea? http://www.biggu.com/blog/ post. Someone seems to be pissed because they have lots of (l)users complaining to them.

    aTrackDog no longer offers ShopSavvy 3.0.5 as of this posting. Happy guys?

  • Jason

    I for one, happen to love the application. In just my first time running it discovered 50+ apps that needed upgrading that I never even seen the newer version come through the Marketplace (and I check it once a day). I believe version control is something that the Marketplace should be aware of and put some practices in place to show that there is an update to a certain application. Much in the way that the (and I dread saying this) iPhone is notified of it’s application updates from the App Store. I realize most applications have their own “update” selection but i like not having to go into 70+ apps and check each’s version. All that being said…I can see how the above issues would cause minor problems but in light of my recent dealings with aTrackDog I can say that so far I like the app.

  • http://www.85photo.com enrique cubillo

    I’d be happy to try a beta version.

    http://www.85photo.com
    enrique

  • http://andappstore.com/ Al Sutton

    There is another problem with aTrackDog in that it doesn’t handle non-Marketplace apps. I have an app which is a competitor service and so can’t be listed in Marketplace, yet aTrackDog will tell anyone who is not on the latest version that it can. Then when the user goes to upgrade they get taken to Marketplace and informed the app doesn’t exist, which is pretty poor.

    Personally I find OI Updates’ approach to be a more workable one. It checks the apps manifest for an update information URL, if that doesn’t exist it checks AndAppStore to see if it has a more recent version listed, and if the app isn’t listed there it shows a question mark. This lets developers run betas, release updates to specific people, or do what they want, because they can control their own version information file or ask AndAppStore to de-list anything which isn’t for public consumption.

  • http://pocius.lt/ Karolis Pocius

    I don’t quite see how all the stuff listed in the article is this app’s problem. Sounds like someone is trying to dump their problems on aTrackDog developers.

  • anonymous

    I installed aTrackDog and it does a really good job for me.

    I can download apps outside of Market. Please read the FAQ G from its web site, Al. It answers your question.

    As I know, not all developers have the money to build the “auto-update” scheme (it needs a server first). A standalone version checking too is still useful for those developers, and users so that I don’t need to open up each app for checking the updates.

  • Stonesmaster

    I think it’s a GREAT app! Keeps me up-to-date and very easy to use.

  • Ashley

    I see where this app could cause problems however in its present state I love the app and hope they can keep improving upon it. Instead of having to open each app individually to update them having a 1 stop shop is very convenient. Maybe this could be something built into the cupcake build to auto-update or at least notifiy of updates to apps.

  • ParanoidAndroid

    I’ll try this again since last night’s post didn’t make it through. Either it was too long or censored.

    In the case of ShopSavvy and some others, aTrackDog gives the user a CHOICE of downloading from the Market or a developer web site. The Market option will not allow you to install the “newer” version because there isn’t one posted to the market. If they opt for the web site then they’re on their own.

    DiskUsage currently shows version 1.0 in the Market but aTrackDog shows 1.3.1 available. If you go to the developer web site you’ll find 1.0. I shrug it off as an error and move on. If it’s not in the Market I don’t download it. And I sure as hell am not going to post my mobile number to download 3.0.5 beta of ShopSavvy. I say no to marketing calls and e-mail spam.

    Seems like users do not know how to make their own informed decisions. Maybe they shouldn’t be playing with software because they may hurt themselves.

    Now where exactly is the update button in ShopSavvy? Of the 77 applications I’ve downloaded from the Market maybe five have some update “feature” and most of it was telling me to go to the Market to get the latest update. Why should I go to 77 individual apps and try to find updates? I can try and go to the Market and sort all apps by date and wade through until the last time I think I had an update.

    aTrackDog serves a real purpose because the lack of an “official” Market version tracker. Either the Market needs to implement one or require every application maker to include one if they are going to distribute software via Market.

    aTrackDog is doing a service to G1 users out there. There have been only two apps that had “problems” with versions and I made my choice by ignoring them. Now if ShopSavvy could give me accurate and up-to-date pricing for on-line and local products, and include lots more products instead of getting the dreaded product not found that many often get… Maybe the folks at ShopSavvy should take their advice to aTrackDog and verify all their database pricing prior to presenting it to G1 users.

    I like ShopSavvy and use it with it’s limitations. Just glad it’s free because it’s not something I’d pay for. The reason for my reply is because of the tone of aTrackDog: Good or Bad Idea? post. Someone seems to be pissed because they have lots of (l)users complaining to them.

    aTrackDog no longer offers ShopSavvy 3.0.5 as of this posting. Happy guys?

  • Vimes

    Used the equivalent Palm application on a T3 for many years and it provides a very useful service in making sure installed applications are up to date. The occasional beta version indication was also useful in indicating that a new release was on its way.

  • Kint

    I like aTrackDog, but you can also go to the market and look at your Downloaded Apps, if there is an update, it’ll say ‘Free’ instead of Install. Select it and download the new one for the update. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen where you can remove an app from the downloaded list, so I have to remember what I didn’t like. And I try almost all of the new programs… so that’s becoming a longer list to remember, which is why I like aTrackDog.

  • samlu

    In our opinion, software users have the rights to know if there are newer
    versions available. Naturally, it includes alpha and beta versions. It’s
    the user’s free will to decide if they want to install the newer version
    or not. The object of aTrackDog is, therefore, to assist Android users to
    be aware of the availability of latest versions of the application
    they are using.

    As for the developers, if they do not want their general users to know
    about the versions under developing or testing, they should protect that
    piece of information from spreading. Thus, aTrackDog has provided a way
    for developers to keep the information of their developing/testing versions
    from being delivered to general users. (http://atrackdog.a0soft.com/faq.php#PW)

    We’d like to reiterate that aTrackDog will not collect any user’s private
    data, nor will we apply the application version information on any
    purpose maliciously. The only objective of aTrackDog is to cut down users’
    time wasting on mundane tasks, thereby increasing their productivity.

    We apologize if it may have caused any nuisances to some developers.
    Meanwhile, we will continue to seek better solutions.

    As time goes on, we will announce new functionality for aTrackDog
    progressively. Please stay tuned!

    Sam Lu – aTrackDog Developer

  • Steve

    This is a great app! Why would a beta tester expect it to find an update to a beta version? This app is for end users, right?

    This is at least the second blog I’ve read that is trashing this app, but without having tried to contact the developer or anyone else for another opinion. Or to to confirm what is being done with the data. The OP is just throwing out an opinion, and it’s one that is very slanted.

    Also, the latest version of this app now let’s you see a list of popular apps, which means that users are getting to share in the results of the data that is collected.

  • Rajesh

    I like this app. This post seems to have malicious intentions.

  • cob05

    I agree with what others are saying. I have aTrackDog installed and use it everyday (most times more than once since apps are seeming to update very quickly), and it is FAR from useless. I used to respect AndroidGuys, but lately they are becoming campy and puffing out their chest too much. Leave the opinion pieces for user forums and fanboy sites. Whoever wrote this article seems to have some other underlying intentions with the way that it is written. Where are the opposing view and tech facts? Stick to what made you great and leave the editorializing to other sites.

  • cob05

    Also, please tell me where all of these automatic updates are for android apps? The author looks like a fool when they make a blanket statement like most apps have automatic updates. Please use the device and applications before you try to convince someone you are an expert next time. Oh and to Sam Lu above, you shouldn’t be appologizing – the developers of the apps that are listed should be thanking you for providing functionality that works to their benefit that should have been implemented by them or Google in the first place.

  • nuammaPseubre

    There are 5 houses in five different colors
    In each house lives a different nationality.
    These 5 owners drink a certain beverage, smoke a certain brand of cigar and keep a certain pet.
    No owners have the same pet, smoke the same brand of cigar, or drink the same beverage.

    The CLUES:

    The Brit lives in the Red house.
    The Swede keeps dogs as pets.
    The Dane Drinks tea.
    The Green House is on the left of the White House.
    The Green House’s owner drinks coffee.
    The person who smokes Pall Mall rears birds.
    The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill.
    The man in the center house drinks milk.
    The Norwegian lives in the first house.
    The man who smokes Blends lives next to the one who keeps cats
    The man who keeps horses lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill.
    The man who smokes Blue Master drinks beer.
    The German smokes Prince.
    The Norwegian lives next to the Blue House.
    The man who smokes Blends has a neighbor who drinks water.
    The QUESTION:

    Who owns the fish?

  • http://www.car2tw.com jj

    I personally love this apps and I think this baby is very useful.

  • http://fjajnghyhwiejkymhujjenenyfhrgb.com evighegackict
  • http://syabac.student.ipb.ac.id syabac

    nice..
    i think this app very useful