Creating a Bank 737 Addon: Bank1337

Bank1337

Last month was my worst month living in Nigeria. We had a fuel scarcity and systemic failure of our electricity supply.

Surprisingly, last month was when I got the most inspiration I have received this decade. Funny how adversity leads to opportunity.

In the course of my activities last month, I had to transfer money to a friend. My token was forgotten at home so I asked my colleagues to help me make the transfer. I went round the office begging someone to take cash from me and make the transfer to my friend all to no avail.

In the course of going round the office, a colleague told me about the Bank 737 shortcode service from GTB. I was skeptical at first that it would work but when I tried it, it worked and I felt the feeling you get when you have found a solution to a problem after years of searching.

That same week I made use of the service again. I was annoyed that I had to type in *737* for each operation. Being a programmer, I decided to create a solution to the problem rather than complain about it.

I realized that GTB already has a mobile application for funds transfer but without your token, it doesn’t work. On the other side of the fence is the Bank 737 shortcode service. Bank1337 is an intermediate solution between the two products.

Once I got the idea, the rest was easy. As I was looking to create a prototype, I decided to develop it using App Inventor. App Inventor is a drag and drop programming environment for creating Android applications.

I initially thought of calling it Bank737 but I decided that I didn’t want to risk GTB coming after me. I am a Jedi not a Sith. I don’t want anything that would insinuate that I am on the dark side of the force.

Once I settled on a name for the application, I created the project in App Inventor and started working on getting the operation of buying airtime to work.

The first tests were all failures. In creating this application, I found a subtle limitation to using App Inventor. The task of sending shortcodes something I had never done before so I had to find out how to get it done.

Once I confirmed that the application could carry out the purchase of airtime, I extended it for other operation of the Bank 737 shortcode service.

In case you don’t have the operations memorised, the image below shows all of them.

BANK 737

Although I didn’t have to code, it took more that a month to get the entire application completed. I was busy with other things and also working on tutorials for Android Development for Everyday People.

The only other area where I had a bit of trouble was implementing the Startimes Bill Payment. The trouble came from the fact that I am not a Startimes subscriber so I didn’t have a Startimes Card.

As a result, I had to search for a Startimes Card. I found one online by visiting the Startimes Customer Support Page. Getting the right search phrase took a while and slowed down the completion of this project. Once I found a Startimes Card Number, I counted the number of digits and used it for error checking in Bank1337.

The entire premise of Bank 737 is simplicity. It represents an attempt by GTB to capture the unbanked population of Nigeria so any application built on top of it must be simple, accurate and convenient.

In my own way, I tried to make an application that would check for input errors before the user initiates the service. Testing of this was done using BlueStacks which is an application that allows you run Android apps on your machine.

Creating mobile applications using App Inventor is really easy. Once you have assembled your code, you click on the Build link in the menu and save to your machine.

Once you have an apk file on your local machine, you should test your application. In my case, I tested for errors using BlueStacks and tested the calling functionality using a phone.

At the end of the day, Bank1337 works as a frontend for the Bank 737 service. It saves the user from the hassle of typing *737* everytime they want to perform an operation. It is simple, accurate and convenient.

I have published the sourcecode to the App Inventor Gallery so you don’t have to download my app if you are not comfortable with apps of this nature.

The Bank1337 application is available on the Google Play Store. You can check it out there. Have a great week.

 

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Nigerian States and Capitals

Nigerian States and Capitals

Welcome to a new week. Last week challenging but I was able to create my first App Inventor application. It marks the end of the search for a simple, easy and free tool for mobile application development.

Nigerian States and Capitals is finally on the Google Play store. I am glad to have done it. Regardless of the outcome, I went the distance.

Development was easy. I tested it using BlueStacks. BlueStacks is a tool for running Android applications on the desktop. For me it allows me to develop and test my apps from my PC.

After successfully completing the edx App Inventor Course last year, I took the Mobile CSP course. It inspired me to really complete this application.

Nigerian States and Capitals is my first mobile application using App Inventor and I am just getting started. With  App Inventor my laptop has become an app factory capable of mass producing mobile applications. For the rest of the year, I intend to develop 1 mobile application each week.

For now take a look at Nigerian States and Capitals.

The Little Match Girl

The Little Match Girl

This is my 140th post on this blog and also my last post for this year. Its been a long and difficult year but at the end of the day, I am grateful that I survived the year.

Today, I am happy to announce that The Little Match Girl is now available on the Google Play and the Amazon Appstore.

It is a classic Christmas story by H.C Andersen. It was first published in 1845. You can read the original script here.

Do take a look at it by downloading either the Google Play version or the Amazon Appstore version.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

The Oil Bunkering Game MVP

The Oil Bunkering Game MVPHello!

I can only say welcome to my first blog post this year. I have been underground for the last 8 weeks of the year working on The Oil Bunkering Game. Tweaked and coded and finally the MVP is ready. You can play the online demo HERE.

So what next? I left Zished the e-commerce start-up I was with last year. Yes we were venture funded but I know that its just money. When I left Nigeria initially, it was to build games. I am grateful to have done that. Along the way Zished happened. Ultimately, I have to put my heart into my work and it is in game development.

In the next 18 weeks on June 27th, I will be launching a game studio. The Oil Bunkering Game is our flagship product. From concept to MVP has taken me 20 months. I am grateful to be able to come this far.

PayButton Africa

PayButtonPaybutton Africa is one of the start-ups at this years Start-up Weekend in Accra. I landed in Ghana the day before and a friend of mine informed me that last week’s Sunday was the grand finale.

Jet-lagged and tired I make my way to MEST. Its nearly demo time by the time I get there. Personally Start-up Weekend was the best way I could touch base with Accra again. My phone number was frozen since I had been out of Ghana for 90 days.

Getting to MEST was a bit difficult. I had forgotten my way there. Eventually I get there. I do a cursory search for familiar faces and meet Mawuli who tells me he is working on Paybutton Africa for Start-up Weekend.

It is not often that a project intrigues me. Most projects I see are typically clone projects. What is really intriguing about Paybutton Africa is the fact that it is a payment system based on Bitcoin. Bitcoin is truly fascinating and that is what makes the product amazing. It is a way to process payment on a website. Currently, they are piloting in Ghana so they integrate with MPower Payments.

Now they need your help. They have qualified for the global start-up battle and they need your vote. In order to vote, please follow the following steps:

Go to this link

Click on the +1 Button

Popup

You will get confirmation of your vote

Global Startup Battle

Now go to your email and confirm your vote

So that is how you vote for Paybutton Africa. Please contact Mawuli for project details.

Now get back to work. Its a Monday 🙂

Light Up Nigeria

game5I left Nigeria on June 28th 2012. It was a Thursday. I left because I was sick of the constant blackouts. Sick of the fact that each night there was never any electricity. I had ideas burning within me yet I could never give them life. Dream after dream had been buried in the years I stayed in Nigeria. I finally got tired of everything and left.

I spent 14 months in Ghana. Then a Ghanaian start-up I met got venture funded by Savannah Fund and we had to go to Kenya in order to be part of the accelerator program. I write this post from Kenya.

I am happy to announce my 5th HTML5 game called Light Up Nigeria. You can click on the above image or click on this link. It was developed using data from BudgIT.

Now that the technical part is over I have a fair idea of how to develop games for the browser. Now is the time for management to take over. 9 months from now, I intend to formally launch a game studio in Nigeria.

Very rarely in one’s life do you get a chance to do what you really want to do with your life. I am grateful and thankful to have come this far. It has taken me 15 months to get here but I have done what I set out to do when I left Nigeria: I have proven myself to myself.

Happy independence day Nigeria. This is my 36th day in Kenya. I have been away for 460 days. I really wished you loved your citizens.

Game 5 Idea

game5Hello Everyone!

I finally got the idea for my 5th HTML5 game. It took a while to cook in my sub-conscious now it is finally ready. The name of this game is called “Light Up Nigeria” I intend to use the power distribution zones in Nigeria as the basis for the game.

Nigeria Power Map

You can view the interactive power distribution zones map of Nigeria here. Special thanks to BudgIT for providing the initial infographic. So far I have gotten the map to display and the game to end. What remains is to put in the engine. I intend to do that in the coming weeks although I cannot give you a definite date of completion.

As at today we have 14 weeks left to Christmas week. All I want to do is round up at the accelerator and finish my 5th HTML5 game.