Budget Week and TaxCalc.ie

With the budget (well, the half I was interested in) being announced last Tuesday, this was the big week for TaxCalc.ie – both the site and the app.  It is the natural time for people to be interested in their tax affairs (the other is in the New Year when people actually see the changes to their pay packets).

The Budget

The budget itself contained no surprises, especially after the Taoiseach’s speech on Sunday night.  Considering the various stories circulating of a possible 3rd rate of tax or more USC bands it was a very easy budget in terms of code changes needed in my app.  The tweak to USC does seem badly thought out to me since someone on €10,035 pays nothing but another person on €10,036 ends up paying €200.72 in USC.  Hopefully someone in the Department of Finance will see sense and have the 2% USC rate eliminated altogether.

The App

I was a bit more prepared this year and created an update which posted user’s details to an endpoint on the TaxCalc site and returned the resulting breakdown as a lump of JSON.  This way I wouldn’t have the usual bad reviews because the apps wasn’t updated instantly.  Apple even approved my request for an expedited review for the update since the budget was so close and the update was available from the Sunday before the budget.  There were 390 downloads of the updated app by the end of budget day.

I was rather pleased with the number of new purchases of the app.  It reached a high of #8 in the top 25 paid apps on Tuesday before falling out of the top 25 on Thursday evening.  This was all based on 56 sales on Tuesday and rapidly dropping off to 7 on Friday.  The app is now back to selling between 2 and 6  units a day, which is still enough to get it to #1 Finance app in the Irish app store.

The Site

The site didn’t do as well as last year.  Apart from some tweets I made myself, the only place it got a mention was Broadsheet.ie which gave a boost on Budget day.  Traffic collapsed on Wednesday to the normal trickle.  This is very different to last year, where mentions on Boards.ie and TheJournal.ie meant that traffic was maintained for a couple of days after the budget.

The Competition

The only real competing app for this years budget was a free one from PricewaterhouseCoopers which got heavy advertising in the Irish Times and made it into the top 25 free apps.  This was a rather poor app that really should have sunk without a trace.  The first version had the bottom button partially off the screen.  My guess is that it was not supposed to have the status bar at the top and so the screen is 20px too big.  Then when the calculator is actually used the summary screen shows 0 for all values and you need to ‘View Details’ to see anything.  Even then, the view details screen doesn’t fit and you need to scroll sideways to see everything.  All in all, a very amateurish effort from one of the big accounting companies.

The other two apps – Irish Tax Calculator and the Irish Taxation Institute – haven’t been updated yet and I suspect the former has been abandoned by its developer.

Lessons Learned

Next year, I really should make more of an effort to get the app and site mentioned again on the likes of Boards.ie on the run up to and during the budget.  The site traffic to the site was certainly affected and the SEO tweaks I’ve been doing didn’t make up the numbers.

Having the endpoint ready to go well before the budget meant that I could roll out changes announced very quickly.  I could also take a bit more time with an update and run more tests.  Next year I should aim to have a version ready for developer release well before the actual budget so I’m not rushing to get everything changed at once.  Most of this year’s work should help that along.

Overall I’m happy enough but I think I can do better next year.  I’ll definitely be better prepared.

Dizzy – Prince of the Yolkfolk walkthrough

I got a massive blast of nostalgia this weekend when I discovered that that one of the old Dizzy games has been released on the iPhone. It brought me back to the glory days of the C64, the puzzle platformers and the massive walkthroughs in Commodore Format and Zzap64.  I used to buy both of these religiously while I was in secondary and I was always in awe of the people that sat down and hand drew maps as guides to games.

So in the spirit of these, I present you with a walkthrough for ‘Dizzy – Prince of the Yolkfolk’.

One assumption before we start – whenever you come across a star or a cherry (there are 20), pick it up.

Pick up the bucket of water, the match and the leaves.  Move to the door and drop the leaves then, the match and lastly the bucket.

Move left until you meet the troll.  Pick up the pick axe.  Go back the way you came and jump up onto the first platform then across to the next platform and finally across to the bard.

He should be under the bridge Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
Don't feed the troll

Continue right, ignoring the rolled up carpet and pick up the fluffle cage (the crate).  Continue past the lion until you come to the tunnel.  Use the pick axe on the rock and enter the cave.  Follow the cave, pick up the gold nugget and exit.

The rock you need to use the pick axe on in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
The rock you need to use the pick axe

Going left again, continue on until you meet the Grim Reaper.  Give him the gold nugget.  Keep on going left ignoring the MP3 player until you meet the Fluffle.  Drop the fluffle cage.

The fluffle in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
The fluffle - he's an angry little chap.

Jump up to the platform beside the cloud and jump onto the cloud.  Keep jumping across the clouds until you come to one with the ACME bridge building kit.  If you drop off the cloud and fall into the water you’ll be returned to the platform you started on.  Pick up the ACME bridge building kit and go back to the wooden platform.

Those clouds are more solid than they look in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
Jump across to the cloud. Have faith - it'll hold you!

Jump up two platforms and at the sign that tells you can’t jump the gap and use the ACME bridge building kit. Cross the bridge and go as far right as you can on the platforms.  When you get to the end, you can jump across to the clouds and on to the castle from there.  Drop to the bottom of the tower and pick up the angelic harp.

Floating in the air in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk

Return to the platforms and get to the leftmost platform 2nd from the top.  Jump onto the cloud and keep jumping to the left until you meet St. Peter.  Give him the angelic harp and take the cheese.  Go back to the fuffle, put the cheese in the cage and pick it up.  Bring it to the troll and use the cage so he runs away.

Stairway to Heaven in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
It's a stairway to heaven.

Enter the castle and get the outboard motor.  Bring it to the Grim Reaper and swap it for the old metal scythe.  Return to where you got the angelic hard and cut down the thorns.  Follow the corridor.  Pick up the horn and continue down the corridor.  Ignore the flask of liquid.  Go up the next level and continue on ignoring the metal spanner for now.  Take the platform to the next corridor up and follow it to the end and pick up the tweezers.

We'll be back for this later

Return to the lion and use the tweezers on him and take the thorn from his paw.  Pick up the thorn.  Go back to where the metal spanner is in the right-hand castle and drop the thorn to the right of the trapdoor.  Get to the button in the corridor above and let the zombie Dizzy run into the thorn.  Go back and pick up the metal spanner.

Zombie Dizzy taken out in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
Take that!

Return to bard and give him the horn for the funny joke book.  Continue to the left castle.  Go up the lift to the first level and continue left until you come to the winch.  Use the metal spanner on the winch to lower the drawbridge.  Leave the castle via the drawbridge and continue left until you meet the princess.  Give her the joke book for the flag.

A crying princess in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
A good laugh will sort this out.

Re-enter the castle and make your way to the flagpole at the top.  Use the flag on it and the king will appear and make you a prince.  Drop down one level and pick up the key to the right.

The flag pole in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
Run it up the pole

Go all the way back to the right-hand castle to the last moving platform.  Take it all the way to the top and jump across to the locked door.  Use the key to open the door and move to beside the bed.

A sleeping beauty in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
A sleeping beauty.

Daisy will wake up and as long as you’ve collected all 20 cherries you’ll ‘find’ a ballon in your pocket.  Off home you fly!

A balloon ride home in Dizzy - Prince of the Yolkfolk
Home safe and sound.