Blog

1 September 2013

A new planning tool for outdoor photographers

Although it’s been quiet on this site for a long while, we’ve been busy behind the scenes.

Today, our latest app is slipping out the door during a US holiday weekend: The Photographer’s Transit, or Photo Transit for short (yes, we like our complicated app names).

Photo Transit is positioned as a sister app to The Photographer’s Ephemeris. Where TPE is designed as a sun/moon calculator for photographers, Photo Transit is a “digital surveying tool” that allows you to visualize field of view, develop and share shot lists with friends and colleagues.

Photo Transit on iPad

The new app uses the Google Maps SDK for iOS: Google have been doing a great job with this all year. It has some wonderful features, such as Street View integration, which we’ve been able to make good use of within the app.

Back to looking at iOS7 updates now!

 

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16 October 2012

New web-site for TPE

Long overdue, but we finally managed to refresh the web-site for TPE. It was built from the ground up in Textpattern and you can find it at the usual URL:

photoephemeris.com

The old site was hastily put together in Drupal 6 back in 2010 with TPE for iOS first launched. At that time, Textpattern seemed to be in what felt like terminal decline and it seemed prudent not to incur more platform risk with another new site.

However, I never really had the time (or inclination) to get to grips with Drupal properly. It was far less elegant and intuitive than Textpattern, and I ended up spending most of my time trying to work out how to apply the constant stream of patches and updates, rather than managing content.

So, all-in-all, very happy to be back on a reinvigorated Textpattern, freshly updated with HTML5 templates!

Next up, I’ll have to look into all this “responsive design” malarkey and get something that formats nicely for mobile devices.

 

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20 August 2012

Finally, a second app released!

Happy to announce that we’ve released our second app, Bandicoot this evening.

As with TPE, we built Bandicoot to “scratch an itch” – namely, the inconvenience of inter-converting various bandwidth units.

Simple conversion such as kilobytes to megabytes are typically handled by any number of units conversion apps. However, as often as not, those aren’t the conversions you need.

At least in my experience, the most common need is to convert between compound units, for example, kilobits per second to megabytes per hour (for example, in streaming video applications), or to determine the bandwidth required to transfer 10TB of data in 8 hours (for example, in a backup and storage applications).

We hope you’ll find Bandicoot makes these calculations faster than any other utility app out there. Please let us know how you find it!

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17 August 2012

Transitioning to ARC

Over a year ago, Apple released Automatic Reference Counting, a new technology that pretty much relieves developers of one of the Objective-C/iOS duties that caused the most fear and loathing: memory management.

Supported on iOS4 (for the most part) and iOS5 (fully), ARC allows the developer to leave the business of deciding where and when to ‘release’ or ‘retain’ Objective-C objects to the compiler, which will insert the appropriate calls by itself.

The technology is well-documented elsewhere.

With the 2.2.0 release of TPE for iOS, we added in automated crash reporting by Crittercism.

It turned out to be quite an eye opener.

With the 2.2.0 release we were seeing around 1.5% of app loads crashing, particularly affecting iPad 1 owners – way higher than I’d ever imagined it would be, and far from acceptable.

The most frequent crash would occur on a memory warning, with a message being sent to a deallocated object – a classic instance of memory management gone wrong.

On seeing the stats, we quickly updated TPE to use ARC and released a 2.2.1 update. Since then, the crash rate has reduced to <0.5% of app loads, of which over half are caused by a bug introduced by mistake (my wrist resting on the space bar, I think!).

Pretty much all the memory-related crashes we saw reported in 2.2.0 are gone.

TPE consists of around 55,000 lines of code – not huge, but non-trivial – and so the migration to ARC was something to be considered carefully, especially given the high stakes game that is an App Store update.

However, I’m pleased to say the process was straightforward and has significantly improved the quality of the app.

As this post says:

There is no downside. Use it. Do it today. It is faster than your old code. It is safer than your old code. It is easier than your old code.

 

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5 July 2012

Dodging bullets

On Monday, after a nine day wait, the latest update to TPE was in review by the App Store team and approved only one minute later.

I was tempted to release it that evening, but paused, remembering the 4th July holiday was fast approaching. TPE typically sees higher usage and download levels around holidays – clearly, those are days when many photographers plan to head outside and do some shooting.

So, I figured I’d sit on the update until next week.

Updating apps on the App Store is a high stakes game. Given Apple’s review process, a bug in an update pretty much stays available for everyone to download until such time as you can fix it, submit the fix and get it reviewed and approved once again. By default, you’ll go to the back of the queue on resubmission, unless you’re able to successfully beg for an expedited review.

I’ve only had to do this once (a couple of years ago) and would rather not have to again (although, never say never).

It seems I dodged a bullet by putting off releasing the update. As widely reported, updates released in the past couple of days have ended up corrupted for some users, with the effect that they will not start once installed. The solution is to delete and reinstall (assuming you’re able to receive an uncorrupted version from the App Store).

Unfortunately, some users, upon updating an app only to find it does not work, leave one-star reviews and negative comments. That’s a tough situation for developers who put their apps through QA testing.

So, if you’re a happy user of any the apps listed here, now might be a great time to write a positive review.

 

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