Sunday, July 27, 2008

Q & A

A number of suggestions and comments have been posted, I feel like I should address a few.

Regarding battery life. I am in the process of changing the way that Geopher Lite gets updates from the GPS unit, as it is more frequent than it needs to be right now. However, this may not be enough to take care of the battery problem, the GPS will still be on in the background. I may change this so that if you are within a certain distance from your target the GPS is on all the time (like right now), but before that it turns on and off for updates. The big problem comes in when turning it on or off, if the GPS will be as accurate or not. I'm playing with a few things and am working on this, I'll keep you posted.

Regarding Inputting coordinates. This is a concern and I've done a few things to make this easier, but it's still not great. Without writing my own keyboard, I'm not sure how much I can do here. I am planning on at least auto-entering the NESW letters depending on current location for the user, that way it's all just the numbers portion. I have also tried splitting up the single text field into multiple text fields, but it seems to me to be harder to use that way. I haven't tried using the menu-type scroll picker, I may look at that as well. I'll keep playing with this and see what I can do. No promises, but I'll try to have something for the update after the one that is in review with this in mind.

Regarding downloadable maps. I believe some of the bigger GPS companies (like TomTom and Telenav) are looking into making a more general purpose GPS software solution for the iPhone. I can't compete with that and don't really want to -- these companies do that already and they are very good at it. I'd be shocked if we didn't see something in the next month or two on this. If it gets extremely bad I could look into something like this, but it would be a ton of work for potentially very little benefit. If you're out hiking somewhere you might be better off with a regular GPS than just the iPhone. (But if you do use geopher out and about please let me know how it works! =) )

Regarding copy/paste. Supposedly apple is working on this right now. It would not be trivial for me to take care of this myself. I'll keep my ear to the ground on this one, I agree it would be very useful to have.

Regarding sporadic updates and losing the GPS signal. This is on my list, I am a bit uncertain on how to go about this. If I do it incorrectly it will cause Geopher to not be as accurate. If I leave it alone it sounds like it will be problematic in certain situations. I'll do what I can here, but it will take a lot of tinkering and using my changes to make sure it works.

Regarding the google maps link from geocaching.com in Geopher Lite. The theory is that this shouldn't work any differently than in safari. I'll keep my eye open and see if I can find out what's the problem here, but no promises -- there may be nothing I can do about this short of rewriting the web view.

Regarding compass rotation. I will definitely have something here with apple's next firmware update, assuming that's more than a week or two away. =) As I mentioned before in practice this was much more annoying than I expected, expect something to happen here.

Along with the compass rotation I would like to have a better way to indicate accuracy on the target screen. I've not figured out the best way to do this, but it is on the list.

Someone also asked about cookies for the web view and remembering your user on geocaching.com. If you choose the remember me checkbox when you log in to geocaching.com inside Geopher Lite it will remember you between sessions. That is already working.

To reiterate, In the currently under review update, I have made the web view a bit bigger and added a google maps button on the target screen as well as saving coordinates. Those are somewhat minimal changes, but they will alleviate a lot of concern and pain of use until I can get some of the other details worked out.

Whew. Big list. Thanks everyone for your patience and understanding. I hope that something is better than nothing and that I made the right decision to release this when I did. More later.

9 comments:

currymac said...

I was out geocaching with my cousin using Trimble's GeocacheNavigator, on his Blackberry. It seems really slick. I've been in contact with the boys at Trimble and they say they are very interested in the iPhone. Have you ever had a look at it? It seems to offer everything we need.

Christopher Julian said...

Hello!
It's great to see your enthusiasm about this project and I am happy I bought it (even more so when it looked kike it was going to disapear from the app store)...
Being totally new to caching I still don't follow all the details of what is being said herebut I do enjoy reading about it non the less...
As far as I can tell for me the two biggest issues sem to be sorted in the update thats is on it's way...
The google maps button and the save coordinates.
I do suspect that there are several company's out there including geocacher looking into making their own apps (and that might be why they are being so uptight about the TOS) but I really like what you are doing and the little charming comunity that is taking hape here...
So thanks a lot for your efforts and all the best...
Take Care
Christopher Julian

DadGuy said...

currymac,

I just found out about the trimble software a few weeks ago. It is indeed what I was shooting for with the full version of Geopher. Until the groundspeak people decide to change their minds, I won't be able to do that sort of thing without them. That kind of thing is where the idea for geopher came from -- the iPhone more than most any other device out there has the best capabilities for this, and even if I am not allowed to do so, I would expect groundspeak to work with someone to make it happen.

Christopher, thanks for the encouraging words. I'm a bit humbled at just how many people this is affecting already.

Wim Verhoef said...

Hi,
Good to see you are improving on the main functionality, which is finding a target, given the coordinates. Don't spend too much of your time on the .gpx issues, they only give you the parking lots ;) The main fun in geocaching is calculating the intermediate waypoints from the hints found on your quest, and entering these in your GPS device. So make that extremely easy and improve the behaviour of the GPS. I read in your notes already a lot of good thoughts about that.
Finally, don't forget to include the possibility to be launched by another application. So that instead of calling up the iPhone Maps app, your app could be used as a utility from other applications. Haven't really looked into the SDK how to do that but that would make IGeopher Lite a great tool which could be used from other geo-tools. For instance I might be working on a waypoint projection tool for the iPhone. Instead of writing my own compass it would be great if I could "interface" to iGeopher Lite.
Apple also sais this in their app development guidelines: concentrate on one thing and do that very good!
Thanks for all your efforts for making a great waypoint finder,
Wim Verhoef

currymac said...

Wim, I assume you are in the Netherlands and geocache in Europe? I have 2 comments to your remarks about .gpx files:
1. It's not just the parking lots that are given as .gpx files. Every co-ordinate is given in a .gpx file.
2. You only need to enter intermediate co-ordinates when you are doing multi-caches or unknown caches. These types of caches make up far less than 5 percent of all the cashes in North America.

Another important issue to remember about geocaching in much of North America is that a great many caches are in remote areas without cell phone coverage so you need to have everything, including maps, downloaded into your iPhone before you loose coverage.

Wim Verhoef said...

Correct, I'm from the Netherlands. Interesting to see the differences between geocaching here and in other parts of the world. But a good working standalone waypoint finder launchable from other apps make sense for both multi and single caches.

altered7151 said...

I have no rotation on the compass when using geopher. I was hoping to test this app this week on a trip to montreal. This app would be awesome for me because I travel so much. Any settings I can change to get the compass to rotate to show the way to the cache?

Congested said...

Okay so I used the app again Sunday and it was pretty useful. The best thing about it is that it searches geocaching.com for you. I found that very helpful. I have also now learned how to type the numbers in correctly. :)

Like others have said I am really happy I bought this because the work going on is transparent on this blog. :) It really feels like I'm getting my $2 worth just seeing what you're doing to improve the app and make it the best it can be.

I'm going to keep using it when I can, and will try and report any bugs/issues/suggestions etc. I am still new at geocaching but the iPhone and your app are making it fun.

Thanks.

Wiley said...

Great App! I used it this morning to find my very first cache ever (I was waiting to get into geocaching until I had the new iphone). Unfortunately, I then left it on the Geopher screen absentmindedly and looked down a few minutes ago to discover that I'm going to be lucky to get home before the battery dies, which would make my bus commute rather dull. I've only had my new phone for a day, so I don't know how much of this is because of the increased GPS usage, but it Geopher doesn't already stop sending GPS queries when the screen turns off, that would be a nice feature.

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DadGuy has been working with apple computers since the mac classic. I love games and puzzles and like to solve problems. I'm having a blast developing for the iPhone and iPad.