All posts by Nathan

13Jul/10

Trials, Tracks, and Mystery Comments

Hello, users of BackCountry Navigator on Android. I want to share some news and respond to some comments.  

Demo version and trial:
We have extended the DEMO version so that those who recently downloaded it can use it through July 31st. Beyond then, we expect to provide a trial that will last about 16 days from first use.  

Tracking in Android
Tracking, or breadcrumbing, has consistently been a highly requested feature and is at the top of our survey. Therefore, Ive been spending a lot of time on it these last few weeks. As of last Thursday, there was some promising progress based on the ability to draw tracks on a map from a GPX file. Some of the progress is mentioned on this post:

Tracking on Topo Maps for Android 

This is good news for performance, and means that the rest of you will be able to try it fairly soon. 

Mystery Comments
I am glad that the people on this mailing list have been fairly helpful in providing feedback and reporting bugs in BackCountry Navigator for Android. 

The Comment system in the Android Market hasn't always been as helpful. While I'm sure comments are intended to be helpful, the fact that I can't respond to comments or ask for more information, has left me with some mysteries. If any of you reading this know more, you can probably help me. These are all comments on BackCountry Navigator Demo where I may need more information, OR know the answers but can't respond directly:

  • Confusing. Doesn't really work: Though I have some ideas, I do not not know what was confusing or didn't really work for this user. Perhaps I'll be asking for the most confusing things in next month's survey.
  • Color Aerial Photos are not as new as Google: I'd hesitate to tell any user he is is wrong, but on this aspect, it may vary by state and by rural vs urban. Where my house is, Google maps shows no structure, meaning it is at least 2.5 years old, and the USGS photos show both the house and the goat house, dating it at less than 9 months.    
  • Make the location pointer more defined. In the latest release, we've changed it to a red icon, but there is more we can do there if needed.
  • Ads plus expiration date: I assume one user didn't like the fact that there were limitations to a DEMO version. Nonetheless, we've opted for a simpler banner that just reminds you to buy the license.  If anyone says that the DEMO version is just to lure everyone into buying a paid version, they are correct. 
  • Brutally slow at zooming with maps: While one can zoom in faster by press and hold on the zoom buttons, the user may have been hoping for pinch and zoom, which is a valid request. I'm getting more hardware in to look at that. 

Hope this is helpful to anyone who has seen or made these comments. You can always ask me more questions if this is isn't clear. I do appreciate all the positive comments made on the Market so far. It is one of the best ways to get more people to try the app.    

Have a great day!

Nathan
!uri
CritterMap Software's headquarters are at 3515 NE 252nd Ave, Camas, WA 98607. 

10Jul/10

GPS Tracking for Android: Displaying trail data on topo maps.

Since it is a highly requested feature, I've been spending a lot of time lately on refining our GPS tracking solution for Android. Tracking, also known as breadcrumbing, automatically marks a series of GPS points as you travel with GPS on. 

Although they are typically end up as a bunch of squiggly lines, there are some challenges to drawing GPS tracks on Android and other mobile devices. The sheer amount of data, though it wouldn't be an issue for your quad core desktop, can be an issue for mobile apps. 

Despite the challenges, I'm glad to announce some great progress in GPS tracking for Android.
 
This is a screenshot of the Continental Divide on a wide zoom that shows it covering four states. This squiggly line has more than 18000 points, spread over four tracks in four states. As of yesterday, BackCountry Navigator is able to display this in real time. 

Continental Divide trail GPS track in Android.

Here is a different view of the same data, with a higher zoom on the GPS track in Android with a topo map. In this case, you still must consider all 18000 points and sort through them in order to draw a smaller number of points, say 200 or so. This is also challenging on a mobile device, but based on our testing, this also is rendered in real time.  

This progress for having gps tracks in Android is very encouraging. Within the next week, most of you should have an update so you can try this yourself. Happy Tracking! 

06Jul/10

Missing Tiles Fix and other news

Hi everyone,

Happy Fourth of July Weekend! 

The latest update of BackCountry Navigator from today should resolve several issues. Most notably, missing tiles can appear when doing a download where the connectivity varies.
 


This blog entry talks about the issue: 

http://www.backcountrynavigator.com/content/going-offline-when-downloading-offline-maps-android

Also, the waypoint form was not always allowing you freedom of entry, in particular restricting a comma where a comma is necessary. Though the text is still gray it should work now. 

In other news, it should be possible to open a .gpx file from a pocket query or other source in Astro Explorer. 

Latest Survey Still Open:

The survey for BackCountry Navigator Android is still open at the following link:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BackCountryNavigatorAndroid

And from the "feedback" menu item on the application itself. 

So far, we have received 29 responses. Based on this sample, Recording a Track (Breadcrumbing) is the most highly requested feature, while Nautical Charts and County Maps are among the least requested. So far, all respondents are male, so if there are any female users of the software, you might want to express your opinion as well. Of course, based on this article, there may not be any female users of the software:

http://www.backcountrynavigator.com/content/gps-just-stupid-guy-thing
  

05Jul/10

Going Offline when Downloading Offline Maps for Android

Our Android GPS Software allows you to download maps for offline use on Android. You can download a section of topo maps, aerial photography, or other maps for use when you are offline, on a hiking trip or other outdoor activity.

What happens, though, when you go offline when downloading? Whether on wifi, 3G or roaming, you may find that there are times when a file download is interrupted for a temporary loss of connectivity.  


In some early versions of BackCountry Navigator, this was a problem because you might end downloading a zero length tile, or none, without the app noticing. Subsequently, you may find that you are missing some important tiles when you switch to offline map mode.

Today, we are releasing a new version with a persistent retry mechanism. When a tile download fails, the map download service will continue to retry until it finds a connection, then it will continue with the remaining tiles as if nothing had happened.

What you will see is this. In this example, I turned off wifi. Subsequently, a download doesn't seem to be making any progress. 

Progress of downloading offline maps in Android 

If I click on the notification and bring up the progress dialog, I will find the extra text: -Retries:72. This means that since the last good tile, BackCountry has tried 72 more times to get a good connection. You can cancel this download, or let it continue to retry. 

Retries for downloading offline maps in Android

If I turn on wifi once again, BackCountry Navigator will eventually find that it has a successful connection and continue where it left off. 

Continuing an offline map download on Android.

What should you do if you have missing tiles in your offline map? Redownload a section that looks incomplete. As always, BackCountry Navigator will not duplicate downloads, so it will find and add only the tiles that are missing. This will be much faster than looking individually for any tiles that are missing.

 

02Jul/10

BackCountry Navigator now on Android Market

BackCountry Navigator is now available on the Android Market! This GPS app brings offline topo maps to your Android phone.  

In the past week, more than 1000 people have been able to try it, including several who were familiar with our Windows Mobile product.  

When you find BackCountry Navigator on the Android Market, you will first find an app called BackCountry Navigator DEMO. This you should install first. It will allow you to try BackCountry Navigator for a number of days. 

Android Market Offline topo MapsGPS app on Android Market

The software can be unlocked for an indefinite amount of time by purchasing a license. To do this, push the unlock button on the demo. 

You can then purchase BackCountry Navigator License on the Android market. This app doesn't do much by itself, but once it is installed, the DEMO will become an unlocked version. At present, it is only $9.99. This is subject to change at any time. 

Unlock free topo maps for AndroidLicense for BackCountry Navigator on Android Market.

Hope you have fun with BackCountry Navigator on Android. As always, come to this site for help, questions, and suggestions. 

24Jun/10

BackCountry Navigator DEMO now on Android Market

You can now download a demo version of BackCountry Navigator directly from the Android Market. 

With any luck, this link will take you directly to the market listing:

BackCountry Navigator DEMO on Android Market.

When you first find it, you may see two products called BackCountry Navigator on the Market The first is BackCountry Navigator DEMO and will function for a limited time with a reminder banner at the bottom. The second is BackCountry Navigator license key.  Purchasing this will remove the banner at the bottom and allow it to function for an unlimited time. Other than time and this banner, nothing else will change between the trial and registered version. 

The Android Market is a big place, and the product may not get noticed unless some of you download it and make some (hopefully positive) comments. As always, if you do have problems or suggestions, do let me know. 

Thanks for all those who have been helpful trying out BackCountry Navigator in its early stages. We have a great list of things to work on; tracking is near the top of our list now. We may choose to place some new builds on the website in advance of placing them on the market.

Have a great day!

Nathan 
!uri

CritterMap Software's headquarters are at 3515 NE 252nd Ave, Camas WA 98607

19Jun/10

Fixes for Android Beta Users

Hello Android Beta Users,

I realize that it has been a short time since you last heard from me. 

Since yesterday, I have gotten a flood of crash reports due to a dreaded OutOfMemoryError that can occur after opening the program multiple times. This has occurred most often on the Sprint Hero, but can happen on other devices as well. I've spent some quality time with some memory analysis tools and eliminated a lot of factors before finding that the root cause was in a Google library – a small bug that caused a huge memory leak.

Due to the sleep I've lost over this issue, I've rushed out today's fix. Download it here:  

http://www.backcountrynavigator.com/content/download-backcountry-navigator-android

Also fairly new in this release:

  • Color Aerial Photography for continental US. 
  • Attempt to get a location faster on startup, instead of being stuck at an old location. 
  • Ability to open GPX files from AstroExplorer or similar program. 

Have a great day!

Nathan
!newsletter_url

18Jun/10

Color Aerial Photography for Android

Thanks to all who have tried beta downloads of BackCountry Navigator for Android. In just the last few days, I have posted several new builds and received several helpful reports from users. I have posted a few good tips and screenshots to the FaceBook Fan Page:

http://www.facebook.com/BackCountryNavigator

At least two users report that the HTC Incredible does not randomly reboot during a long download. This is good news and shows that some countermeasures were effective.  Some other users have had reports of OutofMemory conditions, and I will continue to follow up to see if any of the recent fixes are effective. You can download the latest version from here:

http://www.backcountrynavigator.com/content/download-backcountry-navigator-android

Color Aerials:
As of yesterday, BackCountry Navigator will allow you to try USGS color aerial photography, available across much of the contintental US at 1 meter per pixel (up to zoom level 17). This is the same level of detail in the USGS black and white aerial photography you may have tried before now, but in color. 

Sharing Your Story
I am actively looking for those of you who are willing to share your story or experience with BackCountry Navigator. This can be as simple as uploading fan photos with captions to the Facebook page, or, if desired, some photos can be featured in a blog entry about you and your favorite outdoor activities.  

Have a great day!

Nathan

!newsletter_url

30May/10

Waypoints for Android

Thanks to all those who have tried a beta of BackCountry Navigator so far. For many, by the time you receive this email, it will be memorial day weekend in the US. I hope it has been a good weekend for you. 

Waypoints Plus More
This week's build incorporates waypoints, plus other changes too numerous to mention. They are not yet fully described in web pages or video.  Here are some quick hints:

  • The GPS Data menu is now active to create a trip file for storing waypoints.
  • Press and hold to identify or define waypoints. Or use the target button to define one for the current gps position.  
  • Try sending a pocket query (geocaches) to your gmail adress, and click preview on the attachment on the phone. 

This build also has a full screen compass, which automatically snaps to the GOTO waypoint bearing, and a separate screen for navigation stats. 

The latest build is posted at:

Android beta download

Feedback wanted on stability. 
Please give feedback when you get a chance. A demo version of BackCountry Navigator will soon be posted to the Android Market. While it won't have *all* of the features that you have requested, we do want to make sure it is robust enough to be tried, and reviewed, by a wider audience.

HTC Droid Incredible
Two people have reported that long downloads from BackCountry Navigator can cause the phone to spontaneously reboot on the HTC Incredible. We do not know if this will be resolved in this release. If you have an Incredible, please do report back if you are seeing this problem on the downloads, and if it got better, worse, or .
It is known that the Incredible does not give sufficient priority to foreground services, which also causes skips in music players, but we do not know if this is related to what some have seen.

Have a great day!