Vincent Ritter

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Gluon for Micro.blog

An app for both iOS and Android, built on React Native, for Micro.blog.

If you’d like to join the iOS TestFlight beta you can use this link. If you’d like to test the Android version, please email me: gluon@vincentritter.com.

With Gluon, you can do the following:

  • View your timeline, mentions and favourites.
  • Reply or post* to Micro.blog and also set favourites.
  • Discover the discovery feed including all the “emoji” tagged discover sections.
  • Search users or posts on Micro.blog.
  • View user profiles and follow, or, unfollow.
  • Add multiple accounts to the app, if you have more.
  • Customise the app from theme, font, accent colours and more.
  • And much more.

* Posting is available for Micro.blog hosted sites only during beta.

Pushed out a small update to Gluon. I’ve added the Micro Monday link on the "Discover more” section, tweaked Wordpress emoji image handling (now real emoji), and you can open images in a browser which is the first step before I add the modal.

Gluon - Update to Discover section. Android tweaks. Plan.

Happy Sunday everyone.

I just pushed out and update (20190512.2) to both Android and iOS.

Changes

In this update I concentrated on adding the Discover More sections, which allows you to select sub categories by their emoji tag. Here are a few screenshots for both iOS and Android:

I’ll probably add the Micro Monday link too and something else that I’ll pop in as a surprise release at some point.

Android fixes

There were a few Android fixes in this release too. Namely:

  • Fixes layout issues on the reply screen.
  • Reply screen can now be closed (I added an icon).
  • App icon will only show once on the home screen (Thank you Paolo - @amoroso)

Next steps/Plan

I’ll probably be working on posting next, as that’s a pretty big feature that is missing! I’m also planning to bring back the photo viewer soon. There are also loads more things I want to add, but I’m putting it on a list at the moment as I want to look at launching the app. I want to also re-integrate Push notifications before I do that.

Also need to give some TLC to the Settings screen.

In terms of launch date… I don’t know.

Hope you enjoy this update, and please let me know any feedback: gluon@vincentritter.com

Gluon - New iOS build (20190510.1)

It’s been some time, but here are the release notes for the latest build (20190510.1).

— — —

This is more of a tidy up build, with one big piece of bad news. So bad news first:

  • Local Push Notifications: This has been removed from this build. I had too many problems with unreliable app crashes. This was not acceptable to me, so I removed it. Push notifications will come before launch, but in a different form. TBC.


Now the other bits:

  • Removed the bog loading bar in favour of a spinning loader. Keeping it simple.
  • Tweaked some icons.
  • Removed “Following” count on your profile screen. One less number to worry about. Might do the same with other profiles.
  • Your feed should update more regularly as you browse the app.

— — —

I’ll be writing another lengthier post about Push Notifications and the replacement.

Gluon - First new Android build rolling out

I’m happy to announce that I just enabled the Alpha version for Gluon on Android. If you’ve emailed me and asked to be on the list, you should start seeing the app. There will be an email, from me, with a bit more info (for opting in).

Some notes and bugs:

This build is the exact same version as the iOS one, with a few exceptions. The exceptions being mainly bugs on Android, but here they are:

  • Profile image for your logged in/active user is currently an icon only.
  • Theme - switching back to another theme, after switching, is buggy. So don’t press that RED button 😏 I know you want to! If you do… well I warned you.
  • Some black text is the default Android version of black. Mainly visible on profiles.
  • Replying - it works but you can’t cancel out of it unless you get rid of the keyboard and press the hardware/software back button. Also, the UI is pretty weird here.
  • The loading spinner is quite far up the screen.
  • You get TWO app icons for the price of one. Yep, two icons on your home screen! Why? I don’t know.

There is probably something else, but those are the main points that I thought were important to touch on. So now to the really IMPORTANT point:

The app, may fail to launch no matter what you do. This is the issue that kept me back for months as I really didn’t know why the release build would crash instantly. So if it happens to you let me know. I’m confident it was just some bad configuration, on my part, on the device.

Pushed out an update to Gluon before heading to bed. Wanted to get into it again after just over a month away from it (gonna explain why soon). I have many things planned - all to be revealed soon. Also need to give Android some loving too.

I have two questions for anyone using Gluon.

  • I’m planning on removing “Favorites” as a prominent tab item and replace it with “Photos”, which will be a specific timeline just with photos (and some other cool photo things). Favs will live under your profile instead. Good idea? Bad?
  • ”Your Feed” - I’m planning to rename this to either “My Feed”, “Feed” or “Timeline”. Which one do you prefer?

Gluon - Experimental Local Push Notifications Update

I spent Friday writing the code to enable local push notifications and the weekend to see how well it worked. Whilst results vary depending on the device and the amount of times you use the app, it has been pretty solid and I’m super happy with these early results.

Here is a fun look at the things I do:

I pushed out a notification every single time I did a “background” update, so I would know if it would run the job in the background. Certain to say it did just that. I had hundreds.

The interesting thing is that I set a 30 minute interval for the background check, which on my main device turned out to be every 10 minutes. I presume this has to do with the “blackbox” code that Apple use to determine how often you use the app amongst other things . So the more you use it, the more frequently it checks (although I think 10 mins is the lowest it goes). For example my test device, the other iPhone, was running this every 1 - 3 hours, instead of every 10 minutes or 30. This is totally fine with me and is actually much better than an “instant” notification because it takes into account how much you use the app. Love that.

This morning, I turned on my phone, put it out of Airplane mode, walked to the shop and:

Very cool! It took roughly 30 mins after I turned the phone on, but that was totally fine with me. I don’t need anything real time.

In terms of battery life… I haven’t noticed anything that causes me to pull the feature in horror. Seems to be same as before.

TestFlight

Saying this, it still needs testing is not by any means finished yet. However, I will push this out in an update for everyone to try out. As I said, results will vary.

There is a small bug where you may launch the app and be presented with a login screen, I do believe I fixed that though. If it does happen… for now… just force close the app and launch it again (yup, I just said that). The joys of Alpha/Beta versions. More a beta than an alpha atm.

To enable notifications, just head to the “Mentions” tab and select the option at the top. I’ll be moving this to settings at some stage.

Anyway, I would love to have feedback from everyone that is giving it a try. Ideally I’d like to know how reliable it is. Personally it works pretty great and I don’t have a need for real time updates.

Also note that tapping on the notification doesn’t actually take you to the mention just yet. The mentions feed should be updated though.

This week

This week will be a little slower on the Gluon development front as I’m catching up with client work.

The main areas I want to concentrate on until the end of the month are:

  • Posting to a micro.blog hosted blog
  • Picture viewer
  • Personal profile view

Anyway, Happy Monday and I hope you enjoy this update.

The result of the first local push for a @-mention. I received two from Gluon because I send a blank push with details for the currently logged in user. I get them through every time a background task is run = many 😬

Gluon - initial reply functionality, more settings and an update on the Android build

I’m about to ship another update out for anyone using Gluon. This build (20190308.1) introduces a few things, the most important being the reply functionality.

Replying

The design is still edgy and needs much more work on it. However it works pretty well so far and I’m super happy. It also takes your selected font style and accent. Although I think there is too much of the “Accent” on the page, so I’ll tweak it. You can swipe left on any feed item and you’ll call up the reply screen. Here is a quick screenshot:

Depending on the theme, you’ll get the correct keyboard type too.

There is still much work to be done here and I want to style links and add things like markdown tags and autocomplete for users.

Anyway, I hope that this makes Gluon a little bit more useful to everyone.

More settings

I’ve added the ability to set your preference on avatar shape. So if you want them round you can do so.

Also, if I didn’t mention it here yet, I added the ability to reduce or increase the spacing between timeline items. Apparently the big space wasn’t for everyone, so now you can choose what you prefer. I’ll probably add more options around that as time goes.

I’ll use your currently used Account/Profile image… so don’t worry, it won’t be me you’re gonna see all the time.

And here is how the round avatars look:

I hope that this makes a few people happy.

An update on Android

It hasn’t gone as planned. I’m having problems with the production build not running. I know the reason, but I just didn’t have it in me to get to the bottom of it all.

I’m going to spend some dedicated time on this early next week as priority as I really like to get something to Android users.

Will keep everyone posted on progress.

Closing thoughts

It’s approaching 02:30 AM so it’s time to head to bed and relax… although I’m already in bed, coding, writing, for the past 3 hours.

Next week I’m going to work on posting and perhaps also conclude a few other areas like the user profile view and the “following” screen too. But we’ll see.

Thanks to everyone using Gluon already, for your kind words and really great feedback.

Gluon - working on cross platform push notifications

One feature that lacks on all third party apps for Micro.blog are push notifications. This is one reason I keep the official client handy.

This has me thinking on the best way to bring this functionality to Gluon, and I’d like to run it by anyone that is interested. This will be for cross-platform support and not only iOS, bringing it to only one would not float well with me.

Local push notifications

One thing that can be done on both iOS and Android is the ability to allow background tasks to run, within reason. I already set wheels in motion to enable this (if you’ve noticed that in the device settings). The latest TestFlight build has the ability to run background tasks, I just haven’t enabled it for anyone and of course you have to opt-in to this anyway.

You generally have the ability to run code and execute it, within a given timeframe, on device. This depends on platform and naturally iOS is way more restrictive, which is a good thing because it makes you think on how to do things more efficiently. The most frequent you can do this is 15 minutes… as long as the app hasn’t crashed or the user force closed it.

Whilst personally I don’t mind if it checks every hour or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 for mentions, I know that a few people do want it to be a little more frequent than that. So I’ll allow an option for you to choose what suits your needs.

As a default I’ll check every hour. This triggers an API call to Micro.blog to your mentions feed, checks what’s new and advises you accordingly via a local push notification.

This, in my opinion is a great balance between complexity on my end, hassling Manton with more requests to add features to the API, and getting something cross platform with ease.

However, there is another option.

Remote push notifications

This one is more involved and has been already on my drawing board since last year… I just don’t have time to make all this happen though. Gluon makes no income for me, but I’ve been treating it like a full time job...

Long term, if viable, I’d love to remove local push and replace it with remote push notifications. As there is no ability to do anything on the Micro.blog API, for example sending a webhook to a specific client/address, so I would have to do something a bit more clever.

The plan here is to create a small “Gluon API” which acts as a server that checks for mentions at a good interval (every minute or two). Within the app you would be able to register for this service by a tap of a button. Here I would create device specific token to talk to the Gluon API and also pass along the Gluon login token that you get from logging in. I may talk to Manton to see if I can create a new one just for this purpose, so it can be easily revoked.

With this, the Gluon API will start checking your mentions feed. If it finds something it will use the correct push notification server for your registered devices (iOS or Android or both).

With remote push notifications I can make sure not to hammer battery life. Although, the local notifications shouldn’t use too much, but still.

Questions and commitment

The main question, really, is… does it matter that you instantly get a push notification? In my eyes, no. It distracts hugely from the day. I’d rather have one notification with a summary at a particular time of day or at a really slow interval. However everyone is different and uses Micro.blog for different purposes. So it’s difficult for me to judge on how important mentions are to everyone. Gluon is already highly opinionated as it is, although I’m flexible - as you can see with all the settings I’m adding.

In terms of commitment I’m unsure if it’s viable for me to pursue to build an API just for Gluon. I won’t know where Micro.blog will go and what features will be added. At the end of the day it’s not my platform and I’m taking a huge amount of time and effort already to hopefully make Gluon one of the best choices when it comes to third-party apps.

The Gluon Android Alpha 2.0 is propagating through the Play Store. I’m going to keep an eye on it to see when that updates. Once I’m happy I’m going to add everyone that emailed me. Google Play Store is super confusing, but I hope that it should just work for the existing list of users.

I’m adding swipe actions for “Favor” and “Reply”. I’ve got favourites working nicely and that also triggers a reload of the “Favorites” feed. Next up is replying, but not today. Here are the colours behind the table cell. Always nice to see.

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