Vincent Ritter

Writing

All my blog posts for your viewing pleasure.

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.

Short Stories: Into the sorrow of the Moon - Part 1

Baldwin was used to this shift. Moon travel has been commercialised, sending anyone with enough credits into an industrial class freighter metal death trap glorified into a big space bus. Mankind hasn’t perfected space travel yet. You needed more luck than science to make the journey. Yet, it drew enough interested and awe to make you forget the bustling life of Earth as soon as you left orbit. For some, like Baldwin, this was worth it to make it their living. Leave your troubles behind, some said.

This was Baldwin’s 57th trip making her one of the most experienced captains. She’s been lucky or, as she would say, unlucky. The Moon was still a 2 day journey from space dock and anything could happen before even setting foot onto the Lotus. Lotus was an old, yet trustworthy, industrial class space ship converted into a, so called, comfortable people transporter. She wasn’t pretty, and if a square piano could fly then this is what the Lotus was, a flying brick shaped piano in the vacuum of space. Lotus was the wrong name for her. Everyone knew that. Her creators didn’t see it that way. No one argued. After all it was bright minds from all mankind that even made space travel possible.

Baldwin’s shift started at 02:30 AM. Not an hour for a normal sane person. Crew rest after a trip is roughly 3 days, which is a luxury compared to other sectors. The corporates know the risks, so they let you have the time to make sure you said your goodbyes. The death rate for space travel was 1 in 10. It was a risky business. Baldwin had no one left to say goodbye to, but she did it anyway - it calmed her before the flight, gave her purpose to continue.

Like every shift day, Baldwin woke up before her time. She couldn’t sleep. Thoughts of mechanical issues close in her mind, planning contingencies, disappointment of unavailable equipment if something would have failed and the push to keep going if the ship had half the systems working than it should. The corporations couldn’t loose the money that civilians paid to get to the Moon. Everything was on thin margins. That also meant that spare parts were hard to come by. Everything was a rust bucket waiting to be crushed by a flake of dust in space.

There were 2 crew trips per day, taking anyone working the shift to space dock. Usually a small and cramped rust infested shuttle type craft. Best in class. 2 pilot seats, 16 seats for crew, engineers and occasionally scientists. There wasn’t much room to take luggage, a duffle bag is all you could throw into the back compartment, separated by a flimsy net. There was barely enough power to make it into orbit and keep everyone alive. The doors closed with a loud hiss, like air escaping from a thousand little holes. Baldwin’s ear drums popped as they shut. “Pressure check, air cyclers automatic” said one of the pilots as the pressure inside the cabin climbed a little higher than outside. This was to check that the pressure seals functioned. The air recyclers started humming and groaning trying to recycle carbon dioxide from 16 crew members. 2 seats were empty as a few spare parts had to be taken up, leaving not enough free weight to break out of the atmosphere if they were occupied. Everyone knew the disaster stories. They learned from early mistakes.

The two pilots sitting up front didn’t even look 20. This was normal. The demand for shuttle craft pilots was high. Re-entry to the atmosphere usually turned out fatal. Baldwin wasn’t bothered, she started when she was 14, gained her official credentials at 17 with more experience than most. If you made a few trips and came back alive, you got promoted and could opt-in to fly bigger and heavier craft.

There was nothing to prepare you for the shuttle journey, except to actually go on it and make it to the station. Nothing was pleasant about it. From low pressure in the cabin making you slightly hypoxic, the unpleasant harsh vibrations as you accelerated and hoped it wouldn’t all fall apart below your feet, to the sudden feeling of zero gravity after a high G orbit burn. If you had a big breakfast, forget about keeping it in. The air smelled like sick, mould and bleach.

This was no place to forget about life underneath. You couldn’t hear your own thoughts. Many crew members opted not to use ear protectors. After horror stories of exploding ear drums, you’d think twice. The company behind them released a new and improved model since. Reputation and trust is hard to gain after a stain of history like that. The pilots wore special space helmets and suits. If something would happen in the cabin they wouldn’t hear the screams, they would see a red flashing warning light on their control panel. Everyone would be dead by the time they turned around. The suits were heavy, so only the pilots could afford the weight penalty. For many of the crew behind, this was a normal day of work. They knew the risks.

Space dock looked like a rotating octopus in space with arms made of, what looked like, shipping containers. All different colours, nothing of taste and mostly resembled fragile rust waiting to break off as soon as you put weight on them. The station had 6 docking ports for larger ships like the Lotus and a few other scattered shuttle docks for crew transports and other small re-supply vessels. Built 30 years ago, it was the most robust station in the solar system. They called her Opportunity Station. A gateway to the stars. Or that was what they had in mind anyway. Nothing glamorous, but reliable.

The journey from Earth to Opportunity took 5 hours. 5 hours of hell. Hell for the pilots, hell for the 14 passengers that tried to hold in their food. Baldwin was amused at the sight of young pilots trying to throw up in a paper bag at high g. She made that mistake once.

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.

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.

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