Thursday, 23 December 2010

Time For A Break

It’s almost time for me to hang up my mouse and keyboard and set my ‘out of office’ reply on, but before I do, I will let you know of a few updates to expect over the holidays.

For WiFi File Explorer, expect to see the following updates:
  • Swedish version;
  • French version;
  • Improved use of Proguard to obfuscate the code and trim down the app size.

And for SECuRET applications and GroovyCam, you should see updates that include:
  • A couple of bug fixes to the camera preview validation;
  • Improved use of Proguard to obfuscate the code and trim down the app size;
  • A bit of a polish to the UI;
  • Full resolution still photos;
  • Lots of little bug fixes.
In fact, the SECuRET applications are feeling more stable than ever ... famous last words!!

So I won’t be doing any development over the holidays, just testing these releases and then making the updates at some point, in between gorging on chocolate and recovering from hangovers ;)

I’d also like to think that I will take a much deserved break from answering emails at all hours of the day, but knowing me I will still find time to answer them at some point (much to the annoyance of my girlfriend).

Enjoy your break (if you get one) and I hope you enjoy celebrating in whichever way you choose. I’ll be back adding new features to my applications in the new year – I have huge ‘to-do’ lists, so keep an eye out for update notifications on your Android device.

... And if you want to give me a gift, 5 star ratings and good comments are always welcome :)

So What Do You Use The SECuRET Camera Applications For?

It’s getting close to a year since I released the first of the SECuRET applications; SECuRET SpyCam. In that time I have had quite a few emails from users describing what they use the various SECuRET applications for – ranging from the conventional to the utterly bizarre!

The SECuRET applications are all based on technology that was originally developed for webcams with the intention of being applied to security solutions. As it was all written in Java, it seemed like a good opportunity to port the code to Android in an attempt to get the product ‘out there’. The code for SECuRET fell neatly into 3 products; SpyCam (motion triggered camera application), LiveStream (a wifi-streaming camera appication) and one that could only be done on a phone, RemoteControl (camera application controlled by SMS). Essentially, all 3 SECuRET applications are cameras that allow you to observe, record and monitor events without having to be in direct physical control of the camera.

Now, although the original concept was as ‘security-type’ applications, it was very clear to me at an early stage of development that as it was going to be running on a phone, there could be many more uses ... some that could genuinely help people and some that are just downright mischievous!

So, what are some of the uses I have come across so far? Myself, the most bizarre thing I have used SECuRET LiveStream for is to spy on our guinea pigs when we first got them. One of them was getting bullied (poor old Cecil, centre in the photo above), but every time we tried to get close to them to watch and find out who was responsible, they would scatter back into their huts. So we set up the phone running SECuRET LiveStream and pointed it at the hutch and left the room. We then used the laptop to view the stream from the phone and could see clearly which guinea pig was bullying Cecil – it was Huxley (right in the photo above)!!  There's no way it could have been long-haired Desmond (left in the photo above) - he's far too cool to be a bully ;)

Some of the others I have heard of are:
  • Spying on the squirrels in the attic;
  • Monitoring sheds on a farm;
  • Monitoring a car – and it actually caught someone trying to break in!
  • Security camera for a house – and again, it caught someone coming in the front window!
  • Spying on brothers/sisters;
  • Keeping an eye on misbehaving children;
  • Baby monitor;
  • Help detect deers when out hunting – not sure I designed it with that in mind!
  • And my absolute favourite ... ghost hunting!!!
There are plenty more, but those are just a few of my favourites and the most commons usages. I am very proud that it has actually managed to aid crime prevention in a couple of cases, but I am not so sure I am proud of some of its other uses – I am all up for being mischievous, but there is a limit ;)

So what do you use the SECuRET camera applications for? Please feel free to write about it in the comments section ...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Motorola Droid X Not Playing Nicely With Camera Applications

It has come to my attention in the past few weeks that the Droid X isn’t exactly reliable when it comes to using its camera; hence it affects my camera applications – the SECuRET applications and GroovyCam Livestream. Various commenters on the Market have left the obligatory negative comment as they tend to do, but also I have had some helpful users contact me via email to try and nail the problem down. Not having a Droid X myself (I only have a Nexus One and an HTC Magic ... with a Nexus S on the way – very excited!) it is difficult for me to debug and test my camera applications on the device, but I have found some interesting information nonetheless...

The main point to make to any Motorola Droid X users reading this is ... it isn’t my fault! You can find plenty of stuff on the web regarding “Droid X camera problems” – it even seems to effect the native Camera and Camcorder applications. The main symptom seems to be the phone randomly resetting itself when using the camera hardware. As I said previously, it seems to affect all ‘camera-type’ applications, even the native ones, and so it is believed that there is actually a deep-rooted issue with the actual camera hardware/software/drivers in the Droid X itself.

Now one of the reported ‘fixes’ for this is to not run any ‘media-type’ applications in the background whilst you try to run a ‘camera-type’ application. The 2 ‘media-type’ applications that are commonly mentioned are Pandora and Music. Again, I can’t verify this myself, but some of my helpful testers have confirmed this indeed stops (or at least reduces) the random resets. The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed I have recently added a warning message to the SECuRET and GroovyCam applications that appears when you press ‘Start’ that says exactly what I have said in this paragraph ... so you have been adequately warned – so no more 1 star ratings and comments of “Doesn’t work on Droid X – Uninstalling!” – deal? Good, thanks!

It does work on the Droid X, it’s just the Droid X’s camera doesn’t work properly! :P

I have also added some new code and tweaked some old code that handles errors from the camera in a more efficient way, as well as interrogating the camera before it’s used to make sure everything is valid. Yet again, I can’t verify this myself, but some of my helpful testers have actually said that they no longer see the random resets at all. Personally, I think that is just a happy coincidence because some users are still getting the problem ... but it’s nice to think I may now be handling any errors from the camera well enough to prevent random resets.

So hopefully this post explains what is going on with the Droid X and I can point any emailers here from now on to answer their questions. Also, it may help you to appreciate just how difficult it is to write camera applications for Android – every new device seems to have some little quirk or strange behaviours that means my code needs to change regularly to ensure compatibility with as many devices as possible.

I think I have done quite well to make my camera applications as widely compatible as they are, considering I only have a pair of HTC devices to my name! ;)