GV Places Discontinued

I hate to have to do this, but I have just pulled GV Places from the App Store, and I will not be selling or maintaining it any longer.

Some users have been experiencing problems with credentials and the various calls to the Google Voice back end. I have never had those problems, and thus have had a very hard time diagnosing the issue. I had planned to release a new version that included the ability to mail verbose logs to me, in the hopes that I could spot something that was going on. But then I got an email from Apple saying that it’s time to pay them again for the privilege of developing for the iPhone. And I just can’t do that.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours working on this app, and $200 in fees to Apple. I haven’t recovered more than 1/3 of that expense, so it just doesn’t make any sense for me to continue.

For those of you who bought it, thank you. I’m sorry I have to drop it, but I do.

GV Places 1.3.2 Now Available

Last week a bug report came in that it was impossible to turn off notifications for automatic region switches. That is now fixed, and the update should be appearing in your list of updates.

It’s interesting that I spent 5 minutes replicating the bug, 10 minutes fixing it, another 10 doing all the necessary steps to get the app loaded into the store… and then a week waiting for it to be approved. I appreciate the app store for what it gives us, but it really shouldn’t take a week to get bug fixes out to users.

GV Places 1.3 Available in the App Store

After just a week in the Apple queue, version 1.3 of GV Places is now available. Here’s the list of what’s new:

  • Changed the screen order for adding a place. Now the phone number selection comes first, then the map.
  • Places no longer have to have geography associated with them.
  • A place can be designated the “default” place that will be used when no other places’ geography match the current location
  • When adding geography, the map can be searched, just like in the Maps app.
  • The list of places is now sorted alphabetically, rather than by how well they fit around the current location.
  • Completely rewritten calculations for determining if the current location is within a region, and for determining which of multiple overlapping regions is the better choice.
  • Removed most modal operations.
  • Much faster to start.

GV Places 1.1 Submitted To App Store

Yesterday, I submitted version 1.1 of GV Places to the App Store for review. I am hopeful that it won’t take as long to get through this time, but I’m not holding my breath.

The biggest news is that I dropped the iOS target version, so now people with Verizon iPhones can run it. I had hoped that the app store would not let someone download an app that they couldn’t run, but based on the 1-star review I got from a Verizon owner, that may not be the case. Here are the release notes

  • Should now work on Verizon iPhones.
  • Fixed a sorting/display bug that occurred when a place was autoswitched. The next time the app was run, the list would not be sorted properly.
  • Improved the region detection on iPhone 4. This should properly handle overlapping regions, which worked fine on the 3GS, but not so much on the iPhone 4.
  • Fixed a couple of memory leaks.
  • Note that when autoswitching is turned on, the app is not constantly running, looking for location changes. On the iPhone 4, it uses the region monitoring API, which means it tells the OS the regions it is interested in, and then goes to sleep. Whenever the phone enters one of those regions, the OS will wake the app up, telling it that it entered that region. This uses no extra battery on my iPhone 4, that I could tell. On the 3GS, it uses the significant location change monitoring API. With this API, the app tells the OS it is interested in significant location changes (this is mostly when cell towers change), and then goes to sleep. When one of these events occurs, the OS wakes the app up, telling it that a significant location change has occurred. The app then gets the current location and sees if it is within one of your places. If it is, it switches to that place. This is not as accurate as on the iPhone 4, but it’s all the 3GS has. This would probably use up a bit more battery than on the iPhone 4, because it has to do more work, but I didn’t notice any significant battery degradation on my 3GS.
  • Also note that autoswitching of places is NOT supported on the iPhone 3G, because neither of the APIs I described above were available on the 3G. Everything else works on the 3G.

GV Places Is Now In the iTunes App Store


I am pleased to announce that my first iPhone app, called GV Places, is now available in the iTunes App Store. If you have an iPhone (preferably a 3GS or 4) and a Google Voice account, you might like it.

What it does is lets you create geographical areas that will enable or disable your Google Voice callback numbers, in various combinations. For example, I have three places that I use: Home, Office and Georgia. For the Home place, I have a region that fits snugly around my house, maybe .25 mile in each directory. For this place, I have my house line, my Skype-In number and my Google Talk IM enabled. My cell phone is disabled, because AT&T coverage here stinks.

For the Office place, I have a 2 mile-ish area around my office. Enabled numbers are my cell phone, my Skype-In and my Google Talk IM. My home number is disabled, naturally, because I don’t want calls ringing at home when I’m not there.

Finally, the Georgia place covers the entire state, plus some bits of the adjoining states. For this place, I have my cell phone enabled, and nothing else. This makes sense because I am most likely not at home, or my office, if this place is active.

Once you have defined your places, and associated phones with them, there are two ways to activate a place: manual and automatic. Manual mode means you go to the main Places screen and tap on the one you want to activate. Automatic mode only works on iPhone 3GS and 4, and uses the location awareness features of the phone to automatically switch places for you as you move around. When Automatic mode is enabled, even if GV Places is not running, iOS will notify it when you enter one of your places and it will then activate that place for you. Automatic mode works best on an iPhone 4, though if you are in a good coverage area, it works pretty well on a 3GS. (This is a hardware limitation of the 3GS.)

Here’s the Settings screen where you provide your Google Voice email address and password (which is stored in the Keychain for security purposes). If you have a Google Voice account that ends in @gmail.com, then you can leave the Hosted Apps account switch turned off. If you know that you have a hosted apps account, turn this on.

Next is the App Settings section, where you can tweak a few points of how the app works. By default, when you tap on a place to activate it, GV Places will prompt you to make sure that’s really what you want to do. If this annoys you, you can turn it off here.

Automatic place activation is controlled by the next option. This is disabled by default, but can easily be turn on here. Note that you must have an iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 to use automatic place activation.

The final option here is only useful if automatic place activation is enabled. If “Notify on automatic activation” is turned on, then a notification will appear on your phone when GV Places automatically activates a place. If you don’t like this, you can easily turn it off.

Next is the Place Editor. This is where you define your places using the map. When you create a place, it starts out centered on your current location. You can use your fingers to drag the map around, and pinch to zoom, just like on the built-in Maps app. When you tap Save, the place will encompass everything that is shown on the map. Once you have the map how you’d like it, be sure to give the place a meaningful name. Finally, tap the button at the bottom of the screen. If you are just creating a place, it will say “Select Phones.” After that, it will indicate how many phones you have selected.

This is the screen where you select which of your phones you want associated with this place. Just tap the ones you want to place a checkmark next to it. Tap again to remove the checkmark. Those that are checked will be enabled for this place.

Finally, we come to the main Places screen. This shows each of the places you have defined, sorted by what I call their “snugness.” What this means is that the place that fits the most closely around your current location will be on top. The farther down the list you go, the less snug the place fits. Places that don’t encompass your current location at all will still show, but they will appear toward the end of the list, sorted by how close they are to your current location. Your currently-selected place will show in blue letters.

Snugness is neat because if you have overlapping regions, the region that fits most snugly will sort higher in the list. In my example, if I’m in my house, the Home place will sort higher than the Georgia place, because Home fits more snugly around my house than Georgia does.

Tap a row to activate that place. If you want to edit a place, tap the blue disclosure icon on the right-hand side of its row. To add a new place, tap the + icon at the bottom right. To get to the settings page, tap Settings.

I have a wiki setup for it, which current just has mostly this same information, at https://bitbucket.org/joeygibson/gvplaces/wiki/Home. If you buy it and find a bug, you can report it at https://bitbucket.org/joeygibson/gvplaces/issues.

If you’re just dying to own a copy of your very own, you can buy it for $1.99 in the app store.

The iPhone 3GS GPS Is Crazy Good

I have a Garmin eTrex Venture hand-held GPS that I bought about five years ago. I used it for years mounted to my bicycle handlebars for when I would go trail riding to inject a bit of geekery into my rides. I would then download the tracks off of it and pull them into Google Earth to see where I’d been. It worked pretty well, but it had some annoying tendencies. The first was that it took nearly 10 minutes after turning it on before it really knew where it was. It wanted to get strong signals from twelve satellites before it would give you a decent reckoning of where you were on the planet, and that took a while. It was also very sensitive to cloud cover or tree cover. There were many times I’d be riding through the woods and would be in a particularly dense area and it would completely lose any idea of where we were, which is really not what you want your GPS to do.

Last Sunday I decided to get the bike out after a nearly two-year hiatus and go out to my favorite riding spot, Tribble Mill Park. Before I left, I bought an app for my iPhone 3GS from the app store called Trails. When I got to the park and got my bike out and ready, I ran Trails, created a new track entry and started it up. It almost instantly showed me where we were (just like the Google Maps app that is built-in) on the map. I then put the iPhone back into its leather holster, put that inside a canvas saddlebag that hangs under my bicycle seat, and then climbed into the saddle and started riding. I stopped several times along my route to check on it, and not once did it lose the signal. Let me say that again, in a different way: even though the iPhone was encased in leather, ensconced in a canvas bag and under a bicycle seat and my butt, it never lost the GPS signal. It mapped my route perfectly, as can be seen from this screenshot

IMG_0444

That’s pretty darn cool, for a phone! The GPS is not the primary purpose of the device, yet it performs far better than a dedicated GPS device. Now, GPS devices in general may be a lot better now than they were five years ago when I bought mine, so this may be an unfair comparison, but it really blew me away. I had thought about getting a handlebar mount for the iPhone, but if it can do what it needs to do from the relative safety of the saddlebag, I’d much rather keep it in there.

By the way, the Trails app is quite nice and completely worth the $3.99 it cost. I like the fact that you can stop and restart it to pick up where you left off. One really nice feature is that it has a button to launch the iPhone’s camera, so you can take pictures along the way without exiting the program. That’s a nice touch. It also requires you to name each track, which are kept in separate “files” so one track doesn’t show up overlaying another on the map. If you’re into trail riding and you have an iPhone 3GS or 3G, consider buying this great app.