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 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.

Downgrading Your iPhone From iOS5 to iOS4.3.3: It Ain’t Easy

Like lots of other iPhone owners, I was excited about the announcement on Monday of iOS5, and all the new features. I don’t like to wait and since it isn’t going to be released until September, I had to get it somehow. Since I’m an iOS developer, I was able to download a developer seed of iOS5 and install it on my iPhone 3GS. I did so Tuesday morning.

It was painfully slow on the 3GS. Granted this is just beta 1, and it will probably improve before it launches, but it was nearly unusable.

So today, I went out and bought an iPhone 4. I had been wanting one for a long time anyway, and my contract was up in February so I’ve been able to get a subsidized price since then… Anyway, I bought a 4, and was not planning on putting iOS5 on it just yet. But when I attached it to iTunes and tried to restore my last 3GS backup to it, iTunes wouldn’t let me because the backup was of iOS5 and the iPhone 4 was running 4.3.3. So, against my better judgment, I installed iOS5 on it.

Big mistake.

While speed was no longer an issue, bugginess was. Lots of 3rd-party apps just seemed to not work right, and even some features of iOS were a bit squirrelly. A downgrade was in order. But, as the release notes tell you, you can’t downgrade.

Well, you can, but it’s a major pain in the butt. Below is a list of what I did to restore mine. But first, please be aware that your mileage may vary, use at your own risk, by reading this, you agree that I am not liable for any damage to your iPhone, iTunes, data, computer, house, car, cat, dog or anything else.

(This is in list form, but it’s not an instruction list, per se. It’s a list of what I did, thus the verbs are in the past tense.)

  1. Restored the entire ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup directory from Monday, before I did the upgrade of the 3GS, using Time Machine. (On Windows, the directory is C:Users<UserName>AppDataRoamingApple ComputerMobileSyncBackup)
  2. Downloaded the iOS 4.3.3 software image from links here (the links go to Apple) http://osxdaily.com/2011/05/04/ios-4-3-3-download/
  3. Launched iTunes, but hit the little ‘X’ button in the top area to stop it from syncing.
  4. Selected the iPhone 4 in the Devices section, then pressed Option while clicking on the “Check for Update” button. This popped up a dialog to find the .ipsw file that I had downloaded. I navigated to where I had saved it, and selected it.
  5. iTunes started to restore it, then barfed with one of those “unknown” errors. It did leave the iPhone in recovery mode.
  6. Out of paranoia, I shut down iTunes, deleted the partial backup that it had tried to do, thus leaving the Backup directory as it was on Monday.
  7. Started iTunes.
  8. iTunes popped up a dialog saying that the phone was in recovery mode and did I want to restore it. I said “yes.”
  9. It then showed me the EULA for 4.3.3, re-downloaded the .ipsw, then started the restore.
  10. Ten minutes later, it rebooted and showed up in iTunes, with iTunes asking if I wanted to restore it from one of my backups.
  11. I selected the 3GS backup and off it went.
  12. When the phone rebooted, iTunes started re-syncing it.
  13. Half an hour more, and it was done restoring all my data and settings. Then it started restoring 4,500 songs, which takes about 3 hours.

So, that’s it. All in all, it took me about 2 hours, start to finish. If you don’t have a backup of the Backup directory, you’re screwed.

I use pre-release software all the time, but this is the first time I’ve really, truly, gotten burned by it. I have now learned my lesson, and will at least wait for the release of iOS5… beta… 3 before trying again. :-)

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.

First Rejection of My iPhone App :-(

I submitted my first iPhone app, called GV Places, to the Apple App Store on Monday, May 23. On Friday, May 27, around 9:00 in the morning, it entered the review process. About ten hours later I received the first rejection notice. The reason? I didn’t provide them a demo account to use for testing. I didn’t provide one, because of what my app does.

My app works with Google Voice, so you need a Google Voice account to use it. That’s not something I can just create willy-nilly and provide them for testing. Yes, I could create another account, but to really use it, you have to assign some phones to it, and to do that, Google Voice calls them to verify that they are yours. So I would need to use my own phone lines to set it up. I don’t think I should have to do that. I assumed that the tester would have his own Google Voice account to test with. Just like I would assume that if they test a Facebook app, they use their own Facebook accounts. I said as much in my response to them. I suppose we’ll see what they say.

It was sort of amusing that in the rejection email it said they weren’t able to test “all of the features” without a demo account. That’s funny because you can test any of the features without a Google Voice account.