Helping share the love of the northern lights!

Category: Amazing Aurora Updates

Changes to Settings Screen

The settings screen in the app got a makeover. Switches and sliders are gone. They felt clunky and, after some tester feedback (thanks, Chad!), the decision was made to kill the sliders for Kp and HPI alert values. Instead, subscribers can now toggle these up and down with arrows. It’s simpler, cleaner, and easier to adjust.

Settings Screen for Version 7

I’m putting the finishing touches up on this version! The goal is to have all the bugs, kinks, and design flaws worked out by Sunday so I can push to Google and Apple. This will allow time to tweak anything I may have missed, policy wise, before the end of the month. Who’s ready for aurora season?! I know I am!

Inching Closer to Version 7!

I am feverishly working on several aspects of updating the app for the upcoming season. I am grateful for the feedback I have received from users through either email, Facebook messenger, text, or even through the app reviews on the stores. Those really give me direction to continue working on improving the experience (aurora and app) for everyone! If you are curious, here is a list of things I am working on to get the app updated by August 1st:

  • Black loading/reloading screens to kill the white (kills night vision) reload pages
  • Adding the hemispheric power input to an alert so users can get advanced notice when potential increases (subscriber feature)
  • Cleaning up and adjusting notifications; uncovered some issues with keys and programming logic
  • Cleaning up the server and moving old data to its own archived database

It’s been a pretty busy off-season working behind the scenes, but I am confident the changes will only make the app, user experience, and community much better! And, I wouldn’t be where I am without the help of a few patient souls. A special shout out to Chad, Rachel, and Sarah for being testers and providing feedback on this next iteration of Amazing Aurora!

Beta 7 in Testing!

I am excited to report that version 7 of the app is now with the testers to dig up any bugs or design flaws! I am anxious to get this one out as it implements some user suggestions and allows subscribers to fine-tune their alerts even further with the HPI notifications. When HPI hits a certain level, you can be alerted. This will work very well if you know what the hemispheric power typically is when you see aurora activity in your area!

I am still on track to have this latest update out before the season starts back up for those of us in Alaska!

Getting Closer to Beta 7!

Work has been ongoing with the version 7 update. It has taken quite a while to reconfigure a myriad of things within the app, but things are rolling along smoothly. All of the desired changes I have made appear to be working with initial tests. With some of the updates, I will need to update files on the server to accept new values from within the app. The good news is that I am still on track for a June/July release to the beta test team to put the app through its paces and make sure nothing was overlooked. We are less than 90 days away from the start of the 2022-2023 aurora season!

Fixing Bugs and Crashes

As we move well out of aurora season here in Alaska, I have begun working studiously on the next iteration of the Amazing Aurora app. This next version should, in theory, be better for Android users. Why Android users you ask? Well, there have been a TON of crashes with version 6 of the app and I believe I know why. I won’t bore you with all of the technical details, but it looks like it was a simple oversight in the programming aspect of the app. I will get a test version out to my beta test team in the next month or so to see if crashes still occur.

Crashes in the Android app over the past year

I also have a few bugs to work on within the app. As mentioned earlier, there is a location bug that seems to put people in Minot, North Dakota. I believe I have a viable solution to fix that and will, hopefully, work to phase out the default North Dakota map dot often seen on aurora reports. I am hopeful all of these changes will help make the app run smoother and provide a better experience for everyone!

Minor App Tweaks on March 13

I made a few minor “under the hood” app tweaks on Sunday, March 13, 2022, based on feedback from a user. The 3-day Kp forecast was off by quite a bit due to the parser failing to appropriately correct for the G1 and G2 conditions SWPC put in their forecast. That was adjusted and all appears to be working well now. If you notice any discrepancies, please give me feedback so I can look into you. I have also added the time that the server last checked the SWPC forecast, so users can now see the currency of the data for the 3-day forecast in the app.

You might notice that the times (at least for Alaska) start at 1am instead of 12am. This is due to the daylight savings time change and its relation to Universal Coordinated Time (UTC). This is expected, so don’t be alarmed by it. It lines up with the SWPC forecast where 09 UTC is 1am here in Alaska. If you are in other parts of the world and see issues, please let me know so I can investigate. However, it appears that all should be good!

A couple of tweaks were also made to the legend and the SWPC status indicators. I added an explanation for the N/A in the solar wind data. Basically, if data was not received that matches the 5, 15, 30, 45, or 60-minute windows, it will display N/A meaning there is no data to display. This happens from time to time but is most common when there is a SWPC outage and no data is received for a prolonged period of time. The status indicator for the solar wind was fixed, as it was stuck on red due to a minor miscalculation of values. It should be good to go now!

Those are the latest updates to the app! I am looking forward to working on the next iteration over the summer to bring some more refinements to the subscribe user settings; namely, the HPI notifications!

Fixing Location Issues with Version 7

While it is not a showstopper, I have noticed a LOT of reports coming in from Minot, North Dakota. The coordinates for Minot are used as a default location in the event the app is unable to lock onto a user’s location when using the app. I suspect that some users are opening the app really quick, going to the report tab, and not giving the app a chance to grab the correct location prior to submitting an aurora activity report. The summer months will allow me more time to investigate and correct this behavior. Other than that, it appears the app is working as expected!

Planning for Version 7

Version 7 of the app is in the beginning development stages. Work will pick up during the off-season and I plan to release it in late July or early August, prior to the beginning of the next aurora season. One big item in the works, for subscribed members, is the ability to receive alerts for the hemispheric power index (HPI).

The HPI is an excellent indicator of aurora potential, in general. It is not specific to a location like the favorable conditions calculation the app uses. Although it is a general index, many “chasers” watch this value to make a decision on whether or not to go out after dark. Once you know the best value for your area, it is an excellent value to follow. For instance, here in the Anchorage area, an HPI value of 20-25 GW is generally good to see some activity. We have even seen them with values as low as 15, but not reliably. The HPI alert will allow you to choose a value between 10-100 for alerting you of when the app sees the value you want in order to alert you.

Another option I am looking to add to version 7 is the ability to choose the distance of aurora sightings a user would like to be alerted for. The current value is 30 miles, meaning that you would be alerted if anyone within 30 miles of your location reports aurora activity. While this is great in areas where a lot of people use the app, it is not conducive to those in regions without many users. Thus, the plan is to open this up to a longer range and, potentially, to be alerted of all aurora sightings. So, stay tuned to that!

Those are the plans for version 7 as of right now! It will be a great off-season of tweaking and updating to keep Amazing Aurora, well, AMAZING!

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