Helping share the love of the northern lights!

Tag: Updates

It’s Time to Kill Subscriptions

If you subscribed to the app, please use the link at the bottom of the settings screen to go to your subscriptions page and cancel your subscription. The link takes you to your respective App Store subscriptions page.

First of all, to those who supported the development of the Amazing Aurora app through the purchase of a subscription, thank you! You all are awesome and I am glad you are as excited about aurora activity as I am!

As the title says, it is time to kill the subscription portion of the Amazing Aurora app. Why, you might ask? I am a solo hobbyist who came up with a way to tell, for myself, when aurora activity was most likely to happen; and, I created an app to share it. The costs of weather and astronomical data was running about $100 per month and, well, it did not really add much to the app. My goal with subscriptions was to spread that cost out among all of the users who wanted it and, with some of the extra special features (that took a lot of programming), to help get something back for the work put in. At this point, it is getting too intensive to keep up with as the app is currently set up.

When Google and Apple make changes, things in the app have to change as well. Since I am a solo, hobbyist app developer with a full-time job, I have to find time to keep things running smoothly. The in-app purchase ability, which is what ran the subscription portion of the app, has been finicky and, as a lover of good quality, I cannot have an app that is crashing or causing problems across the board. So, with version 9, I have trimmed all of the subscription stuff out and just went back to the basic, good ol’ reliable app that Amazing Aurora started out as. Yes, there is an ad. It helps, a little.

Thank you for using Amazing Aurora! Again, if you subscribed to the app, please use the link at the bottom of the settings screen to go to your subscriptions page and cancel your subscription. I will put a donation page together to track my annual needs to run the app and track any donations paid to help me keep the app running. I am just so grateful that so many people have taken to the app and interact when the solar wind gets crazy. You all are awesome!

Version 7 is LIVE!

I am excited to announce that he latest iteration of the Amazing Aurora app is live on both the Google Play and Apple App Stores! This version cleans up the inner workings of the app a bit, adds an alert when updated versions are available, and adds an HPI notification for subscribers. Also, based on feedback, loading screens are utilized to reduce/eliminate white screens while loading and reloading pages.

Give it a shot and provide feedback! It is amazing to see how far this app has grown thanks to user feedback!

Testing and Maintenance Updates

Testing is going well on the next iteration of the Amazing Aurora app! I am dusting off some neglected areas and using some polish to shine it all up. The new version is also going to incorporate the ability to put the app into a maintenance mode. Although I do not expect to need to use it often, there may be times when things “under the hood” need to be addressed. In an effort to minimize confusion among users, a maintenance flag can be set to shut down usage of the app. It also helps cut down on error logs on the server while things are being tested to ensure they work in the live environment.

Speaking of maintenance, this has been high on my list for the past year. There were a lot of IDs generated early on and, potentially, some stale duplicates left over from early testing. That said, the server now runs an hourly check to see if users have been inactive for at least six months. If so, the ID information for that user is wiped clean from the database. Since aurora season runs for the “Great North” from August to April and is silent, for the most part, from May to August, six months seemed like a great compromise to keep things tidied up a bit.

I hope you are as excited as I am for the next season of aurora chasing! The app only continues to get better thanks to the user base providing feedback and, quite frankly, running the wheels off the bus! You all are amazing!

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!

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!

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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