I just released a slightly newer version of Beta 5 that fixes 2 bugs: the most important issue resolved is that posting prices over 3G/Edge wasn’t working for some strange reason, though I didn’t change that code between releases at all. So I switched to a different method of communicating with the server and it seems to be working well again now. The other issue resolved is one that I had hoped would be in the initial Beta 5 release: you may now double tap on a location in the map to enter a gas price at that location. I’m still not 100% sure why this wasn’t working on Android 2.x but was on 1.6, though it may have to do with code obfuscation that is now being done. Whatever the cause, it’s fixed now.
For the last few weeks, I’ve taken a mini-vacation from working on Gas Up. I’ve been monitoring the price submissions, looking at the comments in the Market, and communicating with a few of you, but I haven’t actually been coding very much. Part of it has been that this summer has been brutally hot here in Michigan, so I haven’t wanted to be near my nearly overheating computer. Part of it has been sheer laziness. Either way, not much has been done since the release of beta 4.
What has been done, however, is that I’ve started laying the ground work for implementing a price submission queue, so that the application will only attempt to upload your submitted gas prices when there is an established internet connection. I’ve gotten reports from some Droid users that they can’t seem to submit gas prices, and I suspect that it’s due to internet connectivity, but I have no way of knowing to be sure. I asked Verizon if they could loan me a phone for a few weeks to try to work this issue out, and I got the expected “no” response. (Although to be fair, they did mention options I had no idea they had available, such as month to month plans.) Being broke and unemployed, I won’t be able to do a detailed debugging for Droid phones unless someone is willing and able to part with one for a short time. If you’re in a position to do that, please contact me through the application’s Send Feedback menu item, or one of the forms on the site.
Although it may still be too early, I’m enabling the PayPal donations tab and functionality. I’m enabling it for the obvious reason (I could use some extra income), and so that when I release the official “1.00 final” version (whenever that may be), people won’t be surprised and claiming that I ruined a great app by introducing this option. Here’s the scoop, so please pay close attention and spread the word as necessary: Even though I’m enabling donation support, it doesn’t change Gas Up’s functionality in any way. You won’t miss out on features if you don’t make a donation, and you won’t get any special bonus (other than my appreciation) if you do. The application will not change in any real way. In fact, the application’s size won’t change significantly because the library and functionality has been there all along, just disabled. I’ve explained all this, and hopefully more, on my Donations page, but feel free to ask any questions or concerns you may have and I’ll address them there.
A final change that I had begun working on is how the gas station icon overlays work. In all the releases so far, I’m using three separate overlays to display the gas stations based on the price ranges. The lowest, highest, and mid-range gas prices each have their own overlay on the map. That’s worked fairly well, but I think that it’s caused a bit of a performance penalty. I think that by using a single overlay, and setting the icons individually would yield better performance, and in my experiments it does seem to behave a bit better, but at the moment there’s a price: the icons automatically generate shadows on the map, but the problem with the new method is that the shadows aren’t in the proper positions, and I haven’t found a way to get them lined up properly. So, I’m going to temporarily abandon this streamlined approach, and come back to it at a later date. It’s a silly reason to abandon the slightly improved performance, but cosmetics issues are often a bigger issue to people than performance.
About 30 seconds ago, I made 1.00 Beta of Gas Up available in the Android Market. Needless to say I’m near to having a heart attack at the moment, and I hope things go well, and I get a few users. Any and all bugs should be reported at http://bugsy.badlucksoft.com, and feedback can be sent from within the application.
This is a first release, and seems to work well on both my G1 and my Nexus One… Hopefully it works well elsewhere as well.
This is just a quick status update on Gas Up…
The basic application concept is nearing completion, and I’ve managed to get server data to the app and properly processed once there. I’ve still got a lot of server-app communication code to work out and implement, but everything is going pretty smoothly. The biggest headache I’ve had so far was getting a spinner (drop down menu) control to get data from a content provider (database access point more or less) and display it properly. With the exception of one line of code, my code was correct. The problem was that I was under the impression that the spinner needed me to provide a text view which it would use to write data; it turns out it already has one, and I had to specify it in just the right place… Needless to say, that wasted about two days of my development time…
Nonetheless, I’ll post a pair of screen shots here later.
Oh, and I’m having trouble finding people to test the application and be early adopters… Maybe it’s just that I’m not drawing much attention to this site (as in none at the moment), or perhaps it’s that I’m not using the proper marketing methods. I’d hate for this app to get uploaded to the Android Market with absolutely no data but that little amount I can put in myself… The comments and ratings will be brutal, but ultimately I don’t really care about those right now. Once the app is live, and people are hopefully entering data on a regular basis, then I’ll care.
Screen shots as promised. The first is a screen shot from my Nexus One. It’s showing an overlay icon somewhere over Mexico, but that’s beside the point. Th
e screen shot is merely to give an idea of what to expect… 🙂 With this screen shot, you see two of the three tabs that are present in the application; the third one, Donate, is currently disabled despite being complete. (There’s just no point in having the donations system enabled when the application has no data and no users.)
The application starts up on the Stations tab and theoretically will display gas stations within the viewing range of the map. Scroll the map around or zoom in and out, and the results will change. Eventually.
The second tab, Submit Price, is shown in this screen shot from the emulator. (I don’t have that screenshot app on my phone, yet, and I didn’t want to take a screen shot that would include my home address, so I used the emulator and the longitude & latitude of a gas station known to me.) This tab includes everything you need to submit a gas price back to the system. ALWAYS SUBMIT THE PRICE WHILE YOU ARE AT THE GAS STATION! Note the address listed for “Associated Address”. This is submitted to the server as the recorded location of the gas station being entered. Unless you want to share your address with everyone, submit at the gas station! (Admittedly, no one will know it’s your particular address, but I won’t be held responsible for angry and confused gas seekers showing up at your house in the middle of the night.)
Despite having had the Android SDK installed on my various computers for more than a year and a half, and purchasing a book on Android development almost as long ago, I haven’t really done anything with the platform. The big thing that’s stopped me from doing anything seriously has been my lack of GUI design skills: on one hand, I’ve had some decent tech demos that communicate with a web site, pull GPS information, and even encrypt data, but all of my demos have had the “Hello World, <App>” UI in common or at most used the Google Maps activity. All in all, nothing special.
Well, I’ve been working with someone on their idea for a social networking application, and I got an itch about two weeks ago to do something more than I had previously done with Android, and go down to business working on the user interface to get a simple app that showcased what I had in mind for app’s user interface. I did it, and it looked ok… It wasn’t great, and was very simplistic, but it got the basic idea across. Since that time, I’ve been thinking about doing something else on my own, hopefully something that could possibly earn me a few dollars here or there, since I’m not working a full time job right now and have spent the better part of a year out of money.
I’ve thought about working on some of my other app ideas, like my lottery number picker, and perhaps I’ll get around to working on them. But for now, I’m headed in another direction, which I hope will get a lot of people working with and for each other. As just about any one will tell you, almost everyone needs gas for their car, and people are always looking for the best gas prices. So why not make an app that simplifies that?
I’m doing precisely that: writing an app that allows people to enter gas prices at their local gas stations, and will display the lowest gas prices within a certain range based on the prices others have entered. Once the project gets a certain number of users, this should help everyone find the lowest gas prices in their area. Right now, I’m primarily focusing on the United States and perhaps Canada as the target audience, but this could potentially be opened to other regions as well. There’s no real limitation on it because I’m not going to be selling the application, though I have already added code that will allow interested parties donate money via PayPal. (Currently I have it disabled because the app will be utterly useless in the initial days.)
What I want and need from the public at large are people willing to 1) be beta testers as I develop the app, 2) to actively use it any input gas prices, and 3) give me ideas and suggestions on how to improve the app.
My focus on development is on privacy and simplicity. The application doesn’t collect any personally identifiable information at all, but it does collect the GPS or cell network location at the time that entries are made, so I suggest that entries are made before leaving the gas station rather than when you get home at night. That is, of course, unless you want people coming to your home in the middle of the light trying to buy gas. There are no memberships or accounts, no passwords, no phone type, name, number or identifiers are collected. Even when I enable the PayPal donation, if any information is collected, it will be by PayPal, and recorded in their system, not mine.
So, what can you do right now? Not a whole lot until I get Gas Up together. While waiting, however, you can send me a note to express your interest.