iBird 2 for Android Troubleshooting FAQ

Note if you you are unable to solve your issue after reading the FAQ you can start a support ticket here: Contact iBird Support

Maintaining Zen-like Calmness
Before you dive into this FAQ I want to give you a word of caution and congratulations. As an Android owner you are a very brave soul. I say this not tongue-in-cheek but in all total seriousness.  As publishers, the Mitch Waite Group has been developing mobile software since the first Window’s platform was launched over seven years ago. We have since dealt with every major mobile platform including Apple iPhone, RIM Blackberry, and now Android for smartphones, tablets and television. It is our unanimous conclusion that there is no more complex, perplexing, hair-pulling, powerful, or obtuse operating system on today’s market then the Android OS. This is not a criticism, because along with this complexity comes incredible power. But we want to warn that as you venture into these frequently asked questions and answers keep in mind that as one of the chosen few you need to maintain a Zen-like state of calmness and patience, lest you find yourself cursing at Google and hurling your phone or tablet into the wall. In many ways Android reminds me of the early days of the personal computer, when people using them were considered pioneers and hobbyists and had to exercise great patience to keep their computers working.  We suggest you find yourself a user group or online community of people that own the same device as you and turn to them for support when the going gets tough. We will do our best to be sensitive to how difficult getting some apps to run on the Android is, but we are not psychologists or priests so please try and exercise some patience with us too.

Review Our Pre-update FAQ
There is a FAQ we developed for the first version of iBird 1 for Android which can be found here:  http://bit.ly/ibird_android_faq While this FAQ is in the process of being updated it may provide information which will help you with you new update to iBird. It contains many more questions and answer then you will find here.

This FAQ, which is being presented as blog post, is the start of a second FAQ specifically for the new iBird 2 for Android. Its purpose is to you install iBird on your tablet or smartphone as well as to help you solve problems other problems you may encounter. It starts with the most common problems people have told us they are dealing with. If you can’t find your answer here please write to us as the email form at Contact iBird Support.

PROBLEM
I get a message “iBird cannot function without an SD Card” and I can’t install the app
.
If you get this message and you know your SD Card is installed and has room on it for the iBird database or your device doesn’t use an SD Card it usually means there is a connectivity problem accessing the internet.

SOLUTION

  1. Open the browser on your device and make sure you can connect to the Internet, for example type http://www.google.com and make sure the page comes up and the links on it work.
  2. If you can’t connect to Google try turning your WIFI off and on again (Settings->Wireless and Networks->WiFi ) Uncheck and then recheck the box. Make sure it says Connected to [your wifi network name]. Then try again to connect to Google with your browser. Until you can connect to the Internet with a fast WiFi you will not be able to install iBird.
  3. Once you can connect to Google try installing iBird again.

PROBLEM
I’ve reinstalled the new iBird update but I’m still having some problems with the program and I need your help. Every time I use the sync function, even if for only 1 bird, the program begins to sync, but gets caught in a loop and tries to sync the same images over and over again, never completing the task.

SOLUTION
This is usually because there is a bad database file in the iBird database folder left over from the previous install. The best solution to fix this is to delete the iBird database folder which is found on your SD Card, or storage memory if you dont have an SD Card. To delete this folder you are going to need to use a third party file manager program. You can get many from the Google Market. My favorite is the free Astro File Manager. Once it is installed Force Close iBird from the Applications settings. Then open the File Manager and locate the database folder for your particular version of iBird. Here are the names.

App            Folder Name
iBird Pro     iBird_Pro_Android
iBird Lite    iBird_Lite_Android
iBird Yard   iBird_Yard_Android

Once you found the folder hold your finger down on it and a menu will appear. Select Edit. Then select Delete. There will be a delay as the File Manager computes the size of the folder’s contents, so be patient. Pro takes the longest. Tap Yes when you are asked if you wish to delete the folder.

Now return to your iBird app and make sure it is NOT running in memory by doing a Force Close. Then make sure you have a good internet connection by connecting to google.com. Now start iBird and it will detect that there is no database and give a message that it is downloading a new one. This is stage one of the process where iBird downloads the sqlite database called WingedExplorer.db and and sets up the folders for the image and sound files. Next you will get the Registration screen. Tap Later, Register or Never and you should finally see the full set of icons for your app and be able to scroll though them. Now you are ready to sync so go to the More page and select Synchronize so that iBird can download the image and sound files. These files are on a high speed server called a CDN so they should go very fast. If they dont it could be your Internet is slow or your device is old and has a slow radio.

If all is well you will see the progress dialog box and the two bars will show the download activity. If you are still having trouble please contact us at: Contact iBird Support

PROBLEM
Why is iBird taking FOREVER to download the database of bird images and sounds?
This is one of the biggest issues with Android devices. In working with dozens of devices over the years we have discovered that they are prone to many more connectivity issues than other mobile platforms. Loss of the WIFI connection is one of the most frequent issues as well as very slow WIFI bandwidth. While our iBird database is on a very fast server if  the WIFI radio in your smartphone is a poor one, the download will go very slow. The newer phones and tablets have much less of a problem with connectivity. So if you find that syncing is taking a long time, here are some places to look at.

SOLUTION

  1. Don’t use your cellular network for downloading iBird’s database. It’s way too big and the cellular network is slow.
  2. Check the speed of your WIFI from  your device. Download the free speedtest.net mobile app and use it to measure your WIFI bandwidth. The download speed should be above 1000 kbps (1 mbps) to get good download speed.
  3. Reboot your router. Do this when you find your can’t connect or your download speed is really slow, or the number of bars on  your WIFI icon are 1 to 2 instead of a strong 4 to 5.
  4. In your settings, under “sound and display” set your screen timeout for as long as the device will allow.
  5. Please note that android devices will often drop the WiFi signal during downloads so you need to keep an eye on that and reconnect if it is dropped.

PROBLEM
When I try to update update iBird I get a message “Sorry, there’s not enough space to install this item”. My phone says it has 228MB of App Storage, 1.38GB of Internal Storage, and 2.87GB on the SD. That should be enough so what the heck is going on here?
iBird’s requirements for memory are a bit more complicated than a typical Android app because there are TWO areas of memory that are required.

  1. The app itself, which is what you download from the Android Market, is typically–but not always–stored in what is referred to as phone memory, app memory, or other names.
  2. The database, which is very large (550 MB for Pro) is always stored in what is referred to as storage memory or SD memory.

Here is what you need to do to get iBird to fit on your phone or tablet.

SOLUTION

App or program memory is a type of fast RAM (random access memory) which is very fast and small in size. Because it is so fast it is devoted the running your programs. It can vary in capacity from as small as 64MB (in older devices) to as much as 512MB (in newer devices and tablets). Most but not all Android apps share App memory so if you have many apps it is not unusual that they won’t all fit. If this memory is full when you try to install iBird you may receive the message “Sorry, there’s not enough space to install this item” it means most likely that there was not enough room in program memory to store the iBird app. There are two solutions to this problem, explained next.

The message “Sorry, there’s not enough space to install this item” refers to the iBird app itself NOT the large database.

If you receive the message “Sorry, there’s not enough space to install this item” your first solution is to see if you can move the application from program (app) memory to storage memory or your SD Card. By default iBird always tries to install the app to SD Card or storage memory, however the final arbitrator of where iBird is installed is up to your actual device, not us as developers. Yes I know there are other apps that always install to SD Card memory but again it is not totally under our control. There are things about the way each app works that controls if it can be run from storage memory. In some cases storage memory is too slow. The point is we as developers can only suggest to the OS where to put iBird.

To see if you can override where the iBird app is stored go to the Settings->Applications->Manage Applications menu and tap the iBird application in the list of apps. You should find a button called Move to Storage Memory. If this button is enabled tap it to move the app to storage memory. If the button is disabled (grayed out) it means that iBird on your device can’t be moved to storage memory.

As developers we can only suggest to Android where to install your app, but the final decision is up to the device itself.

If the problem is that you do not have enough room in app memory for iBird and you are unable to move it to storage memory the only solution is to remove one of the your other apps to make room for it. You can go to the Settings->Applications->Manage Applications menu and sort if by Size to see which of your apps is taking the most room. Then uninstall that app and try to install iBird again.

I had this problem with my older Motorola Droid. I had to remove the Audubon app before I could get iBird to fit. In both the case of iBird and Audubon the app would not install in SD Card memory.


Missing Steve Job’s Magic Touch

As a super fan of Steve Jobs since we met back in the seventies, I and millions of other Apple lovers have dreaded the day we see his magic touch removed from the product line.  Are signs of that touch missing in the new Lion OS?

After buying a new BTO (build to order) high-end iMac and using it for a few weeks it felt like those signs were appearing. I sincerely hope I am wrong and that interface decisions made on the Lion OS are based on a deeper understanding of Apple’s’ future then I can foresee. Or that Apple wanted to get the OS out the door and into the hands of users before making any more changes.

I understand that the Macintosh product line is undergoing a iOS-fication, meaning Apple is trying to bring more features of the iPhone/iPad to the laptop line. And I think this idea has a lot of merit. The use of gestures seems like a great idea if you have a trackpad, the Mac store is something long overdue with all computer, and the sand-boxing of applications so they can’t crash the system if they crash is great. But there are some other things found in the iPhone/iPad that I (and others I bet) do not think should ever be part of the Mac OS. So either Steve thinks we are wrong or Apple made some decisions without him. Read on and let me know what you think.

The Death of the Scroll

What happened to the scroll bars? Embedded in many books about Steve is his incredible attention to detail on things that may seem irrelevant to most people. And nothing to me is more impressive than the fact he has been said to have spent over 3 months redesigning the Macintosh scroll bars when he returned to Apple. The story goes that the every day the programmer responsible for the scroll bars presented 3 to 5 graphic screen shots of the designs. Steve would look them over, then explain which things he liked and disliked and send the guy back to the drawing board. This went on an on and literally hundreds of versions where tried. He wanted the scrolling to be incredibly easy but the same time he wanted the graphics of the scroll bar to let the user know a lot of information about the contents of the window itself.  Meaning you could look at the scroll bar and tell if there was more contents below or too the right of the window (since you are only looking at a window into a much larger area of information). He also wanted to set the Mac OS apart from the staid elements used in Microsoft Windows. One major innovation was to put the up and down arrows together at the bottom on the bar, rather one at the top and one at the bottom as done in Windows. This allowed you to make micro adjustments to the window up and down without needing to move the cursor from the top to the bottom of the bar which was a real time saver.

Well in the new Lion all that wonderful effort is gone. In fact unless you go into the Mac settings and change things there are NO SCROLL BARS! Yes that is the story my friend. For some reasons I dont understand they turned the scroll bars off. You only see them when you move the cursor into the window. Then if there is more content below the right scroll appears or if there is more to the the right the bottom one shows up.

Scroll Bars are Not Easy to See or Move

Look at Figure 1 (Snow Leopard vs Lion Scroll bars) and one thing that jumps right out is how much harder it is now to see the Lion scroll bars. They are thin shadows of their former Leopard past, skinny little bars with an insignificant dull gray thumb (thats what you call the thing you grab with your mouse or finger to move the contents) and NO UP/DOWN ARROWS. I’ve circled the arrows in case  you forgot what they are; which is easy to do since we have grown so accustom to using them. Why Apple or Steve decided to remove the bars clearly is because of the desire to bring an iPhonesque nature to the Mac. But give me a break I dont want my Mac to work like a phone Apple. I want it to work like a computer. Here is my question to Apple:

Have you asked your Macbook owners if they want their Mac to work like their phone?

I’m guessing not because Apple does not believe in focus groups. Which I don’t either but there are a few things I would consult a group of users about if I thought it was going to have a huge getting used to event. Which these scroll bars are. Ok that is my first reason why I think Steve was not involved in this decision. I just know as the supreme super user he would not agree its a good idea. Maybe he would have made a setting that let you turn on iPhoney scroll bars?

Turning Windows Upside Down

This is the other surprise you’re in store for. If you use a trackpad mouse or a trackpad windows no longer scroll like they did before, they are turned upside down. Which is how the iPhone and iPad work because you use your finger to “drag the content” down or up. But that is not the way you’ve or I learned to control content on a computer screen. Its backwards. So Apple did inject some choice here, you can go to the System Settings and reverse the way the windows scroll. This only works on the track pad mouse or the larger trackpad. Mouse wheels still work like they did in the past. Roll up the mouse wheel to move the window up and roll down to move the scroll bar down. Please Apple don’t change this.

This is just a few of the things that will surprise you about Lion. To me they show a lack of attention to the tiny details the Mac has been all about. Or maybe I am missing something?

Mitch

Please let me know how you feel about the scroll bars in this poll

Update Tue 20 Septemeber 2011

I have some great news. We have the problem with the CDN and the bad images solved. Turns out that the GoGrid CDN (which is really edgecast resold) has some kind of caching system that was sending back incomplete image files. My developer tried to fix it with some tricks but in the end the solution was to simply switch to another CDN, Maxcnd (www.maxcdn.com). Not only is Maxcdn much less expensive than GoGrid it turns out to be 300% faster! Instead of taking 90 minutes to sync Pro it takes 30 minutes.

I am going to submit Lite to the Google Market today and if that goes well I will submit the other two apps (Pro and Yard Plus). I hope this solves the bulk of the Android issues but like anything in life, there are no guarantees.

The Price of Success – An Android Apology & Solution

Note: The iBird Android apps are now working and in the Google Market. If you have a support issue please go to this page and fill out our support form. Contact iBird Support If for some reason you can’t use that form you can try support at ibird dot com.

You’ve heard the stories.

  • The Brittany Spears concert sells out in 10 minutes and the ticket master web site crashes.
  • President Obama implores the American people to let “your Member of Congress” know they want  a “balanced approach to the budget” and at least nine Web sites for House and Senate leaders go down.
  • Target’s web site comes crashing down as Missoni-loving fashion devotees scramble to buy the high-end Italian designer’s clothes for a song.

While this drives us crazy there is one positive side effect; someone did something right to cause all the attention.

I Want My iBird NOW!

Those of you who tried to upgrade the iBird Pro for Android in the Google Market on Wednesday felt the pain as the database took a ridiculously long time to synchronize.

I’m writing here today to apologize for this unintentional faux pas and to let you know we are doing all we can to fix the issue and explain what caused it.

The reason for this, to cut to the chase, was the was much higher demand than our server could keep up with. Why? Well this particular update to iBird made it compatible with a large number of Android tablets launched in the last year. Up till now the app only worked well on smartphones with small screens.  This version also contained brand new high res 720p illustrations and photos. These made the database about twice as large as the previous version. So unbeknownst to us the number of customers who had new tablets and wanted to update was huge so within a few hours of the apps appearing in the Google Market our web server slowed to a crawl. Updates of the database, which normally take no more than 5 minutes to an hour and a half were taking several hours.

At first we thought something was wrong with the program. Which was a shock because we’ve spent the last 8 months testing this app over and over until we were sure everything was working great.Whats that saying about an ounce of prevention?

Not.

Unpublish iBird from the Google Market

The only thing we could do at this point was to plug the dike meaning put a stop to the number of people getting caught in this mess. So we unpublished the Pro and Lite apps. We didn’t remove Yard since we had not updated it but its not designed yet for tablets.

No Excuses

Which just goes to show you why software is such a tough business and so many companies find themselves stuck in this situation. Now I know there are those of you out there that feel there is no excuse for this kind of problem and all I can say to you is the world is not perfect and neither are we. We just didn’t anticipate that so many people would want to download iBird at the same time. After all this is not an app that people can’t live without. Or maybe it is? Some of the emails we got: “When are you going to get things fixed so I can update my iBird? This is horrible–I am about to go on a birding tour and I had planned on showing everyone how good I am at identification. Now what am I gong to do? My reputation will be ruined.”

Hence the double-sided coin of pain and pleasure alluded to in the beginning of the story: people love our app more than we ever imagined. Which feels great. But at the same time people have become so dependent on iBird that there’s this huge pressure to keep it running perfectly all the time.

The Android Arms Race

While we are addressing disappointment let me get this out of the way.

iBird is not going to work perfectly on all tablets.

Yep you heard that right.

Why?

A myriad of reasons. For one with the introduction of the tablet the app has become much more complicated.  In this current 2.0 update we have made it so iBird “adapts” to different screens resolutions.  That might not sound like much much but it’s a really tough thing to get right. You see the so-called Android “standard” is actually a patchwork quilt of different versions. In fact Google has revised Android at least five times in the last three years.  And they have created 3 different Android OS’s, one for smartphones, one for tablets and one for televisions (what you have not heard of Google TV?).

Each time Google revises the OS it means that things that once worked fine may now break. As far as Google is concerned it’s the responsibility of  developers to keep up with these OS changes.

On top of these changes in the OS we have carriers trying to differentiate their devices from other companies.  They accomplish this by making changes to the hardware and the software itself. These changes make each Android device work different than others. There is literally an “arms race” among carriers as they try to make their device better than the other guys. Caught in the middle are developers, like ourselves, who have to make sure their apps can still work on all these devices. Let me tell you its a huge mess. Indeed there is a company called Device Anywhere which has a web site that emulates all the different Android devices on the market. Developers can rent time on their site to test their apps, but trust me it’s not cheap (hundreds of dollars an hour) and it’s so in demand you have to make an appointment to test your app. Nice business to be in but the point is the poor developer is caught up in this ever changing landscape of hardware alternations.

I know some iPhone developers who actually refuse to port to their apps to Android because they can’t justify the amount of work required to keep the app up to date.

With iBird we have tested it on at least 50 different devices. We know there are some Android devices which iBird will not work on. But since Google gives you 15 minutes from the time you make a purchase to the time you can get a refund we recommend you take this time to download the smaller iBird Lite and see if it will work on your device. If it wont then please cancel your order and get  refund. Otherwise you have to wait while we try to figure out why iBird won’t run on your Optimus Trend Setter Tablet.

The Solution – CDN

So we have a solution to the server overload issue and it’s called a Content Delivery System. Essentially this is a service provided by different companies such as Akamai, Edgecast, Rack Space, GoDaddy GoGrid and others that hosts media and lets it be downloaded and streamed with high bandwidth. CDNs are typically used for steaming videos and music as well as for downloading software. They do not require that you buy any hardware or even set up any software, rather then give you an account and a browser based dashboard where you upload your content for storage. You get a URL that goes into your application, or a player you can install that is able to download the data from where its stored by the CDN,

How Long will iBird Syncing take with CDN?

The time to sync iBird on the CDN network depends not only on the speed of the CDN network but also your WIFI and your ISP which your WIFI connects to. Its a chain. It starts with the CDN but then goes through these other pipes until it gets to your Android device.

Here are the results I got testing last night using the GoGrid (re-purposed EdgeCast) CDN. This is on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 which is a very fast tablet.

Product Download Sync Time Size Birds/Min
iBird Lite 30 35 sec 5 min 30 MB 6
iBird Pro 924 5 min 90 min 550 MB 10

Now your own mileage may vary. Note that iBird Lite with only 30 birds downloaded them all in 5 minutes, meaning about 6 per minute while iBird Pro with 924 birds downloaded them all in 90 minutes meaning about 10 per minute. Why? Because with so many more birds iBird Pro has more time to take advantage of the bandwidth and therefore represents a more realistic average.

The bytes downloaded per minute is around 6 MB (550 MB / 90 min = 6.111 MB / min) or about 100K per second. This is pretty fast by most internet standards. But again it is going over WIFI and that puts a pretty good bottleneck in the speed.

Here are the results I got testing the Maxcdn CDN today. This is on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 which is a very fast tablet. This is the CDN we finally settled on.

Product Download Sync Time Size Birds/Min
iBird Lite 30 22 sec 1-1/2 min 30 MB 20
iBird Pro 924 2-1/2 min 27 min 550 MB 34 !!

Note the time to sync Pro went from 90 minutes on GoGrid to 27 minutes on Maxcdn.  So the birds downloaded per minute went from 10 to 30. That’s 300% faster!

The bottom line here is the CDN will vastly improve the download time of iBird. We can’t promise you will get the kind of speed we did but hopefully it will be way better than the hours it was taking last week.

Thank you for your patience.

Mitch Waite

Note if you have a support issue please go to this page and fill out our support form. Contact iBird Support