iBird for Android 2.0.9 and 2.0.10 Troubleshooting FAQ

UPDATE: iBird Pro version 2.2.1 is now available on both Google Play as well as Amazon.com. It’s approved for the Kindle Fire and for any Android smartphone or tablet.  The way the installer works has completely changed. We no longer allow downloading one species at a time or all the birds starting with a certain letter of the alphabet. Instead the entire database is downloaded before the app can be used. I will be updating the blog in the next week to give more details for for now please update your current version of iBird.  We have discovered that occasionally the server we use for storing our database (MaxCDN.com) will drop a connection while its syncing. When this happens it can cause the entire db to be corrupted and the only solution is to erase the database,  uninstall iBird and start over. We have a solution we hope to implement soon that keeps track of the download of each file and if it drops the connection iBird will retry three times to reestablish the connection.  If you would like to beta test this for us, please send an email to support at ibird dot com with the title “Would like to Beta Test iBird” and reference this post.

This FAQ is written for the newest version of iBird Pro for Android: version 2.0.9 and 2.0.10.  Unless you are already a very patient and hard to ruffle person, I suggest you jump down and read my earlier post iBird 2 for Android Troubleshooting FAQ. This was written in Nov of 2011 and will not only cover issues with pre 2.0.9 iBird Pro but also help you get through the non trivial issues that arise when dealing with Android software.

FAQ You are installing iBird version 2.0.9 and get the message below:

The  message “iBird encountered an error and is unable to create or download the database….etc” means something has gone wrong during the installation of iBird. We are working on a solution to prevent this but for now to fix this you need to uninstall iBird from your device (phone or tablet), remove any iBird database folder that may have been created, and try to install the app again and sync its database. The rest of this FAQ explains how to do that and gives tips on how to make sure the sync is successful.

Tips for Downloading the iBird Database

iBird’s database is very large, pushing towards 600 MB. We often get complaints about its large size. Less frequently we get complaints that there are not enough illustrations, photos or other content. The deal is you can’t have both large amounts of data and small size. You want higher resolution? Then you have to accept that data is going to consume more space on your phone or tablet. Why not just put it on a server and download as needed some people ask? Because that means you wont be able to view it in the field where there is no WiFi or cellular connection available. Maybe someday when telecommunications is so ubiquitous that everyone has there own personal satellite in orbit a server solution will work. But for now downloading the database is the only good solution. And it’s really not that hard as long as you take a few precautions before you start. Here are some tips to help increase the odds of not running into trouble.

  1. Only download the iBird database over a fast WiFi connection. DO NOT USE YOUR CELLULAR CONNECTION. Because most cell carriers are metering the download of data, if you go over your monthly allotment you will incur additional costs.
  2. Monitor the download and be prepared to intervene if there are problems. Some networks will intentionally slow down your connection when they sense you are “hogging” the bandwidth, particularly DSL type of internet services, so you need to keep an eye on the progress of your iBird synchronization. (BTW we are not alone in the approach of downloading the database as a separate process from installing the app. The Audubon app uses the same approach.)
  3. Insure you have at least 1 GB (One gigabyte – 1,000 megabytes) of space available for the iBird database. While it only uses half that, as it downloads it may put part of the files in a temporary part of your memory so at times you can have twice the space consumed. Once the database has finished it will take up the advertised amount.
  4. Set the Display Time out setting to Never or as long as you are allowed on your device.
  5. If you have problems downloading please don’t leave a 1 star review that says “This product is a !@#$%^ and won’t download”. Instead take the adult approach and write to our support group using the form we have prepared to help us do a good job. Here is the link: iBird Support Form. If you just want to drop us a quick question you can use the email address support@ibird.com. But we warn you – if you need more help you will have to fill out the form and we will send you to it.

When Syncing My iBird Database Stalls

Its not uncommon for the database to stop downloading in the middle of the process. We are working on a programmed solution to this but for now we have put together this quick tutorial on how to cure the problem manually.

Go to the More Page to Sync the Database

Step 1. Go to the More Page to start the synchronization (downloading) of the database.

Step 2. Read the instructions.

Step 2. Read about the different ways to sync the database. You can sync in small sections by selecting then syncing all the birds starting with the letter A, then move to B, and so on. Or  you can Sync All the birds at once. You can even sync one bird at a time by just opening its species page and waiting for the data to download.

Step 3. Press the Sync All button to start the download

Step 3. Press Sync All to sync all the birds in the database. You will need to monitor the progress.

Step 4. Monitor the downloading. If the progress bar stalls press the hardware back button than press Sync All to resume.

Step 4. Monitor the progress bars as the download continues.

If the progress bar stops and does not move for more than a few minutes press the  hardware Back button then press the Sync All button again. You will see iBird verify the species that have already been downloaded and the bottom progress bar will move. Once it gets to the first bird that was stuck the progress should resume.

How to Start the iBird Installation Over

Some people have found that iBird gets in a state such that it can’t finish the installation or synchronization. Or it gives an error that there is no SD Card and you know that you have an SD Card and its got plenty of room. In this case the best solution is to start over. Here is how to do that.

Know Your WiFi Bandwidth

One of the first thing you need to do is make sure you have a good connection to the internet with a fast WiFi. We have seen many situations where the customer thinks they have a fast WiFi only to discover upon testing this is not true.

Why is bandwidth important? Because iBird is a really large database. In fact it’s too large to store in the Google Market. To understand this lets calculate how long it takes to download a 600 MB set of files over a 1 Mbps connection, which is typical of a wireless router connected to a DSL network. Assuming a byte is about 8 bits a 600 MB file is 600 x 8 or about 4800 megabits. 4800 megabytes divided by 1 megabits per second = 4800 seconds. In minutes this is 4800/60 = 80 minutes  or 80/60 = 1.33 hours. Call it 1-1/2 hours. Because there are several thousand files that make up the iBird database there is a good deal of overheard so that the actual download will be even longer. Consider a 50% efficiency the download time can double to 3 hours.  If your bandwidth is 2 Mbps you can assume your download will be 1-1/2 hours and if its 6 Mbps it will take 3 / 6 or 1/2 hour  or 30 minutes. I have a cable connected to a very fast router and speedtest.net says my bandwidth for download is 20 Mbps so should I expect it to take 3 / 20 = .15 hours or 9 minutes? I wish. The problem is the tablet or phone can’t process files as fast as my bandwidth seems to allow. The best I have been able to get is around 15 to 30 minutes.

Keep in mind that some ISPs will slow down your network if it thinks you are hogging the bandwidth and so the calculations can go out the window. Another factor are the servers that stores the files for iBird. If there is a lot of traffic on them it could slow the download time. We see this sometimes when a new update is first released and thousands of customers are attempting to update at the same time.

To test it you can download another app from the Market. My favorite is speedtest.net. Run this app a few times and make sure your bandwidth is as fast as we described in the previous section. If its lower take a look at your router to see if its using the right protocol or talk to your Internet ISP and see if they can explain why its not faster.

  1. Uninstall iBird. Use either the Market uninstall button uninstall the app from Settings using Settings→Applications→Manage Applications→iBird Pro then press the Uninstall button
  2. Remove the iBird Pro folder. Use a third party file manager app from the Market. My favorite is Astro File Manager. Find this app in the Market, download it then use it to locate the folder iBird_Pro on the SD Card. If you don’t have a physical SD Card you can find it in the folder mnt/SDCard.
  3. Now since you have already purchased iBird you can go to the Market again, search for it by typing “iBird” in the search box.
  4. Now go ahead and reinstall iBird. When it is done resync the database.

Hopefully this time your installation and syncing will work better.

If you continue to have problems please contact our support team and we will work with you.

FAQs from iBird Users

 

One wise user recommended disabling “automatic updates” for iBird in the Google Market. Reason? If this setting is ON (the checkbox is checked) Google Market will try to install a new update to the app in the background. That could lead to problems, for example if you are on a slow network, don’t want to incur the costs on a cellular network, or if you happened to be in the field. If  you keep automatic update OFF the Market will still let you know if there is an update when you go to My Apps in the store. But it will be up to you to start the update so you can do it when you have a fast WiFi connection. Note iBird will still let you know if there is a database update because we do that in the app. And of course you can press the Later button to do the database update some other time.

Lessons I learned from Steve Jobs

Greenbrae Boardwalk 1976

As we strolled down the Greenbrae Boardwalk on a beautiful day in April 1976 Steve Jobs could care less about Snowy Egret’s gliding inches above the salt marsh. His focus was relentlessly on the unreleased Apple II.

In Steve’s words the Apple II was going to make the Apple One which I had bought from his garage “look like shit”.

I found his comment confounding since I’d spent the last 3 months building a weather station with the Apple One and it was supposed to be the reason we were meeting.

But I will never forget something Steve said that would go on to become a basic principle of all his future work. When he and Woz unveiled the Apple One in 1975 at the Homebrew Computer Club at Stanford its most amazing feature was the “high resolution” two color graphics. This was 280 x 192 pixel display mode that you had to load from the cassette storage interface. While it only offered four colors–green, violet, black and white–this was far ahead of anything you could buy on the market. Now 280 x 192 is pathetically low res in light of today’s HD displays but for guys like myself in the mid seventies it was totally astounding. It meant I could draw charts of the height of tide, wind speed and solar energy over time for the weather station.  That, and the fact I was writing a book about Graphics on the Apple, was what had dragged Steve to drive his VW Bus to meet with me.

But he was not interested in hearing about the weather station and its PIA interface to the Apple’s 6502 processor. Spittle formed at the corners of his mouth as he looked at me with a laser focus.

“We have come up with a way to get 16 color graphics on the Apple II with only 2 chips; no one has managed to do anything like that before.”

I asked why that the number of chips was so important and Steve looked at me like I was a classic “bozo” which was his word for anyone who was not a genius. “Minimizing chips is the cornerstone to the success of the Apple computer. Look at all the other S-100 machines out there are you will see they are stuffed to the gills with parts. But lots of chips means lots of heat, many more points of failure and worse of all high cost.”

Lesson 1. Minimization coupled with elegant design is the key to the success of any product.

This idea of minimalism coupled with outstanding performance and beauty would come to characterize everything he worked on in the future. Steve knew in his gut that the color aspects of the Apple II would delight his customers. Climbing with him on the roof of my houseboat to show the wind speed propeller made of 3 cook’s tablespoons I would have never thought that one day this man would change the world and touch millions of people like no one had in the history of technology.

Steve Jobs was 9 years younger than me and he seemed like a 21 year old kid too full of himself. Yet the hardware that he had created along with Steve Wozniak had so captured my imagination I could not help but feeling awed by his vision. Steve was impressed with what I had done with the Apple One and he was aware of the fact I was a rising star of the computer book publishing world.

“Mitch come down to our Apple headquarters and I’ll give you an Apple II because THAT is the the computer you need to write your graphics book on about.”

Original Apple Office 1976

A month later I drove down to Cupertino to meet with Steve at Apple’s new head-quarters at 20863 Stevens Creek Blvd, Cupertino Way. He introduced me to Steve Wozniak. I loved Woz, he was a sweet energetic engineer, who at the time seemed to be the alter ego of Jobs. I brought my Apple One with me and he offered to solder the wires to make the second PIA work.  I could see Jobs was driving the design goals but Woz was an engineer who, like my friend Larry Brown, could make silicon chips do magical things. Today people don’t know the difference between PNP and a PIMP, but back in the seventies every one was focused on electronics and digital chips were drastically altering the design of everyday things.

Steve offered me a job running the Apple documentation department. He said today’s computer manuals were crap and if I took the offer I could participate in changing the world. And I would become a millionaire from the founding stock options I would get. I told Steve I was thrilled with that idea and asked if I could start a little later than the other people since the drive from Greenbrae to Cupertino was about an hour on a good day. Steve looked at me with a smirk and said “Mitch look around the office and tell me what you see under the desks”. I saw some kind of dark lump and so I asked him what it was. “That is a sleeping bag. No one goes home at Apple, we work 24/7, because that is the only way the world will get changed. If you work here you have to live nearby.”

That was a huge issue for me. I loved the nature of Marin, Mt. Tam where I hiked every weekend, I had a girlfriend in Fairfax and I just didn’t like the Cupertino asphalt jungle. I know today you read that Steve always said follow your dreams and don’t let the noise of other people confuse your vision, but this was already etched in my mind by the Zen philosophy I had studied, as well as the gurus I followed.  I had paid my dues writing manuals and wanted to be an author, not a manual writer. Plus money wasn’t everything to me, I needed to enjoy what I did and feel I was creating something great. I had already started a company with Larry that sold biofeedback kits, and from that I’d caught the bug of working for myself. Plus I thought one day I might be a millionaire on my own.

Of course had I taken Steve up on his offer I might have been a multimillionaire but whose counting?

So I thanked Steve for such a great offer but turned down the job. He was not happy with me. I already knew that you don’t piss Steve off so I asked if I could write some articles about the Apple as well as my Computer Graphics Primer and he tasked me with doing an article comparing the Apple II to the Commodore 64. I remember him saying he wanted me to slice the Commodore into tiny pieces with a razor knife until it was bleeding. That seemed like a pretty intense and scary analogy.

I never finished that article.

Stay tuned for more Lessons I learned from Steve.

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.