Archive for November, 2011

iCloud and real-time syncing of data

November 29, 2011 Comments off

As I am getting many requests per week asking about iCloud support and real-time syncing between devices, I thought I’d add this post to explain the current situation.

None of my apps support iCloud today (in fact very few do!!). However they all support the ability to backup your data, copy it between devices, and restore it. Of course what you all really want is the ability to change something on one device, and have it magically appear on the other, perhaps even having two people do updates simultaneously. There are many issues with this, some of which are helped by iCloud …

1) your data files can get quite large, especially with lots of transactions (e.g.). Copying to the cloud, and downloading this again could potentially take minutes or longer. So when do you do this? It would be frustrating at launch time, and you can’t wait until you press the Home button to copy back to the cloud as you only have 5 seconds of execution time for background processing. iCloud helps with this (a lot), letting you copy data locally, and it handles the copying in the background.

2) conflict resolution. While it sounds easy, what if two or more devices are offline for extended periods, all editing the same data. When they reconnect to the cloud, it all needs to be sorted out. This is especially difficult, and Apple have left it up to us developers to sort out (they can’t solve it for us, as we all store data in different formats).

UPDATE (8th December):

I plan to support iCloud in three steps. The first is to use it for backups only, a bit like Dropbox works today. When you make a backup, this will be copied to iCloud and then (over time) pushed to all of your other devices. Your other devices will see this new file in seconds, but if it has not been downloaded, it will be displayed in grey. Tapping on it will force a download, then tapping again will let you restore it. I have all of this working in Account Tracker today, so it will be in my next update (other apps will get this too).

The next step is more complicated, and that is to allow your data to be pushed to the iCloud automatically (without backing up), such that other devices can always be using the latest data. While this sounds simple, there are a few issues to resolve first (like preventing simultaneous updates, and when to copy your data).

Finally, the highly complex issue of syncing simultaneous changes needs to be addressed. This is likely to take time to design and implement a workable solution. Please be patient! 🙂

Photo receipts

November 28, 2011 Comments off

I am thinking about adding support for photo receipts. While it is relatively easy to take a photo and associate it with a specific transaction, I don’t quite know how to handle backing them up (beyond the usual iTunes backup of my app data). Since photos tend to be quite large (and also numerous!), including them in my current backup solution would be impractical or even impossible. I can think of two solutions …

1) providing an option to copy these images to your saved photos/camera roll, accessible through the photos app, and therefore backed up to your computer separately. While this provides some additional level of security, if you ever had to retrieve them from your synced photos, there would be no way of associating them back to your transactions (because images don’t have names)

2) letting you make your own backups as and when you like. For example, a directory of images could easily be copied to your computer using iTunes file sharing

Of course both of these options are only an issue if you don’t fully trust iTunes to do its job of backing up (it does seem better than it was 2 years ago).

If you have any comments, please let me know by responding to this post.

Account Tracker 3.4 now available

November 19, 2011 Comments off

This update is mainly a user interface change, with a few bug fixes in passing. Also note that the minimum iOS version supported is now 3.1.3, due to the difficulty in testing older versions.

Moved the add transaction button to the bottom tab bar. This is now accessible no matter where you are in the app.

On the individual account screen, the current balance and all available options are shown on two toolbars (top and bottom). These can be hidden to show only the transactions by tapping on the up arrow button. Once hidden, tap on the down arrow to show them again.

The backups screen is now accessed via the Backups button on the Settings screen. Your Dropbox backups are now only shown once you tap the refresh button. iCloud support for backups will be coming in a future update.

Moved the various Help options behind a Help button on the Settings screen. Also added a quick link to leave a review on iTunes.

Fixed bugs to do with the Account screen on iOS 4.2.1, also an issue with the minimum balance looking further out than planned.

iOS 5 and notifications

November 7, 2011 Comments off

For those of you running iOS 5, the new Notification Center (US spelling) is a convenient place to access all of your notifications. However for me, my own apps were DISABLED by default. You will still get a small banner-style notification at the top of the screen, but this is only displayed for a few seconds so is likely to be missed. To fix this, go to the main Settings app, and select Notifications. Find my apps (Account Tracker and/or Meter Readings) and turn “Notification Center” to ON. You can also choose how you want these displayed (banner or alert) as well as other options like sounds or lock screen … etc.

Meter Readings 2.9.4 now available

November 2, 2011 Comments off

Fixed a bug introduced in the last version to do with keyboard input when adding multiple readings.

Added support for meters that count down or actually measure usage per reading. The meter direction is set in the format screen.