2011 was a big year for the iPad and a big year for Remembary. iOS5 came out, along with iCloud and PhotoStream. Remembary introduced some unique new features such as automatic fetching and mapping of pictures by day. I'm now busy working on Remembary 2, a major rebuild of the app from the ground up, taking advantage of a lot of new iOS5 features, and even supporting use on iPhones.

In the meanwhile, the last few months have revealed a few subtle problems between Remembary 1.4.2 and iOS5. I'm covering them here so you'd know that I know about them - and also so I could tell you how I'll be addressing them in Remembary 2.

Funny Split View Behaviour

 The split view is a very common interface style on the iPad, used in many apps including Apple's own Mail. Split view applications have two main components: a listing and a detail view. When the iPad is in portrait orientation, the whole screen is taken up with the detail view, and the listing is available as a popover when you press a button:

(Sneak preview of the how the new listings are grouped by month!)

When the iPad is in landscape orientation, the detail view shrinks and the listing shows up on the left side of the screen:

One of the downsides of the split view in an app that has a lot of typing, like a diary, is that landscape orientation provides a larger, easier to use keyboard to work with - but the area available for the content that you are entering is much smaller. 

Also, in iOS5, the side listing sometimes disappears. Try this: 

  1. Have your iPad in portrait mode.  
  2. Tap on the calendar icon in the top left to bring up the entries listing.
  3. Press the button on the bottom of your iPad to close Remembary and go back to your main iPad screen.
  4. Rotate your iPad to landscape mode.
  5. Launch Remembary again. 

You'll probably see this:

I had to do a lot of research, but it turns out that this is some kind of bug that occurs in some split view apps that were started in earlier versions of iOS. The call to hide the listing happens at a lower system level than I seem to be able to access. 

How I'm Fixing This In Remembary 2

 I'm getting rid of the split view. I never really liked it much anyhow. Now no matter what orientation you're in, the date entries will be in a popover. The page will stretch out across the entire landscape screen, like this:


It will also make typing nicer: you'll have the whole width of the page to work with.

PhotoStream and Duplicate Pictures

iOS5 brought with it some huge changes with how pictures are handled on the iPad. Not only can you now sync with pictures stored on your computer, but you can also pull in a PhotoStream of the last 1000 pictures you've taken, downloading them through the cloud in almost real time. This has been great for tourists with iPhones: take pictures of Istanbul or San Francisco all day, and then when you sit down to write in your diary, the pictures are all already there. 

The problem comes when you save all of your pictures back to your computer and then sync them back to your iPad: the PhotoStream pictures are still there, alongside the originals. This means that you often get two versions of the same image. If you're using the HDR setting on your iPhone, you might end up with four almost identical images every time you take a picture. I'm not sure how, but sometimes I get three versions of my pictures, which with HDR comes up to six similar images. 

How I'm Fixing This in Remembary 2

I've tried every way of detecting duplicates I could think of, but the PhotoStream pictures are actually different from the originals: their timestamps are a few seconds later, they're often smaller in size, and they even have different filenames. I could do some kind of exotic pattern-matching, but then I would risk false positives, which might be worse than duplicates.

Remembary 2 has a little control at the bottom of the photo listings that will let you switch between the general library, the PhotoStream library, or just show all the images. That way you can filter out the duplicates yourself. The pictures will also have an icon showing whether they're from PhotoStream or the iPad's library.

Incorrect Picture Timestamps

In iOS5, Apple changed the meaning of the picture timestamp values in the iPad photo library: they used to be the timestamp assigned in iPhoto (which you could edit yourself), but now they're the creation date of the picture itself (which is stored inside the picture and the filesystem). This is no doubt useful for the PhotoStream syncing logic, but not so good for people who like to tune their pictures after taking them. Even worse: if you have scanned in older pictures and re-dated them in iPhoto (like I did with a big road trip I took in 1999), they now show up with the date and time that they were scanned. 

This has been confusing for users, and is especially frustrating for me, since the whole point of this feature was that it would properly figure out all of the dates for your pictures automatically for you. I've spent a lot of time entering in old diaries and travel journals and now they no longer match up with the pictures and maps like they used to.

How I'm Fixing This in Remembary 2.0

NOTE FROM THE FUTURE: THIS BUG HAS (FINALLY!) BEEN FIXED IN iOS6. PLEASE UPGRADE YOUR DEVICE! 

This one is tricky. It would be nice if Apple would fix this soon. Other people have noticed this bug, and I even submitted a bug report, but I don't know if it's going to be addressed. I tried extracting EXIF information from the photos, but that takes a lot more time to process, especially on an iPad with thousands of photos, so I would have had to build a caching system, which takes even more storage and memory.

I'm also looking into a way of letting users 'flag' favourite photos, which would then be loaded into the app and where they could assign their own date/time information and geotags. This is a complicated solution, and something I had really hoped to avoid doing, since it makes users have to do twice the work and increases the storage space required by the app.

So - I'm still figuring this one out. Anybody have any ideas?

I'm very excited to get Remembary 2 out in front of the world - but I also want to make sure that it works well. Watch this blog for further updates.

Feedback is always appreciated - so feel free to write in the comments below, or drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter or in an email.

Posted
AuthorAndrew Burke