Well, I’ve yet again totally ignored this blog. Bad me, bad bad me.

So a fair bit has happened with my apps and things in the past year.

I now help to run a business, Brooklyn Software, which makes apps, mostly for schools.

I did get commissioned to make another Caravan/Camping related app. Sadly, shortly after launch, the person who was supposed to pay me disappeared off the face of the planet. Which was rather annoying, as I was even working Christmas day to get it finished in time.

But hey, that’s how it goes sometimes.

Argos Buddy has just been updated. Works well on Android 2.3.3 or above (some people were still on version 1 with Android 2.3, ouch, no wonder I keep getting bad reviews!). It looks nice, is fun to use, and you can set price alerts. So when something drops in price, the app will tell you. This is great if you’re wanting to buy something from Argos, but can wait for it to be a bargain. Everyone I spoke to said it was a good idea, but only time will tell on that one. If it gets popular again, I still have idea on how to make it more awesome, but for now, it’s simply an app I’m no longer embarrassed about, and it’ll just get bug-fixes for now.

Car Finder is still working, so I’m going to leave that alone.

So, Caravan Buddy is next. Code I haven’t really touched in a year. Well, this time, I’m planning to actually make things happen with it! Caravan Buddy is my sole project for a while now, unless Brooklyn Software takes over again.

Judging by the state it’s in, I have a lot of work to do. Best get to it!

Time To Upgrade

It’s been quiet on here for a while…

I’ve been really busy with other projects. These are now finally coming to the point of maturity, so I can update personal bits and pieces again.

Caravan Buddy version 2 is coming along, and should hopefully be ready in the next month. Version 2 is a lot easier on the eye, and fixes some outstanding bugs.

I also have “Time To Upgrade”, which is a project that’s been on the back burner for a while. This will be my first “properly mainstream” offering on the play store. It’ll look good, and work great, and I’m hoping will really help out of a lot of people!

Exciting times!

Caravan Buddy for blackberry – The only version

This post is mostly for blackberry users. Those on Android might not want to bother reading :)

So, I started working on the next version of Caravan Buddy recently. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Caravan Buddy for blackberry simply isn’t going to happen in the long term.

For porting games, the tools that Blackberry provides are fine, but to port applications… Not so much. The tools they provide only work with very outdated versions of the Android tools (Android 2.3, which came out nearly two years ago, an age in mobile app development), they are unreliable, slow, clunky, difficult to work with, and remove all the fun out of making the app. And fun is a big part of my motivation.

I’m working on Caravan Buddy 2 now, things will be improved, I have some idea for really cool things I want to try, and the blackberry side of the app is simply slowing everything down. Not owning a blackberry device myself is also another fairly major barrier.

So for now, this is the test version I made and never published:
This is not on the Blackberry app world, and never will be.

Installing .bar files outside of the blackberry appworld is a little tricky. It seems the easiest method is here:

And you can download the software from here:
(I have not tested this, I don’t have a playbook and will be unable to help in any way)

Changes to the Blackberry version against the Android version:
* GPS navigation to sites is not working and has been removed.
* Maps will be slower to load and harder to use, but should work
* Videos will load in the browser instead of the “proper” youtube app
* You cannot “Go plus” with the blackberry version, so you are stuck with the banner adverts
* Handy tools are missing
* UKCampsite searching probably doesn’t work, as they changed the site design slightly after this test version was made. This won’t be fixed in the blackberry version.

Sorry it didn’t work out. I do Android app development “on the side” as a part time hobby. Once the fun goes, there isn’t much left, and the effort to work around the blackberry tools’ flaws was sucking all the fun out of making this.

If you like Caravan Buddy, and are a regular caravanner/motorhomer and want to keep using this app “properly”, then you might want to consider a Android phone, which are cheap enough these days. For best performance (not just with Caravan Buddy, but in general), look for these specifications:
* 1ghz processor (at least, the more ghz and cores the better!)
* at least 512mb of RAM, but 1gb or above is preferable.
* Android 4.0 at least, avoid any phone/device that runs Android 2.x or 1.x
* A screen as big as you like. I prefer around the 4 inches mark, still the right size for your pocket, but the screen should be nice and clear. And of course you can screen mount it easily for satnaving to your site :)

Quick Update for Caravan Buddy

This is linked to a forum, but I figured it would make sense to put it here as well:

“Morning everyone.

Just a couple of things, based on some e-mails I’m getting:

  • Development of Caravan Buddy is still ongoing, I haven’t abandoned it. I’ve been very busy with Work and Home the past few months. I’ve just started tinkering with my apps again as of this past weekend. One of my apps is currently being re-written (but is nearly finished), another one needs an update, then it’s Caravan Buddy and another app I’m working on, 50% to each is the plan, we’ll see how it goes.
  • If you are using an Android 1.6-2.1 based device, then don’t expect too see many updates of Caravan Buddy for it. Supporting 1.6-2.1 devices whilst still adding new features is getting difficult. This will only affect 4.34% of you, according to Google. I’ll keep going along as I can with it, but I thought a heads up was in order, as I know a lot of you rely on this app heavily now.
  • Please please please make sure you are using the latest version, which is 1.4.1 (this appears at the bottom of the main screen). If not, please go to the Play Store, press menu, goto “My Apps” and ask it to update. I’m getting e-mails (and sadly, negative reviews) about bugs which I fixed months ago. The video server is also reporting a lot of old queries on the old versions of this app. As some point that’ll stop working completely with older versions.
  • The Blackberry version is at a “good enough” state now. I’m currently registering with Blackberry for a appworld account where I can upload Caravan Buddy (they are asking for “official documentation” to be emailed to them?! Crazy). Be aware, the best experience will be on Android, as the blackberry tools are a bit shaky, to say the least. I’m not sure how many updates I’ll be able to push through for Blackberry, as the tools they provide are already out of date against the Android tools which I use. As this point, the promise is “best efforts”, and nothing more.

That’s about it. I’ve got some really nice things I want to be adding to the next version, with a new “look and feel” as well. Whilst Caravan Buddy is very functional, damn it’s ugly! The next update should help sort that out.

One thing I really want to do is a series of videos for beginners. There are videos of the like in the app already, but there are a bit “all over the place” and many are plain out of date. I’m fairly clueless with such things, so actually doing it myself is a bit scary, (and I do have a face for radio!). I was wondering if such a series already existed? Can anyone recommend anything?

Any comments, suggestions, etc. Use the feedback button in the app or post here. I love hearing about how you guys are using this, and that’s whole point!”

Project Darlene, eeehhh

Wow, I haven’t updated this in a while… So a lot has changed since my last post:

I no longer tow with my Hyundai i10, with it’s 1.2 petrol engine. In the beginning of February last year, it failed to start, seemingly for no reason. The car was nearly three years old, and had been looked after well, as I’d owned it from new. It made me more than an hour late for work, as I had to borrow my girlfriend’s car to get to work, which meant walking to where she works first.

We eventually got it started in the evening, and took it to Hyundai. They found nothing wrong with it and couldn’t replicate the fault. So I’ve sold it, and brought a nice 2 litre Citroen C5 Diesel, which can actually tow more than my licence will allow me to tow.

This means I can now tow something larger than 800kg. Which means we’ll be getting rid of Darlene in the future, and getting something much bigger, with a shower already fitted… So it seemed a bit pointless to continue with what I had planned. I did manage to get a shower tray made up (made out of wood! but I wrapped it in pond liner), but quickly realised that I was out of my depth, and that if I had managed to get a shower installed, that it would have leaked everywhere, and ruined the already old and slightly creaky caravan.

So that’s out of the way now. A shame in a way, but probably for the best. We’ll hopefully be able buy a new (to us) caravan next year.

Project Darlene: Fitting a shower into my caravan

For those of you who don’t know, I own an old caravan.

Her name is Darlene, she’s 25 years old, and has been upgraded many times by her previous owners. Some upgrads for the better, some not.

The old girl currently has:

  • Hot and cold running water
  • 240v electrics, with battery charger
  • Fridge, which runs of 240v, battery (aparantly), and gas (but that leaks)
  • Status ariel with an untested booster, but it seems to work (well, the light comes on)
  • Hideous white painted wood effect on the inside

I’m very confident that all of the above have been added as extras (espcially the inside paint job, and if that was you, I hate you). Since owning her, I have put in a vanity unit into the washroom. This tapped into the hot and cold water system which was already installed, and gives us the ability to have a wash in the mornings. We also have a porta potti, which isn’t as bad as it sounds when you’re actually using it.

But this is not enough. We want more.

There are some sites which you can stay on which are super cheap. And I mean super cheap, and for good reason. We’re talking about £8-£10 here a night here. They are very quiet, hold 5 caravans max, and only have fresh water and waste disposal for your toilet. Some of these sites have more than that, like electric, or a toilet if you’re really lucky, but you’re mainly on your own with your home on wheels. Since owning Darlene, I have yearned to stay on these sites, and not rely on fully featured sites which have all the mod-cons like shower blocks. Partly ‘cos I’m a cheapskate, and partly to really get away from it all.

So Darlene has enough to keep us warm (she has a gas heater, the only luxury that came as standard), and keep the food cool (once I fix the fridge so it doesn’t kill us on gas), and we have somewhere to go about our business with the porta potti.

One thing she lacks, however, is a shower, so we can’t really be clean. The vanity unit I brought comes with a shower (that leaks, but can be easily fixed with a new tap thingy). So this got me thinking. The wetroom is not watertight, not even slightly. But what if I made it so? What if I made it so the floor of the wetroom channelled water away, was easy to clean, and the walls were waterproofed as well? What if I could actually fit a shower?

It’s worth noting that my DIY skills are… Nothing. Nil. Zip. Nada. But I have ambition, some spare bits of wood in the garage, and a complete ignorance to the nightmares ahead! I’m going to do this. This caravan will have the best caravan shower in the world!

Watch this space!