Photo Cube Link

Photo Cube Link
Photo Cube Version 3.2 now available!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Time off

Have had a little break from working on my apps, was nice to concentrate on my life outside of IT for a while. A few other improvements to my Google accounts means it will be easier to sell and get paid for selling my apps, so I am free to spend a bit more time on them now.

Coming up, I need to work out a solid business model for my in-development Weather Widget, to ensure I can provide viable accurate weather information on an ongoing basis. Now Google's Weather API is defunct, I can no longer get weather data  for free, so have to use a paid service, the cost of which depends on the number of users and requests for weather information.

However, the charges from the weather providers are not one off costs, but an ongoing monthly cost. Hence a user who will be charged say 99c for my weather app, will expect to be supported with weather information for the lifetime of the usage of that app, probably over several years. I have to make sure I can cover that reasonably, or perhaps start some kind of in-app billing to cover the costs.

Before that I would like to add some new styles to Photo Cube, I think an update of the available frames is long overdue, and I have a few new ideas I would like to try out.

Also if anyone has any other ideas for new Photo Cube features, let me know, now is the time for me to think about implementing them!

Another sneak peak of the Weather Widget, to wet your appetites...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sneak Peaks

Some more sneak peaks of the next Dusk Jockeys App, my Weather with a twist of secret sauce... totally unique on the Android Market.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Photo Cube Live Wallpaper version 3.0 released!

Very happy to report that version 3.0 of Photo Cube Live Wallpaper was released yesterday.

That has the motion detection stuff I have been working for the past week or two, and a range of bug fixes for the various issues introduced during the Album mode release.

You can now shake to bounce the cube around the screen, and adjust the bouncing speed via the Settings. It has full 3d motion detection, it bounces off the sides, and also the "front" and "back" of the screen. I just added a little vibrate to the bounce event, will put that in the next version, its very cool and really makes the bounce seem real!

When in Album mode, you can shake the device a few times to trigger the picture refresh, the cube shrinks into the screen, and then zooms back out with the new pictures all ready.

Finally there is an experimental Background Depth feature, which when switched on moves the background image left and right as you tilt the phone sideway, as if the background is being shown a few cm "behind" the screen as opposed to on the screen. Its not perfect yet, but is still fun to play with.

I am off on holiday to England for a week tomorrow, so will not be working much on it, but will keep an eye out for any bug reports so I can fix any issues which arise. As much as I try, it is hard to find everything when I only have a few devices to test on.

Now I have to take a break and think about new development. Improving the Background Depth feature, maybe doing a nicer Motion Detection settings screen with live previews. And of course back to my long delayed project, the Weather Widget with top secret killer feature. :o)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bug Fix Version 2.6

Almost finished the Motion Detection stuff, but had to release a quick bug fix version, too many Force Close issues popping up which I needed to sort out first.

Version 2.6 is on the Market/Play Store right now. It should fix all the Force Close problems that a few people have reported.

Then on to the end of Motion Detection!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Shaken not stirred..

Work on the Motion Detection continues at a good rate.

I have completed the Shake to Refresh for Album mode. When a shake is detected, the cube and floating panels quickly shrink into the screen, and then swiftly restore back to their original size with the newly refreshed pictures. The time for this operation will depend on the speed of the phone, but is usually less than a second. Looks very cool!

Jerking the phone left or right now gives the cube a bit of extra spin in that direction. That took a good bit of working out, particularly because the direction depends of course on how the phone is held, working out which way is really "right" or "left" can vary enormously, particuarly on newer devices like tablets, which can have 4 distinct orientations, not just landscape and portrait.

Today got the maths working for the 3D background effect, the phone now seems like a window on the background, tilting it left or right shows the background from another angle, as if you were walking past a window and looking out, the view through the window would change. A very subtle, cool effect, but I need to make it super smooth, its still a bit jerky. I think a day or two more for that.

Then need to extend the jerking effect to give the cube a bounce off the "walls" of the phone.

All this new Motion Detection stuff will be in a major new 3.0 release. I want to do a nice Settings screen, with nice previews of the effects.

Last night I did a quick bug fix release 2.5, to fix a few issues that had come up from Album mode, mostly from when users had only a single picture in an SD card album.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shake it like a Polaroid picture!

I am happy to report that Photo Cube 2.4 was released last week, and the new Album mode is proving as popular as I suspected.

This week I have been playing around with the Android  sensors, seeing how I can apply 3d movements of phone and tablets to Photo Cube.

The first idea is detecting shakes.

At the simplest level, it can already detect that you are shaking the phone (say 2 or 3 back and forth movements in any direction), and if you are in Album mode it can then trigger the pictures on the cube to refresh. That is pretty cool! But as there is a slight visual glitch when it updates, I am trying to work out the best way to distract from that, such as giving the cube an extra spin, or perhaps rapidly shrinking it, changing the images then restoring to the usual size. I will go with whichever looks best. I tried a simple "Refreshing from album" message but it looked ugly, I am not having that. :o)

Next, detecting a left or right movement on the phone can be used to give the cube a bit of extra spin in that appropriate direction. Still playing with that so it doesn't clash with shaking, and making it jive with the extra spin you already get when you pan your home screen left and right.

Other motion ideas would be to detect left, right, up or down movement and then perhaps bounce the cube in that direction, so you could shake the phone up, and the cube would rapidly move up, bounce off the top of the screen then return to its usual place. Same idea for backward and forward, but instead have it grow and shrink. I think the bounch off the "sides" of the screen would be accompanied by a reversal in rotation direction as well, to give more of a 3d realistic feel, kind of the same way a football changes its rotation when bounced off a wall.

The final idea is to make the background appear "behind" the phone using a 3d parallax effect; this would be done by detecting a small rotation angle of up/down, left/right, and shifting the background image a little bit down/up, right/left in response. The maths for that is pretty complex, I need to learn all about 3d rotation matrices so this will be a little harder to implement.

Of course, all these motion detection features will depend on the phone actually supporting them, so will only be enabled when the appropriate sensors exist on the phone. And as usual I will make them all optional, as using those sensors do take a little bit more battery life. However, they would only be used when the Photo Cube wallpaper is actually visible, i.e. no other app is running, and to be honest then the biggest battery drain is always the Screen itself rather than the relatively small amount of calculations Photo Cube requires.

I want to get some of these ideas finished before I move back to my other long delayed top secret app, which is still totally unique and has no equal in the market. ;o) 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Ready to release Album mode! Lots of work done the last few days, ensuring that everything works nicely when there is no SD Card, and handling the situation where it tries to use images from an Album which no longer exists, because it has been removed or renamed.

Unified the look of the thumbails also, the Picture Settings screen now shows the Album cube as a preview like the Single and Custom mode, but with an SD Card icon:

When I get round to enabling Facebook and Picasa albums in Photo Cube, it will show those icons instead for those album types. I have also speeded up this screen so it doesnt take so long to show the preview thumbnails. Less of the "Please Wait.."!

And now using the same look for the My Cubes, any saved Cube which is set to an SD Album shows that in the icon:

Finally, added a one-off question for new users to ask if they want to choose an album for Photo Cube to use. That should be the quickest way to get up and running.

So just a bit more testing for any last minute bugs and I should be good to go! Will be version 2.4.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Even more SD albums...

More good work completed on the SD Album mode.

Mostly working on robustness, so that it elegantly handles unavailability of the SD card. When that happens, obviously it cannot choose new pictures, because the album is not available, so it instead uses keeps the last ones shown until the SD card is available once more.

This means that when you restart your phone, or any other operation that would normal leave the SD unavailable briefly, the cube is still showing nice images.

When it is choosing images, it is now clever enough to avoid duplicates, so you wont get the same images on more than 1 side. That holds of course only if you have at least 6 items in your album, if less than that, obviously it will have to show duplicates.

As well as avoiding duplicates, it also tries to avoid using the same pictures as last time, so you always get a completely new set. That relies on there being at least 12 items in the album.

SD Cubes are now marked as such in the My Cubes gallery, showing a little SD card icon. That paves the way for showing Facebook, Picasa icons etc when I get round to allowing those types of Album in Photocube.

Last thing to work on: elegantly handle when the SD album for a cube has been completely deleted, as obviously that cube can never work any more.

Then lots and lots of testing!!! Looking at a release next week.. :o)

Monday, May 14, 2012

More SD Album...

More work completed on SD Album mode.

Duplicate images now removed, unless your album has less than 6 images, in which case naturally the some of the cube sides will need to show the same pictures.

Here is the final look of the Picture settings, when choosing an Album:

Tonight working on saving your SD Album cube to My Cubes, and gracefully handling the removal of SD cards; I need to cache the last pictures and use those when the SD card is temporarily unavailable due to removal, in use or the phone is restarting.

Finally, I just wanted to show off another feature which is already published but you may not use so much, the Background settings. It is very easy to apply some effects to your chosen background; the blur effect keeps the background recognizable but makes the cube standout more, and the tint lets you apply an overall colour. And of course you can see immediately what it will look like in the preview image.

Get creative, its easy to make some vintage or Instagram type looks!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

SD Album working!

So, good news on the SD Album mode, worked out all the difficult stuff. It is now updating very smoothly.

Every time the Wallpaper is hidden, e.g. because you open a new app or switch off the screen, it updates in the background, choosing new random images from the sd album to show, which takes a second or two.

Then as soon as the Wallpaper is shown once more, it immediately updates the pictures. This is istantaneous most of the time, but sometimes there is a brief delay before it switches, only noticeable when the screen is turned on after a long period of inactivity. I should be able to fix this, just by not updating in that situation, only when the phone is "warmed up", so to speak, so the update will then always be instantaneous. What I want is for the user to simply not notice anything is happening, they will just notice that they are seeing new pictures all of the time.

Happy to report also that the automatic cropping I am doing to turn the rectangular images into squares is working very well, there seems no need for any complex Face Detection algorithms. So that will save processing and battery life.

Now just working on removing duplicates and sorting out the interface so it is super easy to choose the SD card album. Something like this:

I think another week should do it, then will be ready. Might also try to fit a few new frame styles into the release.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New features coming soon.. album mode!

Sorry about the lack of updates, I have taken a 6 week break from Photo Cube for rest and to celebrate my birthday. Back to work now!

Last week I completed the Screenshot feature, which allows you to take a snap of the cube in action, without any of the distracting icons or widgets on the homescreen. You can then directly share that pic via Facebook, Whatsapp, Email, MMS, any way you like.

Now hard at work on what is probably the most requested feature, Album mode. This allows you to choose a particular photo album/directory on your sd card, then it will choose pics randomly from that album and update the cube periodically. This will be the simplest and easiest method of viewing your pics on the cube, no need do do anything other than choose an album:

Of course the Single Image and Custom Image modes will still be available for those of you who like the fine control. The Album mode will probably be the easiest to use for new users and whenever you have a new album which you want to showcase.

More technical info for anyone who cares: this is not that easy to do because of the randomness of images in the albums. I have to be careful to duplicate sides only when really necessary, e.g. when albums contain less than 6 images.

As the user is no longer cropping the pics manually I have to be intelligent about how I crop them to a square, treating Portrait and Landscape differently. The timing is also important, processing the random images is quite processor intensive, it needs to be done in the background so that any visual lag is kept to an absolute minimum as the cube is updated.

Ideally I would like a soft fade in/out of the old images to the new, but that's probably beyond the scope of the initial version, I think initially it will just update everytime the homescreen is reshown after being hidden e.g. by opening an app. Once that works I can think about making it a User Setting, e.g. change every 10 minutes, hour, 1, 2 or 3 times a day etc.

Once all that is done I would like to look at tighter integration with Facebook or other online services, would be great to be able to just choose a Facebook or Picasa album, and let Photo Cube choose pics from that online album.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Share your Cubes!

As promised, here is a feature new in version 2.1, the ability to share your created cubes with other Photo Cube users.

How do you do it? As always, its easy...

You can share your current cube direct from the settings screen, or from your My Cubes gallery.
In the Photo Cube Settings screen, simply scroll down to the Share Cube setting, and tap it.

You first need to type a name for the shared Cube. Type it in and hit OK.

If you are in the My Cubes Gallery, your cubes already have names, so just click on a Cube to show its preview:

Then tap the middle button with the Share icon.

Once you have hit the Share button, you get a choice of Sharing methods like Bluetooth or Email. For best results, use an Email app.

It automatically adds the Cube as an attachment, so just fill in the email of the Photo Cube user you want to send it to, and hit Send!

When the other Photo Cube user receives the email, ask them to download and then open the attachment. They will get a choice of apps to open the cube with, ask them to use My Cubes option:

Then cube is automatically opened and previewed, ready to be imported into their My Cubes gallery and used straight away!

That's all there is to it.

Have fun sharing your favourite creations with your friends and family!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Introducing My Cubes

A long awaited feature has finally arrived on Photo Cube: The ability to save your complete cube styles and quickly swap between them!

Introducing My Cubes...

Take a look at the new Manage Cubes section in the Photo Cube Settings app:

Click on My Cubes to view your gallery of saved Cubes:

Tap on a cube to load it, change its name, share it, or delete it:

So how do you save cubes to the gallery? Its easy.
Customise your cube just like you normally would. Then when you want to save it, simply hit the "Save this Cube" button:

This shows you a preview of your cube and lets you give it a name.

Then hit OK and it takes you straight to your My Cubes gallery where you can see your newly saved cube.

Want to start from scratch? Hit the Reset cube button to start from the beginning with an default cube, and get customizing!

Now you can get creative, make as many cube styles as you like and not worry about losing a style once you have it just the way you like, simply save it in My Cubes.

But what about when you change your phone? No problem, at any time you can back up your cubes onto the SD card from Photo Cube Settings:

Hit the Backup my Cubes button and a few seconds later you are done, your cubes are backed up to the SD card as file called Photo Cube Backup.pcb.

Then when you change phones, either copy over the Photo Cube Backup.pcb file onto the new phones SD card, or simply plug in your original SD card. Hit Restore my Cubes, and shortly after, your My Cubes gallery is exactly as it was!

My Cubes and other new features are available in version 2.0 of Photo Cube.

But wouldn't it be great if you could share the cubes you made with a friend who also has Photo Cube? Stay tuned... ;o)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Photo Cube Improved Image Quality

So, on to the Photo Cube enhancements. The first requirement was made more obvious when using the larger screen of my tablet, simply put the photos and backgrounds don't look as good as they should.

The reason for this is that a while back, I had to change to a new method of cropping a photo, so that it worked on all devices. The method I used, whilst working far more reliably than the old method, resulted in a cropped image that was not of the highest quality, because the scaling method was not so good. This was particuarly noticeable when using an image smaller than the crop size, which is more likely on backgrounds.

In addition, I was using the same method when scaling the images so that they fit inside the photo frame the user has chosen, leading to obvious artifacts and what appears like crosshatching on same frames.

Had time to look at this now, and figured out a better scaling method which is a little slower, but results in a much higher quality image. The performance hit is only noticeable when changing photos, so the Cube still spins a fluidly as ever, but now the images look far better.

Compare before on the left and the improved version on the right. See the difference in the background quality, and compare the edges of the face of the photo:

And here when a frame is used, again the old on the left and the new on the right, see how the face within the frame had a funny checkered effect on the left image which has now vanished from the improved version on the right:

This means that Photo Cube gets higher quality images with no extra memory used. This will be released next week along with a minor bug fix after I have done a lot of testing to ensure it will work on all devices.

Finally, the Samsung Tab really shows off the quality of some of the frames, for example, I didn't realise how nice the Antique frame style was until I saw it in all its glory on the tablet... love it!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Photo Cube now supports Honeycomb and ICS!

Well, I'm very happy to announce this maintenance release of Photo Cube version 1.22, which now fully supports Android 3.x and 4.0, Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich respectively.

The main issues were that the Settings with icons were not appearing correctly under these latest versions of Android, turns out that the custom Setting preferences were being hidden by default, so a very simple switch turned them back on.

There was also a few annoying issues where the settings were not being updated correctly when returning from choosing a new image for a cube side. All sorted now.

And voila! Under 3.2, on my Galaxy Tab 7 Plus:

So all good now, Version 1.22 is on the Market as I write this.

On to the long awaited enhancements now!