Shuffla 1.1 released!

Shuffla screenshotMy new iPhone app, Shuffla, is now available on the app store. It’s a music player that shuffles your songs properly so you don’t hear the same tunes all the time.

The Music Player app has a shuffle of course, which works fine on the whole, but often a song you hear one day might come up again the next day; it’s shuffling randomly but if you’ve changed the queue by listening to podcasts or other music apps, the next day when you do a shuffle it will pick from the same songs, including the ones you heard yesterday.

Shuffla works by using a decent random number generator (arc4Random) to pick songs from the device’s library, or from a particular playlist. It will also perform extra steps to make sure you don’t hear the same artist twice in a row. It will also filter out any songs you have heard in the last 7 days, so you know that every time you open Shuffla or hit the refresh button, you will get a list of songs that you want to hear.

There are several settings so you can customise it to your needs:

1) Choose which playlist to pick songs from.

2) Choose the amount of days to filter out (from 0 to 90 days).

3) Choose a minimum length of the generated list. If you have filtered out all songs heard in the last 90 days but the resulting list only contains one or two songs, Shuffla will try again by filtering out songs in the last 89 days. It will keep reducing the days until it generates a list of songs at least as long as your minimum length (for example, 2 hours worth of music).

4) Turn off the ‘avoid repeating an artist’ filter. If you don’t mind hearing the same artist twice in a row, you can turn that off.

5) Bring back new songs. Once Shuffla has filtered out all songs heard in recent days, you will find that any new songs you have just bought will disappear from the list once they are heard, and won’t be heard again for 7 days (or even 90 days depending on your settings). As most people want to hear new songs a few times when they first buy them, you can turn this option on and any songs with a low play count (ie. new songs) will be exempt from the ‘days’ filter and stick around until you’ve heard them a few times. However, to avoid hearing the same song in the same day, it will only include the ‘new songs’ that haven’t been heard in the last 24 hours.

6) Play count for a ‘new song’. You can tell Shuffla what is classified as a ‘new song’ by setting the maximum play count. If set to 2, then a song will be included while its play count is no greater than 2. Once played three times it is no longer ‘new’.

I made this for myself, because I just want to open up an app, hit play and put my iPhone in my pocket. I don’t want to take it out again until I’ve walked to the station, taken the train and arrived at my destination, especially on a cold day. Sure I can use my headphone remote to skip songs the Music Player insists on repeating, but why put up with that? I’m sure others will find this useful too. There’s plenty of similar playlist generators on the app store but none that did what I wanted.

Great for car journeys too; choose a minimum length to fit your journey and you know you won’t have to keep fiddling with your phone to skip songs. Shuffla also has big control buttons if you do need to use them, so safer when driving.


Which Way Back? 2.2 released!

Another free update and this time it adds a brand new feature:

Pocket Mode


I’ve been planning this addition for quite some time and after a lot of testing I’m finally ready to include it in ‘Which Way Back’. Get it here.

When I use this app, most of the time I don’t hold the phone out in front of me as I walk. Instead I like to see which direction to go, then put the phone in my pocket. Then from time to time I check it to see if I’m still heading in the right direction. I imagine many users do the same.

That’s all well and good, but if it’s a really cold day you might not want to unbutton your coat, take off your glove, pull out the phone, look at the arrow, then rebutton and reglove. Or perhaps you are in a rather dodgy area of town and don’t fancy waving your expensive iPhone around. Or maybe it’s raining heavily. Whatever the reason, wouldn’t it be great if you could choose your destination, put the phone in your pocket or bag and be guided all the way there without getting it out again?

If you have a pair of headphones, now you can. When in Pocket Mode, the app will play a soft beeping sound in your headphones, somewhere between your left and right ear. If it plays in the centre (both ears), that means the target is straight ahead, so keep walking that way.

Stereo audio guidance

If you hear the sound in your left ear, the target is to your left. If it comes out the right headphone, the target is to your right. It can also be placed in stereo anywhere in between, so just walk in the direction you hear it. This covers the 180 degrees in front of you. If the target is somewhere behind you, you will hear a different beep sound, again somewhere between the left and right ear. So that covers the 180 degrees behind you, giving you a complete 360 degree coverage. With a bit of practice you should find it really easy to follow your ears all the way back to your target location. When you get within 30 metres of your target, a little beeping tune will play and the compass will turn off, so no need to take it out of your pocket when you arrive.

It’s designed to play the beeps on top of any music, podcasts or audiobooks that your phone might be playing and you have three volume levels to choose from in case you can’t hear it, or it becomes too intrusive. You can customise in Pocket Mode Settings the length of time between each beep.

The clever bit

In order for this to work in everyone’s pockets and bags, I had to come up with something to cope with all the different angles and positions people might put their phone in. The app works normally because you hold it out in front of you and the arrow points to the destination. But if you put it upright in your jacket pocket, it’s now pointing upwards and twisted 45-90 degrees away from the direction you’re facing. So any beeps guiding you would guide you somewhere to your left, when the target is straight ahead. That’s where Calibration comes in:

Each time you put it into pocket mode, you get a Calibrate button. You point the device forward, as you would normally, then press the button. It gives you a countdown of a few seconds to put the phone in your chosen pocket. It secretly recorded the angle you were holding it just then, and then takes note of the angle it now rests at in your pocket. It then works out the difference in angle between the two and offsets the audio beeps at that angle. The upshot of that is, so long as you keep the phone in that same pocket while you’re walking, the audio beeps will appear to be directly in front of you when the target is straight ahead, even though your phone is at some crazy angle.

The great thing about the iPhone compass is that is doesn’t matter if you hold if upright; the compass works exactly the same as if it were laid flat. A physical compass floating in a bubble of liquid usually doesn’t work properly if held vertically, but when I discovered the iPhone has no such restrictions I realised this new functionality would be possible.

Anyway, as with the arrow itself, sometimes the iPhone GPS can get confused and jump around a bit, throwing off the direction momentarily. The audio tones rely on the same GPS and compass that the arrow does so it may occasionally point you in the wrong direction, but it will sort itself out very quickly so if it goes off on a sudden tangent that you know is wrong, leave it for a few more beeps to see if it was just a GPS fluctuation.

Do not wander carelessly using this feature, it is important to pay attention to traffic, especially as you will have earphones in. It is for general guidance only, do not suddenly cross roads because it points you in that direction. The user takes all responsibility when using this app. Be safe.


TwitSplit: switching to desktop version of twitter on iPad

If you want to set up your lists on the iPad because you don’t have access to a desktop computer, you may find you can’t because the mobile version of twitter doesn’t allow it.

No matter what you do, it always changes back to the mobile version, so setting up your ‘friends’ list for use in TwitSplit becomes impossible.

Fortunately there’s a quick fix. Just click this link, or type it into safari on your iPad, and it will tell safari to use the desktop version of twitter from now on:

Then you can go in and set up your lists as you please.

TwitSplit 1.0 released!

My new twitter app for the iPad is finally out. Download it on the appstore.

What’s different about this twitter app? 

I’ve been looking for a decent twitter reader since I started using twitter in 2006, but still haven’t found one that does what I want. So, instead of complaining about it on twitter constantly, I sat down to make one myself. This is tailored to the way I like to read twitter, but I’m sure there’s others out there that are looking for the same thing.

I’ve never liked the multi-tab way of viewing tweets, I want to see everything at once so the official twitter app doesn’t work for me. TweetDeck is almost the answer to my problems, with its multiple columns, but if you have a twitter list in a column, all those tweets also appear in the main column. I have a private twitter list called ‘pals’ into which I put the people I know in real life. Why? because the way twitter works means you get a constant deluge of tweets from everyone and quite often tweets from your actual friends will get washed away in the torrent so you miss them. On the whole, the people I know in real life are more likely to say things that matter to me, or rather I’m more likely to want to hear about their news/projects/dinner than the other few hundred people I follow. But using TweetDeck, I have to read my friends tweets twice, more often than not. Plus, in order to have my timeline, pals list, mentions etc all open at once, the screen on my mac would be full.

So I looked around for an app similar to Tweetdeck; one that would let me have a twitter list column, but remove those tweets from the main timeline. Couldn’t find one on the mac, iPad or iPhone. So TwitSplit is my answer to all that and I love it.

I hope you will too.

In short, it gives you two columns; one for your stream of normal tweets, the other for more interesting tweets. What appears in one doesn’t appear in the other. The stream comes in and the app splits it down the middle sorting them as they come. You can decide what gets put in the ‘Highlighted Tweets’ column by specifying a twitter list and/or adding keywords to look out for. Your mentions get pushed over into that list too, so all your friends’ tweets, your mentions, tweets that you wrote and tweets containing keywords on particular subjects all stack up in one column, while the other stuff goes by in the other. Refresh in the morning and your highlighted tweets won’t get pushed off the end by the other ones, so you never miss what your friends say.

There’s lots of other little features, including spoiler avoidance and family mode, so go over and check it out. There’s a help file in the app explaining everything you need to know.



Which Way Back? 2.1 released!

Just a couple of minor tweaks this time, but should prove useful to some:

1) Now the app will keep the device awake when the arrow compass screen is showing, so you can hold it in your hand for 20 miles if you wanted, without it going to the lock screen. Also ideal if you leave it on a dashboard, or on a bike mount. In the latter two cases bear in mind it gives you the ‘as-the-crow-flies’ heading, not which road you must take. Please also drive/ride carefully, the user takes full responsibility of their own safety when using this app.

When you go back to the list screen, put the app in the background or press the lock screen manually, the device turns off the ‘always awake’ mode.

2) When you manually input a decimal coordinate as your target, it will ask if you want to save it to your list, in the same way that choosing your target on a map will ask you.

If you don’t already have it, get it on the app store.

PodPlayer 1.2 released!

A few minor updates in this release:

– Bug fix: when device put in silent mode, the time chimes would get stuck in a loop when silent mode turned back on. Now fixed.

– ‘Library updated’ message removed (for iOS5 users). iOS5 fixes the crashing problem caused by syncing with the app open, so PodPlayer no longer needs to be restarted after sync.

– When sleep timer stops playback, it now also turns off Time Chimes, if necessary. If you didn’t have the ‘mute chimes when podcast not playing’ option turned on, it would keep announcing the time after you’d fallen asleep.

You may notice that the app About screen and Help screen still say “version 1.1”. This is because in my haste to release the bug fixes, I forgot to update those screens. Apologies for any confusion.

iOS5 users will also discover that when podcasts are downloaded from the iTunes app, the artwork isn’t missing anymore.

Which Way Back? 2.0 released!


The handy tool for getting your bearings, Which Way Back?, has been updated and rewritten from the ground up. See previous post for more screenshots.

Previously it was designed to save the location of your home, workplace and some other temporary places like your hotel, car, tent or a meeting place. But after using it for several months, it became apparent that storing many permanent locations would be useful. So now, every time you save a place, it is stored in a table and you can find your way back there any time in the future. Edit the name, delete it or refine the location on a map.

The Home and Work save slots still remain, because everyone has at least one or two permanent places they’d like to always be pointed back to, but the other save slots now take the form of template name buttons. When you save a place to the table, pressing one of these buttons will save you having to type in a name. Any place name that is already in the table will be overwritten, so these are effectively temporary places as before. These appear in green, whereas your custom places appear in light blue.

If you are upgrading from a previous version, it will keep your Home and Work places and put any other places in the table. You can go through and decide which ones to keep/edit/delete.

There are some other new additions too, go to the app page for more information. 



Which Way Back? 2.0 submitted!

Rewritten from scratch, now the app gives you much better management over the places you save and a few other new features too.

It will probably be a week or so before the upgrade is available, but for now, here’s some screenshots:

PodPlayer tip: 2x speed

Several users have asked me how they can turn on double speed and half speed through PodPlayer. Unfortunately there is no way to implement this yet, as iOS doesn’t give developers the option to control that part of the built-in iPod player.

However, the good news is that because PodPlayer is controlling and playing podcasts through the iPod player app on the device, it means you can open the iPod app at any time, turn on 2x or 1/2x speed, then go back to PodPlayer and it will play at that speed until you turn it off again.

If a future version of iOS gives the option to turn that on and off from within another app, I will definitely implement it within PodPlayer itself.

PodPlayer 1.1 released!

After a few more weeks of use, along with some feedback from users, the new version of PodPlayer is now on the app store.

For more information on what’s new, see it on the iTunes Store.

Tip: To turn the new time-chimes feature on, make sure you go to the settings page to configure it, then toggle the clock icon on the Now Playing Screen.