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New server

The upcoming version 1.0 adds photo support to fact sheets and thanks to the first testers of alpha versions we discovered that there were problems in our infrastructure. While photos are published by Wikimedia Commons, they can't be directly served from Wikipedia servers, since they have to be pre-optimized for the rendering device. A device with a large screen needs - and can manage - large images, while on a mobile phone large images and are likely to run the phone out of memory. Summing up, photos need to be served by our infrastructure.

Now, our previous server wasn't fast enough to serve photos to all blueBill users. As a result, you've probably experienced some intermittent connectivity problem when pointing your browser here in the past month of August.

For this reason, we've moved our server to a faster internet provider. You should no more experience connectivity problems and the navigation in the website should be faster. We've running another set of tests to confirm that the new server will be able to support the 1400 users currently enjoying blueBill - after the end of this test, blueBill 1.0 beta will be available. It's a matter of a few more days. Thanks for your patience.

Announcing the release date of blueBill Mobile v1.0

The development is going on and we can announce that blueBill Mobile v1.0 will be released by the end of August. Within a short time we should "freeze" the list of new functions and focus on defect fixing and stability.

Also, we are working to improve the web site. There's ongoing work "under the hood" that won't be immediately visible, but will pave the way to provide more services and functions to the application. In the next weeks the web site might be not accessible for some hours.

blueBill Mobile 1.0 previews available

Starting from May 2011, previews for blueBill Mobile 1.0 are being published for testing. Previews can be installed side-by-side with the current application and are being used with volunteers for the Quality Assurance of the next release, which will be available on the Android Market as soon as the testing phase is completed.

This testing phase is fundamental for ensuring that the new release will be compatible with all the smartphones and tablets available on the market.

You can download previews and find more information about the testing program following the link at the bottom of the "Download" page.

Also please be aware that we have added a Twitter channel at http://j.mp/bb-twi.

Resuming work!

As you might have noticed, there have been no news for quite a long time. The point is that blueBill Mobile still depends on a single developer, and some health and personal problems caused the work to be paused for some time.

The worst has passed and development has been resumed - in the meantime, we've passed 2,200 downloads - thanks.

Photos and informational fact sheets are coming

We promised them for July and we're beyond schedule, but version 0.16, due for the end of September, is going to deliver photos and informational fact sheets for our feathered friends. As a starter, the available data will come from Wikipedia; we are already negotiating the access to further data sources (including more and better photos), which will be available at the next round.

blueBill Mobile for Android v0.16 will come with informational fact sheets preloaded; instead pictures will have to be downloaded as you currently do for calls. In order to facilitate your operations, we are working to a “mass download” feature that allows to download all the resources for a given checklist in a single step, requiring a WiFi connection. Once completed this single step, pictures will be immediately available without requiring any further connection.

Below are two preliminary screenshots from v0.16 (visible only if you browse this page with a regular web browser) - as you can see, we've also changed the default look and feel with a new black-on-white theme that makes it easier to read information.

Before v0.16 it's possible that a v0.15.1 is released with some bug fixes for the currently released version.

 

blueBill Mobile for Android 0.15 released

As anticipated a couple of weeks ago, we introduced an originally unplanned release for blueBill in order to accomodate the request of a user who asked for adding a checklist for supporting a trip to Southern Africa by the end of August. So we've just released blueBill Mobile 0.15 which adds the support for the “Roberts VII edition” checklist (with common names in english, german and afrikaans). We also corrected an intermittent defect that sometimes made the download of songs to fail because apparently the space on the memory card was exhausted (while it wasn't so).

We'd also like to take advantage of this post to thank our users - a week ago we passed the 1,000 downloads milestone.

If you have blueBill Mobile already installed on your Android phone, it is possible to upgrade by checking the list of installed applications by clicking on the "Market" icon.

Please be aware that upgrading will erase your current list of observations; save them before upgrading.

Where's my Cormorant?

We have received some feedback about the unability of finding some common species in the checklists. Defects are always possible, but the checklists are very complete - they are made by local ornithology societies and contain all the species that have been identified and confirmed at least once in a given geographic area. So, it's unlikely that the species you're searching for is unavailable. You should consider two facts when picking a species:

  1. Official names are used, and this means that there could be an extra word in front of the name you're thinking of. For instance, with the EBN Italia 2003 list and the UK-english language, there is “Common kingfisher”, “Eurasian spoonbill”, “Great cormorant”, while you probably are searching for “Kingfisher”, “Spoonbill”, “Cormorant”.
  2. When you filter names with the keyboard, there are four different filters that you can select. The one active by default is called “smart with initial” and always filters the species matching the first keystroke with the initial. This means that if you type “k” for the Kingfisher, you won't be able to find it because of the “Common”. Please try all the available filters and use the one you prefer.

Here are some examples. Supposing you've selected the checklist EBNItalia 2003, UK-english as primary language, no secondary language, these are the keys you have to type to find a “Common kingfisher” or a “Great cormorant” with the four different filters:

Smart with initial
Common kingfisher: c k n g
Great cormorant: g c r m

Smart
Common kingfisher: k n g f
Great cormorant: c r m r n t

Initials
Common kingfisher: c k
Great cormorant: g c

Exact substring
Common kingfisher: k i n g
Great cormorant: c o r m


Filters are described in the “Getting started” document.

We're studying how to make the filter smarter, perhaps by ignoring common words such as “African”, “American”, “Eurasian”, “European”, or “Common”. Give us your feedback if you have some ideas.

blueBill Mobile for Android 0.14.1 released

A new version of blueBill Mobile for Android has been released which addresses a number of defects that have been detected with 0.14.

In particular, blueBill Mobile is now visible in the Android Market by means of smartphones with low resolution screens; a defect has been corrected that, in some configurations of default languages settings for the smartphones, prevented common names of birds from being visible by default (it was required the explicit language configuration in the preferences to work around the problem); changing the date of an observation no more causes a crash with smartphones running Android 2.2 .

If you have blueBill Mobile already installed on your Android phone, it is possible to upgrade by checking the list of installed applications by clicking on the "Market" icon.

Please be aware that upgrading will erase your current list of observations; save them before upgrading.

The meaning of openness

blueBill Mobile is a Free and Open Source Software. What does it mean in practice? That the software is yours, user, as much as ours, developers. It means that you can ask for new features and even give us your contribution, that we'll make available to everyone. Contributing a new feature is of course the fastest way to have it released for use.

We are pleased to say that we have just received the first contributions:

  1. A german fellow birder who's planning a trip in Southern Africa has sent us the data about the Roberts checklist for the birds in that area. About 1,000 species will be available in english, german and afrikaan languages. Since the trip is going to happen soon, we have rescheduled our plans in order to deliver it in time.
  2. Another fellow birder is working on providing the german localization for the application. We don't know yet when this new feature will be ready.

In the Developers page we're going to provide a document that should be signed by most people that are willing to make contributions, in order to guarantee that they are available to everybody in compliance with the project license.

We will provide in the next days an update to our plans, also taking in consideration that we have identified a problem that is preventing some models of Android smartphones to see blueBill Mobile in the Android Market (while it is anyway available in alternate markets).

blueBill Mobile for Android 0.14 released

There has been a further week delay on the delay, but now blueBill Mobile 0.14 is here. As anticipated, it only contains a part of the features that were originally planned for the end of July: the fact sheet improvements have been postponed to the end of August / beginning of September.

The new release introduces the capability of picking different checklists and makes available the American Ornithologists' Union checklist for North America, 7th edition. Species names are available in US English and Canadian French. This new feature makes it possible to use blueBill Mobile in the North American continent.

Some defects have been corrected:

  • "Anas carolinensis" and "Larus heuglini" were missing from the EBN Italia 2003 checklist and have been added.
  • The American English translations for the Western Palearctic birds are now correctly rendered.
  • There are no more truncations in person and place names with accents and other non-latin characters in the Calls fact sheet.
  • Orders / Families / Genera lists now are always properly sorted.
  • The Calls fact sheet should also load faster.

For the EBN Italia 2003 checklist, the availability of two different english translations might cause some confusion, as some species have different names. For this reason, in all the screens involving a species selection now both the checklist and the current language(s) used for species are shown in a status bar at the bottom of the screen. Please recall that the languages used for rendering species can be selected independently of the default language of the smartphone.

If you have blueBill Mobile already installed on your Android phone, it is possible to upgrade by checking the list of installed applications by clicking on the "Market" icon.

Please be aware that upgrading will erase your current list of observations; save them before upgrading.

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