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TPE for iOS 4.7 Update

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Dark Mode Support for iOS 13

TPE for iOS was updated to version 4.7 last month, in readiness for the release of iOS 13. Here’s a quick run down of what’s new.

Dark Mode

First off, we added Dark Mode support. Dark map styles are displayed for both Apple and Google maps when the "normal" default map type is selected (other map types do not change appearance). Other UI elements and screens are altered for Dark Mode when it is selected.

Remember, TPE's Night Mode is not the same thing as iOS 13's Dark Mode. Night Mode displays information relevant to night photography. Dark Mode alters the user interface to appear with dark styling.

Offline Time Zone Detection

Previously, the app required an internet connection to determine the time zone for the selected location - no more! Now, an offline time zone database is bundled with the app. We still check with the online web service to obtain the most accurate available time zone - time zone boundaries sometimes change and the online source is the best choice when online. All this happens transparently - no user action required.

Faster Skyfire Map Tiles

The Skyfire team deployed an on-demand map tile generator to the servers. We hope to be able to increase the forecast update frequency in the coming weeks by eliminating the slow, expensive manual tile generation job.

In the meantime, there are already some benefits from the new tile server: we’re using a “content delivery network” (CDN) to get the tiles to your device as quickly as possible. A CDN will cache a copy of the requested map tiles so that if another user wants the same tiles, they may be able to get them from a local cache instead of going all the way back to the server. In testing, we’ve found that tile delivery from the CDN cache is on average at least 10x faster than the old method. Even if the CDN doesn’t have the tile, and the request has to be routed back to the Skyfire server, the tile is still served in half the time.

Reset to Today’s Date

In the 4.6 update, we changed the behaviour of TPE to make it always reopen at the last used date and time. This is how the web app has always worked (and its predecessor Adobe AIR Desktop app going back all the way to 2008).

However, it became clear that this was causing confusion for some users who were accustomed to the old behaviour and as a result did not realise that the app was no longer necessarily showing today’s date on starting up.

Why change it at all? TPE has always been intended as a planning tool. Photographers can use it to check out what will happen in the future (or in the past), rather than what’s happening right now (just look out the window!). If you are planning a trip for a date a few months in the future, then TPE’s old behaviour (reset to now at startup) was irritating, hence the change.

However, Skyfire users in particular want to check the current day’s sunset forecast (usually - it’s odd, but many of you prefer staying out for sunset than getting up early for sunrise - I can’t imagine why), and so restoring yesterday’s date at startup (as the last date used) was not helpful to them.

With 4.7, hopefully we’ve found the sweet spot: the app will prompt to reset to today if needed. If you choose ‘Yes’, then the date is changed, but not the selected time, e.g. if you have Sun Oct 27 6:45am selected, then resetting to today would change the app too Mon Oct 28 6:45am. Keeping the same time of day works well for the Skyfire use case - sunset various only slightly day to day. If you never want to be prompted to reset the date, then choose “Don’t ask again” (you can re-enable the prompt in Settings).

18th Century Venetian Full Moons

We were able to fix a rare but longstanding crash in Visual Search. The trick was finally happening upon a scenario where the bug was triggered.

It arose when searching for occurrences of a full moon low in the sky due west of Venice in the years 1750-1755. What on earth would anyone want to know about that for, you may ask? Reasonable question - more to come on that.

Anyway, the rare bug - related to edge cases of the full moon rise, set and transit times - is finally fixed.

Improved AR 3D Performance

We spent some time digging into performance engineering for TPE 3D and some of the improvements were ported back to TPE. You’re unlikely to notice anything fundamentally different, but we were able to halve the execution time of a number of frequent operations used in the AR screen. The benefit comes in reduced power consumption from the app.

Hope you enjoy the 4.7 update.

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