24 March 2021

New Use for SQM Readings

Knightware's SQM Reader Pro 3 software has been updated recently, gaining an important new feature for users that want to contribute sky brightness readings from Unihedron's Sky Quality Meters to researchers.

The latest update provides the ability to upload readings directly to the Globe at Night Sky Brightness Monitoring Network (GaN-MN). The data are collected and curated for accuracy and stored in a database so that it can be shared with researchers worldwide. The data are used by researcher in various disciplines such as  astronomy, human biology and animal migration, for example. Unihedron's Sky Quality Meters and Knightware's SQM Reader Pro 3 provide off-the-shelf tools that make collecting and submitting data a snap.

SQM Reader Pro 3 Upload to GaN-MN

As the body of sky brightness data grows, we can also track the progress of light pollution mitigation efforts. As municipalities consider their lighting ordinances, the sky brightness data can provide an objective reason to update or reduce lighting.

If you want to participate in the Globe at Night Sky Brightness Monitoring Network, you can get more information by contacting globeatnight.network@gmail.com (or gan-mn@qq.com for users in China).

Knightware would like to thank both Dr. Chu-Wing So (The University of Hong Kong) and Ms. Amy Jackson, M.S.T. (Director of Starry Sky Austin- Astronomy and Dark Sky Education and Conservation, IDA Texas- Central Texas Regional Manager) for their assistance in developing and testing the GaN-MN data submission feature.

29 January 2021

Deep-Sky Planner Mobile Edition: Project Update

Users of Deep-Sky Planner Mobile Edition (DSPME) haven't seen an update to the Android app in many months while users of the iOS/iPadOS app have. The changes made in the past year have affected only the iOS/iPadOS app so the Android app didn't require updating.

That situation has changed recently. Both mobile apps provide access to Cloud Storage services Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive. These services have changed authentication for their services which have required changes to the apps. Updating the apps has been complicated by the fact that the development tool used to produce the apps (Embarcadero C++ Builder) has not updated its Android app support 1. I can still develop the app for Android but I can no longer distribute it through the Google Play Store. I can still develop and distribute the iOS/iPadOS app through the Apple App Store. There is no issue there.

After months of research, I have decided to make the Android app available to the astronomy community directly from the Knightware website. I have also decided to make the app free of charge. The downside of this for users is that they are not notified by the Google Play Store when an update is available. Furthermore, the app also must be 'sideloaded' onto Android phones and tablets. This presents several warning messages about installing an app from an unknown source. In this case, this means that the app is digitally signed by Knightware but NOT delivered through the Play Store.

What about the Apple (iOS/iPadOS) app?

The iOS/iPadOS app is not affected by the change in distribution - you can still get the iOS/iPadOS app from the App Store and it will continue to have a small price. (There are ongoing expenses required for distributing an app through the App Store.)

Each app will continue to be available and will be updated as necessary. Learn about the Android and iOS apps at https://knightware.biz/dspme/index.htm

1 The the Google Play Store requires that all apps be compiled for 64-bit hardware. Embarcadero does not ship a 64-bit C++ compiler for Android at this time. A 32-bit C++ compiler for Android is shipped and has always been used to produce DSPME for Android. Note that a 32-bit app runs on a 64-bit phone for example. The Apple App Store also requires 64-bit apps and Embarcadero ships a 64-bit C++ compiler for iOS/iPadOS.

08 June 2020

What's brewing at Knightware

First and foremost, we are well and hope you are too. I have heard from several users about friends or family that have had COVID-19. It has really brought home the fact that it is everywhere. Please be safe.

Because Knightware's spring travels were canceled (including NEAF), there has been more time in the office and less on the road. I've missed seeing users but I've gotten a lot done. For example, I've been updating equipment lists in the Community. Take a look and see what's new. I plan to continue updating equipment data over the summer (I'm in northern hemisphere: North Carolina, USA).

I've also updated Deep-Sky Planner Mobile Edition for iOS and iPadOS recently. The app was not broken, but Apple announced some new requirements that needed attention.

Updating DSPME on the App Store

I am still waiting for an anticipated update to my development gear that will allow me to address new Google requirements. It also is not broken but the Android app needs some updates.

Since I have just received a major upgrade to my compiler and libraries, I am busy changing Windows and mobile software to use the new compiler and libraries. Thankfully, things are going smoothly but there is much to do. Stay well!

18 March 2019

DSP Mobile Is Here!

Deep-Sky Planner Mobile Edition has been submitted to Apple and Google for review! Any issues identified by their processes will need to be addressed before the app is released to the respective app stores.

[Update: DSPME is now available from both Apple and Google ]

What to expect

Users will receive a native code app (not a web app) that runs on Android 4.4+ and iOS 11+. The app has been adapted to fit both tablet and phone form factors. The phone-sized screen is packed with data and special user interface capabilities to help present the data in a usable way. The additional screen space of tablets is also used to advantage.

The native code app performs ephemeral calculations so that you know where objects are in the sky at any time and place. These ephemeral calculations provide other advantages too like accurate double star ephemerides; planet, sun, moon, asteroid and comet ephemerides; predicted extrema for variable stars. Along with all of these ephemeral calculations comes real-time data filtering and sorting.

The entire Plan and Equipment Libraries are available to the app so there is no shortage of observing resources. Please stay tuned for updated status.

Home screen in night vision style, iPad 9.7"

Plan screen in night vision style, Samsung Galaxy S7 Android phone

Plan screen in Wedgewood style, iPhone 6s
Plan screen in Calypso style, Nexus 7 Android tablet
Plan Library screen in BunkerGray style, iPad tablet
Cloud Import screen in BunkerGray style, iPad tablet

14 February 2019

DSP Mobile: Test Progress

Testing of Deep-Sky Planner Mobile (DSPME) has been underway for several weeks. All app features have been implemented so testing is focused on bugs and usability issues. We have been working mostly with tablets so far, but adjustment for phones is underway.

Community screen on Android phone
The attached screen shot shows the latest observing plans uploaded to the Deep-Sky Planner Community. You can read more about this feature in our previous post.

We have found that a small tablet is perhaps the best form factor (device size) for the app. Small tablets have enough 'screen real estate' to show details while remaining small enough to be held conveniently. Small tablets currently used in testing include the 8" Samsung tablet and the iPad Mini.

We will continue to adjust the user interface for usability on phones. An update on that progress will follow in a week or two.

22 January 2019

DSP Mobile: Plan & Equipment Libraries

As mention in an earlier post, Deep-Sky Planner Mobile Edition (DSPME) allows you to browse and import plans from the Plan Library in the Deep-Sky Planner Community at knightware.biz. This post discusses this and the ability to import equipment lists from the Community.

Accessing plans and equipment lists (resources) online is a simple process: first, you download a list of available resources, and then you can download the resource and store it on your device. Any of these resources can be deleted later if you like.

[Note: Screenshots for this post were made on a 10" iPad tablet with the BunkerGray app style. The Community is running on a test server.]

The Latest Plans in the Community

You can scroll through the list of plans to review them, and tap Get when you want to download one. The plan is stored on your device and can be opened with Plans on Device.

Browsing and downloading equipment lists works similarly. The screenshot below shows the equipment lists available from the Community. The equipment lists can be sorted by manufacturer or by type [instruments, eyepieces, filters, barlows/reducers, observers, cameras].

Equipment Lists in the Community

You can browse these lists and tap Get to retrieve the equipment list you want. The equipment is stored on your device and may be viewed with Equipment.

14 January 2019

DSP Mobile: Settings

Deep-Sky Planner Mobile Edition (DSPME) provides a Settings screen for displaying and modifying app-wide settings. At the moment, it contains configuration options for the download and display of Digitized Sky Survey (DSS) images, and it contains your selection of the application's display style.

[Screenshots were produced on a 10" iPad using the RegalBlue or BlackRed (nightvision) style.]

DSS Options

DSPME allows you to download DSS images for the objects in your observing plans. When you download DSS images, the size of the image is automatically selected based on the size of the object in the plan. For objects that do not have a size metric (like stars), a default size value can be set.

DSS Settings: Image Size and Invert Colors
You can also choose to invert the colors of the image when it is displayed. The default is white on black; inverted produces black on white.

DSS image of M 31 shown with inverted colors

DSS image of M 31 shown with normal colors
DSS images are served from 2 different websites. If one is unavailable temporarily, you can choose the other.

App Style

Several styles are provided with DSPME. You can choose the one that suits your taste. The BlackRed (nightvision) style is included to help keep your eyes dark-adapted. This style should be used along with brightness settings for your device screen to yield a useful display in a dark environment.

Plan displayed in BlackRed (nightvision) style