Category Archives: iPhone Development

Parsing ini files

Typical section of an MS .ini file
Typical section of an MS .ini file

Following on from the v1.2 release, which addressed some of the data storage architecture in the app, I’ve been taking some time to review other aspects of the app.

The storage architecture is working really well, giving much improved performance as well as giving some enhanced ways of using and displaying the data within the app in the future.

Where the app is still struggling is when it comes to addressing the many and varied firmware and hardware versions. The original app was first written at a time when MS2 was cutting edge and MS2-extra was still in beta. As a result it seemed pretty straight forward to do away with the need for the app to ask the user which firmware was being used, possibly supplying a .ini file to use.

These days, however, the number of firmware and hardware versions is staggering and it seems that it is increasingly difficult to reliably decode the data from the different revisions even within the same firmware version.

So, my current focus is on producing a “universal” parsing engine within the app. Where currently the app has a number of hard coded parsers, one for each firmware version, this new one will effectively use the .ini file for it’s decisions allowing new firmware versions and revisions to more easily be supported. To avoid having the app processing the .ini file itself these will be pre-processed and the relevant data shipped with the app although these pre-processed files will also be updated from a web service, allowing new firmware versions to be supported without an app update.

The effect on performance in the app is yet to be gauged but should performance be reduced due to the “universal” parser I may end up retaining the hard coded parsers and only using the universal one for firmwares not supported in hard coding. 

V1.2 Live on the app store

I’m pleased to say that the app has passed the review process and is now available on the App Store again.

I’m now working on the next version which will include a revamp of a number of views for iPad users as the current iPad implementation isn’t ideal. It will also include support for MS2. I’m also looking at a possible issue with the latest version of MS2/Extra, depending on the severity of the issue and how big a job it is to fix it, I may ship an interim fix version.

Feedback from users will help drive this project forward, if the app works for you and your firmware, let me know so I know it works with that firmware OK. If it doesn’t work with your firmware, again, let me know and I’ll try and implement a fix. 

v1.2 Submitted to the App Store

I have submitted the current TestFlight version (v1.2 build 347) to the App Store for review.

The App will be reviewed by Apple to ensure it meets the necessary standards and policies and, if accepted, will be made available on the App Store shortly afterwards.

The iPad screens are functional but need some work on them but, for the moment, I’d rather get a working version back on the App Store and fix the iPad screens in a later release. The app does support iPad multi-window mode though and, currently looks nicer that way !

Test build 345 available

I’ve shipped test build 345 onto TestFlight this evening.

This build supports MS1, MS1/Extra and MS2/Extra having been tested against my own ECUs.

MS2 testing has revealed a weakness of the Bluetooth interface, compared to WiFi and I’m still investigating ways around it. For the moment though I’ve put a workaround into the app to compensate. It does mean though that it’s unlikely that the same Bluetooth device that you use for iOS can be used for TunerStudio or similar.

There is a limitation in some of the modules that prevents the module transmitting a block of data that’s more than 500 bytes long at 115,200 baud. For MS2 and MS2/Extra this is an issue as the data pages that the app loads at startup are 1024 bytes each. This certainly applies to the HC-08 modules and I will test the HM-10 module, hopefully, in the next couple of evenings to see if that has the same limitation.

User manual updates

In preparation for initial testing of the new app, the user manual section of the web site has been updated with details of the new functionality.

In addition, I’ve added a guide to building a Bluetooth connector and using it which, hopefully, will allow more meaningful testing. For anyone not confident to build their own, I have had preliminary talks with a company that may be able to supply a completed solution “plug and play”.

Connecting via Bluetooth

Bluetooth connection now working

This is a short video/screen recording of a very early Bluetooth enabled version of the app. Still a way to go before it’s ready for testing but as it stands it’s a promising basis for the new app.
The ECU is connected to a simulator so the realtime data may look a bit odd as I swing the inputs around to test the response.
The sampling throughput is running at a steady 11 samples per second which is a bit down on the WiFi adaptor but more than adequate for most uses.
Now I know that the Bluetooth adapter works and is reliable I’ll put together a “how to” guide, showing what is needed to build the interface.
A test version of the app will be released to testers, probably within a week or so. I have some UI glitches to fix now the basic connectivity is working.

Bluetooth, a new chapter ?

As a spin off from another project that I’ve been working on which uses a Bluetooth module to transfer data between an MCU and an iPhone, I’ve been mulling over the amount of work required to both update the MobiSquirt app to the current architecture (to get it back on the app store) and, at the same time add in support for Bluetooth. It can then be added back onto the app store.

To gauge interest and support for the project I’ll be looking for beta testers in the next month or so. If you have already expressed an interest in testing the app I will send you a TestFlight invitation and you will then be notified as soon as a new build is available for testing.

The cost for the Bluetooth components is around £15 from Amazon, cheaper if you get them from AliExpress or similar. I now have this link working in another project and, hopefully, transferring the code across shouldn’t be too painful.

I’ll post a further update when I have a better idea of the work involved and time scales. It won’t happen overnight and is likely to take months rather than days as I fit it in between my other time commitments but after a break from the project I’m now feeling more enthused about it. 

 

Project Status…

Apple have removed the app from the App Store as the app doesn’t natively support current processors.

As a result of a lack of feedback and any interest in testing the app from users, I have not released the new version of the app that was in development and the project is currently on hold indefinitely while I devote my time to other projects that are better supported by the user base.

That said, I still expect to come back to this project at some point if only for my own use on my own vehicles. When that will be will be determined, as ever, by the amount of free time I have available.

v1.2 Update and WiFi status

Things are moving on gradually…

I’ve fixed all the problems with the architecture of the app and it’s now working as fast as a PC connected via a serial cable when it comes to creating log files, in the region of 16 lines per second on an MS1/Extra. I have 2 more screens to update to iOS7+ compatible and I’ll be looking, finally, at a release. The new architecture has opened up a number of possibilities as well as removing many of the stumbling blocks that were limiting it’s performance.

One of the more recent problems being experienced is a practical one since MicroChip bought out Roving Networks and pulled the rug out from underneath the simplest and cheapest connection option. Obviously one solution to this has been to start looking at BlueTooth interfaces but in tandem to that I’ve also been looking at a much lower cost WiFi option that uses a couple of “off the shelf” modules hooked together. Initial results have been good and it would bring the cost of a WiFi adaptor down to less than £12 ($15USD) but it will need to be flashed with some simple custom code that I’m going to release as an open source project. The software to compile and upload the software to the module is free and you just need a USB cable to flash the module.

This is actually a much better solution than the RN134 as it offers a secure, password protected, connection and a customisable web interface to configure it and, being so much cheaper, will be a good option.

I may be adding banner advertising to the app in an attempt to help it pay for itself. Although the donation model worked initially it’s not covered the costs of developing the app or hosting this web site, let alone the cost of MegaSquirt ECUs to test against. Banner advertising has proved reasonably successful in my other apps as a way of generating a small but steady revenue that might, at least, help offset some of the costs.

Version 1.2 build 318

Airdrop and Activities screenshotI’ve completed the architecture changes I’ve been working on and the first test version of the app is being distributed to testers now. If you haven’t already signed up and are using iOS 8 or later, use the contact form to let me know you would like to become a tester. The new Apple TestFlight system allows for up to 1000 testers and the more people testing it the better !

The architecture changes offer far more flexibility and improved speed of logging by recording the data into a database, including logging sessions. As well as the improved speed it opens up new possibilities, such as a graph view of the data in both realtime and logged data environments. Data from the MS ECU is also stored with log sessions, allowing easier transfer of log data between devices in the future. At some point I will also leverage this mechanism to provide iCloud support for your logging sessions.

Updates to the latest iOS SDKs and methods mean an updated layout that should cope better with different device screen sizes and native support for 64 bit devices will improve performance on those devices.

The one feature that has been lost as part of this restructuring is the ability to transfer log files from the device using iTunes. On the plus side though the email facility allowing log files to be emailed has been updated to support the iOS7 and later action facility. This allows log files to be emailed as before but also allows them to be transferred via AirDrop or any other method that your device is configured for (Facebook, Messages etc…) or opened directly in another app on your device that supports the file type. For Mac users this means you can quickly send log files directly to your Mac over WiFi.

With the new data format it is possible for full log files, with all the MS ECU config data, to be sent between iOS devices and imported into other copies of MobiSquirt at some point in the future.