SynchStep Blog

public release this week

hi all,

i’ve been debating how to release synchstep because apple has made it illegal for developers to sell jailbreak apps. again, they keep crampin my style.

so, here’s where i’ve netted out:

i’m going to release synchstep this week, fully-featured, for free. that’s right, free. you just enter your email so i can generate a serial for you and you get synchstep pro for no money down. NO MONEY DOWN!

now you’re thinking, “but how will you feed yourself, greg?” how considerate of you.

i’m working on making synchstep work LEGALLY on OS 3.0, and i’m planning to sell it in the app store (if apple accepts it) once OS 3.0 is out.

look for the public launch sometime this week.

sorry it’s been so quiet!

ok, long silence, i know. but i have exciting news!

we’re into the last beta version, #14. i’ll be releasing it to my private testers this weekend. i have kept the group at about 100 beta testers, and i’ve gotten some really great feedback from them.

here’s what needs to happen before the official launch:
1. analytics - synchstep is the first jailbreak app to use pinch media’s analytics, and theyre updating the library to support such an app.
2. new website

about the free version vs pro version:
the free version of synchstep will be ad-supported, work with walking only and automatically download tempos for any songs that are on the synchstep server. any songs not found, won’t be analyzed by my server.

the pro version ($5) will have no ads, support walking and running (running via armband), allow you to pick whatever tempo you want whenever you want, allow you to adjust how and when synchstep adjusts to your pace, and any songs of yours that i don’t have tempos for will be automatically analyzed by my server and magically downloaded to your device once the song has been analyzed.

look for the public launch sometime this march! ‘bout friggin time, right?! =)

more betas out - so far so good

several more betas have gone out, and no issues reported yet. everyone seems quite pleased with the overall setup and step detection for running and walking.

this is a very controlled release. if you want a beta and i haven’t gotten to you yet, feel free to ping me.

first beta on its way out + 1-2 min setup

ok, i’ve got my php scripts and database moved onto a mosso cloud (thanks aaron!), and as a result the setup process is about 66% faster than it was previously.

the initial setup can process songs 600 per minute, so you’re looking at around a few minutes from starting the app the first time to using it. obviously, the more songs you have the longer the setup will take. compare that to the several hours of waiting it took to use synchstep previously, and i think we can all agree this is a huge improvement.

oh, first beta is going out today.

1-click, under 4-min setup

great progress today. initial setup from a blank state takes about 4 minutes for 500 songs, and that’s with the server running on my (relatively) slow laptop.

here’s how the bpm database works: synchstep reads your ipod tracks, downloads tempos for anything found at synchstep.com, and submits anything it can’t find to a queue. tracks queued up are analyzed and in a day or so the database is updated. this wont get every song ever (especially really esoteric tracks), but right now i’m getting about 65% of requests coming in.

here’s what you can expect at a user experience level:
first time you use synchstep, you tap “setup.” synchstep reads your ipod library and downloads tempo data. then you tap “start” and away you go.

this whole initial setup process takes about 4 minutes for 500 songs, but once the initial setup is complete, additional updates take under 15 seconds. i’m currently serving the database off my laptop, so expect it to take about half that time coming from a properly configured server.

next piece of good news: checking to see if any new tempo data has been added for your songs takes .25 seconds. that means it can be done on launch without you even asking it to happen. it’ll go like this: open synchstep, it says “24 of your songs have new tempo data. would you like to update synchstep?”

downloading tempo data for your tracks takes about 3 seconds. yes, it’ll be fast.

this is all working right now. i’m looking into database hosting solutions so i can really measure how fast the finalized setup and updating processes will be.

very exciting.

status

ok everyone, it’s been a while since i updated, but i’ve been ridiculously busy coding and haven’t had a chance to breathe.

here’s where things are:

first. i’m getting rid of synchstep prep. no longer will you have to download a separate application to analyze your songs. i’m setting up a system that will allow your iphone to download tempo data directly without you guys doing any of that annoying analysis stuff.

this is HUGE. this is how i always wanted synchstep to be, but let’s face it, there’s just no foundation in place for this kind of an app. i’m having to build it myself brick by brick.

second. the step detection is almost there. armband is basically done. pocket is done. belt-mounted is close. i’m not a fan of belt-clip cases though. i just don’t feel safe with my very expensive phone dangling from my shorts while sprinting. call me crazy.

most of the interface bugs are out. you can purchase the app directly through synchstep and download tempo data directly through the app.

i’d like to get a beta out soon to those that have expressed interest. unfortunately, because i don’t get paid for this work and only get to work on this in the wee hours of the morning, it takes more time to get through milestones.

i may take down the current version of synchstep as it’s actually quite embarrassing given the improvements in the latest versions.

thanks to everyone who’s emailed me and supported me. i’m really working hard to make this next release everything it should have been from the start.

—greg

new business model

i’ve got a new business model in place for synchstep. there will be two versions of synchstep: free and pro. free will act just as it does now: walking only, basic settings. it’ll have the new and improved walking algorithm so it’s going to be as awesome at that as the pro version, and everyone that has enjoyed synchstep so far will continue to enjoy that version for free. if synchstep has done everything you wanted it to do, your world won’t change.

if, however, you’re like me, and want more control and power from synchstep, the pro version is for you.

synchstep pro will be a measly $5, a lot less than you pay for a crappy drink at a crappy bar, and will unlock a lot of cool stuff. in general, you might consider the pro version good for those that use synchstep everyday or at the gym. the pro version currently includes:

  • fully supports running with armband/hand/belt-mounted cases
  • adjust how quickly sychstep adapts to you
  • adjust how large a different in pace is required to change to a new song
  • auto-resume (remembers what bpm you were at when you exited synchstep)
  • no ads
and soon, the pro version will get additional features:
  • choose the bpm you want to listen to
  • specialized interface for running (bigger buttons, easier to interact with while running).
  • pedometer
  • faster/slower buttons
  • stats (average paces, songs that are never played because they don’t match your typical pace, how to pick songs that are better suited for your paces)
  • better algorithm for making sure all of the songs in your library are rotated and you don’t just hear the same few over and over again
all new features will be rolled out to the pro version only, but any enhancements that are core to synchstep (step detection, optimization) will be included in both versions.

also, to everyone who has already donated to the project: you of course will get the pro version for free, regardless of how much you donated. a big thanks to all of you!

i know that no one likes to pay for software, but i’m hoping that the pro version is really reasonable at $5. i’ve spent the past year on this and more hours than i can possibly imagine on this project, so i hope you don’t all hate me for wanting to pay my bills. :)

big news coming soon

the day is getting closer boys and girls. i have to say this new version of synchstep pretty completely owns all previous versions. i’m actually embarased when i test the previous incarnations.

it’s by no means perfect, but it’s getting really close. i’m at the point where i have to try really hard to get it to not detect my pace. it’s work in my baggiest pants, any pocket, in my hand, on my arm, on my waist, and tucked into my pants. it’s really tough to fool the step detection algorithm now.

additionally, the auto-switching algorithm is vastly improved. i have two settings that give you greater control over how quickly and when synchstep changes songs. you’ll be able to set how many bpm difference counts as a new pace (e.g. for fast changes, set it so that if you walk +- 3 bpm different from the song, synchstep should start detecting your new pace, or for slower, set it to +-10). you can also set how rapidly synchstep adapts to you. you can set it so it adapts slowly to your new pace, which gives you lots of room to be off-beat without worrying about it switching songs, or set it quickly adjust and it will jump to your new tempo in under 5 seconds.

it’s working very well with running right now, although when you start to get up around 180-200 bpm, it takes twice as long to detect a pace, so i need to look at that (running that fast, there might be a lot of noise on the signal). i did however, lose my belt clip attachment so i haven’t been able to test the belt clip version under really strenuous conditions yet but it does work well tucked into my pants waistband while running.

auto-dimming is working really well, all bugs out of that one, although i’m going to require a swipe in any direction to get the screen to turn back on. right now, it only requires a tap, and sometimes thin pockets will actually allow your leg to turn the screen back on.

stay tuned, this new one should be out (hopefully) before the end of september.

what i’m doing now

rejigging auto-sync algorithm so that it’s adjustable (in settings you’ll be able to set how quickly synchstep should adapt to you: quickly, normal, slowly).

also, looking into making synchstep prep better:
- instead of exporting to wav using decoders to read into memory for analysis
- computing audio fingerprint and associating analyzed bpm with fingerprint
- uploading bpm to database so that synchstep prep can simply look up the bpm for most tracks, and only compute bpm if it has to.

revelations from the gym

Belt and armband work great! Wanna test more but wow. Super cool.

Thoughts
Pressing resync while running at 170 bpm is haaaard.

Starting synchstep while running is awkward

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