Sunday, June 7, 2015

Using the Loss of the Night app while traveling

In the last week, two people have asked me about using the Loss of the Night app while on vacation. The short answer is yes, you don't have to do anything special, the app will work when you are traveling and don't have access to a data network, and the data will be sent to us when you return home.

The slightly longer answer is that there are two minor things to keep in mind:

1) Getting a GPS fix will likely take much longer (in the worst case up to 10 minutes), because the app can't download the GPS satellite positions and has to wait for the satellites to broadcast their "ephemeris data". Please be patient, it should eventually work. You can debug whether things are working using a GPS app like "GPS Visualizer".

2) Your observation data will not be sent to us until the next time your phone connects to the Internet (e.g. via WiFi). You can check the status of the measurement in "User data > My measurements". The status will either be "waiting" or "successfully sent". Once you are connected to the Internet, the app should send the measurements by itself automatically.

In the past, there were two minor bugs that affected using the app during international travel. I think they've both been fixed, but these are hard bugs to test, because to properly test them you need to fly halfway around the world!

The first bug affected the position of the stars. The first time you used it overseas the app would display the stars over your home. The workaround was to simply run the app twice, the second time the stars would be displayed correctly.

The second affected sending the data when you connected to WiFi. On some occasions, it didn't happen automatically. A workaround is to do another observation when you have a WiFi or network data connection - you can even run the app in the daytime in "demo mode", and after you finish the observation the app will send both the new and old data.

Finally, we really appreciate it when you take data in additional locations! The more places that are sampled, the more accurately we'll be able to measure the global rate of change in skyglow.

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