Exoplanet Explorer: A rough couple of days
It took me two days to figure out why the newly released Exoplanet Explorer would occasionally start without showing a user interface.
What made it really difficult was that the app worked perfectly on my collection of Android devices. I couldn’t reproduce the issue.
Thanks to everyone who contacted me by email. Because of your help I eventually detected the common factor: all of the affected devices had an nVidia graphics chip, Tegra 2, 3 or 4.
I hadn’t been able to test on nVidia because I no longer have any nVidia devices… except of course for my Ouya console which I’d forgotten about, hidden away under the TV.
Installing the app on the Ouya showed the expected result: no UI or User Interface.
It was actually a very simple issue. nVidia devices were not drawing the UI. The app wasn’t crashing, it just waiting for the startup window to close. The menu was invisible, and the button to close it couldn’t be seen, so the app looked like it had frozen.
Solving it was another matter. I spent many hours gradually dismantling the app piece-by-piece until the UI re-appeared on the Ouya.
It turned out that it was just a glitch with the camera. The labels under the stars were far away from the camera, and the menu UI was close to the camera so that it was in front of everything. The nVidia bug meant that the far away labels were causing the menus that were close to the camera to be invisible. Removing those far away labels caused the menus to magically reappear.
I had to modify the way background labels were handled and bring them closer to the camera to solve the problem.
The updated version of Exoplanet Explorer HD is 2.5.4 and went out to Google Play late yesterday. All affected Tegra devices should be working now.
With this problem solved, I finally pushed the updated Exoplanet Explorer Lite to Google Play as well. It’s now called Exoplanet Explorer.
There are still some outstanding things that need fixing in the new Exoplanet Explorer apps, but they are mostly minor/cosmetic changes which will gradually appear over the next few updates.