Solar Explorer: What’s new
Some of you may have noticed a second Solar Explorer update rolled out following the one earlier this month.
The reason for it was a tiny little bug that caused the Moon to cease orbiting the Earth, and after all the hard work I did updating the code so that the Moon’s position would be accurate.
In truth, it wasn’t really a bug. Solar Explorer uses a library of maths functions that I’ve written in the C language. I modified this library to include the code for the Moon, and it ran just fine in the development tool.
It all went pear shaped when I exported the apps for Playbook and Android. I had thought that Shiva was building the Playbook and Android libraries at the same time as it built the Windows one, but a silent error stopped it from doing so for the portable platforms, resulting in the compiled apps having a stationary Moon and no error message to highlight the problem. Meanwhile, the version I test in Windows worked perfectly.
I’m currently working on an update for Exoplanet Explorer, to switch it from using the Exoplanet.eu data to Planetary Habitability Laboratory, because PHL’s data is more complete and features more information.
As part of the process, I’m rewriting the tool that builds the database to make it easier to work with. It’s been a real struggle trying to fill in the blanks because Exoplanet.eu’s data is a bit spotty, and the alternative, Simbad, has a lot of name search problems, making it a very manual process to try and gather the information to make the database as complete as possible.
The new Exoplanet database generator uses an SQL database to store the data while it’s being worked on. It begins by filling it with what’s available from PHL, then it looks to Simbad, then exoplanet.eu, before finally asking me to provide any missing information, assuming I can find it. The new structure should be a lot easier to maintain and result in fewer blank fields that I’ll have to look up myself.
Fields that have been added from PHL include information about the planet’s atmosphere (light or heavy elements), atmospheric pressure, it’s composition (rocky, iron, water or gas), it’s density and how it was discovered.
At 75% complete, and with a heavy workload at my day job, the new release is still a couple of weeks away. When it’s finally done, it will also feature the latest Shiva 3D engine which fixes the problems that Sony and Motorola afflicted their users with. It may also work around similar bugs caused by flaky code in certain custom ROMs, but as usual, custom ROMs aren’t officially supported.