Avare-New free Android VFR GPS app

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by JohnSBA, Sep 26, 2012.

  1. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    There's a new free VFR GPS moving map Android app named Avare, and the development team is seeking pilots to try out the app and offer feedback. Avare is open-source, ad-free, and requires only two Permissions: GPS of course for the moving map feature; and SD card access so it can store Sectionals for the contiguous U.S. states (lower 48). It also includes an AF/D, airport diagrams, full functionality in Airplane Mode, and several other features the pilots on the development team wanted. Avare is here on the gPlay store.

    In case anyone's curious how I'm involved in Avare (pronounced "ah Vair"): In 2005 or so I met a guy named Zubair who was in our local flying club and he helped get me fired up to finally go for it and get a PPL. Over time we developed a friendship that lasted after I got the Private, after he let his license lapse, and even after his Android phone configuration company relocated to Boston. Last year I got a new Droid X and started this POA thread looking for exactly this app. Small, quick, simple, free, and open-source. When I couldn't find an app like I wanted, I started bugging him to write one. Being way busy with work, and also by then with a young family of four, he kindly and repeatedly refused. A couple of years ago I did manage to get him to do the BFR and start flying again. It was quite a pleasant surprise a few weeks ago when he told me he'd written Avare and asked me to check it out. I was easy to convince! :)

    I liked it so much, I offered to write up some documentation for him, and then this website for Avare and a smaller free app he'd already done: http://apps4av.com/

    So anyway, if you have an Android device and would like to help us test out Avare and decide what features to add next, you're invited. Just launch the Play app and install Avare. Note that though Avare is only about 250k the first Install is about 450MB due to the charts, AF/D, etc. So you'll probably want to use WiFi unless you have free data on the device. Once you've checked it out, we'd very much like to hear from you via Comments on the website above. You can also contact me directly via the website's About page. If there's interest I'll post followups here occasionally too.

    I flew Avare version 1.9.2 from SBA to AVX and back with the DX plugged into aircraft power, and it worked perfectly. Now I'm very excited to fly again with v2.1.1 and play with all the new features. Especially the "Sim Mode" that lets me browse Sectionals at will using the Base button to zip to any airport I input so I can browse there. I already have ideas on a request to change how that works. Today a user contacted us via a website Comment about a GPS problem on his device, and Zubair's already cooked up a fix for him and released a new version. Can you tell I'm happy? :D
     
  2. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    No bad for the basics of a chart. One suggestion you can pass on - choice on storage. Some Android models have two "SD-Cards." One isn't an SD card at all but storage within the phone/tablet. The other is a true external card. An app this large should allow the user to select which he wants (as soon as I installed, I got a low internal storage message).
     
  3. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Thanks for the feedback. I passed it on to Zubair, and he replied that storage location is "controlled by Google" but "if you go to Settings->Applications, Select Avare, and then select 'Move to external storage' that might solve the issue."

    If you'd like to try that and post a followup it might be helpful to other uses bumping up against the memory limits on their devices. I'm glad you raised the issue, because the devices we've tested on all have at least 8GB of storage. They're probably "underutilized" too, since we don't keep many apps installed. My own Droid X currently shows 6.2GB available on the internal memory and 14.7GB available on the SD. With the app itself only using 250k and the charts & AF/D database file less than .5GB, the storage location didn't matter to me.

    Thanks again, and Happy Flying! :)
     
  4. CT4ME

    CT4ME Cleared for Takeoff

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    Very Nice! Simple, but effective. For the price of an Android phone or tablet, there's no excuse for any pilot not having a moving map, backup or otherwise.
     
  5. Ghery

    Ghery Final Approach

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    I haven't taken it flying, but had my son (we carpool together) watch it on the drive home. It followed along on I-5 nicely. IFR flight?
     
  6. Badger

    Badger Pattern Altitude

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    I just installed, I'll post a review asap, thanks
     
  7. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    No, this is a VFR-only app. And even there, from what I can see, no bells and whistles like multiple waypoint flight plans.

    btw, John, the low storage message simple stopped so I haven't tried to move it using either the OS's own ability or one of my rooted apps.
     
  8. Jay Honeck

    Jay Honeck Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Sweet! Mary's installing it on her Nexus 7. We will give it a whirl next flight.

    Sent from my Nexus 7
     
  9. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Zubair has been adding some little (and big) bells & whistles as time permits. Wish I could afford to pay him to do this full-time instead of as an occasional altruistic hobby. :)

    Thanks to everyone for all the feedback!

    Happy Flying -j
     
  10. TMetzinger

    TMetzinger Final Approach

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    Have him look at the storage, it's NOT controlled by google. Ideally he should ask the user to specify the folder (i.e. /sdcard by default but let the user pick another by browsing) and that way those of us with 4.x Android can put the stuff on the microsd card which is frequently /mnt/ExtSdCard.

    Edit: This is NOT where the application goes, just where it should store chart or other user data.
     
  11. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    That's correct.

    This can always become an "I wish it was like FF" thread which is unfair to a developer of a free app. Even my earlier multiple waypoinf flight plans is only nice and not necessarily a core feature.

    But I think there are minimum base features for an offline map app - choice of data storage, automatic GPS turn on and a setting that allows the screen to stay on.

    But it is a very nice free app.
     
  12. Ghery

    Ghery Final Approach

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    Take the two sentences together. IFR = I Follow Roads. :D
     
  13. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Thanks for your feedback. I did check with Zubair and it's true that storage isn't directly controlled by Google. They do however specify, control and modify the Android environment and the Play store. That means, just like when I was programming decades ago, going direct to hardware is fraught with reliability issues for users of different devices and anytime Google decides to change how Android/Play works. Zubair replied in part, "Google has explicitly stated in their docs that no one should use the folder /sdcard because it may not exist on all devices."

    I understand that your knowledge and experience may disagree with this, but since Zubair has donated his efforts to creating a free open-source app I really like (and am now using on every flight), I'm fine with his way of doing things. I also, from my own now outdated experience, agree with him. :)

    All that said, he's currently working on some updates to the app that probably move in the direction you're advocating. Some may involve using resources other than gPlay for some things, to at least get around the limitations there.

    Happy Flying -j
     
  14. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Good point. I know a major motivator for Zubair in creating this free open-source app was to have a simple moving map VFR sectional on his new Nexus 7. He also wanted to share it with other pilots rather than try to make money on it. He also wanted to donate it to the open source programming community in case others might like to contribute or take it in a different direction. Being his biggest fan, I'm happy to see that others share my excitement and appreciation for his work. :)

    I've been working on collecting a list of feature requests on the Avare SourceForge (SF) page, and welcome anyone to sign up for a free account and post their ideas there. Also any bug reports. You can click above or use the Avare SourceForge link on our Avare website. He's following the SF pages for Avare, so anything you add there will be seen (and possibly acted on) more quickly.

    I'm glad you mentioned that it's important to you, because it can help him gauge what important features to add next. I'm glad that list varies among pilots. Since it runs fine on my antique (almost 2 years old!) Droid X (DX) with 18GB left over, I'm very happy if he adds other features first. :)

    I like these ideas, but they're apparently two more things not specified in the Google design. What I like about features like those you suggest is fewer inputs on the app while flying. On the other hand, I like the idea of "staying inside the lines" where possible for greater stability/portability and saving programming effort for other stuff. So for now I'm content to use the Android settings for these things. My DX came with a widget for GPS, but maybe some users have to wade thru Android's Settings menus every time?

    I found a trick for keeping the screen & DX on in flight. I fly with my DX plugged into the plane's "cigar lighter" power via the car charger that came with the phone. I use Settings / Applications / Development / Stay Awake. That way when flying it's always on, and I don't have to change settings when we land and I want the phone to sleep again.

    Something I'd hoped to see on Android is a more active open source movement. I'd love to see widgets for all the Settings that take the approach Zubair has: open source, free, no ads, and no invasive permissions. Those could also be packaged into such a widget that would enable users to put their choices on a pull-down menu. I was happy to finally discover the Data Switch widget, because leaving everything except cell service off when I don't need it (and Airplane Mode at night) I get about a week per charge. I hope Data Switch hasn't gone commercial on the new version.

    That's the bottom line for me too. Seems to be a big gray area between an expensive high-end app that tries to do everything and maximize user convenience, and a simple free app that does just enough. People who shell out for an iPad clearly won't be interested in Avare. ;)
     
  15. SkyHog

    SkyHog Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I'm downloading the app now...

    FWIW, what he is saying is not right. Neither Google nor Google Play have any control over where the data for an application is stored. That's all programming.

    Either way - I look forward to this app - if it stays free, it could be a great alternative to Naviator (which I love, btw, but some people don't want/can't pay for it, and I get that).
     
  16. SkyHog

    SkyHog Touchdown! Greaser!

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    BTW - to be able to keep the screen on, he need only do the following:

    1. Change the manifest file to add the following:
    <uses-permission android:name="android.permission.WAKE_LOCK" />

    2. In the OnCreate method, add a PowerManager object and set the WakeLock property as appropriate.
     
  17. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    All of the apps on my phone (except this one, of course) access the GPS when needed. Maybe it's a newer OS, but my GPS is always "on" in the sense that it's more or less standby unless accessed.

    And all of the mapping - street or aviation - I use keep the screen on when displayed.

    As was said before about storage location, it's not the OS design.
     
  18. kgruber

    kgruber En-Route

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    I can load the application, but not the maps.

    There should be an option to load the maps directly onto the micro SD chip, from a web site.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2012
  19. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I'm hoping it stays free too! At least the app, and I'd pay for chart updates if they're inexpensive and optional.

    I think he's working on options for loading other charts in a future version too. I'd love to have TACs (do any other apps have them?), special charts like Grand Canyon, and Oh Canada! (and Mexico, etc...). Once that feature's in, maybe some road maps & topo charts could be added if anyone could find free ones.

    Anyway, I've passed your tips on to Zubair and if he doesn't sign up here and join the convo I'll let you know if he responds. Again, this is all a volunteer hobby and he has a full-time job plus family - and most of all Flying!
     
  20. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Maybe he's wanting to avoid adding any more Permissions? I've noticed many people objecting to Permissions in their Play reviews. I've been uncomfortable with many of the Permissions on apps myself, because it's impossible to know most of the time what the developer wants the Permissions for. Maybe this is a downside of Android's open policy rather than just trusting Apple, but I'd still rather know. Wish I could download an app and then choose what Permissions to give it.
     
  21. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Good point. I leave my GPS off and turn it on manually via the widget. Probably don't need to do that at all, but I like knowing when it's on and the widget's on my main Home screen. I actually used it in Avare before he added Sim Mode for browsing. I don't know how much power the GPS receiver uses, but I've cached gMaps and sometimes use that w/o GPS too. Unlike Avare tho, it tends to go funky when GPS and data are off.

    Edit: Once my GPS is on via the widget, Avare does automatically use it and it apparently turns off when Avare's not active in the foreground. On my DX the widget just toggles Settings, Location & Security, Standalone GPS services. I have found tho that the DX loses GPS if Avare's not in foreground (screen on of course) for more than 45 seconds, and that's why I keep Avare foreground because I fly in Airplane Mode. My DX will often lose cell (and of course data & wifi) aloft, and then often not acquire GPS without them. As Zubair has told me, I should just buy a cheap external GPS. But I'm hoping in the next year or so we'll see some affordable ones with not just WAAS but also ADS-B in.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2012
  22. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Strange. How do you know they're not loading? Maybe you're saying that when you launch Avare, you never get past the black screen? Have you used the Files app to look for the maps? On my DX they're on the SD card in
    Android/obb/com.ds.avare/main.21.com.ds.avare
    (size 463608KB, date Sep 24, 2012).

    I've actually already done that manually, and I think he's going to add it as an option in Avare at some point. My impression is his next major goal is to add the ability to get just the charts you want.
     
  23. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    I'm pretty sure that GPS is universal but ADS-B is not. All of the information I see so far requires that the app be compatible. Ferinstance, FF only works with Startus, Garmin Pilot only with the GDL39; WinX with a few different ones. That would mean a lot of extra work for your friend to make his app compatible with one or more ADS-B receivers.
     
  24. kgruber

    kgruber En-Route

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    Thanks
     
  25. MSPAviator

    MSPAviator Cleared for Takeoff

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    I downloaded it on my HTC Evo 3D. I have played around with it but I haven't flown with it yet. It looks like it has some decent potential. For now though, I will continue to happily pay for Naviator...

    My suggestions are:

    1. Allow zooming out more.

    2. When zooming in, switch to Terminal Area map if available... Or have a setting to enable that view.

    3. Allow vertical viewing instead of just horizontal.
     
  26. Jay Honeck

    Jay Honeck Touchdown! Greaser!

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    If I were a betting man, I'd bet on Garmin becoming the ADS-B "standard".

    Sent from my Nexus 7
     
  27. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Please keep us posted on your progress. I know that the first time I loaded the app, the download took a
    L O N G
    time over my bottom-end DSL connection. Since I have unlimited data, wish I'd known to just use that because it's several times faster (Verizon).

    Edit:

    My understanding is that the location for the maps is automatically chosen by Android on your device during the Install. The next version will probably add an option in Preferences to select where you'd like the maps to go, or allow the device default. Since 2.1.1 has been tested on a second generation Android phone, in theory it should work for you if there's enough memory for the 0.5GB of app & map.


     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2012
  28. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Zubair tried to tell me about the From display with Long-Press (see the website Quick Start), but I'd totally missed that until playing with it on my sofa the other day. Can't wait to use that in flight, because it's something I'll use for every ATC and CTAF call.

    I'd probably use that too, but my guess is that doing it requires some major changes to the app. Zubair coded it lean and mean with small map tiles so it would be fast and work well on any Android device. Being free, I like that it's a low-end app in features and target devices. An easier feature to add would probably be a zoomable U.S. state outline map that you could tap to zip the chart to that region. Probably better to use online flight planning tools for that, though. Or just pay for one of the high-end av apps. :)

    What I'm more excited about than zooming further out is Nearest, with a Long list. I use that every flight on my Lowrance 1000 and wish the gns430 had a longer list. I'm hopeful that may be added by Avare v3.

    OH, am I looking forward to that one! I fly the LA Class B fairly often, and would love to have a current moving map TAC chart.

    Yes, and also choice of North Up or Track Up.

    Thanks for taking the time to share suggestions for the new features you'd find most useful.
     
  29. chartbundle

    chartbundle Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Use Orux Maps or Locus on Android and just download the LA TAC?
    ( http://www.chartbundle.com/charts/#download )

    Not totally easy as you still have to move the file to the right directory on the Android device, but still pretty cheap for a quick and dirty moving map.
     
  30. apps4av

    apps4av Filing Flight Plan

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    Thank you John, and Thank you others for your valuable comments. It took me a bit of time to get to this.

    Your concerns are duly noted and entered in the ticket database.
    - The next release is almost ready, and in that release, you will be able to download individual sectionals including Alaska. So you will not be pushed a big blog of entire US.
    - You will be able to install maps to any accessible folder in your internal flash, or SD card
    - Will include information about airports around the world

    We have just started to develop this app, and are quite short on resources. I have spent 3 man months of my evening time to design, code and test it. John has helped with testing and documentation. But we need help. The application is open source. If you would like to work on it, email me and I will give to write permissions to the repository on sourceforge.

    Of the entire time spent on this project, 80% of the time has been spent on preparing scripts to process charts for phones, and 20% coding the application. If you see minimal features in the app, its because the app development itself has not had much attention. But now that maps processing is streamlined, the features list is going to grow quite quickly. This will catch up with most paid applications on Android, if we can get some help.

    I have designed this so it runs on ALL phones, slow or fast. You dont have to dish out a couple hundred for a top of the line tablet to run this. Install it on Google's first generation phone, and it will do the job.

    MSP, you mentioned Naviator. The reason I made this was just because of Naviator. I installed Naviator twice, then uninstalled it within a couple of days. Zooming out to larger area is in works. If we keep on supporting older devices then this is a problem. But to get to FF like smooth zoom-out, we will have to assume that only a couple of latest devices are supported. We have all the sectionals charts covered. Next step is to go to terminal charts, and switch will be automatic based on zoom scale.

    Am quite overwhelmed with requests at the moment. But at this time, it is flyable with basic functionality, and next releases will pack more features. Even if you do not use it for flying, its a good companion for sectionals, and AFD.

    Regards
    Zubair
     
  31. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    v2.2 Beta - Re: Avare-New free Android VFR GPS app

    We have Avare version 2.2 in Beta testing. Anyone here want to check it out and give us feedback?

    It has Sectionals divided out, so you can just download what you want. Some files have been integrated into the app, so that part is 7MB or so. Sectionals take about a minute each to download on my Verizon 3G. A few other tweaks and refinements, but changing the way Avare handles Sectionals was quite a bit of work so that's the main focus of this update.

    Because of the ability to download individual Sectionals, it requires full net access Permission for install. Being a Beta release, the app's not on gPlay yet so let me know if you'd like to try it out. I flew it for half an hour or so today, and everything was solid so I'll be keeping it rather than revert to 2.1.1 because I like all the new features.

    Happy Flying -j
     
  32. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Final Approach

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    Re: v2.2 Beta - Re: Avare-New free Android VFR GPS app

    Since it's a supplemental chart solution for me, I'd be happy to run betas.

    But my flying has been sporadic this season so I don't know how useful I'd be.
     
  33. bqmassey

    bqmassey Line Up and Wait

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    I'll play with the beta. I won't be flying anytime soon, but I could drive around with it on.
     
  34. dmspilot

    dmspilot Cleared for Takeoff

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    Awesome, I have been hoping for something like this. Even tried to develop one myself, but did not get very far.

    Is the GPS altitude displayed at the lower right corrrected, or is it raw ellipsoidal altitude?

    Can you use git/github for source control instead of svn/sourcefourge?

    Can't wait to try it out. Good work.
     
  35. Firewalker688

    Firewalker688 Filing Flight Plan

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    I 2nd that. I really do like the app BTW. I have yet to use it in flight but hope to if the weather will hold out for me to sneak a flight in. It works better than the openflight I gave $9 for.

    If you are looking for input for possible updates... The ability to plan a flight without changing the base would be pretty cool. IE: I am in Bangor Maine for now. If I want to plan a flight back home from LBB to ABQ it still shows my current GPS location. Maybe a "plan flight" tab and ability to load two airports you are nowhere near at the present time. Just a thought.

    Oh...... and thank you for the heads up and the app.

    Take care

    Scott
     
  36. dmspilot

    dmspilot Cleared for Takeoff

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    Why doesn't my course line go all the way to the destination? If I zoom out all the way, it only goes about 50 miles.

    Other than that I had no problems.
     
  37. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    OK, I've been offline most of the day and much has happened that I can update you on somewhat before I try to relax and sleep.

    Zubair's done a LOT of work in his "spare" time, and went ahead with v2.3 on the Play store. I think he's putting it on Amazon too. There's a new Permission for Internet, because it can now fetch individual charts. I think he may have the app get them on SourceForge, unless he put up a server (SF was corrupting some of the files somehow).

    NOTE: If Avare's working for you now, it might be prudent to wait until we hear from Zubair (or via me) before you Update to 2.3 because this was a major update and some known issues are in it (see below and on gPlay).

    I did the Update on my DX and it works great from what little testing I did indoors. Airport Diagrams are now an optional 100MB download and are working perfectly. Love all the other new features he's added, and I know of fixes to a few glitches with the AF/D and charts plus some minor changes he added for issues on specific devices. So if Avare was NOT working on your device, you may as well Update and Download just your local Sectional and then test everything you can think of (all feedback welcome!).

    ISSUE: I tried twice to use the cool new "Everything" option in the Downloads menu and Avare crashed on my DX (no problem for phone or other apps). I did then manage to manually load all the Sectionals in alphabetical order up thru Great Falls, and the five or so I've checked are all working great. Except that I tried twice to download the WA Sectional and it doesn't show up (probably a corrupted file on the server). Battery was below 10%, so it could be that. I used the crash Report option, so despite my entreaties for him to take it easy Zubair will probably disrupt his whole morning to focus on a fix. If he does you'll probably see either a 2.4 version or (perhaps more likely) he'll find and fix a server problem and one of us will let you know here or on the Avare website.

    It's challenging to be working on this from opposite coasts, and fascinating the variety of issues some users are kindly reporting. Zubair remarked to me in email how great the aviation community is. So much honest feedback, so many helpful suggestions, and almost none of the negativity you see with other free apps on the Play store. I have to agree. We aviators are exceptionally friendly and helpful as a group.

    Thanks for your contributions to Avare, and to my enjoyment of our community. :)
     
  38. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Current design. Might be partly to avoid the fool who managed to patent drawing a line between two points on a map. Could also be as a temporary measure until there's time to code it differently. It used to be shorter, but he increased to 50nm or so in order to enable route planning around TFRs, MOAs and all those annoying polygon R thingies. ;)
     
  39. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Me too!

    Want to make a lot of friends on both sides of the imaginary line by putting together some Canadian maps we can add?

    Don't know, but my guess is whatever the GPS reports and that's unlikely to be sophisticated from an Internal GPS. A good External GPS can work wonders on any GPS app.

    I'm confident that Zubair is looking into all options, because he's had some frustration with SF. He'll probably reply definitively on your questions when he has free time. The downside of that is he's using more free time than he has already, coding every waking minute. :)

    Thanks for the dialog.
     
  40. JohnSBA

    JohnSBA Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Seems your and Scott's wish is granted. The ability to "load the maps directly onto the micro SD" is now in. You can choose where charts are loaded in Prefs, and my impression based on the way Download works and the new Internet Permission is that it's getting Sectionals somewhere other than gPlay.

    Thanks for mentioning it. I do too, and am losing my ability to resist a Nexus 7 so I fly with Avare rather than Sectionals (and especially w/o AF/D!). Even on my Droid X, it's so vastly easier to read and way more convenient.

    I think we have a chance he'll add that before long. I've also suggested a list of recent Destinations, and of course you can already use the current single Dest along with Base activated and another input in Prefs, to have three airports in and then alternate between active Base and the next one you've pre-input. See the Tickets page on SourceForge and read all the stuff I've added recently to the Avare website Help pages.

    Stuff like that will continue to improve quickly is my guess, but have you checked out the Simulation Mode in Prefs? Keeps GPS alive, but frees you completely from current location so you can zap around charts by inputting a Destination (or Base), or just browse at will by dragging the chart.