Emerald Blog

Notes from the developers at Emerald Sequoia LLC

Browsing Posts published by Steve

First, thanks again for the many kind words about our apps. As we’ve noted several times here, this was always a labor of love for Bill & me and seeing your comments has been extremely gratifying.

Some tentatively good news: The code for most of our iOS apps is now on GitHub, at https://github.com/EmeraldSequoia. A small number of volunteers has just started to organize, and we hope that they will be able to eventually resume an App Store presence for Emerald Timestamp, Emerald Observatory, and Emerald Chronometer. If you would like to be part of this process, please reach out for now to essupport@emeraldsequoia.com (I’ll update this post with a more permanent contact mechanism if one becomes available).

A copy of the Emerald Sequoia website (excepting only this blog) is also up on GitHub. You can view the website here: https://emeraldsequoia.github.io/ (this might be a good candidate for a bookmark, as it should last as long as GitHub itself does).

Emerald Time and the WearOS version of Emerald Chronometer will not make it to open source:

  • Emerald Time does not use our highly-optimized NTP code that we developed for later apps and there are many alternative apps available in the App Store by other developers.
  • The WearOS apps use deprecated APIs that are no longer even documented (and may not work in upcoming OS versions). There are also far fewer WearOS customers (and thus far fewer people interested in taking over the code maintenance).

Thanks one more time for all of your support over the past 15+ years!

 – Steve & Bill

Bill & I have long had an unpublished app with a bunch of watch faces that we didn’t think were quite ready for the world to see. Some are unfinished, some are not up to our standards of polish, some are too similar to other faces, and some just seemed to have minimal value for the screen real estate that they take up. But now that we’re discontinuing the app anyway, we thought we’d leave them for you, “As Is”, to show you our in-progress work.

So the latest versions (3.12.2, probably rolling out today) of Emerald Chronometer and Emerald Chronometer for the iPad now include these new watch faces, making a total of 25, as something of a parting gift. My personal favorite is the back side of ChandraII, which has a much different take on data for the moon (those of you with the WearOS app may recognize it as Selene):

If the new watches aren’t your cup of tea, you can always disable them: Tap this button at the lower right:

Then in the list that comes up, tap Edit and remove the ones you’d prefer not to see every day:

To give a bit of extra time for this new version to roll out for everyone, these two apps (and only these two apps) will not be “unpublished” until Dec 15, 2023. The other apps are still on schedule to be delisted on November 1.

Thanks again for all of your support,

  Steve & Bill

Shutdown update #2

2 comments

Goodness, such an unexpected but very welcome outpouring of kind words. We can’t thank you enough for those.

We’re sorry not to be able to respond to your comments individually. If you have a specific question not addressed here, feel free (as always) to reach out to us at essupport@emeraldsequoia.com — we’ll be around at least until the end of 2023.

To respond to a few common comments and questions:

  • Subscriptions: Subscription revenue is unlikely to generate sufficient income to matter: Apple’s rules correspond to our own ethical position, which is that people who have already purchased the app should not be forced to buy a subscription just to continue enjoying the same content they originally purchased. So subscription revenue would be quite small, and even if all new customers who are currently downloading the apps for free paid for a subscription instead (doubtful!), it wouldn’t be enough to sustain us. It would also be a fair amount of developer work just to set this up, so it’s not a zero-cost experiment.
  • The Google WearOS version (for many non-Apple watches): It is documented at https://emeraldsequoia.com/aw/index.html, and there are “how to buy” links there — note that all of the apps are free now (as with iOS), so just download the full “paid” app with all of the faces if you want to try it.
  • A special note to Google WearOS users: At the suggestion of a user, we have posted an “unsigned APK” (download link here) to allow “side loading” (installs that happen outside of the Google store). Doing a sideload is a tricky technical process typically done only by developers, but it has been well documented elsewhere (e.g., here), and unless Google changes how this works (unlikely given the upcoming DMA in Europe), this should allow installing an app even after it has been removed from the store (until the OS no longer supports the version the app was built for).
  • Apple side loading: As Apple doesn’t currently allow side loading, the above mechanism won’t be available for our iOS apps. There have been reports that this might change, at least in Europe, when Europe’s DMA goes into effect in 2024, and if it does, we’ll definitely look into it, and post an update here if we do anything.
  • Availability of apps for iOS and WearOS: There is reason for cautious optimism here; reading between the lines in documentation for developers, it sounds like Apple and Google may keep the apps available for existing users even if the developer delists them. Note that even if this is true today:
    • The companies can change their minds about that policy at any time, and
    • The policy may not extend once incompatible new OS versions are available (we already know that this won’t apply if you upgrade your phone to the new OS, but at some point they may stop supporting downloads for older OSs as well).
  • Selling the company (or its code IP): Before taking the steps we are taking now, we did in fact look seriously at selling the company. One thing to keep in mind is that if the company doesn’t make sense as a money-making venture when the original developers are doing the maintenance, it is unlikely to be an attractive option for someone else who doesn’t have that background and experience. And this was borne out by our market research. Even if we installed ads (something we were loathe to do, but we considered it), the number of people who are looking at our apps daily is too small to generate significant revenue there and thus affect the value of the company. We appreciate the offer to set up a non-profit to purchase the app, but if we do anything in this area, it will be open sourcing the code (the next item).
  • Open-sourcing the app (putting the source code on GitHub): This is an idea we originally rejected, but given the interest expressed here we are taking another look at it (no guarantees; there are a couple of serious obstacles). This by itself won’t keep the apps in the store, but if we do this and a third party decides to build and support one or more apps using that source code, those apps can live in the store after Bill & I stop supporting them. If you are a software developer and are interested in being part of that process, please reach out to us at essupport@emeraldsequoia.com. If this does wind up happening, we’ll provide another update here.

Thanks again for all of your support,

– Steve & Bill

Shutdown update

17 comments

We’ve settled on November 1, 2023 as the date our apps will be removed from the stores (see our post about it). We will continue to respond to support requests through December 31 but will be unable to help you if an app has been removed from your device.

Emerald Sequoia’s future

63 comments

[Edit 2023/10/23: See specific update for Emerald Chronometer and Emerald Chronometer for the iPad here.]

[Edit: Please also see our updates here and here.]

The tl;dr

After 14 years, Emerald Sequoia LLC will be shutting down at the end of 2023 and our apps will no longer be available.

The details

On November 1, 2023 all of our apps (iOS and WearOS) will be removed from their respective stores.1 Until then, it will be business as usual: The apps will remain in the stores, we will continue to respond promptly to support emails, and we will make critical bug fixes as required. When the apps are pulled from the store, if they are still on your devices they will most likely stay there (no guarantees; this is up to Apple and Google) but they will be unable to be re-downloaded if you change your device or if it needs to be reset. We’ll continue to respond to support requests through Dec 31, but we won’t be able to assist you if an app has been removed from your device. We’ll post again late in 2023 to remind and update you.

The background

As some of you know, we were in Apple’s iPhone App Store on the day the store opened in July 2008 with the first version of Emerald Chronometer, and Emerald Observatory was in the iPad App Store in April 2010, the first week iPad apps were available. The company has always just been the two of us, with no other employees or contractors. We’ve written all of the code, documentation, and web sites, responded personally to all customer support email, and dealt with all of the finances, taxes, and government forms, all on our own. It’s been immensely satisfying to both of us and the best “work” experience we’ve had in the over 80 years of our combined careers.

The situation now is considerably different from when we first started. The App Store has grown from the 500 apps released on opening day to millions now. There are now millions of app developers competing for customer eyes on their products. Niche products like ours, all over a decade old, don’t show up in reviewers’ lists any more. And most importantly, the two of us have found it increasingly difficult to find the time to support these apps.

Nearly all of the work we’ve done in the past 10 years falls into two categories:

1. We’ve done our best to keep up with OS releases and update our apps with versions using the latest development kits. This is nontrivial work: Companies like Apple and Google are constantly improving and enhancing their development kits, and don’t want to continue supporting their older versions. So developers like us, even with apps that don’t change functionally, must periodically update our apps to stay in the store. Looking forward, both Apple and Google have announced that OpenGL, the foundation for our app displays, is deprecated on mobile — that change, when it is required, will be even more ambitious.

This is a problem for a lot of companies, most of which need to show a profit even when their markets are saturated. Many have chosen to move their customers to a subscription model, where customers pay a relatively small amount each year to pay for the updates the apps require to stay current. But we don’t want to force our existing customers, who have already bought our apps, to buy subscriptions, and the stream from new customer subscriptions wouldn’t be significant enough to matter.

2. In 2018 we released a version of Chronometer that runs on actual watch devices running Google’s WearOS. This was a very fun project for us because it meant we could finally wear these faces on our actual wrists as we originally conceived. But here the market has been very disappointing, most probably because Google hides watch-only apps from people searching for them on their phones. Also, perhaps because it is a new platform, the developer churn responding to WearOS updates has been much more than that required by Apple in recent years.

Emerald Sequoia has always been a labor of love, paying back more in fun and in satisfaction than in dollars. But it has reached the point where app revenue no longer covers our overhead, even ignoring the time we spend supporting the apps. And it must be said that the kind of work required to support new hardware and OS releases has little of the fun and satisfaction we started with.

Thank you

Finally, a heartfelt thank you to all of our customers, without whom we would not have had the wonderful experience we’ve had with this company.

Cheers,

  Steve & Bill

  1. Emerald Chronometer and Emerald Chronometer for the iPad will be delisted a bit later, on Dec 15 (see here). ↩︎

For those of you who have always wanted to wear Emerald Chronometer on your wrist (and really, who of us hasn’t 😉), now you can!

We’ve just completed a long effort to port Emerald Chronometer to Wear OS by Google (this is Google’s watch OS, which used to be called Android Wear). It’s available as a package of 21 watch faces (a subset of those available in our iOS products, plus a couple of new ones special to Wear OS).

To use it, you’ll need a watch running Android Wear 2.0 or greater (or, as it’s now called, Wear OS 1.0 or greater). This doesn’t include the Apple Watch, unfortunately, but there are a number of watches available. See our mini-FAQ below.

You can read all about the new app here.

Thanks again for all of your support and kind words over the years!

Mini-FAQ:

1. Why not the Apple Watch?
Apple does not allow developers to create custom watch faces.

2. Which faces from iOS are missing on Wear OS?
The three timing faces (Istanbul, Olympia, and Thebes) are currently not implemented for Wear OS. Also, Atlantis has changed considerably (we think for the better). Note also that the faces that appear on the “back” in iOS are separate faces in Wear OS; for example, the iOS “watch” called Geneva is two faces in Wear OS, Emerald Geneva (the front) and Emerald Basel (the back).

3. Which watch do you recommend?
We can’t really recommend a specific watch, since we haven’t personally tested most of them. That said, we recommend seeking out a model, running Wear OS 1.0 or greater, with a long battery life (not because of our app, which is very efficient with energy, but to make sure you have a good experience overall). Our best personal experience has been with the Fossil Q Gen 3 Explorist, but as we say, we haven’t tested very many of them ourselves.

4. I’ve bought a watch and have more questions!
As always, please see our full FAQ (the one for Wear OS is at http://emeraldsequoia.com/aw/ecsupport.html) and then email us if you have trouble.

Leap Seconds

1 comment

The latest versions in the store of our digital timekeeping apps, Emerald Time and Emerald Timestamp, support leap seconds. We had a chance to test them during the leap second at the end of last month. You can see a movie we took of the apps running here

Supporting the Retina iPad

1 comment

Version 3.8 of Emerald Chronometer HD has just been approved for the App Store, and fully supports the new iPad’s Retina display.

Just as with support for the iPhone 4’s Retina display, adding this support required new artwork at double the resolution in each dimension, for a total of 4 times the pixels of the prior ECHD version.

And just as before, that means that the app download got a lot bigger; it’s now 164 MB to hold all of the new artwork. For comparison, here’s the artwork for the three kinds of display devices we support:

First the non-Retina iPhone and iPod touch:
Old display 'parts list' or texture atlas

Next the Retina iPhone and iPod touch in Chronometer, and the iPad in Chronometer HD:

Finally, the Retina iPad in Chronometer HD:

We hope you enjoy it! As before, we sympathize with those of you on slow connections, but we used the same logic as before and decided we wanted this to be a free upgrade for ECHD users, which meant all ECHD users needed to upgrade.

Thanks for your support.

We’ve just added our 16th watch to Emerald Chronometer and Emerald Chronometer HD: “Babylon” is a full-month calendar watch, with an unusual mechanism.

The mechanism (which is one of our most complicated “mechanically”) consists of three stacked wheels and a series of covers that slide in and out. You can read more about it here.

We hope you enjoy it!

Just a quick note that there is a total lunar eclipse today: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEdecade/LEdecade2011.html
http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEplot/LEplot2001/LE2011Jun15T.pdf

It’s the longest and deepest lunar eclipse of the decade, but unfortunately most of our customers will miss it because the moon will be below the horizon. You’ll be able to see a bit of the ends in Europe and Australia, but only India and eastern Africa (and a bit of central Asia) will get the whole show.

You can still see the effects in Emerald Observatory and Emerald Chronometer/Emerald Geneva (the back of the Geneva watch has an eclipse indicator dial), even if the eclipse isn’t visible at your location.