Developer's Log - July 16, 2020

Well, much has happened since my last update in May. Unfortunately, most of it was invisible (but necessary) work that didn’t add anything new to Strum Machine… and was much less fun to work on. But it had to be done, and now I can move on to more exciting things!

What I’ve been working on since the last update

Initiating an unexpected server migration due to an internet-wide crisis. This was a fun surprise. :wink: Let me explain: on the morning of May 30, emails started coming in about problems that customers were having with billing-related issues. I tracked the issue down to a problem between Stripe (my payment processor) and the SSL certificate my hosting company was using. Not knowing the extent of the problem, and whether it would start affecting users’ access to the site, I did an emergency migration to the new server cluster, which I was fortunately 95% done setting up already. Fortunately, it went off without a hitch. (If you’re curious to know the details, read Why The Internet Was Broken on May 30.)

A side effect of the server migration was a marked increase in the website’s reliability, availability, and performance. There are now nine identical copies of the Strum Machine server code running in three separate geographical locations. The server was already quite reliable—we’ve only had one or two brief periods of downtime each year since 2016—but the added redundancy can only help. Plus, the new servers are faster and will be able to handle 10+ times the current number of users without breaking a sweat. (Not that I expect Strum Machine to grow by an order of magnitude anytime soon…)

Getting the iOS app in the App Store, which was finally approved last week! This took far, far longer than I’d expected or hoped (due to having to implement In-App Purchases to get approved) but I’m happy it’s done now! Download the iOS app for direct access to Strum Machine without a web browser, including better Bluetooth syncing, built-in offline support, an always-on screen when viewing chords, and a nice icon for your home screen. (The app is also on the Google Play Store for Android devices, and the Amazon App Store for the 2018+ Kindle Fire.)

Small tweaks here and there: Auto-Finish/Auto-Speedup display is improved. Section repetition markers are now clickable so that you can go right to a particular rep if desired. There’s a brand new signup/login flow for new users that’s more streamlined.

…and other than the usual bug fixing, customer support, and developmental explorations and prototyping, that’s about it for this period!

What I’ll be working on next

I really want to be able to offer more chords and strumming patterns! This is something I’ve worked on so long, and with which experienced so many setbacks, that I realize I’m avoiding it. So I think I need to scale back my ambition for now. I’m going to see if I can deliver more incremental improvements, starting with a few additional chords that get requested often: augmented, major seventh, etc. I mustn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good!

Beyond that, I’ve got a few smaller ideas I might see if I can tackle on the side: Auto-Transpose, list shuffling, a dockable/sidebar-able Notepad, MP3 recording/export, per-song settings, etc.

And by having the app in the App Store, I’ve created an unexpected new problem. I wasn’t really thinking about folks who run across Strum Machine in the App Store, but to my surprise, I’ve had dozens of people install the Strum Machine app in the first week alone! Over 90% of them don’t sign up for a free trial, though, and it’s pretty clear why: I do absolutely nothing to explain what the app does, given that I built it for my existing user base who already use Strum Machine. So it would probably be prudent to make the app more welcoming for new users who happen to stumble across it.


Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this little update!

Happy practicing,
Luke

9 Likes

Thank you for the update. I am very impressed with the huge amount of work you have done. I have Strum Machine on my Android phone. I have not tried to practice with the phone yet, but I will, especially if the pandemic ends and I can go to jams again.

I like the forum too.

Keep on making Strum Machine better and better!!!

Martha
Carlton

s

2 Likes

Luke - you have done an amazing job and the app has been a godsend during the pandemic when I can’t get together with people to play. How many users do you have? I’ve been spreading the word, but also hearing from a lot of folks who are just finding it.

Tom

Luke, thanks so much for this product. I’ve used it for practice regularly for a couple of years. I used to get together with a small jam that met in a coffee house every Monday evening. It was interrupted 4 months ago when COVID-19 hit and we hadn’t been able to play together since. 2 weeks ago we tried out in the open in a park. We were all masked up and socially distanced. But we only had 3 players and were missing a base and guitar. Yesterday we tried again and I took a 10W Blue tooth portable speaker and added the Strum machine via the IOS app. The backup worked like a charm and rounded out our group. They were impressed - should result in a couple more subscribers.

2 Likes

Yea, Luke! I can’t imagine life without strum machine. It’s now my favorite jam. No one says speed up, you’re out of tune, don’t you know anything else, or can’t you play in C or D? I appreciate all the work you do to continue improving the app. Forge ahead, young Luke and many thanks.

1 Like

The feature I’d most like to see added would be to have the tune change automatically to the next one on any list . Without any repeats, this would simulate what a CD does.

If we could choose to have the tune repeat X number of times, then go on to the next one, and have this one repeat, etc., this would simulate what actually happens at a jam session.

Of course we can presently change tunes manually, but it’s a bit of a hassle, especially when I’m playing fiddle, and both my hands are occupied!

2 Likes

Thanks everyone for your encouraging replies!

@Christine I’m planning to add this feature at some point; we discussed it a bit under the Mini Set Lists / Medleys thread. You might be interested in the list navigation bar; it doesn’t do what you suggest but it does make it easier to go to the next song in a list.