Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Our new partner: MyFitnessPal

We're pleased and excited to announce our new partnership with the incredible calorie tracking website, MyFitnessPal.

So many of you have been asking for us to integrate for some time now, and so we've been working hard with the team over at "MFP" to make it a reality. As of today, you can link the RunDouble app on your phone to your workout diary, allowing you to post the calories you burn during your run directly to the MFP website.

If you haven't used the site before, we encourage you to head over there and sign up for a free account. Once you have set your weight loss goal, you can start logging your daily calorie intake and output. They have a vast food database allowing you to easily log your intake and, whether you are using RunDouble or just walking the dog, you can log your activity in the workout diary.

We're hoping that this gives our users, and MFP's existing community, a more connected set of tools to help more people live a healthier, happier lifestyle.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Stay Fit... Stay Safe!

Winter is setting in fast for those of us in the northern hemisphere. Nights are drawing in, and choosing not to go out for your run becomes a more enticing option. In fact, we've already noticed that downloads of the app have started to drop along with the temperature; not many people want to start their life-changing workout at this time of year.

If you're reading this article, then you're probably eager to buck that trend and maintain the hard work you've put in over the summer. In fact, Winter can be a really great time to run - your body is cooler, and sometimes you just feel like you've got so much more energy. So, you've decided to keep running and shed an extra few pounds so that you don't feel guilty about enjoying an extra slice of turkey over the holidays. What do you need to know about running in the Winter, so that you can stay fit, and stay safe?

Warm up at home

During the Winter  it's very easy to overdress. You step outside, feel the bitter wind, and add some extra layers. A mile down the road, you've fully warmed up, and you're really starting to sweat -  and wish you'd left some of those layers at home!

A good way to work around this is to spend your 5 minute warm up in your home. Just do some gentle exercises - some jumping jacks, running on the spot, squat jumps. Just enough to raise the heart beat a little, get the blood pumping to the muscles, and get you ready to run. That way you won't be walking for 5 minutes in the cold, but you'll be better able to gauge what you need to wear.


Wear light layers, rather than a big fleecy jumper. That way you can open them up, or remove them as necessary. What you need to wear depends very much on conditions, but be smart. Here in the UK I normally wear track-suit bottoms, a t-shirt and a long sleeved reflective cycling jacket. Man-made fibres are good because they'll wick the sweat away from your body.

Extra warmth for the extremities

Though your body will warm quickly, your hands, toes, ears and nose will suffer the cold more. Find a hat, gloves, warm socks, and if it's really cold, a face mask.


Because you're not sweating so much it's easy to think that you don't need to hydrate. In fact you're probably breathing out almost as much water as when the weather is warm.

Be careful about hydrating too soon before you run - you really don't want a litre of water sloshing around in your belly while you are running (the results might not be pretty!). Make sure you hydrate well during the day, but don't drink anything more than a few sips in the hour before you run.

Find a running partner

It's a good idea to run with someone, especially in the Winter  when the nights are dark. This is especially true for the women - you'll be safer in pairs. There's also another benefit - if you've arranged to meet someone, you're less likely to drop out and let that person down. Try to meet indoors though - nobody wants to be hanging around outdoors on a cold night.


I can't say this enough. Even if it isn't dark yet, make sure you're visible. High Vis jackets are cheap, and most running gear has reflective stripes on it. Clip on cycle lights are also a good idea, especially if you're running somewhere were there are no street lights.

Stay dry

The only way to stay 100% dry is to wear full waterproofs, which isn't practical, but take steps to stay dry where possible. Dry out your shoes before your next run, as running in cold damp shoes isn't pleasant, and wear a waterproof jacket if possible. Zip-lock bags will help to keep your phone dry, though bear in mind that they are not 100% waterproof.

Be flexible

You need to fit 3 runs in over 7 days, ideally with a rest day in-between. This leaves you with a little flexibility to shift your runs about a little. If it's pouring down with rain, skip it and run tomorrow, or if you're on the second day of your 2 day break and the weather is lovely, run today - it could rain tomorrow. When I first did Couch-to-5K, I made a deal with myself. I could move runs, but not cancel them. I had to finish all of my 27 runs within the 9 weeks, 3 runs per week. If I had meetings, or was faced with bad weather I allowed myself to move runs around in the week, but I had to fit them in somehow.

Set a goal

You might need a little extra inspiration over the winter, so great way to motivate yourself is too book yourself into a race in the spring, or early in the year. There are often holiday and new year events too, which can be a great atmosphere on a crisp Winter morning. Pay the registration fee upfront too, so that you know that you've got an event to train for. Count how many weeks you have, and plan your workouts, leaving a spare week or two for setbacks. Keep this goal in sight, especially when your bed seems more cozy than your training shoes. (Thanks to Cherie on Facebook for this one)

Good luck with your Winter running, and remember - Stay fit, stay safe!

Monday, 24 September 2012

GPS Troubleshooter

The most common questions we get asked relate to problems with GPS, distance, pace and maps. In almost all cases they are typical GPS reception problems, or problems with the GPS functionality of the phone. In fact, the last time we had to fix a bug in the GPS was in May, four months ago.

So, we've written a full guide to how GPS works, what kind of problems you can expect, and what you can do to resolve them, or at least minimise them.

I can't get a GPS fix, what should I do?

First of all REBOOT your phone. I know it's what they always say, but in 99% of cases it works. Some of the GPS drivers provided by some manufacturers just don't work, or they crash a lot. If the GPS driver has crashed, RunDouble can ask for GPS location updates, but the system will never deliver them to the app. Rebooting your phone reinitialises crashed drivers and will normally help.

Now, it's worth just checking that GPS is fully enabled. Sometimes certain widgets or power savers will disable it, so check it is fully turned on:

  1. Press "Menu" -> "Settings" -> "Location & Security" 
  2. Make sure "Use wireless networks" and "Use GPS satellites" are both checked. 
  3. If there are any other GPS options as well/instead of those, ensure they are checked. 

Now make sure GPS is enabled in RunDouble:

  1. Open RunDouble
  2. Click "Options"
  3. REMOVE the check from "Turn off GPS"

Next, ensure you have a good data connection (GPRS/EDGE/3G/4G/Wifi) when RunDouble starts looking for GPS satellites. This allows Android to download the assistance data that will greatly speed up acquiring a GPS fix.

Finally, wait. RunDouble will count down 3 minutes on the screen, while trying to get a fix. After this 3 minutes it KEEPS TRYING, so you might find that it gets a good fix after 5 minutes, or maybe even longer if you don't have a reliable data connection.

We've also had reports that network providers upgrading the network can have an adverse effect on GPS satellite acquisition. Check if your network is performing upgrades - this will normally resolve itself within a few days.

If you continue to have problems, then there is a test you should do:

  1. Download GPS Status from Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.eclipsim.gpsstatus2
  2. Open up GPS Status, and time how long (in seconds) it takes for you to get a GPS fix - that is when all of the bars and dots turn green. 
  3. Now immediately open RunDouble, tap "Start my Run" and choose a run that you've already completed. Time how long again it takes to get a fix. 

If it takes significantly longer, or doesn't get a fix at all, then report both of these times to us. Otherwise, there is very little else we can do, as it is a problem with your phone.

GPS works fine in other apps, but not RunDouble. Is RunDouble broken?

In short, no. Many other apps will request GPS, or FINE grained location data, but will also request network or COURSE grained location data at the same time. Google Maps is a good example. When you open Google Map your location is shown on the screen almost immediately. It will often be quite accurate, especially if you're in range of a known wifi access point. Your rough location is pinpointed based of what the phone already knows - which cell tower it is connected to, and which others are in frequency range; and any local wifi hotspots (including the one in your home!).

That location is great for zooming a map to show you the right area, but it's useless for RunDouble. RunDouble needs to know precisely how far you have run, and how fast you are moving. The COURSE location data is not accurate enough to do this, so RunDouble needs to wait until you have a FULL GPS fix.

Now, getting a full GPS fix is not easy. There are several things that need to happen:

 1) Your phone doesn't know which GPS satellites are in view, so it has to scan all of the frequencies until it finds one - actually until it finds at least 4.
 2) Now, your phone needs to know precise information about the location of the satellites. This is broadcast by the satellites themselves, but it can take up to 15 minutes to get the full file. Even works, if a car drives past, or someone turns on their microwave, and a bit of this file gets lost, then it has to start again.
 3) Finally, your phone can time the signals from the satellites, and calculate your position.

Most phones now use a system called A-GPS, which means that the data that needs to be downloaded from the satellite can be downloaded more reliably using your data connection. It will use either a wifi or GPRS/EDGE/3G/4G data connection. If you make sure you have a good data connections when you start the GPS searching, then you stand a much better chance of getting a GPS fix.

My distance is completely wrong when I run indoors / around my garden, why?

There are two reasons why GPS cannot be used when indoors or in a confined space such as your garden:

  • GPS signals are very weak, and very susceptible to bouncing around off nearby objects such as walls, buildings, ceilings etc. This means that you will either not get a signal at all, or the readings will be inaccurate. You may lost signal part with through your run, or it may just dart around all over the place. It's not going to provide any useful data.
  • Small circuits don't give very accurate distances. RunDouble samples your distance every 5 seconds, which means if you are running a very small circuit it will chop off all of the corners, making your run look much smaller. Also the accuracy of GPS is not high enough to be able to accurately pinpoint your position in a small circuit - small errors become amplified, whereas on a long straight run they have a tendency to cancel each other out. 

You also need to be actually moving - using GPS while you're on a treadmill is never going to work. Some running apps will use the on-board accellerometer to detect how many strides you have taken, but this is so unreliable that we decided not to do it. Your stride can vary so much depending on the speed and gradient you are running on, and we just didn't want to feed inaccurate data to the runner.

I'm getting wildly inaccurate pace/distance readings, what can I do?

RunDouble doesn't actually control the GPS hardware on your phone. It is entirely controlled by Android, and the GPS drives supplied by the hardware manufacturer. RunDouble does 2 things: first it ask Android to start delivering location updates to the app; then it takes these updates, calculates the distance between them, and records them on the map. That's all. RunDouble doesn't manipulate the points in any way - so if you see wildly inaccurate distance/pace, or the map doesn't accurately reflect your route, then it has to be a problem with the GPS system on your phone.

As first step I would recommend restarting your phone immediately before your run. If that doesn't help, then resetting your GPS using GPS Status MAY help:

  1. Download GPS Status from Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.eclipsim.gpsstatus2
  2. Open up GPS Status, tap the "Menu" or "..." button on your phone.
  3. Tap "Tools" -> "Manage A-GPS state" -> "Reset"

Other than this, it could be manu factors effecting the accuracy of the data. It could be terrain, nearby buildings, trees, cloud, haze, rain, electrical storm, solar flares.

I stop getting distance updates part way through my run. Why?

This could be for two reasons:
  1. Loss of signal. There's not much we can do about this. If you lose signal, you will stop receiving updates. 
  2. Power saving features of your phone. 
 If it is being caused by the power saving features on your phone, it may be possible to do something about it. Check your phone settings to see if there are any battery saver/extender settings or apps. Make sure you disable any power saving features. One that was specifically drawn to our attention is SMARTACTIONS on Motorola phones - this app specifically disables GPS when the screen has been switched off for a short period of time.

If you cannot find any power saving option, then it may be possible to keep your phone away using the screen lock built into RunDouble. Once you have started your run, tap the "Controls" button, then tap the button with a padlock symbol. This will lock your screen and leave it switched on. This will normally prevent your phone from disabling the GPS chip.

GPS stopped working in the last update, can you fix it?

This is a question we are asked every time we release a new version of RunDouble, even if we haven't changed the GPS code in any way. It is very unlikely that we have done something that has broken GPS - we generally leave the GPS code well alone, and don't mess with it. Normally it is the case that you've started having trouble getting a GPS signal, and it happened to coincide with one of our releases.

We have in the past occasionally disrupted GPS functionality for a small group of users, but in these cases we normally manage to make an update available within 24 hours. Please read the previous questions in this article to ensure you have tested all of the possibilities.

What is GPS filtering? Should I switch it off?

Occasionally users would see GPS 'glitches'. Their route would be mostly correct, except for maybe one point in the middle which was 10s or 100s of miles away. That single point would ruin the stats for the whole run. GPS filtering aims to ignore any points which would suggest that you had super-human powers. It basically checks that the data being passed from the GPS chip looks sane and normal. This is not a magic bullet - if your GPS is behaving erratically, it won't make it better, but in some cases it will stop a glitch from ruining your run.

Should you switch it off? Probably not. We made it optional, in case some users were having problems with their GPS tracks. If you find you GPS track is missing a lot of points, you might like to turn it off, to see if it helps. The chances are that the results could be even worst that with filtering switched on.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Beta testing

Once again we're looking for more beta testers to help test our next major release.

This update will add some hotly-requested features
  • Data entry for treadmill runs
  • Display of distance and pace in list of completed runs
  • Customisable announcements
  • Some usability improvements
  • Further UI enhancements
  • Addition of mph and kph as an alternative to min/mile and min/km pace.

We really want to be sure that this works on as many devices as possible before we go ahead and release it to the whole community. However, that means that we need a few guinea-pigs - people who don't mind the odd hiccup here and there, and want early access to the new features.

Anyone can join, however in order to help report problems to us, ideally you will need to:

  • Be able to use 'adb logcat' or aLogcat (available from the market), to report problems to us.
  • Have a good technical understanding of Android (though you don't need to be a developer).
  • Be prepared to occasionally abort a run, because of a bug in the software.

If you think you fit the bill, and would like to get involved, please join the Google+ community here: https://plus.google.com/communities/103008083347264500250

Tell us what phone you have, and what version of Android you are running. We'll be in touch within a few days to tell you how you can download the latest beta release.

Happy running!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Two-way Sync Now Available!

We've been busy working on a new version! One of the most hotly requested features, two-way sync is included. 

This is a pretty major change, and we've done everything we can to make sure it works as designed. We've also had a team of beta testers using this update for the last few weeks. However, in the world of Android there are a lot of different phones, screen sizes, operator tweaks, and versions of Android to deal with. Please bear with us while we iron out any kinks. As ever we'll do our best to respond to any major issues as quickly as possible. 

If you have problems, please check Google Play for an update, because we may have one available already - often when we fix a problem people continue reporting it for weeks after, when all you need to do is download an update.

There's lots of other goodies in this release:

Two way sync with the website
It is now possible to download runs that have previously been uploaded to the website. Deletions and updates to privacy settings will also be synced between the phone and site.

New privacy settings
There is now a fine grained privacy setting for both the plan and the map. This can be edited independently for each run. The "friends" options currently has no meaning, and will be hidden before the final release.

Improvements to the indicators on the plan/day chooser screen. 
This now better matches the theme of the app, and now also indicates the NEXT run you should complete, along with the runs you have completed.

New 'digital' font on the run screen.
The counters on the run screen now use a digital watch typeface. This it to improve the aesthetics and user experience, but also it is a more compact font to prepare for future improvements to the layout of the screen.

Improvements to the pace smoothing in the graph
The current method creates some erratic graphs with spikes. This is because the filter used didn't cope well with the intentional pace changes. We've completely changed the filter, and it should work much better.

Media controls now work with some external players
Any music player that supports remote-key controls (which should be most popular players) will now work with the in-build media controls in RunDouble.

Filtering of insane run coordinates
We're trying to filter out GPS glitches that would suggest the runner is running faster than a human can possibly run. This is not easy, but we think we have something that will work.

New FREE timed fun runs
We've added a range of timed fun runs, which are available free of charge with the trial version. Even if you never upgrade you still get all of the fun runs for free forever.

Plus lots of other bugfixes and minor improvements.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Beta Testers Please!

Over the next few weeks we're gearing up for two major releases, and we need some more beta testers to help check them over.

The first will add two-way sync, allowing you to download runs from the website after you get a new phone or factory reset your phone. We've relied on using the Google Cloud Backup service until now, however, some users don't enable it, some phones are too old to have it enabled, and in some cases, manufacturers (cough... HTC) actually seem to have removed it from their 'skinned' versions of Android.

Of course, users don't know the politics or technical details, and so the blame normally falls with us. As part of this, we're introducing finer grained privacy controls for both the map, and the whole plan, and will also allow editing of these controls from the phone and website. You'll also find better support for multiple accounts (for those who share a phone with their partner), though this is still a work in progress.

The second update will add some hotly-requested features - data entry for treadmill runs, an options for portrait screen layout, customisable announcements, elevation data, and some usability and GPS filtering improvements.

We really want to be sure that this works on as many devices as possible before we go ahead and release it to the whole community. However, that means that we need a few guinea-pigs - people who don't mind the odd hiccup here and there, and want early access to the new features.

Anyone can join, however in order to help report problems to us, ideally you will need to:

  • Be able to use 'adb logcat' or aLogcat (available from the market), to report problems to us. 
  • Have a good technical understanding of Android (though you don't need to be a developer). 
  • Be prepared to occasionally abort a run, because of a bug in the software.
If you think you fit the bill, and would like to get involved, please email us at: beta@rundouble.com. Tell us what phone you have, and what version of Android you are running. We'll be in touch within a few days to tell you how you can download the latest beta release.

Happy running!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Broken Update

We recently uploaded an update which broke RunDouble on many user's phones.

This was due to a change in part of the Android Development Kit (ADK), which Google supplies to developers. It meant that the app ran perfectly in our development environment, but when we pushed a version to the Android Market / Google Play, it didn't work for many users.

I'm pleased to say that we made a fixed version available within an hour, though it may take a little while to become visible to all users. To update, just go to "My Apps" in Google Play, and you should see the new version.

If you've left us negative feedback, we fully understand. These things happen, and most people will only leave feedback when they hit a bump, rather than when they are pleased. So I would urge you to update your feedback if RunDouble is now working ok for you.

As always, please feel free to contact us at help@rundouble.com if there is anything we can do for you.