Starry Night 7: Motivation, Process, Future

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    As many of you have noticed, we're back with a brand new version of Starry Night! Rather than list all of the cool new features, I thought I'd take a moment to make clear our motivations for the changes in SN, our process getting to where we are now, and plans for the future.

    For many of our loyal, longstanding users, the new user interface is a big change from what they're used to. Our motivation for the change was simple: the interface had gotten to the point where users were spending more time looking at (or looking for!) controls, than looking at the sky. We needed something new, cleaner, less obtrusive.

    In our redesign, we followed the general philosophy that the UI should "be there when you need it, disappear when you don't."  The focus should always be on the sky view, never the controls. This for example, is why we moved the Find pane from the left to the right... in general, people read left-to-right. Left is more prominent, so the sky view should always be at the left.

    Our move to a "Universal Search" function was similarly motivated. 

    We found that over the years, so many of the great new features that we had added were buried under layers of user interface, that not only were they hard to use, but people often never found them in the first place.

    With the ability to do a textual search for control items (not just named objects in the night sky), we have opened up a host of existing features to users who didn't even know about them! No longer do you need to know exactly what setting you're looking for, open the Options panel, visually search for it, and click to make a change... simply search for the word (or even a related word) that you're looking for, and you'll probably find it.

    While I think we have succeeded in many, many ways, we still have much work to do.

    Going forward, we plan on continuing with the idea of "less is more." Not in terms of what you can do (indeed, we are adding features and data) but in what ways you are distracted from what you are doing. Think: more of what you want, less of what you don't.

    While we have released it into the wild, we're far from done with it. Starry Night 7 should be thought of as a journey, not a destination.

    By David Whipps

    Comments

    • Avatar
      Jeffry Turner (DaltonSkyGazer)

      I have been waiting for and anticipating new release for quite some time, I have been using SN7pro plus for some time now Beta version.  I have to say the new interface is a homerun!  I do feel like I spend way less time searching for tools and more time enjoying the software!  Great Job!

       

      J Turner

    • Avatar
      Romain Van Aelst

      I'm also very pleased with the new interface, it's a joy to use. Makes me almost forget about the bugs :)

    • Avatar
      Terrence R. Redding, Ph.D.

      Please make it easy ti import/download newly discovered objects like NEO asteroids and comets.  Other programs let you do a simple search and add by name.  That would be greatly appreciated.  I am also interested in being able to plot the local path of an object across the night sky.  For asteroid occultations we use a pre point approach in which we pre point the telescopes at the point in the sky hours before the occultation event and then record the occultation without touching the scope as the occulted star passes through the FOV.  It would be very handy if pre point charts with the local path could be printed from SN7.

      Thank you.

       

      Terry

    • Avatar
      Dave Whipps

      All,

      Remember that the bugs will be fixed shortly, and that the features will keep coming. There's nothing better than your feedback to help us make good decisions.

    • Avatar
      Terrence R. Redding, Ph.D.

      If the pre point charts could also include a FOV, that would be even better.

    • Avatar
      Thomas Fioriglio

      Been using Starry Night Pro for years.  Excited about the update.  Will there be a Pro and Enthusiast Version 7 coming out as well?

    • Avatar
      Dave Whipps

      Absolutely. We plan on releasing Starry Night Pro and Starry Night Enthusiast in a few weeks.

       

    • Avatar
      Jeffry Turner (DaltonSkyGazer)

      I am continuing with Beta testing it looks like you are doing great job releasing bug fixes to date.  I am really looking  forward to upcoming 7.02 version which addresses the equipment list function issues.  One thing I would like to see would be a more "traditional" forum where we are better able to correspond.  I think this would very helpful for all parties.

       

       

    • Avatar
      Uffdaken

      Started with SNP 6 Plus. Didn't like the font size on the tabs over on the left side. Love the new UI for SNP 7 Plus. Interested in Double star research. Would like to see a Position Angle (P.A) tool to go with the Separation tool in the future. Thanks.

    • Avatar
      Jan Friberg

      What will be the difference between version 7 of Pro plus and Pro? What will be the price of Starry Night Pro 7?

      Will it have a reduced initial price like the current pro plus has now?

    • Avatar
      Romain Van Aelst

      The more I use Starry Night the more I realise it's North American centric? Are there any plans to make it more international? Offering SN in different languages, making functions international like cloud coverage, etc?

      Also, will SN include a global map of night sky pollution as describe in this article

      http://www.darksky.org/assets/documents/2001cinzanofirstworldatlas.pdf

      It would be nice if Starry Night would take this map in consideration to render the sky, based on your location. Also, it would be helpful to pick the perfect spot for star parties.

      here a map of Belgian light pollution:

      http://www.maartenvanleenhove.be/sites/all/SQM/SQM.htm

      As you can see, it's a disaster, lights every where. To find a good spot we have to travel to France or north of Germany.

    • Avatar
      Rifdhi Razeen

      What's the point... too expensive

    • Avatar
      Nick Beer

      Very nice and pleasing to use interface on my Mac. I've a 2009 MacBook Pro and works well. I've 7.0.2 but occasionaly crashes, not sure why. However overall I'm very pleased with the software and look forward to using it with my soon to be purchased refractor.

    • Avatar
      Vermaak

      First of All; thank you for the great upgrade!!!

      In the last 5 days since I upgraded to pro 7, I already found some of the features that were "hidden" in previous versions. I just love the global search feature.

      I am using Starry Night on a Windows 8 touch compatible laptop.

      My suggestion for a future update is to include pinch-zoom and gestures when using a touch device. I find that it is currently very time consuming to go back to using the mouse/touch pad while navigating using the touch screen.

      Also include a touch keyboard in the universal search when using a touch screen. (or open the default Windows touch keyboard) when there is focus on the search text box.

      Additionally, is it possible to separate some of the UI elements when using multiple monitors? I.e. I would like to have one screen dedicated to a full screen sky view and then be able to drag the global search, menus, graph etc. to a secondary monitor, the same way you can do with the Telescope Control.

      I can't wait to see what future updates there will be!

    • Avatar
      RC Jonson

      You wrote, "...over the years, so many of the great new features that we had added were buried under layers of user interface, that not only were they hard to use, but people often never found them in the first place."

      Unfortunately, you seem to have made the problem worse in V7.  The search feature is better, but the user interface is horrible without the button bar at the top of the screen.  I REALLY want the button bar back.  At least make it an option for those who want to switch it on and use it.

    • Avatar
      Dave Whipps

      @RC Jonson

      Many many moons ago, Starry Night supported the idea of "floating palettes" where most os the UI would be in separate windows that could be optionally shown or hidden. We've considered adding something like this back, which I think might solve the problem for you (especially if the buttons were configurable.)

      Would you agree?

    • Avatar
      RC Jonson

      You also wrote, "...the UI should "be there when you need it, disappear when you don't."  The focus should always be on the sky view, never the controls."

      You've failed on this too.  I used the button bar at the top of the screen ALL THE TIME.  According to your own philosophy, the button bar should be there when and if I want it.  I agree that the focus should be on the sky, but Starry Night is NOT the sky; that's overhead.  Starry Night is a TOOL, and tools require controls.  Without controls, tools (and Starry Night) are worthless.

    • Avatar
      RC Jonson

      Dave,

      Thanks for answering so fast.  Yes, I would absolutely love anything that gives the ability to show the UI portions that are frequently used.

    • Avatar
      Bob

      I cannot get it to work. 

      tried update video driver, new pref list, and program still does not work.

       

    • Avatar
      Robert Nowell

      First off, Dave, I would like to thank you for this post. It is great to hear the motivation and goals behind a release.

      Next I would like to thank you and all the Starry Night staff for their excellent work and a great product!

       

      Now I and I am supposing a number of users like me are not upgrading for the moment because my OS version of choice is no longer supported as of v7. I would like to ask that the minimum requirements include Mac OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard... here is the rationale...

       

      Approximately 10-14% of the Mac user base still uses 10.6.8 so I am wondering why Starry Night is leaving us behind. Parallels  new release of v9 doesn't so why is Starry Night Pro leaving 10.6.8 Snow Leopard users behind?

       

      Marketshare as of June 2014 for Windows OS versions and Mac OS Versions are listed below.

       

      In the Windows OS market the share breaks out as follows:

      Windows OS All         100.0000%

      Windows 7                    55.2278%

      Windows XP                 27.6521%

      Windows 8.1                   7.2217%

      Windows 8                      6.4788%

      Windows Vista                3.2230%

      Windows NT                   0.1530%

      Windows 2000                0.0328%

       

      In the Mac OS market it breaks out as follows:

      Mac OS All                   100.0000%

      Mac OS X 10.9              58.7798%

      Mac OS X 10.6              13.9881%

      Mac OS X 10.8              11.9048%

      Mac OS X 10.7              11.0119%

      Mac OS X 10.5                2.5298%

      Mac OS X 10.1                0.8929%

      Mac OS X 10.4                0.7440%

       

       

      It makes good sense to make Starry Night Pro 7 work with Mac OS X 10.6.8 as it would increase your Mac user base availability by 14%!!!

       

      I hope the next update to Starry Night Pro 7 will reduce the min. requirements to Mac OS X 10.6.8 at a minimum so that i and other users can take advantage of it. Increasing your potential Mac customers for a version by up to 14% seems like a good use of resources. Finally, I would like to mention that Parallels v9 just was released relatively recently and included 10.6.8 in the min. reqs. They, I am sure, looked into the efficacy of doing this.

       

      A long time Starry Night owner.

    • Avatar
      Romain Van Aelst

      @Robert Nowell

      Usually when an application doesn't support OS X 10.6.8 it's because the application is 64bit. There can be other reasons too, but I want to keep it short.

      ST Pro 7 is a 32bit only application, so one can indeed wonder why isn't OS X 10.6.8 supported and why isn't there a 64bit version?

    • Avatar
      Robert Nowell

      @Romain Van Aeist

      Mac OS X 10.6.x Snow Leopard can run as 64 bit and 32 bit and can handle 32 and 64 bit apps. There must be another reason. Hopefully the developer will comment.

    • Avatar
      Romain Van Aelst

      @Robert Nowell

      Yes it can, but it's not on by default unless you're using an Xserve or Mac Pro (early 2008), do you? On iMacs en Macbook Pros you have to enable the 64 bit kernel, hold 6 & 4 while starting up  or edit a plist, and you're machine needs to be capable of that. If you bought you machine before 2008, it will be able to install OS X 10.6.8 but will not be capable to run in 64 bit. And if you run you're machine in 64 bit, be aware that there are plenty of things that do not, for example device drivers and kernel extensions.

      On the other hand if you can install 10.7 and beyond, then it's the opposite situation. Everything runs in 64 bit with support for 32 bit applications. OS X 10.7 will only install on machines with 64 bit CPU's. Can you upgrade to 10.7?

      in short:

      10.6.8 is 32 bit with limited support for 64 bit (it was just in introduction for developers to the future but not a requirement)

      OS X 7 is 64 bit and 32 bit still supported, but on it's way out. That's why I ask, when will there be a ST Pro 64 bit version? I don't want them to wait the last minute and do a hasty conversion.

    • Avatar
      Robert Nowell

      @Romain Van Aeist

      In my case I have been running with the 64 bit kernel on machines that handle it since before 10.6.8 which is what most people on 10.6 run now. Comparatively speaking Lion was a much less stable release and even more substantial for may users was the loss of Rosetta. I think that Rosetta is probably the biggest reason people on 10.6.8 haven't migrated to Lion. Anyway, if it is possible, making the next release of SN7 compatible with Snow Leopard 10.6.8 would open the door for most of the second largest group of Mac users (abt 14% as of June 2014). I know that such a change would motivate me to move to SN7. I too think the writing is on the wall for 32 bit apps. It would also be a good idea to convert SN7 to 64 bit. But that brings up another point, since SN7 is only 32 bit, it should be able to run even on non-64 bit  machines for users with Snow Leopard and possibly Leopard (but Leopard comprises only abt 3% as of June 2014). Thus I am hoping that SN7 can be upgraded in a sub-release to run on Snow Leopard and also to run as a 64 bit app as well as the current 32 bit app. Again, I am hopeful that the developers will comment on this.

    • Avatar
      Dave Whipps

      A few comments on the OS X 10.6 statistics:

      - Unfortunately (!) OS X still only represents about %18 of our installed base. So when we're talking about the hours we as a company have to invest to support any OS, we have to modify by that number. (Sux, I know, but we have limited resources and have to favour "astronomical features development" over "legacy OS support.")

      - OS X 10.6 is a great OS (I still have it installed on a machine here) but it's now 4 versions old, and it becomes onerous to have to support it when Yosemite (making it 5 versions old!) is just around the corner.

      - Finally, OSes are now basically free to upgrade. (Maybe $30 or so to get you to 10.7 first!?) And while your hardware might not support the OS, older hardware will have an increasingly difficult time keeping up with the demands of the latest and greatest SN. (Sux, again, sorry.)

      A comment on 64-bit (OSX):

      This is actually in development this instant! I have a developer on it right now. We should be 64-bit in the next few days (in Beta) but will need a few weeks of testing to ensure that all of our Frameworks and Plugins will work correctly.

      Thanks for all of the great discussion here. Keep it coming!

       

       

    • Avatar
      Romain Van Aelst

      @Dave Whipps

      Thanks for the heads up. It's great news to hear that a 64 bit version is coming.

    • Avatar
      Robert Nowell

      Thank Dave for the reply... IT is GREAT to hear that SN7 is going 64 bit!!!

       

      As for the Snow Leopard compatibility... 14-18% of your customer base is potential 14-18% additional revenue, which I don't think being 64 bit can add the potential for. Remember too that Parallels' latest version (v9) does include their Snow Leopard customers. It has worked for them in increasing their market share and the adoption of their latest version both of which are negatively affected by not accommodating Snow Leopard users. I was using VMware Fusion and prefer it because I don't have to buy a copy for each machine in my house, but I went with Parallels because they support Snow Leopard.

      Another consideration is the cost of supporting SN6 vs accommodating Snow Leopard and bringing more of your user base in alignment with SN7 where you want to focus your development efforts.

      Finally, it isn't just the cost of the OS, it is also what the OS supports and the ancillary costs in upgrading all one's sw and getting it all stable. When you accommodate more OS revisions you make it easier for customers to migrate to the latest version of your sw. If going to SN7 leaves 14-18% of your customer base behind... is that a good business decision?

      Having said that, I understand if there are technical reasons (although I am wondering what they could be since Parallels 9 was able to accommodate 10.6 users).

      It isn't the $30 for the OS... its the $30 for the OS AND for all the apps that need to be upgraded... if all the apps were the price of upgrading the OS it would be easier... the SN7 upgrade is $70 and other products can be more or less. There is also the cost of buying new hardware as well for some users and this could be hundreds or even thousands to keep current.

      Nevertheless, it is great to hear that SN7 will be 64 bit soon.

       

    • Avatar
      Dave Whipps

      You make a lot of good points, but remember my "modifier"... it's not 14%-18% of revenue... it's 14%-18% multiplied by our percentage of customers on Macintosh. Even if I generously estimate that at %20, that means that the potential revenue gain is actually only 2.8% - 3.6%.

      That's not to say that this is all about dollars and cents, just that if we're going to use real numbers to make our arguments, that we have to use the right ones.

      We'll continue to make every effort to support as many OSes as possible, but OS X 10.6 might just not be in the cards.

      Thanks for all your comments, as always,

       

      Dave

    • Avatar
      Dredfearn

      I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Sky Safari 4 Pro for the Mac - which Simulation Curriculum also owns.  I actually think it is a better simulation program than Starry Night 7 - and is much easier to use.  (I'm not sure of the OS requirements for Sky Safari, but V1.8 probably runs on the earlier OSs.)  Simulation functionality seems pretty comparable - and it is a lot cheaper.  I have several Macs and a PC - and have moved SN7 over to my Win 8.1.1 PC - and it seems to run better there.  I am keeping Sky Safari 4 Pro on my iMac and MBA.   I also own the program for my iPad Mini Retina.  It runs very nicely on all platforms.  Its a shame that market share and costs restrict OS X development - I think the graphics and displays are better on the Macs.

      David

    • Avatar
      Alex Kent Kalel Reynolds

      Dave, why the decision to cancel Windows XP compatibility?  Since this is Open GL, it shouldn't matter which Windows OS, they should all be compatible.  Should I try installing it on Win XP anyway?  I have a Win XP desktop which has a good graphics card (Nvidia Geforce), and I have a laptop with Win 8 on it (however, good a laptop with a great graphics card is extremely expensive, so my Win 8 laptop has an Intel GMA 4500 MHD graphics and Core 2 Duo T6400, is this good enough to run Pro Plus 7?  If it isn't I'll just try to run it on my Win XP desktop that runs Pro Plus 6.4.3 and has a Q6600 quad processor and 8800GTS graphics card.

       

       

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