In-app sound is turned off in BlueRail Trains app for BlueRailDCC

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At present we have in-app sounds turned off when you use the BlueRail Trains app to control BlueRailDCC boards. You may be wondering why we have done this.

To build this technology, the guys at BlueRail have spent thousands of hours over the course of 8 years. Making new technology for trains is not a lucrative business. The model railroad market is small, and the hobbyists want as much functionality as they can, and they don’t want to pay a lot of money for products. People who make model train technology understand any income they received will be dwarfed by the amount of time spent developing the product. It is a labor of love, and we do it because we love the hobby and want model railroaders (and our friends) to have excellent train control.

BlueRail began developing the BlueRail app for the Blue Horse 8 years ago, and it released in 2015. 5 years later, people have contacted BlueRail complaining that the iPhone they purchased in 2020 is having trouble playing sounds for the $75 board they purchased 5 years ago. Our programmers and team spend hours investigating this, and to date the problems have always been on the user end. But one of these days, Apple is going to make a change that affects in-app sounds. 10 years from now, someone will contact BlueRail and complain that their iPhone 30 is having problems with in-app sounds (because of a change Apple made somewhere down the line).

Its one thing to ask your highly-skilled programmer friends to spend thousands of unpaid hours developing a cool train technology so hobbyists can enjoy it; its another to ask that friend to support app updates for the rest of their life. Another example, at the end of 2019 the sound code library used in the BlueRail Android app changed its license from free to a pay model. To prevent Android users from being disappointed, BlueRail paid (out of pocket) a contractor Android programmer to make changes to the app.

If we turn on in-app sounds for the BlueRailDCC boards, users will want that sound to run forever. If the sounds stop working in 10 years, they will want the BlueRail programmers to come out of retirement and promptly fix the problem, on a project that the programmers donated thousands of free hours to develop.

Instead, we have modified our protocol so we can control DCC sound decoders, which are available in a wide variety of prices and qualities. Users have the option of spending as much (or little) as they want on a sound solution, and if they don’t want to spend a penny, the board is also capable of operating without a sound decoder.

I understand some people will be upset that we have made this decision. There will be negative comments posted. I very much hope those people will read this article, and better understand our position. And we hope many people enjoy the technology we have spent all these hours developing for many years to come.