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Review of day 1 of droidcon uk 2010 (barcamp sessions)

Below is a short overview of some of the stuff that I saw a droidcon today (Day 1: Barcamp), I was hoping to write more but it’s late and I can always update this post. Apoloigies to those who I did not manage to get the names of, I can update this post when I find out who you are 😛

As this is quite a long post here is a mini table of contents to speed it up:


Barcamp schedule (sorry for crap pic)

Barcamp schedule (sorry for crap pic)

Git on android

This was a really surprising talk, just by the name it’s a little confusing as to why this would be useful but it was a really good talk. A guy from who works at the guardian (need to find name) walked through all the problems he came across when trying to use git on android and how using open source goodness he could simplify a lot of trouble by simply extending pre-written code and even create work arounds for troublesome bugs.

It was a very interesting talk just to see how everything had fitted together and to see a demo of some sexy git-based syncing, including using some ssh agents securely.

Swing me

Draft still…too tired to write.
A single UI widget toolset that can easily be ported to other operating systems. Uses guestures pinch zoom all the things you would be used to. Non-android specific code and can specify protocols nicely to cooperate with different devices. Removes hassle on behalf of developer, debug using xml, then switch to binary mode for performance
Difference between keys on certain phones… assign buttons, like “back” as a button on phones with dedicated back buttons ie nokia soft key hidden and at bottom, android will hide it and use android hardware back button. IE. unhidden back button not hidden (good solving of problem)

Problems with accessing core bits of anroid but private/protected stuff. Radio easy but problem with tick box.
Missing clipboard (almost finished, work on android, symbian, desktop… lol @ apple)
Still use native android based stuff

Google Bootcamp 1

So there were four google guys present to answer the questions and complaints of the developers and one to pass the microphone around.

Google Barcamp 1

Google Barcamp 1

Someone asked when Gingerbread was going to be released and Reto Meier answered by not confirming anything regarding the release date, be it this year or next. He even went as far as to say that he couldn’t confirm gingerbread’s existence, despite the rather large statue outside building 44

Roman was asked a question about the Action bar and if it was going to become a standard widget in the android apk, he said that it wasn’t currently part of the widget set and couldn’t confirm when it would be added.

Reto mentioned about in app purchasing and said google was looking into other method to monetise can’t comment on specifics. However in app purchasing currently is against the google TOS, so you might want to be careful if your app has this and is distributed via the google market. Of course this is fine to do if released on to another app store such as and app, doubtful that orange and vodaphone app stores would be so generous.

Google tv was mentioned and how to write android on it. Currently only html 5 / web stuff but as it is based on android the plan is to be compatible. So we are waiting for compatability hopefully sometime next year. The google tv’s should receive market via OTA updates so there will probably be no need for OEM manufactures to get in the way. Media server such as a upnp server, status is currently unknown.

In app google analytics was mentioned and another barcamp talk was refered to which unfortunatly I missed, if anyone went to this and has written it up I am happy to add the link in here.

In app logic – services/content providers global = bad, shared prefs, instance state mainly for UI shiz. setters/getters saved pref/database on logic. check if its been set etc. roman/reto

Someone briefly asked about adverts without using the internet permission and instead using an addon/plugin which did access the internet. Currently it seems this is not possible at the moment but is something they may look into in the future.

Have I missed off any of the other topics discussed during this bootcamp, if so let me know!

Alternative Markets

Draft still…too tired to write.
Vodaphone – incentive – random draw to win a htc legend. 30 70 split
Orange – 30 70 again (yawn) want good apps, as many as possible pay via phone bill, no registeration, france/uk last year. need several countries/languages arabic/african etc.
Nokia – no alternative operators, content agregator, locilzation/adaptation/uploads etc… Sensing, in app billing

Individual / OS devs fetching market data/pulling to diff apps sotres as we dont have the time to move to diff places

App stores share with other stores, very nice
Orange apps tied to network you lose them if you move 🙁

Meta-Market Model

This talk tied in very nicely with problems regarding using alternative markets discussed in the previous talk. Mark Murphey (Commonsware) discussed an alternative to writing open letter to google (as was discussed via email) about the android market. He created a brain stroming session on the market problems and what can we can do as a community to help improve this for ourselves (devs) and for users.

Mark Murphey Meta Markets

Mark Murphey Meta Markets

Some of the good problems highlighted by people were:

  • Comment spam, and no way to “Reacting to punters” or dealing with users who are “dissing” all apps
  • Not enough screenshots / descriptions / add videos etc…
  • Searching the market is terrible (My contribution)
  • Analytics
  • Email messages about cancelled users every time
  • Refund policy too leaniant
  • Option to explain the reason behind each permission as users don’t know what’s going on when you can’t fit an explanation in the description
  • Better rating levels, UI/UX etc.
  • Downloads don’t work

The market on android is improving at a “Glacial pace” and even though there was some sexy stuff demonstrated at Google IO 5 months ago we are still waiting to see the improvements, such as a web based market that can push applications to devices.

There was also a good discussion about the websites that scrape data from the android market (appbrain, cryket, androidzoom)which is kinda sketchy territory as it is probably against TOS of android, kinda counting as pirated data. There is even a google code project to fetch the data from the android market.

Data goes in data doesn’t come out
Pirated data not supported by data cant rape data from market.

So what makes this presentation more than just a compaint about the android market?
Market is a closed club, OEM’s who don’t agree to the rule book don’t have access. And simply creating a app store for each carrier/OEM etc. isn’t a viable solution which Mark summarised with a brilliant quote: “those who complain about fragmentation you ain’t seen nothing yet”.

So Mark has come up with an idea about having a single open feed of android applications that all the market applications can hook into. So this would work as some sort of extended atom/rss feed (just add namespace) with open access which could benefit from the standards introduced and the maturity of the software already written. This sounds like a great idea but will obviously need a large amount of momentum to succeed, Mark is obviously a major player in the android field and this proposal was backed up by the developer of AndAppStore.

Mark also mentioned that even market owners who were unwilling could be worked-around using a firefox plugin to remove most of the leg work. So this would mean that developers can have a single place where they have the app description, screen shots, all the minimums required for android market but more for those who support more.

To wrap up mark said that instead of us complaining at google to fix the market we should fix the market problems ourselves. At the end of the session Mark was collecting email addresses to create a mailing list with regards to the start of this process.

How I do it

Kevin McDonagh of Novoda gave some brilliant tips and tricks for writing android applications. I’ve written some of them up, but hopefully he will publish his whole list online (hint hint…)

public void onLowMemory(){
// Code to execute on low memory
// Free up unused drawables etc.
  • Use weak references
  • Avoid Generics, use primitives where possible
  • Clean up drawables onPause()
  • Use the heirachy viewer

Kevin also mentioned some stuff which I’m sure I should have come across before but for some reason I was still oblivious to.

Extending styles to avoid having to retype android:height=”wrap_content” etc. on every item.

There was some good discussion on the conventions for android:versionCode and android:versionName and someone mentioned very helpfully that versionName appears in the market description and is limited only to 255 chars, which means you can add additional versioning changes into this (shown below a screen shot of nexus revamped in the market with the versionName highlighted).

android:versionName displayed in android market

android:versionName displayed in android market

Apps for good
Apps for good is a charity that gets a group of people between the ages of 18 and 25 and gives them the resources and skills required to create an application that can benefit society. Once students have finished the course they often go on to mentor the next batch of students.

The apps they have already produced on this scheme are Stop and Search StudentVoice StudioPhly and they discussed a up and coming app they are working on currently so that the balance of an oyster card can be checked via a android device so that you are never caught out.

They are looking for help so if you are feeling charitable I am sure they would appreciate your input or if you know of anyone 18-25 who would like to go on the course, please inform them of the opportunity.

Google Barcamp 2

Ok, so this barcamp was delayed and I think alot of the better questions were already asked, that in combination with my laptop battery dying mean I have less notes and worse memory about this one.

Google Barcamp day 2

Google Barcamp day 2

Bundling several apps into one installer apk, currently not possible. Could be achieved by having a program that sends intents to install other apps, or by having one large app with serveal launcher items in the app menu.

Tips from tech hub:

  • Devs arn’t always design focussed, should assume users are complete idiots and don’t understand anything.
  • Ported apps don’t act in an android style – back button doesn’t close etc, as devs don’t understand application lifecycle

App Circus
So app circus had a bit of a disappointing number of contestants, about 6 I think it was in total hopefully next time there will be more. The winners were

  • 1st: Swiftkey
  • 2nd: — Blind something? Sorry forgot the proper name
  • 3rd: ProductPay


Coding in a hammock and drinking beer

Coding in a hammock and drinking beer

I also met a lot of very interesting people and plan on meeting a whole load more tomorrow!

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