Moving back to Android in the raw

Well, in truth, I never moved away but the first Android Application I developed seemed such a daunting task that I decided to use a high level development environment. I chose Windev Mobile 16 as it seemed well established and creates an abstraction of the Android environment which can be manipulated using thei own programming language and tools. Theoretically, the same code can then form the basis of Web or other implementations (in a future release even iOS I believe).

The system arrived and I installed it – the fact that it comes with a licence dongle is not surprising considering its £900 cost but the fact that the dongle cannot be replaced seems somewhat harsh … fortunately I have neither lost nor damaged mine but the fear of it was always at the back of my mind.

The first thing I found was that the documentation was not great … it was translated from French (no real problems) and covered Android in only quite superficial terms 0 there are, however, a number of working example apps that demonstrate many basic functions. Getting set up takes a while, you must still download and install the Android SDK but once all that was working you have an emulator and the ability to create apk files or install directly to a connected phone.

And so I started to develop … Many things really are very easy, even nested tab sets can be simply drawn on screen and filled with a few clicks … getting around the new programming language is not too hard either. But then I started to notice some issues.

The delivered system would often crash out, normally with some unspecified framework error and rarely in the same place twice. Ok, this could be my coding but there was no clue as to what was going on.

The sql ran wildly differently in the emulator and on the phone; only 1 field allowed in the order by clause, failure of the selection criteria in a delete, failure of replace … the list went on, in the end I could only use the database for quite simplistic things without something going wrong.

Window sizing and gravity worked completely differently on the phone and emulator, in fact the system often misplaced elements on the phone when they were clearly correctly placed in the emulator and development screens .. usually simply recompiling (without change) restored things but such randomness was deeply annoying.

Support was very slow (weeks rather than hours) and often deeply unhelpful … quite Gaelic one might say 🙂

Finally, I wanted to integrate a complex existing java library and it all seemed very complex – indeed, I’m still not convinced it would have been possible.

And so, I came to the conclusion that I should bite the bullet and switch to direct programming of the Android SDK. This was largely prompted by Moodstocks releasing a new version of their fabulous image recognition library for Android which uses a local database to provide ‘instant’ recognition – however, even that carrot did not help me make the decision lightly as I have been a programmer for 43 years and have so far managed to side-step Java completely … hee hee. I have, however, become quite a devote of Eclipse (for PHP development) so that’s where I started.

Adding Android elements to my Eclipse install was an easy first step and I already had the SDK installed so I was pretty rapidly able to get the Moodstocks examples (which come as eclipse projects) up and running … to my delight, when I had issues, the Moodstocks staff were on chat all day and support was instant and intelligent (even when some of the questions weren’t!) – and yes, they too are French but are a pure delight to deal with!

What amazed me was that many of the tools I had paid for before were now sitting in front of me for free – less pretty I’ll grant you but a whole lot more functional and with immediate access to the engine room should I need it. What’s more, the abundance of worked examples available from a simple search meant that the steep learning curve proved pretty easy to climb and whilst I am no expert I think I can now produce reasonably competent, and complex, applications … importantly,. I have been able to incorporate and modify the likes of the Moodstocks library.

I make no claims to be a designer, but the UKTW Android App V2 is a whole lot better, faster and more stable than V1 … and I finally feel in control of its development … your mileage may vary but in future its the Android SDK and Eclipse for me every time