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April 27, 2015

Floorless Fortress is a new Arcade-Puzzle game featuring over 70 levels

Floorless Fortress is a new arcade puzzler that features a little tiny mouse-like character that is trying to escape a rather large fortress, seeing at there are over 70 stages he needs to get through safely if he plans to actually get out of there.

Players will need to guide their character through each stage, avoiding the numerous traps that are there, and possibly collecting the fruit that is also present in each stage. Once you've collected said fruit, you'll need to make your way to the door in each stage in order to proceed to the next.

Floorless Fortress Features:

- Normal mode. In each room you can find up to three fruits. Get them all and escape out of the room to be rewarded with a special power-up.
- Time mode. Escape as fast as you can and then share your time record with your friends. Are you faster than them?
- High score mode. The real challenge is the high score mode. You need to collect fruits while beating a series of rooms. The further you get the higher is your score. Share your best score with your friends and show them how good you are.
- 72 levels.
- 6 tricky traps.
- 7 power-ups.
- 3 control options. You can control the game in three different modes, depending on which one suits you better.

While Floorless Fortress can be played through normally, for those of you looking for added challenge, there is also a Time Mode and a High Score mode, both of which are pretty self-explanatory. There is also three different control setups available so you can choose what works best for you.

Floorless Fortress is available on Google Play for free and comes with optional IAPs if you want to go that route.

April 27, 2015 11:53 PM

Square Enix pushes out version 3.0 update for Heavenstrike Rivals

Square Enix has pushed out a new update for Heavenstrike Rivals that bring the game's version number up to 3.0. This update brings a slew of new features, tweaks, and bug fixes to this game. In fact there is a whole lot of new content and feature which, if you check the changelog on Google Play for this game, you won't see much of anything in the way of details covering it all.

For those of you not familiar with this game Heavenstrike Rivals is a tactics-style RPG that features both single-player and multiplayer content. The single-player content is the RPG gameplay while the multiplayer functionality is all about PvP. So, what all has come with Heavenstrike Rivals 3.0 update? Here is the real, much more detailed changelog, that goes over everything that comes with this update.

New Features:
· A new introduction sequence to PvP matches
· Streamlined battle screen UI (the Auto button has been moved and fast-forward lasts beyond the end of a turn)
· The opportunity to obtain the Prison Warden as a bonus unit with your next core pack purchase
· Easier access to Recruitment from the Squad screen
· The addition of a turn counter in PvP battles
· Potential Mage and Gunner secondary damage is highlighted in a clearer manner
· Fast forward mode stays in effect between turns once selected
· New sound effects

Bug Fixes and Tweaks:
· Improved notifications on the map for current events and PvP seasons
· Improved connectivity
· Improved error handling and restoration for making in-app purchases
· Fixed occasional hangs/crashes related to Facebook login
· Fixed a crash caused by using Cores to continue a battle during PvE
· Fixed a crash caused by having an empty gift box
· Addressed several instability issues seen when transitioning between certain screens

If you have Heavenstrike Rivals installed on your Android device of choice, you should see the update available on Google Play. If you don't, just give it a moment as it could still be propagating throughout Google Play. If you want to check this game out, you can download a copy off of Google Play for free.

April 27, 2015 11:10 PM

Google’s Patent Purchase Promotion

patent

Google has today announced a new marketplace aimed at allowing patent owners to sell their patents quickly and easily, opening on May 8th. The tech giant hopes the store will put an end to people having to work with patent trolls, streamline the process and allow sellers to set their own prices.

The post Google’s Patent Purchase Promotion appeared first on xda-developers.

by Mathew Brack at April 27, 2015 06:00 PM

Go Mobile Friendly With Google’s Mobile Madness

promo (1)

Throughout March, millions of people tuned in to Mobile Madness, a global campaign by Google to help prepare webmasters for the mobile search ranking change that went live last week. This recap includes presentations, a Q&A session, office hours, polls, tips and a 30 day challenge to go mobile-friendly.

The post Go Mobile Friendly With Google’s Mobile Madness appeared first on xda-developers.

by Mathew Brack at April 27, 2015 05:20 PM

Types of Free Reading Apps from Nook

For a while, the only way you could enjoy e-books from Barnes and Noble, one of the largest book chains in America, was to purchase and use a NOOK e-reading tablet. That has recently changed, however. The company now offers a variety of free reading apps including the native Nook that can be used with a variety of mobile devices. The new applications link users into their Nook accounts, giving readers access to Barnes and Noble’s extensive library of reading options-many of which are even free to download.

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Free Book Reading App
E-books makes sense economically, environmentally, space wise, and even for reading quality, explains the Wall Street Journal. When you download the free Nook book reading app to your smart phone, tablet, or computer, you get access to one million free digital books and a complete library of options topping out at around four million books. Whether you need textbooks for school or novels for entertainment you can purchase, store, and read your own personal library on the Nook cloud: this means that you can carry around the equivalent of a room full of books in the palm of your hand.
Some of the features that enhance the reading experience are accessibility customization, library organization, and references resources. The multi-device access to your e-book library is like having a copy of your favorite books for every place you go. The Nook e-reading app can be downloaded to the iPhone, iPad, Android smart phones and tablets, as well as PC’s and laptops.

Free Reading App for Kids
Kids are drawn to e-books because they are brightly colored, interactive, and entertaining. This attraction makes it easier to get children involved in learning and keep them in the habit of reading. USA Today notes that schools are recognizing the benefits of digital books for learning. They describe with e-books as containing extras like animation, narration, pronunciation assistance, and interactive questions games that are simply not possible to incorporate into standard printed books. Using kids reading apps at home can help prepare young children for what they will face in school and keep the brains of older students engaged in learning. Nooks reading app for kids offers some of the most popular, fun e-books on the children’s book market.

Free News Reading App
Now, more than ever, the public tunes in to hear news from across the street and around the world. Whether Pcmag.com are interested in the lives of super-stars. Sports stats, politics, or international affairs, the information you want is out there, on TV, in radio broadcasts, and on the web notes WebCast.com. News reading apps help you condense all of your favorite news platforms into one convenient, mobile setting. You can download a fee app from Nook straight to your Nook e-reader, smart phone, or tablet device. Once the app is downloaded you can subscribe to your favorite newspapers from around the country, listen to live videos of news reports, hear your favorite radio personality, or even get instant alerts of weather and traffic updates. Having the news one hand wherever you go can help you stay informed of events and plan your day to safely avoid hazards from inclement weather or bad traffic. The benefits of using an e-news source are practically limitless.

Free Comic Reading App
PC Magazine explains that there are several great reasons to switch to enjoying your digital comics via and comic book reading app like the one offered by Barnes and Noble. One of the best reasons is that you can carry and read your comic anywhere, anytime without having to fear messing up your copy with smudges, drips from your coffee, or wrinkles from stuffing it in your bag. Digital comic book reading apps even enhance the reading experience by allowing you to view the comic one panel at a time, zooming in to look at the artwork. Nook’s version of the comic reading app even simulates a rolling page turn when you touch the top right hand corner of the page, just like you would get when turning a printed page-the graphics are stunning. In addition to these reader friendly features, digital readers give you access to a wider variety of comics, including independently published comics, lesser known small publishers, and the two best known publishers: Marvel and DC. Whether you like the classic heroes or newer storylines, you can find what you are looking for by downloading a free comic reading app.

Free reading apps are available for everything from books to news. Kids and adults can find customizable apps that can tailor fit the reading experience to each reader’s individual reading level, interests, and needs. In addition to user-friendly reading features, the portability and multi-platform compatibility of Nook’s line of free reading apps makes information easier to obtain and access, promoting a love of reading and broadening of horizons-all while reducing the amount of space required for storing your personal library. E-reading apps offer something for everyone.

 

by Matty Selbst at April 27, 2015 11:25 AM

How to download files from your FTP to your Android Device?

Hi developers,

This example shows how to download files from your FTP server to your Android device using ApacheFTP Library.

Initially we will be downloading the FTP folder structure.

After FTP structure Download, all the file urls for download will be available in the “DownloadedFileModel” model class, which you can use to
download files individually and save to your desired location. Here I am saving the files to the “files” folder inside the application sandbox.

I have created this project as a library which you can download from this link.
You need to add this project into your project as a library to work.

The usage in your activity would be like this.

	Listener metadataDownloadListener;
	
	//Set the listener first
	setMetaDataDownloadListener();
	
	//Start FTP Structure Download
	FTPService ftp = new FTPService(this, metadataDownloadListener);
	ftp.setCredentials(getString(R.string.ftp_username), getString(R.string.ftp_password));
	ftp.setParentServerFolder(getString(R.string.ftp_parent_folder));
	ftp.start();
	

“ftp_parent_folder” will be something like “/public_html/Your_Folder/Your_Contents”
Also replace with your domain name in the FTPService.java class

	public static final String server = "YOUR_SERVER_DOMAIN";

and the Listener would be

void setMetaDataDownloadListener() {
	metadataDownloadListener = new Listener() {

		@Override
		public void onSuccess(String message) {

		}

		@Override
		public void onError(String message) {
			Logger.logError(TAG, "FTP ERROR");
			tvLoading.setVisibility(View.GONE);
		}

		@Override
		public void onDataReceived(List<DownloadFile> allDownloadedFilesList) {
			Logger.logInfo(TAG, "Download files count : " + allDownloadedFilesList.size());

			Downloader downloader = new Downloader(HomePage.this, allDownloadedFilesList, tvLoading, new DownloadListener() {

				@Override
				public void onError(String message) {
					Logger.logError(TAG, "Error Downloader");						
				}

				@Override
				public void onDownloadComplete() {
					Logger.logInfo(TAG, "All Downloads are complete.");						
				}
			});
			downloader.startDownload();
		}
	};
}
	
	

by James at April 27, 2015 03:12 AM

April 26, 2015

XandarMob increases robustness of their Android wireless timing system

XandarMob just announced a maintenance release of Wylas Timing® to nail some rare edge cases that could cause connection issues.
The nice thing about small regular releases is that it provides a chance to fold in some of the simple but delightful ideas that occur mid cycle. And in this instance, XandarMob has taken the opportunity to literally add some color to the user interface of the Recorder to highlight the information you need, so as to make timing your meets that much easier.
That's how we keep these guys so happy :-)



As always, if you are looking for an affordable and efficient wireless timing and display system for your swimming or athletics club, then Wylas Timing® is your number one choice.

Full release notes at Wylas-Timing-1.5.5 Release

by William Ferguson (noreply@blogger.com) at April 26, 2015 07:58 AM

April 24, 2015

What I learned building The Economist for Apple Watch

Post_2015-0313_EconomistDev_Header

The Apple Watch is about to ship to potentially millions of iOS users and we’ve been working really hard to build apps that support it. One of those is The Economist for Apple Watch, which includes a world class audio edition where every article is read by professional voice actors. We wrote extensively about the design of the app here, and why it’s such a great experience for getting your news on Apple Watch. Just as designing an app for a device you’ve never used is a major challenge, so is building an app for a new platform. We wanted to share what it’s really like to build a highly-polished app for smartwatches based on our experience developing The Economist for Apple Watch.

Message Passing on Apple Watch

The first step in building The Economist for Apple Watch was creating MMWormhole. MMWormhole is a message passing library that makes it easy to share information between the WatchKit extension and containing iPhone application to build a rich and interactive Apple Watch app. We knew that our app would need to control audio playback and keep the audio player UI in sync between the two devices. MMWormhole is perfectly suited to this task, which is why we built and open sourced it before a single line of code was written for the watch app. It represents the foundation that our app is built on.

Each screen on the Apple Watch app is driven by content being sent from the iPhone app via MMWormhole. On the player screen we send playback updates with the current article and section, pause states, remaining time, etc. On the tracklist and playlist screens we send the contents of each table as well as the selected index to indicate the currently playing article. Accessing data and passing messages between the phone app and extension is incredibly fast with MMWormhole. We’re even able to drive the remaining time label and progress indicator at pinpoint accuracy with updates that come through the wormhole.

Scheduling UI Updates

It’s very important to structure your watch app’s UI updates to occur after the interface controller’s willActivate method is called. Updating the UI while the interface controller may work, but the results will be inconsistent because this scenario is not officially supported by WatchKit. Some of the issues we’ve noticed are stale data being included in labels and inconsistently populated or blank table cells. Inserting rows in a table while the interface controller is inactive can also result in a crash and is particularly discouraged.

Along similar lines, it’s best to minimize the amount of work you do inside of the willActivate method. The watch shows a loading spinner until the willActivate method, and any UI updates triggered inside of it complete, so making this operation very quick helps your watch app load faster.

Using MMWormhole will actually help with both of these patterns. You can setup your listeners in willActivate, and turn them off in didDeactivate. If your listeners drive your UI updates, you’ve made sure that no updates will happen while the interface controller isn’t active. You’ve also deferred some work until after willActivate completes, because the first listener won’t be fired until the next run loop cycle.

When buttons are tapped on the watch we relay that signal to the phone using the wormhole as well. The responsiveness is excellent. When the pause button is tapped, that action is reflected on the phone within a tenth of a second. It also allows us to keep the phone audio player UI in sync with the watch so that users have a consistent experience. The table views on both the watch and iPhone scroll automatically to the selected article and begin animating our now playing indicator when a new article starts playing. It’s a very integrated and continuous type of experience.

Table Views on Apple Watch

The table views that compose the tracklist and playlist were a particularly difficult development challenge on the watch. Unlike the iPhone, the watch needs to keep all of it’s table cells in memory at a given time, meaning that having large numbers of cells can be a serious performance issue. The severity can depend a lot on the complexity of your table cells and how many groups, labels, and images each cell includes. Dynamic-sized groups and labels have an impact as well.

We made a number of changes to each screen to address this. The full tracklist for an edition might include more than 80 articles across more than a dozen sections. This can take several seconds to fully load, during which time the watch app would be entirely unresponsive. To support that number of cells while still being responsive, we implemented a NSOperationQueue-based system that loads cells in batches, sequentially, until the entire table is loaded. The result is that the first cells populate the table instantly so that users get information quickly, and then subsequent groups of cells are inserted at the bottom of the table every second after that. The benefit is that you can still scroll the table while the rest of the cells are being inserted at the bottom. Inserting a few cells at a time is much faster and less disruptive than trying to load the entire table at once. I expect many developers to adopt this pattern as they fine tune the performance of their watch app.

If you make it down to the bottom of the table before all of the cells are loaded, you see a spinner letting you know that loading is still in progress. Rather than add the spinner as a separate table cell, we simply added an animating image inside of a group below the table. The effect is very similar to the familiar loading indicator below many iPhone table views. When the table finishes loading, we just hide the group with the animating image.

Once you have a lengthy table loaded, the last thing you want to do is re-load it unnecessarily. Every time the selected track changes on the table, we send a message to the interface controller via MMWormhole to tell it which track is now selected. Then we change the now playing indicator for that cell to show it as the selected one and disable the previously selected cell’s indicator. That way, we can avoid reloading the table while still keeping the UI in sync between the watch and phone.

It’s also best to avoid expensive operations like inserting cells into a table while the user isn’t looking at that screen, such as if you switched pages from the tracklist to the playlist. We accomplish this by pausing the operation queue responsible for loading the table when the interface controller deactivates. The same is also true for the player screen. When the player isn’t visible, we pause the MMWormhole listeners responsible for updating the remaining time and progress indicators so that the watch extension isn’t doing any more work than absolutely necessary. This helps keep the UI responsive and performant.

Image Caching and Performance

Located in the force touch menu on each screen is the ability to change the selected edition. This presents a modal interface controller with a table that includes a row for each edition with available audio content. In addition to the edition title and date, we are also showing the cover image for each edition.

The watch includes an image cache for each app that we can use to store the covers once the edition is downloaded on the phone. There are two key tips to make working with this image cache fast and efficient. It is best to resize the image programmatically on the phone to the exact size needed for the watch. Even if you have a fairly small 200×200 thumbnail available, you need to shrink it down to the image view size (40×40 for example) before caching it on the watch. Caching and loading images is also a great place to move some work off of the main queue. You should move calls to addCachedImage onto a background queue. That makes it faster to populate the table and show the basic UI without waiting for all the images to load. After the call to addCachedImage, dispatch back to the main queue and call setImageNamed to populate the image view. That will be a very fast operation because the image will already have been sent asynchronously to the watch. While this is all happening, we still show a spinner in place of the image view to let the user know that activity is still in progress.

Smart Storage

Speaking of images, one of the best ways to optimize both the performance of your app as well as the storage footprint on the watch is to use the watch app’s asset catalog. The asset catalog gets copied to the watch when the app is installed, meaning that none of it’s images need to be transferred to the watch when you ask to display them. To make sure you aren’t accidentally transferring images to the watch programatically, be sure to use the setImageNamed method instead of the setImage method. Setting the image name tells the watch to look in it’s image catalog first, or for a cached image second to fulfill that request.

Apple also added support for different sized images for each of the two sizes of Apple Watch. If you use the asset catalog to specify an image for each size of device then you will avoid having duplicate images being stored on the watch because only the 42mm image will be copied to the 42mm watch, and vice-versa. This is a great way to respect the limited space customers will have on their watch and make sure your app will install as quickly as possible.

Post_2015-0313_Economist_final

Conclusion

The best advice I have for building a great Apple Watch app is to start now. WatchKit has plenty of limitations, but you can still build an amazing app with it. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box and try new things. And remember your basic troubleshooting and performance tips. When you notice something having trouble, put in log statements and start disabling features until you isolate the problem. In the end you’ll learn a lot about developing for the watch and create something your users will love.

The post What I learned building The Economist for Apple Watch appeared first on Mutual Mobile.

by Mutual Mobile at April 24, 2015 08:04 PM

Designing The Economist for Apple Watch

Post_2015-0313_EconomistDesign_Header

Designers have been preparing for the Apple Watch even before it was announced last September, but the challenge with any new platform is learning what makes a good app on a device you haven’t used before. Designers are faced with all sorts of decisions while creating a good app, which forces them to really think about the experience they want users to have once the watch is finally available.

When Mutual Mobile set out to extend The Economist app to the Apple Watch, we wanted to design something that fit the device’s form factor and still reflected the full experience of The Economist. A key feature of The Economist for iPhone is the audio edition, which includes readings of every article in the weekly edition recorded by professional voice talent. It’s an excellent way to get the full experience of reading The Economist while out and about. Given the popularity of that feature, we decided to extend it to the Watch and give the user full control over the audio edition from their wrist.

Apple Watch is designed to provide instant access to information without having to pull out your phone. We wanted to incorporate that philosophy into the Economist app by giving users quick access to the articles they’re interested in, and the effortless ability to control the playback from their wrist.

Glances in Detail

You get the gist of what we’re trying to accomplish, but let’s dive a bit deeper into the glance. When you’re listening to an article and want to check your progress or see what’s next, you can swipe up from the watch face to reveal the glance. The glance includes all of the relevant information about what is currently playing.

Post_2015-0313_Economist_glance

The biggest challenge when designing the glance was making it compliment the default Now Playing audio control glance provided by Apple, which shows the currently playing track similar to the iPhone’s control center. That’s why our glance shows what article is up next, as well as your progress percentage through the article. It also shows you how far into a section you are so you can decide whether to continue listening or skip ahead. You can also tap on the glance to open the Economist app on to access every article in the edition and a full set of playback controls.

Audio Player on your Wrist

The first screen of the app on Apple Watch is the audio player. It includes a full set of controls to start playback, pause, skip forward or backward, or change the volume. We spent a lot of time thinking about how to build a great audio player, considering the smallest nuances to build the best experience possible. With limited space on the watch, we decided to wrap the article title to two lines to give the user more information about what they are listening to. Ideally, we would have followed the example set by Apple’s music player, which includes Marqueed text labels, but we don’t have that ability with WatchKit yet. As a result, we had less space for controls and remaining playback information, so we had to prioritize the most important controls to keep on the player screen.

Post_2015-0313_Economist_player

We moved the remaining playback time up to the title spot in the top left corner, which both balances out the interface and leaves more space for controls. We incorporated the elapsed time bar into the circle around the play/pause control, borrowing from the design of the iPhone’s player to create an easily tappable and familiar control. Flanking the larger play/pause control are a smaller rewind button and skip to next track button. We decided to include rewind instead of previous track, because it’s more common to skip back a few seconds to listen to something again than it is to move to a previous track you may have already listened to.

Including volume controls on the player was an interesting exercise. At first, we included them at the bottom of the player screen along with the rest of the information and controls, but that made the interface too crowded. It also didn’t provide enough space to show you the current volume rather than just change it. Instead, we moved the controls further down, but still available if you swipe up. It made sense to de-prioritize them in the interface because volume buttons are available on many types of headphones and the iPhone itself.

Force Touch Gesture

We’re using the force touch gesture on the player screen to disclose a variety of menu options. Previous track and skip forward buttons are there. Controlling playback speed is also important because different people may want to listen to articles quicker, or take more time to listen to them. On the iPhone, we achieve this through a single button that toggles between playback rates, but this presents issues on the force touch menu due to the necessary delay between tapping on the button. On Apple Watch we present a new modal screen with four rate options. That way, you can try out a selected rate and move to another if necessary.

Paginated Navigation

In the paginated interface, there are two screens beyond the player. The first is the tracklist. The tracklist is an in-order list of every section and article that is part of the weekly edition of the newspaper. You can tell which edition you’re currently listening to from the header at the top. Tapping on any of the articles in the list starts playback from that article. The last screen is the playlist, which is a customizable list of articles from any section in any order. This playlist is a recent edition to The Economist for iPhone and has been very popular with users.

Post_2015-0313_Economist-tracklist

The other option included with the force touch menu on each screen is the ability to change the selected edition. This presents a modal screen with a table that includes a row for each edition with available audio content. In addition to the title and date, we are also including the cover image for each edition, which is a great way for readers to quickly recognize an issue they want to listen to.

Post_2015-0313_Economist_edition

Conclusion

What’s great about Apple Watch is how personal it is. It makes your favorite programs available at the times when it’s inconvenient to pull out your phone, like when you’re listening to The Economist during your morning commute. Once you’re at the office, you can look at the remaining time on a section or article and decide if you want to finish or not. These are important use cases where The Economist for Apple Watch creates an exceptional experience, and we’re excited to provide that to Apple Watch users.

The post Designing The Economist for Apple Watch appeared first on Mutual Mobile.

by Mutual Mobile at April 24, 2015 08:03 PM

Cyanogen Belfast Meet & Greet

Cyanogen Belfast Meet & Greet

One of the sadder aspects of the UK is that we just don’t have enough Android enthusiast get togethers. Outside of developer workshops we only really have OEM fan site hoorahs and launch events (which only the press tend to get invites for) and the outstanding community March of the Droids event. We should therefore do our best to support any community enthusiast event that happens to come our way, so I am really glad to say that unarguably the most controversial community development team in Android will be visiting our shores and hosting a free to attend meet and greet. Cyanogen Inc will be visiting Nothern Ireland (possibly the most overlooked area of the UK for Android events) on the 19th of June and in attendence will be Steve Kondik himself.

Large

This will be the only fan gathering while Steve visits these shores, so if you ever wanted to meet the man behind CyanogenMod in person, this is a must. The event which is simply a night of chat, beer and laughs will be held in The Hudson Bar on Gresham street in Belfast and will take place from 8pm until closing time. This is being held for genuine Android enthusiasts only so there will be some screening of attendee’s and as places are limited, please only book a place if you truly intend to come along.

getlstd-property-photo

The event is being held in conjunction with Droid Horizon (a great UK Android site) and applications for places can be made via their Google Documents Form.

Refreshments will be providied on the night thanks to the MASSIVE amounts of investment CM has secured of late (well it’s only fair some of it finds it’s way out to the community at large) so dont forget to raise a glass to Microsoft as well (did I just type that?).

We really hope to see as many of you as possible there supporting a community event for enthusiasts from the biggest name in ROM development.

the-hudson-bar (12)

Land of Droid -

by UbuntuBhoy at April 24, 2015 08:00 PM

Microsoft adds direct print to office on Android

Microsoft adds direct print to office on Android

Finding the right office suite for your Android productivity is no easy task, the Play Store has more than a few options but for me they are all lacking in one form or other. What this means to someone like me who uses Android as his main OS is that I currently have four different office suites installed o my tablet to cover as many bases as possible. Sometimes they lack decent formatting options, or possibly they can be clunky for editing large files (some even have smallish limits on spreadsheet sizes for example), or my biggest bugbear, a lack of integrated printing.

Screenshot_2015-04-24-09-53-05

The printing issue is one that has stopped me using MS office since I first entered the beta programme with the options being to use Google cloud print or print from your printers seperate Android app. MS have now addressed this in their latest update, meaning I can now drop one or two of my other installed suites at last. MS Office isn’t perfect, far from it, you still need to make a copy of older document formats and use the latest versions for editing but it is probably the best option around right now.

Land of Droid -

by UbuntuBhoy at April 24, 2015 09:57 AM

Article Writers Wanted

Hi all,


Ever since I had started my website (coderzheaven.com), I had got very good response from the Visitors and I am happy that my website has helped a lot of people in their day to day work.

Now I am inviting you to write you own articles in my website about any mobile technology you want. You can send your articles to coderzheaven@gmail.com along with your details you want to be published under the post.

This website is purely created to shared knowledge among the programming enthusiasts. So I am expecting that everyone will cooperate and help me in attaining it.

Thanks a lot
James.

by James at April 24, 2015 09:45 AM

April 23, 2015

Galaxy Tab S 8.4 updated to Android 5.0.2 Lollipop

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 Lollipop

The Wi-Fi only Galaxy Tab S 8.4 has been updated to Android 5.0.2 Lollipop from Android KitKat in South Korea. The update brings multi-user support and UI changes.

The update should be rolling out to to other countries soon. Let us know in the comments when you get the update on your device.

Source: Sam Mobile

The post Galaxy Tab S 8.4 updated to Android 5.0.2 Lollipop appeared first on Galaxy Tabs.

by Kyle Dornblaser at April 23, 2015 06:54 PM

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge wallpapers

Galaxy S6 Edge Wallpapers

The time might not be right for you to buy a new Galaxy S6 Edge, but you can still enjoy the wallpapers. Samsung always uses visually stunning wallpapers on their devices, and the Galaxy S6 Edge is no exception. Read on for the Galaxy S6 Edge wallpapers download links.

Both of the images are 2240 x 2240 and will look great on any Galaxy Tab, Galaxy Note, or Galaxy S. Just click the links below to open up the wallpapers and then long press on the images to save them on your device.

Wallpaper 1 Download Link

Wallpaper 2 Download Link

Source: Sam Mobile

The post Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge wallpapers appeared first on Galaxy Tabs.

by Kyle Dornblaser at April 23, 2015 05:29 PM

April 22, 2015

New Android Code Samples

Posted by Rich Hyndman, Developer Advocate

A new set of Android code samples, covering Android Wear, Android for Work, NFC and Screen capturing, have been committed to our Google Samples repository on GitHub. Here’s a summary of the new code samples:

XYZTouristAttractions

This sample mimics a real world mobile and Android Wear app. It has a more refined design and also provides a practical example of how a mobile app would interact and communicate with its Wear counterpart.

The app itself is modeled after a hypothetical tourist attractions experience that notifies the user when they are in close proximity to notable points of interest. In parallel,the Wear component shows tourist attraction images and summary information, and provides quick actions for nearby tourist attractions in a GridViewPager UI component.

DeviceOwner - A Device Owner is a specialized type of device administrator that can control device security and configuration. This sample uses the DevicePolicyManager to demonstrate how to use device owner features, including configuring global settings (e.g.automatic time and time-zone) and setting the default launcher.

NfcProvisioning - This sample demonstrates how to use NFC to provision a device with a device owner. This sample sets up the peer device with the DeviceOwner sample by default. You can rewrite the configuration to use any other device owner.

NFC BeamLargeFiles - A demonstration of how to transfer large files via Android Beam on Android 4.1 and above. After the initial handshake over NFC, file transfer will take place over a secondary high-speed communication channel such as Bluetooth or WiFi Direct.

ScreenCapture - The MediaProjection API was added in Android Lollipop and allows you to easily capture screen contents and/or record system audio. The ScreenCapture sample demonstrates how to use the API to capture device screen in real time and show it on a SurfaceView.

As an additional bonus, the Santa Tracker Android app, including three games, two watch-faces and other goodies, was also recently open sourced and is now available on GitHub.

As with all the Android samples, you can also easily access these new additions in Android Studio using the built in Import Samples feature and they’re also available through our Samples Browser.

Check out a sample today to help you with your development!

by Reto Meier (noreply@blogger.com) at April 22, 2015 06:53 PM

Game Performance: Explicit Uniform Locations

Posted by Shanee Nishry, Games Developer Advocate

Uniforms variables in GLSL are crucial for passing data between the game code on the CPU and the shader program on the graphics card. Unfortunately, up until the availability of OpenGL ES 3.1, using uniforms required some preparation which made the workflow slightly more complicated and wasted time during loading.

Let us examine a simple vertex shader and see how OpenGL ES 3.1 allows us to improve it:

#version 300 es

layout(location = 0) in vec4 vertexPosition;
layout(location = 1) in vec2 vertexUV;

uniform mat4 matWorldViewProjection;

out vec2 outTexCoord;

void main()
{
    outTexCoord = vertexUV;
    gl_Position = matWorldViewProjection * vertexPosition;
}

Note: You might be familiar with this shader from a previous Game Performance article on Layout Qualifiers. Find it here.

We have a single uniform for our world view projection matrix:

uniform mat4 matWorldViewProjection;

The inefficiency appears when you want to assign the uniform value.

You need to use glUniformMatrix4fv or glUniform4f to set the uniform’s value but you also need the handle for the uniform’s location in the program. To get the handle you must call glGetUniformLocation.

GLuint program; // the shader program
float matWorldViewProject[16]; // 4x4 matrix as float array

GLint handle = glGetUniformLocation( program, “matWorldViewProjection” );
glUniformMatrix4fv( handle, 1, false, matWorldViewProject );

That pattern leads to having to call glGetUniformLocation for each uniform in every shader and keeping the handles or worse, calling glGetUniformLocation every frame.

Warning! Never call glGetUniformLocation every frame! Not only is it bad practice but it is slow and bad for your game’s performance. Always call it during initialization and save it somewhere in your code for use in the render loop.

This process is inefficient, it requires you to do more work and costs precious time and performance.

Also take into consideration that you might have multiple shaders with the same uniforms. It would be much better if your code was deterministic and the shader language allowed you to explicitly set the locations of your uniforms so you don’t need to query and manage access handles. This is now possible with Explicit Uniform Locations.

You can set the location for uniforms directly in the shader’s code. They are declared like this

layout(location = index) uniform type name;

For our example shader it would be:

layout(location = 0) uniform mat4 matWorldViewProjection;

This means you never need to use glGetUniformLocation again, resulting in simpler code, initialization process and saved CPU cycles.

This is how the example shader looks after the change. Changes are marked in bold:

#version 310 es

layout(location = 0) in vec4 vertexPosition;
layout(location = 1) in vec2 vertexUV;

layout(location = 0) uniform mat4 matWorldViewProjection;

out vec2 outTexCoord;

void main()
{
    outTexCoord = vertexUV;
    gl_Position = matWorldViewProjection * vertexPosition;
}

As Explicit Uniform Locations are only supported from OpenGL ES 3.1 we also changed the version declaration to 310.

Now all you need to do to set your matWorldViewProjection uniform value is call glUniformMatrix4fv for the handle 0:

const GLint UNIFORM_MAT_WVP = 0; // Uniform location for WorldViewProjection
float matWorldViewProject[16]; // 4x4 matrix as float array

glUniformMatrix4fv( UNIFORM_MAT_WVP, 1, false, matWorldViewProject );

This change is extremely simple and the improvements can be substantial, producing cleaner code, asset pipeline and improved performance. Be sure to make these changes If you are targeting OpenGL ES 3.1 or creating multiple APKs to support a wide range of devices.

To learn more about Explicit Uniform Locations check out the OpenGL wiki page for it which contains valuable information on different layouts and how arrays are represented.

by Reto Meier (noreply@blogger.com) at April 22, 2015 04:52 PM

Infared imaging with Android devices


One of the most evident sensors of Android devices is the camera. An ordinary smartphone's camera is able to capture a lot of interesting information but has its limitations too. Most evidently, its viewing angle depends on the position of the device (so it is not fixed and hard to measure) and its bandwidth is (mostly) restricted to the visible light. It is therefore an exciting idea to connect special cameras to Android devices.




In this post, I will present an integration of FLIR Lepton Long-wavelength Infrared Camera to an Android application over Bluetooth Low Energy connection. Long-wavelength IR (LWIR) cameras are not new. Previously, however, they were priced in the thousands of dollars range (if not higher). Lepton is still pricey (currently about 300 USD) but its price is low enough so that mere mortals can play with it. FLIR sells a smartphone integration product (called FLIR One) but it is currently only available for iPhone and locks the camera to one device. Our prototype allows any device with BLE connection to access this very special camera.

The prototype system presented here needs a relatively long list of external hardware components and it is also not trivial to prepare these components. This list is the following:


  • An Android phone with Bluetooth 4.0 capability. I used Nexus 5 for these experiments.
  • An FLIR Lepton module. My recommendation is the FLIR Dev Kit from Sparkfun that has the camera module mounted on a breakout panel that is much easier to handle than the original FLIR socket.
  • A BeagleBone Black card with an SD Card >4GB.
  • A BLED112 BLE dongle from Silicon Labs (formerly Bluegiga).
The software for the prototype can be downloaded in two packages.

Once you got all these, prepare the ingredients.

1. Hook up the FLIR camera with the BeagleBone Black

Fortunately the BBB's SPI interface is completely compatible with the Lepton's so the "hardware" just needs a couple of wires. Do the following connections (P9 refers to the BBB's P9 extension port).


FLIR BBB
CS P9/28 (SPI1_CS0)
MOSI P9/30 (SPI1_D1)
MISO P9/29 (SPI1_D0)
CLK P9/31 (SPI1_SCLK)
GND P9/1 (GND)
VIN P9/4 (DC, 3.3V)


2. Prepare the BBB environment

I use Snappy Ubuntu. Grab the SD card and download the image as documented here. Before flashing the SD card, we have to update the device tree in the image so that the SPI port is correctly enabled. Unpack bt_ircamera.zip that you have just downloaded and go to the dt subdirectory. There you find a device tree file that I used for this project. Beside the SPI1 port, it also enables some serial ports. These are not necessary for this project but may come handy.

Compile the device tree:

dtc -O dtb -o am335x-boneblack.dtb am335x-boneblack.dts

The output is the binary device tree (am335x-boneblack.dtb) that needs to be put into the kernel image file. Let's suppose that the downloaded image file is snappy.img and you have an empty directory at /mnt/img. Then do the following:

fdisk -l snappy.img

Look for the first partition and note the partition image name and the offset:

snappy.img1   *        8192      139263       65536    c  W95 FAT32 (LBA)
...

Note that the actual partition image name may differ depending on the Snappy image you downloaded. Calculate the offset as 8192*512=4194304
Now mount the partition:

mount -o loop,offset=4194304 snappy.img /mnt/img

Then copy the dtb into the image, unmount and write the image to SD card (on my computer the SD card interface is /dev/sdc, check before you issue the dd command!):

cp am335x-boneblack.dtb /mnt/img/a/dtbs
umount /mnt/img
dd if=snappy.img of=/dev/sdc bs=32M

Now you have an SD card that you can insert into the BBB and boot from it. Once you reached the Ubuntu prompt and logged in (ubuntu/ubuntu), there's one thing more: the Snappy prototype application depends on the libpng package which is not part of the default Snappy image. But before you do it, check whether the SPI device was enabled correctly:
root@localhost:~# ls /dev/spidev1.0                                            
/dev/spidev1.0

Now about the png library. Download the armhf image from this location:

wget http://ports.ubuntu.com/pool/main/libp/libpng/libpng12-0_1.2.50-1ubuntu2_armhf.deb


Copy it to the BBB (update your card's IP address according to your network policies):
scp libpng12-0_1.2.50-1ubuntu2_armhf.deb ubuntu@192.168.1.115:~

Then go to the BBB console and install the deb package:
sudo mount -o remount,rw /
sudo dpkg -i libpng12-0_1.2.50-1ubuntu2_armhf.deb
sudo mount -o remount,ro /

3. Prepare the BLE dongle

The BLED112 stores the GATT tree in its firmware, hence in order to provide the GATT services that connect the BBB with the Android device, a new firmware needs to be generated and installed in the dongle. The config files are located in the config subdirectory in the bt_ircamera.zip archive. Follow the steps in this post to generate and install the new firmware. Once you are done, you can simply plug the dongle into the USB port of the BBB.

4. Install the prototype applications

The prototype system has two parts. The application running on the BBB acts as BLE server, fetches images from the FLIR camera and transmits them over BLE. The Android application acts as BLE client, fetches images from the BLE server and displays them. The BBB part is located in bt_ircamera.zip and the Android part is in IRCamera.zip. The latter is just the source part of the Android Studio project tree - I omitted all the garbage that Android Studio generates into the project folders. For the BBB installation, follow the instructions in this blog post. Launch the BBB application like this as root:
/apps/ircamera/1.0.0/bin/ircamera /dev/ttyACM0
and you are ready to go. On the Android side, select the BLE node with the name "test", connect, click the "Take picture" button, wait for the image to download and there you are. Note that the images are saved on the SD card, which means that they also appear in the stock "Photos" application.

Now at last we can get to the technical issues with this prototype. One interesting aspect is that there is no standard BLE service that provides the functionalities - image capture triggering, image fetching - our system needs. That's not a problem, we defined our own BLE service. It is easiest to follow this service in irc_gattBLED112.xml (bt_ircamera.zip, config subdirectory).

The service has a custom UUID, generated randomly:

<service uuid="274b15a3-b9cd-4e5e-94c4-1248b42b82f8" advertise="true">

Also, its 3 GATT characteristics are in the non-standard UUID domain:

<characteristic uuid="00000000-b9cd-4e5e-94c4-1248b42b82f8" id="irc_len">
...
<characteristic uuid="00000001-b9cd-4e5e-94c4-1248b42b82f8" id="irc_offs">
...
<characteristic uuid="00000002-b9cd-4e5e-94c4-1248b42b82f8" id="irc_pic">

The interaction goes like the following. The BLE client connects and reads the irc_len characteristic. This characteristic is tagged as "user" on the BLE server side meaning that the BLE application must generate the value on the fly, when the attribute is read. In our case, reading this attribute fetches an image from the FLIR camera, converts it into PNG format and stores it in the apps' data folder, returning only the PNG file size. The Android application now can fetch the image piece by piece. First the Android application writes the irc_offs characteristic to inform the BLE server, what is the starting location of the fragment it wants to fetch. Then it reads the irc_pic characteristic which returns a maximum of 20 bytes of image data. This makes the image download very slow (takes about 10-20 second to download a general 5-6 Kbyte image to the Android application) but the restriction comes from a BLE protocol layer. Maybe the old RFCOMM from Bluetooth Classic would have been actually a better option for this application.

Update: I updated the client/server application to make the download faster (it is still quite slow). In order to speed up, I removed the explicit setting of the file offset (so the irc_offs characteristic is not used anymore). This made the download faster but there's still room for improvement.

Other than the issue with fragment size, both applications are pretty straighforward. Maybe the colors of the IR image are worth discussing a bit. The FLIR camera returns a matrix of 80x60 pixels, each pixel has a depth of 12 bit. Grayscale presentation is the most evident option but most displays have only 256 gray colors. In order to make the IR shades more visible, I used fake coloring. The algorithm is very simple: after the image is fetched, the maximum and the minimum IR intensity is calculated and the range between the two are mapped into a rainbow gradient of 400 colors.

by Gabor Paller (noreply@blogger.com) at April 22, 2015 03:01 PM

Overclock Underclock Tab Pro 8.4 by flashing custom XDA kernel

The post Overclock Underclock Tab Pro 8.4 by flashing custom XDA kernel appeared first on galaxytabreview.

XDA has released a custom firmware for the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 tablet. This firmware allows you to easily overclock or underclock the processor as well as GPU. The only pre requirement is that you should have installed Tab 8.4 TWRP before flashing the custom kernel which should not take more than 5 minutes.

Overclock Underclock Tab Pro 8.4

Download the kernel from here and flashing it using TWRP. Put it somewhere on your tablet and boot into recovery to flash it. Once you have flashed the kernel, simply install Synapse from play store to start underclocking or overclocking the CPU or GPU of Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.4 tablet.  Here is one recommended synapse profile so that you do not crash your Tab 8.4 tablet.

We also suggest you to disable MP-Decision, enable intelli-plug, enable intelli-thermal and set to restore kernel settings on boot.

by Galaxy Tab Review at April 22, 2015 01:40 PM

Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 Android 5 lollipop ROM available for download

The post Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 Android 5 lollipop ROM available for download appeared first on galaxytabreview.

XDA developer user has released a Android 5 lollipop ROM for the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4. The ROM lacks touch wiz which is despised by many. It is an AOSP based ROM that incorporates features from CM, Slim and Oni ROMs.

Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 Android 5 lollipop

Here are the installation instructions:

- Make sure you’re running a proper working Clockwork Mod-Recovery / Tab 8.4 TWRP
- Copy Gapps and ROM ZIP to your SDCard
- Boot into Recovery
- DO A DATA WIPE / FACTORY RESET
- Flash Euphoria-OS zip from SDCard
- Flash Gapps zip from SDCard
- Reboot
- Don’t restore system data using Titanium Backup.

by Galaxy Tab Review at April 22, 2015 01:28 PM

AndGlobe: Another Call For More Sites

I maintain a list of Android developer support sites called AndGlobe. The particular emphasis is on sites that are not in English. Android development is worldwide and multilingual; our support sites need to match.

If you operate, or know of, a site for asking Android development questions and answers, that is not listed on the AndGlobe site, please let me know, or follow the instructions on the GitHub repo to contribute new sites that way.

And, of course, please link to or otherwise promote the AndGlobe site, so Android developers know the wider range of Q&A sites that they can use for getting their questions answered.

Thanks!

by Mark Murphy at April 22, 2015 12:07 AM

April 16, 2015

The Busy Coder's Guide to Android Development Version 6.6 Released

Subscribers now have access to the latest release of The Busy Coder’s Guide to Android Development, known as Version 6.6, in all formats. Just log into your Warescription page and download away, or set up an account and subscribe!

This update includes:

  • A new chapter on Android’s convoluted tasks system. This chapter includes a review of what tasks are, what the standard behavior that users see without any changes on our part, and what some common modifications are to task behavior. It also covers persistent tasks and documents-as-tasks, introduced in Android 5.0.

  • A new chapter on the App Runtime for Chrome (ARC), for getting your Android app running on Chrome OS, as was profiled earlier in this blog

  • An updated chapter on UI Automator, covering the new UI Automator 2.0 and its Gradle/Android Studio integration

  • A new chapter on Android Studio dialogs, focusing on the Project Structure dialog and the Translations Editor.

  • A new section in the chapter on the Play Services SDK’s fused location provider, covering SettingsApi (to prompt users to enable locations) and requestLocationUpdates() (for periodically getting location fixes)

  • Minor changes for Android 5.1

  • A somewhat revamped chapter on ContactsContract, as the previous edition of this chapter was really old

The next update is planned for the first half of June. In other words, the next update is planned for sometime after the Google I|O conference, in case Google makes some Earth-shattering (or at least book-shattering or author-shattering) announcements.

by Mark Murphy at April 16, 2015 12:00 PM

April 14, 2015

Beta Test for the Double Star Game

Beta test continues for the Double Star app for Android. ... Double Star is a turn-based, single player, space war game. In the game, you command a powerful starship. You must first save our planet from the invasion. Then you search the galaxy for the home world of the invaders so you can destroy them once and for all. ... To install the Double Star game, do one of the following: (1) If you have a Google id, join the Double Star Google group. (2) If you are in Google+, join the Double Star community. Continue reading

by Bill Lahti at April 14, 2015 12:50 AM

March 30, 2015

Building and Distributing Android SDK Add-Ons

Since Google Play Services took much of the thunder away from the Google APIs SDK targets, SDK Add-ons have fallen a bit out of the mainstream thought of Android developers. However, if you are an OEM of an Android-based product (especially one that may not be in the consumer space), then SDK Add-ons are worth another look.

by Dave Smith at March 30, 2015 09:16 PM

March 28, 2015

XandarMob releases wireless swim timing - Android style

XandarMob has released Wylas Timing ® 1.5.4 and there's lot's to love about this release!

Wylas Timing ® was always going to readily integrate with any touchpad, but it's nice to see that in the pool.


And with 1.5.4 there are some items to make touchpad integration that much smoother.
  • Ability to set a quiet period at the start so that you can start the next race over the top of the swimmers from the previous race while using a touchpad
  • Ability to configure timer to automatically restart for multi lap events
The clock synchronisation was modified to further improve accuracy and reduce the amount of network traffic, which is very important in a wireless timing system. And having devices send stop/start messages even if the Wylas Timekeeper or Starter app has been pushed into the background has improved the reliability.

And to cap it all off, all the Android apps now follow and use the Material Design theme and guidelines. And the Wylas Display app has been sanctioned as a bonafide Android TV app by the Android team.

See more at https://wylas-timing.com

Then roll out the gear and get swimming!

by William Ferguson (noreply@blogger.com) at March 28, 2015 08:54 AM

March 27, 2015

A game to try: Alien Star Menace

Don't know if you have time to try another game, but here's one from one of the people in an Indie Games Meetup group I am in. It's called "Alien Star Menace" and it is available on both Android and iOS. It was just released in the last two weeks. It's done in Unity. ... I like it because it is a turn-based strategy game, and it is set in space. I also like the "Hero Academy" style of play. I am not very far along, just a few levels in. It's amusing and challenging at the same time. Continue reading

by Bill Lahti at March 27, 2015 11:43 AM

March 25, 2015

Android Performance Case Study Follow-up

Two years ago, I published an articled titled Android Performance Case Study to help Android developers understand what tools and technique can be used to identify, track down, and fix performance issues.

This article focused on Falcon Pro, a Twitter client designed and developed by Joaquim Vergès. Joaquim was kind enough to let me use his application in my article and quickly addressed all the issues I found. All was well until Joaquim started working on Falcon Pro 3, written from scratch. Shortly before releasing his new application, Joaquim contacted me because he needed help figuring out a performance problem that was affecting scrolling (and once again, I did not have access to the source code).

Joaquim used all the right tools and was able to quickly determine what was not causing the issue. For instance, he found that overdraw was not an issue. He was however able to narrow down the problem to the use of a ViewPager. He sent me the following screenshots:

Falcon Pro 3

Joaquim used the system’s on-screen GPU profiling tool to detect framerate drops. The screenshot on the left shows the performance of scrolling a timeline without a ViewPager and the screenshot on the right shows performance with a ViewPager (he used a 2014 Moto X to capture this data). The root cause seems pretty obvious.

My first idea was to see whether the ViewPager was somehow misusing hardware layers. The performance issue we observed could have been caused by a hardware layer updated on every frame by the list’s scroll. The system’s hardware layers updates debugging tool did not reveal anything. I double checked with HierarchyViewer and I was satisfied that the ViewPager was behaving correctly (the contrary was unlikely anyway and would have been troublesome).

I then turned to another powerful, seldom used, tool called Tracer for OpenGL. My previous article explains how the tool works in more details. All you need to know is that this tool collects all the drawing commands sent by the UI toolkit to the GPU.

Android 4.3 and up: Tracer has unfortunately become a little more difficult to use since Android 4.3 when we introduced reordering and merging of drawing commands. It’s an amazingly useful optimization but it prevents Tracer from grouping drawing commands by view. You can restore the old behavior by disabling display lists optimization using the following command (before you start your application):

adb shell setprop debug.hwui.disable_draw_reorder true

Reading OpenGL traces: Commands shown in blue are GL operations that draw pixels on screen. All other commands are used to transfer data or set state and can easily be ignored. Every time you click on one of the blue commands, Tracer will update the Details tab and show you the content of the current render target right after the command you clicked is executed. You can thus reconstruct a frame by clicking on each blue command one after another. It’s pretty much how I analyze performance issues with Tracer. Seeing how a frame is rendered gives a lot of insight on what the application is doing.

While perusing the traces collected during a scroll in Falcon Pro I was surprised to see a series of SaveLayer/ComposeLayer blocks of commands (click the picture to enlarge):

Tracer for OpenGL

These blocks indicate the creation and composition of a temporary hardware layer. These temporary layers are created by the different variants of Canvas.saveLayer(). The UI toolkit uses Canvas.saveLayer() to draw Views with an alpha < 1 (see View.setAlpha()) when specific conditions are met:

Chet and I explained in several presentations why you should use alpha with care. Every time the UI toolkit has to use a temporary layer, drawing commands are sent to a different render target, and switching render target is an expensive operation for the GPU. GPUs using a tiling/deferred architecture (ImaginationTech’s SGX, Qualcomm’s Adreno, etc.) are particularly hurt by this behavior. Direct rendering architectures such as Nvidia’s fare better. Since the Moto X 2014 devices Joaquim and I were working with use a Qualcomm Adreno GPU, the use of multiple temporary hardware layers was most likely the root cause of our performance problem.

The big question thus become: what is creating all these temporary layers? Tracer gave us the answer. If you look at the screenshot of Tracer you can see that the only drawing command in the SaveLayer group of OpenGL operations renders what appears to be a circle in a small render target (the tool magnifies the result). Now let’s look at a screenshot of the application:

Falcon Pro 3

Do you see these little circles at the top? That’s a ViewPager indicator, used to show the user her position. Joaquim was using a third party library (I don’t remember which one) to draw these indicators. What’s interesting is how that library draws the indicator: the current page is indicated by a white circle, the other pages with what appears to be a gray circle. I say “what appears to be a gray” because the circles are actually translucent white circles. The library uses a View for each circle (which is in itself wasteful) and calls setAlpha() to change their color.

There are several solutions to fix this problem:

  • Use a customizable “inactive” color instead of setting an opacity on the View
  • Return false from hasOverlappingRendering() and the framework will set the proper alpha on the Paint for you
  • Return true from onSetAlpha() and set an alpha on the Paint used to draw the “gray” circles

The easiest solution is the second one but it is only available from API level 16. If you must support older versions of Android, use one of the other two solutions. I believe Joaquim simply ditched the third party library and used his own indicator.

I hope this article makes it clear that performance issues can arise from what appears to be innocent and harmless operations. So remember: don’t make assumptions, measure!

by Romain Guy at March 25, 2015 06:32 PM

AOSP Sources in the IDE

We get asked a lot about the proper way to integrate the AOSP sources into an integrated development environment (IDE). This tutorial shows you how to use the integrated IDEGen scripts to do the job.

by Dave Smith at March 25, 2015 02:24 AM

February 24, 2015

AcDisplay and HeadsUp: Better Notification Handling

AcDisplay & HeadsUp

We’ve featured both HeadsUp and AcDisplay by XDA Recognized Developer AChep in the past. Both have been constantly improved since they were released, and with the recent updates for better Lollipop support and material design, we figured it would be a good time for a double feature.

The two apps are excellent for handling your notifications, each in their own and distinct manner.

AcDisplay

AcDisplay informs you of new notifications you receive while your screen is off, by showing you a minimal overview allowing you to view, clear or action the notification.

Many customization options are provided: you can set the minimum and maximum priority of notifications to be shown (this is useful so that your screen doesn’t wake up for weather updates, for example) or even configure AcDisplay on a per app basis, choosing a custom wallpaper (or dynamically picking the notification’s icon/artwork), using the system font (as opposed to Roboto) and more. Inactive hours can also be defined to disable AcDisplay entirely during your sleep.

Two additional modes are also available, giving you the choice to use AcDisplay as your lockscreen, or automatically activating it when you pick your device up. Both of these options can also be dynamically disabled when no notifications are available.

HeadsUp

HeadsUp, on the other hand, is more comparable to the feature introduced in Lollipop, though it adds many needed features and customization options to it.

When it comes to looks, you can select from two themes (dark and light). That’s not all, though: you also have the option to configure the heads up’s position, having it show at the top or bottom of the screen, and optionally overlaying the status bar. Emoji can also be enabled, as well as using the system font (mostly useful for non AOSP ROMs).

Swiping to the right or left can either dismiss the notification or hide the heads up — this is configurable by the user. Swiping up always hides all heads up notifications. Naturally, you can disable or enable HeadsUp for each app individually. A neat addition over the stock heads up system is that multiple notifications can be displayed at once, instead of replacing the previous one.

(If you’re on Lollipop and your ROM doesn’t allow you to disable the stock heads up system, you may want to try the Restore notification ticker on Lollipop Xposed module by XDA Recognized Developer MohammadAG.)

Both are compatible with all devices running Android 4.1 or later, though 4.3+ is recommended as it introduces notification listeners (giving third-party apps the ability to clear notifications and letting them know when one is cleared).

What’s New?

Versions 3.x have been out for a few weeks (with the latest releases coming out just yesterday), with bugs being squashed along the way and some features making it in. They should be fully usable now, with many changes since the 2.x releases.

For those who haven’t been following their development, here’s what’s new in 3.x for AcDisplay:

  • Material design!
  • Basic JellyBean (4.1&4.2) support.
  • Options to show emoji instead of text smileys, for overriding system fonts and better privacy features when Android’s secure lock is enabled.
  • Many other improvements, bug fixes and translation updates.

… and for HeadsUp:

  • Material design!
  • Options to make heads up overlap the status bar, show at the bottom of the screen or on the lockscreen, and to disable the timeout entirely. The behavior when swiping to the left or right can also be customized.
  • Users can swipe up to hide all heads up.
  • Many other improvements, bug fixes and translation updates.

(You can view the full changelog for HeadsUp here, and for AcDisplay here.)

 

 

 

Get Them Now!

AcDisplay and HeadsUp are both open source and published under the GPLv2+. You’re welcome to check them out or contribute: HeadsUp GitHub repo, AcDisplay GitHub repo.

Interested? Make sure to visit the HeadsUp forum thread and AcDisplay forum thread for more info, downloads and support!

The post AcDisplay and HeadsUp: Better Notification Handling appeared first on xda-developers.

by GermainZ at February 24, 2015 05:50 PM

Popular Android Apps Fall Under Security Scrutiny

The recent announcement that Google would no longer be supplying security updates for legacy Android users has caused consternation among fans of the search engine giant’s smartphone operating system. With more than 930 million Android mobiles being affected, the decision highlights a growing concern over smartphone and tablet security. These days’ people rely on their smartphones for more than just calling and texting. With the rising popularity of the so called ‘phablet’, people are using their mobile handsets for everything from surfing the web to collaborating on business documents. Now, more than ever, data security and personal privacy are the chief concerns for savvy smartphone owners. So, it comes as unwelcome news that many of Androids most popular apps are failing basic security reviews, putting Android users’ data and privacy at risk.

Deja Vu for Android

This isn’t the first time that Google’s Android has come under fire for potentially hazardous apps. Earlier this year, Prague based security firm Avast discovered that a selection of gaming apps available directly from Google Play were infected with malware. The security issues in that case mostly centered on certain gaming apps that, when purchased and downloaded onto the user’s smartphone, infected the operating system with adware and malware. Typically, the malware would hibernate for weeks before going into action. Users would have no indication that their mobile was infected until they began to be plagued by adverts warning them of security issues with their phone. The user would then be redirected to a third party app that promised to solve the imaginary problem, ultimately installing spyware that would harvest the user’s data and personal information.

Google has attempted to downplay the reports, assuring users that the problem is not widespread and only affects a small percentage of Google play customers. However, more recent reports of malware hidden in some of the more basic Android apps suggest the problem may be more widespread.

Latest Batch of Vulnerable Apps

The latest batch of vulnerable Android apps are perhaps more disturbing than previous groups. The suspicious apps discovered by Avast were mostly gaming apps developed by third parties and submitted for distribution by Google Play. However, the latest batch of at risk apps are more well know, and make up some of the most popular apps downloaded and used by Android owners. They include Instagram, Grindr, HeyWire, TextPlus, and OKCupid to name just a few. Other popular apps are also said to pose serious security risks for users.

The issue with these apps appears to lie in their failure to successfully encrypt user data. The University of New Haven’s Cyber Forensics Research and Education Group found that Facebook’s Instagram application allowed its user’s uploaded images to remain unencrypted and accessible without any form of authentication. These same encryption and storage issues were also found in other popular apps like Grindr, MessageMe, and Tango.

Allowing this data to remain stored without any form of encryption and accessible without any form of authentication, makes it easy pickings for potential hackers. Further problems were discovered with many of the same apps’ SSL/TLS security protocols, putting any unencrypted data at an additional risk for so called ‘man in the middle’ Wi-Fi hacks. The research group has reached out to the developers of the vulnerable apps, but so-far has seen little response. It would seem, at least for the foreseeable future, that these apps will remain a significant risk factor for Android users.

Google’s Android continues to come under fire for potentially vulnerable apps. One would only hope that Google is currently working to address the situation, and will put a new emphasis on their customers’ security. In the meantime, users should beware of downloading suspicious apps, and should be hyper vigilant about protecting files stored on their phones.

by Matty Selbst at February 24, 2015 10:08 AM

February 06, 2015

BLED112 on BeagleBone

In the previous post I demonstrated, how a Bluetooth Low Energy dongle can be used to connect a PC and an Android device. While this is sort of project is appealing, connecting PCs and smartphones is not such an interesting use case. It is much more interesting, however, to transfer the PC-side program directly to an embedded device and that's what I will demonstrate in this post.

The Android application used in this post did not change, you can download it here. The BLE server application was updated according to the embedded platform's requirement, you can download the new version here.

There are two baskets of embedded platforms out there. One of them is optimized for low power consumption. They are too limited to run a full-scale operating system therefore their system is often proprietary. Arduino (of which we have seen the RFDuino variant) is one of them but there are many more, e.g. Bluegiga modules also have a proprietary application model. We can typically expect power consumption in the 1-10 mA range with some platforms offering even lower standby consumption.

The other basket contains scaled-down computers and they are able to run stripped down versions of a real operating system. Their power consumption is in the 100-500 mA range and they often sport 100s of megabytes of RAM and gigabytes of flash memory. They are of course not comparable to low power platforms when it comes to power consumption but their much higher performance (which can be relevant for computation-intensive tasks) and compatibility with mainstream operating systems make them very attractive for certain tasks. The card I chose is BeagleBoard Black and my main motivation was that Ubuntu chose this card as a reference platform for its Ubuntu Core variant.

The point I try to make in this post is how easy it is to port an application developed for desktop PC to these embedded computers. Therefore let's just port the BLE server part of the CTS example demo to BeagleBone Black.

There are a handful of operating systems available for this card. I chose Snappy Ubuntu - well, because my own desktop is Ubuntu. Grab an SD card and prepare a Snappy Ubuntu boot media according to this description. It worked for me out of the box. You can also start with this video - it is really that easy. Once you hooked up the card with your PC, let's prepare the development environment.

First fetch the ARM cross-compiler with this command (assuming you are on Ubuntu or Debian):

sudo apt-get install gcc-arm-linux-gnueabihf

Then install snappy developer tools according to this guide.

Then unpack the BLE server application into a directory and set up these environment variables.

export CROSS_COMPILE=arm-linux-gnueabihf-; export ARCH=arm

Enter the beagle_conn_example directory that you unpacked from the ZIP package and execute:

make

This should re-generate cts_1.0.0_all.snap which is already present in the ZIP archive in case you run into problems with building the app. The snap is the new package format for snappy. Then you can install this package on the card.

snappy-remote --url=ssh://192.168.1.123 install ./cts_1.0.0_all.snap

You have to update the IP address according to what your card obtained on your network. The upload tool will prompt you for username/password, it is ubuntu/ubuntu by default.

Update the GATT tree in the BLED112 firmware as described in the previous post. Plug the BLED112 dongle into the BeagleBoard's USB port. Then open a command prompt on the BeagleBoard either using the serial debug interface or by connecting to the instance with ssh and execute the following command:

sudo /apps/cts/1.0.0/bin/cts /dev/ttyACM0

The familiar console messages appear and you can connect with the Android app as depicted in the image below.


One thing you can notice here is that Snappy's shiny new package system is not ready yet. In order for this package to access the /dev/ttyACM0 device (to which the BLED112 is mapped without problem), it has to run as root. This is something that the Snappy team is yet to figure out. The experience, however, is smooth enough that application development can be started now.



by Gabor Paller (noreply@blogger.com) at February 06, 2015 06:46 PM

February 05, 2015

Guide: In-Depth Look at the Best Android Keyboards

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Many keyboards are available on Android, but not all of them are equal. Some try to be the best keyboard for all users, others target a niche market – whatever you’re looking for, you’re likely to find one that suits your needs.

To help you find the keyboard you want, we’re going to review a dozen (based on your comments here, plus some popular choices) by taking a look at several aspects:

  • Input:
    • Input modes (e.g. typing and swiping) and accuracy.
    • Input related gestures, if any.
    • Ease of use for numbers/symbols input.
    • Gestures, if any.
    • Text shortcuts and emoji.
  • Multiple languages:
    • Ease of switching between languages and dual language input.
    • Custom layouts for languages.
  • Correcting input and predictions:
    • Suggestions/auto-corrections.
    • Correcting input (undoing mistakes, controlling the cursor for precision, etc).
    • Custom dictionaries.
    • Next word predictions.
  • Themes/Customizability.
  • Other features.
  • Privacy. (Note: We’ll only link to the keyboard’s privacy policy for reference, and note if an Internet connection is necessary for some features. The choice is up to you.)

A short screencast will also be shown for each, to give you a quick idea of how easy it is to use (we’ll use an unknown word and punctuation by typing “Hello, xda-developers.com!”).

Here’s the list of keyboards we’ll check. You can use it to quickly jump to those you’re interested in, or check the summary table at the end and come back for additional details:

Fleksy

Input

Fleksy looks like your average keyboard, but it’s got some neat features to set it apart. It comes with some intuitive gestures you can use to quickly perform common actions. You can swipe to the right to insert a space, or to the left to delete the last word. Other gestures are also present, which we’ll discuss later.

Inputting numbers and symbols is usually done by switching to the secondary pane (they’re not shown at all in the primary pane). This can be done in multiple ways: you can press the “123” button, swipe from it, or long press any key. However, you can also activate “extensions” for additional functionality, such as adding a numbers row. Common punctuation marks are also offered as suggestions after every word, and you can cycle through them by swiping up and down.

Another extension allows you to define text shortcuts, which can come in handy for typing common phrases, emails or phone numbers quickly. Emoji and text emoticons input is also present, and can even be extended to insert GIFs (which is especially useful in Hangouts) using another extension.

One of the few annoyances with Fleksy is that it has a tendency to insert a space after every word or punctuation when smart spaces are enabled (even when returning to a new line — the previous one will end with a space). This could probably be made smarter, but you can fortunately turn it off if it bothers you.

Multiple languages

If you regularly type in more than one language, switching between them is easy enough — you just need to swipe the space bar left or right. You’re also able to change the layout of the keyboard for any language, and choose from the usual layouts as well as Colemak and Dvorak.

Fans of dual language input will be slightly disappointed, however, as there is no way to get corrections in another language without switching to it.

Correcting input and predictions

Fleksy heavily relies on its auto-correction. The goal is to provide reliable corrections without requiring a high level of accuracy, and it seems to work most of the time. When it doesn’t, you can just swipe up to undo the last correction (you can also swipe up or down to go through the list of corrections, if the first one isn’t accurate). This also makes typing foreign, technical or swear words easier, and makes auto-correction slightly less frustrating when you don’t need it.

The “Editor” extension allows you to move the cursor left and right by dragging a bar at the top of your screen. It also adds buttons to quickly cut, copy, select and paste content, although you’ll still have to select the text the usual way.

Another plus is that this keyboard is able to import your contacts’ names, as well as words you use in your social accounts, emails and SMS messages. Unfortunately, Fleksy doesn’t seem to respect the system wide personal dictionaries, which can make switching from/between some keyboards a bit of a hassle. On the other hand, adding and removing words is pretty easy — you just need to swipe up once more after undoing a correction.

Themes and customizability

You are able to choose from a variety of themes: some will change the colors, others will also set an image background for the keyboard. While you’re not able to create your own themes, the available selection covers a wide range. Some extensions also provide additional eye candy, like “Rainbow Pops” which makes key pops colored.

The keyboard’s size can also be reduced to free up some screen space, if you find it too big. You can also hide the bottom bar (which contains the space bar, emoji and return button — the other buttons’ functions can be accessed using alternate methods) on the go by swiping down with two fingers (to show it again, you just need to do the opposite).

Other features

The “Launcher” extension might prove to be useful to some users. It basically acts like a mini launcher, allowing you to switch apps (e.g. messaging apps) easily from your keyboard.

Another neat extension is “Invisible Keyboard”. Not only does it turn your keyboard invisible, as its name applies, it also makes all of the screen available to the foreground app (with the keyboard acting as an overlay). This allows you to type without sacrificing any screen estate (although it will obviously block any clickable content below the keyboard), assuming you can get used to it.

Privacy

You can find Fleksy’s privacy policy here. You’ll need to have an Internet connection in order to download new languages or use cloud related features.

Download

 

Google Keyboard

Input

(Note that Google Keyboard and the AOSP keyboard are very similar, with the exception of some features that aren’t available in the AOSP keyboard, such as gesture typing and learning from Google services.)

Google Keyboard is a fairly traditional keyboard at first glance, but it actually comes with quite a bit of additional functionality. You can either type normally or enable gesture typing to swipe words (both can be used at the same time). The latter is quite accurate, and can even be used without lifting your finger at all by gliding over the space bar between words (although that often comes at the cost of accuracy).

To type numbers, you can either long press the top row or switch to the secondary pane. For symbols, you have the choice between switching panes and long pressing the “.” key instead, though the layout being slightly different from the secondary pane can cause some confusion. (You can also swipe from the “?123″ key, which instantly switches to the secondary pane.) If you prefer having a numbers row and more easily accessible symbols, you can enable the PC layout in the settings (unfortunately, this doesn’t provide arrow keys).

Emoji and text emoticons are easily accessible by long pressing the Enter key. Recently used emoji are also saved in the first tab. Additionally, a special dictionary can be installed to suggest emoji in some (very limited) cases.

You can also define text shortcuts through the system’s personal dictionaries, by adding or editing a word/phrase then specifying the shortcut. This allows you to type emails, phone numbers or common phrases more quickly.

Multiple languages

Multiple languages can be easily installed, after which you can switch between them by pressing the language key (if enabled), or long pressing the space bar. Dual language input isn’t supported by Google Keyboard.

Custom layouts can be defined for each language. You can choose from QWERTY, QWERTZ, AZERTY, Colemak, Dvorak and PC layouts.

Correcting input and predictions

Corrections seem fairly accurate, and the aggressiveness with which your mistakes get automatically corrected can be customized. The position of the letters is taken into consideration and saved, which is useful if you complete a phrase then want to go back to correct a word. However, it tends to forget those once you start editing the word, which in turn has the effect of turning slightly inaccurate suggestions into completely unrelated ones. You can press the backspace key to undo a correction right after it is made, but Google Keyboard doesn’t provide you with any additional tricks for editing past input.

The system wide custom dictionaries are used and respected. This can be handy if you switch between multiple keyboards that make use of them. Adding a word to the custom dictionary is as easy as tapping it.

Options are provided to add contacts’ names to the list of suggestions, using data from other Google services to learn words you commonly use, and to allow potentially offensive words. That last option still seems to give a higher priority to other words, though, so adding them to your dictionary can also come in handy.

Google Keyboard can offer next word predictions, if the option is enabled, but those seem rather dumb and only take the last word into consideration.

Themes and customizability

Holo and material themes are provided. They each come in two flavors: dark and light. That’s about it for customizing how your keyboard looks, although the material themes do look pretty good.

Privacy

The standard Google privacy policy applies. You can also opt out of usage statistics if you wish to do so. You need an Internet connection to download additional language packs.

Download

 

Hacker’s Keyboard

Input

Hacker’s Keyboard is mainly aimed at power users or those who want a PC-like experience. It comes in really handy when you’re in an SSH session thanks to the arrow and function keys (by default, the full PC layout is only used in landscape; you can change this in the settings).

When using the 4-row layout, numbers/symbols input is comparable to the Gingerbread keyboard — you can either long press keys or switch to the secondary pane. If you’re using the full 5-rows layout, however, you basically get your computer’s keyboard: numbers row, arrow keys, symbols that are accessible by long pressing keys or pressing Shift, etc. You can also use a numpad at any time by pressing the “Fn” key, which is very useful when you need to type lots of numbers.

Text shortcuts and emoji input are not supported.

Multiple languages

You can enable multiple languages from the keyboard’s settings, after which you’re able to switch between them by swiping the space bar left or right. Many languages do not have a dictionary available, though — you’ll get the layout and keys, but not the corrections. However, Some additional dictionaries can be downloaded from the Google Play store. Dual language input isn’t possible.

Custom layouts can be chosen for some languages (for example, English supports QWERTY and Dvorak), but not all.

Correcting input and predictions

Corrections are accurate, though they’re not automatic by default. Similarly to Google Keyboard, you can press the backspace key to undo a correction right after it is made.

Fixing past mistakes is a bit trickier than most keyboards, as tapping a misspelt word to correct it will not bring back the list of corrections. You’ll either have to correct the mistake manually, remove the word and type it again, or rely on the Android built-in spell checker (available since ICS).

Hacker’s Keyboard offers no predictions, which might make it less attractive to people who rely on them but would like to have the same fully fledged keyboard for both power and casual use.

Themes and customizability

Hacker’s Keyboard comes with a few themes: Gingerbread, ICS, Stone and Transparent. The keyboard’s size is very customizable, and so are most of its features (to list a few: sent key codes, suggested punctuation, long press pop-up keys; some of these can be very useful when using a terminal or coding on the go). You can also define custom gestures, although the available actions are a bit limited.

Other features

You’ll find all the keys you’d expect to see on your PC’s keyboard (arrows, function keys (F1-F12), Esc key, etc). These are extremely useful when using a terminal app or coding.

Privacy

Minimal permissions are required. Hacker’s Keyboard does not connect to the Internet at all.

Download

 

Hodor Keyboard

Input

Hodor. Hodor Hodor Hodor HODOR HODOR.

Multiple languages

Hodor.

Correcting input and predictions

Hodor?

Privacy

Hodor!

Download

 

Minuum

Input

Minuum is designed to take the least amount of screen space possible, but you can switch between the full keyboard and the minimized version with ease by dragging the suggestions bar up or down (or by pressing and holding the keyboard with two fingers).

In the full layout, you can type the letters or swipe up from any letter to input its corresponding secondary key (for example, you can swipe up from the “T” key to type “5”, or from the “V” key for “?”). Common punctuation characters can also be chosen quickly by swiping to the left/right from the “.” key, or by double tapping the space bar — all of this makes typing numbers and symbols pretty fast. You can also access a numpad and more symbols by switching to the secondary pane.

When minimized, Minuum only shows you one row of letters, saving a lot of screen estate. All of the above still applies, with the exception of the numpad. Swiping up can also be used to increased accuracy, as it “zooms” the letters in.

Gestures allow you to delete words by swiping to the left, inserting spaces (and completing the current word) by swiping to the right and going to a new line by swiping up and right. Swiping up and left can either activate voice recognition or change languages, depending on your settings.

Auto-spacing is optional and seems to work well in most cases.

Emoji input is supported, although there isn’t a pane for recently/frequently used emoji (however, if you use the experimental emoji bonus panel, recently used ones are displayed first; this adds an extra row to your keyboard but can be toggled dynamically). If you’re using a vendor themed ROM, there is an option to have Minuum use the Noto font for emoji (the default typeface used by Google). Text shortcuts cannot be defined.

Multiple languages

Only a dozen languages are supported at the moment. You can freely change each language’s layout between QWERTY, QWERTZ, AZERTY, Colemak, Dvorak and alphabetical layouts.

Switching languages is easy: you can either long press the space bar, or swipe up and left if you’ve replaced the voice button by the language button. You don’t need to, though, since you can use multiple languages simultaneously and Minuum will guess which language you need rather accurately (and if not, you can always force the language you want).

Correcting input and predictions

Minuum heavily relies on auto-correction, especially when the keyboard is minimized. It’s surprisingly accurate, too. If you want to correct a word, you can go back to it (the experimental cursor bonus panel helps with that) and select another suggestion. Auto-correction can also be turned off with the tap of a button (“sloppy typing”), allowing you to type whatever your heart desires, be it a series of abbreviations or your special lingo.

While you can import words from the Android user dictionary, there doesn’t seem to be a way to view, edit or remove learned words easily. You can make Minuum forget words by long pressing them in the suggestions pane, though. An option is also provided to learn the names of your contacts.

As for predictions, they seem to be very simplistic.

Themes and customizability

Minuum is very customizable — you can choose from a dozen of themes (some even change depending on the app or time of day), or make your own (however, you can’t specify a background image, only colors).

Other than that, you’re able to modify several features. To list a few, you can enable or disable gestures, get rid of the space bar row when Minuum is minimized and customize the keyboard’s height.

Other features

Other than the ones mentioned above, you can also enable bonus panels to edit the clipboard or to share/search for text you’ve typed.

Compact and floating modes are also available, which respectively let you dock the keyboard to the right or left, or freely move it around the screen and resize it. Unfortunately, there is no quick way to switch between the modes.

Privacy

You can review Minuum’s privacy policy here. An Internet connection is required to download language packs.

Download

 

Multiling O Keyboard

Input

Typing and swiping are both supported. The tolerance can be configured for each, though they still require more precision compared to other keyboard (especially swiping). Swiping to the space bar between words for continuous input is possible, though it doesn’t seem to work for more than two consecutive words.

Symbols are shown on the main keyboard. You can long press a button or swipe down from it to insert the symbol you want (this works for all secondary characters, not only punctuation), or swipe from the “.” or “,” keys (each shows a different set of symbols; you can customize these symbols as you wish). Typing capitals is done by swiping up instead. The keyboard really makes good use of gestures for quick input.

Several layouts are available (you can even make your own from scratch), and you can easily switch between them at any time by swiping from the space bar. Some of them include a row for numbers, others include arrow keys, etc.

Emoji and text shortcuts are both supported. Add-ons are required for this, and can be installed from the Google Play store or the website. Text shortcuts are defined from the settings screen (a shortcut is to swipe from the gear key to “autotext” on the keyboard). Emoji are separated into several categories (around 30), which can take some time to get used to, but generally makes finding emoji easier. Text emoji and many rarely used symbols are also listed (e.g. ♜ ♘ ♞ ✔ ✓ ✘).

Multiple languages

Language packs are installed from the Google Play store or the website. Switching between them is a breeze, even when you’ve got half a dozen — simply swiping from the space bar can list up to half a dozen languages, allowing you to select any of them easily.

Switching layouts is done in a similar manner, and you can even make your own. Pre-made layouts include QWERTY, QWERTZ, AZERTY, Dvorak, Colemak, Neo, Bépo, several variations of QWERTY, a phone keypad and then some.

Correcting input and predictions

Undoing a correction is done by pressing the backspace button after it is made. To learn a word, you can touch it in the suggestions bar. You can also increase or decrease the rank of any word by long pressing it in the suggestions bar then tapping on the option you want.

Selecting previous words to correct them always moves the cursor to the end of the word the first time you try it. This makes going to a certain character harder than it needs to be.

Arrow keys and cursor control keys are easily accessible in any layout by swiping from the gear button, and might be on the main pane in certain layouts as well.

Predictions are non existent at first, but learn from your typing habits as you go. You can also paste any text you want and have the keyboard learn from it, by swiping from the gear key to “Learn”. Default predictions are customizable and can be used for punctuation, dates, copying and pasting from the clipboard and more.

Themes and customizability

Let’s get this out of the way: this keyboard is ridiculously customizable. Pretty much every aspect of it is: fonts and colors, wallpapers, key layouts, long press contents, and a lot more. Don’t like the available layouts? Make your own, from scratch. Many themes can be downloaded from the website, and you’re able to share the ones you make easily.

This can be overwhelming for many users, but the defaults are very usable and many pre-made themes and layouts are available. The help document also covers most of the keyboard’s aspects.

Let’s say it one more time: ridiculously customizable.

Other features

Transformations can be applied to selected text, allowing you to easily quote text or put it between parentheses. Funky text transformations can also be used to translate text, use full width, exotic or emoji characters, change the case of the selection and more.

Using the phonepad can be used to make and input calculations with ease.

Transliteration is available for some languages. Useful dictionaries such as Linux commands and Hinglish can also be downloaded.

Several other features are also available, but many fall within the “crazy customization” category.

Privacy

Multiling O Keyboard does not have Internet access. Additional languages and add-ons are installed as separate packages.

Download

 

MyScript Stylus

Input

MyScript Stylus understands your handwriting, and it really is accurate (even without a stylus). Using it is intuitive and works for letters, numbers and symbols, and several gestures are provided to make usage easier (for example, you can go to a new line by swiping down then left).

Unfortunately, that is the only input mode available. It is very useful for language layouts you might not be familiar with (e.g. Arabic) even though you have no problem writing it, but using a traditional keyboard is much faster otherwise.

Text shortcuts and emoji are not supported.

Multiple languages

Several languages are supported, and dictionaries help by providing accurate corrections and suggestions. Switching between languages can be done by tapping the language button, but dual language input is not possible. The layout adapts correctly to RTL languages.

Correcting input and predictions

Correcting input is rather easy — to remove text, you can just scribble it. If you want to replace something, all you need to do is write over it. You can even split words by literally splitting it with your finger, giving you space to write between the two parts, or join them by drawing a bridge between the letters.

Predictions are not supported, and there doesn’t seem to be a custom dictionary for user defined words.

Themes and customizability

Options are provided to modify the text size, color, ink thickness, scrolling speed and baseline position. This allows you to adjust the keyboard for better results, although the looks can’t be heavily customized.

Privacy

You can read MyScript’s privacy policy here. Full Internet access is required to download additional language data.

Download

 

NextApp Keyboard

Input

If Hacker’s Keyboard and the AOSP Keyboard had a baby, it would probably look like this. It’s actually based on the AOSP Keyboard (which means it’s also similar to Google Keyboard in many aspects).

NextApp Keyboard supports both normal typing and gesture typing. The latter requires a compatible binary library, which you can usually find as /system/lib/libjni_latinime.so if you have Google Keyboard installed. Gesture typing is quite accurate. Note that gliding over the space bar cannot be used to separate words.

You can access numbers and symbols by long pressing the top row or tapping the “(+%” button (you can also swipe from this button, which directly switches to the secondary pane). You can also enable a row for numbers from the settings screen or the “mini” configuration pane, without leaving the current application. A pleasing surprise is that doing so actually removes the numbers from the secondary pane completely, and makes all symbols fit on the same page.

You can use emoji and text emoticons by long pressing the Enter key. Emoji you’ve used recently are saved in the first tab. Custom text shortcuts can be defined in the system’s personal dictionaries, as NextApp Keyboard respects that.

Multiple languages

Additional languages can be enabled from the settings menu. Switching between them is done using the language key, or by long pressing the space bar. Simultaneous language input isn’t supported.

Custom layouts can be defined for each language. You can choose from QWERTY, QWERTZ, AZERTY, Colemak and Dvorak. The PC layout can be toggled at any time from the mini configuration pane.

Correcting input and predictions

Offered corrections are usually accurate, and you can modify the aggressiveness for automatic correction in the settings. If you want to undo a correction, you can press the backspace key right after it is made. The arrow keys also come in handy to move the cursor when correcting mistakes or trying to select text.

The system user dictionaries are used and respected. The transition from the AOSP keyboard and Google Keyboard are seamless, as defined text shortcuts also work out of the box. Adding a word to the user dictionary only requires a tap.

Contact names can be taken into consideration for corrections, if the option is enabled in the keyboard’s settings. Another option allows offensive words, though adding these to your dictionary might have a better effect.

Next word predictions are offered as an option, though they’re not very smart.

Themes and customizability

You can select one of several themes for the keyboard: Holo, Material Design, Flat and seven more. Other customization options are also available, allowing you to modify the keyboard’s size, typeface, behavior for some terminal apps and then some.

Other features

All keys you’d expect to see on your PC’s keyboard (arrows, function keys (F1-F12), Esc key, etc) and Ctrl- combinations are provided. These are extremely useful when using a terminal app or coding.

Privacy

NextApp Keyboard can only download files (for language packs), and does not have full Internet access.

Download

NextApp Keyboard is currently in beta, during which paid features can be tried for free.

 

SwiftKey

Input

SwiftKey supports both typing and gesture typing (called “Flow”) — the latter is optional and can be disabled in the settings. Flow is very accurate, even when used to input entire phrases without lifting your finger (this is done by passing by the space bar between words).

Numbers and symbols can be seen on the main keyboard and are accessed by long pressing the corresponding key, or by switching to the secondary pane (which offers a numpad for inputting numbers). The secondary pane’s layout is entirely different from the primary pane’s, which may take some time to get used to. Additionally, a numbers row can be enabled in the settings. Common punctuation can also be quickly inputted by swiping left or right from the “.” button.

If Flow is disabled, two gestures can be used: swiping left deletes the previous word, and swiping down hides the keyboard. Otherwise, long pressing the back space key removes the words one by one.

The keyboard supports emoji and offers a tab for recently used ones, although the emoji pane’s scrolling lags noticeably and doesn’t integrate very well with themes. Emoji predictions can also be enabled in the settings screen, which suggests emoji relevant to the word you’re typing (e.g. typing “smile” suggests the smiling face). It is not possible to define text shortcuts.

SwiftKey inserts a space after every word or punctuation. This behavior cannot be modified, and could be annoying to some users.

Multiple languages

You can install and enable additional languages from the settings activity. SwiftKey lets you type simultaneously in up to three languages (you don’t need to switch manually between them).

You can modify this behavior by changing one of the languages’ layout, but it’s not possible to separate the different languages while having them use the same layout.

Available custom layouts are: QWERTY, QWERTZ, QZERTY, AZERTY, Bépo, Colemak and Dvorak.

Correcting input and predictions

Corrections and predictions are excellent, and are what made SwiftKey so popular in the first place. New words are learned automatically. While you can’t turn this off, long pressing a suggestion is enough to make SwiftKey forget it.

Selecting previous words is a bit wonky — pressing the middle of a word to correct it, for example, will move the cursor to its end the first time you do it (tapping again works as intended). This can make correcting a letter slightly more frustrating that it needs to be, but you can get used to it.

An additional row for arrows keys can be added, which can help with positioning the cursor and correcting mistakes.

The Android user dictionary is not used, and contact names don’t appear to be imported.

Themes and customizability

Fifteen free themes come pre-installed with the keyboard. Additional themes, paid and free, can be downloaded from the SwiftKey Store. A few themes put the designers’ skills into serious doubt, but you can also find some good choices.

Other features

SwiftKey Cloud allows you to import new words from sent emails and social networking posts. It also backs your data up and sync it across multiple devices. Finally, it enables “Trending Phrases”, which makes SwiftKey aware of trending expressions for predictions.

You can also choose from three different keyboard modes without leaving the current application, by long pressing the “123” key: “Full” is the traditional mode, “Thumb” splits the keyboard for easier typing with your thumbs, and “Compact” shifts the key to the left or right to make one finger typing easier.

You can also undock and resize the keyboard with the same method as above.

Privacy

You can find SwiftKey’s privacy policy here. An Internet connection is required to download additional languages, themes, and to access cloud related features.

Download

 

Swype

Input

Swype’s intended input method is, as you might have guessed, swiping, which is pretty accurate. You can also type normally or use handwriting, although handwriting recognition is lacking in accuracy.

Several gestures are available and make swiping much easier. For punctuation, simply swipe from the one you want to the space bar (though this starts inserting spaces before punctuation when you’re trying to input more than one). You can also capitalize any letter by swiping over the keyboard after reaching it.

Swiping from the Swype key to the numbers row also switches to the numpad, allowing you to type numbers with ease. Alternatively, you can long press keys to access secondary characters, or switch to the symbols pane.

Swype does not support emoji or text shortcuts, but there’s a pop-up for text emoticons. You can also swipe over the relevant keys (e.g. “:”, “-” and “(“) and Swype will suggest the correct text emoticon.

Multiple languages

Several languages are supported (but not all can be used for handwriting). Switching between languages is done by long pressing the space bar, but switching back to the last language is as easy as swiping from the Swype key to the space bar. Dual language support is also supported.

You can change each language’s layout to one of the following: QWERTY, QWERTZ and AZERTY.

Correcting input and predictions

A pane with cursor keys and extra buttons for cursor and clipboard control can be used (Swype-“?123″) to make editing and correcting input easier. Swype also tries to suggest smarter corrections when you go back to a word, by looking at the word before and after it.

To learn a new word, you have to tap it in the suggestions bar then tap “Add to dictionary” (you can also set the keyboard to automatically learn new words). Forgetting words is done by long pressing a suggestion. You can also edit the Swype’s dictionary from the settings menu. Importing the Android user dictionary or contact names is not possible.

Next word predictions are optional but fairly simple.

Themes and customizability

A dozen themes can be used with Swype, but you cannot create your own. There are also a few customization options, such as changing the keyboard’s height

Other features

Swype uses its own engine for voice dictation, “Dragon Dictation”.

Optional cloud features allow you to backup and sync learned words, automatically update Swype with trending words, or learn from social networks (Facebook and Twitter) and sent emails.

Additional gestures are provided to select all text (Swype-A), and to copy (Swype-C), cut (Swype-X) or paste (Swype-P) text, as well as launching Google Maps (Swype-G-M) for some reason and searching for the highlighted text (Swype-S). Tapping the Swype symbol also selects the current word, which can be used to easily replace it. Automatic spacing can be disabled by swiping from the Swype symbol to the backspace key — this is useful for compound words.

Privacy

You can find Nuance’s privacy policy here (Nuance is the company behind Swype). An Internet connection is required to download additional languages, to use Dragon dictation, and to access cloud related features. Data collection is optional and you must opt-in for it.

Download

 

Thumb Keyboard

Input

Typing with Thumb Keyboard is quite comfortable, and the different layouts and key spacing settings can be used to make it fit your needs.

Swiping up, down, left or right can be assigned to custom actions such as deleting words, moving the cursor or bringing up text shortcuts. Sensitivity is configurable as well, should you keep activating gestures by mistake.

Numbers and symbols are shown as secondary keys on the main keyboard, or even as primary keys depending on the used layout. Either long press the relevant key or switch to the secondary pane (“?123″) to input them. An additional row can be toggled at any time from the keyboard, and can be configured to contain special characters and shortcuts (e.g. arrow keys, copy/paste, etc) as you desire.

Text shortcuts can be defined and used from the keyboard. Custom labels can be assigned for each for easy identification. Text substitutions are separate, but also available from the settings screen.

Emoji aren’t supported at the moment. Typing quickly sometimes confuses the keyboard (for example, “kekeyboard” is typed instead of “keyboard”).

Multiple languages

Switching between installed languages is done by sliding the space bar, after you’ve installed them from the settings activity. Dual language input is not possible.

Available alternative keyboard layouts are QWERTY, QWERTZ and AZERTY.

Correcting input and predictions

Corrections are pretty good. Corrected words are subtly underlined, and the original word you typed is saved and can be easily restored. Backspacing after a correction is made also undoes it.

To teach the keyboard new words, you can tap it twice in the suggestions bar. Removing words from the dictionary can only be done from the settings.

Words from the Android user dictionary and contact names are automatically imported, although text substitutions are not and must be redefined manually.

Next word predictions are sort of available — your typing habits are learned, but only used once you start typing the next word (for example, if you often type “XDA developers”, “developers” will be the first suggestion after you type “XDA d”.

Themes and customizability

Around 25 themes are available (some are built-in, others need to be downloaded). Custom colors, fonts and backgrounds can also be used to modify parts or all of the theme.

Many other customization options are also offered, such as the ability to modify the keyboard’s size, edit secondary symbols, pick different layouts for portrait and landscape, etc.

Other features

Several different layouts can be used: other than the standard layout, you can dynamically switch to large and compact split layouts, giving you direct access to numbers, punctuation or arrow keys. Tablets and phones each have specifically designed layouts.

Privacy

An Internet connection is required to download additional languages and themes.

Download

 

TouchPal

Input

TouchPal supports both typing and gesture typing (called “Curve”). The latter is optional and fairly accurate.

To input secondary characters (numbers and symbols), you can either long press the primary key or swipe it up or down for the top and bottom rows. Inputting numbers and punctuation is made much quicker by this feature. You can also switch to the secondary pane, which also has a numpad.

The keyboard supports emoji (recently used ones are also stored in a separate tab), “emoji art” (similar to ASCII art, but uses emoji) and text emoticons. You can access the emoji screen by either tapping the emoji button, or by flicking the space bar up. Emoji suggestions can also be enabled, making them come up when relevant keywords are typed (for example, typing “smile” suggests the smiling face). Text shortcuts are not supported.

Multiple languages

You can install extra languages in the settings screen. Switching languages is usually done by swiping the space bar, but this can be configured if you prefer having an extra key for it.

Mixed language input allows each language to have a secondary language for which words are also predicted/corrected from (for example, you could use English and French, and then English and Spanish, as two different layouts).

Correcting input and predictions

Adding a word to the custom dictionary is done by tapping it in the suggestions bar (you can also enable auto saving). To edit or remove a word, you can long press it when it comes up in the suggestions or via the settings screen. The Android user dictionary is automatically imported when you first use the keyboard, and you can also import contact names and have TouchPal learn from messages and Twitter.

You can also access the “Edit” screen, which offers arrow keys and buttons to select text more accurately.

Prediction is optional. It learns from what you type and gets better… if you’re predictable. “Wave” is an interesting feature that puts predictions directly on the keyboard (e.g. “next” appear next to the “n”), and lets you swipe from it to the space bar for faster input.

Themes and customizability

TouchPal comes with two built-in themes and an option to set a custom image as the keyboard’s background. You can download more themes from the TouchPal store (paid and free themes are available).

Additional options can be used to customize the keyboard’s size and font, as well as other minor settings.

Other features

TouchPal lets you choose from three main layouts: PhonePad (T9), Full and T+ (which combines two letters and one symbol on each key). You can do this without leaving the currently opened app. For the Full layout, you can also choose between QWERTY, QWERTZ and AZERTY.

You can pin several buttons to the top bar, which also acts as a suggestions bar once you start typing. These include buttons to quickly access: layouts, the edit screen (offers cursor and clipboard control), themes and more.

Add-ons (currently limited to a custom emoji skin) and sub dictionaries can be downloaded from the TouchPal store. Sub dictionaries add or prioritize jargon (e.g. words related to computers or to the World Cup) or place names (such as Chicago locations).

Word trends are enabled by default, and make your keyboard aware of trending words automatically.

TouchPal Premium ($2.99/year) gives you access to backup and sync features, as well as cloud predictions — smarter predictions from the Internet. A 7-days trial is available.

Privacy

You can find TouchPal’s privacy policy here. An Internet connection is required to download additional languages, dictionaries, themes, addons, and to access cloud related features.

Download

 

Summary Table

Note that this table oversimplifies some aspects and completely omits others. It is not meant as a means to compare the different keyboards, but to provide you with a quick idea to see if a keyboard might be suitable for you (for example, if you only want a keyboard that supports emoji, you’ll be able to see which keyboards to check quickly).

For additional details, refer to the in-depth review.

Gesture input Numbers row Text shortcuts Emoji Multiple language input Predictions Themes
Fleksy
Google Keyboard
Hacker’s Keyboard
Hodor Keyboard
Minuum
Multiling O Keyboard
MyScript Stylus Handwriting
NextApp Keyboard
SwiftKey
Swype Swiping & Handwriting
Thumb Keyboard
TouchPal

The post Guide: In-Depth Look at the Best Android Keyboards appeared first on xda-developers.

by GermainZ at February 05, 2015 04:55 PM

January 31, 2015

Send Links to Any Nearby Device with CaastMe

CaastMe

There already are many solutions on the Google Play store if you want to send a link to one of your devices — but what if you wanted to do it quickly without having to install any software or logging in to a website on the recipient end? Most apps require you to do either or both, which can be a hassle (or even a security risk) in some cases.

Luckily, XDA Forum Member wyemun has developed CaastMe. Inspired by how WeChat and WhatsApp use QR codes, the developer took it up as a challenge to code the website and Android app in less than a day. Don’t be fooled by the short time it took, though, as CaastMe is actually very polished and simple to use.

You probably want to know how it works at this point. After you’ve installed CaastMe, only two steps are actually required:

  • First, go to http://caast.me/ (this works on desktop browsers as well as some mobile browsers, although you may need to enable the “View desktop site” option if you have any display problems). A QR code will appear on your screen.
  • From your mobile, share the link you want to CaastMe. This will instantly open your camera, allowing you to scan the QR code. As soon as you do that, you’ll be redirected to the link you just shared.

You can also view the screencast below if you’d like to see it in action. If that’s not enough, you’ll be pleased to know that sharing other data (such as images) is planned for the future.

If you’re looking for a hassle free way to share links that doesn’t involve installing software everywhere or dealing with logins, head over to the CaastMe forum thread now to grab it and give it a try.

The post Send Links to Any Nearby Device with CaastMe appeared first on xda-developers.

by GermainZ at January 31, 2015 02:29 AM

January 28, 2015

Android Development: Lotsa Links

This is meant to be a living archive of Android presentations, articles, videos, whatever that I've presented, co-presented, written, been a witness to, or simply enjoyed and learned from. People ask for this stuff occasionally ("Where can I learn more about performance tuning on Android?" or "Where can I see more videos of Romain? He's so dreamy, with that almost-real French accent!"), so I thought it would be worth recording the links somewhere where I can add new ones over time as stuff comes online (and delete old ones as they become obsolete).

I'll attempt to categorize things, but there is overlap on these topics. So the studious developer will, of course, watch and read everything. Twice.

The links are presented in rough reverse-chronological order in each section. Some talks date way back to 2010, but they're still relevant today (the advantage of APIs that don't go away...).

General Android Development

Android Developers Backstage (Tor Norbye, Chet Haase, and guests)
Tor and I interview other Android developers to talk about whatever it is that they do to help developers better understand how that stuff works.

Performance

Android Performance Workshop, Part 1 (Devoxx 2013) (Romain Guy & Chet Haase)
This presentation is all about memory on Android: how the system works, things to think about to avoid garbage collection, and tools to use to help detect and debug problems.

Android Performance Workshop, Part 2 (Devoxx 2013) (Romain Guy & Chet Haase)
This talk covers some platform improvements, performance tips, and case studies of chasing and fixing performance issues.

Android Graphics Performance (Google I/O 2013) (Romain Guy & Chet Haase)
More performance tips with demos of using the tools to find and fix problems.

Android Performance Case Study (Romain Guy)
This article from Romain shows how he used many of Android's performance tools to debug performance issues like overdraw on a real world app.

For Butter or Worse (Google I/O 2012) (Romain Guy & Chet Haase)
Romain and I discussed the graphics architecture of Android, along with various tips for achieving better performance.

Important Android Stuff, Part 2 (Devoxx 2012) (Romain Guy & Chet Haase)
More performance tips, more tools usage, more finding and fixing performance problems. More, more, more.

Android Tools (Devoxx 2011) (Romain Guy & Chet Haase)
A talk about some of the tools and techniques used for finding and fixing performance problems.

Android Performance Patterns (Colt McAnlis)
This series of videos from Colt helps you understand how things work and what you need to know to write better performing Android apps.

Graphics & Animation

Material Design (Devoxx 2014 keynote) (Nick Butcher & Chet Haase)
This talk is a combination of the design underpinnings of Material Design and some the platform API details for writing Material Design applications on both Android and Polymer.

Material Witness (Devoxx 2014) (Romain Guy & Chet Haase)
A talk about some of the Material Design APIs and techniques in the Android 5.0 Lollipop release, showing how they are used in a couple of sample applications.
This talk overlaps with a talk by the same name at Google I/O 2014, but this version is updated to the final APIs (the Google I/O talk was based on the APIs in the L Developer Preview release).

Material Science (Google I/O 2014) (Adam Powell & Chet Haase)
This is a talk on writing Material Design applications. Some of the API details have changed since this presentation, since it was based on the L Developer Preview release, but the underlying ideas of developing for Material Design is the same.

Important Android Stuff, Part 1 (Devoxx 2012) (Romain Guy & Chet Haase)
An overview of the Animation APIs, both pre-3.0 (the android.view.animation classes) and post-3.0 (the android.animation classes, Object Animator, etc.).

Curved Motion in Android (Chet Haase)
New APIs in Android 5.0 Lollipop make this much easier (and built into the platform), but this article explains how to use ObjectAnimator and TypeEvaluator to make your animations curve on earlier releases.

Android Graphics and Animation (Devoxx 2010) (Romain Guy & Chet Haase)
Romain and I talk about the general process of rendering Views on Android, graphics APIs for achieving various graphical effects, and the pre-3.0 Animation APIs.

Dive Into Android, Part 1 (Devoxx 2010) (Romain Guy)
Romain talks about the broader concepts of layout on Android, and the various built-in layout classes to use. He then steps through an example of creating a simple custom layout, to explain the process of measurement and layout that such a subclass must handle.

Dive Into Android, Part 2 (Devoxx 2010) (Romain Guy & Chet Haase)
Tips and techniques for creating graphical effects in Android applications.

Writing Custom Views for Android (Google I/O 2013) (Romain Guy & Adam Powell)
Romain and Adam Powell talk about custom views.

Stick GUIs (Romain Guy & Chet Haase)
Romain and I talk about various rich graphical effects for Android applications.

Android's Font Renderer (Romain Guy)
Romain's article about how Android renders text using the GPU.

DevBytes (Chet Haase & many others)
It's definitely worth checking out the DevBytes playlist. The content there is diverse, but it's clear to tell from the title whether it's something that you're interested in, and they all provide a quick deep dive into their topic of choice. There are a bunch of videos specific to animation and graphical effects, but there are many more videos on a wide range of Android topics.


by Chet Haase (noreply@blogger.com) at January 28, 2015 02:46 PM

January 09, 2015

How We Created Scalable UI - A Case Study

I rarely get to write about projects I've been involved with myself so writing this one makes for a pleasant change. For more than a year I've been working as a consultant embedded as a part of a very talented Android design and dev team at Onefootball. Onefootball, an awesome startup based in Berlin, have been developing apps for multiple platforms to bring football (soccer for my American readers) news, statistics and results to their users.

Download the app for free from Google Play

As a company, Onefootball has great ambition to do things right and be the best football app on every platform. This ambition is found from the management to the design and development team. A bit more than a year ago it started to become clear that an Android app wasn't good unless it utilised larger screens as well. That is when I joined the team.


The app is extremely rich with content. The amount of leagues and competitions available to users to browse for is mind boggling. Each of the competitions comes with massive amount of data complete with full season history, match data, team compositions, player statistics for each player and news related to teams and competitions.

Scalable Design

Arranging this amount of information is not easy. Creating responsive UI to accommodate all the different data display variations required us to use multiple different approaches. In this article I want to introduce few of the solutions we used to a create scalable UI that works seamlessly across a broad range if Android devices.


From tabs to columns


A lot of the app's content is split into multiple content sections that exist at the same level of the information hierarchy. On a smaller screen the natural component to use is a tab bar. For example the match screen shows things like the match overview, live ticker, line-up and stats.

Each tab's content is created as a flexible screen that spans the width of the screen on most phone sizes.

To get the match screen ready for larger screens the approach we chose to take was to remove the tabs altogether and show the tabs as columns which forms horizontally scrolling content. This created a display that easily scaled up to any tablet size and utilised the available screen space without feeling like the components information was cramped or constrained by space.



Tabs to tabs


On other screens with a similar structure we went a different way. This was when the content of the tabs itself was nicely scalable and was able to utilise the available screen real estate.

Many screens like the match screen were perfect for this. The content of each tab was already using card-style layouts and simple reorganising the way the cards are laid out in the screen allowed us to utilise the full screen on larger devices.

In some cases we also adapted the content of the cards to limit the amount of information shown when space is more limited. In this case, for example, the number of teams shown in the competition table is only three when on a smaller screen device and on larger screens we can show more. The full table is only a tap away for the users who want the complete information.


Cards are flexible

It's not an accident that a lot of Android apps use card-style visuals to show their content. Cards are easily arranged into flexible layouts and scalable UI forms itself nearly automatically.

Content like news articles with rich visuals and mixed sources create a great opportunity to use staggered list-style approach to create visually pleasing, content rich screens.



In some cases simply arranging the cards wasn't possible. If the cards used are different in size and must maintain strict chronological order using a staggered list is not the right way to display them. For us, the solution was to break some of the cards into smaller content components and show them as a grid.


In some cases the smaller screens displayed the content in a simple list while for larger screens we utilised grid-like layouts. This is something Google advises against in the Material Design guidelines but in this case we decided to break from the guidelines as this created the best possible scalable result.




Viewpager is easy to adapt

Viewpager is a very powerful component. On the team screen we wanted to show recent and upcoming matches.

For smaller screen widths we only show one match and a small slice of the next one to communicate to the users that there's something more just a swipe away.


When there's enough screen width to fit more than one match comfortably we adapt the viewpager to show two or three pages to reveal more information to the user.



Adaptive navigation

In some cases we chose to change the navigation hierarchy slightly when user was on a larger device. 

For example in case of the list of matches, we made the selection in the mast screen open a quick view of the match instead of navigating directly to the match page (like it does on smaller devices). This allows users to browse multiple matches more easily while still making it easy to jump into the full match page when the user desires. 


On the competition stats detail page we improved navigation between the different stat details on larger screens. Larger screens meant there was empty space on both sides of the list and it felt like a natural place to place quick navigation to the other details pages.


For the competition matchday list we ended up using a dropdown navigation on smaller screens but larger screens have room to show the matchday list on the side allowing user to jump between the matchdays more easily.




User Delight

Going for good app to a great app requires more than just nice scalable UI. You need to delight your users. In case of Onefootball a lot of details were added to the app to push it from being good to great.

In a football app the right place to start making users delighted is the team page. Onefootball app affords each team a fully themed page. A fan of any team will immediately recognise the colour theme and prominent team logo.


The team page was also improved with subtle but meaningful behaviour. The header of the page transforms into toolbar when scrolled. Lollipop's activity transitions were also spot on for this content. The hero element transition is both delightful as well as helpful.



Conclusion

The Onefootball was great fun. Working with a company that wants to do Android right is rewarding. The results are something I can be very proud to have been part of. Elegant Android scalability can be challenging but approaching it the right way makes it possible to get great results. There are pitfalls but they are avoidable. In our case the app ended up being featured multiple times - most recently as the Editor's Choice in the Google Play Store and in the Google's 2014 Best Apps List.



If you are interested in working with the Onefootball to create the best football app ever made I can wholeheartedly recommend the company. Check out their website for open positions here: http://www.onefootball.com/careers.html.



If your company is interested in getting your app built the right way and pushed to the next level don't hesitate to contact us, at Fat Robot. We can help you. We know how to build Android the right way.


http://fatrobot.io/
juhani@fatrobot.io













by Juhani Lehtimäki (noreply@blogger.com) at January 09, 2015 12:43 PM

November 20, 2014

Droid Turbo Review

Let me tell you that first of all the Droid Turbo's definitely amazing phone. I personally was going to hold up the Nexus 6 but then I got cold feet and decided to pull the trigger on this phone and have not been disappointed. So far the battery is definitely the most impressive feature. Basically the Nexus and the Turbo are basically the same they have the same processor the Nexus has the ISO camera clocking in at 13 megapixels and the turbo has a 20 megapixel camera with no ISO however coming from a G2 the pictures are definitely fine and dandy. The screen is extremely awesome except that YouTube for some god awful reason doesn't have 1440p or 1080p support which is super annoying. Another thing that I would like to point out about the turbo is it the battery literally is incredible I would definitely consider myself a power user in this phone easily and I mean easily last a day and a half to two days there have been several times where I fell asleep without charging my phone woke up with 20 percent and it got me through about 10 hours or so but that's with me probably only being on it for about an hour but even still that's impressive. The battery is good now so we can only imagine what kind of improvements will see when lollipop rolls out which I'm hoping will be soon the camera should also improve with that considering google rolling out their new API for photography. Overall I'd say that between the Nexus and the turbo its more of just if you want a 6 screen or 5.2 inch screen. If you have any questions or concerns please feel add comment on this post and I will get back to you soon as possible thank you for reading

by Captain Clyde (noreply@blogger.com) at November 20, 2014 03:37 AM

November 16, 2014

HTC Re first look

HTC Re first look

I’ve put off the real first look post on this camera until I had the finished product in my hands. I did have a video and post ready to go after the Double Exposure event. I didn’t post it, not because the hardware and software were bad, but because they weren’t finished. Seeing an unfinished product doesn’t help anyone decide to buy said product.

Before I continue, it should be noted this is only after a few hours of owning it and a bunch of sampling. A full review will be forthcoming. I’m having some fun with it so far, so let’s see what this little thing is all about.

DSC00455

I felt it was my duty to pick up the blue Re. I am a Maple Leafs fan after all! It almost matches my Reimer sweater. It measures a hair under four inches tall, an inch and a half between the edge of the lens and the edge of the capture button and the barrel diameter is 3/4 of an inch wide (Metric: ~10 x 3.81 x 1.905cm). There are only two buttons, a shutter button and a slow motion button. The micro-USB for charging and micro-SD slot are both on the bottom.

I purchased a 32GB card for the Re, as 8GB isn’t a hell of a lot for video. I’m not sure yet how I’ll be using this, but there are some truths that always apply: You can never have enough SD cards and it’s better safe than sorry. Changing the card involves removing the waterproof cover, giving the card a push and pulling it out. In practice this isn’t a lot of fun. The cover is continually in the way as it’s tethered to the bottom of the camera and the card doesn’t eject far enough for me. Tweezers would have helped, but I got it eventually.

Sample Photos

Rather than make a usual gallery I’m going to post a couple and talk about them a bit. Context is important in this part.

Normal Stills


RE CameraRE Camera

 

It seems a little hit and miss here. The first photo is the Re taking a picture of the live view on my HTC M8. That one came out a bit fuzzy and off. The latter, however, is of acceptable quality. If you’re expecting full frame or APS-C quality out of a camera with a f/2.8 16 megapixel sensor, prepare to be disappointed.

Ultra Wide Angle

RE Camera RE Camera RE Camera

 

Of the last two photos, one is with wide angle and one isn’t. Can you guess which one? This ultra wide angle setting was something I was eager to test and left me wanting in the end. All my test shots leave a huge fisheye effect on the photo. The picture of the bench seat shows just how exacerbated it can be. In the Re app, it is possible to turn a wide angle shot into a regular shot, but something curious happens there:

Screenshot (01_27PM, Nov 16, 2014)

It is actually named “defisheye”. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. I’m saying know what’s going on here with the wide angle shots. There are surely some really creative people out there who could use this to their artistic advantage. That or make every iPhone bend…

Video

 

 

I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t admit my stupidity here. I never turned ultra wide angle off before I shot this video. I’ll do a proper comparison for the full review, but the big takeaway here (aside from dat fisheye) is the audio is actually quite good. The microphone is essentially a pinhole affair atop the camera. As I walked through those crisp New York Autumn leaves, you can hear the crunch really well. I’m not disappointed at all with the Re video functionality.

I realize there is a lot missing here. It is important to remember this is not the full review. This is playtime for us, and in a week or so of actually using the Re properly there will be much much more to say. Stay tuned for that fun!

Land of Droid -

by Scott Kenyon at November 16, 2014 07:37 PM

The State of Android Hardware Companion Apps

 - Doing Android wrong makes me distrust your product's future.

Time after time I keep running to this same issue: hardware companies don't get Android. Companies building expensive products are either completely failing in their mobile app strategy across the board or put all their efforts to their iOS app effectively making their Android apps an afterthought.

But what does it matter as long as it works (on some level)?
Trust. It's all about trust.

I simply don't trust companies who don't seem to care about Android users. I've been burned too many times before. And I don't think I'm the only one.

Because of past bad experiences my shopping decision now includes looking up the Android app of the product I'm considering purchasing and seeing if it looks like an Android app and if it seems to be built the right way (scalable, uses notifications correctly, etc basic Android platform knowledge).

If I see things like use of the menu-button-of-shame, strange notification use, use of iOS UI components or UI structure etc. I know that the company is not regarding Android as a first class citizen in their own ecosystem.

When the platform I'm using is clearly at the end of the priority queue of the company whose products I'm considering buying it tells me few things based on my past experience. The UX of the mobile app is likely to be subpar. I'm likely going to get a feature limited version of the software and all new and improved features are going to arrive to me much later than if I was using iOS. Still... I'm paying the same price for the hardware product.

I simply do not trust that the device is worth the money if the company doesn't think that it's worth their time to look into the most used mobile platform of the world.

No thank you!

Cross-platform disasters

Some companies building high-end (or at least expensive) products like BOSE seem to be completely failing to understand the importance of creating mobile user experiences. With their SoundTouch Controller (iOS) product they seem to have gone the route of ignoring all platforms and build an app with some cross-platform tool and the results are as expected.

There's no way I'll put my money into your product if you don't understand how to build mobile apps. It might be that use of the mobile app is just a secondary way of controlling the system and "an additional feature" but if this is the quality of your product I doubt I'll enjoy the rest of it either!




iOS-first (only?) approach

Now, this might be justified on some level but there's limits. Making hardware that talks to mobile devices is difficult. Bluetooth as a technology sucks big time but that's unfortunately what we have to use (at least for now). It probably makes sense for companies to pick the largest segment of their market to target first when building software to their hardware which is relatively standards and least fragmented.

After the start I'd expect to see the Android support added relatively quickly. It's a massive market. Let's say that you decide to target just couple of the top-end Android phones in the first iteration you will likely target a very similarly sized audience. While you might encounter some issue with some devices you can start ironing out the issues one-by-one.

But seeing something like this in an online store of bleeding edge hardware maker a year after the device release causes problems. As customer shopping in the Runtastic store this makes me pause. I will think twice buying any of the hardware that is compatible with Android as I'm not sure where my platform fits in their corporate strategy?


In case of Runtastic this becomes even worse. With Runtastic I'm not only buying their hardware to use. I'm also buying into their ecosystem. I'll be uploading my info to their systems, using their exercise apps and so on. If I subscribe to their ecosystem will I be treated on the same level as people using iOS devices?

Direct iOS ports

Then there's something that I don't understand at all. This should never be done by anyone. A company that takes time to make their hardware compatible with Android but for some unfathomable reason decides to port their iOS app directly to Android without looking into Android platform guidelines, UX etc. I cannot understand how this still happens in 2014.

Building Android apps right way is much easier than trying to make your apps look and function like iOS apps. Still. Some companies insisting doing this in the way we in Finland call "climbing a tree ass first" ("perse edellä puuhun).

Parrot's Flower Power is an interesting product that monitors how your flowers are doing. But what they've done with their Android app is beyond belief. It is a 1-to-1 direct port of their iOS app. From the minute you open the app on your Android device you feel like it is not built for you.

The app uses iOS bottom tabs which immediately make the app navigation not functional when combined with the Android back button. It's also style-wise mostly just confusing to all Android users. Tabs in screens don't work as expected (where's my swipe gesture), the whole font throughout the app is strange, it's full of custom controls that don't belong to the platform and they've even implemented features that you really don't need to implement on Android as the platform gives them to you for free. And top of everything the app is, of course, locked into one orientation (a sure tell that the design is not flexible).

I simply cannot understand what made them to do this? Are there no Android users in the company management? Is there no designers using Android at all in the company? This app is very confusing, ugly and doesn't belong on Android. There's no way I will buy hardware that is supported this poorly on my platform.


iOS-only marketing

Another thing with hardware manufacturers that I fail to understand is the lack of Android presence on their websites. Maybe the most striking example of this is Parrot Zik 2.0 website. Take a look at the site. Would you imagine that you could use the headphones with Android as well? On the surface no. Every single image on the site is an iPhone running their software. There's even sentences like "They are made for iPhone, iPod, iPad.".


These things are not cheap. The Zik 2.0 costs almost $400 in Amazon.com by the time of writing this.


Scanning the Parrot website for compatibility there's, in fact, exactly one mention of "Android" and it is this: "Free app compatible with smartphones running on iOS, Android".

Anyone wanna take a guess how good their Android app is?

This $400 headset comes with a companion app that looks like absolute crap. It's, of course, exact clone of the iOS app but in this case it's bad on both platforms.

The app is locked on in portrait on phones and to landscape on tablets. It also fails in some very basic UI design things like using margins and alignment. It also has reinvented all the controls.

The best of all it has a menu-button-of-shame. This is such a direct proof that this app was built without any knowledge of the Android platform.


The app also immediately adds a persistent notification to your status bar when you open it. The notification content simply baffles me. And maybe not a big surprise that the notification's priority is set incorrectly so it's always fully visible.


There's a lot more I could point out in the app as issues but I think I've made my point. Do I want to pay $400 for headphones if this is the quality I can expect? Hell no!

Crowdfunding projects

Kickstarter and indiegogo are both full of tech projects looking for funding. More often than not you see these small startups fighting for funding completely fail to understand that platform differences matter. You see pitches in Kickstarter that claim support for iOS and Android but they only show iOS devices in their campaign page (or even worse, some strange abominations like below).


As Android community, we're already getting burned very often by large manufacturers and it's making us careful. When you choose to show only iOS devices on your campaign page it tells us that if I back your project I'll likely have to wait for features iOS users will get earlier. Personally, I'm not backing projects like that anymore.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

Android users don't spend money. iOS users are where the money is. - You've probably heard this statement before. If this is true you can hardly blame the manufacturers for putting their efforts into iOS and then doing something half-arsed to tick the box for having an Android app later if they get around to it.

I would not be surprised if this attitude in the industry was the cause for Android users not spending the money to these products. It's quite natural. If you show that you don't care about my UX I'm not going to give my money to you.

If you think that Android users would not buy your products maybe the fault lies with you and not with Android users? Are you creating products worth buying? Can you really afford to ignore 80% of the potential market?

Conclusion, TL;DR

This post turned out to be a bit more whiny than I intended it to be but I think the point becomes clear. While in many areas Android has finally became a first class platform in hardware companion apps there's a lot of space for improvement.

While there are hardware manufacturers who are already pushing quality of their mobile software they're more of an exception than a rule. I see this as a lot of unused potential. A manufacturer doing their Android apps right can differentiate positively from the crowd. Any takers?

by Juhani Lehtimäki (noreply@blogger.com) at November 16, 2014 05:03 PM

October 31, 2014

Chrome Beta easter egg game

Chrome Beta easter egg game

Ever wanted to see a dinosaur jump over a cactus? No, well me either but Google has made it into a game of sorts. The new easter egg in chrome beta allows you to play that game. Just turn on airplane mode, go to the chrome beta, type in google.com, and click on that dinosaur.

Warning: My phone opens chrome beta in quite a weird way I am using a oneplus one with mahdi rom but I wanted to show off the easter egg anyways. 

Reddit

Land of Droid -

by Tyler Maciaszek at October 31, 2014 12:06 PM

October 07, 2014

New Tech mine hard difficulty

Another update went live in the market last night. This one fixes various issues introduced in the last update, but the biggest change is to add a hard difficulty to the tech mine.

Hard levels are variations on the normal set, but… harder. In some cases this just means that there are fewer ores, but in others there are subtle differences, large layout changes or even objective changes in place. If it is popular I’ll try and do the same for the rainforest pack.

You can also now play tech mine in freeplay mode (although there is a bug that means you need to go into the mission pack level select screen first, otherwise you’ll get a crash when starting the level – this will be fixed in the net update).

Other changes:

– Fixed visibility beaneath miner when near an edge (the tile beneath you now reveals where approaching an edge)
– Fixed pro/extreme difficulty mix up
– Made objective stars harder to click accidentally
– Improved some menu layouts
– Fixed some bugs in the map screen
– Fixed signs not appearing
– Fixed harold short changing you when he buys multiple items
– Fixed various bugs with photography in tech mine
– Performance improvements


by Psym at October 07, 2014 11:06 PM

September 28, 2014

Reimagining Play: Interview with PlayMG’s Taylor Cavanah

Last month, we brought you a review of the MG, an Android powered handheld gaming system designed for casual games. The combination of vanilla Android and the MG’s custom parental controls made the device a compelling option for gamers young and old alike, and its comparatively low price combined with the vast Android software library offered an unbeatable value.

The team behind the MG had obviously done their homework and targeted the product to a very specific market which was otherwise being ignored. Rather than throwing out a half-realized device that didn’t resonate with any particular use case, the team engineered the hardware and software experience to their target audience to great effect.

Taylor Cavanah

Taylor Cavanah

To learn more about the focus and vision which made the device a reality, we got in touch with MG’s physicist turned meta-gamer Taylor Cavanah.

Creating the MG

The Powerbase: Taylor, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you start by telling our readers a bit about yourself and your background?

Taylor: I’m a physicist and started my career in Nanotechnology at Zyvex.  After finding some success in developing the nanoprobing market for the semiconductor industry I decided to strike out on my own.  My buddies and I started our own software company – Locai – and a year ago we combined forces with the hardware and business guys from ACTScom to launch PlayMG.

The Powerbase: What exactly is your role at PlayMG? What are your day to day responsibilities like?

Taylor: My specific role involves game/app design, platformsoftware design, business development, innovation, and as is the case with all start ups – many more roles.  Day to day I was either talking with game houses, working with the hardware guys to design the user experience, writing the story behind our game within the gaming device app Origins, looking for interesting apps to work with, working with marketing to craft the messaging behind these features we were building, and testing devices in every possible way.

The Powerbase: PlayMG has no qualms about the fact it has targeted the MG to younger gamers. Why do you think the younger gamer is so important? What makes the MG a better option than, say, mom’s old smartphone?

Taylor: Every one has a slightly different opinion on this but for me the younger gamers make the most sense because they can’t have phones.  Whether their parents don’t want them or can’t afford the data plans, there are a lor of younger gamers who love apps but can’t get access to them.  The “hand me down” argument is definitely valid.  I can hand down my phone and just remove the plan and then they have a smart device.  That’s where our added benefits factor in to the equation.  You can’t get Family Collaboration, SpendSmart, or the Origins game in a hand me down.  And sometimes more importantly, you can’t get that “awe” moment when your son or daughter opens up your repackaged device from 2 years ago.

Android and the MG

The Powerbase: Its differences aside, the majority of the MG’s software is straight Android. Would it be safe to say that, if it wasn’t for the open nature of Android, the MG wouldn’t exist in its current form? Would have putting this same hardware out with a proprietary operating system have gotten you as far as Android has?

Taylor: There is no way we would exist without Android.  The barrier of entry previously was just too high.  We got a solid and awe inspiring product to market in 9 months.  Core to that was not having to build an entire OS.  Not just in terms of getting something to market but that greatly helped us focus our time and money where it mattered – on the added benefits like Family Collaboration and Origins.  This is what I love about open source – you get to make products with extremely well designed experiences where it matters.

The Powerbase: One of the biggest selling points early on was that the MG would be a vanilla Android device, meaning it would be as close to AOSP as possible. In the end the MG delivered on that promise, and is one of the few non-Nexus devices available running stock Android. Why was running stock Android so important for the MG?

Taylor: Part of that answer has to do with my previous answer – it’s just easier to not build stuff you don’t need.  I think everyone can point to some larger companies that have large engineering staffs that have to build stuff because those salaries are being spent no matter what.  Then you get a lot of customization away from stock.  But most of that is useless and provides no value to the customer experience.  A lot of engineers also like the job security that building all of this custom stuff gives them.  They will always be needed because only they know how this version of flavored Android operates.  For us it was exactly that overhead that we didn’t want.  If we build our own flavor of Android then every new app or platform we create down the road has to take that into account.  We had to keep our focus on what mattered for the end user.

The Powerbase: From a development perspective, stock Android is generally preferable to manufacturer modified builds, but what about the end user? It’s no secret that the most popular Android devices (such as Samsung’s Galaxy line) make use of manufacturer modifications to their interface and applications, so the public doesn’t seem to mind. Do you ever worry that shipping with stock Android rather than a build with more visual flair and streamlined functionality pleases the developers at the expense of the end users?

Taylor: I have never believed that popularity of a device has anything to do with how well it is designed or received by customers.  The large software guys have proven time and again that being big in a space and having a ton of money can make up for a lot of deficiencies.  I say this because I don’t believe customers buy the Galaxy line because of the manufacturer improvements – most customers have never seen stock Android so they don’t know any better.  My guess is the commercial bashing the iPhone (hilariously with the parents in line) did a lot more than the user experience.  From what I’ve seen all of the added modifications make little difference to the real end users (not us tech types who are too deep in the space).  We found you could do an amazing amount of things just using the widget system in Android to change the user experience – without huge teams to build and then manage modifications.

The Powerbase:  Some would say that shipping the device with vanilla Android only makes sense if it’s kept up to date with AOSP (such as the Nexus line), but the MG is still on 4.0.4. Why hold the MG back? Are there plans on updating to Jelly Bean (and beyond)?

Taylor: We will update to Jelly Bean.  But with such a low saturation of Jelly Bean and many apps still not upgraded for the experience it doesn’t make sense to expend the effort.  Again we’ve got to focus on that end user experience and the only people ever asking for Jelly Bean are analysts or the random parent who just saw some article that mentioned the new Jelly Bean thingy for Android.

Expanding Android Gaming

The Powerbase: One of the best features of the MG, at least for parents, is unquestionably the Family Collaboration System. While it currently sets the MG apart from the competition, would PlayMG consider bringing it to generic Android devices? Perhaps charging a monthly subscription fee when used on non-MG hardware?

Taylor: We are always weighing the pros and cons of releasing some of the proprietary apps to the Play Store.  Right now we only have to manage one device, we get to ignore fragmentation, and we have a competitive advantage.  I don’t see us releasing the apps until we are much more established.

The Powerbase: An advantage of putting out an Android based gaming system is, of course, that you aren’t responsible for developing or publishing games for it (unlike traditional game consoles). That said, are there plans to talk to developers about MG optimized games? Is that already happening?

Taylor: Nothing that I can talk about but we definitely have plans and some preliminary talks about using our PlayMG IP to create games.  Any game developers interested (especially if they want to do something outside of the normal bounds of gaming) should get in touch with us.

The Powerbase: You can’t talk about Android gaming anymore without mentioning the OUYA; while it’s aiming for a completely different market than the MG, are there any parallels you draw between them? Do you see families owning both devices in the future?

Taylor: Mine arrives in 3 weeks (if I had more time and money I would have gotten a developer version).  I would love to work with OUYA in the future and I do believe that console gaming and portable gaming will always be with us.  Where the hardware, software, and interfaces end up who knows but for now there are many opportunities that could be explored between the two companies.  For the next year though I’m guessing both of us will be too busy to pursue them.

Looking Ahead

The Powerbase: A common criticism of the MG is that it lacks physical controls. This was a design decision based on the intended userbase for the MG, but it’s also undeniable that there are hardcore gamers out there that would appreciate an MG-like device with physical input. Is this a challenge PlayMG might take up in the future? Perhaps a device like the Sony Xperia Play, but in a non-contract form like the MG?

Taylor: I don’t see that happening.  Our target user is not hardcore and in fact probably did not grow up with a game system that had controllers.  But at an even deeper philosophical level (get ready for the fan boy to come out) I think the portable gaming systems with controls aren’t just missing the mark but don’t really have a mark to hit.  Portable gaming is about the casual experience on the go or that little block of entertainment that you carry around in your pocket.  I have so many different serious game devices where I can have mind blowingly immersive experiences – but that’s not what you want in a portable gaming device.  At the end of the day we talked to a bunch of “gamers” in our demographic and they wanted a device they could put in their pocket versus a device that let them play games designed for pre-touch devices.

The Powerbase: If it’s not giving too much away, what can you say about the future of PlayMG and the MG itself? Anything current or future owners should be looking out for?

Taylor: We have some great plans for the Family Collaboration System – making it much more collaborative.  A lot of parents and even kids have asked for expanded features here.  I’m most excited about expanding the portable fun in the device.  The entire industry as a whole is barely scratching the surface of what you can do with portable gaming.  We have some very interesting things planned for making shared portable gaming experiences like no one has seen before.  Unfortunately I can’t say much more than that.

Thanks to Taylor and the entire PlayMG team for their assistance and professionalism while we worked on the original hardware review and this interview. We’re very interested in seeing where the future takes PlayMG, keep an eye out here on The Powerbase for future coverage of this unique company and its products.

by Tom Nardi at September 28, 2014 06:47 PM

Win a Free Android Game Console Courtesy of PlayMG!

Free Console???  Yep!

PlayMG, a company dedicated to Android game consoles and safety online, wants to give one lucky Powerbase reader a PlayMG Android game console.  What is a PlayMG?  Well, we spent some time with the device several months ago.  You can read our impressions here.

So, how do you win?  Easy! 

1.) Find us on Google+ or Facebook.  Share the post!

2.) Like us on Facebook or give us a +1 on Google Plus.

3.) Come back here and leave a comment stating why you should win a PlayMG game console!

That’s it!

The winner will be chosen on Nov. 26th, so make sure to keep checking back! 

 

mgspecs

PlayMG Specifications

Check out Olivia Holt and Kyrie Irving enjoying the PlayMG below.

 

Powerbase Review | PlayMG

Powerbase Interview | PlayMG’s Taylor Cavanah

 

 

by admin at September 28, 2014 06:47 PM

September 24, 2014

Devoxx 2013 Presentations

All of the talks from Devoxx 2013 are now freely available on the parleys.com website. This includes all of the talks that I did with Romain Guy on Android:
Filthy Rich [Android] Clients
What's New in Android
Android Performance Workshop Part 1
Android Performance Workshop Part 2

There's also an interview about the new features in KitKat.

Then there's this somewhat less relevant Patterns, Shmatterns talk I did about software design patterns.

All of the slides from the Android talks are posted on Romain's blog.

by Chet Haase (noreply@blogger.com) at September 24, 2014 01:37 PM

August 23, 2014

I hate missions! What’s in this update for me?

All is on track for the release of the tech mine expansion pack tomorrow. Even if you don’t play the missions, there are plenty of changes to look forward to in the update (these affect the whole game, not just the new levels):

  • much quicker level generation and startup
  • you can now check objectives when outside of the camp by tapping on the stars in the corner
  • subtle character animations added, such as blinking
  • the cracks created when digging have been redrawn and have more stages, so you get more feedback when digging tough ground
  • lots of sprites retouched or redrawn
  • added a small element of randomness to the digging, so it doesn’t always take the same number of hits for a particular ore
  • less memory usage, less battery usage, better performance
  • removed annoying bat poop sound
  • lifts arrive slightly faster
  • added more detail to the map screen
  • silenced the low health warning when on the surface
  • fixed restart logo sometimes appearing in wrong ratio
  • fixed character “running on the spot” when returning to the game
  • fixed the characters in a conversation sometimes disappearing rather than sliding in/out
  • fixed a bug where the map markers could appear in the wrong location
  • fixed the saving spinner hanging around when it shouldn’t when in the shop or camp
  • fixed progress on hidden objectives animating when it shouldn’t
  • fixed an odd fade effect when stepping up a block that causing colour wierdness

by Psym at August 23, 2014 10:36 AM

July 17, 2014

Freesat Android app launched

Freesat, the vague organisation behind those TV tuners that let you get satellite TV without paying Sky any money, now has an official Android app. On a basic level it’s an EPG to tell you what’s on over the next seven days, although viewers with one of the more recent Freetime set-top boxes can pair it with their tuners and use their phones and tablets as remote controls — also triggering recordings from afar.

freesat-android-app-1

freesat-android-app-2

It is therefore quite useful if you can get it to sync and work. Check out the Freesat app here.

by eur0b0t at July 17, 2014 10:41 AM

June 27, 2014

Google I/O 2014 Slides and Demo

Chet and I gave a talk entitled “Material Witness” at Google I/O today. I am happy to announce that the entire talk is now available on YouTube. I have also published the following resources:

Google I/O 2014 demo

by Romain Guy at June 27, 2014 06:39 AM

June 17, 2014

Moto Maker for Moto X hitting Germany on July 1st

After way too much time as a US-only exclusive and with the phone it pimps to the extreme already starting to show its age, Motorola’s finally ready to launch the Moto Maker customisation service for the Moto X in Europe.

According to Motorola Germany, the case modding service will launch exclusively for those who buy a phone through Phone House in the country. Phone House is the German wing of Carphone Warehouse, so here’s hoping CPW picks up the deal and launches the custom phone option here in the UK too.

moto-maker-uk

This could be the answer to the tricky “eccentric summer phone” problem we currently face. As long as it’s cheap.

Link via Androidsis.

by eur0b0t at June 17, 2014 07:30 PM

June 02, 2014

March 30, 2014

Maverick 2.6

Maverick 2.6 is just released with map tiles downloader. You can “paint” areas to download with one finger or select a rectangle block using multi-touch. Select on the left all zoom levels you want to download. Tap and hold to select at once all zoom levels up to the selected level.

Downloader

Download: Pro versionLite version

Related posts:

  1. MX Video Player: best AVI/MKV player for Android
  2. Neat Calendar Widget
  3. Adobe Flash Player 10.1 on Droid X

by Jeff at March 30, 2014 01:18 PM

February 28, 2014

Publishing an Android book in the vogella book series

Since a few months I’m working on an Android book based on the popular Android online tutorials from my website.

Selection_017

On thing I learned in the past about book writing is that the process is extremely painful. Creating a consistent and almost error free description is much more work than publishing a good online tutorial. Fortunately I already have a great team of reviewer for the book, so I have high hopes that this book will be of great quality.

I plan to release early access versions of the book via Kindle and Google Play. This release process should start soon.

I want to add every month a new chapter and people which purchases the early access version can update their books. This process will continue until I finish the electronic book. The final book will be available as paper book and as ebook.

by Lars Vogel at February 28, 2014 10:17 AM

February 24, 2014

The Galaxy S5

Photos of the galaxy S5 leaked today, and let me tell you, I am not very impressed as far as the visuals go. This is a link to an album someone leaked today. The device itself doesn't look very impressive. The bezels are bigger than the S4, although the screen is bigger. A 2800mah battery with a rumored 2K screen is going to be a battery killer. The LG G2, came out 6 months ago and has a bigger battery than that, come on Samsung. I fear Samsung is falling into the same boat as Apple. Small subtle improvements each year, knowing that people will buy it because its "The Galaxy S5". I don't want that. I want something I pull out of my pocket, and people say "wow what's that!!!" Not, oh you have a galaxy? We're entering a time where phone manufacturers are all trying to make the next new fad (watches, fitbits, glasses) and unfortunately I don't see this being one of them, even though it will be. comment below on what you think about the S5!

by Captain Clyde (noreply@blogger.com) at February 24, 2014 07:21 PM

February 08, 2014

Grails based survey system, the android app

Some time back I wrote an article describing the roosearch system I developed using grails. This is the second part, the android client, please checkout the previous article otherwise this might not make much sense! After completing the grails component, I had a RESTful API available to me, and I just needed to build an ... Read more

by James Elsey at February 08, 2014 09:56 AM

January 21, 2014

Dragging Images When Scaling Must Be Restricted

I recently retired, but I have one more little tip to blog about. While I have a few ideas for some apps, I doubt that I’ll have to do the kind of intensive problem solving required during my job. Therefore this might be the last post.

I was involved with a suite of clients for business intelligence. The primary clients were created with Adobe Flex and ran in the browser. They provided for creating and viewing reports. The iOS and Android clients provided for viewing reports. Thus features were implemented in the Flex product first, and we who supported the mobile clients had to cope with adding them. The feature relevant to this blog entry was the ability to specify numerous scaling options for images (e.g. photos) that could be incorporated into reports. Some of these scaling options had no natural analog to the Android scaling options for images.

To support the requirement for panning and zooming images I took full advantage of the PhotoView library provided by Chris Banes. This library was a great solution for all but two of the required scaling options. Our product allowed for two rather silly options of fitting an image to the width or to the height of the viewport that the report designer drew on screen. If the other dimension of the image was greater, then part of the image would be invisible. I had to provide support for letting the user drag the image around in the viewport so that all of it could be seen.

The PhotoView library would have handled this except for the fact that we needed to set the scale type on the ImageView class to MATRIX, and PhotoView does not allow that. With no natural analogous scaling type to our “fit width” and “fit height”, I had to create a new subclass of ImageView to handle just the images requiring those types. The ReportImageView class has some code for doing the scaling needed to fit height or fit width, but I am leaving that out here so as to concentrate on the drag support.

import uk.co.senab.photoview.VersionedGestureDetector;
public class ReportImageView extends ImageView implements VersionedGestureDetector.OnGestureListener {

private VersionedGestureDetector mScaleDragDetector;

 public ReportImageView (Context context, AttributeSet attrs){
    super(context, attrs);
    mScaleDragDetector = VersionedGestureDetector.newInstance(context, this);
  }

  @Override
  public void onDrag(float dx, float dy){
     Matrix matrix = getImageMatrix();
     Matrix copy = new Matrix(matrix);
     copy.postTranslate(dx, dy);
     setImageMatrix(copy);
  }
  @Override
  public void onFling(blah, blah...){
    //no op
  }
  @Override
  public void onScale(blah, blah...){
    //no op
  }
}

The salient features are 1) make a new VersionedGestureDetector using the class provided in the PhotoView library, 2) implement the onDrag() method of the OnGestureListener interface. In onDrag() make a new matrix and post-translate it to the coordinates supplied, then set that as the image matrix.

When the scale type is “fit width” the user can drag the image up and down if the height is greater than the width. When the scale type is “fit height” the user can drag the image left or right. If you get such oddball requirements for images, try this solution.


by Todd Folsom at January 21, 2014 08:48 PM

December 07, 2013

Robots! Part 2, the android client

Continuing on from my previous post, I’ve created an android client that I can use to send commands to my python server. Ultimately I want to be able to control the robot remotely, the best way to do this would be to control the robot from a tablet or a phone which communicates wirelessly with ... Read more

by James Elsey at December 07, 2013 11:01 AM

November 15, 2013

Moving An Android View By Dragging It

Yes, here is another article about moving or dragging a view with a finger, but I think I can give a complete example in one place. Most of what I read while developing a movable component did not give a fully working result. I started with the article on making sense of multitouch at the Android developers’ blog. Then I had to go search at Stackoverflow. I give some of those references in the code comments.

I had a requirement to provide a magnifier view, or jeweler’s loupe, which would provide a magnified view of a graph as the user dragged the view over the graph. The magnifier would become visible on a long press and stay visible while the user dragged it over the graph. The frame of the magnifier would display the magnified contents as provided by a helper method (not described here). Here’s a rough example from my testing app.

magnifier example

magnifier example

It shows a small bitmap (unmagnified in this test) and some bogus tooltip values to the right of the image. When this magnifier is dragged over the image (i.e. a real graph), the magnified area will update as will the tooltip information.

Let’s look at the code. Here’s the touch listener for the magnifier. It requires that the magnifier (a RelativeLayout) be passed in on the constructor.

private class TouchListener implements View.OnTouchListener{
   public TouchListener(RelativeLayout frame) {
     super();
     this.frame = frame;
   }
private float aPosX;
private float aPosY;
private float aLastTouchX;
private float aLastTouchY;
private static final int INVALID_POINTER_ID = -1;

// The active pointer is the one currently moving our object.
private int mActivePointerId = INVALID_POINTER_ID;
private RelativeLayout frame =null;

public boolean onTouch(View view, MotionEvent event) {

switch (event.getAction() &amp; MotionEvent.ACTION_MASK) {
   case MotionEvent.ACTION_DOWN:
     //from http://android-developers.blogspot.com/2010/06/making-sense-of-multitouch.html
     Log.d(TAG, "action down");
     // Save the ID of this pointer
     mActivePointerId = event.getPointerId(0);
     final float x = event.getX(mActivePointerId);
     final float y = event.getY(mActivePointerId);
     // Remember where we started
     aLastTouchX = x;
     aLastTouchY = y;
//to prevent an initial jump of the magnifier, aposX and aPosY must
//have the values from the magnifier frame
     if (aPosX == 0){
         aPosX = frame.getX();
      }
      if (aPosY == 0){
          aPosY = frame.getY();
       }
    break;

    case MotionEvent.ACTION_UP:
      Log.d(TAG, "action up");
      reset();
    break;

    case MotionEvent.ACTION_POINTER_DOWN:
    break;

    case MotionEvent.ACTION_POINTER_UP:
      // Extract the index of the pointer that left the touch sensor
       final int pointerIndex = (event.getAction() &amp; MotionEvent.ACTION_POINTER_INDEX_MASK) &gt;&gt; MotionEvent.ACTION_POINTER_INDEX_SHIFT;
      final int pointerId = event.getPointerId(pointerIndex);
      if (pointerId == mActivePointerId) {
         // This was our active pointer going up. Choose a new
         // active pointer and adjust accordingly.
         final int newPointerIndex = pointerIndex == 0 ? 1 : 0;
          mActivePointerId = event.getPointerId(newPointerIndex);
       }
  break;
  case MotionEvent.ACTION_MOVE:

     // Find the index of the active pointer and fetch its position
     final int pointerIndexMove = event.findPointerIndex(mActivePointerId);
     Log.d(TAG, "action move");
     float xMove = event.getX(pointerIndexMove);
     float yMove = event.getY(pointerIndexMove);

//from http://android-developers.blogspot.com/2010/06/making-sense-of-multitouch.html
     // Calculate the distance moved
     final float dx = xMove - aLastTouchX;
     final float dy = yMove - aLastTouchY;

     if ( Math.abs(dx) &gt; mTouchSlop || Math.abs(dy) &gt; mTouchSlop){
        // Move the frame
        aPosX += dx;
        aPosY += dy;

// Remember this touch position for the next move event
//no! see http://stackoverflow.com/questions/17530589/jumping-imageview-while-dragging-getx-and-gety-values-are-jumping?rq=1 and
// last comment in http://stackoverflow.com/questions/16676097/android-getx-gety-interleaves-relative-absolute-coordinates?rq=1
//aLastTouchX = xMove;
//aLastTouchY = yMove;
Log.d(TAG, "we moved");

//in this area would be code for doing something with the magnified view as the frame moves.
       frame.setX(aPosX);
       frame.setY(aPosY);
    }
    break;

    case MotionEvent.ACTION_CANCEL: {
      mActivePointerId = INVALID_POINTER_ID;
    break;
   }
  }

    return true;
}

 private void reset(){
   aPosX = 0;
   aPosY = 0;
   aLastTouchX = 0;
   aLastTouchY = 0;
   frame.setVisibility(View.INVISIBLE);

  }
}

Here is the first important point. At line 29, we see that the magnifier will initially jump from the touch point because the touch event streams relative and absolute coordinates. Prevent this by setting the aPosX and aPosY fields to the initial X and Y coordinates of the frame.

Next, look at line 76 in the case for ACTION_MOVE. The multitouch example from the Android developers’ blog would have us remember the touch position. However that causes problems, as described in the citations from Stackoverflow, so don’t remember the last touch point. If the distance moved is greater than the touchSlop (line 71), just go ahead and move the frame (lines 85 and 86).

With these two modifications to the code shown in the multitouch example you should be able to happily drag a view around to your heart’s content.


by Todd Folsom at November 15, 2013 08:08 PM

October 25, 2013

MicroConf Europe

I don't envy conference organizers these days - most of what's being said can be read the next day, for free, on line, at your own pace, from the comfort of your own home, and without spending a bundle of time and money to sleep in a far away hotel.

Competing with that is not easy, but the guys at MicroConf managed to.  I would sum up the weekend by saying that it was a "very high bandwidth experience".  Every day, from breakfast until I turned in, I was chatting with people or listening to speakers during the conference itself.  That's aproximately  16 hours of being "on", and by the time I got home to Padova, I was exhausted!  But at the end of the day, I felt like it was worth it being there in person, because of all the interaction with other people.  The speakers' talks all ended up on line, more or less, but all the chatting and discussion and getting to know everyone is the human element that is tough to replicate on line, and one of the most important reasons to attend a conference in person.  Prague is also a beautiful city - I wish I had had more time there to check it out.

Here are some highlights and notes, in no particular order:

  • Rob Walling talked about actual, concrete numbers when discussing his current project's revenues.  There's a ton of handwavy stuff out there on the internet, but real numbers are tough to beat.  What makes it especially nice is that they also felt "real": they're good numbers, no doubt about it, but not stratospheric, science fiction numbers that leave you feeling like "ok, whatever, but that's not the planet I live on".  They're numbers that make you think "maybe, if things go well, I could do that too".
  • The number of "I'm from X, but live in Y" people at the conference was high.  Irish but live in Spain, American but live in Japan.  Or maybe just noticeable because I'm in that category myself.  There were people attending from the US, Europe, Japan, South Africa, and even Australia.  Impressive!
  • Almost all of the speakers had very specific, concrete advice that I can and will apply to LiberWriter, time permitting.  I read, and have read, a lot of business books.  Most of them are kind of fluffy, truth be told, in that they've got one decent idea, and a lot of filler to turn what could have been a tight, ten-page article into a book.  This was quite different in that there were a whole lot of tips and tricks being thrown out.
  • Rob's wife Sherry gave a talk about life with an entrepreneur.  Having two kids and a wonderful wife myself, it's a point of view that I was very interested in hearing about.  Judging from the people I chatted with, this was not your typical "startup" conference with a bunch of 20-somethings with no family and no ties - a lot of the other people attending had kids to think about as they launch their ventures.  A question I asked of Rob was how much of a leap he took from consulting to working on his own products, with the answer being that he's actually pretty risk adverse.  No Silicon Valley story about betting the house and everything else on the company - apparently, revenues from the web sites and products were good enough that there wasn't even really a leap to make when he quit consulting.
  • The size of the conference was just right: enough people that I didn't quite manage to meet everyone, but not so many that it was overwhelming.  In downtime between talks, and during dinners, breakfasts, lunch and so on, the speakers were very available to chat with.
  • Patrick McKenzie seems to have stumbled into his life's calling as someone working at the border of software and marketing.  The amount of advice, anecdotes, and data that he was continually spinning off was incredible.  He comes across as being a down-to-earth, approachable, friendly person.
  • Part of the balancing act the organizers have to work with is where people are at: some people had an idea but no concrete business.  Some of us (me) make some money but not too much.  Others have viable businesses that they make enough to live off of, and then there are those who seem pretty much 'set'.  It's difficult to find people to speak to each audience without losing some of the others.
  • The thing I liked the most about a lot of what was discussed was that it seems realistic.  Few people at the conference were from Silicon Valley, and yet... they're successful!  I like hearing about success stories that work out really well for the people involved, but still feel like something attainable.  People should be looking to emulate the successful guys here, not looking at extreme outliers like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.
  • I'm used to tech conferences, where it's all about the technology.  There was very little actual tech talk at MicroConf - it seems like everyone knows their stuff and was interested in learning about marketing, sales, and so on.

However, since it was a business conference, I also have to put on my cold, hard accountant hat.  Will the conference pay for itself?  Only time will tell.  I learned a variety of interesting and useful things, many of which I think I can put into practice.  The problem is finding the time between consulting work and family, but that was a bottleneck before, too - I had, and have, more things to do than time.  Also, to be very direct about it, how much of what I learned could not have been learned by carefully reading accounts of the conference, slides, and other material published on the internet?  A lot of it.  I'm not sure I would have paid attention to all of it though, so the conference was definitely nice in that it exposed me to some talks and ideas that otherwise I might have brushed off before giving them a chance.  In terms of dollars and cents, I won't be able to say for a while whether it was a sensible investment or not.

Would I go again?  I'd like to - it was a lot of fun and the people were great.

Like I said, it's tough doing conferences because your competition is the internet!

by David N. Welton at October 25, 2013 10:21 PM

August 06, 2013

Try Some Old School Fun With 3D Snake

The old snake game has gotten a facelift and a new name. 3D Snake for Android is just what its name implies. The old school game has gone 3 dimensional, and it has never been so much fun. The premise is still the same. You are a snake eating as you crawl along in a box getting bigger and bigger as you go. If you are not fast enough to stay away from the edges, you die. It gets harder the bigger the snake gets, of course. In this newer version, you are a cute little grass snake eating bugs and growing as you go along, but if you get too big and lose control you are in trouble.

It is an analogy for life really, if you think about it. We go along our lives and our triumphs can make our pride grow and grow until we can no longer fit in the constraints of our lives or around the people in it. We can't get out of our own lives, therefore if we grow so large as to bust out, we lose it. Maybe we don't literally lose a life, but we very well could lose much of what makes up our lives as we know it.


No one wants to think about that though. The goal here is to get as big as possible and stay away from the edge, which is not as easy as it sounds. Do it well thought and watch your score climb on the Swarm leaderboards.

by Beti (noreply@blogger.com) at August 06, 2013 09:07 PM

July 30, 2013

Avoid The Mines In Minesweeper ++ Lite


Minesweeper is the classic game of "can you figure it out before you die." It is the perfect way to kill time or rest your brain with some mindless activity for just a few minutes without anyone knowing.  Countless execs over the years have utilized the game to take a break while looking busy, and now with Minesweeper ++ Lite for Android the same technique can be used by anyone anywhere on their android mobile device.

While it may take a second to catch on, once you do you will be hooked. You must "guess" where the mines are and stay away from them. This becomes easier to reduce with time and guessing is no longer necessary once you figure out what you are doing. 


What makes it even better is the ability to post scores to the Swarm leaderboards. Compare your progress and rank with players from around the world, but be certain you change your name lest anyone else lurking around the boards catch on to your sneaky break time routine. Of course, be wary of who you share your gaming name with also, but a little inner office camaraderie never hurt anyone.   Enjoy free time, or use it as a cover to make you look busy when you are not. Either way you will love the fun that Minesweeper offers.

by Beti (noreply@blogger.com) at July 30, 2013 04:48 PM

July 08, 2013

Disney’s The Lone Ranger Game Limps onto Google Play

lone ranger gameAnother week passes, and another movie tie-in game gets released. This week it’s The Lone Ranger game, and it’s from Disney, so it’s certainly something that grabbed our attention. The Long Ranger game takes place in a world full of outlaws, and you’ll help the Lone Ranger out by taking out bad guys and completing simple quests. The game bills itself as a “3D Role Playing Adventure” and while they got the 3D part right, I would hesitate to call the game adventurous. The Lone Ranger game is energy/time based, and you’ll spend most of your time tapping to search for objects or shoot bad guys. There are duels, but they aren’t much fun and get repetitive quick. It’s also a ‘freemium’ game so be prepared to drop some dough if you run out of juice and want to keep playing.The reviews for the new Lone Ranger movie have been less than kind, and the same can be said for the reviews of The Lone Ranger game. It’s looks good, but there’s not a lot of fun to be had unfortunately. Disney has put out some outstanding Android games, so I’m going to give them a pass on this one, and suggest you do the same as well as the Lone Ranger game is definitely a dud. If you’re in the mood to play a game on autopilot you can pick up Disney’s The Lone Ranger game for free on Google Play. The Lone Ranger

by Adam Field at July 08, 2013 10:35 PM

June 30, 2013

Chocolate Liberation Front releases Figaro Pho Fear Factory for Android

figaro.pho.fear.factory-androidSome people are scared of things like spiders while others have a horrible fear of clowns or thick moustaches. Figaro Pho is just that type of person, and he’s even got a popular ABC show to prove it. He also has his own Android game with the recently released Figaro Pho Fear Factory.

by Adam Field at June 30, 2013 10:13 PM

June 26, 2013

T-Mobile To Announce “Simple Choice with no credit check” plans

It seems that T-Mobile always does this. They introduce something fairly interesting, and then follow it up with something also kind of interesting, but also a little confusing. It got bad a few years ago, when they had multiple tiers of plans and it was difficult to tell the differences between them in many cases. Their latest foray piggybacks their Uncarrier campaign. “Simple Choice with no credit check” will provide the credit-challenged with access to those same Uncarrier plans.

There are many catches, of course, and the confusion of the plan might turn off consumers before they get a chance to see how it can work for them. For starters, this is advertised as, and mostly effective as, a family plan. Individual users with bad credit are better off examining T-Mobile’s traditional prepaid plans, which are pretty close to the Simple Choice plans, but with no deposit.

Yes, a deposit is required for the no credit check plans. That starts at $60 for the first line, followed by a $40 deposit for the second line, and $20 each for the next two lines. A fifth line is also a $20 deposit, but that has to be a non-phone internet device (tablet, for example). The deposit is refundable, so presumably it covers you for potential non-payment.

The biggest loss here is the lack of automatic payments. Why T-Mobile would take that away I don’t understand. Companies absolutely love autobill features, and it’s pretty standard in prepaid. (Virgin Mobile offers a $5 per month discount if you sign up for automatic payments.) Maybe it will be available in the future, but for now it’s off the table.

Combine all that with the necessity of paying for a device in full, up front, and you have a not so attractive plan. There will be many customers, for sure, who will want an option like this. But given the ease of T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plans, it seems as though this appeals only to those who absolutely cannot pass a credit check. In which case, they’re stuck with what T-Mobile offers.

Via TmoNews.com.

The post T-Mobile To Announce “Simple Choice with no credit check” plans appeared first on MobileMoo.

by Joe Pawlikowski at June 26, 2013 12:30 PM

June 21, 2013

Monoprice 8320 Earbuds Deliver at a Low Price

20130620_180008

Earbud headphones almost always suck. At least for me, and I know plenty of others who simply cannot stand them. I remember seeing everyone walking around with the signature white iPod earbuds as I walked around New York City in the mid-00s, wondering how they found them at all comfortable. For me they alway fell out, so I had to readjust them every 30 or so seconds while walking.

A recent trend in earbuds is including three different size buds with each pair. If the default buds are too big or too small, you can change it to one of the other included sizes. This is nice in many ways — I actually have a pair rigged up with two different sized buds on each ear — but I still can’t seem to find a pair that stays in my ear while walking.

Recently I connected with Troy Redington of FatWallet, who raved about the Monoprice 8320 earbuds. At first he went on about the sound quality, how they all but eliminated outside sound. Then he went on about the price, around $8, which just blows away the cheap earbud competition. When I asked about comfort he said he had dozens of earbuds lying around, but these fit far better. So sure, send me a pair for review.

I’m not going to say that these earbuds stayed in my ear like a dream. I’m not going to say that they’re superior to the Bose over-ear headphones I have. But I will say that in terms of earbuds, they are the most comfortable I’ve worn and they do deliver on sound quality. While they’re not great for spoken-word audio, such as podcasts, they do a real good job with all styles of music I tried.

As you can see in the picture atop this post, they’re not exactly normal looking earbuds. They have something of a hook on top, which is actually great. The hook helps the buds fit snugly in your ear. It takes a little twisting, but I got them to fit very well without moving too much. The cords also wrap around your ear, rather than hanging straight down. This probably makes the greatest difference. Since using these, I started wrapping all of my earbuds around my ear like that, and it honestly does make all of them more comfortable.

Yet what stood out to me about the Monoprice buds is that they’re made of nylon, rather than the cheap plasticky, rubbery substance you see with most headphones. It’s strange, because the buds are so cheap, yet the material feels anything but. They just feel more durable, which is nice. When I buy headphones under $10 I expect to replace them pretty quickly. These feel like they’re last for a while.

You can check out the FatWallet site to get these earbuds at an insanely cheap price. They do offer cash back if you register, which is nice. Again, it’s tough to do better for $8. It’s probably tough to do better for triple that.

The post Monoprice 8320 Earbuds Deliver at a Low Price appeared first on MobileMoo.

by Joe Pawlikowski at June 21, 2013 12:30 PM

April 08, 2013

Switch The Party On with Native Union’s Bluetooth Speaker

With Native Union’s SWITCH Bluetooth wireless speaker, you’ll be able to share your favorite music with everyone in the room. It’s also a great way to amplify games and movies from Bluetooth-enabled devices, and it can be used as a professional conference call solution with its full duplex microphone.

amwiblog nativeunion switch beach sm Switch The Party On with Native Unions Bluetooth SpeakerDesigned by professional sound engineers to ensure exceptional sound and optimal clarity throughout the frequency range, the SWITCH features three powerful speakers — including an active sub-woofer and has an enhanced bass-reflex system. Featuring an intuitive volume control the SWITCH also enables you to effortlessly alternate between music and calls for up to 14 hours at a time. The battery is so powerful, the SWITCH can also function as a power bank for your mobile devices.

The SWITCH can be used either vertically or horizontally, and it features a soft touch exterior that’s available in multiple colors. Check it out today, and get your party started.

April 08, 2013 01:00 AM

March 26, 2013

Jabra Adds a New Dimension of Sound

Delivering state-of-the-art design, ease-of-use, and outstanding sound quality, Jabra’s newest corded and wireless stereo headphones are perfect for hard-wearing, everyday use and portability. The lineup includes the over-the-head Jabra Revo — available in corded and Wireless versions — and the small but tough in-ear Jabra Vox.

amwiblog jabra revowireless sm Jabra Adds a New Dimension of Sound

The Jabra Revo Wireless

Jabra has upped the ante sonically with the addition of Dolby Digital Plus technology for all three models. With Jabra’s exclusive Sound App for iOS and Android devices, you’ll enjoy a richer and fuller sound that is often missing in digitally compressed audio, breathing new life into your favorite music while giving it extra depth and dimension.

Jabra Revo Corded and Wireless

Both the Jabra Revo Wireless (a 2013 red dot design award winner) and Jabra Revo corded headphones (the latter available in gray and white) are solidly constructed using an aluminium frame, steel hinges, and a shatter-proof headband for extreme flexibility. Both the corded and Wireless versions are super comfortable with a padded headband and plush, memory foam ear cups. They feature a foldable design for quick, compact storage and come with a detachable cord and USB charging for convenience.

Play or pause music, skip tracks, and take calls with ease by using in-line controls on the corded version instead of searching around for your phone. The Revo Wireless utilizes both Bluetooth and Near Field Communication (NFC) technologies to pair with your device, and its Turntable Touch Control allows you to easily play, skip, or pause your music while also managing calls.

amwiblog jabra vox sm Jabra Adds a New Dimension of Sound

The corded Jabra Vox


Jabra Vox

Size matters… especially when earphones so small command massive sound like Jabra Vox. Optimized for superior sound and performance with portable devices, the Jabra Vox really packs a punch. Get the perfect fit with specially designed ColorCore EarGels for enhanced comfort and deep sound. Vox’s earbuds are engineered to rest comfortably for extended use. The Vox also includes in-line controls for playing or pausing music as well as taking calls.

Dolby Digital Plus

With Jabra’s exclusive Sound App (available for iOS and Android devices), Dolby Digital Plus adds that extra depth and dimension to your music — extending bass performance and enhancing high frequencies so your music retains its clarity.

The Jabra Sound App automatically identifies your music files so it’s easy to get started. Simply download the App, and you’re ready to go. Use the App to create and browse through playlists, share music on Facebook or Twitter and adjust the graphic equalizer so you can play your tracks as you want to hear them.

Find the right headphone for your needs today, whether it be the corded in-ear Vox, corded over-the-head Revo (in gray and white), or the Revo Wireless for the ultimate in freedom.

March 26, 2013 03:56 PM

January 14, 2013

The Software Millionaire Next Door

I've been reading "The Millionaire Next Door" and have so far found it to be a pleasant book with a good message: don't waste your money on silly things and appearance (fancy suits, fancy cars, expensive boats, etc...), save what you do earn consistently and constantly, invest wisely, and so on.   Wikipedia has a good summary:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Millionaire_Next_Door

One of the things I like about it is that it focuses on "ordinary" wealthy people, those with a million or more in the bank, but not the Warren Buffets or Bill Gates types that are extreme statistical outliers.  There are plenty of people in the US who have done well by themselves by slowly but surely putting together enough money to be financially independent, without, however, being in the spotlight.   As the book says, these are the kind of people who maybe own a local chain of businesses doing something fairly ordinary, but doing it well enough to succeed.  They may very well not live in a fancy house, nor drive an expensive car, or otherwise outwardly draw much attention to themselves.

The world of software does not revolve around "dressing for success" (you noticed?), but we do tend to focus on the "big winners".  Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Larry & Sergey, Larry Ellison, and so on are the stars of the show.  Of course, the economics of software being what they are, instances of winner-take-all markets with one big fish and a lot of also-rans are not uncommon.   However, that is not the only story, and I think it'd be interesting to know more about those in our industry who have accumulated significant wealth, yet are not the guys with more money than they could possibly ever spend on things that aren't, say, country-sized chunks of real-estate.

I'm guessing they'd fall into these categories:

  • Highly paid workers who have consistently saved over the years.  There are examples in the aforementioned book about people with relatively low salaries who happened to be very frugal and invest well (and have had some luck in their investments too).  These people would probably tend to be older, as it takes a while to save up that kind of money, and since this industry is so young with so much turnover, I would not think there would be a lot of people out there like this, but who knows, maybe there are a bunch of IBMers with this kind of story.
  • Those who got in on the right IPO, like Google or Facebook or something like that.  These events not only generate billions for those at the top of the heap, but for the right person at the right place at the right time, can mean significant wealth even without being in the upper echelons of the company.  My suspicion is that this kind of IPO, where everyone cashes out, is not common enough to have a lot of people in this category, but who knows, maybe it adds up over the years.
  • Those who own or started software firms that do something that's not very visible, but nonetheless dominates some particular niche.  This is where I'd guess most of them would be, but I certainly have no data or even anecdotes to back this up.

It'd be very interesting to gather some actual data on this, although I'm not in a position to do so myself - I wouldn't even really know where to start. 

As I age, I think the third category has begun to seem appealing in many ways - I'm simply not cut out for the Big Company life, and I'm not interested in living in Silicon Valley and going "all in" on the latest startup - I already did that, and while it was fun and I don't regret it, it's not the kind of thing I'd want to do now that I'm married and have kids.   Incidentally, this more relaxed, under the radar approach is exactly what is expoused in one of my favorite books of the past few years, Start Small, Stay Small.

Edit : I finished reading the book and reviewed it here: http://davids-book-reviews.blogspot.com/

by David N. Welton at January 14, 2013 10:23 PM

December 22, 2012

InDrive: Custom Car Home 1.0

We are pleased to announce the launch of a new Android application that may appeal to everyone who uses their phone while driving.

InDrive is a GPS-enabled application that combines the standard car home functionality with a trip computer and Poweramp support. The app makes it very easy to launch your favorite applications, directly dial numbers, view your trip information and control music playback*. It will auto launch when placed in a compatible car dock. If you don’t have a physical car dock, InDrive provides an option to force the phone into car mode, in which it will override the Home button.

  

* The music screen is designed to work in conjunction with Poweramp. Without Poweramp installed, you will only be able to do very basic controls such as switching to the next song in the default Android music player. Support for other media players is not guaranteed.

Please download the app from Google Play and tell us what you think. Your feedback is much appreciated.

by Jeff at December 22, 2012 01:59 PM

July 23, 2012

Transfer of data using Intents (Part 2)

Hi everyone!

In spite of trying hard, I couldn’t prevent the delay. I am again sorry for that. Let’s move on. In the last post, I introduced the concept of transfer of data between activities. I also described the code for declaring an Intent which could help us in accomplishing the task.

Now, it’s time to look at the code of SecondActivity.java, the second activity which will help us in adding new tasks to the list. As mentioned earlier, this activity will have an EditText to allow the user to input the task name and a Button, which when clicked, will take the user back to HelloWorldActivity.java and add the task to the List. The code for the click listener for this button looks as follows:

  1. String taskName = taskEdit.getText().toString();
  2. Intent intent = this.getIntent();
  3. intent.putExtra(“task”, taskName);
  4. setResult(RESULT_OK, intent);
  5. finish();

Here, taskEdit is an object of class EditText. The first line extracts the data input to the taskEdit, converts it into string and stores it in a variable. Second line is used to grab access to the intent which called this activity. The third line is the one which actually does the job of putting the data onto the intent. intent.putExtra function used in this line basically adds the information contained in the second parameter to the intent and the first parameter provides a way to access it. We will see the use of the first parameter in a greater detail later, when we will try to access this information in HelloWorldActivity.java. I hope that the fourth and fifth lines will be pretty easy to understand. If not, please refer to the last three posts on Intents.

The above code ensures that the clicking of the button takes us back to the initial activity with an intent which contains the name of the new task that is to be added to the list.

Clearly, the callback function described in Part 1 of this post will be used to access the information carried by the intent since this function will be automatically called when the control is given back to this activity via an intent. Straight away, let’s look at the code!

String extraData=data.getStringExtra(“task”);
taskText.append(extraData+”\n”);

I think it is self-explanatory. We are extracting the information from the variable data using the value of the first parameter of the function in Line 4 above, and saving it in a variable called extraData. The second line just appends this value to the list (referred by taskText).

In this way, we received the name of the task from a different activity and display it in our main activity. This provides a clean and user-friendly interface which is the basis of a useful app.

But here, we have not taken care of the situation when the user calls the intent to SecondActivity.java but wants to cancel it later. This is not perfect programming, though it can be dealt very easily. How?

In the next post, we will finish our discussion on intent and move on to explore some new concepts in Android App Development.

Till then, BYE!


by Nikhil Gupta at July 23, 2012 12:44 PM

July 11, 2012

Transfer of data using Intents (Part 1)

Hi all!

Last time, we had looked at the most basic communication which can be achieved among activities. It allowed us to switch between activities back and forth, which is an important concept used in almost all the android apps these days.

Moving on, it’s time to look at the data transfer using Intents. Consider the case of a simple Task application, in which a To-do list is shown in one activity while another activity performs the task of adding new items to the list. So, what’s happening here?

Basically, we need to create a new task in the second Activity and somehow transfer it to the first activity so that it could add it in the existing list. Note that we are not using any database. If we do so which is done most of the times, this app will be useless in itself. But, I am still discussing this app because I feel that it’s the best in order to understand the concept of transfer of data which you may need in various other apps.

In this post, I will not go through the layout or the entire code of the app. I may go through it later. But, I hope that you will be able to do so after going through the previous posts. As a hint, we will be using a TextView (to display the list) and a Button while making the first activity, while the second Activity will have an EditText and a Button.

Assuming that we have an EditText in the second Activity and when the user presses enter, the string in the EditText is captured in a string variable called NewTask, we need to simply tranfer the contents of NewTask to the first activity.

To achieve this, we need to call the intent when the button in pressed in the first activity in such a way that the Android platform knows that some data will be coming back to this activity. Continuing with the app from the previous post by replacing the startActivity(intent); by

startActivityForResult(intent, 1);

as a parameter acts as a unique code used to distinguish data received by this intent from the data received by other intents if more intents are used. Using the above functin, we have been able to call the intent, but we have not yet accessed the data which comes back with this intent.

To achieve this, we need to use a callback function which will called automatically when the intent returns. Let’s look at the code for this function:

public void onActivityResult(int requestCode,int resultCode,Intent data)
{
          super.onActivityResult(requestCode, resultCode, data);
          if(resultCode==RESULT_OK)
          {
                      //Code to extract the required information from the variable data
          }
}

In our case, requestCode is 1. resultCode is a variable which is set to value RESULT_OK if the intent was successfully handled. data is the variable which contains the data received from the other activity.

In the next post, we will look at the code to extract the information as well as the code for the second Activity which puts the information in the intent.

Till then, BYE!


by Nikhil Gupta at July 11, 2012 05:36 AM

July 04, 2012

Planet Android summer cleaning

Blogs come and blogs go, and nowhere is this more apparent than in a fast changing technology area such as Android. Today I removed 12 feeds from PlanetAndroid that haven't had updates in a while (some since 2010). If you feel your feed was removed in error, let me know.

In a reply to a recent post, one reader said they'd like to see fewer app reviews and news articles here, and more development diaries, tutorials, and community activities. What do you think? What are your most favorite and least favorite feeds? Let me know in the comments.

by Ed Burnette (noreply@blogger.com) at July 04, 2012 03:00 AM

June 26, 2012

Kikoriki: The Beginning

Kikoriki: The Beginning [by HeroCraft] is yet another arcade adventure android game from the people that brought you Dragon and Dracula. The game is based on the Russian cartoon series “Smeshariki”, but the show is known by different names in other countries.

Kikoriki - GameplayKikoriki - Gameplay

The characters of the animated series become superheroes in this adventure, which is always fun for kids and adults. Children will probably enjoy it more than adults due to the excruciatingly child friendly atmosphere of the game. However, some grown-ups might give it a go just to try out the various super powers each hero possesses.

Kikoriki - GameplayKikoriki - Gameplay

Your mission is to vanquish evil and thus save the boring grown up world from destruction. How does one do that? Well, by working together of course, just like best friends should! The power of friendship is demonstrated in the game by allowing the player to switch between two characters during gameplay and use their individual super powers to solve puzzles, defeat bosses and do anything to complete the level.

Kikoriki - GameplayKikoriki - Gameplay

The three chapters of the story take you from the happy land of Kikoriki to the boring grey Megapolis. Each chapter tells a different story and allows you to play various characters. The game has brightly colored, simple and yet well drawn cartoon style graphics with smooth animation. The controls might take a bit of getting used to, the joystick in particular. I do like the soundtrack, which reminded me of the music from good old cartoons like Tom & Jerry. Kikoriki will only set you back $1, unless you don’t really love your children that much, in which case you can opt for the lite version. Either way, the game will help keep your kids preoccupied and will not only help them learn about friendship and growing up, but will also teach them that if you touch purple butterflies it will make you sneeze stars.

by Gamer-K at June 26, 2012 04:44 PM

Dragon and Dracula

Dragon and Dracula [by HeroCraft] is a fun and challenging arcade android game that is sure to touch the hearts of the Mario and Spyro the Dragon generation. It takes the jumping, coin collecting and shrooms – the inspiration for many 90’s games – from Mario, giving the role of the hero to an increasingly awesome dragon, whose job is to defeat Dracula.

Dragon and Dracula - GameplayDragon and Dracula - Gameplay

The fact that you start the game with just a little baby dragon that jumps can be disappointing, at first. However, as you progress through the 25 levels of the game, learning new skills, collecting artifacts and battling enemies, you will see the little guy go through three stages of evolution. With every new form the dragon grows, acquiring fire breathing, flying, climbing and head bashing abilities, not to mention a mean look.

Dragon and Dracula - GameplayDragon and Dracula - Gameplay

The dragon’s natural abilities are enhanced with the always popular temporary perks such as invulnerability, increased speed, regeneration and many more. They will be of great help on the quest to destroy the Dark Lord’s minions and defeat the legendary vampire that is Dracula. Gamers who find the adventure to be unfulfilling can enjoy some mini games that are unlocked during gameplay.

Dragon and Dracula - Gameplay

Controls might take a couple of deaths to get used to and actually made me play with my tongue out, which I have not done in a while. The menu is very well thought through, easy to navigate and has all the information on game controls, settings, stats and sharing options. Thanks to the simple yet visually pleasing and familiar graphics, the gameplay is smooth. Not a fan of the soundtrack though, which sounds like old Japanese game techno music. For only $1 Dragon and Dracula has a lot to offer with tricky levels, epic boss fights, addictive mini games and main character customizations. If you are just looking for a fun adventure or want to prove yourself on a global scale, this is the bargain to go for.

by Gamer-K at June 26, 2012 04:33 PM

June 14, 2012

New PlanetAndroid feed policy

Starting today I'll be removing most feeds that include embedded ads. Currently, I pay for PlanetAndroid's upkeep out of my own pocket, with no revenue coming in from ads or donations at all. When an ad appears in one of our feeds, it takes space away from the other articles and gets clicks based on the drawing power of the whole site, including feeds with no ads. That didn't seem fair.

I grandfathered in a handful of feeds for various reasons including new sites that need the extra juice that PlanetAndroid brings to help them get started. Some sites report that being listed on PlanetAndroid has doubled their traffic! If you feel your feed was unfairly removed, or if you make a new feed without the ads and want to re-join, just let me know. Thanks for your support.

by Ed Burnette (noreply@blogger.com) at June 14, 2012 12:48 AM

June 12, 2011

Android and openness

On Thursday I gave a talk at TriLUG. The slides I used are available but will probably be rather cryptic without my accompanying commentary.

Although I understand that Google has had to contend with both the open source zealots and the closed-everything carriers, upon looking at the trend, I find Google’s actions getting more disturbing. Just as Android seems to be coming into its own and Google should have more power than ever to twist arms, Google seems to be wimping out – or turning evil. I hope I’m wrong and they’re just waiting for the right time.

One thing I completely forgot to talk about is the abandoning of the Nexus One. When it came out, it was supposed to herald a new age of cross-carrier, stock-Android phones (with a built-in connection-sharing capability, no less). Only T-Mobile really picked it up – you could use it on AT&T but without 3G. Verizon and Sprint were supposed to be coming out with support for the same concept and just a different radio, but instead they released their own phones, with the usual modifications and constraints. So why did Google let them? They didn’t have to; the Skyhook case shows that Google can essentially pull their blessing from any phone for any reason. An Android phone without the Google apps isn’t going to be very attractive to consumers. Why didn’t Google force Verizon and Sprint to kowtow to the Nexus One before allowing them to release any more Android phones?


by Luke Meyer at June 12, 2011 12:59 AM

April 01, 2011

Is this thing on? ::feedback:: ouch…

Well – I don’t want to let the *entire* month of March go by without a post. I just haven’t done much with tech this month, though. It sucked. But evidently my absence has caused a surge in popularity, according to my stats. Less is more?

If I remember correctly – is Honeycomb the first version of Android where we actually saw a preview, got to fiddle with the SDK platform preview before it was actually embodied in a device? If so, better late than never, and let’s hope it means we’re on the way to seeing more of a community effort. Hey, it took a while for Red Hat to learn with Fedora, too, and they didn’t have voracious proprietary partners to contend with.

I have a meetup or two to arrange, but I hope I get some time to work further with ORMlite shortly.

Happy April Fools Day tomorrow!


by Luke Meyer at April 01, 2011 01:01 AM