A few days of Android development – Java

My latest project is written entirely in Java* (Java and JavaScript). While they aren’t the same by any stretch of the imagination, the project has been quite a learning experience.

From concept inception on Jan 11, 2012 and the first byte of code written that evening, I dreaded the Android App. Matthew Housden wrote a quick framework of it that had some bare functionality used for testing and I spent the last three days doing a headfirst dive into Java which I haven’t used in 9+ years.

The first problem I encountered was the tutorials on the Android SDK site don’t work in a 2.2 or 2.3 emulator nor on my phone. The documentation is littered with half-truths, but, when you read it carefully, you can tell that the person that wrote it was a programmer and not a technical documentation writer.

The application is quite simple – three screens, two of which POST to a remote server. However, I spent a ton of time debugging an issue where sending extra data to an Intent causes the OnActivity callback to have a null intent. I can see the security implications behind this, but, the documentation doesn’t allude to this.

Roughly 700 lines of Java (most are try/catch autogenerated blocks, declarations, etc) to get an app which is 22k until packaged for the market which balloons it to 290k. Dealing with the Camera was by far the heaviest code, dealing with the fact that the context isn’t available globally, I had to pass a number of parameters around rather than have a method that could be called.

It really didn’t take long to sink back into Java as it is just OOP and language is mostly syntax. Since I had been working heavily with Async Javascript with node.js, the event driven code structures required by Android weren’t that difficult to transition to.

Overall impressions: I was quite pleased how quickly I could write an app to do a few things and interact with my Node.js app. I really regret not doing more Android development with a few other projects I had in mind, but, there are only so many hours in the day. This weekend I’ve got a live beta test planned for the entire project – 17 days from inception to a real test.

Then we’ll see if this thing is worth launching.

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