Blu's grandkids

on April 23, 2011, 2:49 pm

I went and saw Rio on the weekend. I enjoyed it, but I worry about Blu's grandkids. I don't think they will be able to fly either.

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Help get the History StackExchange into Beta

on April 22, 2011, 2:37 pm

If you are reading this post because you are checking out some of my history web projects, I have a proposition for you.

The last few years has seen the creation of a whole range of question and answer sites.

I became involved in this phenomena with the creation of StackOverflow, a site designed to get specific, objective answers to programming questions. This site has grown into a network of StackExchange sites with the goal of creating useful questions and answers in well defined verticals. Basically making the Internet a better place.

The network has a mechanism for launching new sites that guarantees the critical mass of question askers and answerers that will keep it from becoming a ghost town. That mechanism requires people to commit to a particular topic before it is launch. This commitment involves a pledge that you will ask or answer a few questions on the new site.

I would like to see the History StackExchange get the critical mass it needs to launch. If you have some expertise in history you would like to share with the world, something I have found extremely rewarding and fun on StackOverflow, or you have questions on history you would like to see answered, please commit to the project. It is quite simple to sign up and commit:

Help the History StackExchange reach beta

You will get an email when the site launches so you can follow through with some questions and answers on the site.

N.B. - I want to see the History StackExchange launch because it is a site I would love to use. There are no financial incentives here.

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World War Two Daily Promo

on April 21, 2011, 3:17 pm

Over a year late, but I finally made a promo video for WW2 Daily.

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More nice Android bits

on April 14, 2011, 6:59 am

I am going to talk about Android dev tonight at at GTUG, so I thought I thought I would write down a few other things about Android that are nice.

Slipstream releases

This is the obvious one. It is great not having the pressure when you submit an update, that you will have to agonised about re-submitting for every bug you find in the next fortnight. There is never a time I am not waiting for an app to be approved. I am waiting right now.


One of the rare bits of UI on Android where the experience is far better than the iPhone equivalent. True for the user and true for developers adding notifications to their apps.

You have to deal with a bunch of cases when adding push/local notifications to an iPhone app (in the app, background, suspended, local, push) and your UI is pretty inconsistant. On Android you declare yourself a BroadcastReceiver in the manifest and have a single point to handle 'cloud to device' messages. You have complete control over your UI, but I recommend using the NotificationManager to get the standard pull down message UI:

NotificationManager nm = (NotificationManager) m_context.getSystemService(Context.NOTIFICATION_SERVICE); String text = "Stuff in the notification; Notification n = new Notification(R.drawable.notification, text, System.currentTimeMillis()); n.setLatestEventInfo(m_context.getApplicationContext(), "Message Title", text, getIntentForNotificationTap()); nm.notify(YOUR_NOTIFICATION_ID, n);

Testing GPS

Testing GPS updates in the simulator for iPhone is pretty limited. If you want to send location updates to your app, you are basically reduced to hacking into the simulator binaries and hooking the appropriate libraries, so ... not so much. I spent a lot of time on trains testing my location stuff on the iPhone. On Android you can telnet to the emulator and set it's location on the command line (there has to be something nice about that thing):

$ telnet localhost 5554 geo fix <longitude> <latitude>

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Showing Android resources some love

on April 13, 2011, 12:42 pm

I have ranted at length on some of the shortfalls I have found with Android development, particularly when compared with my iPhone exploits. However, there are some things about Android dev that I love, so I thought it was time I talked about them.

If you have done much iPhone development you will be pretty familiar with laying out UI in Interface Builder, or if you are one of those ''XIBs are the work of Satan'' guys, then laying out your UI in code. Either way it can get pretty hairy, pretty quickly. In IB you struggle with entering layout through the UI and in code you end up with your UI metrics spread across multiple source files.

Android has a much better solution to UI definition. If you are a web developer, you will find the XML layout definition language pretty familiar. All your UI is nicely contained in source control friendly, well structured XML files.

Let''s say I want to arrange a couple of text views and a custom button view vertically down the page:

<LinearLayout android:layout_width="1px" android:layout_weight="1" android:layout_height="wrap_content" android:orientation="vertical"> <TextView android:text="Some bold heading type text" android:layout_weight="1" android:layout_width="fill_parent" android:layout_height="wrap_content" android:padding="10dp" android:textSize="16sp" android:textStyle="bold" android:textColor="@android:color/black"/> <TextView android:text="Some regular text" android:id="@+id/detail" android:layout_weight="1" android:layout_width="wrap_content" android:layout_height="wrap_content" android:padding="10dp" android:textSize="14sp" android:textColor="@android:color/black"/> <Button style="@style/Button" android:id="@+id/something_funky_button" android:text="Ow! Too Funky!" android:layout_height="88dp"> </Button> </LinearLayout>

A couple of things to notice about this snippet:

  • Define ids on your views so you can get to them from your code with View.findViewById. All the properties you can define here can be played with from the View subclass. So you have complete control over how things are laid out at design and runtime.
  • Padding, layout widths, heights, etc work predictably and intuitively. This makes scaling your app for various devices work out of the box most of the time.
  • The style attribute on the Button element refers to a separate style resource, so you can define commonly used UI elements in a single XML file and use it in all your layouts:
<style name="Button"> <item name="android:textSize">18sp</item> <item name="android:textColor">@color/button_text</item> <item name="android:textStyle">bold</item> <item name="android:padding">5sp</item> <item name="android:background">@drawable/button</item> <item name="android:layout_width">fill_parent</item> <item name="android:layout_height">wrap_content</item> </style>

I have just scratched the surface of what you can do here in your Android project''s resource directory, but it is all pretty awesome stuff.

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