Android Blog Reader Application – Honours Assignment

One of my papers this semester is focused on Google Android Mobile Operating System.

The brief for my final assignment is:

Your task is to write any application you like. The are no restrictions on what your application can do but it should show of the capabilities of the platform and be well written.

Marks will be awarded for interesting applications that make good use of the Android platform.

Make sure your application works on the emulator but I will also test it on a real device.

For this assignment I decided to create a Blog Reader that reads the RSS XML feeds off blogs to display them in a Android Application.
I have spent around three days coding this assignment. I will not release the code until after the assignment has been marked, however here are some screen shots of the work

My Application Sitting in the Android Application Menu on my phone
My Application Sitting in the Android Application Menu on my phone
The application's home screen
The applications home screen
Adding a new blog feed into the application
Adding a new blog feed into the application
Viewing a list of blogs
Viewing a list of blogs
Removing a blog feed
Removing a blog feed
Viewing a list of blog posts
Viewing a list of blog posts
Viewing list of blog posts
Viewing list of blog posts
Viewing single post
Viewing single post

The Android Invasion Has Begun

The Herald has reprinted a story run in The Independent (UK) about Android: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/technology/news/article.cfm?c_id=5&objectid=10586401&pnum=0

Forget the iPhone – Google is on a mission to take over the mobile world.

Hehe, and I hope it succeeds.

With four billion handsets in the world – more than twice the number of internet users, and two and half a billion more than the number of televisions – it’s safe to describe the mobile phone as the most successful technology of our generation.

I didn’t actually realise that cellphones were that popular but those are some impressive stats.

Android, in case the news has passed you by, is billed as the mobile phone operating system that will change the way we use mobiles. Where traditionally, phones have all worked differently, with usability ranging from the passable to the infuriating, Android’s mission is to simplify, partially by devising a more intuitive interface, and also by making it so widely available that it becomes a standard.

What really differentiates it from its competitors is that it is built on the Linux operating system beloved of geeks worldwide, and almost entirely distributed “open source”, meaning anyone with the relevant technological know-how can contribute to its development by suggesting and creating improvements.

I am even doing a paper on it at uni.

“Given how complicated phones are getting and how hard and expensive software is to write, there seems little reason to persevere on a customised solution when you can just use one customers already know and like,” says Stephen Charman, an Android developer.

With any discussion of mobile phones, the elephant in the room is always going to be Apple’s iPhone, which has been a huge critical and commercial success.

Android phones and the iPhone might appear to be in direct competition; they are both high-spec, and similarly priced. But Al Sutton, a UK-based Android developer, thinks the situation may develop along similar lines to the home computing market: “I can see the iPhone and Android co-existing in the future in a similar way that Macs and Windows PCs do at the moment”, he says. “Apple is focused on being a premium brand, whereas Android’s focus is ubiquity.”

In other words Android will rule the world and the iPhone will be the cool little cousin in the corner that is cool but doesn’t do much other than acts cool.

Although Android phones are only rarely to be spotted in the wild in Britain right now, the groundswell of support for the system from manufacturers may well see a number of devices launched at once in the coming year.

I have one in the wild… And I love it.

Even though they have much in common, the philosophy of the iPhone and the Android phones about to hit the market could hardly differ more. The iPhone is, in a sense, a dictatorship – the applications which make it what it is are all vetted by Apple’s often draconian censors, and those that are made live must pay a hefty price for their inclusion in the App Store.

In contrast, phones running on Android have access to a market for applications which are posted directly by their developers, the majority of which are free, and, of those you do have pay for, the profits go straight to the developers. While some developers are unhappy about shortcomings like the lack of an adequate online interface, Google insists problems will be ironed out in time.

And Android programs in Java, while Apple is trying to make Objective C cool again.

It isn’t just Silicon Valley that is the centre of innovation – people are building cool things all over the world, and then some people are just building things for a local market.”

This global focus is part of what makes Android in tune with the technological zeitgeist. It is open-source, non-proprietary, cross-platform, and, focussing on mutual success over the exclusive technologies of the iPhone, and with the mighty Google in its corner, few would bet against this robot army taking over the world.

Let the phone wars begin.

Thoughts on Google Chrome OS

It was interesting returning to Auckland on Thursday night to find out that in the past few days the world has completely changed. Yes Google has finnaly let the cat out of the bag (but I think it actually escaped months ago) that it was developing an operating system to rival Windows.

Google Chrome OS is not planned to be released until late 2010 however the source will be released later this year (so in some ways you could start using it later this year). The full announcement is here: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/introducing-google-chrome-os.html

The points that I am most interested in are:

  • This is not Google’s first OS, in fact it is their third. In house they use Goobuntu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goobuntu) which is a modified version of Ubunutu Linux. And at the end of 2008 they released Android an open source operating system for cellphones, and it rocks.
  • Cloud Computing. The operating system is going to be very light weight on the end users system and plug directly into the internet. This is going to be a lot like the Android where it is always on and things are straight away at your finger tips. This works really well for a cellphone but I do wonder how much functionality it is going to have for more high end activities. Sure you may be able to edit a word document etc, but what about being able to do some coding, or playing a game. In those realms I think that a full desktop environment will still be a lot better.
  • It is free. Well being open source and based off linux they really didn’t have much more of a choice. Having said that it really gives Microsoft a kick up the pants with the cost of Windows even at OEM price being really expensive.
  • The number of companies involved: Acer, Adobe, ASUS, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Toshiba. This shows that it has some major industry support and the chances of success are high.

I am excited about what it can deliver, but building a web browser that gets 30 million users in 9 months is one thing. Building a operating system that can deliver a smooth user experience without bugs or issues is a whole lot harder.

Playing with Magic

It is official; I am in love; with my new HTC Magic Google Phone.

I have now had my new toy for two weeks and in some ways I cannot remember what life was like before it, or how I survived without it. To put it simply this is more than a gadget or a toy that will bore you after a while, two weeks in and I am still finding things to do with it.

Firstly the specs:

  • 3.2in flat panel touch screen running at 320×480 resolution
  • 528Mhz CPU
  • 512MB ROM
  • 192MB RAM
  • 8GB MicroSD
  • Quad Band GSM
  • Bluetooth
  • Wifi
  • USB
  • 3.2 Megapixel camera
  • Android 1.5 (cupcake) operating system

This mobile phone has more power than my computer from 2003. You may go wow 2003 was a long time ago in technology terms, but in the space of six years to compact more power into a phone then what was in a computer is still really impressive.

Here is a quick highlight of my experience with it over the past two weeks:

Android – Android officially rocks. It is Google’s open source Operating System for mobile phones and it has more power built into it then one could ever expect. Normally you do not have to wait long for a mobile phone to turn on or off. Android is like a computer it must be booted or shutdown and it does take time.

3G Coverage – In NZ Vodafone run their mobile network on three different frequencies. Having just been away I have experienced the use of all three. And the phone handles all really well and having the use of all three means I can get the best possible coverage in any location I go. Take that iPhone which only operates on two. (so if you are in a coverage area with the one that iPhone does not operate on you will have no signal).

3.2 Megapixel Camera – The photos and the video from my snow trip earlier this week were almost all exclusively taken on the phone. The camera is really good, however I have yet to find out if it can zoom, and also it is slow to focus and actually take the photos so it is probably not much use for fast moving situations, plus no flash so you need some form of decent light to get a good photo.

USB connection to computer – Now this is cool, while connected to USB the phone can charge, you can use the phone like a flash drive accessing the 8GB MicroSD card inside it, you can also download all your photos and videos and stuff from the phone. But best of all through the use of PDANET you can tether internet off it. So if you are in a place where your laptop has no internet access you can plug in your phone and get access through the 3G network.

Powered by Google – I cannot begin to describe how awesome this is. Gmail at the touch of a button you can both read and send email. Google Talk on the go. YouTube built in, and the streaming of video through 3G is really quick and smooth too, you can also upload video to YouTube. Google Maps built in, and GPS to show you where you are. Oh and did I mention Google Gears built in too.

Android Market – You can download apps on the go. This reminds me of a very old 8mb Palm Pilot I had many years ago, so far I have installed a weather app, a battery meter, a fuel mileage calculator, virtual bible software, wordpress blogging software, a notepad, and a voice recorder.

Full Internet Access – Android comes with a web browser built in, but it is a little slow and can’t quite handle all websites 100% right. Never fear just download Opera Mini through the Marketplace, it is really fast, the GUI is a little hard to use but the way it displays websites is really good. Only crashed badly once (through my own doing).

Touch-screen and Keyboard – this is my only annoyance. I have big fingers and even with the screen rotated the keyboard is still hard to use. Also a lack of stylus or any place to buy one and place it onto the phone.

Overall 10/10 this phone really does rock, and it just simply amazing.