Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mobile Development day 3: Android

OK, so today was the penultimate day for  "getting started" types of mobile development workshops. Today's topic, as you might surmise from the title, was Android development.  Today's development environment was Eclipse with the Android SDK.  The nice thing about Android development is that it is all XML and Java, which is pretty nice. I am familiar with XML and I did do Java as part of my computer science BA way back when.  Today the Computer Science curriculum at UMass Boston does use Eclipse as the IDE (integrated development environment), but back when I was in intro to computer science we used TELNET over a 56k modem (eeeek!) to connect to a terminal, use EMACS and compile something with javac which ran in the terminal; thus text-only, no GUI.

Having seen XCode and Visual Studio 2010 in earlier "getting started" workshops, I have to say that both Xcode and Visual Studio win over Eclipse.  They both seemed snappier, compared to eclipse; they both also came with MUCH better simulators of the iOS and Windows Phone 7 environment respectively. Getting the simulator to run in Eclipse was a major pain - not because it was hard, but because it was so slow!  It felt like I was trying to run Windows 7, under Virtual PC on my PowerBook G4- slow as molasses, even before you added in the app that you wanted to debug!  The other sticky issue with Android is fragmentation. While there are some guidelines to work on, as far as screen resolution goes, the various skins that manufacturers put on their android devices, like MotoBlur, HTC's SenseUI and SonyEricsson's whateverYouCallIt, make it not that easy to design an interface that will be consistent throughout the android experience.  Even when you download the specific phone definitions for the simulator you don't get a realistic feel because the phone definitions don't include those skins.

A buddy of mine (@rjzii) mentioned that when you get used to Eclipse and an IDE it's not bad, but from a 30,000 ft. view, XCode and Visual Studio seem more time saving for the developer.  Hmmm....time to think about which OS I will devote some of my spare time to get back to the programming wagon...
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