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Android at #io16

(As usually…) It has been a while since my last blog post 🙂

This time I’m coming back just to tell you briefly about Google I/O 2016!
Last time it was back in 2013 when I went with my friend Massimo and since then a lot of things have changed. The Android platform got a lot more mature and my impression is that Google started to focus more on simplifying the developer life while still gaining a lot of new data.

I’m not gonna talk about VR, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. These are really cool technologies but my developer heart still belongs to an Android made of custom UIs, Content Providers, messy fragments, multi-threading, memory constraints,… and… why not… Android Studio!

It’s kind of funny because back in 2013 when Tor Norbye and Xavier Ducrohet announced Android Studio starting to ditch support for Eclipse, I was a bit upset. After few months, I started to appreciate IntelliJ and all the efforts that the Android Developer Tools Team made in order to have a first class Android IDE integration/experience.

…but this is the past!!! Without forgetting about being dwarfs standing on the giants shoulders, let’s focus on the present and what’s ahead of us! 🙂

This Google I/O 2016 came with a lot of news:

  • Android N will support native Multi Window with Drag&Drop capabilities.
  • ConstraintLayout: not a RelativeLayout, not a FrameLayout, not a LinearLayout, not a PercentageBlaBlaLayout,… but a completely new ViewGroup that comes with a full integration in a new layout editor for Android Studio. The power of this new tools is based on the promises of flattening drastically the View hierarchy creating constrains between Views and parents! 🙂
  • Java8 support + Jack Compiler
  • An APK analyzer to inspect generated APKs and help you try to remove un-necessary and/or un-optimized resources
  • Instant Apps is a new feature that will allow you to modularize more your application allowing the user to download just a single use case of your app, without having to install a full APK. Even if it might look a bit strange, this tool could be really handy when it comes to introduce your service to new users, engaging them little by little.
  • Android Wear 2.0: even if it comes as a preview, it will have a new enhanced user interaction and more immersive experiences.
    • Watch Faces will support more than just time and battery info. There will be a chance to support more complicated(complications) data that will provide useful info to the user.
    • Notification will come with a new interaction style and paradigm.
  • Firebase: this is kind of hard to describe. The most simplest description that comes in my mind is “A magic box that contains a lot of tools to help you build better apps.  All these kind of little things those are taking a lot of time when developing new features in your apps will become definitely a lot easier. A/B testing, analytics, syncing, login, GCM,… have been bundled and connected(not all of them) togheter into Firebase, giving you a simple way to check and maintain them.

…there is definitely a lot more and you can check it out on the Google I/O 2016 Youtube channel!

I hope you’re gonna enjoy some of the pics I took over there 🙂

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Cheers,
Simone

P.S.:
..if you live in UK, have a long weekend! 🙂

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Data Exchange and Sync (part 5)

Since the beginning of our journey, we have tried to create a wearable experience starting from our existing handheld app. A first working solution has been achieved just taking advantage of the WearableExtender that has allowed us to easily extend the status bar notifications, providing detailed info and extended functionalities to the wearable device. Even if this approach can work for the majority of the applications and it is really straightforward to achieve, it has some drawbacks in terms of achievable features and availability of content on the smartwatch. In fact, if the smartphone and the wearable device are not coupled, the latter one cannot offer any more access to the previously shown content. Keeping in mind that the wearable device is not a substitute of the handheld one but more like an extension that should try to simplify the user life, we have then exposed a limited number of functionalities into a custom wearable app. In order to achieve this result both applications currently share a common module but are decoupled in terms of single application modules. In this way it is possible to recycle and share code elements like the ContentProvider, the models and common utilities but at the same time keep distinct the different platform based implementations. In Pimp my Wear, this solution has led us to a wearable application that can be used by the user even if the two devices are temporarily disconnected but at the same time to a situation where the content gets out-synced. In this chapter we are going to have a look at how the Wearable Api can help us exchanging and syncing data between the two different devices.

Read the rest of this entry

Colonizing Wearables (part 3)

In Landing on Wearables we have approached wearables devices extending our existing app’s notifications and explaining briefly how to bind them to our development machine for debugging purposes. Now it is time to study more in deep what we can achieve directly on a device running Android Wear, understanding the constraints and the possibilities that the platform introduces. We will continue to keep as reference the Books application previously developed and we will try to create an Android Wear module.

Read the rest of this entry

Landing on Wearables (part 2)

In Introduction to Wearables we had a look at some of the concepts those are the foundations of Android Wear. In this part we are going to skip completely any considerations on that and we’ll have a look at how things work underneath. In particular, we’ll have a look at how to extend existing application’s notifications and how to debug on wearables(this second part will be used for the following tutorials). In order to achieve this, we’ll start with a sample application that runs just on a handheld device and we’ll try step by step to extend it, trying to create a beautiful user experience even on a device running Android Wear. Read the rest of this entry

Introduction to Wearables (part 1)

Wearable devices are definitely one of the most exciting and coolest technologies of 2014 along with drones and smart cars. Hardware producers, software companies and even start-ups are pushing the boundaries beyond what is just being on a handheld device, struggling to open new challenges and attract new customers. Something similar has been already seen when smartphones were just at the beginning of their appearance, but this time the purposes and targets of this technology are a little bit different. It is not just a matter of keeping the user connected with the World outside but it’s more about offering him new services, getting more from/into his life. Sensors can collect data about user activities (heart rate, pedometer, burn calories, sleep hours…) allowing to know more from the user’s context and his behaviors. Embedding them on wearable devices(smartwatches, rings, betls,…) can grant almost a 24 hours coverage, attracting the user to use something that he is already used to wear but with more functionalities and fancier. Read the rest of this entry

[Story Of My Life] London Chapter Two

It looks like that Today it’s my second year anniversary here in London 🙂
I want definitely to be a lot more concise than the past year but at the same time I want to write something that will remain as stone in the path of my life. Read the rest of this entry

Diabetes moves on! :) #AndroidLollipop

As you probably already know, today the Android team has released the latest version of Android (Lollipop – V21) to all the developers across the World.
This version is full of new APIs and it will definitely be an important milestone for the green platform. As Holo did a while ago, Material is going to change the way in which we’re used to use our devices enchanting animations, transitions, colors and usability. Read the rest of this entry

“Just #Google it!”

I have started this post almost one month ago but I’m finding now the time to write something about one of the coolest companies in the World. I have never had the opportunity to work there but, as user and mobile developer, I have certainly noticed that in the last 15 years Google has changed the Web and in particular the life of billions of people.

Through products like its famous search engine, the Android OS, Google Plus, Chrome and dozens of other projects Google is gaining day by day more success and people that trust in its goals. If you think about that, every company tries to earn more money and to acquire more users but Google has something more: the desire to grow not only as a supremacy but as a vector of evolution for the entire World.

That’s not obvious because most of the people, especially in the IT world, tend to be more closed than opened to resources and tools sharing. Google thinks different and that’s the power and one of the aspects those have make it great!
I’m not saying that every product, every library and everything produced by this company is perfect or something that only a bunch of genius can produce but I would like to highlight the main purpose behind their business: make the life of everyone better.

Sometimes it quite difficult to maintain those kind of standards because if the other companies and competitors think in the opposite way, offering them a lot of useful tools can be quite painful. But if you consider the purpose of make the World better, that can be used to maintain alive the competition and the desire of discover new things.

As Android Developer, I’m really grateful to a company of this caliber because I have got the big opportunity to work in a world that without Google wouldn’t be so great and close at the same time. Working everyday on the mobile OS that is on the top of the edge makes me really proud and happy because, using a set of tools that’s offered for free, is giving me the possibility to do my own business but at the same time the possibility to work for something that goes beyond that.

There are a lot of big and good company all around the World but I’ll definitely continue to support Big G if they’ll continue in this way 🙂

A new #Android App for @MailOnline

In the last few months the MailOnline mobile team has completely rewritten from the scratch their Android application. Getting rid of the old code, we came across to a lot of iterations and problems those have forced us to re-think the entire background synchronization and the resource management. As one of the Android developer who has developed this version, I’m very proud to say that this version is definitely better, faster and smoother than the prior one.

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The main features, improvements and changes that you’ll certainly noticed from the screenshots are:

  • Load more articles when you reach the bottom of a channel
  • Swipe down to sync news in the channels page (with progress percentage)
  • Swipe between different channels
  • A new drawer menu that will appear swiping from the left edge of your screen (enable in settings)
  • Share and comments feedback inside the articles
  • Shortcuts from article to main channels
  • Filters on data and image sync
  • Different priority and order for channels (based on your preferences)
  • Enriched FAQs screens

There’s still always something new to do and to improve but this can be consider a really good app that will allow thousands and thousands of people to read their favorite news paper.

Thanks,
Simone

Algorithms are fu**ing awesome!

If you have a quick look on Wikipedia you’ll find out that algorithms are procedures used to solve calculations and to process data.

When I was in university, one of my teacher has defined them like a receipt. Imagine that you have got dozens of ingredients. You have to mix them in order to obtain something that’s really tasty and that can be considered eatable.

From a certain point of view that’s true. Isn’t it? 🙂

One thing that takes a little bit of attention is the fact that the ingredients have to be selected and manipulated following particular procedures otherwise you’ll obtain a food that it something “similar” to what you are expecting.

One week ago, I was reading a problem on Codility that at the beginning was appearing really… really… EASY PEASY!
That’s the greatest mistake that you can do! It doesn’t exist a problem that is simple… otherwise it’s not a problem 😉

After that assumption, I tried on my favorite editor to solve the problem and it “was failing some tests” (if it doesn’t cover any case it’s wrong).
I misunderstood the fact that my solution wasn’t considering entirely the input.

Hence I decided to focus on the velocity of the execution because maybe some loops + if statements were speed down the execution.
That’s another problem: don’t focus on velocity at the beginning. You’ll incur in a lot of mistakes and the problem will become more complex than expected.

At that point I decided to drink a huge cup of strong Italian coffee. “What am I doing?!?!? That’s not the way!”
This was not the idea that solves all your problems but a kind of ray that was saying me that I should start to think instead of trying a feasible solution .

At the end that’s the result:

Detected time complexity: O(N * M * log(M) + N * log(N))
Score: 100 of 100

…getting back to my teacher’s words, when you are sure that your solution works, you should start to think “Can I do something more?“.

Most of the time the solution is YES! OF COURSE!

Leaving that’s long and boring introduction I think that algorithms are not only a way to solve problems but a tool that allows us, not only geeks or nerds, to find other possible better solutions or to confirm that our one is the best one.
So, if you have a look at the icon, that is taken by the Princeton website, you should consider the opportunity to think a problem as something that has to be solved through organized iterations not only as an intuition.