Rapid Android Development – Using Processing to build apps fast – #programming #bookreview

Rapid Android Development

Build Rich, Sensor-Based Applications with Processing
Daniel Sauter
(Pragmatic Bookshelfpaperback)

The main goal of Daniel Sauter’s nicely written new book is to help you learn “how to develop interactive, sensor-based Android apps” quickly.

At first glance, you may question how “quickly” you can go through 13 chapters with a total of 363 pages, including the index.

But there’s good news here, particularly if you are not a patient programmer. The book is divided into five parts, all structured to serve as “self-contained mini-courses.” And the author has geared his text toward six semi-specific categories of readers.

Sauter, by the way, is an artist and educator with some eight years’ experience teaching Processing. Processing is a free “award-winning, graphics-savvy” programming language and development environment that can be used to work with Android devices and software.

Let’s go to the six reader categories first. Rapid Android Development is aimed at:

  1. Readers with at least “a basic understanding of programming concepts….”
  2. Intermediate Processing users “looking to create Android apps from within the Processing IDE….”
  3. “Educators who teach courses on mobile technologies” and need “a free tool that does not require developer licenses or subscriptions.”
  4. Java and Android developers who want to use Processing to leverage “a host of libraries for productivity gains.” (Java developers will quickly see that Processing builds on Java.)
  5. JavaScript and Web developers who want to use Processing.js syntax to help them create “JavaScript-powered web applications that can run inside browsers without plugins or other modifications. Processing.js also takes advantage of WebGL hardware acceleration.”
  6. Arduino users and hobbyists, particularly those “interested in adapting Android phones or tablets for use as sensing devices, controllers, or graphics processors.”

Now let’s look at the five parts of Rapid Android Development.

  • Part I focuses on installing Processing and the Android SDK but also looks at touch screens and Android sensors and cameras.
  • Part II is devoted to “working with the camera and location devices found on most Androids.”
  • Part III’s emphasis is on peer-to-peer networking, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Direct, plus Near Field Communication (NFC), which is “expected to revolutionize the point-of-sale industry,” Sauter notes.
  • Part IV “deals with data and storage,” he adds, “as all advanced apps require some sort of data storage and retrieval to keep user data up-to-date.”
  • Part V examines 3D graphics and cross-platform apps.

You will need several software tools and at least one Android device to work with the code examples in this book. (The book lists several Android phones and tablets that have been tested with the code examples, which are available online.)

If you want to do some work in Part III, you will need at least two Android devices (so your peer can have a peer). And if you have absolutely no programming experience, you should get some first. Sauter, an associate professor of New Media art at the University of Illinois–Chicago School of Art and Design, offers some suggestions for good sources.

His new book seems a bit light on illustrations. But its well-displayed, well-explained code examples and clear how-to paragraphs keep the reader moving and making progress.

If you are a creative coder looking for some new skills, projects and challenges, check out Rapid Android Development, ASAP.

Si Dunn 

OpenGL ES 2 for Android – A fine quick-start guide for new developers – #android #programming #bookreview

OpenGL ES 2 for Android

A Quick-Start Guide
Kevin Brothaler
(Pragmatic Bookshelf – paperback)

Yes, the timing might seem a bit strange, releasing an OpenGL ES 2 book in early July, 2013, barely a month before the August release of OpenGL ES 3.

However, OpenGL ES 3 is backward-compatible with OpenGL ES 2. And the steps and techniques you can learn in this Open GL ES 2 book for Android are forward-compatible to OpenGL ES 3. Many also are applicable to iOS WebGL or HTML5 WebGL.

This “quick-start guide” assumes you have some experience with Java and Android, and it quickly jumps into creating OpenGL applications for Android. You install software tools such as the Java Development Kit (JDK) and the Android Software Development Kit and create a simple test project. Then you dive into developing and enhancing a 3D game project —  “a simple game of air hockey” — for the remainder of the book.

OpenGL ES 2 for Android is nicely illustrated, well-written, and cleanly organized with short paragraphs and short code examples that clearly have been tested. It is a fine quick-start guide, particularly for developers looking into OpenGL for the first time.

Some math skills are required to develop the air hockey game. But the author does a nice job of explaining and illustrating the math examples, as well.

Kevin Brothaler has extensive experience in Android development. He founded Digipom, a mobile software development shop, and he manages an online set of OpenGL tutorials for Android and WebGL: Learn OpenGL ES.

Si Dunn

NOOK HD: The Missing Manual – Tips and tricks for getting the most from your e-reader tablet – #bookreview

NOOK HD: The Missing Manual
Preston Gralla
(O’Reilly – Kindle, paperback)

Prolific and top-notch technical writer Preston Gralla is back again, this time with a handy “Missing Manual” that explains how to use two Barnes & Noble e-reader tablets, the NOOK HD and NOOK HD+.

His 18-chapter, 464-page book is divided into eight well-written parts containing generally good illustrations. The parts are:

  • Part  One – The Basics – A guided tour of the hardware, showing you how to use the NOOK as an e-reader and tablet.
  • Part Two – Reading Books and Periodicals – Shows how to use the NOOK’s many reading tools.
  • Part Three – Managing Your Library – How to buy books, newspapers, and magazines and track them in your personal library. Includes how to borrow and lend books from your NOOK, too.
  • Part Four – Apps, Media, and Files – Includes “how to find, download, install, and use thousands of apps…” and how to watch movies and TV shows and listen to Internet radio stations or play music from your own collection. Also, how to transfer files to your NOOK and use its built-in music player.
  • Part Five – The Web and Email – Shows “how to browse the Web and send and receive email using any email account.”
  • Part Six – Getting Social – How to keep track of your contacts, how to use the NOOK’s social features, including NOOK Friends. Also discusses using the NOOK on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
  • Part Seven – Advanced Topics – Shows how to tweak some features and how to root your NOOK so it can “run like a standard Android tablet.”
  • Part Eight – Appendixes – These cover troubleshooting, accessories for the NOOK, file formats that a NOOK can handle, and things you can do with a NOOK at a Barnes & Noble store.

Gralla notes that the NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ can be used with microSD cards to expand the available memory for your stuff. The HD comes in 8 GB and 16 GB versions. The HD+ has 16 GB and 32 GB versions.

The HD’s screen is 7 inches.  The HD+ screen is 9 inches. The HD+, he adds, also “has a slightly faster processor than the NOOK HD–a 1.5 GHz dual-core speed demon. The extra oomph is needed to power the HD+’s larger screen.”

If you’ve gotten a NOOK HD or HD+ or are planning to get one soon, definitely add this book to your must-have list. Also, Gralla urges,  “strongly consider buying a cover or case. A cover protects your NOOK and its screen from damage, so they’re well worth the small investment.”

Si Dunn

Programming C# 5.0 – Excellent how-to guide for experienced developers ready to learn C# – #bookreview

Programming C# 5.0
Ian Griffiths
(O’Reilly, paperbackKindle)

Ian Griffiths’ new book is for “experienced developers,” not for beginners hoping to learn the basics of programming while also learning C#. The focus is “Building Windows 8, Web, and Desktop Applications for the .NET 4.5 Framework.”

Earlier editions in the Programming C# series have “explained some basic concepts such as classes, polymorphism, and collections,” Griffiths notes. But C# also keeps growing in power and size, which means the page counts of its how-to manuals must keep growing, too, to cover “everything.”

The paperback version of Programming C# 5.0 weighs in at 861 pages and more than three pounds. So Griffiths’ choice to sharpen the book’s focus is a smart one. Beginners can learn the basics of programming in other books and other ways before digging into this edition. And experienced developers will find that the author’s explanations and code examples now have space to go “into rather more detail” than would have been possible if chapters explaining the basics of programming had been packed in, as well.

If you have done some programming and know a class from an array, this book can be your well-structured guide to learning C#. The “basics” are gone, but you still are shown how to create a “Hello World” program—primarily so you can see how new C# projects are created in Visual Studio, Microsoft’s development environment.

C# has been around since 2000 and “can be used for many kinds of applications, including websites, desktop applications, games, phone apps, and command-line utilities,” Griffiths says.

“The most significant new feature in C# 5.0,” he emphasizes, “is support for asynchronous programming.” He notes that “.NET has always offered asynchronous APIs (i.e., ones that do not wait for the operation they perform to finish before returning). Asynchrony is particularly important with input/output(I/O) operations, which can take a long time and often don’t require any active involvement from the CPU except at the start and end of an operation. Simple, synchronous APIs that do not return until the operation completes can be inefficient. They tie up a thread while waiting, which can cause suboptimal performance in servers, and they’re also unhelpful in client-side code, where they can make a user interface unresponsive.”

In the past, however, “the more efficient and flexible asynchronous APIs” have been “considerably harder to use than their synchronous counterparts. But now,” Griffiths points out, “if an asynchronous API conforms to a certain pattern, you can write C# code that looks almost as simple as the synchronous alternative would.”

If you are an experienced programmer hoping to add C# to your language skills, Ian Griffiths’ new book covers much of what you need to know, including how to use XAML (pronounced “zammel”) “to create  applications of the [touch-screen] style introduced by Windows 8” but also applications for desktop computers and Windows Phone.

Yes, Microsoft created C#, but there are other ways to run it, too, Griffiths adds.

“The open source Mono project (http://www.mono-project.com/) provides tools for building C# applications that run on Linux, Mac OS X, iOS, and Android.”

Si Dunn

For more information:  paperback – Kindle

Mobile JavaScript Application Development – Bringing the Web to Mobile Devices – #programming #bookreview

Mobile JavaScript Application Development
Adrian Kosmaczewski
(O’Reilly,
paperback, list price $24.99; Kindle edition, list price $19.99)

In the author’s view, “the most important moment in recent technological history was the introduction of the iPhone in January 2007. The impressive growths of iOS, Android, and other platforms [have] completely transformed the landscape of software engineering, while at the same time opening new possibilities for companies.”

Indeed, Adrian Kosmaczewski notes: “It is estimated that, in 2015, more than 50% of all web requests will come from mobile devices!”

So, if you are, or are planning to be,  a JavaScript programmer, you better know how to develop and support apps for mobile devices. And you’d better stay aware of “platform fragmentation” – the various platforms that you may encounter as old and new ones battle for survival and market dominance.

Kosmaczewski’s new, 145-page book is aimed at web developers who have some familiarity with HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript.

“It does not matter if you have mobile software engineering experience,” he assures potential readers. But: “Mobile applications are a world of their own, and they present challenges that common applications don’t deal with.…” These include:

  • Small screen sizes
  • Reduced Battery Life
  • Little Memory and disk specifications
  • Rapidly changing network conditions

His book is divided into seven well-written chapters. And six of them offer numerous screenshots and short code examples. The chapters are:

  1. HTML5 for Mobile Applications
  2. JavaScript Productivity Tips
  3. jQuery Mobile
  4. Sencha Touch
  5. Phone Gap
  6. Debugging and Testing
  7. Conclusion

Mobile JavaScript Application Development takes this straightforward approach: (1) “leave the theory to others” and (2) focus on “understand by doing.” And, mercifully, the author does not try to tackle too many technologies at once. Instead, he concentrates – in “an opinionated, hands-on” way on three technologies that he says “are currently the most promising and…show the most interesting roadmap.”

These are, as previously mentioned in the chapter list, jQuery Mobile, Sencha Touch, and PhoneGap. His goal is to help you determine which one is best for your project. (If you don’t agree with his choices, he provides helpful links to several others but does not discuss them.)

To work with the book’s code samples, certain items are needed and not easily summed up here in a few words, because of platform fragmentation and other factors. But the requirements can be viewed easily, using Amazon’s “Click to Look Inside!” feature for both the paperback and Kindle editions.

If your job or ambitions include developing apps for smartphones, you should check out this book.

Si Dunn

Android Cookbook: Problems & Solutions for Android Developers – #bookreview #in #programming

Android Cookbook
Edited by Ian F. Darwin
(O’Reilly, paperback, list price $54.99; Kindle edition, list price$43.99)

Several dozen Android developers have contributed some 200 tested “recipes” to this hefty how-to guide for building Android apps.

But be sure you know Java reasonably well before tackling Android Cookbook. As the book’s editor, Ian F. Darwin, notes, “Android apps are written in the Java language before they are converted into Android’s own class file format, DEX. If you don’t know how to program in Java you will find it hard to write Android apps.”

The 661-page book starts at the traditional “Hello, World” level so you can test two different approaches. At the command line, it shows how to “create a new Android project without using the Eclipse ADT plug-in.” And then it shows how to create an Android application using Eclipse.

From there, a clear and simple problem-solution approach is taken, and the solutions are illustrated with code examples.

The 22 chapters cover a wide range:

  1. Getting Started
  2. Designing a Successful Application
  3. Testing
  4. Inter-/Intra-Process Communications
  5. Content Providers
  6. Graphics
  7. Graphical User Interface
  8. GUI Alerts: Menus, Dialogs, Toasts, and Notifications
  9. GUI: ListView
  10. Multimedia
  11. Data Persistence
  12. Telephone Applications
  13. Networked Applications
  14. Gaming and Animation
  15. Social Networking
  16. Location and Map Applications
  17. Accelerometer
  18. Bluetooth
  19. System and Device Control
  20. Other Programming Languages and Frameworks
  21. Strings and Internationalization
  22. Packaging, Deploying, and Distributing/Selling Your App

In Ian Darwin’s view, “Android is ‘the open source revolution’ applied to cellular telephony and mobile computing. At least part of the revolution.”

There have been worries in the past about Android’s future. But Darwin and the book’s contributors are among the many who remain firmly convinced that “Android is definitely here to stay!” Darwin adds: “This book is here to help the Android developer community share the knowledge that will make it happen.”

Si Dunn

NOOK Tablet: The Missing Manual (for NOOK Color, too) – #bookreview #in

Nook Tablet: The Missing Manual
By Preston Gralla
(O’Reilly,
paperback, list price $19.99; Kindle edition, list price $15.99)

Barnes & Noble’s NOOK Tablet and NOOK Color are stylish and powerful portable devices that blend the functions of e-reader and computer. They have many useful features, but they aren’t shipped with a detailed user manual. (B & N wants you to go to a support website.)

Preston Gralla, meanwhile, is a fine writer who has authored more than 40 books, including several in O’Reilly’s popular The Missing Manual™ series.

His latest, Nook Tablet: The Missing Manual, is both well written and heavily illustrated and does a fine job of showing and telling how to get the most from a NOOK Tablet and its cheaper, less powerful brother, the NOOK Color.

It would be nice for nervous new users, however, if the following assurance had been positioned much sooner in the book rather than on page 320: “Out of the box, the NOOK’s privacy and security settings are configured to make sure that you’re safe and secure. So most likely, you won’t need to change any settings.” (But Gralla then shows how to increase the default security, if you desire, by deleting cookies, deleting web browsing history, and blocking pop-ups.)

Gralla’s 471-page book has 17 chapters and three appendices and is organized into eight parts:

  • Part 1, The Basics – Covers setting up, charging and registering a NOOK, finding its plugs, microphone and controls, using and troubleshooting wi-fi, using a NOOK at a Barnes & Noble store, using gestures to control the device, changing your wallpaper, and other setup basics.
  • Part 2, Reading Books, Newspapers, and Magazines – Focuses on the NOOK’s reading tools, including how to use bookmarks and notes, how to change fonts and text sizes, and how to search inside a book, newspaper or magazine. Has a chapter on kids’ books and shows how a NOOK can read a children’s book aloud or record your own voice reading a book to your child or children.
  • Part 3, Buying, Borrowing, and Managing Your Library – Shows how to research and buy or borrow online reading materials and track them in your personal library.
  • Part 4, Apps, Movies, TV Shows, Music, Photographs, and Files – Starts with streaming media first, including Pandora, Netflix, and Hulu Plus. Then shows how to download and use apps. According to Gralla: “Anything you can do on a traditional tablet, you can do on your NOOK Tablet and NOOK Color. (And yes, that includes Angry Birds.)” This part also delves into how to get music, photographs, videos and documents into your NOOK and how to move files between your NOOK Tablet and your computer.
  • Part 5, The Web and Email – Shows how to browse the Web with a NOOK and how to send and receive email using virtually any of your email accounts.  Also shows how to manage your email with a NOOK and how the NOOK handles attachments such as documents, PDFs and photographs.
  • Part 6, Getting Social – Covers using the NOOK Friends app and using the NOOK on Facebook and Twitter. Also shows how to import and manage your Google, Gmail, and Facebook contacts.
  • Part 7, Advanced Topics  – Focuses on settings you can change and also how to “root” your NOOK. You can adjust sounds, customize the way the keyboard works, alter the settings of the Home screen and make other changes. If you choose to “root” your NOOK Tablet, you will “replace its operating system with a version of Android that lets you install any app you want (via the Android Market), something you can’t normally do with the NOOK.”  But Gralla notes: “Barnes & Noble frowns on this practice, which is why doing it voids the warranty.” B & N also has built “anti-rooting” technology into the NOOK Color, he adds. He carefully does not give you the exact steps for “rooting,” but mentions that such information can be found on the Web.
  • Part 8, Appendixes  – Appendix A focuses on “Maintenance and Troubleshooting.” Appendix B deals with “File Formats,” listing the file types a NOOK can handle. And Appendix C zeroes in on fun things to do with a NOOK while visiting a Barnes & Noble store, “such as read books free for an hour.”

If you are struggling to decide between a NOOK Tablet and a Kindle Fire (or some other device), books in O’Reilly’s The Missing Manual™ series can be a relatively affordable way to get the detailed information you need in a pleasant and helpful format.

If you’ve already ordered or received a NOOK, you likely need this book.

Si Dunn is a novelist, screenwriter, freelance book reviewer, and former software technical writer and software/hardware QA test specialist. He also is a former newspaper and magazine photojournalist. His latest book is Dark Signals, a Vietnam War memoir. He is the author of an e-book detective novel, Erwin’s Law, now also available in paperback, plus a novella, Jump, and several other books and short stories.