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Allwinner A83 tablet/laptop with Remix

September 21, 2015 — BarryK
Forum member don570 posted about this here:

...that will be Q4 2015.

Here is the video at youtube:

don570 also commented about Android apps running on Chromebooks, as a possible competitor for the Remix OS table/laptop.

Yes, but it looks like early days with getting Android apps to run properly in Chromebooks. Though, I don't have much feedback yet about any problems with Androids apps running in Remix OS.

Then there's the convergence thing. ChromeOS does not, it would seem, squeeze into a small phone screen format. So it is only for large-screen devices.
So ChromeOS is out as far as the convergence idea is concerned.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see at what price Allwinner release this tablet/laptop.

JIDE have a tablet/laptop currently on the market, but are apparently working on the next model, so things are getting interesting.

Tags: general

Remix OS on a smartphone?

September 20, 2015 — BarryK
I reported recently that I pledged for the Remix mini PC, Kickstarter campaign:

It looks like I will be getting it late-October.

I am most intrigued by the concept, as I think leveraging on an existing phone OS, being able to use all Android apps, in a windowed desktop environment, is so much more pragmatic and likely to succeed compared with, say, Canonical's reinvention of the wheel with Ubuntu Phone.

When I first came across Remix OS, I immediately thought what a natural it would be for the "convergence phone" concept. I wondered if JIDE (the company behind Remix OS) were thinking along these lines.
Someone (Geoff Topolski) recently asked them:

In the future, will Remix OS be able to run on smartphones? And if so, do you plan on implementing some sort of Ubuntu Mobile style convergence? e.g. when you connect your smartphone to a larger display, it will automatically change into windowed application mode?

Response from JIDE:

This is definitely something we're looking into! Stay tuned!


JIDE, incidentally, is not a couple of guys in a garage. They have serious backing, with 100 employees.

Tags: general

Configure.IT no-code apps

September 17, 2015 — BarryK
I was reading an overview of several no-code or very-little-code app creation tools, and in the comments section one guy commented that he had used many different app-creation products, including some of these no-code ones, but finally he recommended just one, Configure.IT, for both professional app creators and absolute beginners with no coding experience.

So I looked at the site:

Development is online, so all you need is a web browser. So, thank goodness, I don't have to run Windows!

Configure.IT creates apps for both Android and iPhone, apparently with very few changes required in a project to develop for both. The big thing about it, that sets it apart from all the other online app-creation tools that I have looked at, is Configure.IT builds true native apps, in Java for Android, and Objective-C for iOS, and the source code may be downloaded and used in Android Studio and Apple's XCode -- for a fee!

Where the real challenge is though, is the "no code" claim. Other online no-code tools that I have briefly looked at are based on templates, and seem to be very limited. But, there are so many tools out there, and I have only briefly looked at a few, and read comparative overviews.

One online tool that I did look at in some depth is MIT's App Inventor for Android (which can also be made to work offline). App Inventor requires coding, but it is "visual coding", which I personally found to be a bit painful to use after awhile, trying to create anything meaningful. It also has extremely limited layout options.

Anyway, Configure.IT has a free account, with limitations of course, so I decided to "give it a spin". Clicked the "Register" button and got this:

Secure Connection Failed

An error occurred during a connection to The OCSP server suggests trying again later. (Error code: sec_error_ocsp_try_server_later)

The page you are trying to view cannot be shown because the authenticity of the received data could not be verified.

Please contact the website owners to inform them of this problem.

Hmmm, not a promising start for an online tool!
But, waited a few minutes, then it worked. Only the one-off hiccup.

I registered and plunged straight in, to find out how intuitive it is. Without reading any documentation, I created a new project, with a label and button, and the simple action to change the text in the label when click the button.

It was all very simple, and I downloaded an APK file for Android -- 5.1MB.

It was interesting creating the "code" for the action, simple graphical selections, but I don't as yet know whether it will extend to anything more complex, such as branches and loops.

There is a PreviewIT app to be installed on iOS and Android phones, to enable running the app on the device while developing. Haven't tried that yet.

First impressions, very positive.


Smartface first impressions

September 17, 2015 — BarryK
I had downloaded Smartface a couple of months ago, and looked at it very briefly. It looked good. Now I am intending to play with it in more depth.

Firstly, I wanted to see what I could do without reading any introductions, no "getting started" guides, just plunge in and create an app.

Well, it is good news, I was able to create a simple Android app very easily, intuitively, and test it on an Android phone.

I started a new project, which created a screen with background image and toolbar at top with two buttons and a label. I was easily able to add my own button and a label, then created an action to change the text of the label when touch the button.

This is the handler script:

* @param {TouchEventArgument} e Returns e.x and e.y values of touched points.
* @this Page1.TextButton1
function Page1_TextButton1_OnTouch(e){
Pages.Page1.Label1.text = "I touched button";

...this is where I thought it was odd. There is auto-completion, which incidentally is very nice after suffering the slowness of Appmethod, and it was happy with just "Page1.Label1.text", Page1 being the current screen. However, the label text did not change when clicked button in the phone. It needed the "Pages." in front.

Smartface automatically recognised my Xperia when connected by USB, but at one stage failed to and I had to replug it.

The theme. I hate it, dark grey with slightly-less-grey-text, very low contrast, but there is no choice.

Cannot be run offline. Requires login at startup. I really do not like that. There are situations where I might not have Internet access.

At one stage it brought up Internet Explorer, a link to Smartface In Action app at iTunes (which is required to be installed on an iPhone, for Smartface to have on-device emulation). Yet, my default browser is set to SeaMonkey. I do not like IE, the version in my Windows 7 renders some web pages awful. Smartface should bring up the default browser.

I "published", that is, created an APK file, and my simple app is just under 11MB. Hopefully it won't grow much as the app gains more features.

So, some impressions after about one hour of usage. Probably now I should read the getting started guides and videos.


Appmethod saga coming to end?

September 14, 2015 — BarryK
The ongoing saga using Appmethod. You can follow the trail here:

I have been testing only on my phone that I carry with me, an Mlais M52, with Android 4.4.4.
No problems, the app I have been developing has worked well.

I have a collection of four smartphones, the oldest is a Sony Xperia C5303, with Android 4.1.2.

I decided that I should try my app on the Sony... at one stage of using the app, it crashed with an "access violation", then froze.
I uninstalled it, reinstalled again, ran it, this time it froze the entire phone. Nothing worked, not even holding down the power-button. Then all of a sudden the phone rebooted.

I have owned that Sony for a few years, but have hardly used it. It came with quite a lot of apps pre-installed, including MacAfee Antivirus, which I removed.

I tested my app on a OrientPhone 7inch, with Android 4.4.2. My apps works fine.

I tried to test on my Elephone P6000, with Android 5.0, but Appmethod would not recognise it.

I was warned about this by John Murga, who has also tested Appmethod. He found that apps created with Appmethod worked on one of his phones, crashed on another.

Appmethod is supposed to work on API-15 (Android 4.0.3) upward. Crashing on a mainstream brand such as the Sony Xperia is a worry.

I have enjoyed a few very intense weeks using Appmethod, and it is a great pity but I am starting to think that I may have to move onto a different app-creation tool.

First though, I will ask around, see if I can get hold of some more older phones, and test them.
Maybe need to test very recent phones with Android 5.x also!


Ongoing report on Appmethod

September 10, 2015 — BarryK
I am continuing to use Appmethod, see my earlier posts:

I have more comments to make, as I get close to the end of the 30-day evaluation period.

There were some stability issues when I first started to use Appmethod, but it is getting worse. Perhaps this is due to the app I am creating getting bigger?
These are the issues:

"stopped working"
"access protected memory"
"access violation"
dead keyboard
often busy

The little whirling gizmo beside the mouse pointer keeps coming up, so frequently it is annoying. If I type anything when it is "busy", the text is lost.

Then increasingly often, it stays busy, and Windows reports that Appmethod has stopped working.

I turned off code-completion, but it has not reduced the frequency and duration of the busy intervals.

The dead keyboard issue is weird, Appmethod just stops receiving keyboard input. Still working otherwise.

And then there are seemingly random errors when opening my app or compiling.
Like today, I opened my project, and got this:

"error reading TActiveStyleTextObject.ActiveTrigger"

So I quit and restarted Appmethod, this time my project opened without error.

It reminds me of the old days in the 80s and early 90s, when I was using a Windows 95 word processor that crashed every 15 minutes. I just saved my work frequently -- as I am now doing with Appmethod.

Android x86
I have got to throw in this criticism, as it is very poor that a commercial product such as Appmethod does not support Android on the Intel x86 CPU.

I understand that there are difficulties, as Appmethod compiles down to machine code. There may also be licensing and extra costs involved.

Probably a separate app would have to be created just for x86, to deploy to online stores, which is another complication.

One can only hope that if popularity of x86 Android gets any stronger on phones and tablets, that Embarcadero will embrace it.


More thoughts on Appmethod

September 01, 2015 — BarryK
I have been posting recently about Appmethod:

I am continuing to be impressed with how powerful it is, but I have run into some issues:

No markup-text view
This really took me by surprise. All modern UI frameworks support rendering of some kind of text markup. Even Win32 back in the 90's supported Rich Text. GTK supports basic HTML tags.
So, I was most disappointed to discover that Firemonkey (the UI framework in Appmethod) does not support any kind of text markup.
There is a third-party product, I think only for iOS.

FireDAC UI framework
This is supposed to be a good thing. A database can be managed via components that are dropped onto a form (design window) just like the widget layout designer.
I have run into issues with it however, and right now I am going to do some research to find out how to manage my SQLite database at low-level code-only -- because I know what I want to do is actually quite simple and easy to do at the code level.

Note that I am criticizing FireDAC, but I am a beginner, fumbling around, and perhaps someone with more Appmethod experience will be more happy with using it.

Rendering on different platforms
This one is to be expected I suppose, to an extent anyway. I am designing a simple app, testing it on Windows 7 and on my phone.
I have learned that it is absolutely essential to test on the actual device, as there are surprises. Generally, the UI looks as expected in Windows, but then try it on the phone, and hey, some weird things happen!

Of course, this is one of the biggest criticisms. The app I am developing has grown to a 10MB .apk, but 33MB installed. Obviously the files are compressed inside the .apk.
But once installed, in the Setup -> apps section in my phone, I can compare installed sizes, and my app is up there with the biggest.
But then, download size is the main thing of concern to potential buyers, and 10MB is similar to most others.

Now, a plus-point:

Version control
As I mentioned, Appmethod is very sophisticated. Even has version control built-in. I can see exactly what changes I made since any previous time/day, can roll back if desired.

One code-base
I should make this comment, as it is the nicest feature, the main reason one would use Appmethod, despite the bloat.
It is very nice to create just the one app and see it run on Windows and Android (and potentially iOS and Mac).
There are some deployment differences, and so far I have managed theses easily. One example, a #define test is required to set path for files that an app can read/write/create (very restricted in Android).


FireMonkey links

August 29, 2015 — BarryK
FireMonkey is the UI framework used in Appmethod, also in other app-creation tools from Embarcadero.

The official docs are here:

Here are other sites:

Some of those sites look as though they are "backed" by Embarcadero. Some look very dated.
They also are mostly Delphi and Object Pascal centric (Delphi is another app creation tool from Embarcadero, with a very long history).

Tags: general