HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 2nd, 2010

Discuss plans for a future version of HanDBase for the Google Android platform

HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 2nd, 2010

Postby dhaupert » Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:40 am

Hi all,

I've been asked through email and here from a number of people how development is coming along and decided I'd try to post some updates so you can track where things are in the process and ask questions about it if you'd like!

Update for 6/2/10:

HanDBase on Android in it's current form can now open and display any HanDBase database (PDB file). I am using a combination of the Java end for the User Interface and the NDK (native development kit) to create a library that handles all the heavy lifting (reading and writing from database files, etc). It's working really well and seems speedy though I haven't tested with any sort of benchmarks thus far.

When I do development I do it in iterations. I always focus on getting the core library code to run first meaning that the platform can handle the internals of HanDBase- opening tables, querying the database for records, etc. Then I begin on UI development of the main three screens you use- the Choose Database screen, the List View, and the Edit record screen. These are the hardest screens to implement as they always contain a lot more dynamically generated material. In other words, a screen like the sorting screen which has a few drop down selectors to pick the fields to sort by and the sorting direction is but a fraction of the development time of a screen like the Edit Record screen which has to create all sorts of controls based on the content of the database, load it with data from a record, handle interaction of that data, and then saving back to the database, among other things. So while I typically spend the first few months on a lot of internal development and have little visible to show for it, the final month or two of programming shows much faster progress externally because the ancillary screens are much quicker and easier to implement.

So when developing HanDBase, I code up a series of progressively more functional versions of these core screens. For example, the first Android version of HanDBase displayed a fake list of databases, a fake list of records in the list view, and a fake edit record screen with a sampling of field types. Then the next iteration actually showed a list of files stored in the HandBase folder of the SD card. Then the next iteration showed only real databases stored in that location. The next one displayed a list of records from the actual database with only a single field, then the next one shows a list of records with multiple fields. The next one begins to support scrolling, and then.... well, you get the picture!

My goal for this week is to finish another iteration of the three main screens. By this time next week I hope that the core three screens will be at the stage where they are about 80% of the final functionality that these screens will exhibit. When I get to that point, I hope to get back to implementing some of the screens that extend that behavior, for example- the sorting, filtering, edit popups, and views screens.

As much as I'm excited about the progress and prospects for this Android version, I want to be careful in setting expectations for development- I am working on this project with the vast majority of my available development time for some time now and feel quite comfortable coding for Android at this point. But even still, it would be hard for me to give you a date when I expect to be finished. This is because there are many bumps in the road that cause development to stumble. Those can range from a particularly stubborn thing to implement on a given platform that was easy to do on other platforms (eg, on Android, making a screen that scrolls right and left as well as dynamically up and down is a real challenge!), to a personal/family issue or emergency (eg, the ambulance ride taken last night to the hospital for my 5 year old son who they suspected was about to have his appendix burst (it wasn't, but still cost me one of my coding late-night sessions that get me the most progress all week). So I don't want to potentially disappoint you with a release date.

That said, I am hoping to start a formal program by the end of June when I expect that most of the program features will be in place. I am still thinking through the details, and the fact that so many customers have asked to be part of the beta team has changed my plans for sticking with our tried and true private beta team model. The combination of so many device models and screen sizes mixed with so many excited HanDBase users means an open beta where a larger group of people may be possible. But frankly, I'm also worried I'll be overwhelmed with feedback as well. It's a fine line- during the beta stage you want feedback, but as a single developer I can only handle so much at once or my development will be crippled responding to bug reports and nits here and there. So I'm trying to carefully weigh this out, and may do something like start with a small private group for a week or two and then expanding to a larger group thereafter. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this, and thanks for reading!
dhaupert
 
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 2nd, 2010

Postby Avi » Wed Jun 02, 2010 1:24 pm

Now here's a conundrum:

I've been a HanDBase user since at least 2.0X (first on Palm, now Windoze Mobile), and run most of my business and a lot of my life through it -- in fact, my current device is called "Brain" because with HanDBase it so effectively replaces my own disintegrating grey cells .... My first rule in choosing any PDA is that it must support HanDBase, otherwise I won't even consider it.

Now I find myself hungrily eyeing various Android-based devices in the 5"-7" screen size (despite "Thou shalt not covet"....); I would love to help beta test the Android version of HDB with my extensive library of databases, but how do I break my own rule, and no less importantly, continue functioning while doing so?

A faithful fan,
-avi
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 2nd, 2010

Postby dhaupert » Wed Jun 02, 2010 1:40 pm

Sounds like a chicken or the egg problem at least until the final release version ships! Thanks for the laugh- I think you'll have to dig deep within to make a decision on that one. One thing in your favor is that most all those 5-7" tablet Android devices are not yet shipping anyway, so other than the Archos ones, I think you'd have to wait anyway, and those for some reason (I think it uses a different type of processor) don't support apps from the Android market. That means when HanDBase finally ships you won't be able to download it anyway!
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 2nd, 2010

Postby greyman56 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 8:31 pm

dhaupert wrote:I am still thinking through the details, and the fact that so many customers have asked to be part of the beta team has changed my plans for sticking with our tried and true private beta team model. The combination of so many device models and screen sizes mixed with so many excited HanDBase users means an open beta where a larger group of people may be possible. But frankly, I'm also worried I'll be overwhelmed with feedback as well. It's a fine line- during the beta stage you want feedback, but as a single developer I can only handle so much at once or my development will be crippled responding to bug reports and nits here and there. So I'm trying to carefully weigh this out, and may do something like start with a small private group for a week or two and then expanding to a larger group thereafter. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this, and thanks for reading!

I can understand your concerns about an open Beta entirely. As a PHP / Javascript web developer who bases most of our work on open source software, I am all too familiar with the problems of an open beta program. I can offer these suggestions....

1/ The first beta would be about functional issues only. The "pretty" and use of Android niceties should come once a stable functional platform has been tested. Perhaps leave out forms too. This allows those beta testers to use their databases in a production environment sooner. And these "pretty" requests are often more numerous than the functionality ones.

2/ Choose an extended beta team from a subset of those who are offering their services - using a "functionality" or "experience with HDB design" based criteria for inclusion. Perhaps have their designed DBs and Apps submitted with the beta tester "application".

3/ Or use a totally open beta but define the criteria well and totally ignore any posts from beta testers that stray outside that defined criteria. It has to be stated strongly up front that certain things will be ignored, and you'd have to stick to it IMHO. This will take more discipline on your part. <grin>

.... My two bobs worth.

BTW, I am moving to an Android based phone soon myself. The HTC Desire is the current target machine. Was considering carrying the old PalmOS based Treo with me for HDB access, as it records my timed billing stuff.

Cheers
Graham
Cheers, Graham
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 2nd, 2010

Postby dhaupert » Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:04 pm

Hi Graham,

Thanks for the advice- very much appreciated! I don't think I'll be able to ignore posts from anyone, so part 3 will be the biggest challenge ;)

I guess I should have stated up front that forms will definitely not be part of the initial release. I want to get the base/core functionality out ASAP and will revisit that at a later time. Forms took more time to develop on other platforms than anything else we have done- we still don't have forms for iPhone and that is something I plan on remedying before the year's over. So my plan is basically to get the core HanDBase available and then depending on priorities of customers will work on Forms or whatever features users want most next!

Thanks again for your two bobs worth of advice!
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 2nd, 2010

Postby docinfiniti » Wed Jun 02, 2010 9:36 pm

Excellent. You may also wish to divide beta testers into teams, based on platform. Particularly since platform specific issues may arise. Certainly, forms will get in the way, and are pretties. Thanks again.
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 2nd, 2010

Postby greyman56 » Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:23 pm

dhaupert wrote:I don't think I'll be able to ignore posts from anyone, so part 3 will be the biggest challenge ;)

Then I would advise against a totally open beta.
Cheers, Graham
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 2nd, 2010

Postby koolmusick » Thu Jun 03, 2010 11:38 am

dhaupert wrote:... the fact that so many customers have asked to be part of the beta team has changed my plans for sticking with our tried and true private beta team model. The combination of so many device models and screen sizes mixed with so many excited HanDBase users means an open beta where a larger group of people may be possible.


I say ... stick with what you know and with what works. Much as I am really really really really wanting this out ASAP, I'm also real-worldedly knowing it takes a while. Stick with what you know and what works well. There's usually a reason for it.

Oh yes ... that bit about forms ... no forms. Giving me nightmares all ready. How am I going to live without forms?

But ... stick to what you know. Let the private beta team model do its work. Reporting bugs is a skill and an art ("it doesn't work properly ... ") and with the best will in the world, not everyone has that, or understands what makes a report useful to a developer. So unless you're thinking of adding a crash course in bug reporting, I'd stick with what you know.

Just my "when-is-this-at-last-going-to-be-out"s worth.

Kool Musick
Keep Musick Kool
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 2nd, 2010

Postby zennode » Fri Jun 04, 2010 7:26 am

I am very excited at the prospect of HanDBase for Android. I agree that a private beta might be more manageable from a single developer's stand point. I have built a few apps and when I did a public beta I was flooded with feedback from users which was great but I had only so much time and found myself spending so much time going through all the emails that I was working less on the project at hand. That being said, I would be happy to offer any help that I can. Thank you.
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 2nd, 2010

Postby rc46 » Sun Jun 06, 2010 9:13 am

I have been using Handbase for 5 years and could not live without it. I have used it on Palm OS, Windows Mobile, iPhone and WebOS Classic. I am now using Android and still have to carry my Pre to get to my Handbase databases. I would be happy to be a beta tester for Android.
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