HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 18th, 2010

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

HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 18th, 2010

Postby dhaupert » Fri Jun 18, 2010 4:15 pm

Hi all,

So this week was an exercise in frustration as I ran into a huge snag with the development of the HanDBase for Android program. I've been making great progress on the Edit Record screen and have the UI nearly complete. The Edit Record screen is always the hardest (aside from custom forms that is) in terms of UI as it all has to be done on the fly based on the field types you set up, whereas other screens are static in nature and can be designed far more quickly/easily.

I was working to actual fill this UI with values, and started getting a crash in the calls to the C++ libraries. Unfortunately while you can run a debugger and inspect memory and watch the program run, you can't really do that with the C++ libraries, only the Java code. (In actuality, you can to some degree, but not in a way that would help this case). This means finding the cause was very tricky. I ended up creating a virtual debugger for it, so that I can inspect memory, variables, etc for this problem (and any future ones). I discovered via this virtual debugger that the Android C compile treating certain variable types differently than all other C compilers I've used the HanDBase database library code on before. Since I've already gotten overly technical, I might as well share the details- most compilers assume a char variable is signed and you have to specify if you want it unsigned. In the case of Android and any ARM based linux device, the opposite is true. So I was having some places in the code where a value of -1 was not being shown as negative, but rather 255 (the maximum value of an unsigned char). I am surprised I've gotten this far without this popping up already!

I was able to change the compiler's option to force it to treat the variable the right way- apparently no other Android programmers have run into this, based on the complete lack of information online about it. And now it's working great!

So while it has taken me a few days longer to achieve the goal, I can now edit records in HanDBase for Android. Woohoo!

There is still lots to do- I probably have another week working on adding the full set of options to this screen, such as editing signature fields (formerly images on old platforms), adding the features like delete a record, etc. But my updated goal is that by the end of June I will have the three core screens done:
Choose Database
List View
Edit Record screen

In my last update I hoped to be there and also have the Advanced Search, Sorting and Filters screen done as well. Unfortunately that likely won't happen by July 1st, but hopefully soon after. At that point, I consider the first iteration of HanDBase done. I then can go to iteration 2, where I finish adding support for the relational aspects of HanDBase, password protection and encryption, as well as further refining the features like Landscape mode support, testing on various resolution screens, etc. Lastly, iteration 3 is where I add the support for the DB Properties screens and really complete the program to be where it will be close to an initial release.

I'm still hopeful we'll be releasing this over the summer, and rest assured, I'm fully focused on getting this project done, and done right! I'll try to continue keeping you in the loop, hopefully posting again at the end of the month to see where I've gotten over that time.

Have a great weekend!
dhaupert
 
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 18th, 2010

Postby Boscovec » Mon Jun 21, 2010 5:24 pm

Dave;

Thanks for the update on your efforts. Haven't upgraded to a new device yet, still using a Treo as that is where all my "mission critical" apps, files etc. still happily work together. Waiting for your work to finish eagerly. Once a week I check this board for progress. Was reading some of the feature requests in a another thread; I'm glad you take the time to read them as well, and reply to them.

Dave
-----------------------------
Boscovec
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 18th, 2010

Postby jgfoley » Mon Jun 28, 2010 6:51 pm

Hi David,
Looks like you're making great progress with Android. I've been hoping that it would be an easy transformation to Windows Phone 7 but that doesn't appear to be the case. Sense you're making such great inroads with the development of HanDBase for Android, it looks like that'll be the direction I go next. Reading other forums, I don't think I'll be alone making the leap from Windows Mobile to Android or another platform, as long as it 's supported by HanDBase. Keep up the great work!!!
Thank you,
Jim
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 18th, 2010

Postby dhaupert » Mon Jun 28, 2010 8:57 pm

Hi there,

Thanks for writing. I wouldn't rule out that we'd some day have a Windows Mobile 7 product, but definitely not anything any time soon. It would be almost a complete rewrite due to the programming languages required and I get the feeling that most of our customers on Windows Mobile are heading to (or already at) Android. I think both Palm and now Microsoft messed up when they did a complete rewrite of their OS. It was needed in both cases, but backwards compatibility should never have been overlooked, as now since all users would be starting over with apps on Windows Mobile 7, they may as well consider alternatives like Android. And they are, in droves!

Take care.
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 18th, 2010

Postby RickMay57 » Tue Jun 29, 2010 10:14 am

Thanks for the update, I have really missed the functionality of HandBase since I switched over to the Motorola Droid, and I have not found any product to fill that void.

I look forward to your final release, I have been a HandBase user for many users, and I look forward to many more.
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 18th, 2010

Postby mjt57 » Tue Jun 29, 2010 10:22 pm

dhaupert wrote:Hi there,

most of our customers on Windows Mobile are heading to (or already at) Android.

As was the case with me.

I ran with PalmOS for about 6 years, excellent platform, lots of good apps. But when my last Palm PDA died, there wasn't much about in the market place that I liked. Plus everyone was saying that Windows Mobile was "the future" so I got a HP iPaq 112 PDA.

It wasn't til some time afterwards that I saw the mistake. Apps, while plentiful, were often woeful. The way that they presented on the screen left a lot to be desired, particularly for me as I find it difficult to read text on a small screen in fonts that aren't that friendly to vision impaired people.

And often, installing apps on the PDA was hit and miss. Some did it easily, others required me to somehow log into the PDA via Windows Explorer then copy the installation file over to it, then to run it off of the PDA.

Then there was the issue of where data was stored. Even Handbase fell down here. I'd end up with multiple copies of data and with Handbase this was a problem as some documents were updated while others weren't, and I had to go looking for them.

With Android I'm able to copy files to specific directories on the installed MicroSD card. And the apps can be configured to look for their data in those specific directories.

And it's easy for me to back data up, or to sync files that are updated on both the smartphone and on my PC using Windows Explorer. I don't know how you achieve that using an iPhone.

So, I look forward with much anticipation to see how Handbase will run on my Android phone (HTC Desire). I also hope that the takeup of your Android products means that you'll be encouraged to develop the forms feature of the app.
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 18th, 2010

Postby dhaupert » Wed Jun 30, 2010 12:36 pm

Thanks for your posting. I tend to agree that the Windows Mobile OS itself was a little messy. Some things were just too cluttered and others far too awkward. To be honest, I feel that way with Android somewhat as well. Unlike Windows Mobile, however, I believe the OS' shortcomings are not integral to the platform and more to do with the completely open nature of platform and all the various ways that developers and device manufacturers have been able to interfere with the basic running of the OS. So that's good because it means it can be solved, unlike Windows Mobile which needed a complete rewrite for Windows Mobile 7 to address those shortcomings!

You mentioned the iPhone and syncing to the desktop- to be honest, that is one area that iPhone excels over Android. I believe Google has announced that a desktop sync solution is forthcoming (or it may have been Motorola, just can't recall). The core Android philosophy is syncing to the cloud, not the desktop, so there is no 'Android Desktop' to speak of at this point. So that is a weakness there for those of us who desire a desktop backup of everything on your device, as well as the ability to two-way sync!

HanDBase coming from a more traditional background requires some ingenuity to work around this, as our customers typically still want to sync to their desktops and not the cloud, due to security concerns. There is still another group of users who want HanDBase to also sync to the cloud. So we have to design and plan for both cases with our Android solution. That may not come out of the gate at launch, but hopefully soon after.

Looking forward to getting this program done and out in the coming months, and glad to have you aboard!
dhaupert
 
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 18th, 2010

Postby tjandt » Fri Jul 02, 2010 1:01 pm

I am extremely excited to hear this news, and hope that in some form, whether it be beta, RC or released, HanDBase for Android will be available before September 1.

I've been using HandBase for nearly 10 years to track fish patterns in northern Minnesota during our yearly trek there, and my Palm Zire 72 finally gave up the ghost this year. I was hoping it would last one more year so that HanDBase for Android would be out, but now I'm in a bind!

For a desktop synch, Even having the ability to just export to a CSV or excel spreadsheet that could be easily integrated into a database table would be perfectly fine for me. Of course, like most others, I want it all, but would be happy to settle for an application that stores all my data, and needs minimal massaging to get into the format I need for my own database.

Thank you so much for taking on this project, and I hope the speed bumps you have encountered recently in your development of the app are well behind you. Good luck, and Godspeed!

Tim
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 18th, 2010

Postby dhaupert » Fri Jul 02, 2010 1:59 pm

Hi Tim,

Thanks for writing and your excitement! I don't know if we'll be at the point of releasing for Sept 1st. I've been shooting for a release some time this summer, which gives me until Sept 20th to meet that goal. And while initially I had hoped for an early summer release, I think the few setbacks I've encountered made that far less of a possibility. I do find over time that my estimate will close in on a date, so I'll be able to provide more info through this critical month.

Regarding some type of Beta or RC, that is a definite possibility- while doing the development I'm weighing in on all those options and trying to balance the need for testers with the sheer volume of time and energy it takes to manage a beta. What may happen is that I will have a very closed beta with some established testers during the first few weeks and then expand to a larger group. How that will play out, I'm still unsure. But it's definitely a possibility!

And regarding the hiccup I reported in this, indeed, I'm definitely past that, and things have progressed very nicely this week. Stay tuned for another update hopefully the end of next week!
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Re: HanDBase for Android Development Update: June 18th, 2010

Postby dagwinn » Tue Jul 06, 2010 12:42 pm

Dave,

I recently "retired" my Palm TX after 13 years of carrying a Palm PDA with me. Weighing options of start-up and use costs (current employer discounts!), I went with an HTC Aria. And I've been pretty happy with it.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you've got up your sleeve. :)

Derek
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