Category Archives: Android

Oh Well, I Guess that It’s TTJT (Time to Join Them) with IFTTT

Well, I was patient, and I waited a year to see how Xamarin would integrate with Office 365. I was hoping for some new libraries and some new tutorials, so that I could eventually build that killer enterprise Xamarin app. Honestly, it would be nice to have a METAmessage for Android, which could offer the ability to customize the alerting functionality on your phone…but, alas, it seems that I’ll asphyxiate myself if I keep holding my breath.

So, I capitulated and just reverted to using IFTTT, so that it’ll just call me in specific cases. It’s not the ideal alert system, but it’s better than nothing. (Though I will admit that it’s fun to hear the automated voice of IFTTT as it reads my ridiculous excuse of an alert.)

Initial Estimations of Estimote

So, in my last post about the Haunted House saga, I had finally found a product that offered me hope when it came to a technical foundation for creating and tracking objects in a very local space. (Just the thought of pouring over books about math and Bluetooth hardware gave me a headache.) So, with joy, I started to read about the services offered by Estimote. Basically, they supplied both IoT devices (i.e., beacons) and a SDK that enabled you to detect their beacons (which you would deploy yourself around a space). That was interesting by itself…but then I found the mother lode: their Indoor SDK package. Basically, with that SDK, they provided the software that created a 3-dimensional model in your app…and helped you track someone/something in it! And their platform was available for both iOS and Android…and Xamarin had even created components for both platforms! Oh Mommy!

Since their business office is here in New York, I got the opportunity to have coffee with one of their sales people, and he was kind enough to offer me a discount on my initial purchase. Excited, I bought a kit of 3 location beacons, and once they arrived, I set them up using their online tutorial and downloaded some of those Xamarin Android projects. (When you create your online account, you can change your beacons’ settings through your account, and then the Estimote app on your phone pushes those settings onto the beacons from the cloud.) First, though, I started by playing with the Estimote app (in order to confirm my beacons were working properly), and even though the app did notify me when I had approached one of my beacons, it seemed to have a hard time with estimating distance…and it seemed to think that I was moving when I wasn’t. Nonetheless, it was working, and I was building a prototype for a game, not a rocket! So, with some positive results as fuel, I dove into their Xamarin projects with more simple functionality, like notifications. I got mixed results, but again, I was prepared to get my hands dirty if needed. Indoor SDK, here I come! Oh, wait a minute…something is not right…I need 4 of these beacons that are sold in packs of 3? And the Indoor SDK is only available on iOS??? Grumble, grumble, grumble… Well, kids, take this lesson to heart: always read the fine print first before you get too excited.

Of course, when I thought about it, it made perfect sense: Android hardware is too varied in quality and specification to write accurate libraries for all of them. I get it..So, at this point, I asked myself the simple question: do I call it quits here? Uhhh…is my name Quitter McQuitFace? Exactly. So, I went ahead and ordered another pack of 3 beacons, bought a refurbished iPad, and arranged to get an old MacBook loaner from a friend. While waiting for my next beacon package to arrive, I’ve played with some of their more fundamental iOS code samples, since it would be a while before I would get to play with the samples for the Indoor SDK. Again, as I noticed when initially playing with the Estimote app, some of my results were anomolous. For example, when playing with a notifications sample deployed to the iPad, I seemed to receive inconsistent alerts when approaching or leaving a beacon’s domain; in fact, at times, it seemed to tell me that I was approaching a beacon when I had walked away from it! Hmmmm…I’m slightly concerned, but my curiosity and optimism is too high to be knocked down. Now, in order to get to the good stuff (i.e., the Indoor SDK), I just need those extra beacons. “Oh, and the waiting is the hardest part…”

My Procrastination Wins Yet Again!

So, just like the previous time, my wise patience (or so I’ll proclaim from now on, despite any attempts to discredit me) has returned on my investment. It seems that the Raspberry Pi will have yet another option soon enough: Android!

Which means, for me, that I could still potentially rely on C# and Xamarin to create/deploy my sensor app onto a RP device for the Haunted House game. The Git tree is empty for now…but when actual code starts to show up, I’m gonna start dancing a jig like Bruce Willis in The Last Boy Scout.

My Procrastination Is Rewarded

I still have plans to eventually revisit my mobile app project for IT departments that need intelligent email monitoring, but I had been dragging my feet since I wasn’t looking forward to all the hard work and hours of debugging…until now! With the recent news, I’m starting to hope that any problems integrating Xamarin with Outlook and Azure will be gone in the near future.

Now I can write about Part 3, where I actually get the thing to work right!

Given to Open Source : Bibliophile+

Years ago, I dabbled with the idea of developing a platform that would present trivia about literature to interested bibliophiles, like which popular songs were inspired by famous books. Specifically, I thought that it would make an entertaining mobile app. (At around the same time and unknown to me until much later, a company called Small Demons had a similar idea and a much better implementation in the form of a robust web site. Unfortunately for them and for me, though, the general idea never found a core demographic.) After creating an iOS version, I decided to target something more appropriate, and I chose an eBook platform that I was fairly familiar with: the Nook. Taking some lessons from creating my first version of it and teaching myself the Android platform, I was able to create a much more user-friendly implementation for our Nook store (though obviously still novice). It didn’t exactly turn me into a millionaire, but I was still proud of it nonetheless.

A few weeks ago, I happened to stumble on the original source code, and I decided that it was time to find it a good home, somewhere other than my old hard drive. I’ll admit that it wasn’t designed all that well, but since this was also my first real Android project, I’m inclined to forgive myself. I’ve uploaded the project to GitHub, so that it may endure for posterity. For the purpose of inspiration or amusement through ridicule, only time will tell. 🙂