June 9, 2010

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New Google Access Gained: Running into new Challenges

  • We have access to our own Google AppInventor accounts!!!! The new platform is better in that it has a scroll for the preview screen and such. But some features were shifted, deleted, and added… we shall see.
  • Pauline had problems with the AppInventor page while on Mozilla Firefox. Then I did.
  • It seems that there is some confusion as the old App Inventor on the "androidblocks.googlelabs.com" was automatically used as the url when I refreshed from the new App Inventor beta on "appinventor.googlelabs.com". this meant that I was sometimes in the old version and sometimes in the new version which caused problems with projects... as some data was lost and other apps wont work in the new version and vice versa... hopefully we have the hang of it now to defer future setbacks.
  • Important Note: BACK UP all .zip files ON YOUR COMPUTER just in case. Plus, you can then easily give these versions to others… etc…
  • Some new features are a “undo’ and “redo” button. Also a “connect to phone” button which allows you to update the application to your phone real-time which should cause development to go faster... given that the feature actually works....
  • The height of the screen is about 400 pixels. The width… doesn’t really say…(note to self for setting the canvas size)
  • There is no option to change the orientation of the screen from landscape to portrait on the new version which caused a lot of grief.
  • The previous version didn't seem to have many bugs, but the new version... because it was just updated... seems to be brimming with fun, interesting, and frustrating bugs that make development harder. :D All part of the process...
  • Therefore, future projects will focus on bug reporting and making suggestions... although most of the suggestions we had for the old version were addressed in the new version. Hurray!

Creating a Trinity oriented Demo Application

  • Because Dean Fraden is coming June 15th, we have been asked to create a Trinity oriented application to promote the Google Open Source Android phone.
  • After brainstorming, we thought a useful and enticing web application for Trinity College would be an interactive self-guided tour for prospective students.
  • The app would have a map of the Trinity Campus and allow you to click on buildings (more accurately dots that trigger certain procedures). When a user clicks on a building, Information about that building along with thumbnail pictures of the building will appear giving the user further information. along with changing the text in the text box and the pictures when the user clicks on a building, we were also easily able to add music and vibrate functions for fun.
  • With our new-found confidence with using App Inventor from creating our Animal App... we were able to create a polished Demo app in ONE DAY!!!
  • We used ball animation images to trigger the actions of setting label boxes to display desired facts about each building with pictures.
  • The actual code for this application only took us a few hours!!! The biggest problem is the picture of the map.
  • Firstly, Trinity college doesn't have many map pictures, and the ones they have are very large... this wouldn't be a problem if App Inventor allowed you to work with a big picture you could scroll through like on Google maps. Unfortunately, a picture that is too large will produce errors while packaging.
  • To troubleshoot these problems and get a worthwhile map of Trinity College to use for our demo application, we cropped a sizable picture of our campus to fit the Droid screen. the fact that the horizontal orientation feature was disabled caused us to have to use a much smaller scale map.
  • Ultimately, once the map photo was cropped to our liking, finishing the application was quite simple.
    • Development Sidenote: we placed the picture as the backdrop of the canvas.. and initialized the program by setting the canvas background to that photo. For some reason none of our programs will work until you initialize them in some way... even if it seems trivial...
  • Finishing the application involved entering some text and pictures. The most annoying part about creating a program like this is the fact that no copy/paste feature exists for App Inventor... not efficient for programming...
  • Our only big problem with App Inventor continues to be the interface. Things don't overlap well.. For instance, just creating buttons horizontally across the screen becomes a problem that takes an hour to solve... if ever... We think that is way too much time and effort to have to spend on a simple interface issue and hope that the finished program will have a more efficient way of doing this... perhaps a drag and drop feature that will allow you to drag the button to the exact place you want it to appear... then the program can fill in the programming gaps... ?
  • Also, the problem of screen orientation and how to create more than one screen is something that can hinder future further development when one wants to create more complex applications. Maybe we'll find an efficient way to do so in the future...

Daily Summary

  • Today was extremely fruitful. We created a fairly complex application within a few hours!!!
  • I think our development on this beta project speaks volumes about the progress App Inventor can have with cs0 students.
  • Our Demo app is COMPLETE and ready for Dean Fraden!!!
  • the application can definitely be more efficient, but as a prototype it is not only functional, but ready to use and can easily be developed further if Trinity College decided it wanted to use Android phones in the Admissions office for use when tour guides are not available...

To view instructions on how we created this application please visit Trinity Tour App

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