Saturday, April 16, 2011

IPad2 Xoom Initial development with PhoneGap

After a year of envy of my better half having an original iPad, I was lucky enough to pick one up about ten days ago. In this time its already become my go to device for a bunch of scenarios and I'm delighted with it.

With my professional hat on, we have been asked to take a look at building some tablet based applications. Much as I love my IOS based device, Apple keep a very tight reign on whats happens on that platform so I wanted to show the client alternatives.

To demonstrate the alternatives I went shopping for an Android device - initially planning to buy an Android 2.2 based table, the Vega Tablet PC - 512MB.
However when I got to the store, I spotted that they has both the Motorola Xoom and the ACER Iconia Tab A500 Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) tablets in stock. Android 3 is the first version of the OS designed to run on tablets. So I got upsold and bought a Xoom as an alternate platform for the tests.

Initial feelings about the Xoom are very positive.


  • Noticeably heavier/thicker than iPad 2.
  • Screen is great, touch response etc excellent.
  • Sound through speakers is awful (although better when in the "stand mode" of portfolio case).
  • Camera - front and rear clearly better than iPad2 (although I'm still dubious about cameras for anything other that video conferencing on this type of device).
  • Charging - you can't charge over USB it has a power brick - unforgivable - (am considering returning it for the ACER if that is USB chargeable).


  • The setup is nice, integration to google applications etc is all very quick.
  • Browser is quick (no difference side by side with iPad2 on BBC, Guardian etc).
  • Flash video - works fine.
  • I've struggled a little with general navigation etc. I don't think its bad, its just different to what I know from Apple side (interesting that colleagues with Android phones also notice its different).
  • Bult in apps for mail/calendar etc etc are good - but lack polish.
  • I've crashed the OS 3 or 4 times pressing navigation etc while apps are running.
  • Notifications - as people have noted, Android 3 nails this - clearly better than IOS.
  • App Store is short of tablet specific format apps right now (and Amazon won't let folks purchase in UK on that store yet) - this is clearly going to change fast.
  • Now the important stuff - Angry Birds Rio - feels identical to iPad2 version.

A quick note, I bought the Motorola Portfolio case. IMHO it has a huge design flaw, you can't charge the device with the case/screen protected.


These are the first of this generation of Android devices, we are going to see dozens of these within a year.For me the Apple user experience is still the benchmark, but its close. This market is going to be fun over the next few years, I hope this pushes both vendors forward - we should all gain.


Initial application development proof of concept had been built using PhoneGap and Sencha Touch. I'd had this running as an IOS bundle for a few days, it took 10 minutes to migrate same code to native Android App. Application has worked with almost identical performance on the Xoom.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Alfred App

I've been a long time user (3+years) of Quick Silver as a task launcher and general tool for keeping hands on keyboard rather than a mouse.

Around 6 weeks ago I decided to trial Alfred, Quick Silver got uninstalled about an hour later. Alfred lets you launch applications, web search, find local docs, open recent files etc etc with amazing ease. If you own a Mac, go try the free version either from or the Apple Store. Once you are hooked go spend a few pounds to get the PowerPack and support an independent developer who is doing a great job.

Monday, April 04, 2011

ITerm2 - Growl Notification

As a heavy user of the Mac command line toolset, I spend a lot of time logged into remote machines. I've been an avid ITerm user for a long time, it allows me to have radically different looking consoles for QA/EA/Production machines.

I was reading on changes in ITerm2 to allow console commands to use Growl Notifications (including from remote machine). Typical use case would be a large data import/build etc - followed by growl telling you he jobs complete.

One quick spot - the blog above talks about the Growl settings being in Iterm2/Preferences/Advanced - on the nightly I am using they are in Iterm2/Preferences/General/Services.

Add the following to .bash_profile :

growl() { echo -e $'\e]9;'${1}'\007' ; return ; }

You can then perform actions like  :

ant bigTarget; growl "Big Target Complete"

This has the advantage over using something like the say command in that it will update your local growl even if running on a remote box.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Static Hosting Using S3/AWS

We have been gradually moving large amount of our managed and internal services to AWS. EC2/RDS make for a very compelling model. As a software/consultancy house using these services let us concentrate on our core competencies. The benefit of no longer sitting waiting for hardware to fail and ruin someones weekend is hard to beat.

For those wanting to dip a toe in the water, Amazon now support S3 as a static website. i.e. you can link an S3 "bucket" to being a static website. Announcement blog post is here - it boils down to uploading the content to S3 and then pointing a CNAME at it.

You can then simply use a tool like  Cyberduck to allow your creatives to upload the content.