Sunday, September 30, 2007

The best mobile development platform for hobbyist programmer

This is something I have been thinking for a while so here it goes. This is a list of platforms I know of and my choice of what makes sense for a hobbyist programmer like me. Let me first list down all the possible platforms and then list down the pros and cons that I feel are associated with each platform.

  1. Java ME (The platform formally known as J2ME)
  2. Windows Mobile
  3. Linux
  4. Palm
  5. Brew
  6. Symbian
  7. Blackberry
  8. iPhone

iPhone

Let me start with iPhone the darling of the media and blogger's till about a fortnight. I had real expectations from iPhone as a platform but the way its been going so far I would never bother developing for it. Officially there is no SDK with which one can build applications. What ever tools the community had built have been rendered useless with the iPhone 1.1.1 software upgrade. The community might be able to hack a version for 1.1.1 but without any support from almighty apple its just a cat and mouse game. With every minor release the applications will break which makes little or no sense in developing for this platform.

The only official way of developing on this platform is if one makes widgets. But widgets can only do so much without support from the underlying platform.

Blackberry

Next comes the blackberry, I have no idea about this as a programming platform so cannot say much about the SDK support. But here is what Josh had to to add about it. Everything is pure, normal java. The APIs are clean, well documented, and capable. The free development IDE is good enough, and they give you command-line tools so you can use another IDE if you want.
The free simulators make it exceptionally quick and easy to test stuff out without needing a phone at all. You can also test things that would be hard to test on an actual phone in real life, like runing out of memory, or going into an area with different cell coverage.
To distribute your app, you do need a blackberry assigned key. This is actually a good thing because it helps keep viruses and malware mods of existing apps away. The last time I bought a key, it cost $100 and they got it back to me in less than 24 hours.
Blackberry also makes deployment easy. People can install the app straight from a webpage on the device, or use the PC-based syncing program to download it.
Overall, for me there is not much that could be better.

Brew

Brew as a platform is great but its not a platform for a hobbyist programmer. The tools are supposed to be good. I have never directly worked on a brew project so cannot say much about it. As far as I know there are no free  SDK's (it is free) which a hobbyist programmer can use to start programming for the Brew platform. All of them are paid and to top it all you cannot directly test your application on a real device till its certified by Qualcomm, all in all its not easy to get your program onto the device. Even if somehow you test you application there is no easy way to deploy it. Only your service provider (mobile company) can deploy the applications for you. Brew works in favor of the mobile companies as they can completely control what goes on your phone.

I got this mail from Ryan Mahoney at  Alltel Wireless and this is what he had to add to what I had written about Brew as a platform. Once a developer has become registered with Qualcomm (the $400), the developer can test their applications directly on a device, without having to go through a carrier. Qualcomm gives registered developers the ability to generate test signatures, as well as a cable-loading tool. Now when it's time to deploy to others, yes, then the developer must go through the carrier(s).

Palm

Personally I liked the platform for development but I don't see any new products with the Palm OS. When Palm comes out with their new OS which is based on Linux things might change but till then I don't see any reason to develop for the palm. The best part about developing for the palm has to be the SDK's and it was almost like programming for windows. If you compile your program once you can directly run it on the device without bothering about signing and going though a 100 loops to see the final result.

I like the platform and I am eagerly waiting for the Linux based Palm OS. But till then I am not sure why one would bother developing for the palm, unless you have one.

Symbian

When I bought my latest phone I made sure it was a Symbian 'cause I had heard so much about the support and the great development tools available. SDK's are available for the platform but if you plan to program for S60 3rd Edition, the whole experience is nothing short of a nightmare. Its almost impossible to test the application without signing it. If you want some good applications on your phone you have to sign them yourself as the signing process is a nightmare. If you plan to develop a shareware application then get ready to dole out cash for getting your application signed.

The whole experience is not very pleasant. They had to do it because of the "virus" problems on the earlier editions but this is just plain silly. Somehow the only sane way to develop for Symbian 3rd edition is using Java ME or python. Developing native applications is only for people who plan to develop free applications or for big organizations, getting a certificate for a free application can take weeks if not months. Its no longer seems like a platform for hobbyist programmers.

Linux

I've always had a love hate relationship with Linux. I love it 'cause its a great platform for learning but I hate the licensing. I like the BSD license any day but that is something personal. I had bought the Motorola A780 thinking that I would be able to tinker with Linux and develop some really cool things for this platform. The whole thing came crashing down as soon as I tried looking for tools to develop a native application. I realized that there was no SDK from Motorola to develop native applications, and since the whole community was tiny there were hardly any development frameworks. Motorola has a huge line up of phones including the latest Razr 2 which uses Linux but unfortunately there is no official SDK to develop native applications. The unoffical SDK is available but I am not sure its ready for prime time as yet. There is a ray of light in OpenMoko and the upcoming Palm OS but till then I really don't see any way of developing for Linux. Though Linux seems to be everywhere but without proper tools and SDK's its just one more platform where there is almost no support for the developers.

Java ME (The platform formally known as J2ME)

I've always had great expectations from Java but unfortunately the whole experience of developing applications never seemed right. Though they have some good tools and debugging is also great but the SDK's they seem to offer/highlight is beyond me. The libraries they provide are a few generations ahead of what is available in the market. I don't know of any device which has the Java ME libraries they seem to highlight on their site. Guess they want people to develop for the future but what about the present. As of today the they offer/highlight Sun Java Wireless Toolkit 2.5.1 for CLDC for download. But I have no idea about any device which offers support for it, I like the fact that I can use swing in Java ME applications but where am I supposed to test it. Unless they want a programmer to develop for a hypothetical platform which exists only as an emulator. They should offer/highlight Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP) v2.0 which makes a lot more sense. It is also there on the download page but with half a dozen versions to download it can be really confusing for someone new.

But overall if you know your way out you can create an application in no time at all. Plus deployment is also easy. Overall its a great platform. But they really need to make things easier for an average developer. If they get the hobbyist crowd to start developing and make it fun for them to develop it can really work out. There are many good hobbyist Java ME programmers who are developing some good games and applications but if they market it right they can get many many more people interested in developing applications for this platform.

Windows Mobile

I never thought that Windows Mobile would take the pie, but for a hobbyist programmer they offer the best SDK's and you can make applications without worrying about certificates while testing and debugging. With a windows mobile one really feels in control, if you want to screw up your mobile device its really upto you. One rarely feels tied down the API's are clean and functional. Getting your first demo program onto the device takes a few seconds. It just makes sense to develop for windows mobile. There is almost no need to get your applications signed, at least for testing. You can develop you .net application on your desktop and if you use the compact framework you can run the same application on almost any windows mobile device. The application will look and feel native on most windows mobile. I was able to run the same EXE on my desktop and mobile phone. And that is something really cool, you can test the application on the desktop not just an emulator or simulator. I am sure not too many people would have seen it. But as a hobbyist I would like to program for a windows mobile device any day. Its really fun to develop and see your application running in no time.

For an average "John Doe" who just wants to dabble with programming there is no better platform than windows mobile. If nothing else it gives a chance for a programmer to develop for the mobile. There are many applications where its just about getting the information across to the user, and for those things windows mobile shines. You can use web services in you applications and it's pure bliss. Just the fact that you get to see your concept ready in no time is one pleasant experience.

The final verdict

As of today I would put my money on windows mobile. With the best development tools and ease of debugging no other platform can come close to it. But in terms of numbers Java ME takes the cake. So as of today if I wanted numbers I would develop my next hypothetical "killer application" in Java ME. But if I wanted to develop just for the joy of programming, I would prefer windows mobile. The conceptual part of the program can be developed/deployed in less than a few hours on windows mobile and no other platform can beat that. On most platforms most of the time would be wasted in getting the certificates and other stupid things which make no sense while developing and testing the application. And we better not talk about debugging which is a nightmare on most devices. This is just my personal opinion of whatever little I know.


If you were planning to develop you next killer mobile application which platform would you choose?

UPDATE: The best mobile development platform for hobbyist programmer - II

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Blog editor for the J2ME or Symbian

Lately I wanted to blog using a client application for blogger but I have been unable to find a good application. I really hate logging into the interface using my phone. I just wish I had a good phone based application that did such a thing.

Lets see if I don't find one it will go into my TODO list. I will probably start an application that does this. Not sure how many people would want such an application but anything till I find one I can think of developing one myself.

Also I really miss a nice little desktop blog client. All of the ones I've seen are bloated and take a while to startup. I had planned to start work on one about 2 years back but that idea went nowhere. Lets see till when I can stick with these things.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The saga of the iPod accessories by HCL

And after getting the USB cable for the iPod I had figured out that things would turn out well. But unfortunately that is not how this story has to end. The sub standard product (iPod cable) made by HCL failed to install.

This is what I get when I try and connect my iPod using it. I really don't want to start another thread of how HCL sucks. But all I can say is that the stupid cable did not work, and to top it all I threw away all the packing thinking that it will work. Now as I can do little or nothing this just goes to prove that try not to buy things online.

But, but incase you do make sure you try it before you throw away the packing. Just make sure you never buy any of the cheap accessories by HCL. They are cheap in every possible sense.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Comics I like to read

These are links of comics which I love to read every morning.


The list is good but there is a slight problem. I use http://my.yahoo.com to manage them. But this is turning out to be flaking these days. I can have a maximum of three comics on the homepage and that kinda sucks. So I came up with this page that lists my favorite comics on one page.

I only have to open one page and all my comics are there for me to view, in a nice orderly fashion.

http://vivekjishtu.com/comics

Spider Pig by Hans Zimmer

All thanks to Ananth this stupid song is stuck in my head and no matter what I try its going to remain there. The simpsons movie was great and after that this song is awesome. The music by Hans Zimmer is haunting and really addictive. Lets see till when it remains in my head/ipod.

Incase you've not seen it till now here are some of the spider pig shots I got from youtube.




Future bazaar and the saga comes to an end

To get a better perspective of this post you would have to go through "Futurebazaar sucks big time" and Future bazaar sucks big time - II.

All's well that ends well or so I would want to believe. I have finally got the delivery of all the products, the wire in the photograph was delivered just minutes back. Though I have the products but I cannot help notice the quality of the products. This time future bazaar is not to be blamed. I always thought that HCL was selling Apple authorized products. I have the photograph of the original cable with the HCL cable. The HCL one looks cheap and really ugly. Though the products I have got were exactly the ones I had ordered but if I had a look at them in a brick and mortar store I doubt I would be tempted to buy them.

These ones look like a cheap rip off. Well they are cheap so cannot blame them. But still I expected a little more from HCL.

I also finally got the delivery of the Kingston 2GB Micro SD card. This time the lady from future bazaar who was dealing seemed really polite and without my mentioning the 2 GB Micro SD card she said it will be delivered. So in that sense I am satisfied with their service now. Guess I need to send back the SD card they had delivered earlier. That seems like an additional job but since they have kept their part of the bargain I think I need to send back the 2 GB SD Card.

But the big question will I buy online again?

I will look for the product in a brick and mortar store first, and if its available there I won't mind paying something extra from buying it from a store rather than wait endlessly for the product to be delivered. Only if you have the patience to waist endlessly or you feel you are getting a very good bargain buy online otherwise stick with the real stores for now.

UPDATE: Unfortunately this was not the end of my misery The saga of the iPod accessories by HCL

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Twisting and turning in my bed

Its around 1 AM and have been in bed for the past 2 hours, I have been unable to sleep. I am typing this blog post on my phone using opera mini using a nokia E61i. So far i love the keyboard on this phone. I also love the huge screen and wifi.

UPDATE: This post was written when I was unable to sleep so it hardly makes any sense whatsoever. Though I still like my phone.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Boosting the volume in VLC

Just a quick tip in increasing the volume to 400% in VLC. Press Ctrl + Up Arrow to increase the volume of a movie/song to upto 400%.

I was just watching a movie right now but the overall volume was low so went looking out for a way to increase the volume and this is one cool hack for movies, while watching them on a laptop.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Future bazaar sucks big time - II

Continuing on with my woes with future bazaar I have still not received the goods. I am still waiting for the call they promised, but thankfully I got an email. I have changed the color to red to lay emphasis on the reason for delay.

Dear Vivek,
Greeting from Futurebazaar.com

This is with reference to your Order Number: ****** on www.futurebazaar.com.

We are sorry to inform you that due to certain unavoidable reasons there has been a delay from our end in dispatching the " HCL Nano Small FM Transmitter Mp3 Access "," HCL Iwoz( USB Cable) Mp3 Accessories "," HCL-Ipod Ear Phone I Bud Mp3 Accessories ".

However,we are making best possible effort to deliver the product at the earliest.

We regret the inconvenience caused to you in this regard and sincerely apologize for the same.

Assuring you of our best services.
Thank you again and enjoy shopping!
For help or information please contact us via phone or email.
We will typically respond within two working days.
Phone: (022) 40490490
Best Regards,
Team FutureBazaar


I am still not sure if this is a reason I should believe or there is something really sinister going on. I had called them up on Monday and the moment the guy picked up the phone he did not hear me out all he said was that all systems were down since Saturday :), and again this guy took my number but am still waiting for the call. Not sure when they will deliver the goods but next time you shop with future bazaar just keep this incident in mind. I was reading this comment somewhere, they really are a future bazaar, they send the products sometime in future, the delivery is never in the present.

UPDATE: Future bazaar and the saga comes to an end

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Futurebazaar sucks big time

I have been holding myself back for a long time now. I don't want to bring anyone down but given the kind of service FutureBazaar provides I have been forced to write this blog post. Hopefully someone at FutureBazaar reads it and figure out the poor service they provide.

I bought a Nokia E61i from them around 3-4 months back and it took 25 days to be delivered. After numerous calls I finally got the mobile. I paid Rs. 1500 over the market price for a phone and it was delivered after 25 days and to top it all the free 2 GB Micro SD card was missing. I again checked the website and all evidence of the 2GB card was erased but luckily for me I had taken a screen shot of the web page when I had ordered it.

I called them up and they acknowledged that they had removed the 2GB offer but since it was advertised when I had ordered it they would provide me the card as and when they have it. After a few weeks they sent a 2GB SD Card. The dimwits at futurebazaar had sent a SD Card instead of a Micro SD card. I have no device where I can use a SD card plus the price difference of the two cards is phenomenal. So I was back calling them and sending them emails. I had a very hard time explaining the difference between a MicroSD and a normal SD card. After a few calls and emails they finally understood it or at least pretended that they understood the difference and they would get someone to take the SD Card from my place. For the next 15-20 days no one turned up. Then one fine day I got a call that they could not arrange for a pickup so I would have to courier it to them. That card is still lying on my table and I have no idea as to what I can do with it.

That was part one of the story. Since I had bought the phone they had given me gift coupons. Some 20 days back I thought of ordering stuff for my iPod. I ordered a pair of headphones, a car charger, fm transmitter, extra usb cable and an ipod skin. They sent out the ipod skin and the car charger, the two things I least required, and the rest of the stuff is in mid air. So far I have called them up twice but have not got a callback so far.

Lets see till when it continues. I will keep you posted on this one and when I finally get the order in my hands. So if you plan to shop from them just keep this post in mind and think about all the agony you would have to go through. Its still better to buy stuff from a real store. No point in waiting endlessly for the package to arrive.

UPDATE: Future bazaar sucks big time - II

Friday, September 07, 2007

The addictive line game



I rarely play games but I really liked this game. You can play this game in fullscreen. The game is really addictive.

Apple giving $100 credit to early iPhone buyers

Last night I was thinking about the apple fiasco. And wow they have really done what I was thinking. I was somehow sure that apple would give out a discount coupon or something similar and all the fanbois would be happy. Not that its apple's problem but I somehow felt that giving a $100 rebate just makes sense. The apple sheeps have to buy more apple products in sense Apple keeps their flock happy.

In a way I've started thinking like Steve Jobs :) but I guess this was the best way to deal with this situation. I really love the way this whole fiasco has been managed. In the end everyone is happy. The fanbois get a $100 rebate, apple still gets to keep its flock intact.

Just to clarify had this been done by Microsoft the same boi's would be running out with their torches and trashing it right left and center. And the $100 would be way too little. I love the way things are for Microsoft and Apple.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Multiple ID's with Yahoo

You can create multiple email ids on yahoo, and all the emails will end up in the same email address. To create more yahoo ids goto http://edit.yahoo.com/config/list_alias?.src=ym

Log into your primary email account and you can create more email ids. All the mails will go into your primary account. So if you are stuck with nameless321_2000@yahoo.com you can finally change it to firstname.lastname@yahoo.com

All your mails will still land into nameless321_2000@yahoo.com but you can give out a better looking email address.

I saw this last year and somehow forgot the URL. This post is more of a bookmark for myself.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Just got a mail from Hajia Mariam for a shot at $12.6 million

Normally these mails land in the Spam folder so I rarely get to read them. But today this landed right in my inbox. And since I spent 2 minutes reading it and it seems so funny I could not help but post it here.







from Hajia Mariam



reply-to hajai_mariam0@yahoo.com.hk

to undisclosed-recipients <>

date
Sep 1, 2007 6:14 AM

subject
Please Reply ASAP With Your Telephone Number.
Hello..

Due to the sudden death of my husband General Abacha the former head of state of Nigeria in June 1998, I have been thrown into a state of hopelessness by the present administration.I have lost confidence with anybody within my country. I got your contacts through personal research, and had to reach you through this medium. I will give you more details when you reply. Due to security network placed on my daily affairs I cant visit the embassyso that is why I have contacted you.

My Husband deposited $12.6million dollars with a security firm abroad whose name is witheld for now till we communicate. I will be happy if you can receive this funds and keep it safe I assure you 20% of this fund. I will need your telephone/mobile numbers so that i can forward it to my son Mustapha to enable him reach you verbally and also give you more details on how you are to assist us.feel free to discuss with him and let me have 100% trust in you. I wait you urgent respond.

Yours truly,
Hajia Mariam.