Archive for July 27, 2010

Developing Mobile Application for Education

On Wednesday 21st of July I attended an introductory event on how to develop on mobile devices (Symbian, Android, IPhone/IPad) and how to deliver mobile friendly web content. This event was hosted at the University of Reading and organised by the nice people from DevCSI a JISC funded initiative.

The event kicked off with Paul Raymond introducing the Symbian platform which runs on Nokia devices. Followed by a demonstration on how to create a simple “hello world” application which accepted a text input and responded with a greeting to the user.  The web runtime kit was chosen as development environment for Symbian. The web runtime kit had the advantage of using standard HTML, CSS and JavaScript to construct native mobile application for the platform. The installation experience and ease of use of the integrated development environment (IDE) compared favourably against Android and IPhone IDE’s. For more information see http://developer.symbian.org/

Developing for the IPhone was presented by Sam Easterby-Smith, a demonstrator application similar to previous was demoed. Interleaved with a novel interactive session using balloons to demonstrate the memory management caveats on the IPhone, such as retention, sharing and memory leaks. While only an introduction further workshops will be held in Manchester for in depth coverage of development. Xcode the IDE for IPhone/IPad was more comprehensive than that of Symbian, while objective-c the development language was sufficiently different from Java/C# to merit further study.

The afternoon session started with Patrick H Laucke from Opera Software, presenting on Mobile Device Friendly Content for the Web.

A overview of the techniques considered:

  • Do nothing other than develop websites to standards; most mobile browser can view such sites albeit with resolution constraints.
  • Build separate mobile site, such as m.flickr.com, avoid browser sniffing and redirects instead give users a choice between mobile and desktop. Refactor layout for mobile devices by reducing content on a page by reorganising and avoid removing features.
  • Build a single adaptive site, with techniques such as fluid layout, progressive enhancements, CSS 2 Media Types {screen, print, handheld}, and CSS3 Media Queries, reduce content delivered over the wire with CSS sprites etc to improve performance see work pioneered by Yahoo in this area

Arguments for using native applications vs web application was presented, native apps have the advantage of using phone features such as geolocation, access to camera, video and audio in the past, however these have since been offset by the availability of the same features in the HTML5 specification, which means browsers implementing the specification will have access features such as geolocation, access to camera and native playback of video and audio without the need for 3rd party plug-in. Geo location has useful applications in location sensitive search. For a demo of geolocation see http://isgeolocationpartofhtml5.com/ (Firefox only on desktop browsers).

Further detail and installation instructions for the event can be found at http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/events/devcsi/mobile_applications/installations/index.html

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