Shortly After the Beginning

January 24, 2012

That is the Blohm und Voss model 141, developed during WWII but not adopted because of its unusual configuration.  I like to think that in a lot of ways it reminds me of some the programs I have written.  A bit unusual, but in practice work quite well.

What I am shortly after the beginning of, is my entry into Android programming.  Last year, following a less than pleasant period of iPhone development, an intensive review of Java and Eclipse and a quick study of the specifics of Android development, I started posting Android applications in December.  Currently I have three up on a site known as  You can see them at:

A fourth was just finished and is undergoing its shakedown cruise.  It should be submitted to the Android Market before the end of this month.

The upcoming app displays five day weather forecasts for up to five locations.  Weather data is obtained from the U.S. National Weather Service.  The user can select locations from up to 400 cities.  If the user doesn’t happen to be in any of those cities, the user’s own location can be selected.  The user’s location is acquired using the internet provider’s location facility.  Its accuracy is only slightly less accurate than GPS, but is faster and you don’t have to have access to the sky for it to work.  Each forecast has a link to a page which gives more detailed weather information, including weather maps and weather advisories.

The data is acquired from the NWS REST webservice.  For those of you not familiar with that term, a REST webservice is accessed by an HTTP request comprising the service URL followed by a series of parameters indicating the type of data requested.  The data comes back as XML.  The app parses the XML using Google’s excellent Java library named GSON and is used to populate a web page generated within the app.  The generated web page is then displayed on a WebView instance.

Using the WebView class, it is possible to layout the user interface using only HTML generated within the app.  The WebView is javascript enabled, so you can even setup AJAX pages with it.  AJAX, which uses javascript to parse the returned XML, can directly develop web content with the XML.  Although I didn’t use this particular technique, I plan to do so in the future.

The apps I have done, and expect to do, are primarily for Android tablets.  I like the much larger screen.  Games aren’t likely to be part of the apps to come although I might break down and make that war game inspired by Edward Luttwak’s most interesting book, Coup d’Etat that I have been toying with for a few years.  Rather, I imagine someone taking a tablet out to a worksite along with a mobile phone which creates a hotspot.  Walking around the worksite, the user can examine whatever it is that is being built, brewed, or shipped, check the company’s database in the company server using the tablet, and make decisions.

Android functionality is starting to find itself embedded in a lot more than mobile phones.  We are starting to see TV sets and home appliances sporting Android capability.  I’d like to see a port on automobiles which can be accessed by an Android device to check its systems.  Back in the days when I used to do a bit of light plane flying, and had to do all those preflight checks, how nice it would have been to touch a few buttons on my tablet and let the plane check itself out.  Of course, fellow pilots know I’m only joking.  Nothing can replace actually walking around the aircraft looking for things that ought to be there and aren’t, and things that aren’t supposed to be there and are.

In closing, then, here is a preview of what is in the planning stage.  Doing that astrological app was kind of fun, not to mention a good boot camp in doing Android custom views and 2D graphics.  I thought I might follow up with an app that uses so-called “progressed charts” to make prediction about a day sometime in the future.  Might be interesting to see just how accurate that sort of prediction can be.  Now, now, don’t scoff.  I try to keep an open mind on everything.

Another possibility, although I know it’s been done, is an app to provide status on GPS reception.  I could try to dig up my old flight instructor to fly me around for a bout an hour or so to see just how good my tablet’s GPS chip can pick up GPS in the air.  I do have a hand held GPS I used to use in flying.  Trouble is, it doesn’t work so well when you fly north.  It has a portable antenna that you put up on the area just above the control panel.  The GPS geosynchronous satellites are all around the equator, and only when you fly south do you avoid putting the skin of the aircraft between the satellites and the antenna.  Maybe I will be able to do the test on half the trip.

I hope you will give my apps a try.  Most are currently free by the way, and the new weather forecast app will be as well.  There’s time enough to start charging, but for now just grab one.  See you next time.