Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wing it and start coding

One of the better professional experiences I've had of late is attempting to learn how the Android environment works in regards to developing for it. I was tasked with a project involving the creation of an application which really had a very simple goal. But the task seemed horribly daunting, while I had taken object oriented programming, and have messed around with a few languages in the past I had not tried to develop anything for mobile. Honestly I have found the best thing to do is just jump in and start.

Seriously, just start planning the project

As with a lot of things the first step is the hardest. I spent a long time reading through random portions of the Android API documentation ( Eventually though one has to actually start designing their project and then coding it. So one day I just started jotting down that the thing was supposed to do on a white board. After writing out each individual task the application needed to achieve, it was then easy to break it down into individual methods and classes. After that you now have a path or a check list of all the things you need to learn how to do in java using the Android APIs.

For example I needed to write an app to interpret XML data, store it and then display it to the user on demand, and complete the parse/download on a background thread. So breaking it down the tasks are:

- Download XML data and parse it
- Create storage space for parsed result
- Create some sort of UI to view results stored in a Database
- Start the download/parse on some sort of regular schedule

Those 4 tasks can then be broken up into individual methods and classes. For example in using a database to store information I needed to write a Database Handler to create it, define it's schema, and define all the I/O methods (more or less the CRUD stuff). One thing that is interesting to read is Oracle's beginning guide to java which also covers object oriented thinking as it's that sort of language (link:

Start using Google to find tutorials for everything

In my experience with this I found that more or less everything I was trying to do had been done by someone else in the past in some form, and was documented. It's actually really easy to search for and then figure out how to write classes and methods for a whole variety of tasks. For example I needed to figure out how to parse XML and found an amazing tutorial on that portion and combined with the lessons learned from a tutorial on Sqlite (embedded database).

Outside of doing stuff with Android I've also found that Code Academy is a pretty cool place to learn about coding. The interactive projects are actually rather good and certainly do an excellent job of teaching one the way a language works. It's perfect for beginners or someone trying to pick up a new language for kicks. Here's a link:

I suppose while this article seems a bit aimless the point is to share with you that coding is fun and easy to pick up if you look in the right places. The internet is filled with pretty much everything you need from API docs, SDK docs, and tutorials. The best part is most of is completely free. So go ahead and wing it and start coding!

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