Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Android Class at MIT

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is offering a computer science class based on the Android platform this semester, as reported in the Boston Business Journal.

The class will be 25 students strong, covering the ins and outs of the Android platform, along with building applications on the platform. It is led by Professor Hal Abelson. It will also feature guest instructors Rich Miner of Google, Dave Mitchell and Eric Carlson from ConnectedBit, and Rajeev Surati and Andrew Yu of MIT.

Android is probably the tool / platform which made it fastest from the industry to the classroom. Heck, it has not even made it to the market yet! I am thinking the only other software tools that appeared in the the classroom even before hitting the market were the ones which were developed right there on campus.

[via Boston Business Journal]

Monday, January 28, 2008

Android Developer Challenge Deadline Extended

The deadline for the first round of the Android Developer Challenge has been extended upto 14th April 2008. Previously, March 3rd had been announced as a hard deadline. Here's the updated timeline as per the Android Developers Blog:
April 14, 2008: Deadline to submit applications for judging
May 5, 2008: Announcement of the 50 first round winners, who will be eligible for the final round
June 30, 2008: Deadline for the 50 winners of the first round to submit for the final round
July 21, 2008: Announcement of the grand prize winner and runner-up.

[via Android Developers Blog]

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Adword Conversion Tracking Challenges on Mobile

Effectively advertising on mobile phones without alienating the user is a challenge that is far from being solved by anyone right now. I am quite surprised to learn that Google has a more basic challenge right now: it can't even track Adword conversions on mobile phones! In other words, when someone clicks on a Google ad on a mobile phone, Google might not always know about it and so may not get paid for it. This is a serious flaw indeed!

Accuracast talks about how a large number of Adword conversions on mobile devices can go undetected because many mobile browsers do not allow JavaScript or cookies, the basic essentials for Google to track ad clicks.

When Accuracast questioned Google, the response they got from a Google Adwords account manager not only confirms this, it even suggests that disabling images on a phone browser can prevent tracking Adword conversion:
A significant percentage of mobile browser and carrier combinations do not support cookies. Google adds cookies to a user’s mobile device when he or she clicks on an ad to track conversions. Therefore, if users are using mobile browsers or carriers that do not accept or support cookies, they will not be included in your conversion tracking statistics.

Additionally, cookies on mobile phones expire faster than the ones created for PCs. Therefore, a significant number of conversions for your site may go unrecorded after a certain period of time. When viewing conversions for a specified time period, note that conversions are assigned to the date on which the ad click occurs, not the date on which the conversion occurs. In addition, we will not be able to report conversions for users who disable cookies.

Conversion tracking is also not supported when users disable images on their mobile phones.

Although Google cannot record every conversion due to the reasons mentioned above, your conversion rate, cost-per-conversion, cost-per-transaction and value/click are adjusted to reflect only those sites from which we can track conversions.

I am also surprised that this is not bigger news.

[via Accuracast]

Friday, January 18, 2008

Issue Tracker for Android SDK

The Android Developers blog has announced the launch of an Issue Tracker for the Android SDK. Here's the link:


As reported previously on this blog, an Issue Tracker had been one of the top items on Android developers' wishlists.

[via Android Developers blog]

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Magellan’s Maestro Elite 5340 - first GPS unit with Google Search

Magellan's Maestro 5340 with Google Search Thanks to lousy wireless data channels, GPS units have traditionally tried to cram local information into their own memory, instead of relying on expert data indexers like Google to serve the latest information. It has taken so long for someone to put Google search into a GPS unit. Well, better late than never. Magellan’s Maestro Elite 5340+GPRS becomes the first GPS unit to feature Google Local Search. Scheduled to ship in Spring of this year, this GPRS-only-no-Wi-Fi unit costs a whopping $1,299 plus a monthly fee for the GPRS connection! Compare that to the Dash Express, which costs $599 plus $10-$13 monthly, and has both GPRS and Wi-Fi connectivity. But then, the Dash features Yahoo! Local, which is not as good as Google Local.

GE Phones - first with Google button!

GE Phone with GOOG-411 Button GE cordless phones (non-cellular) become the first phones to come with a dedicated Google button. The button is for Google's excellent free 411 service (1-800-GOOG-411). The phones will be available in April 2008.

This is no different from Google's earlier move to put short-cuts to its web-based mobile apps on the BlackBerry home screen. If an easy short-cut to a great service is available right in front of them, people will use it. This is a great move by Google to boost usage of its 411 service and to get more users to train its voice recognition algorithms.

[via Engadget.com]

Sunday, January 6, 2008

gPhone Race Kicks Off - Wistron Starts Claims

Wistron GW4 Looks like the race to see who will bring the first godPhone to the market has kicked off... albeit without anyone demo'ing a handset actually running Android. It's all just a race of words right now.

PC Magazine reports on the Wistron GW4 handset unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today. Right now, the handset is running a version of MontaVista Linux 2.6. But Wistron claims that the "GW4 will be running Android by March, when Wistron will start selling it to more prominent firms for branding." However, I wouldn't hold my breath in March. It does not look like Wistron will actually sell a gPhone in March or April. The PC Magazine article concludes with the line:
The GW4 will come out during the second quarter of this year, Wistron execs said.
So, to summarize, the GW4 in its current version with MontaVista Linux, will only be available in the second quarter of this year, despite a working prototype being shown at CES 2008 right now. So, it is safe to assume a g(od)Phone avatar of the GW4 will be available even later. Never mind what enthusiastic PR people say about the GW4 running Android by March. They were probably only thinking of that happening in their labs.

[via PC Magazine]

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Challenges of Android Development

It is always nicer to read the opinions and experiences of developers actually working on Android, compared to the commentary of bloggers / reporters who get their development-related information second hand.

Nazmul Idris of the Developerlife blog seems to have waited over a month after initial release to check out the Android SDK and he's been at it for only a couple of days now. Nevertheless, his Google Android Musings about the challenges of developing for a mobile platform in general, and for the Android platform in particular makes some worthwhile reading:
In Android, there is no Swing or AWT, so you have to familiarize yourself with the new GUI APIs (hierarchically nested Views) that are part of Android. That’s not so bad… since they have lots of pre-built widgets, and they provide lots of data binding support for diverse data models. Having said that, the biggest difference in building an Android app, from one that runs on a desktop/server/laptop Java VM is that the Android app runs in a managed container. The SystemManager is responsible for taking the app through various discretely defined lifecycle states, which allows for apps to be interrupted by network coverage issues, or incoming phone calls, or just being turned off, as examples. An Android app that has a UI is called an Activity. Activities run in their own Linux process, and they have one default thread (Swing-like-EDT), that can not be hogged for more than 5 seconds, otherwise, the SystemManager will shut the app down. This requires users to know how to create background tasks, which is not easy. Also, the UI metaphor in Android is one of building “screens”, rather than building apps which have nested panels and complex layouts and centralized state management. This is a very common approach to taken when building UIs/apps for mobile devices. The idea is to split up an application into many discrete loosely coupled pieces… some that are bound to the screen (Activity), and others that are “headless” (Services). Additionally, there are lots of container managed persistence and data exchange mechanisms that are available. However, given that these pieces can be swapped out with different pieces, and that any screen can be paused or activated at any time makes life more tricky for the app developer. All of this raises the barrier to entry so to speak. And I’m not even going into the optimization techniques that you have to adopt to write code that runs fast.

The above quote is just a small part of the article. Visit the blog to read some more on the topic.

[via Developerlife.com]