XDC 2019 Ruminations

The 2019 Xojo Developers Conference (XDC) wrapped up last Friday. It’s my favorite event of the year and while I’m sure many people think that I’m an extrovert I can only play one for shorts periods of time. I’m enjoying the peace, and more importantly, the quiet at home today hoping to recharge my social battery before having to attending a high school robotics meeting, mandolin orchestra rehearsal, and a mandolin concert this week. Oh, and I have to pick my sone up in Chicago. No pressure to get things done, no?

XDC is my favorite time of the year. While attendance was down this year (more on this in a bit) a lot of people from Europe made the trip over to Miami. It was good to see a lot of old friends and awesome to make some new ones. To me, it’s the connections you make and the stories you hear from other Xojo developers that is inspiring in so many ways.

The keynote address by Geoff was…underwhelming. It was the usual mix of how the community is doing, what they’ve done since last XDC and what they’re working on. As expected they’re working on Web 2.0, API 2.0, Interops, and Android. The best timeframe Geoff gave for anything was ‘soon’. At least we didn’t have the mental gyrations over ‘priority’ and ‘important’ like last years XDC.

It’s hard to show much for big ticket items like Web 2.0 and Android. These are big multi-year projects that you just can’t show off without having significant work done on them. For Web 2.0 the demo that Greg gave seemed pretty solid but then there weren’t a lot of details. It did seem solid and that was good news in my opinion. The Android demo, on the other hand, looked much more scripted and not nearly as smooth – it had the feel of ‘this is something we know works and we’re not going to do much outside the script’ feel to it. For API 2.0 there wasn’t much to show except some before and after code snippets.

So on one hand the keynote wasn’t all that exciting. On the other they didn’t have much to show because it’s work in progress. They threw some numbers out like 70% complete in which the pessimist in me said, “great, that means there’s still 70% of the work left to be done.” The people around me at the keynote had some similar thoughts as mine. To be fair, ‘completion percentage’ means something different to everyone.

I am very excited about Web 2.0. It’s a rewrite of the entire framework. You have to keep in mind the original framework was done ten years ago and the web has changed drastically since then. The work they’ve done on theming is going to make our Xojo web apps look fantastic and since more processing is done on the client side it should make apps a lot more responsive. We’ll have a LOT more controls to play with too.

To be honest, I’m pessimistic about Android. I’m sorry, but two years later we’re still waiting for a release. With work still to be done on the Xojo framework items (think FolderItem) and the debugger I just don’t see that happening by the end of the year. Prove me wrong, Xojo.

Jim Meyer’s presentation on using AWS and Google Machine Learning API’s with Xojo was fascinating. Using their API’s it’s easy to do text transcription from text and video, recognize images, do facial recognition and much more. It was by far my favorite session I attended. I can’t wait to get the example projects and try them out on a few things.

I didn’t attend this session but attendees were buzzing about Monkeybread Software’s DynaPDF plugin. The big news was that Unicode support will be added by the end of the year and that we’ll be able to create PDF’s by drawing directly into the Graphics object provided by the DynaPDF class. All good news.

Michael Dettmer showed an interesting way to quickly create database applications for Xojo using an Apache Velocity and his own open source software called CAPP, or Computer Aided Program Production. Essentially you create templates for the various things you want and it creates a project for you. The drawback is you have to use Apache Velocity and Java to do some of the coding. I’m not doing the demo justice but it did look a bit more complex than many Xojo developers might be capable of. However, consultants might find this tool essential since you do a little work up front to create a database application. You can read more at https://capp.systems

Yousaf Shah had a great session on how to get happy customers, successful projects, and live stress free. Yousaf said that developers aren’t always the most empathetic people and it’s hard to put yourself in the client position. When mistakes are made you don’t have to admit a mistake but saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” is important. He also spent some time showing how we can go from features to tasks (wrong word) so that you can get a better feeling for what the client really wants while also letting them be in control driving what’s important to them.

One session that I thought was fairly depressing was the Ask the Engineers session. Greg, Travis, William, and Paul did a good job of answering questions from the audience but it was shocking to see that few of developers working on the product. They’re one heart attack away from major portions of the project to be delayed. If you didn’t know, Paul has been moved from his Evangelist role to an engineering role. Since last XDC Norman was let go and Joe (compiler) has moved on to another job. Geoff can say all day long that they have enough resources but I just don’t buy it. More engineers means more stuff gets done.

Not giving us any timeframe for releases is one reason why I think attendance was down this year. If you don’t think there will be any big news and hands-on with cool, new, stuff then what’s the point of the attending? I disagree with the reasoning but I understand it when it’s a significant cost to attend.

No XDC in the United States next year. They are looking at something overseas. No word on where they’re looking but since MBS has conferences in Germany that are well attended I suspect some place other than Germany. But who knows? Like everything else they’ll tell us when they tell us and BKeeney Software will most likely be there. After all, it wouldn’t be a Xojo Developer Conference with us being there! See what whenever and wherever the next one is held.

Thoughts on XDC 2019?

XDC 2019: Android Walkthrough

During the Android Walkthrough session at XDC Travis Hill and Paul Lefebvre showed us the current status of making Android apps via Xojo.  As Geoff said in his keynote there is considerable amount of work left to be done.

Last XDC had some compiled code running in the emulator and one control.  That was it.  

Today they have compiled code running in emulator and devices for both 32-bit and 64-bit.  APK creation.  Emulator installation and execution.  Control positioning and locking.  Now has 25 controls which is a bulk of the controls for version 1.

Buttons:  Regular, Segments, and Toolbar

Pickers:  DateChooser, Slider, Switch

Inputs:  TextField and TextArea

Decorations:  Label, canvas, oval, rectangle, and separator

Organizers:  TabPanel

Indicators:  ProgressBar, ProgressWheel

Viewers:  HTMLViewer, ImageViewer, ScrollableArea, Table, VideoViewer

NonVisual:  ImageChooser, Location, MessageBox, Timer

Tech Details:

Android is unique.  Code that executes via Java Virtual Machine and Native.  They communicate via the Java Native Interface.  The Xojo framework is built with Xojo and Kotlin.  Kotlin is recommend by Google.  But essentially we don’t have to worry about.

Application execution works with both 32-bit and 64-bit.  32-bit OS is still popular on devices.  Support ARM (devices) and x86 (emulator).  Xojo figures it out for you automatically.

Typical data types:  Integer, Double, String, Variants.

Layout editor is what we’re familiar with.  An Android ‘view’ is really just a Window.  

Uses API 2.0.   Which means Standardized naming.  Errors are exceptions.  Zero based offsets.

Requirements:  Mac/Windows 64-bit for the first version.  Linux has some unique issues.  Android Studio required to provide the emulator and debugging tools.  Android 9.0 (Pie) SDK.  Target Android 4.4 and better.  Will run on a vast majority of devices in the world.  SDK version can change.

What’s Left?  Largest piece left is Framework completion.  The other big piece is the Debugger – there are some technical challenges in debugging with the native and JVN code.  

So, no answer to when it will be available.

The Future:  After initial release Auto Layout (used control locking to begin with).  Will eventually support plugins (those built in Xojo) and those can call OS API’s (JVM) and/or include native libraries.  Most of the focus on phones and should work on tablets.

Travis showed us a demo of Android:

Layout Editor looks very much like iOS – except it looks like Android.  Drag and Drop and resizing the Layout Editor looks pretty smooth but nothing that iOS doesn’t already do.

Hitting Run for a simple app didn’t take too long and it opened it in the emulator.

Travis mentioned that even with debugging you have to do Code Signing.

In 2nd example he showed an Android table with some initial values.  Table scrolled properly.    He flipped the phone in the emulator and showed that the control didn’t adjust.  Went back and used the Lock control properties in the inspector and then took it back into emulator to see it in action.

Q & A:  

No container container in list.  Yes, there will be.

Can you write an iOS and Android from same project?  No.  Not today.

Currently it builds 32-bit and 64-bit builds automatically.

Why do plugins need to be in new format?  The plugin format allows you to call the JVM and native libraries.

API 2.0 is changing the offset of strings?  Some confusion on what that will mean.

Using constants in the app, can it be decompiled and be seen?  Important strings should be obfuscated.

2018 Was a Weird Year

I hope everyone’s holiday season was good.  We’re approaching the end of 2018 and I find it nice to reflect on what’s happened and what we’ve accomplished this year.

Looking Back

Let’s start off with the blog posts.  I did 41 (well now 42) blog posts in 2018.  Five were about Xojo releases.  Four were BKeeney Software product releases.  Four posts were about the Xojo Developers Conference.  The rest were a variety of Xojo related topics.

The most highly commented blog post was from June called Chasing Xojo where I lamented that Xojo, at least until that point, seemed to be a less stable when it came to Windows and Linux due to major revamping of the drawing systems on both platforms.  In Windows, Xojo doesn’t flicker as much but the struggle to get speed was a concern for all of 2018.  In Linux, the switch to GTK 3 wasn’t as smooth as we could have hoped.

The most viewed blog post was from August called Xojo 2018 Release 2 where I did my usual review of the most recent release of Xojo.  I heavily criticized Xojo for their poor documentation in that release.  I received plenty of blowback on that one.  But I think the end result is that R3 and R4 documentation was much better.

We released two new products with BKS Report Studio and BKS Tab Control.  Report Studio is our reporting utility meant for end-users for macOS and Windows and it was built using the award winning Shorts reporting classes (also a blog post).  The Tab Control is a canvas subclass that replaces, and extends, the built-in Xojo tab control in many ways and was our attempt at replaced the old CustomTabControl that many use but is unusable for HiDPI apps.

The other major release of the year was ARGen 3.0.  ARGen is our utility to create Xojo projects that creates ActiveRecord objects.  Among the many changes was the ability to generate ActiveRecord objects for iOS projects, supporting GUID primary keys, and the ability to include Audit Trail, Localization, and Database Update modules that help in many products.  We use ActiveRecord in practically every project and having the ability to generate some basic desktop and web UI is a huge time saver.

2018 sure seemed like a mixed bag for Xojo.  The Windows drawing issues took up a good chunk of the year and I think R4 was the first solid Windows release (although I still have 2 client apps that won’t remote debug in R4).  I can’t imagine the amount of effort that Xojo and the community put into getting Windows drawing fixed.

64-bit remote debugging became a reality for all targets this year.  64-bit compiling isn’t the huge gain that many in the community hoped for but then we always want more.  We just have to remember that 64-bit doesn’t necessarily mean ‘faster’.  At least the debugger works and that’s not nothing.

Dark Mode came soon after the release of Mojave.  The IDE works in Dark Mode and we were given many of the tools to implement it in our own projects.  Dark Mode only works in MacOS but some are already clamoring for it in Windows too.  It’s still to early to tell if Dark Mode is a hit on Mojave much less in xojo.

Looking Forward

What is 2019 going to bring us?  For one, we’re almost finished with a fairly significant update to Formatted Text Control and after that’s released we’ll start with an even bigger version 4 update to the venerable word processing control to bring it up to date and extend its capabilities to make it even more powerful.

We have a number of large consulting projects that have been in gestation for many months and years.  It will be nice to have a big project or two to keep us busy.

With the release of Web 2.0 I will redo all of our Xojo training videos related to web.  They’ve been outdated for a while but it’s not worth redoing the videos until Xojo releases Web 2.0.  If they release Android I’ll start on at least some intro videos for that too.  This might finally be the year that I redo the remaining Real Studio videos.  No doubt I’ll redo them just before a major IDE change.  🙂

What do I expect from Xojo?  That’s a tough question to answer since they’re so damn secretive now.  I expect Web 2.0 to show up in time for XDC (so maybe release 2?).  I think it will be pretty solid in the first release but it wouldn’t expect it to be good until the following release.

I also think that at XDC we’ll get an alpha of InterOps but not anything other than another dog and pony show for Android.  Targeting another platform is long and tedious process and involves some serious IDE work.  How much of the iOS editors can they use?  I can only guess but at first blush I say not much.

Some of Android’s success may hinge on getting iOS to use the global framework and away from the Xojo Framework.  Nothing like rewriting an entire framework while keeping backwards compatibility.  The more I think about it the more I think the iOS rework is put on hold until Android is released.  

Which leads to API 2.0 in general.  We’ve already seen some of the first new controls to use API 2.0.  URLConnection was introduced in 2018 R4 with mixed success.  I would expect more API 2.0 controls to show up.

So what do you think?  Was 2018 a successful year for Xojo?  What do you see happening in 2019?

XDC News:  Android Support

iurThe 2016 Xojo Developer Conference kicked off in Houston, Texas today.  Geoff Perlmann, CEO of Xojo, Inc. took the stage this morning to deliver his keynote speech.  The biggest news of the day is that Android support is coming for Xojo.

Many Xojo developers (myself included) find that iOS support is great but without Android support it’s not complete.  Geoff announced that in the fourth quarter of 2017 Xojo will have the ability to compile Android mobile applications.

This is a big deal and a daunting challenge for this team.  It appears that they’ve done their homework to figure out what they want to do.  Details are scarce at this point but they already know they will compile down to native code and not Java.  They will also use native controls like Xojo does for iOS.

The target version of Android that they are aiming for is JellyBean (version 4.1) or better.  Roughly 97% of all Android users will be covered.  Sadly, version 4.1 was released in 2012 .  I would have thought that 4.4 (KitKat) or better would be a better choice.  Let’s hope that gets changed before release.

Geoff did not mention if Xojo is planning on adding additional staff.  The reason I bring this up is that I find a twelve month timeframe to implement a completely new platform.  A more realistic expectation is that it will be released in beta form and it will be 2018 before it’s ready for more usage.

More details as learn about them.