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Author's profile photo Helmut Tammen

SAP SDN Blog Reader for iPad, iPhone and Android devices

Introduction

Winter started (at least in Germany) and what are we doing at cold and dark winter evenings? In former times we read a book but nowadays we take our iPad or Android tablet or mobile phone and read the news of the internet. And what´s more entertaining than reading the interesting weblogs of SDN. Unfortunately reading web pages at these devices is not always the greatest fun because one has to zoom quite often. That´s why the native apps at these devices are so popular.

So I decided to write an app that shows me the blogs of SDN without disturbing navigation, advertising or other informational stuff. I wanted to read just the blog.
To be honest I wanted to see how much effort it is to write an application with the great Sencha Touch framework integrating it in the fantastic Web 2.0 framework Grails. After all I decided to deploy this application to the Google app engine to hopefully get some feedback from the world.

In this weblog I describe the application I developed. In following weblogs (if there is a demand) I might write about the technical details, means how to setup the development environment, how to write the application and how to deploy it to the google app engine. 

Before I describe the application I would like to mention that Sencha Touch is a framework for writing mobile device applications in a device independent way. Basically it uses HTML5, Javascript and CSS. It does not produce native applications. But in spite of that they behave just like such ones.

Application description

To access my application (the sdnblogreader) you open the browser at your device (a browser at a pc or laptop also works well) and call the following url:
     http://sdnblogreader.appspot.com
After a while you see the application main sceen in the browser

Of course you can work with the app now but the first thing you should do to get the feeling of a native app is adding it to your home screen:
  

After that you can call the app like any other native iPad or iPhone app (probably there is a similar feature at Android devices). The address bar of the browser does not appear anymore and so you think you´ve started a native app even though it is still a web app that runs in the browser.

In the header you see the button “RSS”, “Details” and “Help” as well as select field. With the buttons you switch between the views of the application.

The RSS-view shows the RSS feeds for the chosen category.
The Details-view shows the details of one weblog.
The Help-view give a brief information about the handling of the application.

With the select field you choose the RSS feed category. Currently (because it´s a field study) you can choose not all of the SDN categories but only those I´m most intersted in. If people like this application I will enhance it and offer all blog categories.

After you´ve chosen the category and found an interesting blog in the overview you click at the header of this blog entry to read it. The app loads the blog, extracts only the informative part of it and displays it in the Details-view:

Disclosure:

Please be aware that this application is currently not in production state. So it might crash or might not support all features that the SDN webpage does.
Also it´s my first application I deployed to the google app engine and therefore I don´t have any experience with the stability and performance.
If you run into any trouble with the app please inform me but there is no guarantee that or when I will fix the problem.

Conclusion:

As you see Sencha Touch is a great framework for developing tablet and mobile applications without having to struggle with native development environments and languages like Objective-C etc.
Even though it is release 1.0 of this framework it makes a robust impression.
So it’s perfectily suitable for the application developer who has to primarily concentrate on the business aspects and not at the technical aspects of the development.

Remarks:

Of course Sencha Touch is not bundled to Grails. You can use it with any web application development environment like Rails, PHP, … But Grails in my opinion is the best because it´s Java based and therefore runs on any J2EE server like SAP Netweaver Java Application Server.

There are still a lot of features that could be implemented. If people like this application I will enhance the software and/or open an open source project for it.

If you need assistance in developing a mobile application with Sencha Touch or want me to develop one for you don´t hesitate to contact me.

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      17 Comments
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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Thanks for the app. I am so happy that you did not just code for iOS but also for Android platform. During the Innovation Weekend at TechEd Las Vegas, we had a show of hands on what kind of mobile device the attendees use, we had more Android phones than iPhones. 🙂
      Your app loaded on my Galaxy S phone with no problem. However, I can only see the RSS feed. When I selected "Details", I got a blank screen (on "Most Recent" category as well as other categories). Is it a user error or your app is still a work-in-progress?
      Thank you very much.
      simon
      Author's profile photo Helmut Tammen
      Helmut Tammen
      Blog Post Author
      as I mentioned "After you´ve chosen the category and found an interesting blog in the overview you click at the header of this blog entry to read it" you have to click or tap at the header of the blog entry you want to read.

      Regards Helmut

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      the same problem on Motorola Milestone Android 2.1

      "tap at the header" -> no browser-activity

      Author's profile photo Helmut Tammen
      Helmut Tammen
      Blog Post Author
      did you tap at the header of the blog entry? In my example screenshots this would be
      "Achieving customer centricity without breaking the bank ..."
      for the second blog entry. You have to tap at this text (it´s a link)
      A friend of mine does have a HTC Desire with Android 2.1 or 2.2 and has no problems.

      Regards Helmut

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      yes, I did "tap on Achieving customer..."

      Some testing shows "1 o.k." (on double-tap) to ">>10 faults" (nothing happens).

      Regards Manfred

      Author's profile photo Helmut Tammen
      Helmut Tammen
      Blog Post Author
      that´s strange. I don´t see any errors at the backend. So it must be something at your frontend.
      I can´t test it because I don´t have an Android phone. I´m one of the Apple fraction.
      Do you know if there is a simulator for Android available?

      Regards Helmut

      Author's profile photo Helmut Tammen
      Helmut Tammen
      Blog Post Author
      Hi Manfred and Simon,
      I fixed the issue with the links to the details page at Android devices. Thanks for your comments.

      Regards Helmut

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      hi Helmut,

      the "links-to-detailpage" is fixed.
      The details never refresh now 😉

      There is a Android-Virtual-Device Tool (AVD-Manager) available with the Android SDK. AVD-Manager provides all Android Versions from 1.5 to 2.3 for virtual Android Devices. It is possible to create devices with different screen-resolutions, hardware-configs and memory-footprints for heap-size and SD-Cards. A virtual SD-Card (from file) is possible too.

      best regards and happy testing
      Manfred

      Author's profile photo Helmut Tammen
      Helmut Tammen
      Blog Post Author
      Hi Manfred,

      what you mean with "The details never refresh now".
      After uploading to appengine I´ve tested the app in an AVD with Android version 2.2. Everything worked fine. So what´s your problem? What do you expect should happen when?

      Regards Helmut

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Hi,

      is it possible to switch this icon the iPad creates for the home screen?

      Greetings from another part of cold Germany

      Robert

      Author's profile photo Helmut Tammen
      Helmut Tammen
      Blog Post Author
      Hi Robert,

      not at runtime as far as I know. I will enclose another icon with the next deployment. In the current version I just took a default icon of the Sencha Touch framework.

      Regards Helmut

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Author's profile photo Helmut Tammen
      Helmut Tammen
      Blog Post Author
      thanks but this does not describe how to change the icon at runtime at your iPad, means changing the icon after the application has been saved to the home screen.
      In Sencha Touch there is an easier way to deploy another icon with the application. I just have to put it to my web-apps folder and reference it in my application.
      Then you (as a user of my app) do get a new icon but also cannot exchange this new icon. It´s hard wired with the application.

      Regards Helmut

      Author's profile photo Helmut Tammen
      Helmut Tammen
      Blog Post Author
      Hi Robert,
      I changed the icon and the loading graphics that are shown when starting the app. They are not very nice but I´m not a designer.
      Regards Helmut
      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      I've actually been using the http://weblogs.sdn.sap.com/mobile/ created by Martin Lang on my iPhone (not sure how it works on Android) and I think you two should collaborate to perfect both of your offerings. I like your use of the RSS text to show more than just the title and your notifying folks when something has been clicked (with a loading message) and I like his option to go to the full page, clean design, and slightly different navigation. At the very least I think you should add the rest of the categories to your RSS list (BusinessObjects, for example). Great job, though!
      Author's profile photo Helmut Tammen
      Helmut Tammen
      Blog Post Author
      Hi Jamie,

      I added all Categories now.

      Regards Helmut

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Thanks!