Thursday, December 23, 2010

Update, update, update...

If you've download Desk Clock Plus, you've probably noticed the steady stream of updates.  I've gotten into the habit of checking the error reports on a daily basis to see what's going on and really try to resolve the problems as they've come in.  Most of which have been pretty minor after my major programmer fail when I first launched the program about two weeks ago. However, some of them were kind of odd...

One was a crash report that was extremely cryptic and after some googleing, I found a line to Daniel Lew's Coding Thoughts regarding the problem that I was having.  There seems to be a bug with the view flipper (a control that I'm using in the slide show and to flip back grounds) and when the phone gets rotated.  The fix was pretty minor and I think it's working... If you are using the slide show and it stops advancing the images shoot me an email cause that's the bug I want to see if I can recreate it locally...

The other bug that I'm happy to have fixed is with loading the images for the slide show.  Since we are dealing with a phone and some memory limitation large images would crash on load.  Previously, I would just skip the image, but I found a really awesome android dev blog called Android-er.  In this post, he explains how to use the BitmapFactory options object to load large images.

Lastly, I finally got the PayPal donation system working... so, if you feel generous, you can toss a buck or two into the development tip jar! 

And of course

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Announcing Desk Clock Plus

I put the Launch Bar widget aside for a while (OK, last post was over two months ago) and I started to address another issue that I having with the OS.  I have the Motorola Droid, I also have the Multimedia Dock which I use at work.  I find it very convent to have the time and weather right in front of me.  The stock Clock program has this very annoying (in my opinion) of going to a screen saver mode after 3 minutes or so.  The back ground goes black the time color changes to green and the time moves around after minute or so.  I don't get to see my background, I don't get to see the weather and the kicker to it is there's no settings to change this behavior.

So, I took on what became known as Desk Clock Plus as my next project.  For the most part, I'm pretty happy with it.  I've got a bunch of features that I'm happy with (Silent on dock being one of my favorites).  The rotating backgrounds I feel is a nice feature and of course the selling point that I think most people with the dock will be happy with is the ability to set the damned screen saver time out... to OFF.

This being said, I did have a programmer epic fail yesterday after the initial publish.  I uploaded the APK to the market at 12:30ish and by 1:00 I had 3 force close reports and 1 email (thanks for that!).  Turns out that Java still hates me and that I apparently don't understand how recursion works with Java.  So, some quick code reorganization and it looks like it fixed the problem.  All of this came about because I didn't uninstall the application first or clear the settings.  Very bad, stupid programmer...

I do have another change for that, but I forgot to include it in the last push, it's not a big deal so that will have to wait.

Finally, in regards to the price of this application, even though I did code 90% of it from scratch (I did use the stock alarm system as I didn't want to take the time to figure it out on my own... yes I got lazy).  With that and the fact that it's really just a clock, it's a free application.  I do have a donate option that's disabled for now, once PayPal gets back to me and approves my app request I'll make the changes and enable it. It also amazes me that in 24 hours I have ~350 downloads with 150 active installs.  Launch Bar (free) is up to 4117 downloads! 

I do have some other good ideas for the app planned, but I'm not sure how long it will be until I get to them.  I think I want to go back to the Launch Bar widget and implement some of the things that I learned from the Desk Clock and make that guy a little faster.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Scolling widget... sort of

The paid version of the Launch Bar was just updated. The new feature is that the widget "scrolls". Well, fake scrolls... I run the Launcher Pro home replacement app and it supports scrolling widgets however, it looks like the scroll can only be vertical. The launch bar is of course horizontal and as far as I know you can't make a horizontal scrolling widget. The reasoning is pretty simple, the left / right swipe motion is reserved by the system to change home screens. So my original idea of using the gallery and a nice smooth horizontally scrolling widget went out the window. Although, this was probably for the best as the design change allowed me to add more than 7 icons and not require a special home replacement (although I highly recommend Launcher Pro).

So, here's how it works. There is now a 'Mode' button that will give you 4 choices:
  • Classic - This is the Launch Bar that we've come to know and love. Seven customizable buttons
  • Arrows - When this is selected, you see two gray arrows that will allow you to scroll one icon left or right in the list. It's a continuous loop, so when you get to your last icon, the list will start over. I cut the number of icons down to 6 when the phone is in portrait mode. This was for sizing / usability reasons. You can also double tap the arrow to jump seven icons at a time.*
  • Scroll Bar - When selected, you will see an orange bar below your icons. You can touch that bar at any point to jump to that part of the list. Sadly, you can't slide your finger over the bar to scroll (you can't have a true slide bar as the left / right slide is reserved for the changing of screens).
  • Mixed - When the phone is in portrait mode it will use the Scroll Bar mode. When the phone is landscape it will use Arrow mode. This came about just because of how widgets are sized differently in portrait vs landscape. It gives you the best of both worlds in my opinion.
I'm sure that there will be other minor changes here and there as oddities are noticed, but I think that's the majority of the major enhancements for now. Although, if a reasonable enhancement request comes in I'll be more than happy to put it in.

Monday, September 13, 2010


It's been a while since I was able to update both of the applications (a month or more for Pro and 3+ weeks for basic). I was busy trying to re-organize the code so that it would be easier to update both applications. In some cases I would have to make the same change in four places for some of the common code... bad bad programmer! I consolidated a bunch of stuff and probably need to consolidate some more with the new direct dial feature. Plus the birth of my second child put a damper on things... ;-)

New for the custom button on the basic version and all of the buttons on the pro, when you long press the item in the configuration screen you will be prompted for a "Button Type", either Application or Direct Dial. The application will operate as normal. The direct dial will list all of the phone numbers in your contacts and the picture associated to that number. Long pressing one of the phone numbers will set that button, allowing you to call your favorite person(s) with just one touch.

Next up, scrollable widget!

Monday, August 16, 2010


Been a while since I've published anything... I've been busy cleaning and consolidating code for both the basic and pro versions. This should hopefully make both of them easier to manage. Coming from a .NET world, the Eclipse IDE has a bit of oddities that takes a bit of getting used to. Plus switching from VB to Java and back to VB is alot like going from English to German and back.

I only updated the basic version and this was really intended for people who have upgraded to 2.2 already. The long press on the first button (Phone by default) will give you the choice of the Phone or a picture gallery application. The long press on the fourth button (Browser by default) will give you your choice of browser(s), Google Talk, AIM, Twitter or Facebook. If you don't any of these applications installed then you obviously can't choose them...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Not Quite Frozen Yogert?

I'm sure the apple fan boys are going to making the same jokes, so might as well beat them to the punch. Apparently I was one of the "lucky" few to get the runny version of FroYo via the OTA update.

Quick update in case someone links to me saying that USB tethering doesn't work. A coworker currently in the UAE sent an email from his laptop by tethering his Droid which was connected to WiFi. I suspect the the reason why he did this is that TV in the middle east is very bad and he was very board.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Being a Moto Droid owner, I was happy to see the news that Froyo was finally available. I planned on doing the manual update at lunch today. However, I was greeted by a message on my phone after returning from a meeting saying that I had an update to install. In my small circle of Droid owners here at work, I am the only one to receive the OTA update. This also includes my wife who is the primary account holder. My guess is that since I'm a android developer I go to the front of the line?

One of the things that I noticed was that the camera icon on my Launch Bar went away and was replaced by a second Google Maps Icon. I'm sure that they changed the class name or something stupid like what they did with the HTC Sense and Blur. However after running the configuration screen I was greeted with a force close... I still haven't heard the end of it. I found that not all of the code that went into the last update / fix for the Base version made it into the Pro version. So, a little code merge and testing later and all seems to be working again. I really need to learn more about the Eclipse IDE. I shouldn't need to maintain two sets of code that are the same in both applications.

First thoughts on Froyo...
  • Updated Multimedia dock is nice
  • The gallery and camera apps seem to have some nice enhancements
  • The speed increase is very noticeable.
  • No wireless tethering? I'm pissed at that and more pissed at the BS reason of "The Droid doesn't have the necessary hardware."
  • Although, there is a USB tether which just means I need put a micro USB cable in the laptop bag for emergencies. (Although rumor has it you can only get to Verizon's web site...)
So far that's it for now...

Friday, July 30, 2010

HTC and Blur update

After I pushed out the update last week, I noted alot of non-positive reviews about the base version of Launch Bar and how it's really not working for HTC Devices. I then got a text from a co-worker from his brand new Droid X. My app didn't work on his phone at all. Although, it did give me an excuse to play with his phone a bit...

After running a debug app that does the same bit of logic as the Launch Bar, I discovered what the problem was. In the case of the phone dialer, I was looking for a package(application) called It looks like the motoblur UI tweaks the phone dialer slightly and the name is All of the other "stock" applications all had the same kinds of package name changes. I'm making the assumption that the HTC Sense UI did the same thing for all their apps and hence why it wasn't working for that either.

There's about 3 different rants that I could go on:
  1. about how the stock application names shouldn't change and Motorola and HTC should change them (akin to Dell changing the Windows to Dell's Windows)
  2. the awesomeness that the phone OS is open source and they COULD go and make those changes (akin to Dell changing Windows Vista so that it works)
  3. the stupid programmer that made the assumption first that he could find the application by label name (which lead to the localization problem) and then the "fix" of trying to find a specific package which doesn't exist on non vanilla installs of Android.
In my defense for number 3, up until my co-worker got his Droid X. Everyone I knew with an Android based phone as the standard Moto Droid and the only development environment that I had to test against was emulator provided by Google. I did try to build the source code from HTC, but I got to a certain point and then stopped (I'll get back to it at some point). It (OK just me) is very frustrating trying to develop for a moving target and to me it seems very difficult to jump though the fiery hoops to build the HTC source and I'm not even sure that's going to work in the emulator.

The update to the base version makes the GUI for both version the same. However, base version when you long press it will present you with a pick list of applications that qualify for that button (Phone, SMS, Contacts, Browser, Maps, Camera). The custom button will show you all the applications installed on the phone. This is actually pretty cool in my opinion as you are no longer stuck using the stock items (I know alot of people use HandSent and Dolphin as their main SMS and Browsers).

However, it seems that on the Droid X the contacts button isn't working... Oh well, just another programming opportunity.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Houston we have a problem...

I knew that I should have waited until over the weekend to push the update. I'm hoping that 99% of the Pro users didn't have the same problem as a user who emailed me on Saturday. After the update the widget disappeared. After thinking about it and a quick email exchange, I realized that the data conversion process was only happening on the configuration side of things and not on the widget side. What happened in his case (on a HTC Incredible) was that it couldn't find the default applications and returned a bunch of blanks. I believe that he then uninstalled the widget and tried to reinstall from the Market.

However, with the new configuration screen, it couldn't find the default apps that I specify. I believe that caused the force quit error. This would explain why the couple of new users canceled their order shortly after purchase.

So here's what it does now:
When the configuration screen loads and it can't find the application I'm looking for (Thank you very much non-vanilla androids... I'm looking at you HTC) it will just get the first application it can find. I'm assuming that everyone is going to change it regardless, but if your configuration window is all Alarm Clocks then you know why.

If you don't go into the configuration screen or the application can't be found you'll get a button with this guy:

Basically, it's saying that I can't find the app for this button. I'm hoping people who see this will just go back to the configuration screen and save their configuration again.

On a side note, this has given me some insight on why the Basic widget has been having issues with the HTC phones. I know what I want to do to fix it, I just need to learn HOW to do it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The need for speed

During the little bit of time I had for widget development, I saw what I was doing wrong and was able to whip up the updates for both versions of the widget.

So, what's new? The application loads a lot faster. The exception is the first time you load it as there's some internal data conversions that need to be done. The way you choose your buttons has changed and for the pro version it is now a long press on the list the application list. I will update the basic version's configuration screen to mimic what the pro version is doing. I also updated the icon re-sizing on the phone orientation change. The icon re-size is now instantaneous.

What was the big change? No more internal looping looking for stuff and setting icon size via the layouts and not doing it via code. I realized that I was working too hard to do a lot of the stuff I was doing, so I found a much better way.

Coming Attractions

Just a quick update...

I've been working on a semi radical change to the Launch Bar for a couple weeks now. I have the basic version completed and am working on a similar update for the Pro version. However, I'm hitting a little bit of a learning curve when it comes to some more advanced GUI elements. I'm hoping to be able to publish the updates early next week.

This update will include:
  • A new GUI for the configuration screens
  • Removed the icon size slider (for now)
  • A major speed increase when launching the configuration screen
  • A major speed increase when changing the orientation of the device
Also, I've seen a couple of comments regarding the basic Launch Bar not working or missing icons (specifically messaging) on certain phones. Typically these have been HTC devices with the Hero, Desire and EVO being the ones I know being problematic. I have good idea of what the problem is, but with out a phone to test on I can't verify it or write a fix. I've been trying to build the HTC source code so I can use it in the emulator, but haven't had time to really work on that. If you are running the basic version and have seen the missing button issue please send me an email. I have a debug program that I'll send you that should help me out. I can be reached at rmueser (at) gmail (dot) com

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hello World!

I've decided to put a blog together to keep a log of changes / enhancements for my Launch Bar widgets that I've been working on for the past month or so. Hopefully, I'll also be able to get some information and feed back people who have downloaded the free version or bought the pro version.

Here's what's happened so far:
  • v1.0 -- Initially released June 13 / 14
  • v1.1 -- Increased the size of the buttons. For some reason the icon size was different on two different Motorola Droids
  • v1.2 -- Added Icon size slider to the configuration window
  • v1.3 -- Cleaned up the GUI and other misc cosmetic enhancements
  • v1.4 -- Re-sized the Icons when the phone is in landscape mode. Small note about this, there could be a 5 to 10 second lag this is due to how I'm checking the orientation of the phone. I'm sure there is a better way to do this I just haven't looked into it yet.
  • v1.5 -- Internal change of how how I'm was doing things. I realized after someone posted a comment in German that the free app didn't work. I believe this was due to how I was looking up the applications.
Just some quick stats according to Google:
  • Launch Bar: 536 downloads
  • Launch Bar Pro: 66 downloads
It's a bit over whelming to me that so many people have downloaded my apps with out any kind of publicity (although I'm pretty sure it showed up as a "just in" application after the 1.4 update).

For everyone that's downloaded and tried out my application, Thank You!

What's next? Probably going to look into adding a direct dial contact(s) to selection lists.