Category Archives: Android

Strategies for Managing App Versions & Updates With IBM MobileFirst Foundation (aka Worklight)

IBM MobileFirst Foundation provides two mechanisms to manage app versions and updates.  Neither requiring you to write any additional code!

The first is app versioning; MobileFirst Foundation tracks each version of an app that you deploy, and gives you the ability govern or restrict access to specific platforms and versions. App versioning applies to all apps, native or hybrid, on any platform that MobileFirst Foundation supports. The second is Direct Update, which allows you to push new HTML/CSS/JavaScript (web) resources to a MobileFirst hybrid app. Direct Update only applies to hybrid apps, but it works for any platform that MobileFirst supports.

App Version Management

When you deploy an app to the MobileFirst Foundation server, the server will automatically track versions based on the version number specified in you application-descriptor.xml file.

Set Application Version
Set Application Version

When you load the MobileFirst Foundation Server Console, you’ll be able to view all of the deployed app platforms and versions.

The screenshot below shows a hybrid app deployed for both Android and iOS platforms. You would also be able to see the exact same version and platform information for native apps that leverage IBM MobileFirst Foundation.

Managing Versions in the MobileFirst Console (click to enlarge)
Managing Versions in the MobileFirst Console (click to enlarge)

You’ll notice in the MobileFirst console that next to each platform/version you can set the status for that version. This makes it possible to set notification messages for users on specific platforms and versions, or even restrict access to specific platforms and versions.

For example, look at the screenshot above… Version 1.0 on Android is active. Version 1.2 on iOS is active. Version 1.1 on iOS is notifying, and Version 1.0 on iOS is disabled.

There are 3 statuses that can be set for each platform and version combination.: Active, Active Notifying, and Access Disabled.

Set Platform/Version Status
Set Platform/Version Status

When you set the status of a platform/version, this status is only for that specific platform/version pair. This enables you to selectively notify users of specific versions, or even block access to specific versions if they are outdated and no longer supported.

“Active” means that the application is active. Services to this version will operate normally, and no messages will be presented to the user.

“Active Notifying” means that the application is active, services will continue to work, but a message will be presented to the user when the app becomes active, or when a service request is made to the MF server.

Setting Active Notification Message
Setting Active Notification Message

This can be used to send any text-based message to the app users. This could be a deprecation notice, service maintenance notice, or any other general notice.

Within the app, the user will see a message when the app becomes active, or when a request is made to the server. This message can be dismissed, and the app functionality is not impacted in any way.

In-App Active Notification Experience
In-App Active Notification Experience

“Access Disabled” means that access to the application is disabled. In this state, a notification message will be presented to the user, and access from the app version will be disabled. The user will also be presented with an “Upgrade” button, which will redirect the user to any URL, which presumably will be for an updated version of the app.

Setting Disabled Status
Setting Disabled Status

In this state, the app will not be granted access to the MobileFirst/Worklight server. So, if your app requests data from a data adapter, all requests to the adapter from this platform/version will be blocked. If your app initialization code is inside of the Worklight client’s connect:onSuccess handler, then this can prevent your app from loading at all.

In-App Disabled Experience
In-App Disabled Experience

Again, When you set the status of a platform/version, this status is only for that specific platform/version pair.

You can learn more about managing applications through the MobileFirst/Worklight Console using the Administering Worklight applications with Worklight Console online documentation.

Direct Update

MobileFirst hybrid applications leverage Apache Cordova plus MF-specific APIs as a foundation to deliver hybrid apps. Apache Cordova enables developers to build natively-installed cross platform apps using web technologies.

Direct Update is a feature for MobileFirst hybrid apps, which enables you to push updated app content (HTML, CSS, & JavaScript) without the user having to deploy a new version of the app through the app store.

Direct Update is considered an additional security feature b/c it enforces users to use the latest version of the application code. However, when an app uses Direct Update, it *only* updates the web resources.  No native changes or version # changes will be applied. However, it should not be abused. In particular this will bypass the Apple’s app store approval process. You should not overhaul the entire UI and break Apple’s Human Interaction Guidelines, otherwise you could be kicked out of the app store.

Direct Update User Experience
Direct Update User Experience

By default, the update’s user experience is a modal overlay that shows download and installation progress. The updater’s UX can be configured to use silent updates that do not block the user’s experience, can be a completely custom user experience, or can be disabled altogether.  Updates can also be paused or resumed using the JavaScript API so that it does not block the user from performing a critical task, however this would require a custom UI – the default UI does not enable pause/resume.

Updates in the current version of Worklight (6.2) are complete updates containing the entire application (www) code, however MobileFirst Foundation 6.3 (coming this month) will have a Differential Direct Update feature that includes only the changed files. More detail will be posted once this is available.

Direct Update can also be disabled if you don’t want your hybrid apps to update automatically.

For more information on Direct Update, be sure to check out these additional resources:

Additional note:  If you’re wondering by I interchange MobileFirst and Worklight in this post, it’s because Worklight is now MobileFirst Platform Foundation

So, What is IBM MobileFirst?

I’m still “the new guy” on the MobileFirst team here at IBM, and right away I’ve been asked by peers outside of IBM: “So, what exactly is MobileFirst/Worklight?  Is it just for hybrid apps?”

In this post I’ll try to shed some light on IBM MobileFirst, and for starters, it is a lot more than just hybrid apps.

MobileFirst-Logo

IBM MobileFirst Platform is a suite of products that enable you to efficiently build and deliver mobile applications for your enterprise, and is composed of three parts:

IBM MobileFirst Platform Foundation

IBM MobileFirst Platform Foundation (formerly known as Worklight Foundation) is a platform for building mobile applications for the enterprise.  It is a suite of tools and services available either on-premise or in the cloud, which enable you to rapidly build, administer, and monitor secure applications.

The MobileFirst Platform Foundation consists of:

  1. MobileFirst Server – the middleware tier that provides a gateway between back-end systems and services and the mobile client applications.  The server enables application authentication, data endpoints/services, data optimization and transformation, push notification management (streamlined API for all platforms), consolidated logging, and app/services analytics. For development purposes, the MobileFirst server is available as either part of the MobileFirst Studio (discussed below), or as command line tools.

  2. MobileFirst API - both client and server-side APIs for developing and managing your enterprise mobile applications.
    • The server-side API enables you to expose data adapters to your mobile applications – these adapters could be consuming data from SQL databases, REST or SOAP Services, or JMS data sources. The Server side API also provides a built-in security framework, unified push notifications (across multiple platforms), and data translation/transformation services. You can leverage the server-side API in JavaScript, or dig deeper and use the Java implementation.
    • The client-side API is available for native iOS (Objective-C), native Android (Java), J2ME, C# native Windows Phone (C#), and JavaScript for cross-platform hybrid OR mobile-web applications. For the native implementations, this includes user authentication, encrypted storage, push notifications, logging, geo-notifications, data access, and more.  For hybrid applications, it includes everything from the native API, plus cross-platform native UI components and platform specific application skinning.  With the hybrid development approach, you can even push updates to your applications that are live, out on devices, without having to push an update through an app store.  Does the hybrid approach leverage Apache Cordova?  YES.

  3. MobileFirst Studio - an optional all-inclusive development environment for developing enterprise apps on the MobileFirst platform.  This is based on the Eclipse platform, and includes an integrated server, development environment, facilities to create and test all data adapters/services, a browser-based hybrid app simulator, and the ability to generate platform-specific applications for deployment.  However, using the studio is not required! Try to convince a native iOS (Xcode) developer that they have to use Eclipse, and tell me how that goes for you… :)  If you don’t want to use the all-inclusive studio, no problem.  You can use the command line tools (CLI).  The CLI provides a command line interface for managing the MobileFirst server, creating data adapters, creating the encrypted JSON store, and more.

  4. MobileFirst Console – the console provides a dashboard and management portal for everything happening within your MobileFirst applications.  You can view which APIs and adapters have been deployed, set app notifications, manage or disable your apps, report on connected devices and platforms, monitor push notifications, view analytics information for all services and adapters exposed through the MobileFirst server, and manage remote collection of client app logs.  All together, an extremely powerful set of features for monitoring and managing your applications.

  5. MobileFirst Application Center - a tool to make sharing mobile apps easier within an organization.  Basically, it’s an app store for your enterprise.

MobileFirst Platform Application Scanning

MobileFirst Platform Application Scanning is set of tools that can scan your JavaScript, HTML, Objective-C, or Java code for security vulnerabilities and coding best practices.  Think of it as a security layer in your software development lifecycle.


MobileFirst Quality Assurance

MobileFirst Quality Assurance is a set of tools and features to help provide quality assurance to your mobile applications.  It includes automated crash analytics, user feedback and sentiment analysis, in-app bug reporting, over-the-air build distribution to testers, test/bug prioritization, and more.


So, is MobileFirst/Worklight just for hybrid (HTML/JS) apps? You tell me… if you need clarification more information, please re-read this post and follow all the links.  ;)

 

DevNexus 2014 PhoneGap Presentations

I’ve just wrapped up my presentations for this year’s DevNexus event in Atlanta – it has been a great event, filled with tons of information on web, mobile, and back-end development. I had 3 sessions on PhoneGap – One intro, one advanced, and one a mobile frameworks panel.

Below are my presentations.  I didn’t record them this time, since they were being recorded by the conference organizers, so expect to see a video once they’re released.

Just press the space bar, or use the arrow keys to view the presentation in your browser.

Getting Started with PhoneGap and Cross Platform Mobile Development

View Presentation …

intro_2_pg

(Lesson learned, never make changes to you presentation/environment after midnight when you have the first session of the day – it will always bite you)

Designing & Architecting for PhoneGap & the Mobile Web

View presentation …

architecture_pg

Enjoy, and feel free to reach out with any questions!

PhoneGap Presentations from HTML5DevConf

I was  searching the web earlier this week for an older presentation from a few months back, and just happened to stumble across my recent presentations from HTML5DevConf from this past October. Looks like the videos were posted in November, but I’m just seeing them now. I had two sessions: Designing and Architecting PhoneGap and Mobile Web Apps and Getting Started with PhoneGap and Cross-Platform Mobile Development, and if you weren’t able to attend them, you’re still in luck! Here are the videos from those sessions:

Designing and Architecting PhoneGap and Mobile Web Apps

Tired of Hello World? In this session, we explore best practices to build real-world PhoneGap applications. We investigate the Single Page Architecture, HTML templates, effective Touch events, performance techniques, modularization and more. We also compare and contrast the leading JavaScript and Mobile Frameworks. This session is a must If you plan to build a PhoneGap application that has more than a couple of screens.

Getting Started with PhoneGap and Cross-Platform Mobile Development

Unfortunately, I ran into network issues which prevented some of my samples from working in this one, but you’ll still be able to get the point.

HTML has emerged as a powerful alternative to “native” to enable cross-platform mobile application development. In this session, you learn how to leverage your existing HTML and JavaScript skills to build cross-platform mobile applications, how to access the device features (camera, accelerometer, contacts, file system, etc) using JavaScript APIs, and how to package your HTML application as a native app for distribution through the different app stores.

You can also check out highlights from HTML5DevConf and find my presentation assets and materials online here.

PhoneGap & Hardware Session Video now Available

The recording for my session “PhoneGap and Hardware” from PhoneGap Day back in July is now available! Be sure to check it out. There were apparently some issues with the audio, but you can still hear everything.

I’d like to express a huge Thank You to everyone who attended, and to everyone who watches this video!

Below are the sample projects I showed in the presentation, including source code. However, keep in mind that all of these examples were written before PhoneGap 3.0. The native plugin syntax, and inclusion methods have changed.

Pressure Sensitive Sketching in PhoneGap

In this example, the pressure-sensitive Pogo Connect Stylus uses a low energy Bluetooth 4 connection to relay touch/pressure information back to the PhoneGap application. This makes for a unique drawing and sketching experience powered with the HTML5 Canvas element. I’ve written about this example previously… Check out the video below to see it in action, and read the blog post for technical details and source code.

Moga Gamepad

The second example that I explored is a PhoneGap native plugin that is used to handle input from a Moga game controller inside of a PhoneGap application on Android.

This implementation is intended to be a proof of concept demonstrating how you could integrate the gamepad within your application. It currently only supports input from the joysticks (axisX and axisY) and the A and B buttons, and it does not handle all possible input from the controller.

This implementation is adapted directly from the com.bda.controller.example.demo.listen example from the Moga developers SDK samples available for download at: http://www.mogaanywhere.com/developers/

Check out the video below to see it in action:

The game is based on the Universe prototype that was used as a sub-game inside of the MaxMe app for the recent Adobe MAX conference. I make no guarantees about the code for this game, it was in a huge rush!

Quick Links