Ramblings on code, startups, and everything in between
After testing our React Native app on the simulator for a day or two we, similar to a young Kobe Bryant, decided to forgo college and take our talents to the big leagues, by testing our native app on an actual device.
This is a good practice because from a hardware standpoint you’re phone is a very different device than your Mac. Because of the more powerful CPU in your computer there is always the chance that applications that run seamlessly on the Computer’s simulator run choppy on an actual device.
For our purposes we wanted to ensure that our react Native components looked and felt native on a device, and that the positive results produced on the simulator were not just a fluke.
In our experience the process of getting an App on an actual device is somewhat painful. To help you avoid the same pitfalls that caused us headaches we wanted to give you some solutions to the most common problems you will run into while trying to get your app on your device.
One of the nice things about nodejs is that since the majority of its libraries are asynchronous it boasts strong support for concurrently performing IO heavy workloads. Even though node is single threaded the event loop is able to concurrently progress separate operations because of the asynchronous style of its libraries. A canonical example would something like fetching 10 web pages and extracting all the links from the fetched HTML. This fits into node’s computational model nicely since the most time consuming part of an HTTP request is waiting around for the network during which node can use the CPU for something else. For the sake of discussion, let’s consider this sample implementation:
Request debugging is enabled so you’ll see that node starts fetching all the URLs at the same time and then the various events fire at different times for each URL:
So we’ve demonstrated that node will concurrently “do” several things at the same time but what happens if computationally intensive code is tying up the event loop? As a concrete example, imagine doing something like compressing the results of the HTTP request. For our purposes we’ll just throw in a while(1) so it’s easier to see what’s going on:
If you run the script you’ll notice it takes much longer to finish since we’ve now introduced a while() loop that causes each URL to take at least 5 seconds to be processed:
And now back to the original problem, how can we fetch the URLs in parallel so that our script completes in around 5 seconds? It turns out it’s possible to do this with node with the child_process module. Child_process basically lets you fire up a second nodejs instance and use IPC to pass messages between the parent and it’s child. We’ll need to move a couple of things around to get this to work and the implementation ends up looking like:
What’s happening now is that we’re launching a child process for each URL we want to process, passing a message with the target URL, and then passing the links back to the parent. And then running along with a timer results in:
It isn’t exactly 5 seconds since there’s a non-trivial amount of time required to start each of the child processes but it’s around what you’d expect. So there you have it, we’ve successfully demonstrated how you can achieve parallelism with nodejs.
Here at Setfive, when not helping our clients with their technology woes, we love experimenting with fun new technology and continuously growing our professional tool kit. As of late we have been throwing around some potential ideas for a Setfive iPhone app (get Chicken Pad Thai delivered no matter where you are in the world) and have been looking at a couple of tools to turn this lofty dream into a reality.
In the past we have taken our chances with other cross-platform native apps (PhoneGap in particular) that allow you to wrap a web app into a web view however, these methods fall short; if the looks of your app don’t bother you then the serious performance hit that comes from interfacing directly with native objects will.
In order to test React a little bit farther than the simple hello world example we decided to build a simple application on top of our preexisting Rotorobot API. This app allows users to see the available players for a daily fantasy sports contest on that night.
To get started, we needed an index page that would show up when the app was loaded. Just to keep things simple we incorporated a minimalist layout with a UIButton that responds when pressed.
Upon pressing the button a new scene is added to the storyboard of our application. This scene is a ListView Component that has a row for every available slate of games that will be played that night. In addition, each one of these rows is also wrapped in a TouchableHighlight Component, which allows them to respond to touches.
Any row that you touch results in an AJAX request being made to the Rotorobot API and the available players in that slate are displayed, sorted in descending order based on salary.
Getting something up and running with React Native was definitely a lot easier than expected. It was honestly as simple as using npm to install react-native-cli and then creating a new react native project using react-native init. The init function provides everything that you need to run a React Native application.
After your project has been setup it’s time for all of you Xcode naysayers to either bite the bullet and download Xcode or look for guidance in the form of another SaaS solution.
In order to help you out we’ve provided links to a couple:
If you’re old fashioned like us, and opted for the traditional route then you installed X-Code. The react-native init function creates an Xcode project file inside the ios folder in your new project’s directory. Simply open this up using Xcode and you are off to the races and ready to build/run your project at will.
There was only one minor gotcha that reared it ugly head while trying to get our application up and running. The React Native Packager runs underneath node and requires a port for its functionality. The default port that it runs on is 8081, and there is a chance that you could have a process already running on that port so your application will not be able to run. So before you try and run your Xcode project for the first time it is worth doing a quick check to make sure that port 8081 is free using:
sudo lsof -i :8081
Other than this minor inconvenience you should be all set for development!
After an hour or two of playing with React Native and building a pretty simple app, the power and simplicity of this framework became clear to us. First and foremost it was very refreshing to only have to run one or two npm commands and then be writing code in minutes afterwards. Setup was quick and painless which is always appreciated. During development we immediately noticed that developing our app felt just like developing for the web. Laying out the application was done using the CSS flex box, and was both quick and intuitive. Additionally, and probably more importantly, the framework just works. The UI components are native UIViews so naturally they look, feel, and behave the same as normal native components. We would definitely consider using React in the future and look forward to seeing how it improves and progresses from here.
We’ve been writing a bit of Scala lately (more on that later) and one of the “gotchas” we ran into was adding a Maven project in the Scala IDE (Eclipse). We wanted to use Maven because we needed to manage some Java dependencies, are generally more familiar with it, and didn’t want to deal with figuring out sbt. It turns out, there’s an existing Maven archetype for building Scala projects but it takes a bit of finagling to get it to work in Eclipse.
The first thing you’ll need to do is add a “Remote Catalog” to your list of available Maven archetypes. To do this, click through Windows > Preferences and then on the left navigate through > Maven > Archetypes > Add Remote Catalog. From there, you’ll need to add a “Remote Catalog” with the catalog file set to http://repo1.maven.org/maven2/archetype-catalog.xml.
Once this is done, you’ll be able to File > New > Other and select Maven > Maven Project. On the archetype selection screen you’ll now be able to search for “net.alchim31.maven” which is what you’ll want to select.
When I tested this, there were a couple of problems with the project that the archetype created. To solve these issues I had to do the following:
Another common “gotcha” with Scala and Maven is creating a runnable JAR, so basically something you can run with “java -jar yourjar.jar”. This is a bit tricky with Scala since you have to package in the scala library along with your dependencies. And then on the Maven side, it seems like there’s a dozen ways to accomplish this successfully. I ended up using the maven-assembly-plugin with the following configuration:
And then you can compile and run like any other Maven project:
Copied below is the pom.xml file in all of its glory. Let me know if you run into any issues.
Posted In: Scala
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, it’s clear that smartphones are kind of a big deal. Today there are close to 2.6 billion subscriptions globally, and this number stands to grow rapidly as less developed markets turn into substantial electronic consumers.
With new applications and games hitting app stores daily, it’s no surprise that people are spending more and more time with their eyes glued to the glass screens of these compact, universal media agents. Phones have single handedly changed the way that people live, becoming pivotal for people to communicate, go online, and access and share information.
The ubiquitous nature of the smartphone has opened the floodgates of opportunity, creating new markets in the process and forcing pre-existing ones to modernize or be strangled at the hands of innovation. One market in particular that has been significantly impacted by the mobile revolution is the advertising and marketing industry.
The rise of the Internet era has led to a rapid decrease in the effectiveness of traditional forms of advertising media, and have forced the hand of the industry to take the plunge into to more digital forms. Marketing companies have to continuously find new and improved ways of reaching their targets in a world where TV and print simply will not do. One unique strategy that companies have used to connect with the masses and promote brand awareness is branded Apps. Smartphone users spend close to 90% of their time on devices using apps so they offer an incredible opportunity to connect with consumers.
Recently here at Setfive we have taken a look at building some brandable tools for mobile, and looked for the most original branded apps out there for some inspiration. Here are some of the most interesting apps that we found during our quest for inspiration.
This app uses your phones speakers to listen to the pops coming from the bag of popcorn in your microwave, and tells you the precise moment when your bag of popcorn is a peak popped-ness.
This app uses a map to display available public restrooms in your area and lets you know how clean they are (hence the name SitOrSquat). Additionally this app utilizes crowd sourcing, letting users to rate and write reviews about the public bathrooms that they use.
So what has the North face been up to besides making incredibly epic TV commercials? That’s easy, they’ve been building a location based mobile app that helps users check the condition on powder before they head to the slopes. Check the status of runs around you or the 10 top slopes globally.
When stains happen, StainBrain gives you simple solutions on the spot. Blot or soak? Cold water or hot? Get the scoop on how to rid yourself of more than 85 different stains with on-the-go tips and easy, step-by-step washing instructions from the laundry pros at Tide.
The Bosch Professional Unit Converter turns a smartphone into a universal unit converter. The ideal app for quick conversions on the building site or in the workshop. Completely free of charge and ads.
Posted In: General