We’re not there yet

There are times when I fantasize about volunteering to help kids learn to make apps. Each time the thought crosses my mind, I’m torn. The shy, insecure part of me says “You need to get more experience, first!” But, another, more idealistic part of me, says “Bah! It would be good for kids to see you learning the same way they are.”

I think that second voice is probably right. But, recently, I’ve been glad that I haven’t volunteered. After all, with the magic of kivy and python, it does seem as though app development is something that you can quickly learn.

Case in point: I was talking to a friend (when the best ideas happen) and had the idea for a different kind of GPS running / biking app. A quick search revealed that Plyer allows access to the device’s GPS hardware. It was literally the work of an hour — including extensive Googling, as I’d fogotten some syntax for individual widgets — to get a first draft done.

With the GPS app, however, I didn’t have any GPS hardware on the notebook I was coding on, so I’d have to do the testing on my phone.

No problem.

Or, so I thought.

First, I was able to compile an APK (that’s apparently what we call the file that you can send to an Android phone to install an app), but it didn’t want to install on my phone. Hmm. That’s the kind of problem enough ‘Google research’ can almost always fix.

Then, it was installing, but not opening. Right. Time to connect my phone to the notebook to run the logcat utility. You’d be amazed at the amount of stuff your phone will output — while it’s just doing nothing — to the logcat. Eventually, though, I found it: Plyer wasn’t included in the APK.

Okey-doke. A bit of searching and an edit to the buildozer.spec file and things were fine.

Fire it up again and. . . it just didn’t compile.

That’s where things were stuck for a while — me looking for terminal commands to update individual pieces of software, installing things, removing and re-installing software, trying again — until today.

Today, I went thermonuclear. I deleted the virtual machine I’d been using to compile APKs and I’m in the (very long) process of installing a new one. If that doesn’t work, I’ll be forced to post a question of stackoverflow (something I’m scared of, because almost every question ever posted seems to be considered a duplicate).

To return to the point of this ramble: sometimes, it feels like we’ve (I mean humanity, not that I had any part of it) made software development so accessible that we must be on the cusp of some sort of revolution. And then, you run up against one of the potholes that hasn’t been filled in yet.

This is not a complaint, by the way. This is all by way of “Gosh, aren’t we lucky that not every step in the process is like this?”

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