23 August 2016

A big step

Today was the day.

Today was the day a thing I worked on was open sourced. It's done. It's out there. My code. For everyone to see. It is like baring my soul to the world. It is baring my soul to the world.

You can't possibly imagine how I feel. I am frightened. I am elated.

Will people find it useful? Will they use it? Will they look at my code and laugh at how stupid I am? Will they finally know for sure that I am a ruse? Will they whinge about how I am Not Doing Things Right?

And you know what? I don't care. I've done my part and did the best I could.

(I lied. I do care. But I promise I'll try to get over it as soon as I can.)

Be afraid. But still do it.

Massive thanks to the Domain Android team for the support, code reviews, suggestions, feedback, and putting up with my baking frenzies; and to Mike for the code contributions, and for helping me through the very arduous publishing process.

14 August 2016

Winging It: How I Got to be an Android Dev And What I Learned From It

They say all relationships go through a rough patch at two, seven, then ten years. I don't remember who said it, but someone told me that many years ago.

Next week will be my moving-to-Sydney second anniversary, so I figured this is a good time to write this post.

During I/O last May, I met one of the coolest ladies ever, Yasmine. She asked me how I got into Android development, and when I was done telling her she said I should blog about it. So here it is, Yasmine. Better late than never. ;)

In the beginning...

If there's one thing you should know about me, it's that I find it very hard to make decisions. Who's your best friend? What's your favourite food? What should you name your stuffed panda? I don't know the answer to these things. So imagine 16-year-old me, about to graduate high school, and I had Zero Idea what I wanted to major in. The first university I applied to? I wrote down what major I was applying for right in front of the registrar, literally before handing her my application form (Business Economics).

I ended up going to another school, majoring in Electronics and Communications Engineering. I had one computer programming subject in freshman year. And I hated it. I hated it with a passion. I couldn't figure how anything works, and I swore I would never do that again.

My first job after uni was with Intel as a product engineer. I worked there for two years. Lived in the middle of nowhere, worked long hours. But I thought that's par for the course; part of being an adult is working hard, right? And then the semiconductor industry in the Philippines started flipping out. A lot of other factories closed down, some of the products we used to look after were being transferred to other sites. I decided I'd rather look for another job now, than being retrenched and not knowing how long I will be jobless for.

What Now?

I wanted a job back in the city, and I kinda don't want to stay in a sinking industry. But then again, there is nothing else I know how to do. Yeah, I am a licensed engineer, so technically I could work for a telco, or a TV station even! But at that time, if you want to for a telco, you'd have a better chance of getting hired if you interned with them right out of uni. And I didn't, so that's out. There were a lot of job postings for software developers though. But I hated programming! I don't know how to do it!

And this is when my first lucky break came. I am so fortunate that I met a manager who trusted in me. I was upfront with her, I don't know shit. I would have to learn on the job, so it would be a slow start. Needless to say, I learned a lot in that job. I worked on some pretty cool stuff (we made apps installed in SIM cards), and met a lot of really nice people. But more importantly, it kickstarted my foray into software development.

I eventually worked on more enterprise-y stuff (boring). Until the time we ran out of projects. I mean I'm all for coming in puttering around the office doing nothing and getting paid for it. But after two days it turns out it kinda sucks. It was 2009 and I keep on hearing about this new OS from Google called Android and that the SDK is Out Now! and that You Should Try It Out. So I installed all the things and started Android-ing.

Things Get Interesting

So now that I have built a shiny, new Hello World app that runs on an emulator, I took that as a sign that I have the creds to apply for an Android development job. I joined a start up, and again, I was upfront about it -- I don't know how to do this, I have just been playing around, but if you want to pay me to play around, then we can be friends. And so I was met with another lucky break.

It was an encouraging time to be a dev. The Android Dev StackOverflow community was much smaller, we are all learning at the same time, and honestly, I think everyone was kinder and more forgiving+.

I eventually worked for a company whose mobile team is distributed across offices in Manila, Sydney, and New York. I was the first Android developer in the Manila office, but by then I was so used to it that I didn't mind.

It was there that I met the guy who would eventually refer me to Domain, and for that I am forever grateful to him. Domain has done so much for me, both personally and professionally. I work with a really talented team, and I have never seen a company love a product so much. Domain made my dream of attending IO a reality, and through my work with them I got to work on a lot of pretty sweet features that I never dreamed of++. Another lucky break, and I mean to make the most out of it.


I guess what I mean to say is that I have just been winging it all these years. But at least I'm honest about it, right? It there's anything I have learned, it is that there is nothing wrong with saying "I don't know". There are times when we need to pretend to know things, but there are a lot more times when we need to accept that we do not know things.

Do not be afraid to try something new, no matter how scared it makes you feel. Easier said than done, I know. But sometimes it really helps to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and just jump+++.  Lundagin mo, baby!

+ I was looking at my old StackOverflow questions, and I seriously think that if I asked them today, I would have a lot of "What are you, stupid?" comments. Or maybe I'm just old and cynical. I don't know. The point is, we have all been there, so be kind to another, okay?
++ This merits a post all on its own
+++  I distinctly remember that's how I applied to my first Android job. I wrote my cover letter, proof read it, hovered my mouse over the Send button, took a deep breath, then clicked it before I could change my mind.

04 August 2016

Stylish Dynamic Layouts

One of the things we are taught in Android is that we should gracefully handle different layouts based on screen sizes. With more and more things being not just screen size-specific but also OS version-specific, this is one thing I think a lot more devs need to pay attention to. Today was my turn to do just that.

I wanted to create a dialog with an image that resizes itself while maintaining aspect ratio but being constrained by the container. Okay.

So I went about creating my ImageView:
android:src="@{ContextCompat.getDrawable(context, permission.descriptionDrawable)}"/>

Loaded up the layout and it looks satisfactory:

But then, I tried rotating and what the hell!

The image does not fit, you cannot see "NOT NOW". It doesn't work. Then I tried it on a tablet:

OMG how could it possibly get worse. There is so much space and it's not filling it up properly! I am pretty sure the root layout has layout_height="wrap_content". Weird.

After some furious Googling, I found out that I have to set the LayoutParams on the dialog after it has been shown. Why do I have to do that? I said wrap it and you refuse and now you want me to do it myself? Why?

I gave in and did the thing that StackOverflow tells me to. But it didn't work. It still looked the same. I tried moving stuff around; calling setLayout instead of setAttributes. It still looked the same. :sad_panda:

And so the time has come to look for another approach. A couple of things need to happen:
a. We shouldn't make the user scroll just to click the buttons on a landscape phone
b. Make the image take up more space on tablets

To make (a) happen, we either: create a new layout for this orientation or just set the image to be invisible. The second option is more appealing for me. There really is not much difference in the two orientations aside from the image after all. We can set the visibility of the image at runtime, but then maybe we can afford to show the image if there is enough space for it.

This means that to make (b) happen, maybe we need to tweak our layout a little. And this is where the beauty of Android's alternative resources come in. To be as less repetitive as possible, I chose to harness styles too, since I only need to override one attribute -- the visibility.

First I created a style in the default /res/values folder that I would apply to the image:
<style name="DescriptionImage">
   <item name="android:visibility">gone</item>

Now it's time to make the variations. We want to hide the image if we are in landscape, so into /res/values-land this style goes:
<style name="DescriptionImage">
   <item name="android:visibility">gone</item>

But we want to show it if there is enough space, so into /res/values-h500dp this style goes:
<style name="DescriptionImage">
   <item name="android:visibility">visible</item>

And now it's just a matter of applying this style to our image (and I found out that setting maxHeight works a bit better):
android:src="@{ContextCompat.getDrawable(context, permission.descriptionDrawable)}"/>

I applied this technique to another dialog and here's the end result on a phone: