MIT App Inventor at 10

It’s quite an amazing thing that App Inventor has been going for 10 years now. I think I can remember when it actually launched, and it’s come a long way since then.

I’ve dabbled with it on and off over the years and it can be fun. Fun and useful. Although I haven’t actually finished anything with it as yet. That’s pretty normal for me though.

The constant search for a decent Android device 

Ever since the last Apple event I’ve been thinking more and more about going to Android. I’m not thinking that I’d replace my iPad, more just the more non-musical apps on my phone. But for the life of me I can’t work out what device I need or what would be useful.

To be fair I’ve got a reasonable amount of time before I need to make a decision about this, so it isn’t a big problem, but I don’t really know where to start in order to work out what would be a good device.

App Inventor getting updated

I haven’t used Android App Inventor in age, so when I got an email from MIT telling me about what they’re doing with it, it came as quite a nice surprise, especially as they’ve got new stuff planned for it, such as …

  • Better support for multiple screen sizes and densities (responsive design).
  • The Backpack provides a way to copy and paste blocks between screens.
  • The App Inventor Gallery lets you exhibit and share your apps for collaboration and remixing.
  • App Inventor Services (coming soon) lets you create apps that can run in the background.
  • App Inventor Extensions (coming soon) let advanced users augment App Inventor’s capabilities without limitation by
  • creating and sharing new components.
  • The Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) component lets you build apps that control BLE devices, and experiment with mobile apps and the Internet of Things

All of which will be quite interesting to have a play with. The other cool thing in their email was Thunkable. Which is a version of App Inventor which is run by a commercial outfit. I think I might have a try of that soon.

Now is probably a good time to get back to trying out App Inventor anyway. I did play with it a long time ago, with a view to seeing if it could be used for audio apps, but really it couldn’t. I wonder if any of the new features coming to it will help with that?

Getting to grips with Processing 3

I’ve been getting back into Processing 3. As I said when it first arrived, it’s been a while since I made things with Processing, but this version looks so much better than what’s gone before. Installing libraries and tools is now just so easy. It’s amazing. It feels like I really need to get back to making some stuff with Processing again.

One Pebble, two devices, that’s not going to work

What I really wanted to do was to be able to use my Pebble Time with two devices simultaneously. However, it appears that this is just not possible at all. The reason? Simple really, but the smart watch uses bluetooth LE in slave mode and not in host mode. Host mode would allow you to connect to up to 7 other devices. However, it doesn’t look like you can do that easily with an iPhone, and, the Pebble doesn’t have that enabled as yet, and it appears that there is little or no demand for it. Trust me to be looking for something that no one else wants.

So, why did I want it? Well, I thought it would be useful to be able to get it to have notifications from both my iPhone and my Nexus tablet at the same time. Android has a few things that iOS doesn’t, and whilst the same is true in the other direction, from my perspective that’s quite minimal.

However, it isn’t the end of the world at all. I can live without it, but perhaps I may have to think of a different way of doing things in order to achieve what I wanted.

I’ll give that some thought.

Getting to grips with chromecast 

I only got a Chromecast to try out a particular streaming service to get a specific show, and, that didn’t actually work out, which was a shame. However, the upside was that I’ve found the Chromecast itself really useful. Using it with my Nexus Android tablet has been really handy. I found that I got a load of really good offers which have almost paid for the device, and, talking to a colleague who’s already got a Chromecast, apparently the offers get refreshed, so I’m looking forward to getting more.

So it’s had a double upside, it’s been useful itself, and it’s showed another use for my Nexus which I’ve always sort of struggled to find a proper use for.

Playing with PAW server

Which is an interesting Android app for running your own web server on an Android device. So, why do it? Good question. Like a lot of technologies I tinker with, I end up asking myself just that. What’s the point of this? What useful function does it offer me? I may well end up with the same question with PAW server. I’m not sure what I can do with it that can’t be satisfied elsewhere. At least, not yet anyway. It may have one or two uses.

If I find them I’ll let you know about it.