Samstag, 29. Oktober 2011

Comparing Mobile OS SDK availability by platform

Coming back from Nokia World in London earlier this week (thanks to Nokia Developer for inviting me), I've been thinking about the SDK availability for different mobile operating systems given a specific Desktop platform. While leaving out all the other criteria (openness, libreness, licensing, UX, device capabilities, programming languages, toolkits, data formats, annual costs for the SDK/developer account, store rules, target audience, revenue splitting, advertising/in-app purchase options, coolness, etc..) developers can choose their mobile OS by, I want to highlight a specific aspect: The availability of an SDK for a given Desktop operating system.

First up, I'm only talking about native apps here (with "native" being anything that's not just some HTML+JS zipped up or served via the web, i.e. native usually means you need to have some form of compiler, even if it targets a VM). If you are into "web apps", chances are that you don't need an SDK to get started (even though one might help). I'll look at iOS and Android (because these are the strong mainstream OSes today), Maemo/MeeGo (because it's my platform of choice right now), Symbian (because I'm targeting it too with Qt) and WP7 (because that's what MS and Nokia want to succeed). When I write "MeeGo" I mean MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan, which technically is more like a "Maemo 6". Think "the OS that the N9 runs". I have a bit of experience with Android development, no experience at all with iOS or WP7, some experience with Symbian (through Qt) and arguably lots of experience with Maemo/MeeGo (yay!).

Why is that important? First up, if you are a Linux or OS X user, chances are that you don't have a Windows installation, and installing Windows will cost you money (for the Windows license), time (because you have to set it up) and space (because you have to dedicate a partition/VM image for it). If you don't have Apple hardware, getting an OS X installation means purchasing Apple hardware (ignoring Hackintoshes here), which is again costly. At least you would need to purchase OS X and dedicate a partition/VM for it, plus the time it needs to set it up.

Why OS X and Windows? As far as I know, if you want to develop for iOS, you have to use XCode, and that is only available on Mac OS X. Similarly, if you want to develop for WP7, you have to use the Windows Phone SDK, which is only available on Windows (>= Vista according to the website, so your XP install might not help there).

Now, let's look at Android, MeeGo and Symbian. Android's SDK is available for Windows, Linux (x86 and amd64) and Mac OS X. You can compile your apps on all these platforms (using your system's javac + tooling provided by the SDK). For C/C++ Android apps, the NDK is also available for all three platforms. For Qt-based OSes (Symbian and Maemo/MeeGo), the Qt SDK itself is available for Windows, Linux (x86 and amd64) and Mac OS X (64-bit). Using the Remote Compiler (which uses compilers set up on a server farm at Nokia, and you need a Nokia Developer account to use it) you can compile Symbian binaries on OS X, Linux and Windows, although the locally-installable compilers for Symbian are only available on Windows (at least that was the case 6 months ago). For Maemo and MeeGo, cross-compilers exist natively for all supported platforms of the Qt SDK, so without using Remote Compiler, you can build and package your Qt apps for MeeGo on Windows, Linux (x86 and amd64) and OS X.

Now, people can argue that one can set up dual-boot or virtual machines to support all OSes, but that's not the point. The point is that if the SDK is available on all Desktop platforms (note that this is not the same as SDK targetting all mobile platforms), developers can retain their choice of Desktop OS on which they develop on, and are not forced to use OS X or Windows for development of apps for the corresponding mobile platform (I also understand the reason why these companies only provide the SDK for their own Desktop platform, but that is not a good reason from a developer's point of view).

I hope that the Qt SDK will continue to support Windows, Mac OS and Linux for any mobile target platforms that it supports - be it ones named after winds or not - so developers have a choice of development platform.

In other news, gPodder 2.950.15 has been uploaded to Nokia Store (still waiting in QA) which fixes video playback and streaming, so grab the update on your N950/N9 when it becomes available :)

Donnerstag, 20. Oktober 2011

Games (and their backstory) for your N9, N900 and N950

I've recently been asked again about the games I wrote for mobile devices, so here it is: The post with an overview of the games, with some not-so-well-known backstories and information on where to get them for different devices. Plus a little teaser hidden somewhere.

Gaberln (N950, N9 (+Symbian): Ovi Store, N900: Maemo Talk)
This game is a simple soccer ball juggling game - developed using QML, in collaboration with Tim Samoff, who did the great artwork (and who also did the Mong artwork) - we still have to add some more features, and Tim has already done the graphics for a special hacky sack mode, let's hope we get around to finishing it at some point :)

qw The Game (N950, N9 (+Symbian): Ovi Store, N900: .deb on request, @qwgame)
This game is similar to Qix, but has its own style, and the enemies are a bit different from Qix - but it basically is an area filling game. The reason why the game is called "qw" is because it started out as a small Python hack ( during the Super Gamedev Weekend 2010, and qw were the first two letters on my keyboard. A nicer explanation is that it can be spelt (in German) like Cuvée and a reference to the different blend of different photos (flowers, places, animals) that you have to play through. The photos have been done by vogelvau, the menu structure is done using QML and the gameplay itself uses a QGraphicsView-based drawing engine.

That Rabbit Game (N950, N9, N900 (+Symbian): Ovi Store, @thatrabbitgame)
This is my first game to be published in Ovi Store; it's a "inverse duck hunt"-style game where you control the flying rabbit head, and have to get yourself shot by approaching the crosshairs and keeping steady. Flapping the wings is done by touching (the strength depends on the duration of the touch) and moving left and right is done using the accelerometer. The initial version of this game was developed in Java as an Android game for an OpenGL ES course at our University (PDF). The game for Maemo, MeeGo and Symbian is a complete rewrite in C++/Qt with the artwork taken from the original game, which I did myself in Inkscape. There is also a webOS port using OpenGL ES.

Tennix (N900, N8x0: Extras)
This one is quite old, and is actually based on a really, really old codebase of a school project from 2003. In 2007, I decided to port it to SDL for Desktop Linux, Mac OS X and Windows, and since SDL is available on Maemo as well, I then ported it to Maemo 4 in January 2008. A special "2009 Edition" was created for the N900, with updated controls and a Python-based AI enemy (using the CPython API / libpython). What about Harmattan you ask? Well..

Some of these games are just free and closed source for now. I do, however, definitely plan to release them as open source in the future. The problem is having used non-free artwork in the early prototyping stages (i.e. getting "something" visible in the engine) before replacing them with my own artwork, so I'll have to make sure to remove these things from the repository history before publishing the source. Also, code cleanups need to be done ;)

Download and enjoy the games - I'd be grateful if you could leave some feedback (either via Ovi Store, Maemo Talk, comments here or e-mail).

gPodder 2.20 for Maemo 4 and Maemo 5, 2.950.14 for Harmattan

gPodder 2.20 has been released. New packages are already available for Maemo 4 (in Extras) and Maemo 5 (in Extras-Testing). If you are using gPodder on Maemo 5, please test the package and vote for it on the package page, so it can get promoted to Extras when it has been tested by the community.

For all N950/N9 users: The Harmattan build of the gPodder QML UI is available for free in Ovi Store. The version available in Ovi Store is a development snapshot of the "tres" branch, where we will have an official release soon. I'm using it on a daily basis, and it's very stable and usable - new features will be added as we go along, so check out the new gPodder! You can grab the source code from the harmattan branch in our Git repository.