Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hello, Android (Third Edition) by Ed Burnette

There has been a lot of talk about Android, Google's mobile development platform. Infact it was all the talk that got me interested in the Android platform. Got to the official Android site, downloaded the SDK, put some code together and occasionally running into problems here and there. It's fun learning a new technology and that's why i find IT so interesting. For most people this kind of experience in learning a new technology is just not it for them. They prefer to have all the tips tricks and potential problems spelt out in one place, so they do not have to surf the internet form one end to another in search of solutions. A good book on any topic does just that. Hello, Android is a book most people new to Android will find interesting. You can get the book from the Oreilly store

Hello, Android (Third Edition) covers Android version 2.2 (Froyo) and has been broken into four major sections namely:

I - Introducing Android
II - Android Basics
III - Beyond the Basics
IV - The Next Generation

This makes the book an excellent companion for experienced Android developers and those new to the platform.

Introducing Android
This section as the name states, introduces the reader to the Android development platform. It walks the reader through all the steps required to install the tools required to get up and running with Android development. The author uses the eclipse IDE for illustrating all the examples in the book primarily because its free (yeah, alot of java IDEs are free) and it enjoys development support from Google. This section goes further to show the reader how to download, install and configure the Android SDK. The author does a good job at explaining the platforms key concepts, which gets the reader thinking in the Android way of developing mobile applications.

Beyond the Basics
This section explains what an Android begginer will find the most interesting. The reader learns how to create a user interface covering things like how to create an opening screen, adding menus, themes and how to debug an Android application (very imortant). 2D graphics and multimedia handling are also covered in this section. File operations are also treated here and it touches on both internal and external memory.

Beyond the Basics
For a new developer this section contains topics that any one would start getting curious about after learning the basics of Android. This section also serves as a very good entry point for intermediate developers looking to add some more skills to their "skill box". Topics like networking, location basics, SQL (Android uses SQLite) and 3D graphics are explored.

The Next Generation
Touch screen devices bring a whole new dimention to mobile application development and any book which attempts to cover the breadth of the Android Platform without diving into touch screen programming, will be far from an attempt to cover the breadth of the platform. The author dedicates around 12 pages for touch screen programming. Common gestures like pinch-zoom and drag are explained with code samples. This section ends with some tips from the author on how best to publish applications in the android market.

Each chapter ends with a Fast Forward section which i find very useful and an honest aknowledgement by the author that most people do not read technical books in sequence. They tend to start off chapter by chapter and then jump from one interesting topic to another. The author makes this easier to do by giving the reader a guide just in case they get jumping from one topic to another (for sure they will).

The book also uses a sudoku game example through most of the book to illustrate how the reader can implement each topic being learnt. It also contains alot of code samples with links to full code samples online. Reading the book is made easier and more interesting with alot of screen shots showing how the sample applications run in the emulator.

The Android Platform is more of the new kid on the mobile platform block and things keep changing at lightening speed, therefore there is a big gap when it comes to literature covering Android.

The book would be the best for anyone new to development on Google's Mobile Platform, a good reference for intermediate developers but it might not tickle the fancy of advanced Android developers. No wonder the book is sub-titled "Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform".