Summary Post

Challenges/lessons learned
At first, we want to use PhoneGap to develop the Android client, because MediaGrid has already has a web client based on HTML, CSS and JavaScript, and my job is to port it on Android, it is very easy for me to move code on MediaGrid to PhoneGap. However, problems exist. The first is that the user interface on PC’s browser is very different from that on mobile device, and there’s very little space for us to show the chat and media interface. So after discussing with Dan, I decide to redesign an interface like a local app. The second is Dan’s concern about local features that PhoneGap may not support, for example mDNS. The third is our concern about the efficiency, of course app built by PhoneGap runs much slower than local app.
So we changed plans after serveral weeks, and decided to develop a local app. The side effects are obvous. We have to redesign and implement the user interface on Android, rewrite the data access interface with CouchDB server, deal with dataflows, and decide the interaction between data and interface, and we have got less time.
Another challenge is that I have to learn some stuffs that I didn’t even hear about. These includes Git, PhoneGap, AngularJS, CouchDB. All the new stuffs sound interesting and inspire me to learn, but sometimes it becomes very boring when I get stuck. For example, I got sutck when I tried to upload files into server because I didn’t know how the server deals with my file(content-type, and encoding). Then I had to turn to Dan for help:), or in other cases use web developer’s tool to track the HTML request.
New Skills
In this project, I learned how to make use of GIT to manage my development process. But I should have updated my code more often, to save my changes to the server, and to inform my mentor Dan about my new improvement.
PhoneGap is the first new stuff for me to learn. It is a rapid mobile development platform based on HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The application developed on PhoneGap can be easily ported into other mobile systems. It also has access to devices’ camera, campus, contacts, documents, geolocation, network and so on.
Compared with relational database such as MySQL or MS-SQL, CouchDB is a fresh-new idea for me because it is NO-SQL and document based. It discomforts me at first, but then it becomes very interesting and easy to use. CouchDB can provide a more flexible data model than relational database, and provide scalability and performance advantages. And what’s more, it can spread its data across servers automatically, making it extremely suitable for distributed system.
AngularJS is another new JS framework I have learned. The most fashion thing about AngularJS is bi-directional data binding, to avoid complex callbacks to listeners. And the directives of AngularJS is very useful to define my own tags, so I can do something interesting with my browser. It also support other features such as model, MVC, dependency injection. These features are very different from what I have learned in jQuery, and are really cool. Although I didn’t write any AngularJS code in this internship, I would love to try it in my future work.
Also, I’m more familiar with Android development. I learned on how to operates a listview to show different types of items with different views, how to control the styles and themes of application, how to find the ID of views on system widgets through source code and more.
Future plans
There are 2 aspects that could be implemented in this project in the future. The first is about the encryption communication. For the sake of debugging, I didn’t encrypt and check the integrity of the message. But in fact, encryption is very important to avoid network sniffing, and also integrity checking is important to avoid message tampering.
The second is that multicast DNS (mDNS), which can be used to discover MediaGrid servers on LAN automatically. Usually, the IP of MediaGrid server is hard or unable to know manually, so mDNS will make MediaGrid much easier to use.
In these three internship, I not only mastered a lot of new skills and improved my programming skill, but also had the opportunity to know some excellent people and their excellent project. And their open-source spirit is a great encouragement for me.

Last, great thanks to Dan’s MediaGrid project and his kind help.

The video demo of MediaGridAndroid is located at MediaGridAndroidDemo


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