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  #1  
Old 06-09-2002, 06:16 PM
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Comment: I scream, you scream, we all scream for software!

Yes I'm back with the men in white coats at my heels, but I've stopped by long enough to post a rant on the state of software and developers in the EPOC scene. We all want software.... but where is it?

The Nokia 9210 has been out on the market over a year, hell it even has a successor in the shape of the 9210i, yet how many apps exist for it? Generous estimations put the figure at about 180-200 apps. "Cor thats quite a few." you may be thinking but to put things into perspective: the Palm has over 7000 apps and hell there are over 2000 apps for the old Psion Series 3. Where the hell are our apps?

Developers, this is out main problem, developers or rather a lack of them. How can you code apps for the 9210, well we have Java which you either love or hate as a language, I spent 2 years learning it myself at university and absolutely hated it. The second option is to use C++ but this involves the Symbian C++ SDK (not the best I've seen) and forces use of the HIDEOUS and expensive Micro$oft Visual C++ (although I'm trying to think up workarounds for that). Finally there's OPL which is in beta at the moment and the speed of development makes it look like it'll stay in beta forever.

Lets look at the pros and cons of these Languages:

First Java.
Pros: It's free, many coding resources available, object orientation (can be either a pro or a con), knowledge of Java means apps can be coded fast due to immense reusability of code, low porting costs.
Cons: It's slow, it's awkward to program in, it's very hard for the beginner to learn let alone master, does not lend itself well to under-resourced mobile apps, cannot develop on the device.

Second C++.
Pros: The SDK is free, object orientation, power, speed, freedom with app development.
Cons: Needs the cost of M$ VC++, nasty for the beginner to learn at times, cannot develop on the device.

Finally OPL,
Pros: Basic like simplicity so easy to pick up for beginners, can develop on device, many resources and existing apps for similar devices available for reference, free.
Cons: Unfinished, not as fast and powerfull as C++ but better than Java, some interfaces with the device may require extensions coded in C++.

Now the majority of apps on the old Psion PDAs (of which the 9210 is a direct relative) were coded by hobby developers, people like you and me who thought "this would be a good app/game/waste of time". To the hobby developer you have those choices now: learn Java which is off putting mainly due to it's complexity to learn, learn C++ which is also complex but by use of VC++ very expensive and not worth the costs, or learn OPL which is simple free and can be developed on the device but is yet to be finished. Many hobby developers are taking option 4 which is to not bother.

For the hobby developers that are bothering they are using either C++ (because they knew it before), or OPL (as they knew it before or are porting old apps). How many hobby apps do we see released? Very few. How many commercial apps are released pretty much all coded in C++? A lot (relatively).

I've been mucking around and programming since I was 9 years old all the way back in 1990 and I am yet to bother putting finger to keyboard for a 9210 app as I can't find a nice way to code any of my ideas. I'm personally amazed that we are unable to code in C++ and compile directly on the device, even if I could afford M$ VC++ to start developing could I be bothered to keep shipping my apps to the 9210 to test (ok there's the emulator but it's not the same), I think not. Java I would not touch for coding with a bargepole, at first I thought it was a good language, but the more I used it the more I hated it and still do. OPL sounds basic and crude to me and probably not up to the tasks I want to achieve (much in the same way I feel Java isn't) but has added bonuses for coding simple apps that you can do the whole lot on the device. I've ruled out Java from the word go, but choosing between OPL and C++ is a pain, they both have advantages and disadvatages that are annoying.

Looking back though history most apps on the old Psions coded by hobby developers were written in OPL as it was easy to pick up and use. I remember my friends at school who had Psion Series 3s killing time tapping away at some OPL or showing my yet another game they got hold of. For some reason Symbian have decided to stop producing the language that has kept apps being produced for their devices in hundreds. Unfortunately they don't seem to have thought of where we are going to get apps from in the future. Look at the series60 and UIQ devices, the only apps for them are going to be generic midlets and specific C++ apps, which need programming knowledge and money to make. Symbian have seemed to have asked hobby developers not to produce for their devices in future by taking away their easiest method of app production.

Symbian devices will get a good foothold in the market fairly fast as they are the only people to have a good polished product available for shipping. Unfortunately when Palm and M$ get their acts together Symbian can see their foothold dissappear due to lack of apps. They don't seem to have thought the whole situation through and unless they act soon it's gonna get a hold of them by the throats.

I'm asking Symbian to give us one or other of these options maybe both: An ability to code C++/ASM on the device or at least on a computer without M$ VC++, or full OPL support on the 9210, series60, and UIQ systems. Without these being carried out the glut of freeware enjoyed by Psion owners will not appear on the future Symbian devices and they may find themselves losing market share due to lack of third party software. I'm sure most people using this site have an idea for an app they'd like, and probably would make it themselves if they knew how to, but at present are unable to.

Come on Symbian get your act together, we want software, but we wont get it unless you give us sensible development tools to make that software with. Either that or 2 years down the line we leave you for another OS that will provide tools to make apps. It's a hard line and it's a firm statement, but it's true and I hope someone at Symbian actually reads this site and takes notice of this post.
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  #2  
Old 06-09-2002, 07:06 PM
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I didn't know you had to pay for m$ programs :p
I've installed the sdk's for c++ on 3 pc's now ... and none of them will compile the hello app. I must be an idiot. Then the way of programming on the c++ side ... a simple program should be able to be build with 1 maybe 2 files at max ... not the bullshit we have to do now.

Then the java ... kiddie stuff ... java is fun and easy but I haven't seen one platform were the apps didn't suffer from the resource consuming java runtime.

OPl well you can program in 1 file ... it's rather easy .. the runtime is memory consuming but not as much as java ... but indeed still in beta ... and the language itslef seems very limited.

Then you have the vb option ... which is no option because it ain't free

I had a lot of apps that I would like to code ... it's a pitty I can't use the c++ :s OPL is to heavy to make some real system apps (they need all the memory).

Oh well, I leave the real programming to someone who isn't all talk like me ;p
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  #3  
Old 07-09-2002, 07:46 AM
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I couldn't have put it better myself SwitchBlade.

I think you are being a little hard on Java, lots of people swear by it. But it does have performance/resource issues.

Anyway, I don't consider myself an expert coder butt know some c and a little c++. I looked into writing something for the 9210. I have a VusualC++ license from work, so I thought I'd look into it.

What can I say, they don't exactly try to make it easy for you do they. I was/am hoping that Borland come out with a good C++ product. I believe there is one in the works, but not released. Hopefully, it takes care of the tricky very Symbian specific idiosyncrasies and lets you focus on using more mainstream programming. The other thing is that from what I can make out, Borland tend to price there products more competitively as well. Sometimes with a free version for none distribution so you can really try them out.

Anyway, it would be nice if OPL was supported across all devices and incorperated into them as well in the future. Actively supported and developed, it could lead to many thousands of Symbian Programs. Especially if it was included on the device rather than needing to be loaded on.

Zuber

  #4  
Old 07-09-2002, 10:36 AM
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C++ SDK

Programing on C++ for EPOC/Symbian is't too hard but it is very time-expensive. SDK is good enough but documentation is very bad. You spend a lot of time trying to find some class or method. This is the main problem. About complexity of "Hello World!" - that's true, but for big project this does't matter and you can copy/edit initial set of files from stubs. I think main problem with C++ development - terrible emu (which is actually simulator) and lack of docs. OPL is good but only for very basic apps, for complex app you will nedd to fid/write yourself some OPX.

  #5  
Old 09-09-2002, 04:01 AM
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I agree with C++ developer.
The main problem for C++ developer is the lack of documentation,
but luckily Symbian is open source so it is not a problem for a c++
developer.
But again , all the latest devices based version of Symbian OS(like Series60 for 7650) is not an Open source anymore(Even the Framework source is closed by Nokia). So it is really hard for a c++developer unless you enjoy the painfull process of hacking/breaking into those undocumented API/classes or paid the Licencees(like Nokia) huge amount of money to gain support. :cry:

  #6  
Old 09-09-2002, 11:05 PM
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Regarding coding assembler on the device. I have a ported a Forth (ficl.sf.net) which allows coding on the device. I'm working on an ARM assembler for it which will allow assembler coding on the device as well. It works fairly well - I've written a newsreader using it so it's reasonably functional. The time consuming aspect is writing wrappers for the C++ API.

One plus with Forth is using 'blocks' you get virtual memory - something Symbian OS doesn't support natively.

I've most recently ported 'io' (http://radio.weblogs.com/0102385/2002/09/09.html#a181) to the device. This is a NewtonScript like language and I'm hoping to find an easy way of accessing the C++ API from it. Currently I've got async sockets working - it's quite neat doing socket programing on the phone itself.

I hope to make most of these ports available in the next week or two.

Chris.

  #7  
Old 10-09-2002, 03:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Double
Regarding coding assembler on the device. I have a ported a Forth (ficl.sf.net)

I hope to make most of these ports available in the next week or two.
Forth would be very nice. It was my first love. I made a Forth interpreter in Assembler for the Sharp PC-1500 (anybody reminds it?), was something like eighteen years ago sigh :cry: Forth is damn quick!
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  #8  
Old 10-09-2002, 06:53 PM
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Development Software and Apps for the 9210 and 9290

Switchblade,

We felt your pain. And we did something about it. AppForge has added support for the Nokia 9210 and 9290 to our MobileVB product. MobileVB has been on the market for almost two years and currently has over 70,000 registered developers.

MobileVB installs directly into Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 and enables you to write Palm, Pocket PC, and Symbian applications. MobileVB uses the Microsoft IDE and other features while adding over 35 mobile and wireless active-x controls and a compiler that creates cross-platform code for the platforms mentioned above.

You can download and try MobileVB free for 30-days at www.appforge.com . If you have additional questions or comments, feel free to e-mail info@appforge.com. I hope you don't mind me putting corporate info in this group, but it was in direct response to a question.

Doug Benson
VP Marketing
AppForge, Inc.

  #9  
Old 10-09-2002, 07:28 PM
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Appforge looks quite interesting.

Only problem is the large footprint runtime software you need to load onto the device first. I do like the idea of it being cross platorm.

Switchblade:

I think your preyers have been answered. All you need to do now is embrace Visual Basic

Zuber

  #10  
Old 10-09-2002, 08:36 PM
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And don't forget .. money to pay AppForge
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  #11  
Old 10-09-2002, 09:00 PM
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Basic is language for children, it is good if you just start programming.
But normal programming can be done only with "normal" languages like C++, Java, Asm, Delphi, etc. Ofcourse, if you need app with a lots of forms and without logic and you must write it fast basic like language is good. Look at Windows - did you know why it's require new hardware every year ? Answer is very easy - even very basic apps require a lot of hardware resources. PDA is't desktop! Soft for PDA must be written very ceafully and simple app must not consume about 5Mb on disk. Cross-platfrom programs also only marketing temin. Look, devices too diffrent from each other. PC have a mouse, Psion have touchscreent, Nokia have CBA buttons, etc, etc. I think good documentation for C++ SDK and good sales for Symbian based device - that's all that we need.

  #12  
Old 10-09-2002, 09:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C++ developer
Basic is language for children, it is good if you just start programming.
Spoken like a true C++ developer

A little harsh, but as I said earlier, there is a large footprint runtime you need to install, which is fairly in line with your argument.

If the runtime was standard on the device, then that would be a different matter. Users would generally be put off the idea, particularly if the application is quite small.

Not sure about your cross platform argument. It is not that different to Java or Symbian C++ for that matter. You need to make some code changes for hadling the differences in the UI.

Zuber

  #13  
Old 10-09-2002, 09:38 PM
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Apologies to the Appforge guys etc but I'm not touching Vi$ual Ba$ic with a barge pole. I thought Java was bad, but VB takes the biscuit. And yet again there is money involved.. I HAVE NO MONEY TO SPEND ON THIS! I want to code for free like I always have done. I don't want to learn OO C++ either it's horrible. But this is life and its what we've been handed, I just think it sucks if you just do it as a hobby and want to develop for it.
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  #14  
Old 10-09-2002, 10:10 PM
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I'm using OPL for the moment and it's great, but for small apps because of the big runtime requirement.
Java I don't want to use because it even consumes more memory.

C++ would be great to code on, but really the SDK's suck, Give me c++ like we have opl and I'll be very happy.

Basic language is for childeren? Bullshit ...
It's not the language, I mean there is only one programming langauge and that's pseudo language.
using
[code:1] if (foo==bar) { } [/code:1]
[code:1] if (foo=bar) then
end if
[/code:1]
It's both the same.

I agree that the Visual Basic platform isn't anything to develop games on but for simple apps it will do.

I do agree that the only acceptable way to program a serious app for the 9210 is using c++.

Best example is the browsers ... php/asp both exactly the same, same speed and strength, the same for vbscript and jsscript.

C++ is a standard and a very good laguage because of the extremly big available stuff in the include files and because of the good compilers.

Me myself will program on any thing that is given to me which proves to be the best. I reallydon't care if it's basic based or c++ based it just have to be fast and strong.
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  #15  
Old 11-09-2002, 01:40 AM
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Re: Comment: I scream, you scream, we all scream for softwar

Hi Switchblade,

Brilliant article and right on the nose. I also feel that Symbian perhaps is too engaged these times to satisfy short term requirements of their licencees than to cater for the future of the Symbian OS. Symbian started as a vision driven organisation. It needs to get back to that. A large part of that vision is about interoperability and interdevelopeability between the different Symbian OS flavours. It is also about how to take care of the developer community.

On the latter point, I do not think that they have fully realised that the value they inherited from Psion was not only the OS but also the developer community. As you pointed out, S3 had 2000 apps, the ER5 even more. And the quality of those apps is far beyond Palm largely because you can do so much more in EPOC. Symbian needs to spend more effort taking care of this developer community, and that is not only by arranging more workshops, but to ensure that the OS is held together; in terms of development environment, in terms of file formats and standards, and in terms of developer forums. If Symbian lets the various Symbian OS flavours diverge in terms of development environment - which is already happening with ER5 vs ER6-Crystal vs ER6-S60 vs ER7-UIQ, the developer community will over time be more and more fragmented.

My personal opinion is that the C++/OPL combination is the most powerful on Symbian OS (regardless of flavour) and that most efforts should be focussed on these two languages.

Java, VB etc are really only there to attract developers from other platforms or to make cross platform compatible applications.

cheers
Martin
 

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