Cascades code change in BlackBerry 10.3

There is a slight change in Cascades 10.3 dealing with conditional variables based off of the length of the hint text of a field. For example the following code (designed to only show the TextField when the hint text is not an empty string) would work on BlackBerry 10.2 but fails when run on BlackBerry 10.3

Container
{
    property alias hint:newTextField.hintText
    property alias text:lbl.text
    Label
    {
        id:lbl
        multiline:true
    }
    TextField
    {
        id:newTextField
        visible:
	{
            if(hint.length>0)
            {
                true
            }
            else
            {
                false
            }
        }
    }
}

Fortunately the work around for this is extremely simple. You just need to create (and set) an additional alias for the visibility of the field. This is shown below…

Container
{
    property alias hint:newTextField.hintText
    property alias text:lbl.text
    property alias showTextField:newTextField.visible
    Label
    {
        id:lbl
        multiline:true
    }
    TextField
    {
        id:newTextField
    }
}

Developing apps for Five Years…

Today marks the five year anniversary of my career as a mobile app developer. On May 31st 2009 I sold three copies of Pixelated Plus for less than nine dollars. Five years, and few million downloads later, I have come a long ways since then.

As I enter year six, pretty much everything has changed since when I began. I just hope that five years from now, my apps can see the same rate of improvement that they have seen over the past five years…

Xploding Boxes updated to version 4.11

cropXploding Boxes has been updated to version 4.11 in the BlackBerry, Google, Amazon, Windows, and Nook app stores. This new version adds levels 441 through 450 to the game.

It is important for BlackBerry 10 users to upgrade and run this version of the app at least once in order to ensure that their game progress will still be available on future updates to the game. Version 5.0 of Xploding Boxes will bring some major changes to the BlackBerry 10 version of the app and will be unable to read data from versions prior to 4.11.

About Xploding Boxes

Xploding Boxes is a strategy game for BlackBerry, Android, Nook, Windows 8, and BlackBerry 10 where the goal of the game is to start a chain reaction that will explode all of the boxes on the screen. Each level gives you a different number of touches, and requires a different strategy to solve.

The game itself, and the first 25 levels are available for free, while a one time in-app purchase can be used to access the rest of the levels for just $2.99 while maintaining your progress from the free levels.

Links & Information

More levels for Starbeams

Q10The Starbeams game has been updated to version 1.7 for BlackBerry 10 and Windows 8. This update increases the number of levels to 170.

About Starbeams

The object of the game is to assign colors to each star in order to ensure that none of the stars are connected to another star of the same color. The game starts off easy, but quickly gets more complex, adding more colors and seven pointed stars that can not be changed.

Links & Information

IconS150

BlackBerry’s 2014 release schedule

With the announcement of the 10.3.0 beta SDK earlier this week, BlackBerry filled in the remaining questions about their plans for 2014. However, the company refuses to be honest or clear about their plans which has resulted in much confusion. Why BlackBerry does this is a complete mystery. In a paradoxical move BlackBerry has shipped a simulator for the Q30/Windermere phone while still refusing to acknowledge the existence of the device.

In order to clear up the confusion I have created a page at ebscer.com/blackberry2014 in order to simply layout what BlackBerry’s plans are for the rest of the year. The pivotal month for BlackBerry is going to be November, when they launch BES 12 along with the Q20-Classic and upgrade all existing devices to OS 10.3.1.

Using the Ionic framework for BlackBerry apps

ionic_logoI have made claims about my Erie Canal app being the first BlackBerry app to make use of the Ionic framework, so it should be worth pointing out how this was done. Technically the Ionic framework only support iOS and Android, but it is based off of Cordova just like BlackBerry’s Webworks framework is. Knowing how well BlackBerry 10 supports HTML5 I assumed that it was likely that supporting this new framework would be no trouble at all.

Using either BlackBerry Webworks or the Ionic Framework require quite a bit of set up involving the installation of Node.js and Cordova but once everything is set up, the process is fairly simple. First create two separate instances of your new project, one with the Ionic framework, and one with BlackBerry webworks. Then copy over the www/lib folder from the Ionic project to the BlackBerry project. This folder includes all of the css and javascript that make up the Ionic framework (and also includes the libraries needed to support angular.js). Once this folder is included, BlackBerry HTML5 apps can be compiled as normal.

In fact the entire www folder can be shared between BlackBerry, Android, and iOS versions of the app with the platform differences mostly taking place in manifest files and the actual compilation of the apps.

Erie Canal app updated

IMG_20140405_145935The Erie Canal app has been updated to version 1.1 in BlackBerry World and Google Play. The new version is smaller, with a 25.5% reduction in file size for BlackBerry 10 users, and a 22.4% reduction for Android users. Additionally this version of the app also automatically refreshes its data once every month.

The app is designed to help out those traveling along the Erie Canal by showing the Boat Launches, Locks, Lift Bridges, and Guard Gates along the canal’s path. The primary view of the app shows a list of all the landmarks along the canal, with their distance along the canal along with a phone number that the app can dial in order to contact the marinas, and locks on the route. In addition to this, there is also a map view that precisely shows the location of everything along the canal’s path. An options page allows you to filter out the types of landmarks that the app shows (on both the list and the map), as well as allowing you to switch the list to an east to west orientation.

Links & Information

192

Past four years of BBOS distribution

BBOS-4Years
The above chart (click to enlarge) shows the distribution of BBOS versions over the past four years.

A few thoughts…

  • OS 4.7 was very quick to disappear. While OS 4.x is almost nothing now, for the past few years it has almost entirely consisted of 85XX devices running OS 4.6.1
  • Despite the release of OS 6.0 in August 2010, OS 5.0 has refused to go away. Even today this four and a half year old OS retains a sizable percentage of the market.
  • 32 months after release, OS 7.X still accounts for (slightly) less than half of all classic BlackBerry devices
  • BlackBerry 7 devices are mainly BlackBerry 7.1 devices. Most 7.0 device users have upgraded, and last month 89% of 7.X users were running the newer operating system.

This data was collected by BlackBerry World for downloads of the free BlackBerry strategy game Pixelated. Data shown on the chart is from the beginning of April 2010 through the end of April 2014, and does not include BlackBerry 10 or PlayBook devices.

BlackBerry 10 users continue to upgrade

April once again saw an increase of BlackBerry 10 users running the newest version of the operating system.

2014Apr-Pixelated-BB10OSVersions

2014Apr-StuffINeed-BB10OSVersions

As has been the pattern, users of the Stuff I Need app were once again quicker to upgrade than users of Pixelated. For Pixelated 77.0% of users were running OS 10.2.1, while for the Stuff I Need app 91.8% of downloads went to users running the newest OS.

This data was collected by BlackBerry World for downloads of the free strategy game Pixelated and the free checklist app Stuff I Need. Data shown on the chart is from the beginning of April 2013 through the end of April 2014.

Improvments made to Liar’s Dice

IMG_00000054The Liar’s Dice game has been updated to version 2.3 in BlackBerry World. This new version of the app is more responsive, and makes the app as a whole more efficient.

About Liar’s Dice

This is a classic dice game of strategy and deception in which seeing only your own dice you must bet on the combined dice in play without getting caught in a lie.

The object of the game is to catch your opponent (the computer) betting too high. Bets are placed on both your own dice which you can see, and your opponent’s dice which are hidden from you. You begin each round by making a bet. The computer then has an opportunity to either call your bet a lie, or to bet higher then you. Then it is once again your turn to call your opponent’s bet or to bet even higher. This continues until eventually a bet is called. Then if the bet is too high the caller wins, or if the bet is not a lie, the bettor wins the round.

IMG_00000051The game has two main game modes. The “High Score” mode is the default mode, points are awarded for each round, and the first to gain a given number of points wins. The number of points required to win a game can be configured on the options page in order to allow for shorter or longer games.

The other option is for an “Elimination” mode in which the loser of each round loses one dice for the following rounds, and the last player with any dice left is the winner. This game is more dynamic as there are a different number of dice in play each round. Additionally games in this mode typically play faster than high score games.

Links & Information

Pixelated Shapes updated to version 1.2

Pixelated_ShapesPixelated Shapes has been updated to version 1.2 in BlackBerry World, Google Play, Windows Store, and Amazon App Store. This new version consists of bug fixes and includes a 3.5% reduction in the file size of the BlackBerry 10 app.

About Pixelated Shapes

Pixelated Shapes is a twist on the classic version of Pixelated that replaces the familiar squares with triangles and hexagons. The object of the game is to get the screen a single color by slowly growing a blob out of the upper left hand corner by matching it to the colors of the surrounding shapes. This is done repeatedly until either the game is won, or you run out of moves. Under the default settings you must clear the screen in 29 moves or less in order to win. A one time in-app upgrade can allow you to adjust the difficult, switch color schemes, change to different game modes, and get an indicator giving you the number of remaining moves.

Links & Information

150

Potential concerns with the odd resolution of the Z3

After spending months refusing to be honest with developers about the specs for the Z3, it has finally been revealed that the phone has a 540×960 resolution. For developers the phone presents itself as 720×1280 device and then downscales the content to 75% of the size, which is exactly what I predicted two months ago.

While BlackBerry claims that this will work flawlessly and magically, that is not exactly the case. Downscalling content such as this has some issues, mainly that any UI elements that are only a single pixel wide have a one in four chance of disappearing completely. Scaling can work, but it is best when you are scaling up and are doing so by a power of two. This is why iOS devices doubled their horizontal and vertical resolutions when they switched to a higher res format.

In fact, any element with a size less than 4 pixels has the possibility of looking to be a bit off. The images below show the result of scaling a 1×1 pixel grid (in pink), a 2×2 pixel grid (in blue), and a 4×4 pixel grid (in orange).

1x1

2x2

4x4

Grids are kindof a worst case scenario, so most apps actually won’t look too bad. But nothing is going to look great.

What is worse is that the device really believes itself to be a different resolution than it is. As such developers have no simulator, and screenshots are the same 720×1280 resolution that the Z30 produces. This also implies that all text (which is full of the thin strokes that are susceptible to issues) also goes through this identical scaling process.

At $190 the BlackBerry Z3 is not significantly cheaper than the Z10, so there is no reason that this should be your smartphone of choice. Pay a little extra and get something better.

Xploding Boxes gets 10 new levels

Nexus4Xploding Boxes has been updated for BlackBerry, Android, Nook, and Windows 8. Version 4.10 adds ten new levels to the game, bringing the total number of levels up to 440.

About Xploding Boxes

Xploding Boxes is a strategy game for BlackBerry, Android, Nook, Windows 8, and BlackBerry 10 where the goal of the game is to start a chain reaction that will explode all of the boxes on the screen. Each level gives you a different number of touches, and requires a different strategy to solve.

The game itself, and the first 25 levels are available for free, while a one time in-app purchase can be used to access the rest of the levels for just $2.99 while maintaining your progress from the free levels.

Links & Information