Bolo launched in 5 hours..

Bolo is a new app that I’ve created that helps parents record interesting voices to animal pictures and play them for their kids. Well, technically, the kids could do that too. So, all in all, fun.

It started on friday morning.. Was playing with my son and found some apps which make animal sounds. The sounds aren’t the best in most of those apps, to say the least. So I started making some noises myself and my son loved it. Well, the sounds were still not great, but he loved it being performed live. Hah, I’ve defended myself now.

Gave me an idea, why not make an app where parents could fill in for animal’s voices. Then start playing with their kid, making noises live and being played back. That’s how ‘Bolo’ started.

Bolo in hindi means ‘say’. So thats what it does.

Development started Friday night. Saturday Afternoon, it was pushed to the market. (Of course, I slept for a while too.)

Technical details :

Contains a simple ViewPager Activity and FragmentStatePagerAdapter. Recording and Playback is done using MediaRecorder and MediaPlayer apis. There’s not much to say apart from that.

It is available in Google Play Store here.

The pictures are taken from http://www.bigfoto.com and modified using Instagram’s android app.

Hope you have fun with it. Do let me know if some addition could improve the experience.

Here are some screenshots:

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Useful tools if you’re starting an android app.

There are a host of independent libraries which help us write android apps more quickly and in more maintainable fashion. These apps range from accessing View elements to Event Handling to Security and Database access. Here are a few of them which rate high in my opinion:

1. An actual smartphone

There’s nothing like it. I’ve seen few people code on emulator. I’d not recommend it because of its speed and irregularities. Start using the phone for your development. The productivity benefits are huge.

One handset would do fine for development. 🙂

2. Robotium

Simple test framework on Android.

3. Robojuice

It has few good utilities like Injection of resources/views and pojos. Also has a basic event framework.

4. Sugar

[I’m the developer here]. But seriously, if you have more than a few tables, its better to go with a tool that provides you some abstraction. Sugar is an effort to provide ActiveRecord like access to database Objects. Few similar tools that offer this feature are listed here..

5. IntelliJ IDEA and MAT

IntelliJ IDEA is the best Java editor out there. Android support comes with its community edition. Memory Analyzer Tool is an obvious choice for analyzing the heap dumps.

6. GreenDroid

It has some readymade widgets for use in Android. The code is fairly mature and useful. Good addition to your UI development.

This in no way is an exhaustive list.. I’ll try to keep adding to this list with some specific libraries for specific purpose.

[Update]

7. ActionBar Sherlock

Action bar is a great way to present navigations and user actions in Android apps. It was started with Honeycomb and is well received and extremely improved in ICS and Jellybean. ActionBarSherlock provides an easy way to make this design available on prior versions of android. Its very popular and a must-have library.

8. Sliding Menu

Its a nice little library to add sliding menu (like Google+, Facebook, etc.) to your application. It is very easy to integrate with and adds a touch of style to your app. Along with ActionBarSherlock, it adds a great look and ease of navigation to your app.

Do share if you have some recommendations.

The Bargain

We always do that in here. Its a way of life. Right from milk, snack, groceries, tickets, electronics, apparels, dowry, corruption everything.. Some legal.. and some illegal. But yes, there’s bargaining everywhere. So, our software industry is not far away.

This draws a very thin line between ethics and business smartness.. though, there’s nothing smart about it.

This is a constant struggle most of us face in a software Job. So much so that, its now an expected behavior between employees and employers. So one asks a question.. If you’re one of those self-respecting and introvert-ish souls, how do you tackle this situation? Frankly, we do not have an answer.. yet.

But, hey.. this is not just an employee’s problem. Its as much an employer’s problem too. In our profession, many engineers tend to be introverts, who’d rather leave a company than get into an argument with lesser beings (managers). So both parties suffer in this situation..

Lets try to analyze the situation a little.. The primary items for discussion tend to be around:

1. Salary (of course, guess thats not india alone)

2. Designation (Yup, explains all the nonsense designations that exist)

3. You guessed it.. Going Abroad.

Lets try to look at them at greater detail.

1. Salary

This is a no-brainer. There’s been a time in everyone’s career, where he’s had to negotiate for the salary package. Its almost like a game of wits between the employee and the employer. This happens at primarily two occassions:

a. During joining a company.. typically determined by the past salary, with a raise.

b. Salary review.. once a year, in most cases.

If you’re in one of those companies where Pay is determined by number of years you’ve served this army, well.. you can’t help much. Just got to serve your time or get out of there.

For others, typically, companies do not have a transparent and well-defined review processes. Lack of transparency means many questions are unanswered and things are manipulated around. This typically serves purpose of the Negotiators.

As a company, you need to be avoiding such cases. Let the recruitment and the review process be as transparent as possible. Always over-communicate in these situations. Do not leave a window for bargainers and negotiators to influence the decision.

2. Designation

Well, they found a solution to it. Invent a new one yourself. I believe companies would be going the route of “Invent your Designation” as an HR perk now. Lets leave this discussion before the Chief assistance Designation Discussion moderator stops us.

3. Going Abroad

This is pretty popular. Some do it coz they like to travel. Some, coz they like the extra money. I’m sure this is not the situation in Western Countries, but yeah..they have the reverse problem. No one wants to leave their place. Lets get back to the point.. This is one of the worst kind of discussions. There’s hardly any merit or logic behind this.

In a product setup, it’d make more sense when the engineers would like to get closer to a customer and understand the situations better. But, in other setups, its basically not related to work at all. In that case, its typically an arm-twisting affair. Or in some cases, act as carrots for the managers too.

Ideally, as a company you’d like to have your most appropriate person for the job to be sitting closest to the customer. That isn’t always the case. In some companies, they also have a round-robin way of selecting who goes next. The situation is rather sad.

As companies, you could make it fair by again making it a very transparent and objective decision. Do not use them as carrots. Do not advertise these things during recruitments. But it seems too ideal.

I understand that there’s no solution being suggested here. This is just an analysis of the situation. I believe it top companies want to attract and retain high quality developers and employees, they need to be solve it in their own ways and not let this nonsense creep into their culture.

As employees, well.. good luck.