The art of waiting

The hour registration application is working nicely, on windows, on android, on OSX, but there is always room for improvement. One of the most obvious issues is that the original applet is a lot quicker when retrieving data from the server. I suspect this has to do with the fact that the applet maintains a web session and that the JavaFX app does an authentication on each request. And yes, of course I could (and probably will) improve that, but it also is an opportunity to try out something else; asynchronous communication. Now, I could pull open a can of threads and try to do this myself, but there have been wheels invented for this. So in this post I’m going to try Java 8’s CompleteableFuture, RxJava and JDeferred.

The app’s communication is very suited to try something like this, because there are 6 separate calls being made to the backend, and some of those calls are depending on each other. The calls are:

dh2fx_fetchData
1. The hours for a given date.
2. Totals per project for the current week.
3. Totals per day for the current week.
4. All projects.
5. The favorite projects for the current user.

Continue reading “The art of waiting”

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Is it a screen or control?

The common thread running through my hobby software activities lately, is the porting of my hour registration applet to a JavaFX desktop, mobile and web version. Yesterday I picked up work on the favorites; those projects who are currently most used.

dh2_applet

In the original applet the favorites (as seen on the right in the image above) are implemented as a list and share the same screen space as the full tree of projects. Switching between either is done using an accordion; a layout similar to a tabbed pane, showing a header and per header a content. The content of one tab is shown at a time, and switching is done by clicking on the tab header. The main difference is that the headers are intermixed with the content, and move up or down when other content is revealed. Not unlike an accordion has ridges that move apart to show the space in between. I wanted to have the same visualisation in the JavaFX version, I could have settled on a tabbed pane, but what is the fun in that?

Now, JavaFX 8 already has an accordion control, but it behaves differently from what I want. In my usage there is only one tab visible, while the default accordion can (un)fold multiple tabs, and even have them all closed. It’s a minor UI/UX difference, but not what I want, so I decided to write it my version.

Continue reading “Is it a screen or control?”

ResponsivePane

In the previous posts I have blogged a lot about the ‘one code base’ application that runs on all popular platforms, from desktops like PC and OSX, mobile like Android and iOS, and finally on web with the use of JPro’s brilliant library. The core of that application was the fact that depending on the available screen size, or better: scene size, a different layout was automatically selected. Below on the left the MigPane based layout for desktop, on the right the same controls put into a TabbedPane for mobile.

Beside changing the actual layout, also a different stylesheet was automatically loaded, so (for example) the arrows in the data picker became more touch friendly. This worked perfectly, even dynamically adapting as you resized the application while running on the desktop or in a web browser. However, the code for doing this adaptive layout was intermixed in the application, and I decided to extract it into a layout manager called ResponsivePane. Continue reading “ResponsivePane”

Repeating appointments

Writing a calendar control is great fun; figuring out the algorithm of how to render multiple appointments on the same time, evolving the API, … The ‘I always wanted to do that’ is what makes a hobby project interesting. Of course the control is no where near as refined as the commercial alternative(s), and it most definitely could use a number of additional skins, but it looks pretty decent and -most importantly- works. 🙂

From an architectural point of view the Agenda control has one clear goal: render appointments. Nothing more, nothing less. The API expects a list of appointments to be rendered, given the time frame that the Agenda control’s currently active skin is displaying. It does not care where the appointments came from, if they are unique, pink, blue, or repeating. It just wants to know the raw meta data, so it can draw the appropriate areas and assign CSS to them.

But that is a fairly primary functionality for an Agenda, suited for programmers who own the domain entities and the application Agenda is embedded in. End users may expect some additional functionality, like notifications, or repeating appointments. And the latter is what David Bal is trying to add. Continue reading “Repeating appointments”

Multiplatform JavaFX for real – polish

Things work, they look pretty good, so it is time to start polishing. First we focus on those hard coded values for host, user and password that are so convenient for testing. The thing that is needed here is a kind of cookie, something stored locally on the device, that holds the last typed host and user. But the file system on Android and iOS are very different, so that would be quite a challenge to set up. But again Gluon already solved this problem: from the PlatformFactory you can get an instance of Platform, which again provides an implementation of the SettingService, and that is a platform specific key-value store. Perfect! Just store the values after a successful login, and retrieve when starting. That was an easy score. And the Platform class holds many more gems, like the PositionService, which most likely will come handy in another app. Continue reading “Multiplatform JavaFX for real – polish”

Multiplatform JavaFX for real – material design

After having established the communication with the backend, and the functional part of the UI on both PC and Android, the next step is to make it look a bit better by attempting to apply Google’s Material Design. Basically that would mean that I needed to start doing a lot of CSS and emulate the different UI aspects. FlatterFX could be a good starting point… Maybe use JFoenix controls… But after reexamining Gluon, it turned out that they already have done exactly what I was about to create from scratch; menubars, actionbars, views, layers, popup views, and all styled in Material Design… Well. Ahm. Ok. That settles it then.

Refactoring to Gluon’s view based approach was not that difficult; a View extends BorderPane, so you can add your own controls as the center node. The first result was quite pleasing.

dh2fx_phone0.9_hours

Continue reading “Multiplatform JavaFX for real – material design”

Multiplatform JavaFX for real – basic layout

The development is progressing nicely. Because I do not like to reinvent the wheel, I decided to try as many of the available libraries as possible. The thing that struck me most was that a lot of the libraries aren’t using retrolambda, even though they can without any problems (because streams are not used that often), and that many are really suited for running on tablets and smartphones. And I blame myself as well, because MigPane (the port of MigLayout for JavaFX I started) was not using it either. But that I could easily fix: as of the 5.1-SNAPSHOT MigPane runs on Android, and quite well I may add. (I know people have been asking for this.)

One of the first libraries I tested was FlatterFX by GuiGarage.com. A styling intended for touch devices, but not compiled with retrolambda. Is that strange? But also easily fixed, and the local snapshot build quickly integrated into the application.

dh2ria_flatterFX

Continue reading “Multiplatform JavaFX for real – basic layout”

Multiplatform JavaFX for real – Hessian

I’ve already blogged about running JavaFX on Android and discovered that my first generation Nexus 7 is quite able to run such an application, including an animated gauge. So it is time to step up the ante and go for a fully working application.

As the (unwilling) candidate I chose my own time registration application. It is a 10+ year old application that I helped write and was sold commercially. As a rent-a-nerd I’m now using it myself to keep track of my hours, for billing at the end of the month. It’s main component is an applet that acts as the primary user interface, and it talks with the backend using Hessian. Remember, this was all before SOAP and REST became popular and Javascript on browsers was mostly disabled.

dh2_applet

Yes, applets / Swing applications can look pretty decent as well. And I think it hasn’t lost much of its looks in these 10 years, it even has some animation going on. The backend also had a web application for administrative functions, but I now just SQL the stuff straight into the database, I don’t need all the fancy logic that was in the web application.

Recent developments in browsers means that I can only start the applet in IE at the moment, and Oracle will discontinue the plugin completely. So that means I either convert the applet into webstart application, or write a JavaFX version, that just happens to also run on Android and other mobile hardware.

There isn’t much challenge in the first option, is there? So the choice was easy. Continue reading “Multiplatform JavaFX for real – Hessian”

JFXtras: lessons learned developing in JavaFX

JFXtras is my pet open source project. I like visual things, and HTML and CSS are way too frustrating, so I’m running with JavaFX. Since 2012 I’ve been submitting controls to it, simple ones at first; the ListSpinner, then the CalendarPicker (date picker), and eventually Agenda (Google Calendar) and gauges. Doing this has resulted in many satisfying moments when a control worked, but the road to that point was littered with many chunks of frustration and sometimes even scrapping whole controls and restarting on them (Agenda has three iterations).

Writing these controls in JavaFX 2 and later has teached a lot of lessons; things that work, things that didn’t work, or worked better than others, and in the end resulted in a few best practices. It’s not like I have all the wisdom on JavaFX or anything, but being on this for so long, well, at least some commonalities were found. So during Christmas holiday 2014 some of this knowledge was wrapped up in a small 1 – 1.5 hour presentation / talk, touching on some of JavaFX’s strong points, slip ups and other topics like code structure and testing JavaFX applications. It’s titled: “Lessons learned developing in JavaFX”, or “Let us make your mistakes for you”. Continue reading “JFXtras: lessons learned developing in JavaFX”