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  Developing on mobile phones and tablets  (Read 4480 times)
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Offline Simn
« Posted 2013-11-18 22:29:11 »

So I've wanted to start this discussion for quite some time now. Mostly because it's a very interesting question in relativity to where the industry is moving (heavy growth in sales on phones and tablets).

The current research I've done shows that there isn't much opportunities to do exactly this. Take for example iOS, you've got a few apps that can do HTML, CSS, JS etc. (like Diet Coda and Textastic). These apps can also display your work in the form of a website, but what about the hundreds of other things in the programming? What could we game developers do to test if our view matrices are correct on-the-go, nothing.

Many would of course prefer to do their work on the computer, but I've often felt to need to have something that could compile and run my code on my tablet or my phone. Just to test out a quick idea for example.

It seems like the industry have opened up for producing almost every medium (in a smaller scale though), but have totally forgotten about the people who produce code.

What do you guys think?

- Simn
Offline ctomni231

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« Reply #1 - Posted 2013-11-18 23:30:14 »

I always thought about that, and I do believe that sometime in the future coding might move onto tablets/phones. Just not yet, because we require a lot of power and space in order to code and the tablets just don't offer us all we need yet. Besides that, there are a few hurdles that we would need to get over in order to make coding on the tablet/phone more viable.

1) That keyboard

I dunno, but the touch pad keyboard just doesn't match up to the real thing. The technology for the keyboard is great for short messages (barely), but when you are talking about trying to type out an essay, coding, or gaming.... It becomes cumbersome quickly. This is one of the major hurdles that needs to be overcome. For those who think bringing an outside keyboard is an option, I say it defeats the purpose as we already have laptops that perform the same function. Also the keyboard on the tablet takes up screen real-estate which brings me to...

2) Screen Size

The other hurdle is more to do with aesthetics since, as a programmer, I like my screen to be as big as possible. They weren't joking in the movies when most people who can afford a computer set has a movie sized screen to code with. For me, the bigger the screen, the less I have to scroll. Coding and scrolling just don't mix with me... and if I have to make the text small my eyes'll bleed. This goes directly against the whole tablet philosophy of getting smaller and smaller.

3) Comfort

The last hurdle has to be how comfortable it is to work with a tablet as a keyboard. In reality, if you are holding it, you have one less hand to type with, forcing you to put it down. So, in most cases, the tablet will have to be on an sloped surface and/or supported for it to have any sort of viable use. Secondly, a programming session usually lasts hours, which means a good power supply would probably need to be nearby. Finally, we need to make sure that it is angled in a way that our eyes and necks don't get tired looking down at the screen. To be honest, though... getting all these conditions right is a challenge in itself just for one session.

I guess what I'm trying to say is...

The tablet technology is great, but it is just not for programmers. Everything that the tablet promotes (small, portable, and quick) goes against what we need as programmers. Not that I wouldn't want a portable tablet to code with, it is just that if we try to make the tablet into the next laptop the flat surface really makes it difficult.

The tablets strengths come in quick-session gaming, drawing art, and exploring the web. I realize that the tablet is really really good for doing those tasks that you can take breaks. Any task where you can rest the tablet down or holding it at different position when you are tired works great. Furthermore, any game or application that allows you to do quick sessions with your hands also excel on these devices. Everything else ends up tiring your eyes and/or limbs out too much.

Anyway, if we can look past those issues, I think the tablet would be great. Maybe I just have to wait for holographic technology so we can beam the screen to a wall or something Tongue

Offline CodeHead

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« Reply #2 - Posted 2013-11-19 01:45:13 »

Anyway, if we can look past those issues, I think the tablet would be great. Maybe I just have to wait for holographic technology so we can beam the screen to a wall or something Tongue

Tablets are great devices for consuming media, but not so good for producing it for the reasons listed above.

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Offline nerb
« Reply #3 - Posted 2013-11-19 03:26:04 »

I'm really just echoing what ctomni said, but I've been using a Surface to write code when I'm on the move, and whilst it's handy there are a few pitfalls.

Using a small mechanical keyboard is okay, but I have fat fingers, so I'm constantly hitting the wrong button and hence type a bit slower. I'd daresay using an onscreen keyboard would be far worse, especially since they lack that tactile response. Not to mention that an onscreen keyboard takes up valuable screen space.

And as for screen space, it sounds ridiculous, but I find I write more unorganised code when using a small screen. On a large screen you can see a fair bit of your code and program layout; you don't have to commit it to memory (human memory that is...). Whereas on a small screen, you tend to focus on the small bit of code in front of you, and think less of the overall situation and how the bit you are currently writing fits in with everything else. Alternatively you will spend alot of your time scrolling through code and flicking between classes etc.

As such, I generally use the Surface as a bit of a testing-ground when I'm writing new programs and on the move. I.e. to start trying out ideas or play around. I do my 'real' programming on my laptop when I get home; it's far more productive. I honestly don't think that development on phones or tablets is really viable, unless it is just to test the odd little bit of code or something (emphasis on little).
Offline Simn
« Reply #4 - Posted 2013-11-19 16:26:00 »

I honestly don't think that development on phones or tablets is really viable, unless it is just to test the odd little bit of code or something (emphasis on little).

I agree on that in the time being, but I also think that the industry in the future will surprise us on this area. I think that they'll sooner or later come up with some really clever solutions. We'll see.  Smiley

- Simn
Offline delt0r

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Computers can do that?

« Reply #5 - Posted 2013-11-20 08:30:53 »

I am inclined to think not. There is one thing you can't do with a tablet. Make it have a large screen. Its not a tablet once its 40-80cm across. Even if you have some roll up nano fandangled uber whatever tech, its primary purpose is to be more compact and lighter than a laptop--and with better battery life. Accessories quickly make this not a tablet. So a laptop works better. EVEN if the laptop is a Large tablet with a keyboard, its a form factor of a laptop and will be used as one. Not a tablet. Think about using that roll out whatever holo thing on a bus... or in a plane etc.

Tablets shine for people who don't really use a computer as a computer, but as a uber fancy TV they can almost fit in their pocket.

Add that many of us have a desk/office space then a desktop/laptop with dock make more sense. And they are cheap now. My dual 1080 monitors where real cheap. I am thinking of upgrading to 4k soon, big 4k monitors.

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.--Albert Einstein
Offline Danny02
« Reply #6 - Posted 2013-11-20 09:26:46 »

just saying, there is a 65'' Android tablet out there
Offline delt0r

JGO Wizard

Medals: 139
Exp: 18 years

Computers can do that?

« Reply #7 - Posted 2013-11-20 10:38:33 »

that's not a tablet, that's a table.

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.--Albert Einstein
Offline Vincent

Junior Newbie

« Reply #8 - Posted 2013-11-20 10:41:23 »

I developped in C++, Blitz3d and now in Java on my mobile phone (Symbian). There's no IDE, i use a plain text editor, the screen is just ridiculously tiny. The only really good point is the real keyboard with which I'm really confortable.   Grin

I hate virtual keyboards. I prefer the tiny screen and no IDE than the virtual keyboard.

I only code on my mobile phone because I cannot bring anything else with me in public transports and it's better than nothing.

Anyway, what I can tell from my experience is that I manage to make good code design for my game since I concentrate 100% on this.

I'm fixing mistakes, compile error as well as testing/debugging on desktop. Since the time, I can actually spent in front of the desktop is so limited, it's good that I don't do much coding there.

If I had a bigger screen and a IDE like there is an android, for sure, I could do more and better. Even with all this, for sure, the productivity level on anything mobile cannot compare to the productivity on a desktop.

In the near future, I plan to use my Raspberry Pi server to compile and do automatic testing.

In short, development on mobile yes. But you need to be really desperate motivated to justify the effort.
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