Virtual Reality is a hot topic these days. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to test an Oculus Rift with Touch Controllers. PlayStation VR and HTC Vive have also been released lately. Android Developers like me have their Cardboards, which are a very low-cost option.
With the release of their Pixel devices, Google announced the Daydream VR. Similar to the Cardboard, you place your mobile phone in the VR headset and don’t need additional high-end hardware. For 70€ it is still a low-cost solution, if you don’t factor in the expensive phones.
My first attempt at trying Daydream VR unfortunately was not successful. I got the small Pixel phone, which worked flawlessly except when being used in the Daydream VR headset. It had regular reboots, a problem many others around the web have as well. And even worse, it had extreme visual drift as you can see in the video below.
It is hard to tell how bad that visual drift is. Your vision turning around while your body tells you there is no change in orientation makes you feel sick within a minute.
So after playing around an making a factory reset, I decided to return the device and get the Pixel XL instead. Turned out this was a good choice. With the Pixel XL everything works flawlessly. Head tracking has no noticeable delay and the touch controller works great.
Compared to a Cardboard this setup is a great improvement. A Cardboard only has a single button for user interaction. The touch controller gives navigating a whole new dimension. In games it is used as a magic stick, for controlling a steering wheel or tilting a playground to move a ball around. Every game seems to have its own way of navigating around. I believe we will see a lot more navigation styles before a few will crystallize as standard.
While Daydream with the controller is much better than before, you also see what is still missing. Turning your head around works great, but moving is not possible at all. In a VR world like Fantastic Beasts I want to move around and look at the beasts from all sides. In most of the applications this is not possible.
Graphics are pretty good with the right game/application. The detail level is impressively close to an Oculus Rift. However, in both VR systems you recognize single pixels. Even a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels is not much in VR mode, because it has to split for two eyes and fill the whole viewport. But every current VR system has this problem.
Nowadays, every software development team should have a continuous integration server like Jenkins. It makes sure the current source code compiles and all the tests succeed, so nobody is blocked by a broken build. A CI also forces you to have a build in one step and to perform it regularly, usually on every commit.
Most often a continuous integration platform is used for development teams. However, it also gives many benefits to single developers. Multiple times I had the problem that old projects would not compile or work after switching to a new computer. Also, I often forgot to run all tests if they seemed unrelated to my code changes. And last but not least there is the deployment-pain when the last time was long ago.
Where to host?
A Jenkins build server would solve all these problems. But I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on hosting, because it is for private, closed-source projects with no profit. And running Jenkins on my development machine does not help, because it is still the same environment as in my IDE. My first idea was to use a RaspberryPi server. While this is not a fast computer, it runs on very little power and would have more than enough time for builds.
After playing around with it, I discarded that option again. Jenkins on a RaspberryPi works – but it is not an x86 device. So if you are not using the Android SDK, a Raspberry might be an option. For me it is not, because the Android SDK is not available on ARM systems.
Another low-cost option is VirtualBox. You set up a linux server inside a virtual machine and host Jenkins in there. Although the virtual machine is hosted locally, it can easily be transferred to anywhere if necessary. I had this option in mind for a while. But I didn’t like the overhead VirtualBox brings into it.
So when Docker announced their MacOS release, I was eager to try it.
Performance-wise this setup is great. The docker container starts and stops within seconds. The only delay is caused by Jenkins startup-time, showing the please-wait message. My Jenkins is not yet overloaded with plugins and jobs so it takes less than 15 seconds for everything to be available.
I tested the build-performance with my Android project Laska:
gradle clean build test
The time for executing this command on my native machine is around 2 minutes 34 seconds. The Docker container takes only 1 minute 54 seconds. In multiple runs the outcome was always in favor of Docker. I can not explain why this happens, as native should be the fastest. It might be a configuration setting on my machine.
Using Docker to host Jenkins is a great solution for solo developers. It is easy to set up, especially with a pre-packaged Jenkins container, and can be transferred to a dedicated server if necessary. Build speed is the same as in a native environment.
I am now 9 months into my career as a freelance consultant and would like to share my experiences with it. The question if you should make that switch too depends on many factors and can not be answered in general. Much of it is about yourself rather than the outside world.
Did it work out?
This is the important question to ask when someone created a company. During the last 9 months I had a constant stream of work which was paid much better than all my time before. And this is despite me stepping back from managing teams of 20 developers to writing software myself.
Because a developer has less responsibilities and less meetings than a team lead, it is much easier to take a day off. This is very valuable to me as a paraglider, as it strongly depends on weather conditions. Last year I had several incredible (for myself) flights and great experiences. Before, I was trying to achieve this year after year as an employee, but there was always some important meeting or another reason preventing it from happening.
On the other hand I sometimes miss being important. I enjoyed creating teams of developers and optimizing the way we work on many layers. I also enjoyed being responsible for products with millions of active users. However, this is not typical for most employees but rather a special case of my previous role. And the fun was declining more and more at the end in favor of company politics, pushing Excel-Boxes and taking part in software-design-committees.
So overall, yes, it worked out very well. I am much more relaxed, more happy and being self-employed gave me the biggest income-boost I had by far.
Is it hard?
This depends a lot on what you already know and what type of person you are. Obviously there are some hard parts to creating your own company. The hardest is that you will be responsible for everything. You have to find customers yourself, sell yourself as valuable to their project, handle all the paperwork and taxes and never break any law.
Many of us hate responsibility. I am not talking about being responsible for finding a restaurant for dinner tonight. I am talking about make a big mistake and you go to jail-responsibility. If you are that type of person, you will probably find it difficult.
I was lucky to be responsible for several teams of developers in my last job. So my mind was already prepared for having lots of responsibility. Additionally, I have been self-employed part-time during university. So when I tell you it is not hard at all, take this into consideration. For many developers this might be a bigger change.
Keep your eyes open
In Germany, there is a subsidy for founders coming out of unemployment called Gründungszuschuss. I urge anyone interested to further look into this, as it basically is free money for nothing in return. The Gründungszuschuss is an incentive for unemployed people to start their own business. I will not go into more detail here, but it is pretty easy to become temporarily unemployed.
I knew this subsidy existed but I never believed I would be eligible for it. I needed my tax advisor telling me that in fact I was. You probably need the same in other cases. Talk to people in a similar situation and read about it. But most importantly, once you choose to become self-employed, take action.
So currently I am really happy with my situation. I have a lot of personal freedom, 3 days of home office per week and a good pay.
The next optimization I wish to make is breaking the money-for-time relation. But this is another topic for another post at another time 🙂
Should you do the same? That depends on your own situation, but in many cases it is a big win. Drop me a note if you are considering it.
My last post about implementing a turn based game ai became famous on Reddit/Programming for one day. It looks like many developers are interested in this topic. Some readers, with more knowledge of the topic than myself, have added interesting insight that I would like to share with you here. If you haven’t read the first post, you might want to have a look there first.
The algorithm that I presented is called Minimax and is famous in academia for creating turn based game AIs. It has this name, because one player tries to minimize the getValue() result and another player tries to maximize it.
For improving the AI strength you either have to improve your getValue() function, or increase the size of your decision tree. Usually, getValue() can only be improved to a certain point which is far from perfect. Therefore, at some point you want to focus on increasing the tree size. This means looking more half-moves into the future.
We can increase the tree size simply by using a higher recursionDepth value. It depends on your game, which value is good enough for a strong computer AI. Laska is using a recursionDepth value of 4 for the strong computer player, 2 for medium and only 1 on easy. This is good enough, because I want my users to win most of the time. I want them to enjoy beating a hard computer opponent if they are good players.
If your AI should be more competitive, you need a higher recursionDepth. The problem is, that you will soon have a high runtime complexity and calculation time. If we have a Branching Factor of b and a recursionDepth of d, we have a complexity of O(b^d). So let’s say Laska has 4 possible moves on average and I am using a depth of 4. Then my AI is crunching through 4^4 = 256 situations, calculating and comparing their value. This is not very much and also the reason I never had to optimize.
On the other hand, if you are implementing a chess AI the branching factor is 35. There is much more competition in this game and you might want to have a depth of 8. Then you are looking at 35^8 = 2.251.875.390.625 situations, which obviously is too much.
In this case you should focus on further optimizations. The most important is called alpha-beta pruning. It will cut off subtrees whenever they can not influence the root decision (making a single half-move) anymore.
When can this happen? Every move could turn around the game instantly. In chess, you could be way behind in everything regarding your getValue() and still make a checkmate within a few moves. So how can you ever discard a whole subtree?
It is true that at some point you have to consider every possible move. However, when we know there is a winning path, we don’t need to figure out if there are more in this subtree. If we have a winning path down the tree, we just start with the first move. This goes both ways. If we have a path that definitely gives us a loss, our opponent will choose exactly that path. We don’t need to evaluate any other moves from his side.
This is not restricted to winning moves. If we have already found out, that move 1 gives us a minimum value of 5 we can use this knowledge and stop evaluating move 2 once we know it is worse. We know move 2 is worse when our opponent can force it to a value below 5 with optimal moves on his side. This is best described in the following gif from Wikipedia:
Alpha-Beta Pruning in action
On the left side we have the situation described above. The rows in red mark red moves and the ones in blue stand for blue moves. Blue is minimizing the value, while red is maximizing it. So on the lower left side, when blue has to choose between 5 and 6, we know that he will choose 5. In the next subtree, blue can choose between 7, 4 and something else. We can already stop at 4, because whatever number comes, this is already the preferable subtree for blue. We don’t need the correct value, as long as we still get the optimal move.
Alpha-beta pruning makes a huge difference when the decision tree is large. According to this link, it reduces the number of leaves to the square root. So if we use the previous example with 2.251.875.390.625 leaves, we only have to check 1.500.625 situations. That is still a high number, but not impossible anymore.
Example Code in Laska
So how does the alpha-beta pruning look in a game like Laska?
The bestMove() method still looks much like the old version. It now calls alphaBeta() instead of getValueOfMove(), but both will return the value of a given move. The alphaBeta() value is negated and the method takes parameters for alpha and beta, in this case +/-SOME_HIGH_NUMBER.
Also alphaBeta() didn’t change too much. At first, there is the recursion termination. When depthleft equals 0, we just calculate the current value and return it.
If we are not in a leave node we calculate all possible moves. If there is none, the current player has lost the match and we can return a -1000 here. Otherwise we continue walking through the tree. Just this time we pass parameters for alpha and beta.
Alpha notes the highest value of a move we are interested in and beta the lowest. If the current move has a score higher than beta, we can prune the graph here and stop calculating further, because the other player will not let us make this move. Otherwise, if the score is higher than alpha, we have found a better move and need to save it.
Laska now has an “unbeatable level”, using a depth of 8
To see how much the alpha-beta pruning impacts performance, I ran a test case with the old algorithm playing against the new version with increasing depths of the decision tree. In the following diagram you see the time used for playing a complete game (up to 100 moves or until we have a winner).
runtimes of minimax vs alpha-beta pruning
As you can see, there is no visible difference for depths up to 5. Alpha-Beta is considerably faster at depth 6 and it totally owns Minimax on depths greater than this.
While this improvement is dramatic for higher depth levels, we can still do much better. Some further improvements are independent from your game, some depend on special knowledge about it and others trade a little accuracy for increasing the depth of your tree.
The next optimization you might want to look into is ordering of moves for improving alpha-beta pruning. How you order your possible moves impacts how well the alpha-beta algorithm prunes the graph. If you start with best moves first, it can cut off more of the tree later on.
There is a great overview of further improvements on StackOverflow. You can dedicate a lot of time to this. However, don’t forget to check if your algorithm is already good enough. Because if the main task is not beating Garry Kasparov, you probably should improve user experience, design, marketing, etc.. first.
Developing a game AI can be as much fun as playing, especially when creating your own computer opponent. I am going to present you a simple pattern that works for nearly all turn based game ai’s, especially where there is a defined set of possible moves. This pattern is powering my own Laska for over 6 years already and I have been using it before for personal 4-Wins and Tic-Tac-Toe games.
For this you don’t need a perfect solution, but something that can win against most human players. It should prevent making obvious mistakes and the strength must be easily adjustable. I will show an algorithm that works for two players, but can easily be extended to more.
In a turn based match we always have moves made by every player. When saying move, what I actually mean is a Ply, or half-move. That is, the move of only one player. Our game AI will look a defined number of half-moves into the future and find the best possible move.
Your game should have a state which can be classified as good or bad. So in chess, we have a winning situation when the King will be taken out in the next move. This is great for one player, and really bad for the other one. There is also a lot in between. Let’s say one player has more Pawns than the other. This would be a good indicator that he is in a stronger position. In Laska, a winning situation is when the other player has no more possible moves available.
The blue player has won. Note that this simple situation is faked and can never happen in the real game.
There is a simple pattern that works for all these round based games. It is based on a decision tree of all possible moves and the classification value of the game situation.
From the starting position in Laska, there are four movers with six possible moves. Every move will lead to a forced jump. After that, there are either two possible jumps or three possible moves, depending on which Pawn was moved at the beginning.
starting position with four possible moves
If you can attach a value of the game situation to each node in the graph, it will be easy to select the best move. You need to figure out the subtree with the best worst-case situation.
For this, all your game has to provide is two methods:
getPossibleMovesOfActivePlayer(field), which will return all the possible moves for the active player on a given field.
getValue(field), which will return a useful value of the situation. It should be high positive when player 1 has won and high negative when player 2 has won.
With these methods available, you can find out what is the best move:
The method starts with an initial value of Integer.MIN_VALUE. Then it considers all possible moves. If there is only one move available, this is automatically the best option. This is an optimization which gives tremendous speedups when using a high recursionDepth. The recursionDepth indicates the size of our graph. The more we look into the future, the stronger our ai gets.
In all other cases, where we have more than one possible moves, we calculate the value of all of them with the specified recursionDepth. The part with Random().nextInt(2) is included to make the ai less predictable. If you leave out this randomness, the computer will always play the exact same game, if you do so as well.
So what does getValueOfMove() do?
Calculate value of a move, with a given recursionDepth
First it creates a clone of the field object for further calculation. On the cloned field (nextField), the given move is applied and the active player changed to the next one. With this new field, we now calculate the value of the following field. The simple case is when recursionDepth is exactly 1. Then we add the field value for the active player and subtract the field value for the other player. In my case, the getValue() method only factors in the Pawns of one player. Therefore it has to be called twice.
The more complex case is when recursionDepth is greater than 1. Then we recursively call the method bestMove() from above with a recursionDepth reduced by one. If there is no possible move and the bestMove is null, then the active player has won the match. So we return 1000, a very high number that can only be reached in a winning situation.
If there is a bestMove, this is what the opponent will choose to do. So for our move, this bestMove is the worst case that can happen to us. Because the value of the bestMove us calculated from the other players point of view, we have to negate it with value = -nextAI.getValueOfMove(bestMove, recursionDepth – 1);
Calculating the value
As mentioned above, you need to provide the getValue() method specific to your game. It receives the game state as input and returns an integer describing how “good” it is for the current player. In the case of Laska it returns values in the range of -1000 to 1000. Most likely there will be no perfect or correct return value. You have to create your own method and fine tune it over time. The better your getValue() method gets, the stronger your AI will be and you don’t need to use a high recursionDepth.
The weakest getValue() method will only return a negative number for a lost match and a positive number for a won match, otherwise zero. In this case you would have to use a recursionDepth that calculates all possible moves until the end of the game. In some cases this might be an option. The perfect getValue() method will already know all possible outcomes and give you perfect values. Your algorithm therefore only has to use a recursionDepth of 1.
Since most of the time it is neither possible to calculate all possible moves until the end nor to create a perfect getValue() method, we have something in between. In Laska the values are calculated like this:
For all of my pawns add 10
Add 5 for every of my pawn slices below the top, until there is an opponents pawn slice
If pawn is an officer add another 20
Add 2 if a pawn is on an outer field, instead of in the middle
Red has a value of 37, because there is a red pawn (+10), it is an officer (+20), there is another red pawn slice below (+5) and it stands on an outer field (+2)
For other games, think of indicators that obviously help towards winning. If pawns are taken out of the game compare the number of pawns. If you need 4 in a row to win give some value to 3 in a row, at least if there is still space for a 4th.
AI is a poster child for using Unit Tests. In fact, you will have a hard time if you leave them out. Especially annoying are minor mistakes, that don’t break your algorithm but weaken the ai significantly. I have started without proper testing and ran into that problem far too often. Some years ago I realized the value of testing and can iterate much faster now.
You can easily test all the methods with synthetic input. Does field1 give a higher value than field2? Make sure the best move in field1 for player 1 is X. Whenever you think My AI should make this move now but it is not, create a test case and fix it. Either you will find the mistake, or realize that the AI in fact was correct and you were wrong. This way you will soon have a stable and strong AI.
Another cool and fun usage is to let one version of the game AI play against an improved one. During optimizing the getValue() method, I could only believe a change would make the computer stronger. This was until I created a test that played 100 matches of the new version against the old one. Now there is an evaluation of the strength and I can be sure whether my change is an improvement or just a change.
The algorithm above is not meant for winning a competition or to be perfectly efficient. If you want this, you can start with Peter Norvigs Artificial Intelligence: A Modern approach and read through some current papers. However, the algorithm is a pattern that works for nearly all turn based games and gives decent results, so you can move on creating all the other important aspects.
Some things that can be improved:
In every getValueOfMove() the whole field object is cloned. While this wastes some computation time, I found that the algorithm is still fast enough even on mobile phones. The field objects are not too big and cloning them simplifies the following steps. Also this makes it more easy to parallelize computation if that would be necessary.
After bestMove has been calculated, the value is calculated by stepping into the same recursion again: value = -nextAI.getValueOfMove(bestMove, recursionDepth – 1);
You can tune the randomness in bestMove() by collecting all moves of the same value and make an equally weighted choice between them.
If you can think of more, please tell me in the comments.
As you can see, implementing a computer opponent in a turn based game is no rocket science. You only need to supply two methods and find the optimal move from the resulting tree as described here.
If you want to see the described algorithm in action, download Laska from the Play Store.
When interviewing software engineers, you typically want to answer one simple question: Will they be a good fit for my team? Therefore, your interviewing process should focus on answering this question. Obviously both sides try to answer the same question and so you also want to sell yourself as a great place to work.
Over the last years I was interviewing a lot of software engineers for different positions. At first I always introduce myself and the company, explaining what we do and why it would be great to work with us. HR managers often like to ask the candidate why he or she applied to our company. I try to avoid these type of questions. If you are neither Google, nor Facebook nor Apple, chances are candidates didn’t choose you because of your great products, the famous community relations or because they love to work on the cutting edge. What you should do is to talk about their CV and let them explain some topics in detail.
Let them code
The most important part of an interview is a live coding session. Many engineers don’t like being tasked with a coding challenge. I even had Freelancers refusing to work on it. While I understand the negative bias, in my opinion it is still the best way to evaluate candidates. Interviewing is hard and hiring the wrong people is fatal to your business.
The result of any interview heavily depends on personal taste. and sympathy. This is especially true when you are looking for a skill set you are not 100% familiar with. Engineers with deep knowledge like to see multiple problems in every situation. Others might not know the same limits. This is called the Dunning-Kruger effect.
To prevent this from happening, you have to see applicants do what they are supposed to do: Let them write code. Now at least you have something to compare, not only how many buzz words they have memorized. Keep in mind, you will never be sure to have a top performer just by interviewing. But you can consistently wipe out everyone who just can’t code. Depending on how hard your tasks are and where you set your bar, you will also wipe out applicants who are nervous, get confused with your task or just have a bad day. This is not good. But it is still better than hiring the wrong people.
To reduce applicants nervousness at the beginning, I try to let them feel at home as much as possible. They can use their own laptop, their own IDE and language. And of course I will offer my cooperation in solving the task, by answering questions and telling when they are going the wrong direction.
You will be surprised by how much more you can see than just the resulting source code. It starts with the approach they take. Do they have an idea of the algorithm before starting? Do they ask clarifying questions? Then there is the coding itself. Will they use the IDE like Notepad or do they navigate the code quickly using all famous shortcuts? How to they verify and test their program? All this is more important than the actual solution.
Most important part of the preparation is to understand how hard your task is. Only then can you evaluate others based on it. That means you (or one of your engineers) have to solve it in exactly the same setup and time.
A great source of tasks is ProjectEuler. It starts with FizzBuzz and gets slightly more complicated over time. Another great collection of interviewing tasks with solutions is rosettacode. It is tempting to use challenges from there, but don’t forget to solve them before reading the solution.
Finding the right engineers for your team is hard. It is tempting to cut corners when you have to staff your team quickly. However, hiring the wrong person is much worse. Not only will you pay for an unproductive developer, but you can severely damage the productivity of others. Talking about NNPP. You could part ways with a non performer after a few months, but at that point it becomes much harder. He or she might have become good friends with the rest of the team including yourself. Firing someone has a great impact on the team morale and you should really limit it to exceptional cases.
On the other hand, if you feel confident about a candidate, then make it your first priority to close the deal. Send updates about everything, telling when to expect the next step. It is not hard to stand out from other companies (at least where I come from) nowadays. A positive feedback goes a long way for making someone want to work for you.
If you ever had to write a recommendation for a colleague or friend, you also know how hard it is to write a positive, well formed description of that person. If you are like me, you will scratch your head for a long time before something useful manifests in form of a few sentences. Unlike a job reference, LinkedIn recommendations are still more personal and less standardized.
For writing a great recommendation though, it helps a lot to have a pre-defined structure. This way you only need to edit the specifics of your relationship. A great structure with several examples is described in this article.
Start with a knockout line to grab the reader’s attention. Then shortly describe the relationship you have. Next step is to describe a standout trait, something exceptional that the person stands for. Then you should give the recommendation a touch of personality and end with a solid recommendation.
This structure already helps, because you can be sure to cover every important aspect in your LinkedIn recommendation. However, it is still a lot of work to write it all down. I take the concept one step further, so you only need to fill in a few data fields and can quickly put together your favorite recommendation.
If you have a good sentence in mind, that you would like to see in a recommendation for yourself, just leave a comment below. I will add it to the tool so it improves over time.
Simply fill in the values below and select sentences that best fit your relationship. The resulting text for copy & pasting will appear at the end.
Don’t forget making at least a sanity check before submitting such a recommendation. Does the text make sense? Did someone else already use the exact same words for his recommendation? Can you add a real personal sentence somewhere? Something that wouldn’t fit into a generic structure like this one.
I hope this tool will encourage you to post and receive more LinkedIn recommendations, whenever you would truly recommend someone. A recommendation should be something rare and valuable, though. So always re-read them before posting and make sure they are on spot and for the right person.
Few people have the opportunity to report to a manager who is also a coach and mentor – but I did when I worked for Ulrich. I had the pleasure to work with Ulrich for three years when he worked for me as Head of Mobile Development Android. He is always a very good communicator, also when the pressure is rising, calling for clear communication about goals, responsibility, performance, expectations and feedback for every member involved in the project he’s managing. No matter how tense a meeting, Ulrich made sure everyone left with a smile. It was a pleasure working with Ulrich and I would enjoy working with him again.
It is an exciting time, as I have been quitting my high-rank day job for pursuing a different way of working. I am currently preparing self-employment, which should start around july.
Not everyone, certainly not my boss, understood why I am choosing this path. During the last months at 1&1 I was responsible for two teams with 20 developers in Munich and Bukarest. Since starting there, we have created some of the most successful mobile applications for the german market. I had a lot of great colleagues and also friends at work. Why did I look for something new? There were some good reasons for me:
The salary did not reflect this and there was no way around it because of company policy.
While being responsible for all these people and projects, I was not empowered to decide anything. Even small technical decisions had to be signed off by multiple committees, gatekeepers or just molesters in the company.
My career had peaked at the company. There was realistically no other role to move into or further climb the corporate ladder.
Losing my personal time, especially for Paragliding, because of important projects, meetings, etc…
Overall, the career was a pretty good one, but also very limited. This might be adorable again, when I have kids and other priorities in my life. At this moment, I feel the need to take on more risk in exchange for better opportunities.
Working self-employed is something I always wanted to do, but have set back because my career as an employee went too well and was a good time so far. While there are obviously more risks and not everyone likes this style of working, I hope it is the right thing for me. What I specifically hope for is:
More freedom to organize work and play time, as well as choosing tools and projects.
Getting paid better.
Getting to know many more companies and people. A 3 Month inhouse project is worth much more than a great interview, because people will perfectly know how you work.
Becoming more diversified skills and not depend only on a single company/boss.
Be closer to the business side of software development. When you are self employed, it is much simpler to start a project and try to monetize it, because you already have the legal setup.
Currently, I am preparing a presentation about optimizing apps for the Google Play Store. It is an interesting topic and still in its early stages. Unlike SEO for websites, it doesn’t seem to be affected by some page-rank algorithm. Instead the main focus is on keywords and, of course, the ratings of an application.
There is a series of articles about all the optimization topics on droid-blog.net. I highly recommend reading them.
The strong keyword-dependency sometimes leads to unexpected search results. My game laska, for example, is the online strategy game champion (of the world):
Some of you might have read my article Android: Deploying multiple targets from one project. It describes how to create customized versions of the same software and therefore benefit from multiple apps with the same featureset. That deployment with an Ant script has proven to work well. For example our GMX Mail App is available in four different customizations, for different brands, and uses a similar approach with maven.
However, there is a better way now to handle multiple targets. It is less complex and gives you even more options to customize the different targets. By using an Android Library Project, you still have the benefit of sharing resources and code, without the hacky Ant script. Remember, the Ant script would go through every Java source file and change an import statement, just to resolve the different package name of the R File. Switching between Targets required an Ant build with a refresh of the workspace. Not any more. Now switching between projects is as simple as clicking the run button in Eclipse. Especially for bigger projects this is a huge benefit, because refreshing the workspace can take quite some time.
So what is the new setup? You need to create one base project, with everything common inside, and declare it as an Android Library Project. This option is available under project properties in the Android tab. Then you create the first one of your targets as a different Android Project in Eclipse. On the same properties tab of the new project, you add the base project as a library. Repeat it for another project, which will be your second target. Now you will have somthing similar to this:
For the showcase, I deleted all source files of the custom projects. Since we want to re-use the majority of our sourcecode from the base project, we don’t need any custom-sources right now. There is one little fix we need to apply to the AndroidManifest.xml file. The Android Wizard in Eclipse uses relative references to our Activities. This does not work if we want to use our Activity from the base project, because it uses a different package than our custom project. Therefore, we have to specify the full package name to the specific Activity. In my sample the important part looks like this:
That’s it. You can now overwrite all your base resources and source files in the custom projects. Every new feature developed in the base project is immediately available everywhere. Only if there is a need for updating the AndroidManifest, you have to edit it in all custom projects. But this also means you have a fine grained control over the manifest file.
I updated my old example project on Google Code. Feel free to use it as a start for your own project with multiple targets. Feedback and contributions are always welcome.