Work is not supposed to be fun

Healthy food doesn’t have to taste good and exercising is not a piece of cake. Work is supposed to be work – meaning hard work! – and when has hard work ever been a synonym for fun? If you could ask a farmer in the middle ages if work was any fun, he what tell you it was a necessary thing to do to survive: live was work and that was it.

Where do modern kids get the idea that work is supposed to be fun? They get through college, university or whatever other path of education they chose – if any – and then expect to get jobs that are fun? Where does the sense of entitlement come from? Are we just a bunch of hedonists out for fun at all costs? Are we back to roman decadence? I really have heard that last theory. Let me tell you about my theory.

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No icon, no app!

Every app needs an icon, a logo, something that people can recognize it by. Many apps have really nice ones and many don’t. Most importantly the icon should be unique.

My first idea was to do something cheap like create a button in gimp and write something on it. I quickly trashed that one. Cheap looks cheap and that is that.

My second idea was to hope that a google search would turn up something, however thoughts on copyright and licensing got rid of that one even faster. So I picked up something with a creative commons license to have something to work with while I was thinking of a solution.

Next I thought to just try and find stock vector graphics at one of the great stock sites on the net. I also needed icons the tabs and the menus. The stock sites didn’t work either because (1) they are expensive and (2) I just did not find anything that clicked.

I came to the conclusion that there was no way around making the icon myself. Quite a scary prospect when you have never done any graphic design whatsoever. Still I installed some vector graphics tools. After trying several I stayed with inkscape. There are a lot of really great tutorials for inkscape. Trying to learn how to use inkscape, I completed just one of those (two, to tell the truth, I already linked to the other in my previous article!). I read a bit more of the documentation and just started with the ideas I had for the icon.

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Teaser: My first app

The app is not completely finished. I expect to finish a beta towards the end of the month. My backlog still has a couple of Prio A and B items I just cannot publish without. Still you can see I’ve come a bit further than “Hello World” by now.

I am spending a lot of time learning the basics:

I have already dropped one major feature from my app for now because it kept getting in the way of usability. I’ve redesigned the look completely from my first idea. I keep changing the workflow.

The project is a lot bigger than I thought initially and it is taking longer than I anticipated two weeks ago. I was sure I was going to be done last Friday.Right now my backlog says I have items for at least 50 hours of work of which at least half is “must have”.

So for now all I have to show is a screenshot. I’ll keep you posted.

PS: What I am still missing is a good name and an icon! Any ideas?

PPS: I need some beta- testers soon! If you have an android phone and are willing to send me some screenshots drop me a note! (Mostly I don’t trust the emulator’s layout abilities very much and I only have the one phone right now)

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Android: How to write your own custom composite component

I’ve only been writing code for android for a short time and already my ui requirements got to such proportions, that my layout xml files seemed to explode. I hate copy-pasting the same stuff all over the place and so I spent a day to find out how to “not copy paste” my xml layouts. Instead I wanted a re-usable parametrized tag of my own. What good is xml, if we cannot have our own tags?

The Problem

Imagine you have half a dozen input values for a bunch of measures taken. For each input value you want a label, an input field and a second label showing the unit that is to be used.

[sourcecode language=”xml” wraplines=”true”]
<TextView android:id="@+id/label"
android:text="@string/label_fnord" />
<EditText android:id="@+id/fnord" style="@style/InputBox" />
<TextView android:id="@+id/label_length1"
android:text="@string/metric_length" />

So you got this nice xml which is already using styles to reduce some of the verbosity – six times. It is neither short, nor easy to read and so it is easy to overlook some tiny detail like mismatched labels and ids. It also leads to convoluted java code and more copy-pasting. This is not the solution you are looking for.

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5 + 1 tips for shorter procrastination

Sometimes I just cannot resist and I simply must steer off the course of work and start wasting time by reading blogs, playing games, checking eMail or twitter or even starting to do chores. If it is the last you can console yourself that chores are at least somewhat productive as they do have to be done sooner or later. For the others maybe the following tips will help.

So what do I do when my concentration wanes? Instead of resisting and continuing to think about taking a break, I give in and take one. Continue reading

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Android: Extending CursorAdapter for custom ListView

Since I am just getting started with Android, I keep running into beginner’s troubles and misunderstandings. There is the really good documentation. But even so, some mistakes happen along the way.

One of these problems occurred when after finishing the Notepad tutorial I wanted to use my newly acquired knowledge to incorporate a ListView into my first project. Continue reading

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Android: use adb to check on your sqlite database

A nice little hack, I found the other day, shows how to log into the running android emulator and test a few selects on the database my app created.

Where you installed your android sdk there is a directory called platform-tools/ which contains a neat little thing called adb, which is short for Android Debug Bridge. With this tool you can open a shell into the emulator and look around some.

adb -e shell

Once inside just follow the instructions of the link above to find out if your database is what you thought it should be. (Update: just take the short path to /data/data/ and then sqlite3 yourdatabasename)

PS: yes I am trying to learn how to program android apps 😉

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Procrastination: Bane of the geek

As you may now I quit my job to the end of 2010 and I am now trying to “get things done” at home. That is easier said than done, as you may well know.

I’ve just spent a couple of days trying to work – yes let’s call it that, more about that part later – at home and I am already noticing how time flies by and how hard it is to really focus on the work part of the day.

We are all prone to procrastination – geeks especially so – and so my first series of posts here will focus on optimizing and reducing procrastination in order to get more of the important things done.

Procrastination refers to the counterproductive deferment of actions or tasks to a later time. Psychologists often cite such behavior as a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision. …

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Welcome to my new project

I quit my job last year. I was not content with my perspective, I was unhappy and stressed out. Now I am sitting at home, trying to figure out what to do next. Most importantly I want to avoid the mistakes I made in my last job.

I dream of more freedom and flexibility. I dream of being able to work for myself.

Here I want to write about my inspiration, my progress, what I am doing and how I am doing it.

My goal is, to find out within a year if I can support myself this way. So I have until about 31.12.2011 to figure out a way to make money on my own. It does not need to be enough to get by without additional support, I just need to know the direction.

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