Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Android App Inventor - TinyWebDB

The next post in my series on Android App Inventor makes use of one the 'Not for Primetime' components. The TinyWebDB component allows you to store data on a web service. This means that the data can be accessed by the Android phone as well as a web application.

For testing purposes Google have provided a test web service at http://appinvtinywebdb.appspot.com/.  This service is a limited service and will only store 1000 entries. Due to these limitations it should NOT be used for your applications. Google provides instructions on how to create your own web service using Python and the Google App Engine.

The following example uses the application I built for the Android App Inventor - Lists post. This post will show how to store the contents of a list to the TinyWebDB web service and also retrieve the contents of a list from the TinyWebDB web service.

To begin we need add two buttons (btnStoretoWeb & btnGetListfromWeb).

We also need to add the TinyWebDB component. I have also added a Notifier component to allow us to return a message to the user when the data is stored.

 The TinyWebDB1 control needs to have the ServiceURL set to the debug URL: http://appinvtinywebdb.appspot.com/

Once the GUI has been configured we start the block editor and create the logic to save the list to the TinyWebDB.

To store a value on the web service we add the btnStoretoWeb.Click event. Within the event we call the TinyWebDB1.StoreValue method. This method has two parameters. The 'tag' parameter allows you to assign a key to the data. The second parameter is the list you are going to store.

The second event shown above is the TinyWebDB1.ValueStored event. When a value is stored in the TinyWebDB this event is triggered. I have used it to provide a notification to the user that it worked.

The next step is to retrieve the values from the web service and repopulate the list. In this case I have used a button to manually trigger the load of the list. In a production application you may want to put this code into the Screen.Initialize event.

In the btnGetFromWeb.Click event we call the TinyWebDB1.GetValue method with the name of the 'tag' we want to retrieve. In this case it is the MyStoredList tag.

Once the GetValue call is sent we need to wait for the TinyWebDB1.GotValue event to be called. This ensures that our application can remain responsive even if the call to the web service is slow to respond. When the event is triggered the application has access to the parameter valuefromWebDB. This contains the list we stored previously.

We can then store this value into the list. We also update the label to show the number of items in the list. I also load the ListPicker1 component.

I hope this tutorial has been helpful. Please feel free to comment if you need further information.

I have added a link to the App Inventor source here.

My other App Inventor tutorials are:
App Inventor - Simple SMS
App Inventor - Location Services
App Inventor - Lists

Commuting Time - Productive?

As I spend around 3 hours of my day on a train commuting I found this article by Dave Burke very interesting. It shows that with the right technology it is possible to be productive even when you re travelling.

In the past I have typically used the time on the train to read or sleep but due to the better mobile data plans I am able to login to services such as App Inventor to  develop applications for my Android phone.

Now instead of 3 hours of wasted time I can be productive.