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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Blackberry App Development - My Beginnings

Journey to the center of Blackberry Application Development: Part I

I started using a blackberry for the first time August of 2009 when I firmly requested I get to use one for work. I'm thankful that I joined the Blackberry community when I did, because I'm not sure how I would have liked the older berries. I currently run a Curve 8900, and even that I feel I should have held out just a few more months. A few more months and the 9750 Tour would have been released with so many more features that I "need". A released 5.0 OS, 3G, and a touchpad instead of the trackball...just to name a few.

So as it is with many different things, the more I work with something, the more I wonder about how to customize it and make it mine. Of course I have the usual gammit of apps I've downloaded and I've found a theme that I love. But that never stops the brain from saying, "Why doesn't this app exist, or why doesn't this app do this better?" So I have some ideas floating around, and I've wondered how hard it is to build those apps. A while ago I started looking into it just from an overview standpoint, and was unable to get it going. That being said, I never really got to the point of banging my head against the wall. I was able to glean that there were a number of IDE's to choose from, the simulatators available seemed pretty robust and full-featured, and the most important thing was that even simple applications have no visual development available. This is a pretty crazy thing to think about for me, I've always been a purely Visual programmer for the most part, if only there was such a thing as VB7 I'd be a happy camper. (Don't even comment about .NET being better...I don't have time right now to post that particular rant)

So after some very busy months in life and at work, I'm now back to a point where I have a pretty good idea that I wanted to present to some friends of mine. Whenever I present an idea, I always find it necessary to include screenshots because that always makes an idea seem more "real". So I loaded up the Blackberry JDE ready to start up a simple HelloWorld project, only to find that it didn't open for whatever reason. Alright, try opening this, open that, got the simulator fired up from the JDE...great sign! Only problem, I can find my app anywhere in the simulator. Hrmmmm, alright so I start googling around. Find a tutorial on how to get started, so I try that since it starts me out from scratch...end up getting to the exact same error! Argh. ok, so now it's time to start Googling the error, lots of people seem to have the same problem, but strangely no clear answer to how to fix it. It appears like it has something to do with either having a different JDK installed or changing the Windows Environment Variables. Suddenly I'm having a bad feeling about this whole experience. One of the posters said that using the Blackberry JDE was a mistake to begin with, when there is such a thing as Netbeans with the RIM plug-in. Sounds great, let's go!

Get Netbeans downloaded and when I go to install it says I don't have any JDK's installed. Hmmm, k, that might be why the Blackberry JDE didn't work. Found a JDK and installed it. Now Netbeans installs great, and while that was happening I fired up Blackberry JDE and the error was gone! Or at least so it seemed, now I have a new error....and it doesn't have an error number or anything other than "An Error Occurred". Oh great, this thing has descriptive errors that rival Siemens Step7...#$#%$!!! oh well, I'm installing Netbeans, remember? This will be great...

Once Netbeans finishes installing, I quickly install the RIM Plugin, which works like a charm. Alright, *claps hands* let's get to work. Jump back on Google where I saw about 6 different links for Blackberry development using Netbeans. The first tutorial I went to had a broken link. No big deal, there are others...I'll try one from the Netbeans documentation site....broken link again. A little frustrating but no biggie, things move around. Fast forward an hour and I still haven't found a good link to a working tutorial!!! So now I"m staring at a piece of software I have no idea how to use to develop for a platform I'm unfamiliar with in a language I haven't used since college. Fantastic.

Now, there is one last IDE option I was sort of avoiding because it's been labeled as buggy and finicky and considering my last two failures, I wasn't in any mood for buggy or finicky. That option is using the RIM plugin for Eclipse. The only reason why I'm considering it is because Eclipse is the IDE of choice for Android development which I will also be delving into for the same project. And remember, at this point I'm only hoping for some pretty screenshots...maybe it won't be too bad.

So my plan as of right now is to uninstall everything Java related on my computer and start again. Perhaps the next post will be a clear concise tutorial to get working on developing apps for the blackberry, but I have a funny feeling it will turn into a post blasting blackberry app development and saying that everybody and their brother should just switch to Android.

Check me out on Twitter over the next few days if you like to read swearing.

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