I like programming, I like mobiles, so naturally three months into my trial of the Nokia N900 my curiosity turned to how you might write your own applications for this very capable device. Notice I've said “applications” not “apps” here, as maybe “apps” doesn't really do it justice, especially with full sized applications like Abiword being ported. The device is really a pocket sized Linux computer with goodies such as a high resolution screen, GPS and Infra Red all thrown in so it has a lot of potential for creative application developers. You can develop code for it using tools on your laptop or if you just want to experiment a little you can even write Python programs on the device itself.
Programming a computer is actually quite an intellectually stimulating way to spend time, you also usually end up with something to show for your labour. Getting into programming now though can be very confusing, there are so many computer languages out there, where would you start? An additional problem is that this is not the 1980s anymore, printing out “Hello World” ad infinitum is not going to impress anyone. This is where “Quickly" comes in, a new template based programming system making its first appearance in Ubuntu 9.10. It is designed to be easy and fun and is there to help you from getting an initial program together right through to distributing it.
Today is a big day, we find out tonight how well the Open University entry has done in the Boxee App Development challenge. A small team of us had been thinking about big screen (web experiences designed for interactive television to be viewed at about ten feet away) web sites and what an OU experience might be like in such a setting. When the challenge was announced it was a fantastic opportunity to quickly develop something to get ourselves started in this exciting area, so we decided to go for it and in about four weeks went from having nothing to having a fully working application, complete with full user interface and graphic design by Dave Winter, client and server side code by me and communications, testing and creative input by Stuart Brown and Matt Rawlinson. It was hard work which gobbled up a few evenings and weekends but it was worth it.
I've written before about the blurring of offline and online worlds and here is a great example of the concept in action; an interesting program that allows you to integrate your Flickr account into the file system of your Linux-powered computer, making it as easy to upload and download files as copying and pasting between folders.
Google this week anounced that it was going to let outside developers host their applications on Google infrastructure through a new product: Google App Engine. This is the latest in a long list of products from Google who are most probably the world's leading Internet company and may well become the most important IT company, if they aren't already.