Thursday, July 29, 2010

Android app: share your location

In December I wrote a very lame Android app. It had a couple of buttons, a date picker, and a green background. The buttons incremented and decremented a counter. Clay Shirky's talk on cognitive surplus referred to LOLcats as the minimal creative act, the feeblest teeny quantum of effort one can make in a creative direction. He only said that because he wasn't familiar with my first Android app.

My second app, written over the last few days, is way cooler. So much so that I'm willing to post the source code, risking public humiliation. Good thing nobody ever reads this blog.

This app actually serves a purpose. The Motorola Droid phone can find your location using its GPS receiver, but there is no convenient way to then share that location information with a friend (via email, SMS, Twitter, or what have you). The app determines your location, converts it to a Google Maps URL, and then you copy/paste it into an email, a SMS message, or a tweet.

When I tweet a location from my Droid phone it looks like this. I don't know if that location bit appearing under the tweet (which allowed me to pop up the map) came from the location I tweeted, or whether it was some kind of metadata that the phone's Twitter client somehow attached to the tweet separately.

If you have some strange urge to try this on your own Android phone, you can download the unsigned APK file, load it onto your phone's SD card, and install it with AppInstaller, available in the Android app market.

The interesting things I ran into with this app are mostly in the single Java source file. I learned that you need to make sure that your onPause and onResume methods call the parent. I think (not sure) it's a bad idea to call removeUpdates() on a LocationListener more than once.

Still tinkering and figuring my way around Android's JSR-179 implementation. Interesting cool stuff. I look forward to writing an Android client for some sort of web-accessible database thing that I'd probably throw up on App Engine at some point, when I can come up with a worthwhile application.

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