With last month's release of the Android N Preview, the Tools team launched a preview release of Android Studio 2.1. Not only did the new version add support for the N Preview SDK, but it also brought a few important important and welcomed additions, including adoption and support for many of the language features in Java 8, a semi-official switch to the Jack compiler, an updated New Project wizard, and further improvements to the new and faster Android Emulator. As of today, Android Studio 2.1 has been promoted to Stable and is available to all developers.
The biggest advantage of updating and switching to the Jack compiler, aside from playing with new Android N APIs like Launcher Shortcuts, is probably the addition of Lambda Expressions.
Developers have plenty of great new APIs and features coming with Android N, but perhaps the best thing to look forward to is at the language level itself. Starting with the preview SDK due out today, some of the language features of Java 8 will be supported by the Jack compiler. This will bring things like support for lambdas, default and static methods, streams, and functional interfaces. Google is also declaring that the Jack compiler will also be able to remain more up-to-date with Java language features in the future.
One of the top requests from developers over the last few years has been for a more rapid uptake of new language features for Java, many of which would allow for more efficient use of development time and ultimately easier to read code.
Kotlin has been emerging as a programming language to keep a close eye on. It started as an internal project at JetBrains back in 2011 and was released early the next year. Taking inspiration from both classic C-based languages and a number of modern alternatives like Scala, Kotlin is branded as a "pragmatic" language and modeled to encourage smarter coding and easier readability. JetBrains has been tiptoeing up to an official v1.0 release for a few months, and today, it's finally here.
While it's still a fledgling language, Kotlin has earned some enthusiastic supporters among the Android development community, even a few Googlers have discussed using it in projects.
Android's rapid rise to the top of the mobile market was accompanied by a number of legal battles, and perhaps none of them was so central and so contentious as Oracle versus Google. The fight over the legality of patents and copyrights in some of the portions of Android that used allegedly proprietary Oracle-owned Java software has been raging since 2010, eventually being considered for review by the US Supreme Court before being bounced back to the lower appeals court. The fight was a constant, and sometimes dramatic, part of legal software news at one point.
Apparently Google is as tired of dealing with the legal headache as we are of writing about it, because the company has confirmed that Android will do away with the remaining Java APIs starting with Android N, which will probably be released sometime in 2016.
Most of the standard (non-game) Android apps we use today are created with Java. Alternatives are available, like Apache Cordova and Mono for Android, but there's no doubt that Java is the only true first-class citizen. However, a team at Google is now working on a new cross-platform alternative called Sky, and it's able to deliver 120 FPS out of the box.
Sony's recent Xperia phones and tablets have included themable skins for the proprietary Sony UI that runs on top of Android. Now Sony wants you (yes, you!) to make themes for its devices using a custom Java desktop program. The company has released a beta version of the application for aspiring theme makers, available from the Sony Developer site.
The program allows you to apply different colors and graphical elements to the various bits and pieces of Sony's themes. It's basically a streamlined setup process - anyone who's made themes for the CyanogenMod engine or a custom Android launcher will feel pretty comfortable.
Android has gone through quite a few changes during its short 6 years of life. The Android that drives most of the world's smartphones of today would be almost unrecognizable to what was launched in late 2008. We've seen massive visual changes, expansion to almost every conceivable form factor, and a completely fleshed-out content ecosystem for multimedia and apps. As the operating system matured, some elements have successfully grown with it, and others have become dead weight. Naturally, progress calls for the replacement of those pieces that haven't scaled well. We've seen an excellent example of this when ART came to replace Dalvik as the standard Android runtime.
If you're a Norwegian Android developer, you might want to consider attending JavaZone, an independent Java programming and development conference being held in Oslo from September 9th through the 11th. If you're not, you can still enjoy this parody trailer for the event posted to the group's YouTube page. If you're at work or in public, heads up: the video below has some mild swearing.
To get all the in-jokes here you'd probably need a programming undergrad degree, a passing knowledge of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones novels or the HBO TV show, and an awareness of the litigious copyright and patent lawsuits spiraling around the technology industry.
AIDE is an integrated development environments that lets you develop Android apps... from an Android app. Now the piece of software has reached version 2.5 and is taking things a step further. Instead of merely letting you code, it's prepared to teach you how. The latest version provides interactive lessons with step-by-step instructions, so you can learn how to program in Java and develop for Android at your own pace.
The Chromecast add-ons just keep coming, don't they? The latest tool to take advantage of Google's dirt-cheap media streamer is called Fling, from Plano, Texas developer Leon Nicholls. Unlike most of the tools from Koushik Dutta and others, this one expands Chromecast's desktop streaming powers. The Fling Java tool streams local video and audio files directly to Chromecast, and uses the popular VLC media player to transcode the ones that Chromecast doesn't support.
Chromecast can only stream a Chrome tab from a desktop out of the box, but Fling uses the Java Runtime Environment for quick and dirty direct streaming.