On dType Suspension

I can safely confess, that a couple years ago I didn’t know a single thing about programming. I was aware of some fairly abstract concepts and had a basic understanding of how it all works, but it definitely wasn’t enough. My English teacher had a saying about the active vocabulary: “You may learn all the words from the dictionary by heart, but unless you use them regularly and naturally, you don’t really know them”. My situation with programming was somewhat similar to knowing lots of trivia, but having no grasp on the practical side of things. I was determined on fixing it as soon as possible. I’ve tried reading a book or two, but it never really got me going. Well, it explained a couple things here and there, but it was like learning things by heart — tedious and irrelevant (on an absolutely unrelated note: Learn Python the Hard Way is great). At that point one of my techie friends suggested me throw the book away and learn by immersion: make an objective, stumble upon problems, see docs and StackOverflow for possible solutions. That was the moment I started looking for the first project, fairly simple, yet more challenging than a mindless Hello World routine.

Once, I was typing down a big portion of plain text on my old slow Android phone, using another memory hog Office Suite, with all those controls, sets of buttons on all sides of the screen and I wished there was something like Focus Writer for Ubuntu: basic, but fairly powerful in terms of achieving that special zen state. There weren’t many such projects in Android market back then (yeah, kids, it was called that in days of old) and this is how the idea of dType has stricken me. The concept was fairly simple: a minimalistic tool, that would let you jot down some text and then pass it to some other application (Evernote, Dropbox, Email, etc.) for saving or processing. It was simple enough to get grip at basics, yet quite challenging for a person, who haven’t seen Java code (or any code) before.

It was the moment, when I started coding. Well, let’s say it was more about googling intensively for just about anything. It was hard. Most of the time I didn’t know, what I was doing and asked fairly inept questions on StackOverflow. I still do, but now at least I can tell, what most parts of my code are for. First, the immersion is like trying to play piano blindfolded — my code probably stunk a big time, but at the end of the day it worked and it was encouraging. Interest in Android development helped me to get a job as a technical writer in a bunch of Android-related projects, especially OpenCV for Android. Since, I’ve been working mainly on C++ API references, I’ve started to delve into OOP concepts. I’ve been thoroughly explained, what is a class, a method and how they relate to each other, interfaces, abstract classes and the rest of this stuff. I’m extremely grateful for my mentors at there. Later, working on some other project, I had a chance to look closer at working Java code and see these concepts applied to Java. I immediately started to refactor dType code once again in attempt to implement thorough OOP design and shake off all the redundancy. My code became a little bit more laconic and neat. Not that it couldn’t get any better, but it was still a huge leap forward for me.

As long as I remember, dType was constantly improving. It was first a bunch of undocumented spaghetti code, which was somewhat straightened out at version 0.16 — it became the earliest version I bother to keep in the repository, since everything before that was a complete disaster. Perhaps, it’s still rather bad, but I’ve managed to shorten it almost twice, provide descriptive JavaDoc (for the sake of it, I know no one will probably bother to read) and fix a lot of issues while at it. I do feel a little attached to this code emotionally, since it is my first coding experience, that has grown into a little indie project of mine. Over the course of two years it has provided me with innumerable challenges and priceless practical experience, but it’s finally time for me to move on. I’ve taken great interest in Python lately, and started a couple of projects in it. Coming back to Java code became more and more daunting to me. I was also advised by several programmers, that I’d better concentrate on getting really proficient with one language for now. My growing frustration with Java verbosity ensured, that I would end up with Python as my language of choice.

Still, it was a hard decision for me to drop dType completely. People do use it and clone it on GitHub (yeah, it had a couple of official clones before the project has been moved back and forward, nevermind the actual numbers on GitHub). This project, though certainly quite niche and facile, does work for some. I decided, that this suspension is going to be more of a role shift for me: from active developer of this application to its maintainer. It will stay as an open repository at GitHub for you to clone and alter, it will stay published on Google Play. You can continue to use it in version 0.71. If people provide some relevant pull requests, I would be happy to merge them and even publish the resulting build as the new version of the app. It’s just that me myself don’t have the time or inclination for introducing new features anymore. It is now exactly the way I envisioned it, when I was starting. My big learning project has reached its objective. It’s finished. My priorities have changed, but if you do care, I would be glad to see your contributions. I’m not naive to think that it could become a huge open source project, mind you, but I do hope, that the app could continue living on its own, while I’m gone.

Update 06.10.2014: No one decided to contribute to this project yet, and probably never will as more than a year has passed since this post. Perhaps, this is for the best, as I’ve seen people complaining about a couple of nasty visual bugs on some devices. Me myself wasn’t able to work with it on Galaxy SIII as the screen gets black from time to time. So if you really want to revive the project, I can only wish you good luck with that. Seriously, if you want to try, give me your contacts, so that I could talk you out of this.

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