IAN LANG ELECTRONICS
If you've navigated your way to this page I'm probably going to tell you something you know here, which is that little green chappie up there is the symbol for Google's Android Operating System (OS).
Android is an OS for mobile devices. If you use a desktop or a laptop computer the chances are you use Microsoft Windows as the OS. You could be using an Apple Mac, in which case you won't, or you could be using Linux, in which case - why?????
If you are using a smartphone or a tablet computer, then you could be using Windows Mobile. If it's an i-Phone or i-Pad you'll be using Apple's i-OS, but the chances are you're using Android.
This is because Microsoft are dropping the ball regularly these days. All the technical talent which used to be in charge is retiring, dead or just given up in the face of the overwhelming bureaucracy that's now assumed command and which will see Microsoft broken by the end of this century. Windows is a brilliant OS both from consumer and developer viewpoints as it's easy to use and a range of tools exist to write your own applications with quite easily. i-OS is the same for consumers, in that it's easy to work, but for developers it's completely closed in and it's next door to impossible for amateur, student and hobbyist programmers to get anything done on it. In addition, the devices on which these two work are not cheap.
This is where Android scores and why it will dominate in the tablet and phone market. As I write, Tesco (the giant UK supermarket chain) are offering the Hudl for £119 running the latest version of Android (Kit-Kat). It's a 7" (the most popular size as it fits in a jacket pocket and a handbag neatly) and compared to £287 on Amazon (I've just looked) for an i-Pad mini it seems a reasonable assumption that the Hudl's a better bet for most consumers (though to be fair the Hudl has only 16 Gb and the mini 32 in storage space).
For consumers fashion comes in to play and there's no doubt that the Apple products are just that much more fashionable than Android tablets. For us as makers and techies that concern is irrelevant, because Android is much, much more pliable and we can make an Android tablet do what we want through self-written apps.
I'm not going to lie to you at this point and tell you it's easy because it isn't. It's much harder than Visual Studio. Something that does make it easier though is App Inventor. App Inventor was first made by Google itself, and is now looked after by the people at MIT (the Massachussets Institute of Technology which is the top technical university in the United States of America) and has entered its second incarnation as App Inventor 2.
Here's what you can do. If you have a wireless router, you can put your Android device on the same network as the computer you're working on. App Inventor 2 is a cloud application and you use it in your browser window. It only works on Internet Explorer 10, Chrome and Firefox. Chrome is a complete pain in the backside, and Firefox is the best way to go with this. To make the wireless connection work you'll need to install on the DEVICE not the computer MIT's AI2 Companion and a barcode reader that can recognise QR codes. I use QRcode Scanner but ZXing does the job as well. All the above mentioned Apps are on Google Play Store for free.
You can do it with a USB connection too providing you've the drivers to do it with. You'll need to go into your Android devices settings and activate the developer options and enable USB debugging. Some devices won't let you. The Hudl is one of them, as I found out after about two hours swearing. The wireless option is much preferable but the drawback is it's not as stable as the USB connection. In addition, you will need an extra piece of MIT software on the COMPUTER you're working on to use the USB connection.
There's an emulator too. Beware of this. What you see on the emulator is not necessarily what you'll get on a real device. It's much better to set up a device to interact in real time.
MIT's full setup instructions can be found here:
Here cometh the first lesson, it starts with a simple connection to see if your setup (wi-fi) is going and introduces you to the App Inventor 2 IDE.