Blog | EightFoldYear / Appcelerator Titanium

Sun, 30 Jan 2011

Blog | EightFoldYear / Appcelerator Titanium

One of the things about making art with digital technology is that your chosen medium never stands still! It's one of the reasons that digital artists often work with programmers and technicians to help realise their work. In fact, even though I've had both a computing and arts education it's still tough to keep up with the pace of technological development and new platforms often mean a steep learning curve.

A technology that is providing some interesting opportunities for artists is the smartphone - especially iPhone and Android. I really like the personal nature of the mobile device and have got a number of arts projects lined-up that I would like to see on smartphones. But what about the learning curve I needed to get up to speed with development for this technology?

Well, a possible solution here is something called Appcelerator Titanium. This software platform promises to allow me to develop 'native' apps for both iPhone and Android using web-based tools, such as JavaScript.

One project I have in the pipeline at the moment is an Earth-centred calendar smartphone app containing the artwork of Sex Pistols artist Jamie Reid. The EightFoldYear app aims to show people their current place in the year in relation to the flow of the seasons. It will display the current lunar phase, current division of the wheel of the year, forthcoming festivals and a new artwork that Jamie has created for every day of the year.

I thought it would be interesting to see how far I could go in developing this app with Appcelerator Titanium. Initially I was really impressed. JavaScript is a pretty easy language to program in and the Appcelerator platform makes it straightforward to invoke standard iPhone controllers and views. Progress was pretty fast and I managed to get quite a few of the features I wanted up in the app and running in just a few days

However, then the problems started. While things worked well in the iPhone simulator, when trying to build the app and download it to my iPhone I kept on getting crashes. Looking through the Appcelerator support pages I saw that I was not the only one. It seems as if the platform is still very much under-construction and does suffer from quite a few bugs. Also, I've now downloaded quite a few apps on the App Store that have been developed using it and can see that some are a bit rough around the edges.

But it's not all bad news. I have managed to produce a fairly decent prototype for EightFoldYear app using Appcelerator which I can now hand over to Cuttlefish's iPhone developer for building "properly". I also think that with a bit more development Appcelerator could become a pretty decent tool for smartphone development. I've looked at a few such tools and this one really does have potential. For now though, it's going to remain for me only as prototyping environment.

As for the EightFoldYear app. It will be available from the App Store later in the year. Follow the Cuttlefish Digital Arts Facebook Group for any announcements about it.

Author: Sean Clark