GSoC 2017 – RetroShare mobile improvements – Second evaluation update

Hello everybody!
This month of coding on RetroShare has been very productive again, with many user experience improvements and bug fixes to the mobile app.
The user can now pick it’s own avatar in an integrated manner. On Android when the user attempt to change her avatar she is directly prompted to select between the available image sources like the gallery or the camera as you can see in the screenshot.
To implement it I had to write some part of the code using Android Java API to create an intent with a chooser, and then handle the answer. After that, using Qt the image is encoded in PNG format and then
to Base64 to handle it to the retroshare JSON API.
Moreover avatars are now cached so the can now be showed the avatars in the contacts view without high resource consumption.
Another improvement is the Unicode emoji input support, adapted from the QMLemoji project, that uses the default system unicode icons.
This enable the user to use emojis whitout heavy and tricky text substitution and extra image bundling.
For platforms where Unicode emoji are not supported yet we plan to just ship a font with Unicode emoji support so the user experience will be coherent accross platforms.
Some more examples of improvements happened this month: chat bubbles now recognizes links and if clicked they are handled to the system with that will open the proper application depending on the URI schema, buttons are now styled and supports icons, importing and exporting of trusted nodes public key is more integratend with the system and more intuitive.
In a separated branch on my repository I have implemented showing to the user the tunnel connection status, but after talking with my mentors, we decided to not merge it yet at least until the new chat system backend is ready because having this now would provide partial information that may confuse the user in some cases.
As always you can get/comment/contribute to the code and followe the discussions on my public Gitlab repo.

GSoC 2017 – RetroShare mobile improvements – First evaluation update

Hi all!
This first GSoC coding period has been very productive!
The big part of the work has been focused into the program usability and aesthetics.
To report just some of the improvements done in this area the chat messages are now wrapped in beautyful bubbles, the contacts view has been refactored to show more info like the last message or if there is unread messages, the node details view has been redesigned to be more appealing, the contact details view show the avatar, and a  more appealing menu is in progress (see screenshots at the end of the post).
For this implementation I needed to learn how to work with qml, how the RetroShare API works, to make calls and process the JSON API answers.
Also I have managed to create a simple chat informations cache, to store useful data that I use in the views without asking them via the API again and againAnother part of work done is about how to interact with the Android systemFor example sending notifications from the QML application to the Android systemor getting the internet connection status and details from the Android system.
The most difficult part has been grasping, how to call QML code from Android Java and vice versa. I have been learning JNI (Java Native Interface) and Qt on Android multithreading model now I am capable to call Java code from Qml and vice versaIn one direction you call java functions form QML, always througth C++, in the other direction, you call a QML functions from Java, also via C++. The trickiness is not only limited to the fact that the comunication must be intermediated by C++, the fact that the QML code and the Java code run in indipendent threads is to be taken in account too, hopefully Qt provide some functions that make thing seamless in most of the cases. 
Finally, I have achieved to create Android notifications and get the connection status on Android devices. This second will be very usefull to decide how the core should behave, for example, if we have only 3G connection, is probably better to not forward the Retroshare GXS tunels and save your download quota. Instead, if you have a fast wifi connection, the Retroshare core can work at full capacity and contribute to Retroshare network. 
In the following month, I’m going to work testing the usability improvements in Android device because this branches have been developed and tested mostly in desktop enviorment. This is posible thanks to the Qt multiplatform system: running the Android service on desktop to start the Retroshare core and then run the QML-app is almost the same as doing it on a smartphone.
Another direction of work for next period is to improve the comunication with the Android system. Taking advantage of the posibility to call Android Java code we can improve the app behavior in many cases (I have explained just a few of them above).
As always I push the code daily on my gitlab mirror
Cheers!

 

GSoC 2017 – RetroShare mobile improvements

Hi readers! I am Angela Mazzurco and I am very grateful to the GSoC community
(Google, Freifunk, RetroShare etc.) for giving me te possibility to participate
as GSoC student this year!
I study Architecture and Engineering at Pisa University, and here in Pisa I am
involved in the local community network (eigenNet/Ninux.org).
Thanks to the local community I get to know RetroShare and now I use it on my
daily life when I am in front of my laptop. Remote comunication today is very often
displaced from the personal computer to the smart-phones, because of this very
often I have to downgrade to less ethical and less secure communication
platforms, because most of my friends are reachable only on the smart-phone.
This last unfortunate situation inspired me to help developing RetroShare for
mobile phones.
In this deirection the RetroShare community has already done some effort but
still the Retroshare Android app is in an early stage and need much improvement.
I‘ll give my contribution to this big project, trying to solve issues with the
interface and helping to develop it, to make it user friendly and easy to use
for all users.
During the community bonding period I started to prepare the developing
environement with suggestions from my mentors, I have been remotely meeting them
on RetroShare and I have been successful compiling RetroShare for desktop, and
now I am preparing the toolchain to compile RetroShare for Android, that is not
so easy as it may seems.
The application interface is writted in Qml, a language part of Qt framework,
so my first steps have been prepare Qt Creator IDE to, and to create my own fork
of the Retroshare project [0]
The app comunicates with the Retroshare API to get the information, using unix 
sockets, and also with the native Android operating system, using JNI (Java Native
Interface).
After having the toolchain working I’m going to start improving the QML
interface, adding features, improve the integration with Android operating
system, improve usability, and fix a bunch of bugs.
Cheers!