chrome


Running Android apps inside Chrome

I couldn’t believe it when somebody told me: Google is running Android apps in ChromeBooks and some selected apps can be installed from the Chrome Webstore. It works with a Chrome extension that implements an Android virtual machine running over the Native Client (NaCL is a sandbox for running compiled C and C++ code inside Chrome).

Based on this Google work, Vlad Filippov released an unofficial Chrome extension called ARChon (https://github.com/vladikoff/chromeos-apk/blob/master/archon.md) to allow this for all the desktop Chromes (Linux, Mac & Windows). This ARChon extension is a 100MB zip that must be unzipped and loaded into Chrome as an unpacked extension.

Then each Android APK must be converted to an unpacked extension with a Node-JS based tool, chromeos-apk (https://github.com/vladikoff/chromeos-apk) and loaded into Chrome. The generated extension contains the APK and some support files. Once installed, it appears as a regular Chrome app.

I tested all my Android apps and I was very surprised with the results, they load fast and run smooth. Some of my apps did not work because:

  • It does not support Google Play Services
  • It does not support apps using the Android NDK
  • It does not support GL_TEXTURE_CUBE_MAP in OpenGL ES (and my app crashes)

But I consider it SPECTACULAR. This opens a lot of new possibilities for Android, now running inside browsers like Flash, … and confirms my “theory” that Android is only a virtual machine (IMHO, the underlying SO is Linux :P).

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chromeos-apk


Chromium Embedded Framework

chromiumHTML5 is a fantastic app framework, but there are many environments where you cannot rely on the features support of the browser (specially when dealing against Internet Explorer, old windows versions or environments where you cannot freely upgrade the browsers). Recently I found this problem trying to package Mobialia Chess 3D for Windows 8. Microsoft provides some tools to package HTML apps to native apps, but they will run with the Internet Explorer engine, lacking features like WebGL, WebRTC, etc.

Chromium Embedded Framework (CEF) is a library that allows to embed a Chromium webview in your native Windows or Mac desktop application. So you can convert any HTML5 to a traditional desktop app (and I bet some users to try guessing if Mobialia Chess 3D is an HTML5 app). You can also create a Windows/Mac installer to  distribute the app (I used InnoSetup, but this is another story…).

Using CEF requires a small knowledge about Windows/Mac desktop app development. I created a Windows app using Visual Studio Express, it was not very difficult, because CEF includes a “cefclient” sample project that you can use as a template to start your project development.

The main problem that I found was the size, embedding CEF will add 45Mb size to your installed application. I also found other minor problems like the lack of mp3 sound support (due to license problems) solved converting the sound files to ogg.

CEF is already used by great desktop applications like Steam, Evernote or Spotify, so it’s a great option to consider in your developments.


Google Chrome Frame

Recently I’m hearing that Internet Explorer 10 (IE) is great, etc. but IE continues lacking some standards like WebGL. I’m working with WebGL in some HTML5 projects like:

and I couldn’t make the IEWebGL plugin work (it requires a different initialization). But Google has a great solution: the Chrome Frame, it’s an Internet Explorer plugin that runs an embedded Chrome, making possible for some advanced web apps to run into IE. Not great enough? It works with IE 6,7, 8 and 9!

Using it in a web page is extremely easy: Adding this header to your web page, IE will use Google Chrome Frame if installed:

<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="chrome=1">

And you can also add this javascript code asking the user to install Chrome Frame if it isn’t available:

<!--[if IE]>
  <script type="text/javascript"
      src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/chrome-frame/1/CFInstall.min.js">
  </script>

  <div id="prompt">
  </div>

  <script>
    window.attachEvent("onload", function() {
    CFInstall.check({
      mode: "overlay",
      node: "prompt"
    });
  });
  </script>
<![endif]-->

More Google Chrome Frame resources:


Google DevFest 2011 BCN 1

This week I assisted to the Google DevFest 2011 Barcelona. This year it was celebrated on a great “garage” located on an industrial area of Barcelona. I will tell the more interesting things that I found on the different sessions:

NEW IN HTML

As usual, this session presented by Paul Kinlan showed us the future of HTML5. I love the x-webkit-speech Chrome feature to make voice inputs that we already could see on the Madrid DevFest 2010. Paul made also some demos of WebIntents  a great idea to make something similar to Android intents on the web. Finally we could see that HTML5 is advancing very fast trying to implement many APIS that will make Flash obsolete, like window.navigator.getUserMedia() ot the Web Audio API.

GLSL

This session was presented by Mr. doob aka. Ricardo Cabello, a guy from the demoscene. He made a introduction of how 3D works in the browser and showed us how to use the GLSL language to make great effects on web pages. He has those GLSL demos on his blog.

GOOGLE+ SESSIONS

There were two Google+ sessions driven by Ade Oshineye, one presenting the new social network (also announcing the Google+ Pages) and other with more technical details for developers. One thing that you can do easily is adding the +1 button to your site. Other very interesting tools that we could see were the Google APIs Console and the Google APIs Explorer.

ANDROID SESSIONS

Bruno Oliveira is replacing Reto Meier as our “Android Developer Relations”.  On the first session he made a great review of the Android platform evolution since 2.1 to 4.0. On the second session he gave us great tips to improve UX experience on Android. This guy is a showman!

MAKING A BUSSINESS OUT OF APPS

This session was presented by Paul Kinlan and Bruno Oliveira, showing us that monetization tips are valid for both web and Android apps: Lazy registration, try before you buy, easy payment, in-app payments… Bruno also presented the new multilingual “Guide to the App Galaxy” http://www.guidetotheappgalaxy.com/.

GOOGLE SHOPPING API

Daniel Hermes showed us the Google Shopping API and many integration samples.

CHROME DEV TOOLS

Finally Sam Dutton made a review of the Google Chrome development tools. This tools replaced my FireBug many years ago! He also made his slides available.

APP COMPETITION

This year Google also organized and Appcircus-style app competition. Those were the apps and sites presented:

I won the app competition, but all were great apps. Our presentation and some photos of the app competition are available at our Mobialia Blog.