Android

The future of Xamarin Forms

Oliver Brown
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Microsoft have just announced the future of Xamarin and Xamarin forms - the .NET Multi-platform App UI (or MAUI for short). As a name, it’s not great. The highlights are as follows:

  • It’s an evolution of Xamarin Forms. It basically is Xamarin Forms, but finally accepting some breaking changes. To be honest, I’m hoping for a lot since there is a lot of weirdness in Xamarin Forms that has been holding it back.
  • Single project, multi-targeted. It took a long time to get to the point where this was possible. From shared projects, to PCL projects, through .NET Standard. This should make things a lot easier.
  • Still based on platform renderers using native controls. This is a mixed bag. Using native controls has long been a selling point of Xamarin (with or without Forms). With the rise of Flutter this has been shown to be less important. Many people have been asking for consistent platform agnostic renderers instead.
  • The end of “Xamarin” as a name. Some time in the .NET 6 timeline (end of 2021) Xamarin.iOS will become .NET for iOS and Xamarin.Android will be .NET for Android. I have mixed feeling about this since this was a fairly succinct way to describe by top skillset.

I also already have my own enhancement issue submitted.

ListView improvements in Xamarin Forms

Oliver Brown
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Since becoming open source, it has become possible to find out potential upcoming features in Xamarin Forms by just poking around the active branches in the repository (macOS support was visible in the repo before any announcement). One of them is lv2spike. From just reading the commit messages, it seems this is a new CollectionView, based on UICollectionView for iOS and RecyclerView for Android. This is something that has been needed for a while, but is a big enough undertaking that I understand why it has taken a while. After all the branch suggests this is still just a spike. There are quite a lot of feature requests for the Xamarin Forms ListView that are just not possible (like this one for horizontal layout) mainly because the iOS implementation is based on UITableView. This will open lots of possibilities. My biggest concern is that despite the push forward with features, Xamarin Forms is accruing bugs even faster, and with the expanded platform support this could just get worse…

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Tic-tac-toe Collection open beta

Oliver Brown
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For various reasons I decided to write a Tic Tac Toe game in Xamarin Forms. At the moment it supports variable board sizes, variable win line size (so it implicitly supports Gomoku) and a few custom rules like misère, a pie rule and disallowed overlines.

It currently functions on Android, iOS and Windows, but is only released on Android for now.

Apart from experimenting with various features of Xamarin Forms (as well as managing Nuget packages), my goal is to try and add all the options. Features I’m planning:

  • Ultimate Tic-tac-toe
  • Quantum Tic-tac-toe
  • 3D (and 4D) Tic-tac-toe
  • Online multiplayer
  • Order and chaos
  • Wild Tic-tac-toe

Download Tic-tac-toe Collection from the Google Play Store.

[SOLVED] The BindableProperty "Triggers" is readonly

Oliver Brown
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TLDR: When setting the Triggers property in XAML, use the actual type of the parent tag, not a supertype. After recently updating Xamarin Forms from 2.3.2.127 to 2.3.3.175, I started getting an InvalidOperationException: The BindableProperty "Triggers is readonly" inside InitializeComponent. Unlike many problems, this was quite easy to track down. InitializeComponent errors are generally XAML, and in the page in question there was a single Trigger. In this case the solution was simple. The Trigger was on a custom Button type, but I was setting it specifically using Button.Triggers. Changing it to be the actual type fixed it. So, I changed it from``` local:MyButton <Button.Triggers> <DataTrigger … /> </Button.Triggers> </local:MyButton>

to local:MyButton local:MyButton.Triggers <DataTrigger … /> </local:MyButton.Triggers> </local:MyButton>

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Multi-platform - The real advantage of Unity

Oliver Brown
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There have been quite a few mechanical additions since my last update, but the most significant thing in my latest video is it is the first on a non-Windows platform. Unity has a large list of platforms it supports and a lot will work on all of them with no effort. For example, Gravitas currently builds and runs on Windows (Win32 and Windows 8.1 Store), Mac, Android and WebGL. With the exception of adding some settings (the Android package name for instance) I didn’t have to do anything platform specific for any of it. Although there are very few hard limitations on what can be done on the different platforms, the wildly different performance characteristics mean you do have to think about different problems. A more straightforward problem I recently solved (after the Day 20 - Android video was made) was to decide how to deal with different mobile device orientations. My general philosophy is to try and support everything, so although landscape feels most natural for Gravitas, there isn’t really a reason not to support portrait. In fact, since the camera will adjust its zoom level to keep all the world on screen, it already supported portrait, albeit rather awkwardly. The dynamically generated levels are designed to have approximately a 16:9 aspect ratio. This means in portrait you get massive empty space above and below the planets, while making everything smaller than necessary. The solution? If the aspect ratio is less than 1, rotate the camera 90 degrees. This not only means portrait is supported, but in fact a far more general case of portrait-like aspect ratios is supported (and even better, has no mobile specific code at all).

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[SOLVED] Xamarin Android and no-version-vectors

Oliver Brown
— This upcoming video may not be available to view yet.

TLDR: An error containing “–no-version-vectors” is probably fixed by updating your Android SDK Build Tools to at least 23.

I recently upgraded a project to the latest version of Xamarin Forms and got the following error: /Library/Frameworks/Mono.framework/External/xbuild/Xamarin/Android/Xamarin.Android.Common.targets: Error: Tool exited with code: 2. Output: ERROR: Unknown option '--no-version-vectors'

A quick $ grep -ri "no-version" . on the project revealed it was being used in a dependency brought in by the Forms update: ./packages/Xamarin.Android.Support.Vector.Drawable.23.3.0/build/Xamarin.Android.Support.Vector.Drawable.targets: $(AndroidResgenExtraArgs)--no-version-vectors

Long story short, this parameter is for the aapt tool in the Android SDK Build Tools from at least version 23. Updating through the Android SDK manager fixed it.

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Betrayal at House on the Hill - Betrayal Character Cards for Android

Oliver Brown
— This upcoming video may not be available to view yet.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a board game published by Avalon Hill and designed by Bruce Glassco. The game is split into two parts. In the first, the players become trapped in a haunted house which they must explore, revealing rooms as they do. At some point the second part, the “haunt”, begins in which one player (generally) becomes a traitor and everyone plays out one of 50 scenarios pitting the traitor against the others.

An important part of the game involves tracking each of the player’s attributes (each character has a different range of possible values for each attribute). Since the included cardboard trackers can be loose and tend to slip out of place, a few different smartphone apps have appeared to help the situation.

The earliest Android version is Betrayal Character Cards. This app does the bare minimum needed. You can see a list of characters, see their attribute ranges and select the current value for each. As a small extra it also includes the birthday and hobbies of each character (which has a minor gameplay purpose).

Out of the apps available this is the simplest and has the least features. On the other hand this should run on the widest range of devices.

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