Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Funambol Community Showcase #3: Google Android plug-in

Initially, I planned to have a Funambol Showcase per month, but I do not seem to be able to keep up with the load... Anyway, here is showcase #3, which is a very cool client built by Carlo, a very smart Funambol community member.

Funambol Android Plug-in

By Carlo Codega sazilla@gmail.com


The Funambol Android Plug-in is an Android application which enables you to sync personal data between a Funambol server (such as myFunambol portal) and Google Android, an open source mobile phone platform, based on a Linux OS and developed by the OHA (Open Handset Alliance).
The main objective of this project is to bring sync features on this new mobile platform. This should be the first application that you have to install on your Android phone for begin using it.

The Android SDK

The Google Team provided an SDK that you can use to develop your own Android application. It includes development and debugging tools, a set of libraries, a device emulator, sample projects, documentation, and more.
Currently the Android emulator includes a simple contacts manager, no calendar managers or email clients are provided. It means that, at least for now, the plugin provides the contacts sync feature only.

Why develop a sync application for Android?

The idea of the Android project was born concurrently with the announcement of this new mobile phone platform. Android is open source, Funambol is open source too. What should be first thing to do? Porting the Funambol sync software to Android using a slightly modified version of the JavaME Funambol API.
I started to develop for Funambol as a community member, with the Mozilla plugin, which became the object of my first level degree.
As soon as I saw the release of the first SDK, I’ve downloaded it and started working on it for verifying the possibility of porting the Funambol software over the Android platform. Now, since last December, I’m part of this project, that is included into the Code Sniper Program.

Interesting issues

After the announcement of this project, several interesting issues were born, regarding the cooperation of Funambol with Android to transform the mobile market. Funambol made available a position paper entitled: “How Google Android Stimulates the Mass Market for Mobile Email and how Funambol Mobile Open Source Monetizes It".
Some issues against Android.
I don’t like its user interface so much (I prefer the iPhone one), and I don’t see a big participation of the developers, at least not what I expected.
It still lacks an efficient bug reporting tool, a unique discussion group I think is not enough.

Using the Android Plugin

Few steps are needed to get the plug-in running on the Android emulator:
- Download the Android SDK.
- Download the Funambol Android Plug-in from Google Code.
- Install the Funambol Android Plug-in: run the emulator and install the application using the adb tool (run “adb install \Funambol-Client-.apk”).

- Run the application: go to the applications folder (All) and run Funambol.

The first step that is necessary for using the plug-in is to configure the communication settings. To do this go to Menu>Settings and set your preferences: username, password and the server url.

Now you can start to synchronize.

Future plans

Improve the contacts sync in terms of efficiency and reliability. Calendar/tasks sync and push email features will be added as soon as a stable email client and calendar/tasks manager will be provided. The Google Android PIM Plug-in is a community project, as such it can be developed and/or improved by anyone who participates to the Funambol Open Source Community, so please join our community and start to develop with us.


The project homepage is http://code.google.com/p/funambol. Here you can download the application package and different source code snapshots. The plugin and API sources are available on the Funambol forge, you can get it via CVS.