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This Week in Programming: Google I/O and Microsoft Build, for the Developers

12 May 2018 6:00am, by

To the chagrin of many a developer, this week was host to not one but two big developer conferences: Google I/O and Microsoft Build. And while both conferences are geared toward the developers in name, both held quite a bit of news for consumers as well, which you’ve likely seen summed up a thousand times in the tech press this past week.

Surely by now, for example, you’ve heard of the typically Google faux pas, when the company leapt over the uncanny valley and created an AI that is able to call in a hair appointment, for example, and fool the human on the other end into thinking they are indeed talking with another human, and not a computer.

What a way to make headlines!

Well, beyond these truly headline grabbing feats, both Google and Microsoft released a slew of new features that certainly won’t make the front pages of consumer tech press, but will instead appeal to you developer types.

As one article over at Programmable Web puts it, if you develop for Android, Google just updated nearly everything. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are new APIs, new AI and ML tools, and even the ability to finally code on Chromebooks without a workaround. And the same goes for Microsoft, which some consumer facing announcements, such as a fluid new Windows interface, but also offered a bunch of new features for developers, from updates to Visual Studio Code to an update to Windows Notepad you’ve likely wished for since the ’90s.

This Week in Google Developer News:

  • The Catch All: First things first, we’re going to miss something, most likely, so here’s a simple way to handle that. Google has offered a brilliant little summary of the 100 things it announced at I/O ‘18. For the impatient, just skip down to numbers 80 to 100 for the developer-specific announcements of the week. And for those of you more visually-minded types, check out the quick summary video of all the Google I/O keynotes, in which “CEO Sundar Pichai lays out the roadmap for the company’s future and highlights some of the most important product announcements at Google I/O 2018.” Here, just to make it a little easier:

 

  • The Android Updates: As we mentioned in this week’s intro, Google has pretty much changed absolutely everything for you Android developers out there, and Programmable Web has a good summary of the changes ahead. As they note, “if you’re using Android Studio, Kotlin, or any of the dozens of Android developer features, it’s time to download the latest bits.” There’s the Android Jetpack, which Google describes as “a set of libraries, tools and architectural guidance to help make it quick and easy to build great Android apps” by managing “activities like background tasks, navigation, and lifecycle management, so you can eliminate boilerplate code.” Android Jetpack components include WorkManager, Paging, Navigation, and Slices. Although previously announced, Android KTX also officially launched this week to help speed up app development. And let’s not forget Android Studio 3.2 Canary, which “packs in the new Android Jetpack functions, including a visual navigation editor, and new code refactoring tools.” Oh, and the Android App Bundle, which Google says can reduce app sizes. Okay, there’s more still, but we’ll leave you to browse the article for the rest of the details.
  • All the Android P APIs: Continuing with another article from Programmable Web — a favorite for API-centric news — we have a round-up of all the new APIs for the soon to be released Android P. The second developer preview of Android P, they write, offers developers “a new, more stable preview of Android P along with a refreshed Android Studio and more than a handful of new APIs.” We’ll leave the details up to the article, but suffice to say that “these APIs don’t mark the limit of what’s new for developers in Android P,” which includes “tons of other tools built into the new platform for developers to put to use” which include “Adaptive Battery and Adaptive Display for improved power management, App Actions and Slices for surfacing actions inside apps, smart reply in notifications, background app restrictions, and much more.”
  • Flutter Beta 3: And then, on a more multi-OS front, Google released Flutter Beta 3 this week. If you’re unfamiliar, Flutter is Google’s mobile app SDK for creating native user experiences on iOS and Android. Google originally announced Flutter at Google I/O 2017 and over the last year has “rewritten major parts of the engine for performance, added support for developing on Windows, published tooling for Android Studio and Visual Studio Code, integrated Dart 2 and added support for more Firebase APIs, added support for inline video, ads and charts, internationalization and accessibility, addressed thousands of bugs and published hundreds of pages of documentation.” The latest version, Flutter Beta 3, “is world-ready with localization support including right-to-left languages, and also provides significantly improved support for building highly-accessible applications” and is now supported by Visual Studio Code with a dedicated Flutter extension. Read more in Google’s announcement for the full details.
  • A Machine Learning SDK: And then there’s Google’s new ML Kit, “a new SDK that brings Google’s machine learning expertise to mobile developers in a powerful, yet easy-to-use package on Firebase.” The aim, of course, is to bring machine learning to the less technically sophisticated. As the company details in its announcement, “Typically, new ML developers spend countless hours learning the intricacies of implementing low-level models, using frameworks, and more. Even for the seasoned expert, adapting and optimizing models to run on mobile devices can be a huge undertaking. Beyond the machine learning complexities, sourcing training data can be an expensive and time-consuming process, especially when considering a global audience.” Fret not, for Google’s ML Kit is here to save the day! And here’s a quick video intro!

 

  • Coding on Chromebooks: Now, coding on Chromebooks has been a focus of mine for a while now, as that is my primary computer. Well, Google also announced this week that Chromebooks are ready for your next coding project with Linux. “Support for Linux will enable you to create, test and run Android and web app for phones, tablets and laptops all on one Chromebook. Run popular editors, code in your favorite language and launch projects to Google Cloud with the command-line. Everything works directly on a Chromebook.” That’s much easier than putting your Chromebook into an unstable dev mode and installing a bunch of stuff, now isn’t it? The version of Linux “runs inside a virtual machine that was designed from scratch for Chromebooks” and starts up just as quick as you’ve become accustomed to for ChromeOS. A preview of the new tool will be released on Google Pixelbook soon.
  • Android Things 1.0: And then there was Android Things 1.0, “Google’s managed OS that enables you to build and maintain Internet of Things devices at scale.” The release follows a developer preview “with over 100,000 SDK downloads.” For the full details, check out the release notes.

This Week in Microsoft Developer News:

  • The Round-Up: Again, we can’t hope to capture all of everything Microsoft said this week, so here’s a quick recap that lists the six biggest announcements from Microsoft Build 2018. On the developer end of things, that includes the fact that Microsoft will take a smaller cut on apps than either Apple or Google. According to the article, developers will get 95 percent of app revenue for consumer (non-game) apps, as compared to 70 percent for its competitors. Also, Microsoft announced that it would be “keeping Kinect alive, just in a much different form than we know it today.” That is, “instead of being an accessory for the Xbox, Microsoft is turning Kinect into a cloud service. It sounds like developers will be able to send information from their own cameras and depth sensors up to Kinect in the cloud, have Microsoft process that information, and then send it back to the device.” And the Geekwire synopsis offers a few more details on announcements we’ll include below.
  • Notepad Extended Line Endings: Now, this is a feature you’ve been waiting a long time for. Or more likely, you stopped waiting long ago. Windows Notepad now supports extended line endings. That is, when you open up a Linux .bashrc text file in Notepad, for example, everything is all mushed together. Now, Notepad will display it with the proper spacing. As one HackerNews commenter offered, “Is this Microsoft’s crowning achievement? No, it’s just a stupid little historic decision that someone remembered and decided to fix. They even took the time to enable admins and power users to use the old behavior. I too don’t see who’d want it, but who knows? People do unexpected things sometimes.”
  • Visual Studio IntelliCode: That’s right, AI continues its march to making it easier for coders to code. Microsoft’s Visual Studio IntelliCode “brings you the next generation of developer productivity by providing AI-assisted development.” There’s an experimental extension for Visual Studio 2017 available now. The feature “generates recommendations by using a machine-learning model that is trained on thousands of public codebases — today it uses over 2000 GitHub repos that each have more than 100 stars to ensure that you’re benefiting from best practices.”
  • Visual Studio Live Share Goes Public: Another feature we’ve been excited about — the ability to collaboratively code with your teammates — is now available for public preview. The feature was first announced at Connect last November and now is available with Linux support.
  • NET Core 3: Finally, before we run out of time for the week, Microsoft also announced NET Core 3 and support for Windows desktop applications, which Dzone said was “as exciting as watching a trailer for a big brand movie.” According to the announcement, the highlight of .NET Core 3 is support for Windows desktop applications, specifically Windows Forms, Windows Presentation Framework (WPF), and UWP XAML. You will be able to run new and existing Windows desktop applications on .NET Core and enjoy all the benefits that .NET Core has to offer.”

Okay, we’ll admit, there’s much more that was announced from both companies this week, but it’s nearly impossible to capture in one comprehensive place. So, we’ll leave you with one piece of advice for the weekend…

Google and Microsoft are sponsors of The New Stack.


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