Android

#CASBAN6: Creating A Serverless Blog on Azure with .NET 6 (new series)

#CASBAN6: Creating A Serverless Blog on Azure with .NET 6 (new series)

Motivation

I was planning to run my blog without WordPress for quite some time. For one, because WordPress is really blown up as a platform. The second reason is more of a practical nature – this project gives me lots of stuff to improve my programming skills. I already started to move my developer website away from WordPress with ASP.NET CORE and Razor Pages. Eventually I arrived at the point where I needed to implement a blog engine for the news section. So, I have two websites (including this one here) that will take advantage of the outcome of this journey.

High Level Architecture

Now that the ‘why’ is clear, let’s have a look at the ‘how’:

There are several layers in my concept. The data layer consists of a serverless MS SQL instance on Azure, on which I will work with the help of Entity Framework Core and Azure Functions for all the CRUD operations of the blog. I will use the powers of Azure API Management, which will allow me to provide a secure layer for the clients – of course, an ASP.NET CORE Website with RazorPages, flanked by a .NET MAUI admin client (no web administration). Once the former two are done, I will also add a mobile client for this blog. It will be the next major update for my existing blog reader that is already in the app stores.

For comments, I will use Disqus. This way, I have a proven comment system where anyone can use his/her favorite account to participate in discussions. They also have an API, so there is a good chance that I will be able to implement Disqus in the Desktop and Mobile clients.

Last but not least, there are (for now) two open points – performance measuring/logging and notifications. I haven’t decided yet how to implement these – but I guess there will be an Azure based implementation as well (until there are good reasons to use another service).

Open Source

Most of the software I will write and blog about in this series will be available publicly on GitHub. You can find the repository already there, including stuff for the next two upcoming blog posts already in there.

Index

I will update this blog post regularly with a link new entries of the series.

Additional note

Please note that I am working on this in my spare time. This may result in delays between the blog posts and the updates committed into the repository on GitHub. On top, I also have to split my spare time between my other side project (TwistReader) and this one (3 days a week for each). Whenever necessary, either one of the projects can take precedence over the other, so be aware – and please understand.

Until the next post – happy coding, everyone!


Title Image by Roman from Pixabay

Posted by msicc in Android, Azure, Dev Stories, iOS, MAUI, Web, 1 comment
Workaround to force Xamarin.Forms WebView to use a dark mode CSS for local content on Android

Workaround to force Xamarin.Forms WebView to use a dark mode CSS for local content on Android

Recently I updated my blog reader app to support the dark mode newer iOS and Android version support. While everything went smooth on iOS and the update is already live in the App Store, I had some more work to do on Android. One of the bigger problems: the WebView I use to view posts does not automatically switch to dark mode with Xamarin.Forms.

What’s causing this problem?

On part of the problem is that the WebView does not support the CSS query “prefers-color-scheme“. This works as intended on iOS however and is a problem specific to Android. You can refer to this issue on the Xamarin.Forms repository on Github.

Workaround

I am not sure if this problem will ever get solved by the Xamarin.Forms team. I tried to play around with some Javascript solutions that are floating around the web to keep just one CSS file. In the end however, I went with a Xamarin.Forms only approach following the KISS principle.

Xamarin.Forms has a working theme detection mechanism. Based on the return value of the Application.Current.RequestedTheme property, I am loading either the dark mode CSS file or the light mode CSS file (which is default in my case).

Shipping the CSS files is easy, we just need to add them to the Assets folder and set the Build action to AndroidAsset. This results in the following structure within the Android project:

All files that are shipped that way are accessible via the android_asset file uri:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="file:///android_asset/dummycss_light.css">

Now that everything is set up in the Android project, let’s head over to the Xamarin.Forms project. In the sample for this post, I am loading a local html file, while I generate the html dynamically in my blog reader app. The idea works the same way in both cases:

private async Task SetThemeAndLoadSource()
{
    _html = await LoadHtmlFromFileAsync();

    _html = Application.Current.RequestedTheme == OSAppTheme.Dark ?
            _html.Replace("light", "dark") :
            _html.Replace("dark", "light");

    this.TestWebView.Source = new HtmlWebViewSource() { Html = _html };
}

As you can see, I just override the light and dark part of the CSS file name I load into the HTML. That’s all the “magic” that needs to happen here. Just one little thing left to add – what if the user changes the theme while the app is running? Xamarin.Forms has the solution built in as well – just handle the RequestedThemeChanged event and override the file name again, followed by setting the HtmlWebViewSource again:

private async void Current_RequestedThemeChanged(object sender, AppThemeChangedEventArgs e)
{
    await SetThemeAndLoadSource();
}

Conclusion

As most of us are already used to, we sometimes need to find some workarounds when dealing with Xamarin.Forms. While this problem could have been solved with a bunch of Javascript and a custom CSS in a WebViewRenderer as well (I tried that, but didn’t like the complexity), you can achieve reliable results with the workaround above just in Xamarin.Forms.

You can find a working sample here on Github. As always, I hope this post will be helpful for some of you.

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!
Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, Xamarin, 1 comment
Extending glidex.forms on Android to load a placeholder for images that fail to load

Extending glidex.forms on Android to load a placeholder for images that fail to load

What is glidex.forms?

The glidex.forms library is a Xamarin.Forms implementation of Glide, which is one of the quasi standards for imaging on Android (it is even recommended by Google). Luckily, Jonathan Peppers from Microsoft has a passion to improve Xamarin.Android, and Xamarin.Forms takes a big advantage from that as well. He made the Xamarin.Android Binding library as well as the Xamarin.Forms implementation. Like before with Xamarin.Forms.Nuke, I learned about that library because I am substituting my former image caching solution with Akavache.

Why do we need to extend the library?

If you want to load a placeholder that is stored in the resources of your Android project – there is no need. You could just implement a custom hook into the GlideExtensions class of glidex.forms (I’ll show you that one as well). But if you want to load an image from a Xamarin.Forms resource or even a from a font, we’ll need to extend the GlideExtensions class a little bit.

On a side note, I tried to use the existing mechanism of implementing an IGlideHandler for these purposes, but due to timing issues I never was able to load these kinds of placeholders and I moved on by extending the GlideExtensions class.

Show me some code!

Use Android resource

Let’s have a look at how to load an Android resource as a placeholder first (because it is the easiest way). To do so, we just need to create a custom implementation of an IGlideHandler in the Android project, which will then be called by the GlideExtensions implementation:

public class GlideWithAndroidResourcePlaceholder : IGlideHandler
{
    public GlideWithAndroidResourcePlaceholder()
    {
    }

    public bool Build(ImageView imageView, ImageSource source, RequestBuilder builder, CancellationToken token)
    {
        if (builder != null)
        {
            //easiest way - add the image to Android resources ....
            //general placeholder:
            //builder.Placeholder(Resource.Drawable.MSicc_Logo_Base_Blue_1024px_pad25).Into(imageView);

            //error placeholder:
            builder.Error(Resource.Drawable.MSicc_Logo_Base_Blue_1024px_pad25).Into(imageView);

            return true;
        }
        else
            return false;
    }
}

As you can see, the RequestBuilder has already a placeholder mechanism in place. We just hook into that. If you want a general placeholder (shows the image also during download), use the Placeholder method. For failed image loading only, use the Error method. That’s it.

Use Xamarin.Forms resouce/FontImageSource

As we want to be able to load FontImageSource and Xamarin.Forms resources as well however, we need to go another route. Like we did on iOS, we need to add a placeholder property to the Forms class:

public static ImageSource? PlaceholderImageSource { get; private set; }

To fill our ImageSource with either a Xamarin.Forms resource or a FontImageSource, add these two methods as well:

public static void PlaceholderFromResource (string resourceName, Assembly assembly) =>
	PlaceholderImageSource = ImageSource.FromResource (resourceName, assembly);

public static void PlaceholderFromFontImageSource (FontImageSource fontImageSource) =>
	PlaceholderImageSource = fontImageSource;

Now that we have the PlaceholderImageSource in place, we need to extend the GlideExtensions class. First, we implement a Handler for FontImageSource. The Xamarin.Forms handler for FontImageSource provides us a bitmap, which we are going to use as a placeholder. I only got this working with the AsDrawable method, the AsBitmap method always threw an exception because it couldn’t cast the Bitmap to Drawable (I did not investigate that further).

private static async Task<RequestBuilder?> HandleFontImageSource (RequestManager request, Context? context, FontImageSource fontImageSource, CancellationToken token, Func<bool> cancelled)
{
	if (context == null)
		return null;

	var defaultHandler = new Xamarin.Forms.Platform.Android.FontImageSourceHandler ();

	var bitmap = await defaultHandler.LoadImageAsync (fontImageSource, context, token);

	if (token.IsCancellationRequested || cancelled())
		return null;

	if (bitmap == null)
		return null;

	return request.AsDrawable().Load (bitmap);
}

As for the HandleFontImageSource method, I also needed to change the return value of the HandleStreamImageSource method to use the AsDrawable method, otherwise we would get the same exception as with the FontImageSource:

static async Task<RequestBuilder?> HandleStreamImageSource (RequestManager request, StreamImageSource source, CancellationToken token, Func<bool> cancelled)
{ 
        //code omitted for readability

	return request.AsDrawable().Load (memoryStream.ToArray ());
}

The final steps to make it all work are done in the LoadViaGlide method. First, add another RequestBuilder? variable and name it errorBuilder:

RequestBuilder? errorBuilder = null;

After the switch that handles the source parameter, add these lines of code:

switch(Forms.PlaceholderImageSource) {
	case StreamImageSource streamSource:
		errorBuilder = await HandleStreamImageSource (request, streamSource, token, () => !IsActivityAlive (imageView, Forms.PlaceholderImageSource));
		break;
	case FontImageSource fontImageSource:
		errorBuilder = await HandleFontImageSource(request, imageView.Context, fontImageSource, token, () => !IsActivityAlive (imageView, Forms.PlaceholderImageSource));
		break;
	default:
		errorBuilder = null;
		break;
}

if (errorBuilder != null)
	builder?.Error (errorBuilder);

We are handling our PlaceholderImageSource like we do with the ImageSource that we intend to load. If we have a valid errorBuilder, we pass that into the entire process. With that, we have already everything in place. Let’s see how to use it in your app.

How to use it in your Xamarin.Forms – Android project

Head over to the MainActivity class in your Android project and add the following method:

private void AttachGlide()
{
    Android.Glide.Forms.Init(this, null, false);

    //recommended way of loading resource images=>
    //Android.Glide.Forms.Init(this, new GlideWithAndroidResourcePlaceholder(), false);

    //Xamarin Forms resource image
    //Android.Glide.Forms.PlaceholderFromResource("CachedImageTest.MSicc_Logo_Base_Blue_1024px_pad25.png", Assembly.GetAssembly(typeof(MainViewModel)));

    //FontImageSource
    Android.Glide.Forms.PlaceholderFromFontImageSource(new FontImageSource
    {
        Glyph = XfNativeCachedImages.Resources.MaterialDesignIcons.ImageBroken,
        FontFamily = "MaterialDesignIcons",
        Color = Xamarin.Forms.Color.Red
    });
}

The Glide library needs to be initialized. Depending on the method you are using, there are separate ways to do so. The method above shows them all, you just need to change the commented code to play around with it in the sample (link at the end of the post). The mechanism is like the one I used for iOS and the Nuke package.

If you followed along (or downloaded the sample), you should see similar result to this:

Placeholder_Sample_Android_Title
Left: Single image with placeholder, Right: CollectionView placeholder

Conclusion

As we did on iOS, we now also use native caching and image handling on Android. It took me quite some time to get it up and running, but it was worth the effort. The sample has more than five hundred remote images loaded into a CollectionView. Check how smooth the scrolling is (even with DataBinding!).

You can find the sample here on Github, while the modified version of glidex.forms is available here. As always, I hope this post will be helpful for some of you.

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, Xamarin, 1 comment
Create scrollable tabs in Xamarin.Forms with CollectionView and CarouselView

Create scrollable tabs in Xamarin.Forms with CollectionView and CarouselView

When it comes to navigation patterns in mobile apps, the tabbed interface is one of the most popular options. While Xamarin.Forms has the TabbedPage (and Shell) to fulfill that need, it lacks one essential feature: scrollable tabs. After studying some of the samples floating around the web and some of the packages that provide such functionality, I tried find an easier solution.

The View

Let’s have a look at the View first. Like you may have guessed from the title, we are using a CollectionView for the tabs and a CarouselView for the Content. This combination makes it quite easy to implement tabs that cover a whole page size or smaller ones within a page.

Here’s the XAML:

<Grid x:DataType="{x:Null}" RowSpacing="0">
    <Grid.RowDefinitions>
        <RowDefinition Height="45" />
        <RowDefinition Height="45" />
        <RowDefinition Height="*" />
    </Grid.RowDefinitions>

    <CollectionView
        x:Name="CustomTabsView"
        Grid.Row="1"
        HorizontalScrollBarVisibility="Never"
        ItemSizingStrategy="MeasureAllItems"
        ItemsSource="{Binding TabVms}"
        ItemsUpdatingScrollMode="KeepItemsInView"
        SelectedItem="{Binding CurrentTabVm, Mode=TwoWay}"
        SelectionMode="Single"
        VerticalScrollBarVisibility="Never">
        <CollectionView.ItemsLayout>
            <LinearItemsLayout Orientation="Horizontal" />
        </CollectionView.ItemsLayout>
        <CollectionView.ItemTemplate>
            <DataTemplate x:DataType="local:TabViewModel">
                <Grid RowSpacing="0">
                    <Grid.RowDefinitions>
                        <RowDefinition Height="*" />
                        <RowDefinition Height="3" />
                    </Grid.RowDefinitions>
                    <Label
                        x:Name="TitleLabel"
                        Grid.Row="0"
                        Padding="15,0"
                        FontAttributes="Bold"
                        FontSize="Small"
                        HeightRequest="50"
                        HorizontalTextAlignment="Center"
                        Text="{Binding Title}"
                        TextColor="White"
                        VerticalTextAlignment="Center" />
                    <BoxView
                        x:Name="ActiveIndicator"
                        Grid.Row="1"
                        BackgroundColor="Red"
                        IsVisible="{Binding IsSelected, Mode=TwoWay}" />
                </Grid>
            </DataTemplate>
        </CollectionView.ItemTemplate>
    </CollectionView>

    <CarouselView
        Grid.Row="2"
        CurrentItem="{Binding CurrentTabVm, Mode=TwoWay}"
        CurrentItemChanged="CarouselView_CurrentItemChanged"
        HorizontalScrollBarVisibility="Never"
        IsScrollAnimated="True"
        IsSwipeEnabled="True"
        ItemsSource="{Binding TabVms}"
        VerticalScrollBarVisibility="Never">
        <CarouselView.ItemTemplate>
            <DataTemplate x:DataType="local:TabViewModel">
                <Grid Margin="10">
                    <Grid.RowDefinitions>
                        <RowDefinition Height="*" />
                    </Grid.RowDefinitions>
                    <Label
                        Grid.Row="0"
                        Margin="10"
                        LineBreakMode="WordWrap"
                        Text="{Binding Content}"
                        VerticalTextAlignment="Center" />
                </Grid>
            </DataTemplate>
        </CarouselView.ItemTemplate>
    </CarouselView>
</Grid>

Let me break that piece down. First, I wrapped everything in a Grid for this sample. The CollectionView of course should be horizontally scrolling but should not show any scroll bar. The tab item template is not a complex one – it is just a Label and a BoxView below it to help with indication of the selection. You are free to make the tab looking whatever you want because of the CollectionView, however.

Below that, we put a CarouselView. For this sample, I just made a simple one with a Lorem Ipsum Label in it on every item.

The ViewModels

Most of you know that I absolutely love the MVVM pattern. And this sample proves me right once again. We need just need two ViewModels to handle scrolling and synchronizing.

The first ViewModel is the TabViewModel:

Snippet

public class TabViewModel : ObservableObject
{
    private string _title;
    private string _content;
    private bool _isSelected;

    public TabViewModel(string title)
    {
        this.Title = title;
        this.Content = "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Tempor id eu nisl nunc mi ipsum faucibus vitae aliquet. Turpis egestas integer eget aliquet nibh praesent tristique magna. In fermentum posuere urna nec tincidunt. Vitae congue eu consequat ac felis donec et odio pellentesque. Augue lacus viverra vitae congue. Viverra vitae congue eu consequat. Orci nulla pellentesque dignissim enim sit amet venenatis urna. Et ultrices neque ornare aenean euismod elementum nisi. Id consectetur purus ut faucibus pulvinar. In cursus turpis massa tincidunt. Egestas pretium aenean pharetra magna. Et pharetra pharetra massa massa ultricies mi quis. Nunc sed blandit libero volutpat. Purus viverra accumsan in nisl nisi scelerisque eu ultrices vitae.";
    }

    public string Title { get => _title; set => Set(ref _title, value); }

    public string Content { get => _content; set => Set(ref _content, value); }

    public bool IsSelected { get => _isSelected; set =>Set(ref _isSelected, value); }
}

The TabViewModel in this sample just has the bare minimum, namely the Title, the Content and the IsSelectedFlag to control the Visibility of the Indicator-BoxView. Nothing dramatic so far.

The MainViewModel glues everything together, so let’s have a look:

Snippet

public class MainViewModel : ObservableObject
{
    private TabViewModel _currentTabVm;

    public MainViewModel()
    {

        this.TabVms = new ObservableCollection<TabViewModel>();
        this.TabVms.Add(new TabViewModel("Short Title"));
        this.TabVms.Add(new TabViewModel("A Little Longer Title"));
        this.TabVms.Add(new TabViewModel("An Even Longer Title Than Before"));
        this.TabVms.Add(new TabViewModel("Again Short Title"));
        this.TabVms.Add(new TabViewModel("Mini Title"));
        this.TabVms.Add(new TabViewModel("Different Title"));

        this.CurrentTabVm = this.TabVms.FirstOrDefault();
    }


    public ObservableCollection<TabViewModel> TabVms { get; set; } 

    public TabViewModel CurrentTabVm 
    { 
        get => _currentTabVm;
        set
        {
            Set(ref _currentTabVm, value);
            SetSelection();
        }
    }

    private void SetSelection()
    {
        this.TabVms.ForEach(vm => vm.IsSelected = false);
        this.CurrentTabVm.IsSelected = true;
    }
}

Once again, there is nothing complex in it. We are mocking a collection of TabViewModel and handle the tab selection via Binding. After the current item got selected, we are setting the IsSelected property on it to true to show the Indicator in the CollectionView.

For this sample, I didn’t use a fully blown MVVM framework, so I am setting the BindingContext in the MainPage‘s constructor. The Binding engine in Xamarin.Forms already does almost everything to make this work.

The only thing left is to handle the positioning of the tabs if we are swiping the CarouselView. As this is purely View related, I am using the CurrentItemChanged event in code behind to center the CollectionView‘s selected item:

Snippet

private void CarouselView_CurrentItemChanged(object sender, CurrentItemChangedEventArgs e)
{
    this.CustomTabsView.ScrollTo(e.CurrentItem, null, ScrollToPosition.Center, true);
}

The result of this setup looks like this:

Conclusion

Xamarin.Forms provides a lot of solutions out of the box. Sometimes, however, these are not enough. Luckily, we can combine some of the solutions the framework provides to create fresh solutions within our apps. This post showed one of these. The additional bonus you get with this implementation is the ability to style the tabs in whatever way you want. As always, I hope this post will be helpful for some of you.

Of course, there is also sample for this post on Github.

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!
Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, Xamarin, 2 comments
MSicc’s Blog version 1.6.0 out now for Android and iOS

MSicc’s Blog version 1.6.0 out now for Android and iOS

Here are the new features:

Push Notifications

With version 1.6.0 of the app, you can opt-in to receive push notifications once I publish a new blog post. I use an Azure Function (v1, for the ease of bindings – at least for now), and of course, an Azure NotificationHub. The Function gets called from a WebHook (via a plugin on WordPress), which triggers it to run (the next blog posts I write will be about how I achieved this, btw.)

New Design using Xamarin.Forms Shell

I also overhauled the design of the application. Initially, it was a MasterDetail app, but I never felt happy with that. Using Xamarin.Forms.Shell, I optimized the app to only show the last 30 posts I wrote. If you need older articles, you’ll be able to search for them within the app. The new design is a “v1” and will be constantly improved along with new features.

Bugs fixed in this release
  • fixed a bug where code snippets were not correctly displayed
  • fixed a bug where the app did not refresh posts after cleaning the cache
  • other minor fixes and improvements

I hope some of you will use the application and give me some feedback.

You can download the app using these links:
iOS | Android

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Android, Azure, Dev Stories, iOS, Xamarin, 0 comments
#XfEffects: Forms Effect to automatically scale FontSize on Label

#XfEffects: Forms Effect to automatically scale FontSize on Label

Why do I need this?

When working with text, we often have to deal with some or all of the following:

  • dynamic text with different length on every instance
  • multiple devices with different screen resolutions
  • limited number of lines

As the amount of places where I need to automatically scale the FontSize is steadily increasing within my apps, I had to come up with a solution – the AutoFitFontSizeEffect.

The shared code

Of course, every Effect has a shared code part. Like in my first post, there are two classes for this – the Effect wrapper and the static parameter class on top of it. The wrapper is pretty straight forward:

    public class AutoFitFontSizeEffect : RoutingEffect
    {
        #region Protected Constructors

        public AutoFitFontSizeEffect() : base($"XfEffects.{nameof(AutoFitFontSizeEffect)}")
        {
        }

        #endregion Protected Constructors
    }

Like with all effects, we are deriving from RoutingEffect and initializing the class with the effect’s id. As I wanted the effect to be configurable with a minimum and a maximum size, I added a static class that takes these two parameters:

    public static class AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters
    {
        #region Public Fields

        public static BindableProperty MaxFontSizeProperty = BindableProperty.CreateAttached("MaxFontSize", typeof(NamedSize), typeof(AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters), NamedSize.Large, BindingMode.Default);
        public static BindableProperty MinFontSizeProperty = BindableProperty.CreateAttached("MinFontSize", typeof(NamedSize), typeof(AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters), NamedSize.Default, BindingMode.Default);

        #endregion Public Fields

        #region Public Methods

        public static NamedSize GetMaxFontSize(BindableObject bindable)
        {
            return (NamedSize)bindable.GetValue(MaxFontSizeProperty);
        }

        public static NamedSize GetMinFontSize(BindableObject bindable)
        {
            return (NamedSize)bindable.GetValue(MinFontSizeProperty);
        }

        public static double MaxFontSizeNumeric(BindableObject bindable)
        {
            return Device.GetNamedSize(GetMaxFontSize(bindable), typeof(Label));
        }

        public static double MinFontSizeNumeric(BindableObject bindable)
        {
            return Device.GetNamedSize(GetMinFontSize(bindable), typeof(Label));
        }

        public static void SetMaxFontSize(BindableObject bindable, NamedSize value)
        {
            bindable.SetValue(MaxFontSizeProperty, value);
        }

        public static void SetMinFontSize(BindableObject bindable, NamedSize value)
        {
            bindable.SetValue(MinFontSizeProperty, value);
        }

        #endregion Public Methods
    }

Let’s break that class down. First, I created two attached BindableProperty objects of type NamedSize. The NamedSize enumeration makes it easy for us to determine the minimum and maximum sizes. If you want to know the values behind the enum entries, check this table in the docs.

To get and set those values out of the BindableProperty, I implemented corresponding methods. As we will see later on, I implemented also two methods that get the numeric values, which will be used in our platform-specific implementations.

Android implementation

Android has a built-in method on TextView to achieve the auto-scaling functionality we desire (read more about it on the Android docs). This makes the implementation pretty straight forward:

    public class AutoFitFontSizeEffect : PlatformEffect
    {
        #region Protected Methods

        protected override void OnAttached()
        {
            if (this.Control is TextView textView)
            {
                if (AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.GetMinFontSize(this.Element) == NamedSize.Default &&
                    AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.GetMaxFontSize(this.Element) == NamedSize.Default)
                    return;

                var min = (int)AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.MinFontSizeNumeric(this.Element);
                var max = (int)AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.MaxFontSizeNumeric(this.Element);

                if (max <= min)
                    return;

                textView.SetAutoSizeTextTypeUniformWithConfiguration(min, max, 1, (int)ComplexUnitType.Sp);
            }
        }

        protected override void OnDetached()
        {
        }

        #endregion Protected Methods
    }

Before using the SetAutoSizeTextTypeUniformWithConfiguration method on the TextView, I am running two checks: one if both parameters are set to NamedSize.Default, and the other one if the minimum value is bigger than the maximum value. If we pass past these check, we are using the above mentioned method. That is already everything it needs to make the text scaling automatically within the bounds of the TextView on Android.

iOS implementation

Like Android, also iOS has a pretty easy way to automatically scale the FontSize:

    public class AutoFitFontSizeEffect : PlatformEffect
    {
        #region Protected Methods

        protected override void OnAttached()
        {
            if (this.Control is UILabel label)
            {
                if (AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.GetMinFontSize(this.Element) == NamedSize.Default &&
                    AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.GetMaxFontSize(this.Element) == NamedSize.Default)
                    return;

                var min = (int)AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.MinFontSizeNumeric(this.Element);
                var max = (int)AutoFitFontSizeEffectParameters.MaxFontSizeNumeric(this.Element);

                if (max <= min)
                    return;

                label.AdjustsFontSizeToFitWidth = true;
                label.MinimumFontSize = (float)min;
                label.Font = label.Font.WithSize((float)max);
            }
        }

        protected override void OnDetached()
        {
        }

        #endregion Protected Methods
    }

We are running the same checks as on Android before we are effectively changing the properties on the UILabel that will make the text scale automatically. With setting AdjustsFontSizeToFitWidth to true and setting the MinimumFontSize to our min value as well as the max value as FontSize, we have already done everything it needs on iOS.

Conclusion

The checks we run before using the codes are not random. It may happen that you only add the effect to your Xamarin.Forms.Label without setting the MinFontSize and MaxFontSize. In this case, I am just returning.

Besides mixing up the sizes, the main reason for the second check is that the platform-specific size values are different between platforms. Also in this case, I am just returning.

Besides that, we are able to use all other properties of the default Xamarin.Forms.Label implementation, with MaxLines and LineBreakMode being the two most important ones.

As always, I hope this post will be helpful for some of you. Of course, the sample project for this series is updated on GitHub.

Happy coding, everyone!

Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, iOS, Xamarin, 3 comments
My 2019 (a short review)

My 2019 (a short review)

Bitcoin, Crypto payments & Linux (moving out of my comfort zone)

At the beginning of 2019, I was working on the C#-SDK for AtomicPay, a crypto payment provider. I was also working on a mobile administration app for AtomicPay but during the year, the regulatory rules changed in Switzerland for KYC (know your customer). I had to stop my efforts in this area because, for an indie developer, they are just impossible to handle.

That didn’t stop me to discover other crypto/blockchain stuff, and so I did move out of my comfort zone to play around with a Linux Server and implementing a Bitcoin full node on it. You can read more on this in the Crypto&Blockchain section of my blog.

Even though my efforts have shifted back towards mobile applications, the blockchain area is still of interest to me.

Xamarin, Xamarin, Xamarin

All of my mobile side projects this year were deeply tied into the Xamarin universe. The biggest milestone I finally achieved this year was to finish the porting of my very first application ever from Windows Phone to Android and iOS. I wrote about some of the things I learned right here:

Barcode Scanning

The last few weeks I was busy to write a barcode scanning control for Xamarin Forms that uses native capabilities on iOS and Firebase ML on Android. It was only last week that I finally got both variants working.

Blogging

I attempted to write more regularly this year, but I clearly failed to keep up with it. One of my new year’s resolution is to keep a steady schedule of writing, as the list of what I want(ed) to write about is growing. I will go through this list during my upcoming vacation and try to find a better rhythm for my blogging efforts besides work and working on my side projects.

This year’s review is a bit different from the years before. I kept it short, focusing on the important parts (from my point of view). There is just one thing left to do in this post – to wish you all

A Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year!

Title-Image by Johan L from Pixabay

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, Editorials, 0 comments
What I’ve learned from porting my first app ever to Android and iOS with Xamarin

What I’ve learned from porting my first app ever to Android and iOS with Xamarin

What’s the app about?

The app is about fishing knots. It sounds boring for most people, but for me, this app made me becoming a developer. So I have a somewhat emotional connection to it. It was back in time when Windows Phone 7 was new and hot. A new shiny OS from Microsoft, but clearly lacking the loads of apps that were available on iOS and Android. At that time, I also managed to get my fishing license in Germany.

As I had a hard time to remember how to tie fishing knots, I searched the store and found… nothing. I got very angry over that fact, partly because it meant I had to use one of the static websites back then, but more about the fact that there was this damn app gap (WP7 users will remember). So I finally decided to learn how to write code for Windows Phone and wrote my first app ever after some heavy self-studying months.

Why porting it?

Writing code should soon become my favorite spare-time activity, effectively replacing fishing. And so the years went on, I made some more apps (most of them for Windows Phone) and also managed to become employed as a developer. After some time, S. Nadella became the CEO of Microsoft, and Windows for mobile phones was dead. So I had created all my “babies”, and they were now set to die as Windows Phone/Mobile did. Not accepting this, I started to create a plan to port my apps over to the remaining mobile platforms. After Facebook effectively killed my most successful app (UniShare – that’s another story, though), I stopped porting that one and started with Fishing Knots +.

Reading your own old code (may) hurt

When I was starting to analyze which parts of the code I could reuse, I was kind of shocked. Of course, I knew that there was this code that I wrote when I didn’t know it better, but I refused to have a look into it and refactor it (for obvious reasons from today’s perspective). I violated a lot of best practices back then, the most prominent ones

  • No MVVM
  • Repeating myself over and over again
  • Monster methods with more than 100 lines within

In the end, I did the only right thing and did not reuse any line of my old code.

Reusing the concept without reusing old code

After I took the right decision to not use my old codebase, I needed to abstract the concept from the old app and translate it into what I know now about best practices and MVVM. I did not immediately start with the implementation, however.

The first thing I did was drawing the concept on a piece of paper. I used a no-code language in that sketch and asked my family if they understand the idea behind the app (you could also ask your non-tech friends). This approach helped me to identify the top 3 features of the app:

  • Controllable animation of each knot
  • Easy-to-follow 3-step instructions for each knot
  • Read-Aloud function of the instructions

Having defined the so-called “Minimum Viable Product“, I was ready to think about the implementation(s).

The new implementation

Finding the right implementation isn’t always straight forward. The first thing I wrote was the custom control that powers the controllable animation behind the scenes. I wrote it out of the context in a separated solution as I packed it into a NuGet package after finishing. It turned out to be also the most complex part of the whole app. It uses a common API in Xamarin.Forms, and custom renderers for Android and iOS. I had to go that route because of performance reasons – which is one of the learnings I took away from the porting.

It was also clear that I will use the MVVM pattern in the new version. So I was setting up some basic things using my own Nuget packages that I wrote during working on other Xamarin based projects.

When it came to the overall structure of my app, I thought a Master/Detail implementation would be fine. However, somehow this never felt right, and so I turned to Shell (which was pretty new, so I tried to give it a shot). In the end, I went with a more custom approach. The app uses a TabbedPage with 3 tabs, one being for the animation, the second for the 3-Step tutorial, and last but not least the Settings/About page. The first two pages share a custom top-down menu implementation, bound to the same ViewModel for its items and selection.

More Xamarin.Forms features I learned (to love)

Xamarin and Xamarin.Forms itself are already powerful and have matured a lot since the time I used it to write my first Xamarin app for Telefonicá Germany. Here is a (high level) list of features I started to use:

  • Xamarin.Essentials – the one library that kickstarts your application – seriously!
  • Xamarin Forms Animations – polish the appearance of your app with some nice looking visual activity within the UI
  • Xamarin Forms Effects – easily modify/enhance existing controls without creating a full-blown custom renderer
  • Xamarin Forms VisualStateManager – makes it (sometimes) a whole lot easier to change the UI based on property changes
  • Xamarin.Forms Triggers – alternative approach to modify the UI based on property changes (but not limited to that)

The three musketeers

Because of Xamarin and Xamarin.Forms are such powerful tools, you may run into the situation of needing help/more information. My three musketeers to get missing information, implementation help or solution ideas:

  • Microsoft Xamarin Docs – the docs for Xamarin are pretty extensive and by reading them (even again), I often had one of these “gotcha!”- moments
  • Github – if the docs don’t help, Github may. Be it in the issues of Xamarin(.Forms) or studying the renderers, Github has been as helpful as the docs to me.
  • Web Search – chances are high that someone had similar problems/ideas solved and wrote a blog about it. I don’t blindly copy those solutions. First I read them, then I try to understand them and finally, I implement my own abstraction of them. This way, I am in a steady learning process.

Learn to understand native implementations

I guarantee you will run into a situation where the musketeers do not help when focusing solely on Xamarin. Accept the situation that Xamarin is sitting on top of the native code of others and does the heavy conversion for us. Learn to read Objective-C, Swift, Java and Kotlin code and translate it into C# code. Once you found possible solutions in one of the native samples, blog posts or docs, you will see that most of them are easy to translate into Xamarin code. Do not avoid this part of Xamarin development, it will help you in future, trust me.

Conclusion

Porting over my first app ever to Android and iOS has provided me not only a lot of fun but also huge learnings/practicing. Some of them are of behavioral nature, some of them are code implementations. This post is about the behavioral part – I will write about some of the implementations in my upcoming blog posts.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you have questions or have similar experiences and want to discuss, feel free to leave a comment on this post or connect to me via social media.

Until the next post, happy coding!

Helpful links:

Posted by msicc in Dev Stories, Xamarin, 2 comments
[Updated] #XfEffects: Xamarin.Forms Effect to change the TintColor of ImageButton’s image – (new series)

[Updated] #XfEffects: Xamarin.Forms Effect to change the TintColor of ImageButton’s image – (new series)

The documentation recommends using Effects when we just want to change properties on the underlying native control. I have begun to love Effects as they make my code more readable. With Effects, I always know that there is a platform-specific implementation attached, while that is not obvious when using a custom renderer. Nowadays, I always try to implement an Effect before a Renderer.


Update: I updated the sample project to also respect changes in the ImageButton‘s source. I recently ran into the situation to change the Source (Play/Pause) via my ViewModel based on its state and realized that the effect needs to be reapplied in this case. Please be aware.


The basics

Effects work in a similar way to Renderers. You implement the definition in the Xamarin.Forms project, which attaches it to the control that needs the change. The PlatformEffect implementation needs to be exported to be compiled into the application. Like in a Renderer, the platform implementation also supports property changes. In this new series #XfEffects, I am going to show you some Effects that have been useful for me.

Effect declaration

Let’s turn over to this post’s Effect. We will change the TintColor of an ImageButton to our needs. Let’s start with creating the class for our Effect:

    public class ImageButtonTintEffect : RoutingEffect
    {
        public ImageButtonTintEffect() : base($"XfEffects.{nameof(ImageButtonTintEffect)}")
        {
        }
    }

All Xamarin.Forms Effect implementations need to derive from the RoutingEffect class and pass the Effect‘s name to the base class’ constructor. That’s pretty much everything we have to do for the Effect class itself.

Effect extension for passing parameters

The easiest way for us to get our desired TintColor to the platform implementation is an attached BindableProperty. To be able to attach the BindableProperty, we need a static class that provides the container for the attached property:

public static class ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions
{
    public static readonly BindableProperty TintColorProperty = BindableProperty.CreateAttached("TintColor", typeof(Color), typeof(ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions), default, propertyChanged: OnTintColorPropertyChanged);
    public static Color GetTintColor(BindableObject bindable)
    {
        return (Color)bindable.GetValue(TintColorProperty);
    }
    public static void SetTintColor(BindableObject bindable, Color value)
    {
        bindable.SetValue(TintColorProperty, value);
    }
    private static void OnTintColorPropertyChanged(BindableObject bindable, object oldValue, object newValue)
    {
    }
}

Of course, we want to set the TintColor property as Xamarin.Forms.Color as this will make it pretty easy to control the color from a Style or even a ViewModel.

We want our effect to only being invoked if we change the default TintColor value. This makes sure we are running only code that is necessary for our application:

private static void OnTintColorPropertyChanged(BindableObject bindable, object oldValue, object newValue)
{
    if (bindable is ImageButton current)
    {
        if ((Color)newValue != default)
        {
            if (!current.Effects.Any(e => e is ImageButtonTintEffect))
                current.Effects.Add(Effect.Resolve(nameof(ImageButtonTintEffect)));
        }
        else
        {
            if (current.Effects.Any(e => e is ImageButtonTintEffect))
            {
                var existingEffect = current.Effects.FirstOrDefault(e => e is ImageButtonTintEffect);
                current.Effects.Remove(existingEffect);
            }
        }
    }
}

Last but not least in our Xamarin.Forms application, we want to use the new Effect. This is pretty easy:

<!--import the namespace-->
xmlns:effects="clr-namespace:XfEffects.Effects"
<!--then use it like this-->
<ImageButton Margin="12,0,12,12"
    effects:ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions.TintColor="Red"
    BackgroundColor="Transparent"
    HeightRequest="48"
    HorizontalOptions="CenterAndExpand"
    Source="ic_refresh_white_24dp.png"
    WidthRequest="48">
    <ImageButton.Effects>
        <effects:ImageButtonTintEffect />
    </ImageButton.Effects>
</ImageButton>

We are using the attached property we created above to provide the TintColor to the ImageButtonTintEffect, which we need to add to the ImageButton‘s Effects List.

Android implementation

Let’s have a look at the Android-specific implementation. First, let’s add the platform class and decorate it with the proper attributes to export our effect:

using Android.Content.Res;
using Android.Graphics;
using System;
using System.ComponentModel;
using Xamarin.Forms;
using Xamarin.Forms.Platform.Android;
using AWImageButton = Android.Support.V7.Widget.AppCompatImageButton;
[assembly: ResolutionGroupName("XfEffects")]
[assembly: ExportEffect(typeof(XfEffects.Droid.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect), nameof(XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect))]
namespace XfEffects.Droid.Effects
{
    public class ImageButtonTintEffect : PlatformEffect
    {
        protected override void OnAttached()
        {
            
        }
        protected override void OnDetached()
        {
        }
        protected override void OnElementPropertyChanged(PropertyChangedEventArgs args)
        {
        }
    }
}

Remember: the ResolutionGroupName needs to be defined just once per app and should not change. Similar to a custom Renderer, we also need to export the definition of the platform implementation and the Forms implementation to make our Effect working.

Android controls like buttons have different states. Properties on Android controls like the color can be set based on their State attribute. Xamarin.Android implements these states in the Android.Resource.Attribute class. We define our ImageButton‘s states like this:

static readonly int[][] _colorStates =
{
    new[] { global::Android.Resource.Attribute.StateEnabled },
    new[] { -global::Android.Resource.Attribute.StateEnabled }, //disabled state
    new[] { global::Android.Resource.Attribute.StatePressed } //pressed state
};

Good to know: certain states like ‘disabled‘ are created by just adding a ‘-‘ in front of the matching state defined in the OS states list (negating it). We need this declaration to create our own ColorStateList, which will override the color of the ImageButton‘s image. Add this method to the class created above:

private void UpdateTintColor()
{
    try
    {
        if (this.Control is AWImageButton imageButton)
        {
            var androidColor = XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions.GetTintColor(this.Element).ToAndroid();
            var disabledColor = androidColor;
            disabledColor.A = 0x1C; //140
            var pressedColor = androidColor;
            pressedColor.A = 0x24; //180
            imageButton.ImageTintList = new ColorStateList(_colorStates, new[] { androidColor.ToArgb(), disabledColor.ToArgb(), pressedColor.ToArgb() });
            imageButton.ImageTintMode = PorterDuff.Mode.SrcIn;
        }
    }
    catch (Exception ex)
    {
        System.Diagnostics.Debug.WriteLine(
            $"An error occurred when setting the {typeof(XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect)} effect: {ex.Message}\n{ex.StackTrace}");
    }
}

This code works above the Android SDK 23, as only then the ability to modify the A-channel of the defined color was added. The Xamarin.Forms ImageButton translates into a AppCompatImageButton on Android. The AppCompatImageButton has the ImageTintList property. This property is of type ColorStatesList, which uses the states we defined earlier and the matching colors for those states.

Last but not least, we need to set the composition mode. If you want to get a deeper understanding of that, a great starting point is this StackOverflow question. To make things not too complicated, we are infusing the color into the image. The final step is to call the method in the OnAttached override as well as in the OnElementPropertyChanged override.

The result based on the sample I created looks like this:

iOS implementation

Of course, also on iOS, we have to attribute the class, similar to the Android version:

using System;
using System.ComponentModel;
using UIKit;
using Xamarin.Forms;
using Xamarin.Forms.Platform.iOS;
[assembly: ResolutionGroupName("XfEffects")]
[assembly: ExportEffect(typeof(XfEffects.iOS.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect), nameof(XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffect))]
namespace XfEffects.iOS.Effects
{
    public class ImageButtonTintEffect : PlatformEffect
    {
        protected override void OnAttached()
        {
        }
        protected override void OnDetached()
        {
        }
        protected override void OnElementPropertyChanged(PropertyChangedEventArgs args)
        {
        }
    }
}

The underlying control of the Xamarin.Forms ImageButton is a default UIButton on iOS. The UIButton control has an UIImageView, which can be changed with the SetImage method. Based on that knowledge, we are going to implement the UpdateTintColor method:

private void UpdateTintColor()
{
    try
    {
        if (this.Control is UIButton imagebutton)
        {
            if (imagebutton.ImageView?.Image != null)
            {
                var templatedImg = imagebutton.CurrentImage.ImageWithRenderingMode(UIImageRenderingMode.AlwaysTemplate);
                //clear the image on the button
                imagebutton.SetImage(null, UIControlState.Normal);
                imagebutton.ImageView.TintColor = XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions.GetTintColor(this.Element).ToUIColor();
                imagebutton.TintColor = XfEffects.Effects.ImageButtonTintEffectExtensions.GetTintColor(this.Element).ToUIColor();
                imagebutton.SetImage(templatedImg, UIControlState.Normal);
            }
        }
    }
    catch (Exception ex)
    {
        System.Diagnostics.Debug.WriteLine($"An error occurred when setting the {typeof(ImageButtonTintEffect)} effect: {ex.Message}\n{ex.StackTrace}");
    }
}

Let’s review these code lines. The first step is to extract the already attached Image as a templated Image from the UIButton‘s UIImageView. The second step is to clear the Image from the Button, using the SetImage method and passing null as UIImage parameter. I tried to leave out this step, but it does not work if you do so.

The next step changes the TintColor for the UIButton‘s UIImageView as well as for the button itself. I was only able to get the TintColor changed once I changed both TintColor properties.

The final step is to re-attach the extracted image from step one to the UIImageButton‘s UIImageView, using once again the SetImage method – but this time, we are passing the extracted image as UIImage parameter.

Of course, also here we need to call this method in the OnAttached override as well as in OnElementPropertyChanged.

The result should look similar to this one:

Conclusion

It is pretty easy to implement extended functionality with a Xamarin.Forms Effect. The process is similar to the one of creating a custom renderer. By using attached properties you can fine-tune the usage of this code and also pass property values to the platform implementations.

Please make sure to follow along for the other Effects I will post as part of this new series. I also created a sample app to demonstrate the Effects (find it on Github). As always, I hope this post will be helpful for some of you.

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!
Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, iOS, Xamarin, 0 comments
How to avoid a distorted Android camera preview with ZXing.Net.Mobile [Updated]

How to avoid a distorted Android camera preview with ZXing.Net.Mobile [Updated]

Update: The application I used to determine this blog post is portrait only, that’s why I totally missed the landscape part. I have to thank Timo Partl, who pointed me to that fact on Twitter. I updated the solution/workaround part to reflect the orientation as well.


If you need to implement QR-scanning into your Xamarin (Forms) app, chances are high you will be using the ZXing.Net.Mobile library (as it is the most complete solution out there). In one of my recent projects, I wanted to exactly that. I have used the library already before and thought it might be an easy play.

Distorted reality…

Reality hit me hard when I realized that the preview is totally distorted:

distorted camera preview

Even with that distortion, the library detects the QR code without problems. However, the distortion is not something you want your user to experience. So I started to investigate why this distortion happens. As I am not the only one experiencing this problem, I am showing to easily fix that issue and the way that led to the solution (knowing also some beginners follow my blog).

Searching the web …

.. often brings you closer to the solution. Most of the time, you are not the only one that runs into such a problem. Doing so let me find the Github issue above, showing my theory is correct. Sometimes, those Github issues provide a solution  – this time, not. After not being able to find anything helpful, I decided to fork the Github repo and downloaded it into Visual Studio.

Debugging

Once the solution was loaded in Visual Studio, I found that there are some samples in the repo that made debugging easy for me. I found the case that matches my implementation best (using the ZXingScannerView). After hitting the F10 (to move step by step through the code) and F11 (to jump into methods) quite often, I understood how the code works under the hood.

The cause

If you are not telling the library the resolution you want to have, it will select one for you based on this rudimentary rule (view source on Github):

// If the user did not specify a resolution, let's try and find a suitable one
if (resolution == null)
{
    foreach (var sps in supportedPreviewSizes)
    {
        if (sps.Width >= 640 && sps.Width <= 1000 && sps.Height >= 360 && sps.Height <= 1000)
        {
            resolution = new CameraResolution
            {
                Width = sps.Width,
                Height = sps.Height
            };
            break;
        }
    }
}

Let’s break it down. This code takes the available resolutions from the (old and deprecated) Android.Hardware.Camera API and selects one that matches the ranges defined in the code without respect to the aspect ratio of the device display. On my Nexus 5X, it always selects the resolution of 400×800. This does not match my device’s aspect ratio, but the Android OS does some stretching and squeezing to make it visible within the SurfaceView used for the preview. The result is the distortion seen above.

Note: The code above is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. However, it was updated last 3 years ago (according to Github). Display resolutions and aspect ratios changed a lot during that time, so we had to arrive at this point sooner or later.

Solution/Workaround

The solution to this is pretty easy. Just provide a CameraResolutionSelectorDelegate with your code setting up the ZXingScannerView. First, we need a method that returns a CameraResolution and takes a List of CameraResolution, let’s have a look at that one first:

public CameraResolution SelectLowestResolutionMatchingDisplayAspectRatio(List<CameraResolution> availableResolutions)
{            
    CameraResolution result = null;

    //a tolerance of 0.1 should not be visible to the user
    double aspectTolerance = 0.1;
    var displayOrientationHeight = DeviceDisplay.MainDisplayInfo.Orientation == DisplayOrientation.Portrait ? DeviceDisplay.MainDisplayInfo.Height : DeviceDisplay.MainDisplayInfo.Width;
    var displayOrientationWidth = DeviceDisplay.MainDisplayInfo.Orientation == DisplayOrientation.Portrait ? DeviceDisplay.MainDisplayInfo.Width : DeviceDisplay.MainDisplayInfo.Height;

    //calculatiing our targetRatio
    var targetRatio = displayOrientationHeight / displayOrientationWidth;
    var targetHeight = displayOrientationHeight;
    var minDiff = double.MaxValue;

    //camera API lists all available resolutions from highest to lowest, perfect for us
    //making use of this sorting, following code runs some comparisons to select the lowest resolution that matches the screen aspect ratio and lies within tolerance
    //selecting the lowest makes Qr detection actual faster most of the time
    foreach (var r in availableResolutions.Where(r => Math.Abs(((double)r.Width / r.Height) - targetRatio) < aspectTolerance))
    {
            //slowly going down the list to the lowest matching solution with the correct aspect ratio
            if (Math.Abs(r.Height - targetHeight) < minDiff)
            minDiff = Math.Abs(r.Height - targetHeight);
            result = r;                
    }

    return result;
}

First, we are setting up a fixed tolerance for the aspect ratio. A value of 0.1 should not be recognizable for users. The next step is calculating the target ratio. I am using the Xamarin.Essentials API here, because it saves me some code and works both in Xamarin.Android only projects as well as Xamarin.Forms ones.

Before we are able to select the best matching resolution, we need to notice a few points:

  • lower resolutions result in faster QR detection (even with big ones)
  • preview resolutions are always presented landscape
  • the list of available resolutions is sorted from biggest to smallest

Considering these points, we are able to loop over the list of available resolutions. If the current ratio is out of our tolerance range, we ignore it and move on. By setting the minDiff double down with every iteration, we are moving down the list to arrive at the lowest possible resolution that matches our display’s aspect ratio best. In the case of my Nexus 5X 480×800 with an aspect ratio of 1.66666~, which matches the display aspect ratio of 1,66111~ pretty close.

Delegating the selection call

Now that we have our calculating method in place, we need to pass the method via the CameraResolutionSelectorDelegate to our MobileBarcodeScanningOptions.

If you are on Xamarin.Android, your code will look similar to this:

var options = new ZXing.Mobile.MobileBarcodeScanningOptions()
{
   PossibleFormats = new List<ZXing.BarcodeFormat>() { ZXing.BarcodeFormat.QR_CODE },
CameraResolutionSelector = new CameraResolutionSelectorDelegate(SelectLowestResolutionMatchingDisplayAspectRatio)
}

If you are on Xamarin.Forms, you will have to use the DependencyService to get to the same result (as the method above has to be written within the Android project):

var options = new ZXing.Mobile.MobileBarcodeScanningOptions()
{
   PossibleFormats = new List<ZXing.BarcodeFormat>() { ZXing.BarcodeFormat.QR_CODE },
CameraResolutionSelector = DependencyService.Get<IZXingHelper>().CameraResolutionSelectorDelegateImplementation
}

The result

Now that we have an updated resolution selection mechanism in place, the result is exactly what we expected, without any distortion:

matching camera preview

Remarks

In case none of the camera resolutions gets selected, the camera preview automatically uses the default resolution. In my tests with three devices, this is always the highest one. The default resolution normally matches the devices aspect ratio. As it is the highest, it will slow down the QR detection, however.

The ZXing.Net.Mobile library uses the deprecated Android.Hardware.Camera API and Android.FastCamera library on Android. The next step would be to migrate over to the Android.Hardware.Camera2 API, which makes the FastCamera library obsolete and is future proof. I had already a look into that step, as I need to advance in two projects (one personal and one at work) with QR scanning, however, I postponed this change.

Conclusion

For the time being, we are still able to use the deprecated mechanism of getting our camera preview right. After identifying the reason for the distortion, I got pretty fast to a workaround/solution that should fit most use cases. As devices and their specs are evolving, we are at least not left behind. I will do another writeup once I found the time to replace the deprecated API in my fork.

As always, I hope this post will be helpful for some of you.

Until the next post, happy coding, everyone!

Title Image Credit

Posted by msicc in Android, Dev Stories, Xamarin, 14 comments