Yesterday we took our initial look at Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet and were surprised at its quality of build, display and touch response especially as compared to our budget Android tablets. The Kindle Fire runs a modified version of Android Gingerbread and therefore has some differences from the official Google Android Gingerbread. For instance it doesn’t have the buttons Home, Back and Menu that most Android devices have but instead uses a special menu bar at the bottom of its screen.
Running HAC built Apps
Once we had the Kindle booted up and wifi working we used the Kindle Fire’s web browser to load some of the example apps built by HAC from our website’s projects web page. Kindle Fire’s built in web browser is easy to use and we tried several of the demos including Solar System and they all worked. The Android Info demo accurately identified the device hardware as Kindle Fire so anyone building apps with HAC can be sure their app can successfully detect if it is indeed running on a Kindle Fire.
Some Android developers using the official Android SDK have reported a menu bar problem with the Kindle Fire and we were keen to check this out. At the present time the Kindle Fire’s bottom menu bar cannot be programmatically removed by apps built with the official Android SDK and so the bottom 40 pixels of such apps are always hidden. Amazon do make their Kindle SDK available to developers aiming to create apps specifically for the Kindle Fire and their SDK has the necessary functionality to hide, show and detect the bottom menu bar so allowing apps to use the full screen. However, as HAC won’t be using the Kindle SDK we have a fix in mind to limit the affects of the menu bar problem.
We wanted to connect HAC to the Kindle Fire so as to build and debug apps but amazingly the KIndle Fire doesn’t come with the necessary USB micro B connection cable so we had to order one.
Using HAC to launch and debug apps on Kindle Fire
Today our USB connection cable came but before we could connect up the Kindle Fire to our Windows XP development machine we had to modify a couple of files associated with the Android ADB and USB driver. Soon we will have more details on this but for now here is a link on how to do this :-
By the way, there is a free editor called Notepad++ that is great for editing such files:-
Once we had the USB drivers set up we plugged in the Kindle Fire and started up HAC. From HAC’s “Manage Devices” menu we could see the attached Kindle Fire and therefore ran the DDMS debugger before testing a few projects. Please note that the current version of HAC (v1.12) was used and had not been modified in any way in order to work with the Kindle Fire so we weren’t sure what to expect.
We tried several demo projects such as Hello World, Android Info, Preschool Sums and Lunar Lander. They all worked but we noticed a few problems such as the Kindle menu bar remaining at the bottom of the screen, sometimes images not updating after pressing the Home button and then returning to the app. At least there we no crashes, the button response and graphics events worked as well. The Lundar Lander game ran smoothly and below is a screenshot that shows the Kindle menu bar at the bottom of the screen.
The Kindle Fire is a very good tablet even though it is running a modified Android OS. Apps built by the current version of HAC do run on it although the bottom menu bar is an irritation as it take valuable space that an app could use.
Our next move is to modify the forthcoming v1.13 release of HAC to work even better with the Kindle Fire.