Xamarin, Flutter, and Ionic (oh my)

This term I have been lucky enough to be released for four hours on a Tuesday morning to assist my old colleagues in Business, Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics to facilitate Mobile App development in the Diploma of IT. The department has been struggling after the unexpected passing of a colleague.

To side track just briefly, I was lucky to call Frank both a teacher and a colleague. As a student, I didn’t care much for networking and server management related units. Yet Frank was this fountain of knowledge and always took the time to explain the concepts in ways everyone could understand. Being able to make classes engaging for everyone, as I later came to learn myself, is not an easy feat. Even now I tend to find myself looking back on those classes and leaning on the experiences I had as a student of Frank’s to inform my own teaching practice.

Which has been an interesting challenge to overcome this term. Being dropped into the unit at almost the last minute has meant I’ve had to get up to speed on my C# and Xamarin knowledge quickly. Things I haven’t covered since doing the mobile apps unit myself during my Advanced Diploma. In my current role the most we had previously done was a bit of app development using MIT App Inventor. So to say my programming skills had slipped was a bit of an understatement.

It did bring forward an interesting conversation, however, about the unit’s contents being focussed on Xamarin over frameworks like Flutter or Ionic. Each framework has its advantages and disadvantages I’m not going to get into in this post, but at the core they all provide cross-platform capability so any of these frameworks will do the job.

The thing about TAFE’s a lot of people don’t quite understand is that there’s a national body that develop the performance criteria and then trainers develop material in line with those criteria, and having been through it I can tell you it is not a fast process. In a nutshell, there’s a government body that interacts with a lot of industry to guide what skills and knowledge needs to be covered to ensure graduates are learning the necessary skills for the workplace. The materials are created and reviewed by teams of people to ensure the contents meets these criteria and lots of tweaks often need to get made.

Anyway, long story short, this material for Xamarin covers all of that performance criteria, and if anyone wanted to do anything other than make iterative changes to the unit they would have to go through the process of redeveloping the course materials a process that can take months once you jump through all the hurdles. Documenting whatever framework they wanted to use in place of Xamarin in enough detail that anyone could pick up the unit in future.

You’re probably reading this wondering what my preference would be? It’s not a straightforward answer. Xamarin is familiar, and a Microsoft product now that uses C# natively. I’ve toyed with Flutter in the recent past, I liked that it was Dart based, and React is just wickedly popular as a framework right now even if it was created by Meta. If I was developing a unit from scratch to these criteria, I would probably lean more towards Flutter. Luckily, though, that is not a decision I have to make. At least not in a work sense!

7 days to go

Time to start thinking about packing. My dry run a couple of weeks ago resulted in me using about 10kg of my 30kg allocation from Singapore Airlines. Plenty of space for taking a few more items of clothing and leave room to bring souvenirs back.

I’ve been starting to look at some of the forecasts for places I’m going to be in Switzerland for the first few days. So far it is going to be incredibly close to the temperatures I am leaving. Lows of 8-10 and highs of 16-22 for areas I’ll be in for the first five days. The first day has some storms forecast for Zurich but also only expecting 5mm so it might just be a fast passing front.

I mentioned in my 10 days to go post that I have already spent 5 figures on this trip, that wasn’t entirely true as my spreadsheet with costings had a column pre-allocating expenses for daily food/drink intake. I’ve pre-budgeted $100 per day, while I don’t think I’ll be spending quite that much every single day it did eat a fair bit into the overall cost in the total tally I mentioned. That’s not to say it won’t end up costing that much because it absolutely will by the end of it. I’m not expecting to get any change out of $15,000 by the time I land in Melbourne on the 16th of June.

Coming back to packing, I’m working on my check list of things I need to pack, along with what is coming with me in carry on and what can stay in my suitcase. So far I have thought of the following:

Backpack (Carry on):

  • Passport
  • Travel booklet (all of my pre-booked tickets and hotel info)
  • Laptop
  • Nikon DSLR
  • Lite soap bag (in case I feel like I need to freshen up a bit in Singapore)
  • USBC charging cable
  • Noise cancelling headphones
  • Powerbank
  • Sunglasses

Suitcase (Checked Baggage):

  • 10x Socks
  • 10x Underwear
  • 4x Pants
  • 2x Light Jackets
  • 1x Medium waterproof jacket
  • 2x Shorts
  • 5x Shirts
  • 2x Dress shirts (never know when you’re going to be going somewhere a bit more upmarket)
  • Swimwear
  • Hiking boots
  • Soap bag
  • Travel power adapter (with European, UK and Asia converters)
  • External HDD (to backup all my photos across my laptop and camera SD cards and an external drive)
  • DJI Pocket 2 handheld camera
  • Travel tripod
  • Travel Umbrella

That’s all I can think of right now, I’m sure there’ll be more. The countdown is well and truly on!

10 days to go

It’s been a long road getting to this point. For most people it would be a six-to-nine month process planning an international venture. This trip was supposed to happen in 2020 so I’ve had a bit of time to plan it…

I’ve had four different plans, two that were in place for 2020 revolving around a little thing called Coronavirus ID 19 that had me plan one trip in two directions (just reversing the trip if border closures meant I couldn’t move between countries in Europe, I would just do the England part). When it became what we now know as the Covid-19 global pandemic those travel plans had to be shelved, but weren’t forgotten at all.

Time spent during lockdowns watching slow-tv as background imagery to working from home resulting in several additions and changes to my trip. So by the time borders opened and plans started forming, an entire country had been added to my travel plans.

See, there’s this YouTube channel called lorirocks777. They have a swath of cab view videos from around Switzerland, France, Germany and Northern Italy (among others). Much of the content I saw on this channel resulted in my desire to see it with my own eyes. So the plan went from England, Belguim, Germany and Italy to Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and England.

This is where the other two plans come in to play. As I was working out these details several factors started to play into how I would carry out the trip. Seasons, peak periods, and special events all played a role. As nice as Switzerland looks in the winter I really didn’t want to be travelling at the coldest time of the year (especially as it would be so busy there for the ski season).

Just when I thought I had nailed down flying into London (Heathrow) and doing it in the England > Belgium > Germany > Switzerland direction from the 6th of May to 12th of June, his royal highness King Charles the Second was declared to be coronated on that very weekend resulting in flight prices doubling overnight just as I was preparing to book them. Perfect.

Easiest solution was just to flip the direction of travel. The only issue now was every destination was seeing higher than average prices due to the lower availability of flights coming out of lockdowns and border closures. It wasn’t easy finding an average price unless I wanted to use a lesser recognised carrier (i.e. note Singapore, Emirates, Qantas, or Cathay Pacific).

I had been looking between Milan, Zurich, Vienna, and Frankfurt trying to find a good rate. I honestly think I lucked out on the Zurich-bound flights because I have not seen a similar rate since I purchased the tickets. Singapore have a 30kg weight limit that (so far) I’m only filling around 10 of it on the way out. Plenty of space for memorabilia!

10 days out, I felt more nervous about the trip to China than I do about this trip. Not sure why, that was with a group, had a guide to help us translate, and was – in the grand scheme of things – quite a cheap adventure. This time it’s just me, I’m up to a 22 day streak on Duolingo cramming some German, and before I’ve even left the country I’m up to five figures in how much it’s projected to cost. But I’m not nervous or anxious about it at all.

Probably because it feels so well planned out. No doubt shit will go wrong while I’m there though…

China Study Tour: The Way Home

I’ve just now (In November) realised that I don’t have a log for the journey home so I’m basing all of this on a bit of memory so I may miss a couple of minor things.

We were up and moving early, we had to be on the road in time to make it to the airport for our flight back to Hong Kong, even though it was late in the afternoon. As we left we thanked the staff in the dorms for their generous hospitality (and leniency on the curfew with us). Before loading up into the bus for the ride back to the airport we took a group photo (or three) using my camera and the timer, I remember slipping on a tile for one of the photos and nearly breaking my leg.


China 2017: Day Eight

China 2017: Day Eight

Got up early despite the overly comfortable bed inviting me to stay a while longer. Had to get downstairs for the buffet breakfast though so up and moving it was. The buffet was amazing. First opportunity for some western food in a while. I ended up with a bowl of rice krispies and cacao nibs (rice bubbles and coco pops) to start with, then proceeded to a plate of bacon and eggs with a slice of toast. Didn’t even think how my body would react to suddenly getting the food it was more used to after a week of eating stuff it wasn’t. Echo was struggling with the cutlery, they apparently didn’t have chopsticks in the hotel at all.


China 2017: Day Seven

China 2017: Day Seven

Today was a bit of a quiet one compared to the rest of the week. We started with a trip back to Muslin Market as a few people (myself included) needed to pick up a few more souvenirs.

Mine were mostly things I’d planned to get for others. We were only given around an hour in the end to find and buy the last of our souvenirs so I got a little frustrated with Michael when he started pointing out the purchases I was making were bad deals. I could have haggled more but didn’t want to waste too much time on it, and I had some spare money to spend so I didn’t really care too much. (more…)